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Letter to the Realest

theRealest at HGames

Dear Realest,

I just wanted to share 3 things with you guys as everyone is finally home, traveling, or ready to start the next LIFE Group and season of life.

1. Thank you

I’m horrible at expressing myself “in the moment,” and I remember sitting there awkwardly after watching the video and receiving the offering you guys put together. But I wanted to again say thank you for all of your thoughts, prayers, and conversations this year for Sumi and myself because it meant a lot. I felt so valued, supported, cherished, and a part of the family, which means a lot because there were many times as a leader this year I felt alone and separated.

2. God loves you far more than I do

Maybe it’s because more people in this LIFE Group called me grandpa than in past years, but I definitely feel that love for you guys like y’all are my children… or grandchildren (or…at least as much as I can imagine what that feels like since I’ve never had children). It feels weird but I’m really excited to come back some time in the future and see where you guys are at and how you’ve grown. The best part is that I know that God’s love for you far exceeds my limited human love. I know sometimes it might feel opposite of that, in fact right now it might feel like you’re experiencing the proverbial tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword, but Romans 8:31-39 says that we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us, and that there is nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. That’s why my hope and prayer is “that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19). Because even though you “know” God’s love, there is more breadth, length, height, and depth for all of us to discover and understand.

3. Be real wherever you are

If it wasn’t obvious already, my hope is that every one of you will be real, like the tax collector, in your next LIFE Group, church community, workplace, classroom, missions team, or wherever you find yourself. If only Jesus gave us an example of what that looks like! Like a real person, not a parable! Guess what? In the chapter right after Luke 18 where Jesus tells the parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector, Luke 19, Jesus meets Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector. Here’s three snippets of how Zacchaeus is real.

Recognize we need God

vv.3-4 “he was seeking to see who Jesus was… So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him.” Let’s admit that we need Jesus, there’s something special about him, and run to him! Be vulnerable, open with your new LIFE Group or community, don’t be afraid of what the crowd or others might say about you.

Receive Jesus quickly

v.6 “he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.” Jesus is always initiating and coming to us first. Let’s receive quickly! Don’t dwell on how hard it was in the past, what you might “miss,” even what you might have to give up. Don’t wait, or dawdle. Remember Christ and respond without hesitation.

Restore and build relationships with others

v.8 “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” Zacchaeus responds to Christ’s love by loving God and loving others. Let’s take that first step and love people around us, especially your new LIFE Group, coworkers, roommates, family, friends, etc! Don’t compare LIFE Groups or say “but we did it this way last year!”, just receive God’s grace and learn to love God and the people around you.

It’s crazy because in the very end of the story, Jesus declares that salvation has come to Zacchaeus’ house, just as the tax collector was justified as he humbled himself. Hoping that we learn to do the same! Miss you guys already and can’t wait to hear how God will work in your lives this summer and through the next few years!

Love,

Bo

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Community Summer Missions Project 2013 – Ride Together Die Together Recap

