Archive for ‘About Myself’

December 31, 2012

Year in Review: 2012

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Last week, I had the opportunity to serve at the youth retreat for the church that I grew up in.  After a fruitful, painful, and blessed three days, what did I learn?  Kids are smart.  Smart enough to know that to give respect, someone has to earn it first.  Whether they know it or not, kids inherently operate on a credibility-based system.  Much like adults, they won’t invest in or be vulnerable to people they don’t trust.  If you don’t show them any respect, credibility, investment, or vulnerability to begin with, you can sure as heck not expect them to reciprocate any of it back to you.  I definitely wasn’t giving them enough credit going into the retreat.

Reflecting back on 2012, I realize that this has been a common theme for me and my ministry thus far.  I haven’t been giving credit where credit is due.  In turn, I’ve been giving credit where it certainly wasn’t due: myself.  Whether it be with youth, college students, my family and friends, and especially with God; I like to think that I have something to offer in all of the relationships I’m involved in.  That I have something to bring to the table.  That I serve a purpose in a two-way street.  And even, that none of these relationships could be sustained without me.  Are you scoffing at me yet?  I sure am.

Ministry isn’t a charity.  I am not a privileged individual with a seminary education who has oodles of wisdom to spread around to the “spiritually less-fortunate.”  I’m almost embarrassed that it took me this long to realize this.  Only now am I beginning to understand what my parents meant when they told me, “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into [with full-time ministry].”

A friend of mine posted a quote not to long ago by R.C. Sproul about his sentiments on seminary:

That means first that when we prepare to serve in the ministry, we have to prepare to serve in the ministry. Our seminaries, if we must have them, should more reflect a training hospital than a university. Divinity is not a body of knowledge to be mastered like geology. The Bible is not a book to be dissected like Moby Dick. We go there, if we must go there, not to study the Word, but to begin to learn to have the Word study us. We go to pursue not advanced degrees but the fruit of the Spirit. We go to lose our reputations, not to gain them. We go not to be thought wise, but to learn what fools we are.

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Gospel ConnectionThere’s a lot I can learn from 2012.  There’s even more that I can work on in 2013.  And with all these lessons and resolutions in mind, I’ve boiled down by year-end reflection to one thought: God never asks us to do something He hasn’t already done.  In all His divine majesty and authority, never once did Christ claim His throne in an imperious manner.  So why should I act as though I have any power over any of my relationships?  Instead, the image of Jesus is displayed by one of utter humility in the Incarnation and Crucifixion.  In the same way, we are called to live life together in joy, grief, excitement, confusion, eagerness, anxiety, and hope because of the victory we see in the Resurrection.  We die to ourselves for the less privileged, because Christ did.  We love because He first loved us.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
 John 15:12-17 (ESV)

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August 20, 2012

Time capsules

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The last time I went to Korea was in 2000.  Back then, being the pre-pubescent teens that we were, my brother and I returned from that trip with an arsenal of spring-action BB guns.  For about a month after being back at home, our entire house was covered in a sea of white BB’s – the resultant aftermath of our daily target practices.  From toilet paper rolls to water bottles; and the even more challenging task of the occasional, evasive fruit fly, we would spend hours on end shooting everything in sight.

Then one day, our joy was taken away from us quicker than when it had entered.

One night I was sitting on the couch watching TV with my mom, with my gun by my side, of course.  My mom, being the curious parent that she was, picked up my brother’s gun that was nearby and started to think aloud in Korean, “What is it about these guns that make you boys so excited?  Are these really that fun?”  And as she was waving the gun in front of me, she pulled the trigger not knowing it was loaded, and shot me in the face.  My mom shot me in the face.

Luckily, the BB hit me in the cheek and there was no serious damage done.  But from that moment on, my mom grew deathly afraid of the potential consequences of these weapons of doom that she threw them away… at least she said she did.

Twelve years later, the aforementioned BB guns reappeared (pictured above).  My brother was looking for something in my parents’ closet and inadvertently discovered our lost, childhood souvenirs.  I feel 11-years old all over again.

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Gospel Connection:  Often times in our lives we have moments of nostalgia that bring us back to a certain period in our past.  A specific smell might remind us of a season of the year, or looking through old pictures help us relive memories.  Not unlike these spurts of sentimentality, our Christian faiths experience similar types of reactions.  Going to retreats help “boost” our conviction to right our own spiritual lives, and coming back from missions trips revitalizes our passion to serve others.  A good sermon might linger with us for a while and even warrant us sharing it with a friend or two.  But we’ve all experienced both the “spiritual highs” and the inevitable lull that sets in after about two weeks.

