February 20, 2016 § Leave a comment
I went snowboarding on Thursday with some of my seminarian friends to Gunstock Mountain in New Hampshire. The one and only time I went snowboarding was in high school. Ten years ago. It didn’t hit me until the day before that we were actually going snowboarding. Then a flood of memories returned of myself literally rolling down the mountain, scrambling to get on the lift, crashing into strangers at the end of the lift, and having so much melted snow in my pants. Surprisingly, and thankfully, my body remembered how to at least ride down the mountain on the heel edge of the snowboard, so this time it was much more enjoyable. That’s the interesting thing about memory.
I started to get nervous the night before because I couldn’t gauge how much my body would need to recover, especially remembering the last experience I had. I was anticipating for the worst because I was pretty miserable the last time I went snowboarding, but even with bad experiences, there is something we naturally grow from and adapt to.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about my time at the last church I served at, reflecting on some of the fears and anxieties I had toward ministry, how overwhelmed I was by ministry, and how weak I was in ministry. The Lord has been faithful in keeping these memories of ministry from becoming bitter because I realize how much grace He poured over me through the people and friends He set alongside me during this time. Through these relationships, I felt God’s embrace and love for me, not as a children’s pastor, or a seminary student, but just as me, Rebekah. I began to see how unwilling and unreceptive I was to allow other people to step in and help me, whether that was to drive to church, come up with games for the kids, or even to take a break one Sunday so that I could work on my Church History paper and study for my Hebrew final. It was so ironic that someone who loves being around people actually tends to resist people. The biggest thing that God revealed to me was how to recognize my limits and learn to stop. Even if that meant to leave the church that I loved so deeply.
As much as I’d like to serve again in a church, I still have my reservations about being in ministry again after graduating seminary this semester. But what I do know is that in my “recovery” time, God has been allowing me to confess and reconcile my feelings of inadequacy and “failure” in ministry. I guess growing up as the first child of four in a Korean immigrant family shaped me to be an independent-perfectionist to a fault. And now I’m learning that as we mature in Christ, even as “independent” Christians, we are still to depend and look to a God who sees all things, hears all things, and knows all things, especially the matters of the heart. And to trust that He is with us simply because He cares. I might anticipate certain things about ministry, but my faith and understanding of God’s character has expanded because of a “difficult” experience that perhaps the next time I serve in ministry, my heart will remember to ride down the mountain with less fear than the last time.
By: Rebekah Lee
February 10, 2016 § Leave a comment
“‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”
’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus says the Lord!”
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!
O how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me
’Neath the healing, cleansing flood!
Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.
I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.
– Louisa M.R. Stead
Most of us will probably not recognize the title, but will recognize the hymn when after hearing it. This is a famous hymn which has placed a very special place near my heart, especially in light of the background story which it holds.
Louisa Stead had a wonderfully happy life with her husband Mr. Stead and her daughter Lily Stead. But their toppled down in one picnic trip on Long Island Sound. A boy was drowning, and Mr. Stead immediately went to save the boy, only to drown with him and leave his wife and daughter watching this tragedy. Afterwards, Louisa Stead was left as a poor helpless widow in great need and a young child to feed.
I think Louisa Stead’s story illustrates well how unpredictable life can be. As a Millennial generation myself, most of us tend to live in this strange confidence that we’re going to accomplish something ‘great’ in our lives (which is a great mind to have by the way). But the said truth of reality is that things don’t always go as we expect… For me, the most painful realization of this fact was when I realized that my own ‘good deeds’ do not necessarily mean that it’ll be returned back to me…
When I read about the story of Louisa Stead, I could not help but ask God “Why did You reward Mr. Stead’s noble and God-honoring actions with such poverty, grief, and hardships in the life of Louisa Stead?” It’s so unfair. It makes me angry. How can a loving and compassionate God send such cruelty to this noble family?
But what is even more puzzling is how Louisa Stead is able to confess with these words:
I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.
