Lights, Emotions, and the Arts

by Pastor Terry Gee

Emotions are a tricky business. In one moment we can be giddy with laughter and only seconds later be filled with rage at the guy who cut us off on the freeway. We feel apathetic even when things are good. We’re sad and we don’t know why. Emotions cannot be trusted.

Or so we are told. But however we may feel about our emotions, the fact remains that we are emotional creatures, created as such by God who is, Himself, emotional. So the question becomes how are we supposed to deal with our emotions, particularly when it comes to worship?

EMOTIONS IN WORSHIP

Given their fluidity and subjectivity, our emotions sometimes receive a raised eyebrow of scrutiny when it comes to worship – and, at times, they should. Emotionalism, where the movement of emotions is the primary goal in devotion, will leave the worshiper empty. Emotional religious experience without substance of the truth, does not embody the worship of God we see in the Scriptures. So the mere moving of emotions does not constitute true worship.

Of course, neither does the reverse – right theology mixed with dead affections pleases no one in heaven either! Jesus, quoting Isaiah, indicted the religious leaders of the day saying that they “[honor God] with their lips, but their heart is far from me (Matt 15:8).” The right words without the right heart did not please God any more than the passionate worshiper without the truth.

THE ARTS IN WORSHIP

This brings us to the use of the arts in worship. Can, and should, the arts be used to heighten our emotions in worship? Is this cheating or somehow disingenuous, as if God can see that our love for Him was not enough and needed a little help? Or can we legitimately use the arts in the service of worship?

We can certainly go too far – the arts becoming the center point of worship and drawing our eyes towards the medium rather than the object of our worship (God). But I would submit that an appropriate and purposeful use of the arts can support and adorn our worship in a way that betters our worship and increases our love in a completely legitimate way before God.

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Take for a moment the use of music in worship. During Easter, is it right that we play songs that emphatically and passionately celebrate Jesus’resurrection? Does not that sort of music help our emotions to engage in a day that should be powerfully celebrated by God’s people? Imagine singing – no, chanting (no melody - just words in rhythm) the same songs. While we could still worship joyfully, wouldn’t it be different?

The use of arts in the heightening of emotions is well and good if the emotions they incite are godly in nature and bring about the purposes of God in our lives, perhaps, even more powerfully than could be without them. Should our love for God be truly increased to a hymn well sung and well played, we should be remiss if we did not use it to our advantage in loving God more! The use of arts should not be forsaken because they may move our emotions or be subject to abuse, but should be carefully considered as means to the greater end of whole-hearted, truth-centered, Spirit-empowered worship to the one true God, and when we find the arts doing this, they find their proper place in the worship of the church and ought to be used to that end to their fullest.

THE NEW LIGHTING

With that in place, let’s talk about lights. The intent of the recent lighting change in our service was not to merely move our emotions or prize a theatrical look for its modern, contextually savvy appearance. The intent was not to increase individualism or give off the vibe that Sunday service is now some sort of performance.

The use of different lighting was an attempt to use artistic means to further the purposes of our worship service – namely, that a real encounter with God by the people of God, through heartfelt songs of praise, reception of the word of God in preaching, and through prayer would result in glory given to God and the building up of the saints who gather. As much as lighting could help us engage with the service to that end, we sought to use it.

Softer lighting sets the place apart. When you enter into the sanctuary you know something is going to happen. We, as the people of God, are going to meet with God! This is not the same place as out in the foyer. The invitation is to joyfully anticipate and prepare for what is coming next.

The ability to focus was a primary goal. During worship, the words on the screen “pop” more, to increase ease of reading and clarity. With the lights lower, your eyes aren’t drawn to the kid making faces on your left. During the sermon, while the house lights are on to allow everyone to read their Bibles, the front right and left sections are left off, framing the center stage and drawing our attention to the preacher. The lights are intentionally being used to make it easier for you to engage with what is going on in the service.

A VEHICLE FOR THE GOSPEL

The use of the arts for the furtherance of our worship presents us with a unique opportunity for the advance of the gospel. While the arts themselves are not the gospel, they can be a vehicle for the gospel message, and I hope that the responsible use of them will contribute positively to our lives of worship in the long run and result in greater praise and glory given to God through the church.