Many people continue on living out their faiths on this roller coaster of a path.  Personally, I’ve always been uncomfortable with bouncing from one extreme to the other, so I always try to be as level-hearted as possible.  But I’m not perfect either, and am faced with the unavoidable burn-outs and peaks.  One thing that has always helped me is remembering that Christ is my “first love.”  The Korean culture is very big on first loves (첫사랑), but that’s not exactly what I’m getting at here.  More so than tapping into a source reminiscence, we are called to reflect on the everlasting love of God.  While our love for others fall subject to conditions and may fail, the love of Jesus rests on the foundation of the eternal character of the Triune Godhead.  The same God who created the universe from His words alone, is the very God who chose to love us before we existed.

I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.
But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.
– Revelation 2:3-5a (ESV)

July 4, 2012

R&R

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I’ve been in school for the past 19 years.  And for the better part of nearly two decades, I’ve been a pretty good student: I rarely missed a day of school, I earned good grades, I was liked by all my teachers, and I was well behaved.  But regardless of my admirable school record, I was just as eager as the next kid to leave school grounds whenever the bell rang at 3:00pm or scream and holler when the year had concluded for summer vacation.  Homework and exams were only done because I had to, so I just gritted my teeth until it was all done.  As a result, my methods for “unwinding” from school were as lethargic as my efforts to study were studious.

This habit seems to have carried over to today, even as a seminarian.  After an exam, I would nap for hours for the sleep I lost studying; after finishing a paper, I would watch hours of movies/TV shows/Korean dramas to dumb my mind with meaningless entertainment; and after concluding a semester, I would then proceed to spend the next couple of days hanging out with friends and piggin’ out on food to raise my cholesterol level.  As I would like to call it, “veggin’ out” seemed to be the perfect remedy for hard work well done.

But after a while, I didn’t feel rejuvenated from my usual means of unwinding.  Sleeping in, staring at my computer screen, and eating unhealthy foods no longer seemed to serve as the R&R I needed.  In fact, I felt more tired and restless when I did these things.  And what were activities that were meant to prepare me for the next exam, paper, or semester, only made me burnt out and unmotivated to do work.  Clearly my method of rest wasn’t working.

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Gospel Connection:  Only God can give true rest.  What we think of as “rest” or “unwinding” after a long day or hard semester is most often focused on ourselves and our own satisfaction.  And especially when our work revolves around our benefit, it’s no wonder that our attempt to rest actually makes us more restless.

After the sixth day of Creation, God saw everything He made and it was good.  On the seventh day He rested and established the Sabbath.  So only when our work is kingdom-focused for the purpose of glorifying God can we partake in the Sabbath as God has set forth.  Our rest becomes useless when our aims are to restore our own goals and motives.

But as always, we’re always faced with the clincher of the Gospel: none of this can be accomplished by sheer will.  Kingdom-building work and divinely-instituted rest is only made possible through the redemptive work of Christ.  As I learned the hard way, even rest can be done the wrong way.  So the next time God gives you a breather or when you feel like your confronted with some “me time,” remember to reflect on the One who made everything possible.  Praise his name, identify with his character, and do likewise out of your joy for his extended hand; only then can you find true rest.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
– Matthew 11:29-38 (ESV)

June 27, 2012

Two month hiatus explained


One of the most frustrating things about playing fantasy baseball is “the slump.”  Baseball is a game that’s all about numbers.  Batters hit home runs and pitchers induce strikeouts, so then everything gets recorded into a huge database.  A player’s entire value gets determined by the types of numbers he can put up.  So if any player runs into a slump during the season where they aren’t getting any hits or are giving up too many runs, their value goes down.  It’s even more frustrating when the player that is slumping is generally a good player.  A slump can last anywhere from a week to even an entire season.

But the reality is: even the best player runs into a slump.

No matter how hard they practice and try to be consistent, every player seems to run into a stretch where they can’t figure out the game.  But the sign of good ball player is one who will make the necessary adjustments to get out of the slump they’re in.

Gospel Connection The same seems to go with living out the Christian faith.  No matter how hard we try to pray or read our Bibles, every Christian seems to go through a period of spiritual dryness.  For some it may last a week or two, but for others it can extend to a long period of time.  We might show signs of willingness to get ourselves out of our slump, but it only gets worse the harder we try.