Just wanted to share lessons and stories of how I experienced God this past CSMP! You can read the titles here, and then read the longer stories below:
The morning prayers
Games Team growth
Car crash, not caring, and the librarian
21 kids even though we are undeserving
God’s abundant provision
Saturday outreaches
Urban Youth Outreach
Pacific Garden Mission
Chicago Tour + Salem Baptist Church
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The morning prayers
Every morning we’d wake up at 630am for morning prayer. Morning prayer was tough to stay awake and engaged, as well as get into the Word. Our church has been emphasizing life on life discipleship a lot and I decided that everyday during morning prayer, I would ask one of the guys on my team to pray together for 10-15 minutes after we had read the bible. Those times were really good for me, we actually prayed for a lot of different people and needs both for CSMP and the church, and it helped me stay awake. I think it was also good for the guys on my team to learn to pray together and know that even 10-15 minutes of prayer could be effective. Prayer was also a huge support for myself and the other leaders of the team. I remember during CSMP when a lot of the team was sick, all of the leaders were struggling, and we had a big next day that we needed to push through on. We got together to pray, just for about 5 minutes, but during those 5 minutes, God met us and refreshed and encouraged us.
Games Team growth
During Excel English, I helped the Games team guys (Elliot, Aaron, and Joe) for the morning. The first week or so, it was a tough sell to the kids. I remember one morning playing a musical chairs game, and one of kids kept competing for the chairs, even knocking off other kids. Other games didn’t go so well either, too much waiting around and a lot of the kids got really bored. Aaron and Joe, being in charge, did a good job getting feedback and evaluating how to make the games better. Everyday we learned how to be flexible and tweak little things here and there to make the games experience better and better. In the last two weeks, it turned from a tough sell to kids screaming and yelling everyday, which solicited complaints from the office next door because they were having too much fun, and a pair of twin girls who cried so hard the first day to running around smiling and jumping and fully participating in the activities. I think it was an awesome experience to grow together as a team, learn to communicate and give constructive criticism to each other.
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Car crash, not caring, and the librarian
There was one epic day for me during Excel. In the morning, as I was backing out, I didn’t see a car and ended up hitting it, causing a dent. Frustrated at myself, I left a note and headed to the Excel English location. There, someone talked to me about the guys on the team I was responsible for who were sick. I had no idea how they were doing, realizing that should have been one of my top concerns. To make matters worse, when we went to Bryant Community Center, we found out that the schedule for the day had been changed and a librarian was going to come in the middle of our activities. I was in charge of assigning kids into groups and maintaining calm in the center. After the librarian left, everything was thrown off, I hadn’t planned any system to reorganize groups, and the whole center was in utter chaos, kids ran around everywhere, center staff were confused, all of our team was exhausted from chasing down kids and trying to get them to participate. I was so discouraged and frustrated at myself for everything that had happened, and became nearly paralyzed, unable to do anything productive. During a time of prayer, God met me in my frustration and told me “you’re not that important”, and reminded me that even in my mistakes He was in control. From that point, I’ve been continuing to grow in not putting my value in my successes or failures.
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21 kids even though we are undeserving
The third week of Excel English, we were preparing to present the gospel through the bible lesson and puppet show over two days. We were really unsure of how it would turn out, the older classes usually were “too cool” for the puppet show and the younger classes had great difficulty understanding English let alone bible concepts. On top of that, the night before the first day the team stayed up late into the night rewriting and tweaking the script. The next morning something clicked, the games team and crafts teams did activities that helped the kids focus during the puppet show, and during an altar call, 7 kids had said they wanted to accept Christ. That night we went to Bryant Community Center to do a movie night for the neighborhood. Even though we had just celebrated salvation, our team lost focus and forgot the purpose behind why we were there and took a backseat during the movie. While debriefing, we were confronted with our sin and had to spend time in repentance. For whatever reason during the next day, when we presented the gospel in the puppet show, 14 more kids received the gospel. We got a glimpse of the magnitude of God’s grace that day when though we were in sin, God still released His blessings and allowed us to be used for His Kingdom.
God’s abundant provision
The first week of missions, we got into the vans, ready to go, excited for breakfast. After we prayed, someone yelled out “Ok, everyone get’s half a banana! Take one and share!” That whole week, we had “half of a” something. Lunches were on the smaller side and the guys would always trying to ask the girls for extra if they had leftover. During week 2, we suddenly got a text from the team that went to Detroit saying they had tons of free food! We were stunned, and sure enough, they brought back boxes and boxes of yogurt, ensure, frozen potatoes, beef jerky, pasta salad, etc. This ended up happening about 3 times per week from a generous custodian who worked at a food pantry. We definitely had enough to eat from then on. Financially too, we were very behind in the month leading up to July. As we prayed, we did two fundraisers, both that we expected at most $600-900 total. Those two fundraisers came together to raise more than $2,500. Throughout the trip, we were blessed by LIFE Groups from the church who cooked us meals, gave us care packages, anonymous donors who gave us other provisions. I think we experienced so much that we could have fed much more than 5,000.
Saturday outreaches
Each Saturday we did an outreach or serving opportunity in a different city. The first weekend we went to Hope Clinic to serve and partner with their community. We painted walls, cleaned rooms, helped connect computers, etc. They loved us so much that they invited us back for the next day to play music and meet people for their food service! The second weekend we went to Detroit and partnered with a LIFE Group in Detroit to reach out to the campus at Wayne State University. We went out in smaller groups to meet people around campus, but it seemed really bare, only a couple people were walking around and many were uninterested. When we came back, however, we saw that 50+ or so people had heard about the free BBQ and joined us in food, fellowship, volleyball, frisbee, and even a short Bible study on love! Conversations turned out well and about 30 people signed up to be contacted about LIFE Group. The last Saturday partnered with LIFE Groups in Ann Arbor and went out to talk and pray for people in Ann Arbor during the art fair. We split up again in groups and met so many different people. My group met a Christian couple that was striving to be a light in the artistic community, and a ex-church goer who now creates Chinese jewelry for a living. God gave our team a burden for the Ann Arbor community and showed us how simple acts of obedience can show how much God is doing.
