Revival

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Our church started Exodus, a mentorship program, years ago where we would take some of the youth on a camping/backpacking trip. The program consisted of an overnight backpacking hike and a shorter day hike, with a sharing at night from the Word followed by some one-on-one time with each youth paired with a leader. We just got back from I think the fourth trip, this time spending four nights at Yosemite national park.

This actually was my first trip since I was busy with either medical school or residency. What an amazing time we had these past couple of days. We went on the backpacking trip first, making our way up to the top of Yosemite Falls. The hike was only about 3.5 mi one way, but it utterly destroyed my quads. We basically climbed stairs for about 5 hours carrying 40 lb packs.

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We spent the night there and explored the river feeding the falls the next day before hiking back down. Going down was easier, but again quads-destroying going down those steps. We made it in about three hours.

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For our day hike, we made our way to Vernal Falls. The original plan was to continue on to the next waterfall, but we cut short the hike since most of us were out of commission. I was pretty happy about that.

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I prayed for this trip that God would work tangibly in our group and that we would come away with an unmistakable experience of His presence. I wanted to see revival happen in our church, starting with these guys and in myself. God certainly answered.

When we think revival, the picture we conjure up often is fire coming down from heaven Acts 2 style and miracles starting to be performed. That didn’t happen, but there were some close fire encounters back at camp with the lighter fluid…

I read something by Tim Keller recently that I really liked. He writes that revival is not necessarily seeing crazy miracles, but “is an intensification of the normal operations of the Spirit (conviction of sin, regeneration, sanctification, assurance of grace) through the ordinary means of grace (preaching the Word, prayer, and the sacraments)” (Center Church, loc 1253). Through the conversations on the hike, interacting with the messages shared, and one-on-one times, we saw hearts soften, sins confessed, relational issues confronted, and a deepening dependence on what Christ has done for us.

For myself, the Spirit convicted me again of my pride (and of course that would be the case since the topic I shared on was pride), from my silly pride in my thighs to again bringing to mind my strong tendency to depend on myself. Being in such close fellowship with the brothers made me realize again how independently I was living in all aspects of my life.

As a church leader I think the temptation is to always be in serving mode and it is difficult to open yourself up to be ministered to. There is a pressure to live a certain way, to have an image that I have everything figured out spiritually, and to have to keep that up is not just exhausting, but so stifling to my spiritual growth and what I can offer to others. We see this kind of dynamic in medicine as well, with doctors always having to do the caring while neglecting their self-care.

One brother made the comment that if he had to do the hike up to Yosemite Falls by himself wearing the pack, he wouldn’t have made it. I have to agree; I was already having second thoughts after the third switch-back five minutes in. We need one another, but it is so easy to isolate ourselves because of either shame or condescension, thinking ourselves better. The cross takes care of both of those, reminding us that we are all sinners on equal standing before God, but that in Christ we can be fully accepted through forgiveness of sins.

To all the guys that made it to the trip, I’m so thankful for the experiences shared. I pray that God would continue what He started, and that we will continue to grow as a church in dependence on God, and interdependence on one another.

Check out my Facebook page for more pictures! And if you are bored, there’s a silly game for a chance to win this!

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Thank You!

The English Ministry members threw a surprise leaders appreciation event yesterday. It was a wonderful night of  delicious food, ultra creative performances, and some good-natured roasting of the leaders. To all those involved in putting on the night, a big thank you. God has given us an amazing family in SBECC; the night truly touched our hearts.

To our coworkers who have given of their time and of themselves, thank you for your sacrifice  to the church. From small group leading to lesson planning to sitting through two-hour meetings, your service has had eternal impact on the youth of the ministry, and last night was a tangible expression of that fruit.

To all who use your gifts to build up the church without official titles, you are so appreciated. Thank you for faithfully leading us in worship, setting up and tearing down equipment and chairs, clicking slides and making sure the sound works, carrying the trash out, checking up on people in the church, and the many more things that are done so that minstry can happen week in and week out.

Of course we all can grow in the way we love and there will always be more ministry to do, but it has been such an encouragement to serve alongside of you. What an amazing privilege that God uses the church made up of imperfect people to carry out His kingdom purposes. And how amazing are the gifts that He has given to each and every one of the saints to equip the church for ministry work. Videos of the performances to be uploaded soon on my facebook page!

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

 What gifts has God given you to build up the church?

 

Church Retreat Recap!

Our church just spent an amazing 4th of July weekend together up in Cedar Lake Camp in Big Bear. I can’t think of a better way to have celebrated this holiday than to worship freely with the church body. Highlights of the retreat for me:

  • Great talks from Pastor Steve Jin.
  • Competitions in our first annual Kairo Olympics: Only our church can make shoe flipping and cookie eating this intense. Also, don’t mess with Eudora in an eating contest.
  • Getting to know better those who came for the first time.
  • Playing Bible heads-up with worship songs.
  • Campfire sharing: One of the most honest, raw, and powerful times of sharing I have experienced. Thank you for all who shared so openly.

