My latest blog series on paying attention in the Life for Leader’s devotional.
I joined several others Asian American leaders to denounce the racist gestures and remarks made and an appeal to Yuli, the MLB and our nation to move toward healing and reconciliation. See the coverage from ABC7 here and my statement below:
November 1, 2017
My name is Rev. Tim Yee. I’m a Chinese-American pastor of the 100-old-year Union Church of Los Angeles, the oldest protestant church in downtown Los Angeles and one of the oldest churches in America started by people of Japanese descent.
We in the Asian American community are not “cry babies” or “sore losers” as some in social media would like to portray us regarding the Yuli Gurriel incident. We know that as Asian Americans we have often been far too silent on the racism endured in all the great cities of our nation. So we join together and are speaking today to invite Yuli, Major League Baseball and all Americans to help us move forward in our divided time.
This is a picture of my church member Hagi Kusunoki. Hagi and her late husband George were treated as enemies of the United States during WWII. Hagi is holding a bronze medal awarded posthumously to her husband for his brave service in the 442nd Battalion, rescuing 211 Texas Battalion American soldiers who were surrounded by Nazis and doomed to die. These Japanese Americans suffered over 800 casualties themselves while being outnumbered 4 to 1 by the Nazis in order to save these Texans. Hagi and George made incredible sacrifices for their country so that we would always remember the pain and injustice that racism can lead to.
So when 40,000 fans give a standing ovation to Yuli after being cleared to continue playing in the World Series, I think that Hagi’s story has been forgotten. For why would any good American cheer the overlooking of blatant racism against Asians when great Americans like Hagi and George have sacrificed so much so that our country could be united? It must be that good Americans in Texas, California and our whole nation have simply forgotten how much we have already suffered because of turning a blind eye to racism.
Win or lose tonight, we are asking Yuli Gurriel to help the Asian American community and our whole country to move forward by accepting our invitation to meet with us and learn more about the Asian experience in America. We are not saying Yuli is a bad person and in fact we believe he has an incredible opportunity to take something very bad and have something very good come out of it. In fact, I’d love to lead a standing ovation for Yuli Gurriel, not for sweeping racism under the rug, but for helping the Asian American community heal from this pivotal moment.
No matter who wins or loses tonight, the American people—and 40 million people who will be watching tonight—will be “losers” if we don’t move toward better racial understanding and ultimately reconciliation.
We want Yuli to help all of America to remember that we are better than this. This is bigger than baseball. This is our country. The future of our nation will not be decided by a seven game series but by the way day-in and day-out average Americans treat each other with respect and dignity. We can do better and we must do better if we are to live up to the values that our great nation aspires to uphold. Thank you.
Rev. Tim Yee
I’m a new guest contributor to this fantastic resource called Life for Leaders. You can sign up for this daily devotional and be encouraged by a team of incredible leaders including Dr. Mark Roberts and Uli Chi.
As we head into this lenten season I hope you will find my first attempt to write for a broader audience meaningful and helpful for your daily leadership challenges. Tim
One: I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guard post. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint. Then the Lord said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed. “Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked. But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God. Lord Jesus, you are the Prince of Peace and the Great Physician, and it is to you that we pray.
One: We pray, O Lord, for those who were so tragically killed in the horrific attacks in Paris. We pray for all who love them, and all who grieve. We pray that they might find strength in you, and not be overwhelmed by their loss.
All: Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
One: We pray, for those who were injured. Those who lost limbs. Those who are in great pain. Those who lives will forever be changed.
All: Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
One: We pray, for those who witnessed horrible sights, for innocent bystanders, for the first responders, police, nurses, doctors, and all who are shaken to the core.
All: Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
One: We pray for those who are caring for the injured at this hour, that through them you would offer healing and life.
All: Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
One: We pray for the men and women of law enforcement who have long and difficult days ahead of them.
All: Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
One: We pray for the clergy and lay ministers who will tend to the needs of people in fear and grief.
All: Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
One: We pray for all people here and around the world, who live under the threat of terror.
All: Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
One: We pray for all who are called to keep us safe. We pray that they might have wisdom and strength to work for justice do the tasks that are entrusted for them to do.
All: Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.
Officiant: And, we pray for the day when evil takes its last gasp. When the light finally, and thoroughly, snuffs out the darkness in this world, and the darkness which infects the hearts of people who do unspeakable wrong. Till, its full completion, we will wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed. Amen.