Urban Youth Outreach
When we first arrived at this ministry, I was driving and looped around a whole block because I couldn’t find what I thought would be something like a community center. It just looked like a bunch of fenced in old houses. The second time around, a gentleman got out of the truck and introduced us to the center, which was 2 houses surrounded by a old wooden fence. Going in, we did an introduction where they told stories about the ministry. Englewood is a neighborhood in the south side of Chicago dominated by gangs. Every aspect from the houses, territories, schools, all kids are pretty much part of the gangs. Their ministry reached out primarily to teenage gangsters with love. Rev Keith had been there for 30 years, adopted custody of around 7 boys, and Daniel had been there about 15 years, and had boys regularly spend the night at his home with his family. Rev Keith told us about one boy he’d been reaching out to who was a gang leader. He had accepted Christ 1 month ago and disarmed his whole gang. Later that day we got to play basketball with him and 2 other gang members. In the afternoon many other boys came to the center just to “check in”. I asked why they did that, and Rev Keith said “that’s what family does”. He brings his daughter to the center about 3 times a week and she grew up with many of the boys. All the boys call him “pops”. I again asked why, and they said “he’s a father to us”. The two house complex serves as a safe haven for teenagers and kids. Gangs all around the neighborhood all know Rev Keith by name, while we were driving around they all waved to him. They dare not attack him for if they did, all other gangs would destroy them.
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One thing that stuck out to me that he said was, “why I pray for them, I ask God to help me see them as He created them”. I realized that his whole ministry was based on love for people. There weren’t any formal programs, no snazzy building, no amazing worship service, nothing except for love for people. He actually lamented about churches nearby that did not understand going out to love people, who stayed inside the 4 walls of the building. He loved the gangsters with tough love too, he was very up front about the gospel and disciplined them when they did not behave well. I think it really humbled me, I questioned why I do what I do, especially investing in younger guys in the church, and whether or not I did it with love and genuine care for them. I was humbled by their belief in prayer too. I don’t remember how many times we prayed during that day, but it always seemed like they were lifting up needs to God. We went prayer walking and they shared how they always have someone back at the center praying for the outreach no matter what.
Lastly, they were so surrendered, both themselves and their families. While they expressed that this area was safe during the introduction, you could tell that they would take certain precautions, like going out in groups, always locking up the doors, knowing who was where etc. One incident happened a couple years ago where there was a shooting down the street, Daniel ran out to get the boys back into the center, and remembered his baby daughter was upstairs sleeping. When he ran up to the room, he found her crying, and only a couple feet away was a bullet and the hole that it created in the wall. We asked him what happened, and he said “nothing”. He didn’t tell his wife when we went home, afraid she wouldn’t let him go back to the center the next day. He told her a month later and she said “oh I see” nonchalantly. They make very little (all donation based from churches and personal supporters), and often work late nights visiting boys in prison and families. I was really amazed by how much their whole lives were devoted to loving people and loving God.
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Pacific Garden Mission
We visited PGM, the oldest homeless shelter (they prefer rescue mission), in the US. They serve hundreds (if not thousands) of people everyday. When we got there, we were introduced to the director of the building who proceeded not only to introduce us to PGM, but also share his personal story of transformation through Christ. We went on a tour and the tour guide also shared his story, one that started as a suburban insurance agent, and led to losing his family, alcohol, overdosing on drugs twice, and finally restoration through PGM’s bible programs. We had the privilege of serving them: helping clean the kitchen, doing a puppet show for the kids (4 kids accepted Christ!), and a full service for them. During the full service, it was incredible to see our team living out 1 Peter 4:10, each person using their gifts to administer God’s grace. A couple people sang and led worship, others did an everything skit, another shared their testimony. During the skit, there were a number of men that actually stood up and whistled and cheered for Jesus as He was depicted saving the girl in the skit. After the service, a number of men came up for counsel and prayer, and it was just a surreal feeling to see what God could do, and how we could be part of something that He was doing, even if it was just for an evening. I got one of those “in awe” feelings, like wow God is so big and so good, and on the van ride back the whole team just kept singing “deep deep” in worship to God. And we celebrated with Jim’s polish sausages too 😀
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Chicago Tour + Salem Baptist Church
Throughout the 3 days, we were hosted by Dr. Fuder, a professor at Moody Bible Institute, a man passionate for the city of Chicago. In the afternoon he took us on a driving tour around Chicago, told us the history, demographic, needs of each and every neighborhood. It was inspiring and very challenging to hear him share about the effects every aspect of society had on the spiritual condition of people (transportation, education, government policy, violence, civil rights, culture, ethnic tensions, religious institutions, business, gospel-preaching ministries, etc). In the evening, we visited Salem Baptist Church, a megachurch in the deep south of Chicago. We joined their church members in an outreach they called “Corner Prayer”, in which they just went out to the street corners and as people passed by, asked people if they needed prayer, and shared the gospel with them. That night, hundreds of people accepted Christ, something my cynical side totally did not believe. I had time to talk with some of the pastors more in depth and asked how it all worked. Two things stuck out to me. 1) He said that the whole week leading up to the outreach they were praying, praying for hearts and minds to be open. 2) I asked why didn’t just asking people if they had a minute to talk worked, and he said that “people don’t care what you know unless they know you care”. That really hit me, especially because those two things were lessons I’d been learning all throughout the missions project
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6 weeks