There is something strange and mysterious about suffering. It’s something everyone does not want. But it also seems to be what opens our eyes to see what is truly important in our lives. When everything in the life of Louisa Stead was stripped away, she was able to see the most precious and sweetest gem of her life: ‘Trusting in Jesus.’ Louisa Stead was a poor widow, but she knew that she had the wealthiest person who loved her with her: God himself. Which is why shortly after this tragedy, Louisa and Lily Stead went on to become missionaries in South Africa.
Brothers and sisters, we live in a time when society makes us think there are so many ‘important things’ for us to seek after. It can be next new gadget from Apple store. It can be the best foods in the whole world. It can be romantic love. It can be prestige and honor. It can even be noble things such as helping out people in need. But I would like to suggest that when everything in our whole life is stripped away, there is nothing sweeter than to be trusting in “Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend.” Our comfort is not only when God allows everything in our life to go well, but rather to know that whether in sorrow or joy, hardship or leisure, tragedy or comedy, desperation or peace, vanity or meaningfulness, that Jesus Christ is with us to the end, and eternity.
By: Seong Eun Evan Christopher Lee
January 26, 2016 § Leave a comment
The theme of suffering, pain and community have been on my mind lately. From the Syrian refugee crisis, social injustice in our own country, the intolerance of others different from us, to the pain and loneliness I see in the media, the news, in my friends’ lives and my own relationships and circumstances, I get disgusted at how messed up our world is sometimes(myself included…) that I just have to step back and remind myself that despite all the brokenness in this world, we still serve a good and loving God. And that truth can be hard to swallow when you are going through a hardship that you feel is undeserved, unjustified and too much to bear. God may feel very distant in those moments of pain that seem larger than life. We try to find comfort in any place we can, demand answers from God because we feel like He is to blame, putting us in those positions. He seems the best one to prevent all that pain and we feel justified in complaining to him for making things so hard.
Sometimes, we go through hardship because we are reaping the consequences of our own sin, our own unwise decisions and mistakes. And other times, we don’t deserve the suffering we go through at all. We won’t know until we stand before God when we meet Him in heaven.
But then we need to be reminded that we weren’t called to live an easy and comfortable life. We are warned that we will have trouble in this world (John 16:33). We are also reminded that God never leaves us nor forsakes us (Deut 31:6). That feeling that God abandons us in times of need is just that, a feeling. God never actually leaves us alone in our pain. Of pain, C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains” calling pain the “megaphone of God.” We are to turn to Him in our times of suffering and pain and tragedy. Pain and suffering should not always be linked with sin because as Philip Yancey said, “Jesus, who did not sin, also felt pain.” He never sinned yet died on the cross.
We may not understand completely why God allows pain, but since pain is part of life, we need to have a proper view of it in relation to God. For so long, we have equated material blessings, comfort, physical health and success as God’s way of blessing us and loving us. But we forget that God created us for more than that. We live in a broken world that keeps us from looking beyond this world. We were made for eternity with God. Not to say that the material blessings, comfort, health and success are a bad thing, but if they make us forget what we were truly made for, it is not helping us at all. We need a proper view of suffering and an even sobering view of our blessings.
We have hope in a God who understands our suffering because Jesus went through the cross. He was betrayed, humiliated, misunderstood, accused, abused and abandoned. He died the most gruesome death despite not deserving it. Not to belittle our suffering but to understand and sit with us in our pain. To remind us that God is sovereign over all, over suffering and even death. Even in our suffering, God hopes to draw us nearer to Him and to love us. I hope that brings a little comfort to us when we go through hardship.
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
And that is where I believe community comes in. When we cannot hear God in our pain and suffering, God’s children are called to be the hands and feet, salt and light, and messengers of God’s Gospel and hope to those who are in pain. We are called to help in practical ways and that usually is not some quick-fix, everything-will-be-better, hopeful euphemisms that don’t hold any healing or curative power. Instead, we need to be led by the Spirit in drawing others nearer to God with our words and actions. That may mean to simply listen, to be with them in their pain or to pray with them. Or it may mean to practically do something for them, to financially help them out or to take on their suffering together. In seeking God with a sufferer, I hope we can be blessed by being a blessing.