November 2014 Adapted by Michael Stafford from Rick Morley’s “A Garden Path” written after the Boston Marathon bombing
The three day conference featuring Tim Keller gathered numerous churches and Christians who sought to learn from one another as to how to love our city better by working together and laying down our “brands”. I remember Bishop Charles E. Blake challenging the diverse crowd on Friday night to “get so comfortable with one another that we are uncomfortable not being with one another.” That stuck with me.
The Saturday night dinner and discussion that I moderated about “Revival in the City: Azusa Street Then and Now” was a reminder that one of the primary features of the Azusa Street Revival was the breaking down racial and economic barriers in a systemically segregated Los Angeles. The diverse Christians gathered were reminded that perhaps working together under the Holy Spirit’s guidance would welcome God’s kingdom activity to expand through our partnerships to serve the poor, pray for our city and learn from one another.
Below is a short list of ways to connect more after Together LA. There are way too many wonderful opportunities to list here, but these are some I am familiar with personally and I know each of its leaders would be eager to welcome you into their work to love the city of LA.
Sunday April 12: Azusa Street Prayer, 6PM @ Union Church
401 E. 3rd Street Los Angeles Ca 90013 (link)
Join 1.7 million Korean Chrisitans in praying for the LA Outreach this Saturday. Help provide water and Bibles for this event: LA Outreach, March 7, 11:30am-3PM (link)
Micah Groups (spiritual formations groups for pastors and leaders): (link)
Support the Azusa Street mural project: (link)
Join in serving the the poor and vulnerable in Skid Row: http://urm.org/
Learn about PIHOP’s prayer and healing ministry in LA: (link)
Join the movement to plant a gospel-centered church in every neighborhood in LA: (link)
March 28, Theological Educaiton: “Together We Revive: Retelling the Azusa Street Revival and Little Tokyo”: http://www.isaacweb.org/
As we in Los Angeles gather for the TogetherLA conference Feb. 26-28, I can’t help but think that at some point churches need to get together to talk about not only housing for those experiencing homelessness like my friends at Union Rescue Mission, but also housing for the working professionally but unable to get ahead. Making $100,000 in today’s economy is worth 20% less considering inflation (roughly $80,000) (see my next post for the posting of this now outdate link). This article from MSN seems to be missing from their site so I’ve posted it in entirety below as one perspective to get us thinking about how expensive it is to live in major cities like LA.
The article says that Americans they polled resulted in needing $150,000 for them to be able to live comfortably, and if you were to consider how far $150,000 would go in Peoria, IL, what would it take in another major city? For Los Angeles I calculated that number to be over $200,000. Of course this is unattainable by the vast majority of the people we interact with daily (at least for me). What do you think? Thanks to my friend Therese for getting the conversation started on Facebook today!
The divide between the 1% and the 99% has ignited a national debate about the income gap, especially since Occupy Wall Street protesters descended on lower Manhattan last fall. But how much money does it take to feel financially secure these days?
The answer, at least according to a new survey of Americans by WSL/Strategic Retail, is $150,000. That level of income is more than three times the national median of $49,445 for 2010, and it’s enough to put a household into the top 10% nationally.
The survey asked respondents to choose which of four categories best described them: I can’t even afford the basics; I can barely afford the basics and nothing else; I can afford the basics plus some extras; and I can afford the basics and the extras, and I’m able to save, too. It is only at that $150,000 level that the survey found the vast majority of consumers, 88%, saying they could buy what they need, afford some extras and still be able to save a bit.
Even as the economy improves and consumer confidence builds, more than half of Americans — 52% — feel like they can afford just the basics, and many with six-figure incomes still feel like they are scraping by. The survey found that 18% of U.S. households earning from $100,000 to $150,000 said they could afford only the basics, with an additional 10% saying they sometimes can’t afford even those staples.
“We clearly have what used to be upper middle income — 75 to 150k — folks who are saying it just isn’t so,” says Candace Corlett, the president of WSL/Strategic Retail. “A quarter of them are saying, ‘I can barely afford the basics.'” So while six-figure incomes used to represent affluence, that’s no longer the case.
Of course, as The Fiscal Times has written before, in many parts of the country, an annual income of $250,000 could easily leave a typical family in the red once all their expenses and taxes are factored in.
That $150,000 is based on average costs for housing, food, clothing, etc. — perhaps in a place like Peoria, Ill. If it takes that kind of money to have a decent middle-class life in Peoria, what would it take to match it in a major metropolitan area?
We used Bankrate’s cost-of-living comparison calculator to measure the difference between Peoria and other cities and chose five of the top 10 U.S. cities (not just the top five) with the highest costs of living, according to Kiplinger. We added Chicago to represent the middle of the country.