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Jesus the King at Summer Bible School

By Lesley Han and Christie Chong

Summer Bible School (SBS) is truly a highlight for kids, parents, and volunteers alike every summer! It is a week filled with learning about God, meeting new friends, working on crafts, eating yummy snacks, and having fun both indoors and outdoors! This year, we were blessed with 55 kids ranging in age from 3-6 years old, as well as 39 caregivers made up of parents, volunteers, and 12 teens from KR3W. It was especially a blessing seeing teenagers often serving alongside their own parents in blessing the younger kids in the community. We are also very much indebted to our faithful infant class volunteers that delivered loving care to 9 of our babies.

This year our Pastors Rocky and Victor developed our theme: “Only King Forever,” which outlined in 5 basic sessions the gospel story from Genesis to Revelation. Day 1 introduced God as the “Only King”, the Creator of the whole world, including man and woman. Day 2 described how Man sinned and tried to take the place of God, becoming a “Fallen King,” knowing good and evil. On Day 3, the children learned how the people of Israel demanded an earthly, “People’s King” instead of God to rule over them. Day 4 begins the redemption arc with the “Humble King,” Jesus the Son of God who came down from Heaven to suffer and die in our place. On the last day, Day 5, we ended with the promise in Revelation of Jesus returning in glory, as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the “Only King Forever.”

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These gospel themes of kingship were underscored by the daily Bible lessons taught by Shaun Ho and Dave Seiler, the creative week-long craft, the memory verses, as well as the daily large group skits. The skits were an allegorical puppet show about puppets who rebel against their makers, the puppet master and his son. After the puppets run away, the son becomes a puppet himself to demonstrate his love for them and bring them home. The kids were drawn into the drama and often shouted input from the audience or excitedly talked about the story with their teachers and parents.

For the craft, the kids made paper crowns that they “cast down” before Jesus the King. They also worked on a cardboard puppet theater that featured two stick puppets, roll-up curtains, and a decorated backdrop, to remind them of the gospel as depicted through the puppet skits.

At large group, the kids sang worship songs led by Emily Chan on guitar. They picked up fun hand motions and learned the theme song, “Shout to the Lord,” which we all later performed on a following Sunday during the church service. They also got to practice memory verses and work towards winning prizes for correct recitations!

For fun, the kids enjoyed playground time at drop-off as well as some fun outdoor games and challenges. Friday was our water day, with kiddie pools, water guns, water balloons, and very wet campers and KR3W volunteers!

The aim of this week was not only to provide a fun and memorable time for the children, but also to teach each child to see from the Bible how God was always meant to be their one true King. Every year, our desire is that seeds of faith would be planted in the kids’ hearts and that they would make a commitment to follow Him for the rest of their lives. Through this week of fellowship, not only do the children benefit from the love of our church family, our own volunteers develop lasting friendships from the bond of serving together.

On behalf of the SBS Core, thank you church family for making SBS such a success!

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Adventure Week Recap

By Jayne Terasawa

I honestly didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I agreed to teach a class for Adventure Week. I had never served in this particular ministry before and was unfamiliar with what it entailed. Furthermore, speaking in front of people is not one of my strong points, and the topic I was being asked to teach on was hospitality, something I’m certainly no expert in. So, truth be told, I considered myself a rather ill-equipped choice. But I said yes to the invitation, because hospitality is something that I am seeking to grow in, and because I felt that gentle push from God to accept this opportunity. 

Here’s what I learned from the experience: 

Adventure Week allows kids to learn about the heart of serving others and to apply what they’ve learned in tangible ways by blessing different groups of guests through different types of service. Four different classes combine their efforts to this end, and every child who attends Adventure Week gets to experience each class, contributing in a new way each day. Guests are welcomed and hosted by the hospitality class, treated to a lunch made by the cooking class, receive handmade gifts from the crafts class, and after lunch return to clean cars, courtesy of the car wash class. It’s a multi-faceted event that allows the participants to serve in a variety of ways, both tangible (preparing a meal, washing a car, giving a gift) and relational (having a conversation, serving a guest, getting to know a new friend). 

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The theme for this year’s Adventure Week was “We are Ohana, We are One!” Each day, before jumping into the flurry of activities, everyone met as “family” to worship together and receive exhortation from Pastor Victor and the skit team. It was a time to be reminded of what it means to be called to life together as we love and serve the body of Christ. 