By: Gloria Song
January 18, 2016 § Leave a comment
I’ve been thinking of this topic for an above average amount of time mostly because it effects so many of us and causes unhappy and dissatisfied lives. Let’s look at some of the factors associated with control. « Read the rest of this entry »
January 11, 2016 § Leave a comment
Last week, our sister Sage wrote a wonderful blog on human relationships and how they are ultimately tied to our God who created humanity. If you haven’t read it yet, I strongly encourage you to do so.
This week, I wanted to take a moment to encourage you to press on in your relationship with God. As you may have heard and most likely experienced, life as a child of God is not easy at times. While we may want the Christian life to be easy, we know that Scripture paints a different picture: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Our lives in Christ are no longer about us and our comfort, but it’s about growing in Christ-likeness and bringing glory to God. Our relationship with God matters not only for the future (eternal salvation), but it matters now. It transforms everything: our motives, our view of ourselves, our relationships with family and friends, our hurt and pain, our future.
So I hope the following, by God’s grace, encourages you to press on in your relationship with God. It’s His grace that saves, and it’s His grace that sustains.
Are you struggling with feeling unaccepted/loved? God welcomes you to come as you are and to be transformed through the love of Jesus.
Are you crushed by the pressures to perform? God welcomes you to wholly trust in the performance of His Son, who was perfect in every way and obedient until death.
Are you worried about what your future looks like? God welcomes you to trust Him as your loving Father, who promises to never leave you or forsake you.
Are you going through suffering? God welcomes you to look to His Son who suffered death on a cross, who understands the suffering you are going through, who conquered and reigns over sin and death.
John Piper, when asked during an interview what advice he would give to young pastors, replied, “What God reveals to you in times of light, don’t doubt in times of darkness.” I say that’s great advice not only for pastors, but for all of God’s children. So as Paul encourages the Philippians to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” let us do the same.
By: Eric Yang
January 8, 2016 § Leave a comment
Relationships are hard.
The important, meaningful ones anyway.
Whether it’s with significant others, friends, coworkers or family, being in one another’s lives and caring means that there will inevitable be relationship breakdown. Because…well…I am not you and you are not me. We are different human beings. We have different expectations, hopes, desires, needs, interpretations, ways of doing things, backgrounds, issues, perspectives (and warped perspectives, too)…the list goes on. And on top of being different, we are both sinners with ultimately self-serving, controlling twists and tendencies to all those differences. Right? Relationships are hard.
And relationships among family members…these people you’ve known and loved…tried to love and wanted to be loved by…your whole life maybe…are very hard. I’ve had pretty difficult talks with members of my family over the past couple days. As I reflect, I thought I’d share a few thoughts…
God made us. Designed us. Gave us a soul and breath and purpose. We reflect his genius and his beauty. He loves us more than I love my son, Timmy. And he showed it by sacrificing his own son, Jesus, to have a relationship with us. (I can’t even imagine really…that immensity and quality of love…but it’s historically true. That’s the one-of-a-kind love of God.) Therefore, we have great value. Our thoughts and our heart’s desires that make us who we are as distinct individuals carry importance. Not in that modern, self-consumed, others-consuming, everyone-look-at-how-many-followers-I-have-online, I-want-I-want kind of way. No. We have value in that our very personhood, our existence, the space-we-take-up-in-this-world hold intrinsic, God-given dignity. A sacred, right weightiness.
So then how do we get to this “I don’t care about you” place about somebody else. It’s usually not because of huge events–though sometimes they happen. (There are cases of abuse or trauma and God helps us so that we can relate as restored people even with those who cause harm.) It’s more often the case that, in the course of our usual lives, we inch toward being turned off, dismissive and disgusted incrementally. Subtly. Insidiously. Sin is like that. Too clever to rear an overtly horrifying head, lest we recognize and repent. But sin bears its fruit slowly, and left unchecked, surely.