The New York City area was the most expensive. Equivalent income: $337,311.87. Percent increase to maintain standard of living: 124.9%.
Honolulu area. Equivalent income: $258,099.19. Percent increase to maintain standard of living: 72.1%.
San Francisco area. Equivalent income: $255,409.43. Percent increase to maintain standard of living: 70.3.%.
San Jose, Calif., area. Equivalent income: $243,260.85. Percent increase to maintain standard of living: 62.2%.
Washington, D.C., area. Equivalent income: $218,127.70. Percent increase to maintain standard of living: 45.4%.
Chicago area. Equivalent income: $182,045.06. Percent increase to maintain standard of living: 21.4%.
The struggling economy has clearly created a recession mindset among consumers. When asked how long the recession will continue, 80% of people say three years or more, Corlett says — up from 43% back in 2010. “They may not literally mean the government’s definition of a recession, but they certainly mean a recessionary mindset for them,” Corlett says.
Those financial pressures have made consumers much more cost-conscious. Three-quarters of women now say it’s “important to get the lowest price on everything they buy,” up 12 percentage points from 2008 and 22 percentage points from 2004. To that end, more are using coupons (68% vs. 61% in 2010) and buying only when items are on sale (45% vs. 38% in 2010).
And, perhaps unsurprisingly, young people — those from the ages of 18 to 34, who have long been the prized target of marketers — were more likely than other age groups to say they don’t have enough money to cover their basic needs. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed put themselves in that group, compared with 17% of those age 35 to 54 and 13% of people 55 or older.
An IRS breakdown of U.S. incomes, released the day after the consumer survey, provides a reminder of why people, even those with six-figure incomes, may be feeling poorer. For tax year 2010, adjusted gross incomes reported to the IRS rose 5.2% to $8 trillion total — the first increase after a couple of years of declines. But while tax filers making more than $250,000 saw their total incomes climb almost 14%, those earning from $50,000 to $100,000 gained just 1.5%.
*The article was originally here but no longer a working link: http://money.msn.com/family-money/article.aspx?post=c20e622f-9f80-4b2d-90fd-164ead94b9b1
Next week will be a historic gathering of many of the Christian leaders and churches that are in Los Angeles. Pastor Tim Keller will be coming and I’m looking forward to all the women and men from various denominations, ethnic groups and theological affinities to join together to seek understanding as to how to join God in blessing our city. I’m hosting a dinner prior to the Tim Keller talk with a panel discussion on “Revival in the City: Azusa Street Then and Now.” I hope you’ll RSVP below.
Tim Keller had a large role in Kati and I leaving our previous ministry (which we really loved) and coming to LA. Back in the fall of 2010, Tim Keller had a rather intimate meet-and-greet in LA where he simply shared about the need for pastors and leaders to commit to the 11th most populous global metro area and one of the most influential cities in the world–Los Angeles. After he spoke there was a Q&A time and I had the chance to ask the last question regarding Keller’s point that church renewal always happens in the city center first. My question was, “In LA, where is the center of the city?” But just as I was about to ask Keller this important question, his handlers swept him away! (actually his assistant simply didn’t want him to be overwhelmed with another question so they ended the Q&A time and left me hanging).
But after the crowd started to disperse, Keller came to me and Kati personally and said, “I’m so sorry about that! I hate that you didn’t get to ask your question. What was it?” And for the next 20 minutes I got to talk with Tim Keller about the importance of church planting and church renewal happening throughout the entire city of LA and in churches and ministries of all shapes and sizes. Keller said, “LA has not one center but probably dozens. You need to do church-planting and church renewal in every neighborhood in LA.” We talked about a lot more stuff and he was so gracious to give us 20 minutes of his time back in 2010. Kati and I never forgot that conversation and it was a pivotal moment for us to begin praying about an opportunity to come to LA to do participate in church renewal and church planting in downtown.
So I’m hoping you’ll come and hear Tim Keller live on Saturday February 28th at 7PM after the dinner or join me for the whole conference (Feb.26-28). You won’t regret it and maybe the Spirit will convict you as well about joining God in blessing the city!
You can RSVP here for the 5:30PM dinner and Azusa Street discussion (free): http://unionchurchla.celebrations.com/TogetherLaDinner
Register here for the Saturday night Tim Keller speaking event after dinner discussion (free) event: http://togetherla2015saturday.splashthat.com/
And here for the conference and workshops with Tim Keller Thursday – Saturday (use TLA30 for a discount): http://togetherla2015.splashthat.com/
Paul’s charge to welcome others
Our church in downtown Los Angeles is going through Romans 15 as part of our Christ-Formation series. Paul is writing to the divided church in Rome around 57 CE and imploring them to get along. Verse 7 is especially rich: “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (ESV). There is the idea of acceptance in this verse based upon Christ’s actions toward us. How has Christ welcomed Christians? Certainly by first forgiving them.