Yesterday I was talking with one of my co-workers as we were walking during our 3PM break. This week is her 5th week since she started working at Menlo and also her last week — she’ll be moving on to another more permanent job.

As we were walking, she suddenly started asking me how long I’ve been working at Menlo and how I feel like it’s been going. I responded saying that it’s been challenging, but an awesome learning and growing experience. She responded:

“I have 6 weeks and I’ve been asking God how He wants to use me”

6 weeks.

She only had 6 weeks here and could have seen it as a temporary job, just an interruption in her life, another thing she just had to get through, but she chose to see these 6 weeks as God-given opportunity to be used for His purposes and to share good news with those she sees as needing meaning and purpose in life.

I’ve been here 6 months and have been making it mostly about “what can I get out of it”, but I now want to see everyday as an opportunity for God to use me, no matter how long or how short of a time I have.

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Thank You

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Just wanted to thank all of you for sharing your love for me this past week for my birthday, my family, LIFE Group, friends, roommates. I realize how fortunate I am to have you guys in my life and all the awesome relationships God has given me over the past couple years. I’m so thankful for you guys! God bless!

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Asia Missions 2012 Recap

Hey guys!

I returned to the US a few days ago and am adjusting back to Ann Arbor, so I wanted to update you guys on how the trip was before I forget everything! Again, thanks for supporting and praying for me, it really made a huge difference. Unlike some other team members, I didn’t get diarrhea the first week 😀

Overall the trip was both a big personal learning experience as well as a privilege to see how God is moving in Indonesia and Singapore. We first gathered in Jakarta to meet up with the other teams joining us and got to experience Indonesian food and culture for the first time. Food is really good and really spicy, and training with the other teams was an awesome experience to see partnership among various churches. Then flying over to Biak, we worked with a church denomination called GKI and hosted a couple revival meetings and youth seminars. It was really awesome to be able to connect with the youth and see some of them respond to the messages, it felt like the work there is just beginning and that we were just planting seeds in people’s hearts to experience more of a personal relationship with God because of years of tradition and culture. In Jayapura, we helped out with a youth soccer camp and built relationships with some really amazing soccer players. It was encouraging to see many of them open up their lives to us and sharing about their past and convicted us of the need for more people to continue to invest in the next generation of leaders. Sorong was also eye-opening as we visited various villages, orphanages, churches, and people, but what stuck out were the couple of believers who faithfulness and patiently ministered onto the people, a woman who started her own orphanage, a missionary couple that is building a k-12 school, among others. Even as we went to Singapore, despite how modern and advanced the country is, we still saw so much need for community and the church when we talked with students and had a game night at National University of Singapore and Singapore Management University. It was so interested that externally, Singapore and Papua were so different, but the needs of people were so similar.

Personally, the biggest thing I learned was that I still place my worth in the things that I do, instead of Christ. Through the various skits, dances, playing guitar for worship, and other small things I did, I realized that this is in part a big reason why I care so much about my reputation and what people think of me. It was pretty noticeable that when I made a mistake, it would impact my demeanor and attitude because I cared so much about what others thought of me. But on the trip, God reminded me to please Him only, which gives me freedom from the burden of trying to appease so many other people’s opinions or thoughts of me. It’s definitely a work in progress, but it’s been incredible experience to go through. Additionally, God really showed how much he loves Papua and Singapore. In every location there were people with needs, orphans without families, youth without role models, students without community. And it was through this trip that the verse Matthew 9:37-38 really came alive.

*37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (NIV84)*

My personal takeaways were to see how the gospel applies in each instance I catch myself trying to please people, and continue praying for Papua and Singapore. So thanks again for your prayers! Below there are more comprehensive details about the trip if you would like to read. Otherwise, if you have any questions feel free to ask!