For the past couple of weeks I found myself in a pretty bad slump.  Being a seminarian and a pastor-to-be, I thought I would be less susceptible to the volatile fluctuations of the spiritual “highs and lows,” but I was wrong.  Even while spending time in the Word and in prayer, I quickly realized that reading Scripture became mutually exclusive to my studies and academics, while my prayer life only revolved around the people I was interceding for; none of it fed any of my growth to love God Himself.  I stopped writing in this blog, and therefore stopped reflecting on real Gospel Connections in my life, and vice versa.

Trying to go back to the basics, like any good baseball player who finds himself in a slump would, I stumbled upon an old devotional that I used to use in high school.  In it, I found a helpful quote that I think began to awaken me from my spiritual slumber:

Our calling is not primarily to be holy men and women, but to be proclaimers of the gospel of God.  The one all-important thing is that the gospel of God should be recognized as the abiding reality.  Reality is not human goodness, or holiness, or heaven, or hell – it is redemption.  The need to perceive this is the most vital need of the Christian worker today.  As workers, we have to get used the revelation that redemption is the only reality.  Personal holiness is an effect of redemption, not the cause of it.  If we place our faith in human goodness we will go under when testing comes.

– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

I thought that striving for my own personal holiness was the answer to getting out of my slump.  Making myself better and more presentable to God seemed like the right answer to ridding my spiritual dryness.  But in that selfish endeavor, I began to forget about the importance of proclaiming the Gospel.  Only when we reflect on the Good News of Christ, digest it’s redemption narrative into our perspectives, and genuinely declare of its truth for others to hear, will we be revitalized by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
– 2 Timothy 4:1-2  (ESV)

March 29, 2012

When in Rome…

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A look into the thought process of how I came to write this post.  See if you can follow:

For several years, I’ve been playing fantasy baseball.  For several years, I would make it to the finals of the playoffs in one of my leagues, but always lose and come in 2nd place.

Being a superstitious guy, I thought changing the name of my team would bring a better streak of luck.

Being from Connecticut, I was brainstorming clever names for my team to properly represent my home state.  But because Connecticut doesn’t actually have their own sports franchise, nor does anything rhyme with the name, you can see where my dilemma appeared (to find out what I would name a professional sport franchise from CT if ever given the chance or resources, read post here).

I thought of coming up with a team name affiliated with New York, because that’s where I was born and because I am a huge Yankees fan.  But the only mascot I could think of that rhymed with “Yankees” was the “Crankies,” and I didn’t feel like naming my team after a 4-year old after just having woke up from a midday nap.

I thought of incorporating Boston/Massachusetts because I have been living here for the past five, going on six years.  But because of my strong distaste for Boston sports teams, I couldn’t give in to having an exclusively, Boston-related team name.

I started thinking of names that incorporated all three states.  The New Yorkachusetts.  The Massayorkicuts.  The Reason-for-traffic-when-you-drive-from-NY-to-Boston.  But, as you can tell, nothing stuck.

Then I started looking up what people from each state were called.  For example, if you were from New York, you were obviously referred to as a New Yorker.  Did you know someone from Connecticut is either called a Nutmegger or Connecticuter?  Pretty lame.

While there are many names associated with Massachusetts residents (e.g. Bay Stater, Bostonian, Massachusite), one particular slang term caught my eye: the Masshole.  If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, the name is derived from exactly the word that first pops in your head.  And if you’ve ever been to Boston, or driven anywhere in the streets of Massachusetts, you will understand where that name comes from.

Having been a resident in MA for quite some time now, I will have to admit that I am slowly converting to becoming a Masshole.  Reckless driving, speeding, tailgating, turning without signaling, swerving in-and-out of traffic… the only things missing are the finger gestures and obscenities (some of which, I confess to have muttered under my breath).

Author H. Jackson Browne, Jr. once quoted, “Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.”  Besides the color and make of my car or my license plate, driving is one of those things that preserves my anonymity.  I can honk at someone for sitting at a green light, or cut someone off for driving too slow in the fast lane, because I know I’ll never have to confront that person face-to-face.  As long as I don’t get caught and can get away with it, it’s easy for me to live up to the name so many Masschusetts drivers merited until this point in history.

My aunt told me you can tell a lot about a person from the way they drive.  This is probably what she meant.

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Gospel Connection:  How are the fruits of the Spirit manifested in your life (Gal. 5:22-23)?  In what ways can you put to death the work of the flesh (vv.19-21)?  Do you look for recognition when a fruit blossoms in your life? Do you hide your identity when a desire of the flesh comes to surface?  How does Christ make a difference in the way you live, even if it is something as trivial as driving?

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
vv. 24-25