Paul exhorts the Christians in Rome to welcome one another even though their differences are real. Since Jesus accepted you, you should do the same. One of the most welcoming actions the Christians in Rome could do was to forgive their fellow believers! Does it surprise you that since the earliest days the Church has been a place where you can get hurt? A pastor disappoints you, a church splits, or some other negative experience that drove you away from the Church for years. Since the very beginning of this God-ordained movement called the Church, it’s been full of imperfect people who failed to live up to their name. God is grieved that His Body has often failed to be the grace-filled, reconciling place that He intends it to be. There is no perfect church. The saying goes, if you ever find a perfect church then you’ll have to leave it if you don’t want to ruin it. Ghandi famously said that he was very impressed with Christ but not so much the Christians. Every one of us is imperfect so the Church is the perfect place for imperfect people. Paul’s teaching in Romans 15 is not only about accepting those different from you but forgiving those who have hurt you. Often that means forgiving Christians that have hurt you and that can be even harder! If a non-Christian hurts you then you can at least think, “Well, they don’t know any better!” We all have been hurt and none of us wants to be stuck in the paralyzed state of being unable to forgive. Even with Christ in our lives we are still capable of hurting others and find it hard to forgive those who have hurt us or failed us. How can we learn to forgive? I want to talk about two things: how to forgive someone and how to forgive yourself.
If we want to grow then forgiveness is part of the path. Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is yourself. Eric Metaxas shares a story in his book, Miracles, about the actor April Hernandez, whom you might know from appearing in Freedom Writers with Hilary Swank or HBO’s Dexter. April grew up a poor and troubled youth in the Bronx, stuck in a series of abusive relationships. She found herself pregnant and went to the abortion clinic thinking it her only option. Waiting for the procedure she knew she didn’t want to go through with the procedure but through tears she consented to the abortion. Immediately after she awoke she knew she had made a mistake and carried the guilt for years. Even when she started attending church she sat in the back feeling distant from God, unable to forgive herself. But one day as the preacher spoke, something he said about forgiveness struck her. She wanted to be free from this guilt and through tears she came forward as the preacher instructed, crying out to God, “Father, forgive me!” In that moment she felt an energy pour though her, sending her to the ground. While lying there God spoke to her: “I forgive you my daughter, cry no more.” She knew it was God! Then He said, “But I need you to forgive yourself.”
Jesus says if we want to truly be His disciples than we are to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. How can you love your neighbor if you don’t love yourself? How can you forgive your neighbor if you can’t allow God’s forgiveness to apply to yourself? God demands that we fully embrace the reality of our identity in Him: forgiven, restored and declared righteous in His eyes. This is who God says you are in Christ so don’t call God a liar by saying you are unforgiveable! Stop disrespecting God by not forgiving yourself when He has already forgiven you. It doesn’t make sense to keep hating the one God calls beloved in Christ–YOU! God wants us to accept our identity in Him and to share that love. Forgiving yourself is where to start.
Forgiving someone because their debt is God’s concern
Paul says in verse 7 to welcome one another because of Christ. Paul again says in Colossians 3:13 to forgive the offender as Christ forgave us. Jesus says in Luke 17 that if someone asks forgiveness seven times we are to forgive seven times. And Jesus Himself on the cross cries out to God, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24). And as He taught His disciples in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). What is clear from the Bible is that Jesus wants us to forgive because He forgives. Forgiving others is an essential quality of following Jesus. Do you have trouble forgiving others? Forgiving yourself?
When Jesus stopped Paul on his way to persecute the Church, Jesus said, “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4). Jesus takes the pain inflicted by others onto us personally. Those who have sinned against us actually owe a debt to God. Perhaps this one aspect of forgiveness is the one thing you need to hear: Forgiveness means you see that the offernder’s debt ultimately belongs to God and not ultimately to you. This is freeing because you aren’t meant to carry the weight of condemning someone else for their sins. It’s God’s job to judge. You weren’t wired to be God by judging others. That’s why you need to forgive, so you don’t destroy yourself in pretending to be God, holding their debt against them.
Ultimately they owe God much more than they owe you. Jesus doesn’t want you weighed down by un-forgiveness because only He can handle that weight. Does un-forgiveness weigh you down? You were never meant to play God by holding that debt against them.