*Jakarta* We spent a couple days in Jakarta to join the Chicago, Austin, Singapore, and Jakarta missions teams and spent time training together. We spent most of the time getting to know each other, teaching each other the dances and skits, praying for the trip, and eating Indonesia food (really good and really spicy). One of the best times was getting to play a couple games of ultimate frisbee with all the different teams, some of the Indonesia guys were really good. It was incredible to see how quickly the teams came together with the same heart and spirit, it was almost like they were long lost brothers and sisters that we just hadn’t met yet. And I got to meet my JKT web team counterparts, and it was really hilarious taking photos of our church’s “global” web team.

sendoff(sending us off from Jakarta)

*Biak* In Biak we learned the need to be flexible. There was ministry that we thought were scheduled but when we got there, we realized didn’t exist, and also ministry gatherings that we didn’t know existed until right before. We partnered with a church part of a denomination called GKI to do various revival meetings and youth seminars. GKI is supposed to be a fairly conservative church, so when we invited people to come to the front and receive prayer during a meeting, we were shocked at how open some of the people were. In both the adult and youth meetings, some people broke down and renewed their commitment and need for Christ, and some (mostly men) stood in the back just watching others. We also had youth seminars where we were able to connect with some of the more committed youth (anywhere from 15-30 yr olds). They shared that the biggest issues in Biak were drugs, free sex, alcohol, and apathy/disinterest in the church.

school(a remote Biak school)

We also spent a day visiting local schools around the island. We saw many teachers and principals share how great the needs for the students were, but also how they were doing their best to use the resources they had. We saw glimmer of hope in many of the teachers and innocent joy in the kids eyes. Also, throughout our stay in Biak, we received the most incredible hospitality from the women of the church who would get up early to prepare us breakfast and stay up late to clean up our dinner, and everything in between.

I was really moved by the stark contrast in Biak, where large ornate churches were half-filled with a dwindling congregation and teachers were holding out hope for students and the next generation of students. Our team really had the feeling that the work we did there was simply to “prepare the way”, and we’re praying that there will be others that go to stir up a generation of youth that will build a church that is on fire for God there.

*Jayapura* During our stay in Jayapura, we spent the majority of our time at a soccer camp called “EMSYK UniPapua”, in addition to visiting a couple churches. We worked with Pak Harry (Pak = Mr.) who’s vision was to use the soccer camp as a vehicle for transforming the people and, eventually all of Papuan society, especially because soccer is HUGE in Papua. At the camp, we actually played a soccer match against their 18-21 year old team and lost 4-2 (we found out later that throughout the game they were yelling at each other to go easy on us). We hosted a 2 day “character and motivation camp” where we shared biblical values of responsibility, integrity, and courage to the players. In one of the times of sharing, one of the students opened up his life and shared about a significant family struggle. The different activities really seemed to connect with the players. We did arm wrestling competitions, soccer ball juggling competitions, showed them how to play ultimate frisbee, among many other things. After the two days many of them did not want us to leave, kept asking us for facebook and email contacts. Even as we left at around 3am in the morning, many of them came back to help us pack and load our luggage and say goodbye. It was an incredible time being able to spend time with these soccer players, share Christ’s love and pray for them that they would become not just the best soccer players, but the next generation of leaders in Papua.

jayapura(doing activities with the U20 guys and the team that beat us 4-2)

I was really inspired by the camp and the whole vision of seeing this become a center of holistic education for the soccer player, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We were just able to get a glimpse of what God wanted to do in that place.

*Sorong* In Sorong we did various visits to orphanages, seaside towns, poor rural villages, house visits, churches, and universities. In many of these towns and villages, we saw such a great need for God. There were workers disillusioned by rough working conditions and no government help, villages so remote there were few good schools, sick lepers in hospitals with little hope. But in the midst of those people, we also met a number of people that gave hope to the city. We met the mother of a famous Papuan soccer player who started an orphanage. She exemplified a woman of faith, raising the children to fear God, to be disciplined and hardworking, and many of the children went off to lead successful lives as politicians, businessmen, even traveling to the US. We met a group of youth leaders who were excited to invite another missions team to host a camp, bringing all the traditionally-opposed denominations together to unite the youth of the city to bring change. And we met a missionary couple sent out from Texas who started a school, defying the popular held belief that Papuan children could not learn. They started with only kindergarden, but are looking to build a school that will serve through grade 12. But their influence is not limited to the students, of the students they taught, some were muslim, and they were able to see 14 or 15 muslim parents come to know Christ through a bible study ministry.

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(visiting an orphanage)

Again, God showed me just how great the needs are and how he only requires people who will be faithful to their calling to see the greater society transformed.

