Archive for ‘News & Updates’

January 2, 2013

The Unanswered Prayer

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My dad is the youngest of five siblings. With 20 years that separate him and his oldest brother, there comes a lot of family in between the two. Growing up, I knew I had a lot of cousins, nieces, and nephews in Korea that I never met or knew too well. Even to this day, I don’t know the exact number of relatives I have back in the motherland. So whenever I get the opportunity to talk to or meet one of these distant family members, the experience is always so foreign and awkward. We’ve lived the majority of our lives halfway across the world from each other, and yet, are somehow connected because of a familial bond.

This past spring I was again confronted with a similar situation. Seong-Sil (Sung-Shil, 성실) was my dad’s niece’s daughter, thereby making her my niece. With aspirations to study English and experience the States on a budget, she ventured out to Iowa to spend a year taking classes. She came to visit us in Connecticut this past May with her mom and cousin after her spring semester was over. Over the handful of Facebook and IM conversations we had beforehand, SS seemed to be a very bright and sociable girl. She proved to be no different in person. Immediately, I could tell that SS was someone with great ambition. She wasn’t afraid to go on an adventure, and would probably want to discover all of Manhattan alone if we let her. She valued family very much. When my aunt was sick and going through chemotherapy treatments, she offered to come back to Connecticut to help my parents with her. I find it amazing to believe that God created each and every single one of us in our own uniqueness, but then I meet a girl like SS and know that He really is that sovereign.

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While visiting us in CT, SS takes a walk around our neighborhood.

Earlier this evening, that same spunk and spirit went to be with the Lord again. Here on earth, her parents, brother, uncles, grandparents, cousins, friends, classmates, and church community mourn her loss. No one should ever have to leave everything behind at the ripe age of twenty, but that’s what God had in store for her.

Even as someone in full-time ministry, I find myself having a hard time seeing God’s sovereignty in all of this. SS had so much going for her and was so young, why take her away now? Without any seeming reason or foreseeable warning, she was gone in a moment’s notice. I can’t help but glance through her Facebook page and see all the posts on her wall of encouragements, well wishes, and prayers that she would awaken from her coma healthy. In all their earnest and genuine heart, so many of SS’ loved ones prayed diligently for her recovery. How would they now respond after hearing of her passing? Will her parents find healing after having to bury their own child? Did God really leave all those prayers unanswered?

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Gospel Connection: We can never comprehend God’s will in its entirety (Rom. 9:14-24). But what we do know is that everything is possible through prayer under the name of Jesus Christ (Matt. 7:7-11; John 14:12-14; 1 John 5:13-15). SS’ friends’ prayers indeed were heard and answered. They prayed that she would awaken, and she was, to the joyful noise of the Savior’s Good News. They prayed for many blessings, and she was met with them in the form of her loving church body during her hour of greatest need. And they prayed that they would get to see her again, and because of what is promised in Scripture, they will on the day our Lord returns.

The only prayer God ever left unanswered was Jesus’ prayer in the garden at Gethsemane. The Father, in full confrontation of His Son’s anguish, chose not to remove that cup from him. Because Jesus’ prayer was rejected on the night of his death, we can now have our’s answered. It is through this very pain and loss do we, as fellow heirs, have a God who suffers with us. A God who answers us. And in the glorious victory of the Resurrection, we see hope for a world that is broken, but going to be restored to the way things should be. This post is dedicated to my loving niece, for giving your inadequate uncle such peace. We love you and miss you.

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Seong-Sil Park
Mar 13, 1992 – Jan 02, 2013

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January 16, 2012

“Ask, Seek, Knock”

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The new year has only just begun, but already so much has happened.  This past weekend will mark a very special milestone for my own faith, because it was the first engagement that I had in speaking for an entire retreat.  The following post contains some of my own reflections from the past couple days and weeks (which includes the preparation for the retreat itself), but mind you, these are only the seeds of an initial glance.  Still battling physical and mental fatigue, and awaiting more divine revelation to help process what took place, I eagerly await the fruits of labor in the weeks, months, and years to come.

Maybe it’s the Presbyterian in me talking, but there were three big takeaways for me:

  1. God’s sovereignty
  2. God’s providence
  3. God’s grace

God’s sovereignty

New Haven Korean Church is actually the church that I grew up at.  After my family and I moved to Connecticut in 1998, I started attending the youth group  at the age of 10.  In the 13+ years that I’ve spent  involved with this church, I’ve experienced the highest of high’s and lowest of low’s with and because of NHKC.  On top of that, amongst those that attended the retreat, the majority of them were those I attended youth group with at some point or another.  To be quite honest, I never would have expected half of the said peers to have even considered coming to this retreat.