In a world that is so focused on the self and on gratifying our own desires, we desperately need to be reminded of the calling that we have to walk in the footsteps of Jesus: we are to “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind [we are to] regard one another as more important than [ourselves…], not merely [looking] out for [our] own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). This can take on the form of cooking a meal, striking up a conversation, creating a thoughtful gift, cleaning up a car...or it might look like something else entirely. 

The things that stop us from serving others can also take on many forms. For me, one of the greatest challenges is my struggle with perfectionism and my tendency to focus on what I can’t do rather than on what God can do through me if I’m willing. I think about how I’m too introverted, or how my schedule is too busy or my house feels chaotic, or about that time I tried reaching out to someone, and it didn’t go well. Maybe I regret the times I knew I should have struck up that conversation or extended that spontaneous invitation or made that phone call and didn’t, missing a moment that God may have given me to bless someone else. And so I talk myself out of future opportunities because I feel either too ill-equipped in the moment or too discouraged by the past to move ahead. But this is when I need to remind myself that it’s not about me. The goal of lovingly serving others is not to execute things perfectly. The goal is to have a heart of humility that is willing to take steps of obedience in response to God’s calling. 

And this is what I love about Adventure Week: the focus is not on tangible acts of service alone, but on having a heart that is being shaped by and modeled after Jesus’ heart, a heart of compassion that sees the needs of others and is motivated by love to act. A heart that makes God (not our weaknesses or limitations) the focus. A heart that is open to serving in whatever way God calls.

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Minamata 2019 Mission Trip “So… Why are you going to Japan, anyway?”

By Hailey Wada

You may be wondering, “So what in the world is this team going to do in Japan anyway? And why in the world are they going?”

Well, to answer the first part of this question, WHAT we’ll be doing is pretty straight-forward. We’re going to be joining in Sabrina Yee’s (she’s one of Evergreen’s full-time missionaries) daily life and ministries in Minamata, Japan. We’re planning to lead an hour of her church’s Sunday service, throw her congregation a California-themed party, teach six different hour-long English classes, be a part of small groups at a youth camp, and perform some skits.

But in regard to WHY our church decided to send a team to Minamata, our goal is actually so much more than just doing things next to Sabrina. WHY we’re going is loaded with different reasons. To begin, we want to better understand:

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  • The struggle of living in a foreign country without unintentionally crossing any unsaid, cultural rules

  • How to get to know people without understanding the same primary language

  • The patience required to get a group of rowdy pre-K children to pay attention and to prompt self-conscious high schoolers to speak up during English class

  • How to try and be engaged in a small group without having the slightest idea of what the small group members are sharing

In short, we want to experience what our sister Sabrina goes through every single day. 

Don’t get me wrong–  the Lord has blessed Sabrina immensely during her time in Japan. Praise the Lord for that! But that doesn’t mean that her life has suddenly turned into an eternally cutesy, cheerful anime. There are still trials and frustrations the Lord has allowed in her life since booking a one-way ticket to Japan on September 12th, 2016.

So for a moment here, let’s be real: It’s not easy to leave behind a church family you love and hold dearly in your heart. It’s not easy to navigate a flurry of confusing, unsaid cultural boundaries that you never even knew about before. And it’s definitely not easy to know that you’ve been called to live in this foreign country for, as far as you know, the rest of your life. 

Sabrina shared in her June newsletter that the average time it takes for North American missionaries to have “a sense of feeling at home, or feeling comfortable” in their new country is 18-20 months. Asian Access (Sabrina’s sending agency) reported, however, that in Japan, that average adjustment period shoots up to 7.8 years! That is quite a long time (but on the bright side, at least according to that statistic, Sabrina’s only got 4.8 years left to go!). In these roughly 7.8 years needed for Sabrina to feel a sense of home and comfortability in Japan, our church has seen all the more reason to send a team to visit our faithful missionary and encourage her in the Lord. 

That’s where we come in! When Pastor Victor called us together for our first meeting, he gave us handouts and folders that explained that this trip is a unique opportunity to experience and better understand what Sabrina goes through every day as she ministers the Gospel to the people of Japan. Pastor Victor wrote that our trip “thus reflects the ministry of Barnabus, who was sent by the church in Jerusalem to see the ministry in Antioch”:

“When he [Barnabus] came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast grace.” (Acts 11:23)

So WHY are we going to Japan?