*Singapore* Singapore was in stark contrast to Papua. City skyline, automated everything, streets cleaned day and night. People in Singapore generally had this feel of “busy”, work life is difficult, and cold interactions with strangers. Underneath the beautiful landscape and prinstinely controlled society seemed like a apathetic, over-worked, soul-less population that needed Christ’s joy. We were hosted by the HMCC Singapore church and had a wonderful time partnering and serving with them. We helped them put together a “game night”, in which by random coincidence (or God’s soveriegnty) another university group had planned a game night at the exact same time and place. We met many people and connections for the Singapore church members to follow up on.

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Lost Notebook

I have a little green notebook that I jot down all my todo’s, random ideas, timesheets, and various other personal information. It’s the perfect size that fits in your pocket, so I carry it around everywhere I go it’s become pretty important to me.

A couple days back I lost my little green notebook. Immediately I went into a frantic search of my memory to try to trace back where I could have lost it. I checked my whole apartment, my bags, coats, drawers, everywhere I could think of. I retraced my steps, back to the room I had my last meeting, at the cost of being late to my next appointment.

When I backtracked to that room, I found my little green notebook on one of the tables I had been sitting at. I excitedly interrupted a group of students inside the room to grab my notebook and quickly left the room while excitedly texting a friend about how I’d found it.

I get so excited about finding little things that were once lost. I wonder how much more does God rejoice when His lost children return to Him.

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I’m learning to be more thankful

Last Sunday, I made a commitment to list 5 things I’m thankful for every day of the week. Here’s my list for Thursday.

I’m thankful for:

  1. A new friend I just met who came to church and really experienced God through it.
  2. Having older guys that care enough to take time out of their own life to help me through my life.
  3. Building better relationships with my co-workers, especially when I feel like I’m the new guy and everyone already knows each other well.
  4. Being able to work with a team to build our church website and see real change and growth.
  5. Somehow always being really excited about learning (at work and other random interactions) and apply it in new ways to my life and the teams I lead.

Over the past month or so I’ve been learning how it’s so easy to look at my own life and nit pick at all the things that are lacking. What follows? Discouragement, a poor attitude, and nothing but complaining. It’s refreshing to see the brighter side and actually thank God for all the awesome things that are going on all around me.

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Learning to be more confident. Just not in myself.

A lot of times my boss at work will say “I’m confident we’re going to get this deal”. He’s talking about a call he just had with a potential client that is interested in our product. I always wonder what gives him such confidence and certainty, especially because afterward, sometimes the deal goes through and sometimes it doesn’t.

Today at church we studied Hebrews 3:1-6 and one of the points was that we should have confidence in the freedom that God gave us. We are God’s people “if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.” (v.6).

As I sat there listening to the message, I was thinking: “how can I maintain or have this kind of confidence?”. Where does this confidence come from? I’ve learned that just trying to “muster” up confidence doesn’t really cut it. And besides, why does this lesson about confidence sound so conditional? I thought the gift that Jesus gives us is completely unconditional and “not about me”? There are other verses that sound similar:

Mt 10:22 “and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Heb 3:14 “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”

Ps 119:33 “Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.”

How can I make sure that I’ll be the one that “endures” or is “firm to the end”? There are so many times that I’ve tried to do all the “right” things, like pray before my meals, read the Bible, go to all the good church meetings, be extra nice to people, and I either get really apathetic and jaded or I fail and become discouraged. So it seems really difficult to hold firm to this “confidence”. Then why does the statement “if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence…” sound like it’s all up to me to find confidence in order to know Jesus? Is this now dependent on me now?

No. As I thought about what it means to be confident, I realized that confidence is enabled because something outside of ourselves is sure. When I stand on a rock foundation, my confidence comes from the rock’s characteristic of being sturdy. When I throw a ball into the air, I’m confident that it will eventually come down for someone else to catch. I take it for granted that gravity always works, confident in gravity’s perfect track record of making things fall. When we trust in God, our confidence comes from the fact that He died on the cross to give us life. All the above are sturdy, unchanging, and not dependent on my feelings, thoughts, or actions.

Confidence is not something we muster up or are something we can “get good at”. It’s a by-product and a response to something that is already solid and set in place. More than a rock is sturdy or that gravity is always working, God is unchanging, guaranteed, consistent, unfailing, everlasting, eternally faithful, and good. If we can have confidence that rocks are sturdy and gravity is a normal fact of life, how much more then can we have confidence that God gave us life through His son? Confidence is enabled because something outside of ourselves is sure. And our unchanging God is surely outside of ourselves.

So if my boss can find confidence in clients that are 50-50, I can definitely find confidence in a God thats 100%.