Then I started praying for them.  A couple days before the retreat itself, I had the registration list of attendees before me and began praying for each person by name.  For those I knew, I lifted up personal requests of how I wanted to see God speak to them at this retreat.  For those I didn’t know too well or at all, I prayed that God meet them where they stood.  When I was about three-quarters down the list, I remembered that the leaders mentioned a handful of other people who were still considering coming last-minute.  But I didn’t know their names and couldn’t intercede for them in the same way.  And then it hit me: God is sovereign.  Long before I decided to pray for everyone, or before I was asked to speak at this retreat, or even before the idea to have this retreat take place was conceived, God knew.  God knew each and every member by name and was aware of what their heart conditions were.  He felt every wound and bore every scar that all 37 attendees were carrying with them.  It was within God’s will to bring His children to this retreat, whether or not I could have imagined it.  So the work and effort I spent toiling in preparation for the retreat was not for my own gain, but for ways in which God was about to work in His children.

God’s providence

Though the retreat itself was only a day and half long, my speaking engagements numbered five in total.  Three for the retreat and twice on Sunday (once for the IMPACT ministry, and the other for the youth group).  The theme for the retreat was on prayer, and in God’s sovereignty, I was able to witness the true power of prayer.

Just before my last sermon of the weekend, I humbly asked for prayer from the youth group leadership team.  Working off of only two hours of sleep the night before, and less than six for the entire weekend, I was without a doubt feeling the effects of my fatigue.  I didn’t know how I was going to stand on my two feet for longer than 30 minutes, let alone make it through my sermon for the youth group.  But because of their prayer, I was able to not only deliver my words in a coherent manner, but communicated them in a most alert and clear state of mind.

Prayer works in many ways.  While the above story is a very practical example on the fruits of prayer, I know that it is not the only means in which we see prayer at work.  It is not just a means in which we offer up requests or demands in our times of need, but so much more.  On occasions of joy, we praise God for his goodness.  During times of confusion, we ask for wisdom to be enlightened.  When we are grieving, we have nothing but to reflect on the image of the Suffering Servant in Christ.  In all these instances and more, our souls are engaged in prayer.  We acknowledge that there is fundamentally something missing in our hearts that only God can provide.  I thank God that He is the only one who can provide.

A special acknowledgement of God’s provision comes from my family, fellow seminarians, mentoring pastors, fellow church members, and supportive friends who were able to join me in praying for this retreat.  Though not all of them knew who they were praying for in the list of attendees, they did so willingly and joyfully for the sake of the Kingdom.  What a beautiful picture we have that displays the unity of God’s people for whom He provides!

God’s grace

There’s nothing like learning how to do something by throwing yourself into the thick of things and getting your hands dirty.  It’s the same way for ministry.  Seminary is constantly rooting me in Scripture, equipping me with sound theology, and helping me simulate practical ministry skills, but I won’t actually learn what ministry is all about until I get myself into the real thing.

As I was on this retreat, I was made aware of how important preaching is.  Jesus commissions us to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20), and the only language that can be communicated universally amongst all people groups is the heart language of the Gospel.  In the deepest groanings and yearnings of our hearts, we seek a satisfaction that can only be brought about by the person of Christ, whom this thing called the “Bible” is describing.  For this retreat, it was my burden to share that Word.  My heart grew heavy.

On the last night of the retreat, people began approaching the front on their knees asking for prayer.  Through the hand of God, souls began offering themselves in humility, ready to (re-)commit their lives to Christ.  The fact that I had a responsibility in praying for them to do so made my heart grow even heavier.  I was immediately confronted with my own inadequacy in tending to these requests; requests had people’s souls at stake.  How was I supposed to accomplish any of these things?

Once again, God intervened.  Yes, through my own efforts I was not qualified or ready to handle such a burden.  In fact, if it were up to me, these people would be in a more grave position than they were before the retreat.  But therein lies the hope: it wasn’t and is not up to me.  God’s grace extends from the work of Christ and not our own.  So when I prayed for them, I thanked God for His grace, pleaded for the righteousness of Christ, and invited the intercession of the Holy Spirit.  By these means alone was this retreat able to be the awesome- no, awe-full!- blessing that is was.

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Gospel Connection: When I was preparing for one of the talks, it came time to brainstorm how to wrap up that particular sermon with a Gospel connection.  As I was typing the words to say how Jesus asks, seeks, and knocks for our own hearts, I began to choke up.  I’m usually not an emotional guy and it takes a lot to bring me to tears.  When it came time to deliver that sermon at the retreat, I didn’t expect to choke up at that part again, because I knew what was coming.  If it takes a lot to bring me to tears on one thing, you can imagine how much more it would take to make me cry over that same thing.  But lo and behold, as I was delivering that same portion, I realized I wasn’t just reciting words from an outline.  I began to see the picture of Jesus dining amongst tax collectors and prostitutes.  My mind flashed an image of our bloody Savior nailed to the Cross.  And in a second’s time, I was able to glimpse the sheer glory of His resurrected body.  In the most paradox picture of redemption found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I was once again brought to tears.  My heart was moved by the Good News as if for the first time.  Jesus looks upon our filthy, sin-stained hearts and still says, “I want you.”  And through the grace of an all-loving and triune God, we can answer that call because he said, “It is finished.”