It begins in the heart in the things we say to ourselves about someone. “You’re so stupid.” “Omg, seriously?” “You idiot.” “That doesn’t even make any sense.” “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Eventually, these things we don’t say out loud get expressed in how we treat the person. Or we live alongside people who think, say or do such things, and–because of our cowardice and apathy–we follow suit.
Is there someone in your life you have no problem believing is dumber than you? Beneath you?
Someone you feel like just can’t do anything right? Do you think they’re useless?
Is there someone you find just so annoying? So tiring?
Someone you’ve grown okay with just ignoring or avoiding?
Is there someone you don’t show you care about any more than the people who really don’t care about him/her? The outcast? The one everyone finds weird and ridiculous?
Careless, flippant words.
Awful things said in moments of rage no hearer should have to remember or believe about themselves.
The damage to the human soul is real.
Years go by.
Hope is lost.
We must never forget about a person’s dignity and Who forms it in them. We are wrong to take it or crush it or mock it. Come understandable reasons for disrespect, annoyance, contempt, and disregard…even years and years of it and even when things don’t seem to change much. STILL, we must come to our senses often and remember that this other human being who is in relation to me–mother, father, brother, sister, friend, neighbor, spouse/significant other–objectively deserves my honor and acknowledgement. Jesus tells us to come to our senses, in fact, every time we come to God to worship. (Matthew 5:21-24) He tells us to pause first and examine or own hearts and relationships. He tells us to go and be reconciled FIRST and then come enjoy a right relationship with Him. Our relationships with others are directly connected to the possibility of a right relationship with God.
Lord, help us. Our hearts are hard. Our wills are curved inward. We are cold and stubborn and unmerciful. Many times, we just don’t care. And we are wrong and have done wrong to others in our hearts, speech and actions. Cause us to see and be heartbroken over our own failures to love. Comfort and restore as you remind us that this is exactly why Jesus needed to give His life for us–sinners. Help us to receive your warm, Fatherly embrace. Send us out as forgiven people with courage and humility to reach out to others in confession and reconciliation.
By: Sage Paik
August 9, 2014 § Leave a comment
I haven’t posted in a long time…my adorable reason for the long hiatus is fast asleep in his bassinet and I revisit putting thoughts to post…
Tonight our dining room table, entryway and corners of our house here and there are strewn with boxes and post-retreat mayhem. But I love this. My hands going through everything…sorting, re-organizing, reading evaluations, thinking of people to thank, thinking of the kids and counselors I’ve grown so accustomed seeing and living life with, checking Facebook every few minutes to be greeted by new posts of smiling faces, #inhisimage and friend requests. Ah…the afterglow of an ARISE Summer Retreat. Thank you, Lord.
But my heart also breaks and sinks at what else I see updating my FB newsfeed. ISIS. Persecution and systematic killing of Christians. Beheading of babies. Kids running away to the mountains and starving. Children cut in half. Another killing of the innocents. I have never read things like this on FB before. I can’t click the link that says, “Warning: graphic images. Children Beheaded.” I feel sick to my stomach. I see a thumbnail image of a little, round-faced baby maybe 9 months old, his sweet eyes looking up as automatic assault rifles are pointed at his head. He looks like Timmy. I weep.
Dear Jesus, it’s too much to bear.
I want to pray for God to come and wipe out the wicked and send them where they all belong. But then I’m reminded that evil isn’t just out there in Iraq or in marauding groups of insane murderers. Evil cuts through the center of every heart and before a holy God “No one is righteous. Not even one.” (Rom. 3:10) Salvation is in Christ alone. But so many of our friends and family have yet to know Him. So Lord, no. You can’t come yet. We need more time.
So instead, I pray, “Lord, you know so many are suffering and dying. Have mercy on us all. And at the right time, come and release your awesome justice. Utterly vanquish evil. Make all things new. Wipe away every tear. Heal our wounds. Restore our brokenness. Raise the dead. Bring us home. Come, Lord Jesus!”
By: Sage Paik