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Last words to my Jarheads

Hey Jars,

I can’t believe graduation is already over and that a lot of us are already spread out all over, home, traveling, or in AA. I just wanted to share a few last thoughts with you guys as you start vacation or working, or a new semester! I had originally wanted to share this earlier when we closed out LIFE Group but ran out of time. If you have a couple minutes, please take some time to read!
I remember hearing during one of the last Access gatherings about Paul’s last letter, 2 Timothy. In that message, I was inspired by Paul’s final words to Timothy as Paul was suffering, probably in dark and difficult circumstances in prison. Pastor Seth talked about how at the end of Paul’s life, after his three missionary journeys, it’s his hope in God that focuses on, talking about being poured out, fighting the good fight, finishing the race, and being ready to depart this world. And as I think about our LIFE Group this past year, maybe we didn’t suffer like Paul did, haha, but it was a thrill to go through a year of an adventure with you guys, seeing God’s faithfulness in every circumstance and situation; it really does feel like we finished a race together.
I remember a number of times that Nayoung and I prayed for LIFE Group; our prayer was just that every one of us would be a little more equipped to follow after Christ wherever we go after LIFE Group, whether overseas or in the states. And I know that it happened, whether it was learning how to read the bible inductively on our own, or praying together, or reaching out to friends and strangers. I’m so blessed because I had the privilege to see each and every one of you grow and mature in your faith! Which brings me to my main point.
I was reading 2 Timothy 4, where Paul gives his final charge and closing remarks to Timothy. I asked, what could be so important that Paul would save for the very end of the letter? A challenge? Encouragement? Rebuke? Paul certainly charges Timothy to ”Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction”, which I certainly hope we all do, but as I read a little further, I came across something different in vv.9-10a:

 9 Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.

Who is Demas that Paul would go out of his way to talk about? Col 4:14 and Phm 1:24 describe Paul talking about Demas as a partner or fellow worker. What happened that resulted in Demas now no longer with Paul, forcing Paul to ask Timothy to come so quickly? After running the race with Paul, suffering with him, building churches and seeing God’s work with him, why did Demas fail to finish well? Paul gives us a little bit of insight and describes Demas as someone who “loved this world” and went to Thessalonica, perhaps to pursue his worldly interests there. We don’t really know what part of the world that Demas loved so much that he would abandon God’s call for him, but it could have been anything, from family, friends, to money, to security, to comfort, among many other things. Regardless of what specifically it was, the part that stuck out was that here was a man who was running the race, being filled with faith, and experiencing God in many ways, and yet he became distracted and left the narrow path to pursue temporary and worldly things. And my first thought was, could we be the same? We, who experienced God and were able to celebrate his faithfulness in our lives this entire past year, could we also turn to the world and leave like Demas did?
I believe that we’re all fallible and prone to making mistakes, but I also believe we are also held responsible to make choices and decisions that will affect our future. God has been, and always will be faithful and uphold his part, we always have the decision to make to follow after God or not. And I think the question here is: will we be Demas or Timothy? Someone who chooses to love the world and all it’s temporary pleasures? Or like Timothy who Paul can rely on to carry out God’s mission? Which one have you chosen?
I know it’s already been two weeks since LIFE Group officially ended and maybe we’ve already slipped a bit in our commitment to follow Christ wholeheartedly, but there still is today, and the next day, and the next day! Jarheads, let’s resolve not to be like Demas, chasing after the world, just because LIFE Group is over or because we’re not in Ann Arbor anymore. Let’s not renege on our commitments to study, not just read, the word daily because our lives become busy. Let’s not make decisions on our without placing it before God because we’re scared of what He’ll say. Let’s not become self-centered and neglect to invest in others because it’s uncomfortable or difficult! But let’s decide to, whether eating or drinking, do everything for the glory of God, knowing that there’s a crown of righteousness in store for us at the end of the race! I’m in no way expecting us to be perfect or do everything right the first time, but my hope and prayer is that every one of us will be able to testify that because of the decisions we’ve made, we are the Timothy’s of the world that Paul calls to come quickly. We are the ones that will stand for Jesus and build up his church. And we are the ones that God is anointing, filling, and using to build His kingdom. And at the end of the day, even if we end up making mistakes and taking detours on the way, we can confidently declare that we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. Let’s do it together!
God Bless!
Bo

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God is my portion too

This whole week leading up to Good Friday, I was thinking about the “cross”. We did a bible study on the cross during LIFE Group, and even emailing with a couple guys my bible reading for accountability, I really wondered if I even wanted the cross. It made me think, why doesn’t the gospel really strike to my heart? Why do I just feel…eh. Why don’t I realize my “sin”, get on my knees and just welcome the “good news”?
Yesterday during Good Friday I was really wondering, like why do I feel like I don’t want God, I don’t like the idea of having to depend on Christ’s death for me. I want to be able to understand and become better on my own, maybe I don’t understand just how broken I am. And so I asked…what makes sin, sin? Thought about Romans 7, where it talks about something making sin utterly sinful.