Aside from all the fun, I was reminded by our speaker that all that we do has to come back to God’s ultimate purpose for this world to come to know and glorify Him (God’s world order), and Jesus’ unique, compassionate love for us that prompted Him to step down from majesty to die in our place. I was challenged to reflect on all the different aspects of my life and to ask myself if I am living for God’s purposes and if I am motivated by God’s love for the lost in every area, whether it is my family, church, work, or recreational life.

Pastor Steve reminded us that to be Christ-like is not just to read our Bible, pray, or to do any of the other disciplines. To be Christ-like starts with having a heart that Jesus has for the lost. Jesus is the only access to God, and we as His followers, are to point others to Jesus, the way, truth, and the life. Just as I care about those who do not have access to physical health because of a lack of insurance or being under-insured, I am to have a greater concern for those without access to true spiritual health.

Thanks be to God for all the ways He worked this weekend. I pray that we will continue to reflect on what we learned so that it will transfer from our heads to our hearts and not be snatched way. Thanks to all those who helped to make the retreat possible and for all who came.

“This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.” 1 Timothy 4:9-10

How did God speak to you during the retreat?

Sermon Feedback/Discusson – Reasons to Rejoice

Hi Church family! Here’s a recap of the sermon on Sunday. I encourage you to read through the passage again, there’s some great truths and reasons for us to rejoice. As always, feel free to let me know your feedback or how you interacted with the sermon!

Reasons to Rejoice

Romans 5:1-11

We can rejoice because of:

1. What God has done for us in the past: We are justified through the blood of Christ. As a result, we have peace with God and stand in grace.  (v1-2a, 11)

2. What God will do for us in the future: We will be glorified with God when God’s glory is fully revealed. (v2b, 9-10)

3. What God is doing for us now: We are being sanctified, perfected through the trials of our lives. (v3-4)

  • We can rejoice in our sufferings because it matures us and strengthens our hope in God.
  • Our hope in God is sure because it is based on God’s unfailing love. (v5)
  • We can be sure of God’s unfailing love because of
    • The subjective, continued ministry of the Holy Spirit, reminding us of God’s love and our adoption as His children (v5, 8:16);
    • The objective, historical ministry of Jesus Christ, demonstrating God’s amazing and unique love that He would pay the ultimate cost (His Son) to redeem a most undeserving people (v6-8)

Applications:

  • Be reminded of our future glory as we go through present difficulties knowing that God who took care of the eternal can take care of our day to day struggles.
  • God can use all trials, big or small, to reveal areas of growth in our lives, so be prayerful as we go through even inconveniences or disappointments to see how God can refine our character.
  • Rejoice!

For those who couldn’t make it today, we miss you! In a couple of days, the sermon podcast should be uploaded here. Have a great week!

To all the Graduates!

It’s graduation season! Tonight is my alma mater’s (high school) graduation. Every time this day rolls around, I always think thoughts like: Wow, has 13 years really gone by? I wonder what people are up to? Why wasn’t I invited to my 10 year reunion? Shouldn’t it be easy to find me online nowadays?? Am I still not cool enough??!

Ahem…my thoughts digress; certainly no unresolved issues here. Well, to all the graduates, here’s a little pep talk I gave to our high schoolers at our church’s grad night last week. I thought I would share it again since it applies not just to high schoolers and I also saw some of you sleeping.

Grad night is always a bittersweet time. It is of course a time of celebration as you look forward to your next chapter of life and we are excited to see how God is going to use you. But it is also sad for both your parents and the church to see you leave. Maybe some of the parents are happy about this, I don’t know.

But we are sad to see you go, and our prayer is that as you go, you will find success in your academic pursuits. But much more than that, our more fervent prayer is that you will continue to grow in your walk with Christ and hold strong to your faith despite the attacks of the evil one. And so as you prepare yourselves for college, I want to leave you with this encouragement from the Word. Turn to John 15.

Here is the secret of having a vibrant, healthy, and growing spiritual life, and it’s really not that big of a secret: remain in Christ. Jesus says in verse 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”

You want to have success in your spiritual life? Remain in Christ. Notice it is a choice you have to intentionally make. It’s not an automatic thing. Now what does it mean to remain in Christ? We can talk about a lot of different things, and from this chapter we can talk about making sure we are taking in Scripture, or making sure we are spending time in prayer. I hope from your time at SBECC you have learned the importance of reading the Word and praying.

Here Jesus says He is the vine and you are a branch on that vine. Tonight, I want to remind you that there’s not just one branch on the vine. All believers are branches connected to the vine, and we are connected to one another through Christ. Jesus here paints a picture of the family of God, and this image illustrates the importance of remaining in this community of believers.

And in fact, our knowledge of the Bible is to be lived out in our relationships with one another. Jesus goes on in verse 9-12: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love…12my command is this: love each other as I have loved you.”

In the last decade of youth ministry we as the church leaders have had the joy of hearing from people who have gone off to college who are now graduated and doing well in their spiritual walk, being used by God in great ways like. But we have also experienced the sadness of hearing about people who have gone through our youth group who aren’t walking with God anymore.