Forgiveness is not condoning
But forgiveness is in no way condoning someone’s bad behavior. To forgive to is purposely choose a path of love over a path of hate, a path of hope over a path of despair. Verse 7 says to welcome one another just as Christ has welcomed you. It doesn’t say to not press charges or to stay in the toxic relationship or to accept bad behavior. Godly accepting is choosing Christ’s path of life over a path of destruction for them and for you. Yes, Colossians 3:13 says we should forgive because Christ forgave us BUT that doesn’t always mean we always achieve reconciliation with the person.
Can you really forgive an unrepentant person?
Here’s a question I think about a lot: How can you fully reconcile if someone’s unwilling to sincerely repent? Jesus says in Luke 17 that if a believer has wronged you then you should forgive them AFTER you have rebuked them and AFTER they have repented! Forgiveness that leads to reconciliation requires repentance. You may not be able to fully reconcile with someone who is unsafe or isn’t sincere but you can forgive them to the extent that just as Christ has offered you forgiveness you shouldn’t hold their debt against them. Their debt belongs ultimately to God so I should move toward forgiveness even if they are unrepentant. This forgiveness I offer finds its power not in my own ability to forgive but rests in the fact that Christ has forgiven me and to allow His love to overflow from the center of my life to others. Because I am gifted with God’s unmerited favor, I cannot withhold that possibility of God’s restoring love from someone who has hurt me. No, you can’t fully reconcile with an unrepentant person, but you can pray for them as you move toward forgiveness.
Craig Groeschel, the author of the book, Christian Atheist, learned to pray for the man who had sexually abused his sister. It took months before his prayers became truly sincere but he knew he had to reconcile the gap between what he believed about Christ command to forgive and his inability to forgive this man. So he prayed, “God, I pray you work in his/her life.” Perhaps this is where God wants you to begin as you seek to forgive someone. Would you pray for that person you find it hard to forgive, “God, work in his/her life.”
The harmony that forgiveness brings
In Romans 15:5 Paul encourages believers to live in harmony. I like this picture because in music harmony is about bringing together things that are different to make something beautiful. Harmony in the church consists of imperfect people repenting from their sins toward God and one another because Christ gives them the power to forgive. Forgiveness is not forgetting or condoning or tolerating the offender or the offense in any way but rather a purposeful decision to invite Jesus into the pain in order to embrace His hope.
Pastor and therapist Ken Yabuki says this on forgiveness in his upcoming book, Why Bad Things Happen To Good People And What Can Be Done about It: A Christian Perspective:
“the more I experience God’s grace and forgiveness in my life, the less critical I become toward the imperfections I see in others. It is a liberating experience. The more I come to understand, accept and forgive myself, the easier it is for me to understand, accept and forgive my neighbor.”
In Romans 15, Paul is challenging you to apply forgiveness to others who have hurt you because Christ has first first forgiven you. This is not condoning their bad behavior or an expectation for you to be in relationship again with this person (especially if there is no repentance), but this is a declaration that you understand that the debt they owe is not to totally to you but ultimately a debt to God. Only God can wipe away their debt, their sin, and if there is repentance, Christ’s righteousness comes into their lives. Paul wants you to forgive yourself as well because of Christ’s work on the cross and this will free you to love and forgive others as well.
Psalm 139 begins with David’s recognition of God working intimately in his life and ends with him praying similarly for God’s initiative in his deepest being: “Search me, God, and know my heart…and lead me in the way everlasting.”
How is God stretching you into a new area of ministry, perhaps inside the walls of a church or outside in your everyday life? As He searches you have you considered the “ways of pain” that you are stuck in that are keeping you from seeing your inherent value that God has created you with? Are you stuck in a cycle of toxic thinking, unhealthy relationships and limiting yourself from believing God wants to use you to be a blessing in the city?
Search me and stretch me is a prayer for all of us and I’d like to hear what God is revealing to you as you pray this. I trust you’ll rediscover a God who not only had to come to save you from your sin and brokenness, but One who wanted to come because of deep love for you and His joy in inviting you to partake in His kingdom expansion here on earth as you bless others in His name.
Search me and stretch me…into new ministry…into moving on from habits that hinder me…into courageous trust in God who surprises us with plans and dreams that we would have never come up with on our own.
How is God stretching you? I want to know!
Jason Leith is bringing his amazing Sacred Streets exhibit to Los Angeles on Sunday August 4 at Bel Air Presbyterian Church from 8am to 8pm. I’m honored to bring God’s Word at 9am, 11am and 6pm as we reflect on Psalm 139 and pray that God would stretch us to step toward His will with our whole lives as we seek to bless the city of LA.