7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.”[b] 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead.

And I think I realized there, shoot, sin isn’t just how bad I feel, or this idea of stuff that I have to depend on Jesus for because it doesn’t seem to be going right in my life, but sin is simply disobedience to God’s law, his commandments, who He is. How foolish to think that I can know what sin is just by “feeling”.
Next, since I realized sin is not following God’s law, I asked, why does God get to make the law and define what sin is? Why am I called a sinner just for desiring to be good on my own? Can’t I just try to be good and work toward it as best as I can, isn’t that ok? Why is being self-sufficient so bad? And I thought about Job and God’s response to him in Job 38-42. Essentially, God is asking Job if he knows how the world is put together, the heavens, stars, animals, grass, if he knows everything about the world. And in my scientific logical understanding, I was like…”yes we as people know how those things work now”. And God also asks Job if he can judge the wicked, and humble those who are proud, beat down the beast and the leviathan, and I think that opened my heart a little bit more to..maybe I can’t do that.
And finally this morning trying to reason my situation out again: I don’t want to depend on God, I want to try to understand and be good on my own. YET, this whole semester God’s been showing me how many mistakes I’ve been making, ways that I fall short, people that I’ve hurt, and probably many other situations that I need forgiveness for. So logically, either God is right, or I am right. Either God is stupid, or I am just an obstinate kid who wants his own way (kind of like that stubborn sheep that keeps on going astray because he thinks he knows). And I think I have to come to terms with the fact that I cannot be righteous (by God’s definition) on my own (still wrestling through it, also probably because this season has been “easy” and complacent), and also that not all of my desires are in line with God’s.
Reading through Psalm 73 was very encouraging because as I was praying, God put in me the phrase “though my heart and flesh may fail”. There are 3 sections to the Psalm 73.
 
Section 1 (vv.1-14) The Regret of the Psalmist
This is about the psalmist wondering why the wicked prosper. They live evil lives, but seem to have blessings, and really enjoy life. In this section the psalmist is also wondering: “Have I followed you and tried to obey your commands in vain? What’s the point if my life is going just to be average anyway?”. I think I really identified with this because, yea, why can’t I be good without depending on God? Why can’t I live a fulfilled and blessed life? I’ll depend on God for salvation, but I got the rest.
Section 2 (vv.15-20) The Realization of the Psalmist

16 When I tried to understand all this,
it was oppressive to me
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.

Their final destiny is that they are destroyed and swept away by terrors. And when I read this I was like…oh shoot, that’s me. This the matters of this life, sure it’s good, but I have no control over the eternity. But only God has that complete and full control, just like He was telling Job, and over my life too.
Section 3 (vv.21-28) The Response of the Psalmist
The last section pretty much speaks for itself, the psalmist responds to his realization by affirming the relationship he has with God. In v.23 he says “Yet”. That “yet” is so important! I think for me it’s just like…yea I’m like the wicked, and the psalmist seems to realize that too in v.22 “I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.” BUT YET “I am always with you”. I don’t know how he knows that or where that comes from, but I want that too. Though I try to do things on my own strength, live life as a good person on my own, don’t acknowledge or trust God with everything, I AM STILL WITH GOD. And this is where v.26 (the famous verse) comes in:

26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

I think it’s amazing that the psalmist recognizes that even though he goes through this “realization”, he still acknowledges that he may forget and fail. Sometimes when I have a redeeming experience from God, I immediately forget that I might fail again and get frustrated when it happens. But this guy is like my desires, my ambitions, my physical prowess, my abilities, my thoughts, feelings, actions, my life it will fail and I will turn from God again. BUT (but is very important), but God is my strength, the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. He is the one who gives me strength to respond to Him, the one who allows me to have good desires for Him.
And the word “portion” is very important. Not only is God my strength, but He is also my “portion”. The word portion in the original Hebrew (interlinearbible.org) means “inheritance” or “territory”, kind of like a plot of land. I think this was very important to the people back then because land was everything. Land meant food, sustenance, wealth, security, meaning, family, and home. And this psalmist is saying that even though we may fail, our heart’s desires and our bodily strength, God is always going to be our home, His home will be our home, His eternity will be our eternity. His promise to take us in while we were lost, and even if we’re proud despite being lost, will always be there forever. So I want God to be my portion too.

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