Thinking over these experiences, we have noticed that those who are doing well spiritually over time are those who make fellowship with other believers a priority. Our spiritual life is not just a private matter. When we were saved, we are saved into this new family of God where we can grow, be encouraged, held accountable, and protected from the attacks of the evil one.

Most of you who are graduating have grown up in the church. You have come to church week in and week out and heard countless sermons. There will be a temptation to “take a break” from church when you enter college. No one will be there forcing to go to church anymore and there will be many more fun activities you can do Friday nights or on Sundays.

Wherever you end up for college, whether just a couple of hours away, or thousands of miles away, our prayer is that you will make finding a new church home a priority. This Christian life isn’t meant to be lived alone. Those who have a vibrant individual spiritual life have a vibrant spiritual community life. There will be plenty of new things to figure out when you get to college. Please figure out your spiritual home first.

Remain in Christ by remaining in the body of Christ. Surround yourselves with godly brothers and sisters who will continue to encourage you and keep you on the right path. Please know that wherever you end up, you will always have a home here at SBECC so please visit often. We will miss all of you very much.

To all the graduates, congratulations. Soon you’ll be wondering how 13 years have passed by and why you didn’t get invited to your high school reunion.

 

Does God Grade on a Curve?

If you don’t know, I am currently in my second semester at Talbot seminary. It’s been really interesting being back in school again. I finished medical school about four years ago so it has been awhile since I’ve had to do classroom-type work.

It has been an adjustment getting back into school mode again. And seminary definitely is a different kind of training. There’s a lot more reading, writing papers and my least favorite, class participation (Actually my least least favorite is role playing. Thankfully we haven’t had much of that yet). But I really, really dislike class participation. I rather memorize tons of obscure facts.

And the grading is different too. Throughout medical school we actually didn’t have grades. Some traditional med schools still give out letter grades, but most have adopted a pass/fail system where if you get above a certain percentage, then you pass. If you don’t, you fail and you have to retake the test, or sometimes retake the class.

Some schools have a grading-on-a-curve type system and award the top 10-15% an honors grade. But basically, once you get into medical school, almost everyone eventually finishes. There’s a joke, “What do you call a medical student who graduates at the bottom of their class? A doctor.” That’s comforting, right?

It’s interesting that in Talbot, they not only have letter grades, but the grading scale is much higher than I’ve seen anywhere else. In one of my classes, an A is a 94, and that’s an A minus. I’m glad that I’m doing this more for my own growth and for the benefit of the church, or else the Asian part of me would be giving me stomach ulcers.

We are going through Romans at my church, and the passage I just preached on yesterday (Romans 2:1-16) reminded me that God has an even more demanding grading system. It is pass or fail, except it’s more like you pass only if you get everything right. There will be a day of judgment where God judges our works,and I think many hold on to the hope that if I do more good than bad, then I’ll make it to heaven.

But Paul reminds us that God’s standard is not “good enough,” or “better than most.” God doesn’t grade on a curve. On the day of judgment, everyone will fall short of God’s perfect standard, no matter how much good we have done. Before a perfect and holy God, even one sin is enough to condemn us to eternal punishment in hell.

But the good news of the Gospel, and why Paul is eager to preach this message to all, is that while there is nothing we can do to earn salvation, God has revealed a righteousness, a way to be made right with God in Christ that is through faith. In God’s love, mercy, and grace, He sent His son Jesus to live a perfect life in our place, satisfying the requirements of God’s law, and died on the cross in our place, taking on the punishment for our sins.

Through faith in Christ, we have perfect obedience and forgiveness of sins, restoring our relationship with God. Judgment will be by our works, and all will be condemned. But salvation is by faith, praise be to God!

How good is good enough to get into heaven if we can be saved by our works?

“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:22-24

If you missed the sermon this past Sunday, feel free to download the podcast here! If you have any questions or thoughts regarding the sermon, please leave a comment or send me an email.

Yom HaShoah

IMG_1105Yom HaShoah is a day of remembrance of the 6 million plus Jews and the many millions more others who were killed during the Holocaust. This year it started last night and ends today. We were just in Boston over the weekend and happened upon the New England Holocaust Memorial while doing the Freedom Trail.

The memorial consists of 6 glass towers that has 6 million numbers etched into the glass representing the tattoos that were placed on the prisoners’ arms. The 6 towers also represents the six main death camps, and at each tower were quotes from survivors about their experiences.

It was gut-wrenching walking through the memorial and reading about the atrocities that were committed. It was such a powerful experience; the creators of the memorial did an amazing job.

Going through the memorial I was reminded of the degree of evil that we as humans are capable of. It was quite fitting that the sermon for church the very next day was on Romans 1:18-32, how our rejection of God and truth has resulted in ever-worsening depravity.

While we are not all as corrupt as we possibly could be, all of us have fallen short of God’s perfect standards. And our sins have permeated and affected all of creation. Praise be to God that He has provided the solution to sin and decay in the death of His son, Jesus Christ.

How have you seen the effects of our sin against God manifest?

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. Romans 1:18-19

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Thanks Christina for taking us to the memorial.