We’re going to Japan because, as her good friends, we want to hug, pray with, listen to, and support her. We want to spend time and do ministry with our beloved missionary who just might need some encouragement in the ~4.8 years left before she feels at home in Japan.

And most of all, we’re there to remind Sabrina that God Himself has called her to serve the people of Japan, and that in light of eternity with Christ, she will never regret the years she’s dedicated to pouring herself out for the Lord again and again.

Our flight for Japan is on August 2nd  at 1am. If you’d like to receive updates on how to pray for us while we’re serving with Sabrina in Minamata city, please subscribe to our blog site at minamata2019.blogspot.com. Arigato gozaimasu!

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Someone’s Sitting In My Chair! 

by Rickie Miyake

So how are you all doing with the recent changes taking place from our transition to Pastor Rocky from Pastor Cory? For example, having a combined service instead of the 8:00 and 11:00 services...

Here’s a quiz for you:

You used to attend the 8:00 service. As you walk into the sanctuary for the new combined service, horror of horrors, there is someone sitting in your regular seat! Do you:

(a)  Let the offending party know that they are in your seat, emphasizing that this is causing you to stumble. Let that sink in by paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 8:13 - if sitting in my brother’s seat causes him to stumble, I shall never sit in that seat again.

(b)  Acknowledge that perhaps the person in your seat normally sits there for the 11:00 service but you are accustomed to sitting there at 8:00. Offer the noble solution of role playing, allowing him to be Abraham and you be Lot, as you replay Genesis 13:8-9. Tell him, “Let’s not have any quarreling between us because we are brothers. Is not this seat before us? Let us decide who sits in it. As Abraham (you) told Lot (me), if you decide to sit in this chair then I shall seek a chair elsewhere or if you go elsewhere I shall sit in this chair. Well, I choose this chair. As for you, there’s some good seats over there.”

(c)   Let the person in the chair know that both of you want to sit in that same chair and then suggest using the wisdom of Solomon as written in 1 Kings 3 to decide. Tell him, “How about we cut the chair in two?” Then wait for the other person to offer you the chair because he cares about it and doesn’t want it to be damaged.

(d)  Graciously greet your brother and introduce yourself if you don’t already know him and then find another seat. As long as you can hear the Word, all the seats are great.

Okay, you know I’m just clowning around but I think we all have to admit we do get into our comfort zones and sometimes change bends us out of shape. We settle into a routine and then change takes place and yanks us out. Life is one big cycle of them.

A couple thousand years ago, Jesus Christ walked this earth and represented change. Many initially embraced Him for the miracles and healings He performed, but then rejected Him because He took them out of their comfort zones by the things He called them to do. The thing is, the change He represented was really the fulfillment of Scripture, the Messiah to whom it had pointed to since the beginning. The entire Bible is about Him!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. - John 1:1

But the people had settled into their routines and didn’t recognize Him. Then when Jesus was crucified and then resurrected, it was a huge change for those who had followed Him, there was much mourning because their Lord was now in their eyes, forever gone. None expected Him back despite what Jesus had told them. When He appeared, His disciples and Mary Magdalene initially didn’t recognize Him because they had taken their eyes off the Living Word.

It’s so easy to let change distract us, disturbing our focus and our minds begin to wander. Having two services was so much more convenient. It’s so dark in the Sanctuary I can hardly see. Shouldn’t the pastor who delivers the sermon also deliver the benediction? Those are some thoughts that ran through my mind during the post-Pastor Cory services, along with comparing Pastor Rocky’s style to that of Pastor Cory, and contrasting the new stage background to the old. I found myself having to get back on track and pay attention to the message.

Reflecting, I realize regardless of what’s changed with the form of our services and church structure, I am thankful that the substance has remained constant, which is to seek and focus on the truth. It was and still is all about Jesus, and all about the Word. The enemy would love to derail you and me from this but we must persevere to maintain our focus on Him who is our rock and foundation.

1 John 1:1 refers to Jesus as the “Word of life.” While He is manifested in different forms throughout the Bible, the substance is always the same! And the truth of the Word being preached each Sunday morning from the pulpit is the same on the left side of the sanctuary as it is on the right, front or rear, i.e., in every seat, amen? Amen!

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