Jonathan and Charlotte

This video from Britain’s Got Talent has become viral.
The next Susan Boyle, people have been saying as they share this video.

Call it lack of sleep… or too much caffeine this morning… but the eyes got a bit misty watching the entire clip.

I think it’s natural to make an assessment based on a first impression. We all do it. And we all try to make the best first impression.

It becomes a problem when we don’t give the person a chance to either live up to that first impression or change our minds from the first impression.

And, we have to be honest with ourselves. A lot of times, we just like to leave it at the first impression and not get to know who the person really is and about.

I don’t think anyone in the studio audience gave Jonathan and Charlotte a chance. Simon sees them and says, “Just when you think things couldn’t get worse.”
And the audience reactions reflected that sentiment. The only reason you and I may not agree with that sentiment is, we stumbled upon this video knowing that we should expect more.

And, when the song started, Jonathan missed his cue and many probably thought, “this is going to be a waste of time…”

I love Simon Cowell. And I love that look he gets when he’s really impressed. Simon was genuinely shocked and pleasantly surprised. That smile on his face proves that he has a soul.

It’s amazing (well, more embarrassing) in how fast we make a judgment on someone based on their looks. And how that first snap judgment is so hard to let go of…

It’s easier to live life thinking that people don’t have layers to them. It saves us valuable time, judging a book by its cover.

But I can’t help but think of how God views His people. God tells Samuel, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” and how that is consistent throughout Scripture.

Gideon. David. Moses. Mary. Paul. The Disciples.
Even Jesus. Perhaps if he looked more like the Messiah…

This video made my morning and was a good reminder that there is more to a person than their physical appearance.

Who is Your Neighbor?

This past Tuesday, our FISH (Feeding Individuals & Sharing Hope) added on a new site for their ministry. The FISH ministry hands out sacked meals and sometimes clothes and toys for families every Thursday evening behind our local K-Mart.

Since I wasn’t part of the brainstorming and visioning and prayer process with FISH, I’m assuming that through their service, they felt that they can do more. Our Emergency Winter Shelter in our Valley is only open for a few months throughout the year, and it closed its doors earlier this month. That means that many more people don’t have a place to eat or sleep during the nights. Since there would be more hungry people, FISH decided that they would go to a different part of our Valley (away from K-Mart) where they felt they can engage a good number of people, and not just families (like on Thursday evenings).

I got to tag along with them on their first excursion out to the Newhall area. When we first arrived, there was no one around the area. Perhaps it was because no one there really knew what we were up to or why we were in their neighborhood, even though the people of FISH had already sent out fliers and let a few people know that we would be in that area on Tuesdays. And it also wouldn’t be a reach to think many didn’t quite trust our presence there. (We were later told that on our fliers, not only should we mention that it’s free but also that no information or identification would be required or asked for. Too many people, we were told, have been rejected services and food because they couldn’t provide the right information, with some even being reported to authorities.)

A small group of us split up to survey the area a bit more. We walked around the neighborhood and you could just tell (and feel) that this was a complete different beat from “AwesomeTown” (our nickname…).

As we turned the corner, I saw a “For Sale” sign for a house that seemed to be right at the heart of this particular neighborhood. I took a moment to survey the homes. They were close together, small… humble, perhaps located in not the best part of town.

And I just heard a voice in my heart say, “If you really want to put your money where your mouth is, you would move into this type of neighborhood.” And I knew immediately that this was going to be a whisper that I’ll try to ignore with all that I am… so much so, that if this was truly God’s will, God would have to beat me into submission…

But I couldn’t help but think that’s how you truly transform a neighborhood – by being a constant presence of God for the people there. Inviting the neighbors into your home. Being invited into theirs. Playing with their kids. Helping one another out. Being in community with them. Allow them to transform us. Being equal, sharing a mutual trust and dependence on one another.

Ugh. But this is what kills me. I. Just. Don’t. Know… if I have the courage. To. Do. This.
Immediately, my mind goes towards the idea of safety. Would I want my kids to grow up in such a neighborhood… to then my mind races towards at the shame of that very thought. Why would my kids be any better than the kids already living here? What makes me worry about my unborn children’s safety more than those who are already living there? What makes my family’s wellbeing better? All because of God’s grace that I can afford to live in an apartment far removed from Newhall?

I’ve had this post on draft for a whole day, debating whether to post it or not. I think my biggest hesitation is that I didn’t want anyone to hold me accountable of this post and make me go and do this.. or let me know that they’re expecting me to do this…
The other side to that was, I realize that I’m, more often than not, critical at others for missing the point and it would only be fair to share how I am purposefully rationalizing myself away from this huge discomfort… how I’m purposefully trying my damndest to “miss the point.”

In my recent devotions, I read the story of the Good Samaritan and kept getting hung up on the Lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor?”

At first, I thought about how one of these days, I’d love to serve at a church in the midst of an urban setting and hold a banquet/feast for the neighbors. I thought about how the church can be a real, strong presence for that neighborhood… a moral compass, a source of hope and love and grace, a place of refuge and rest… a presence that is always there in that neighborhood, not just once a week or so. A church that truly serves their neighbors and lives in midst of those very neighbors.

But after Tuesday, the question, “who is my neighbor?” is more daunting than ever.
It seems to be easier to hide behind a church – to say that the church should be a presence that is always there in that neighborhood – because it’s much harder to say that should be that consistent presence in such a neighborhood.

In all honesty, this could very well be a whisper that I heard in passing and will be all but forgotten.
Or, this could be start of something.. transforming. It very well could be a moment I look back on as a starting point of something.

Either way, I’m scared s***less.

What Do People Know About Your Church?

When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?'”
So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”

When John’s disciples came to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah, Jesus could’ve easily responded with loud rhetoric proving who he is. After all, that’s the style of argument that many use today: the louder you are, the more arguments you’re likely to win.
Or he could’ve come up with a systematic theological statement that we seminary students would dissect and argue over the smallest of words until our face turned a shade of blue mixed with purple and black. (“Well, you’d have to look at the word ‘a’ in its Hebrew and Greek… you know, the original context. Just because the English language uses ‘a’ to describe one thing, that doesn’t mean Jesus would’ve used ‘a’ to describe one thing. Besides, this is 2012 where we use ‘a’ to describe almost everything that is singular. During Jesus’ time, they probably didn’t have an ‘a’ to describe things with.”)

But, Jesus simply told John’s followers to, “Go tell John what you’ve seen and what you’ve heard.” Jesus let his actions do his proving. His work with the blind, the lame, the lepers, the deaf, the dead and the poor was his answer to John’s question.

I’ve always been amused by how people (non-church goers and non-believers) describe a church in their community.

(these are actual things I’ve heard people say)
Oh, that’s the real big church with the new fancy building.
Oh, that’s the weird church that meets over there.
Oh, that’s the church that basically hates anyone who’s not a Republican.
Oh, that’s the church that welcomes gay people.
Oh, that’s the church that’s suing the other church that uses the same building.
Oh, that’s the church where all the socialists go to.
Oh, that’s the church where kids go after school to fight, because the parking lot is hidden from the main street.

I’ve heard church members describe their churches in various ways, too (again, actual things people’ve said).
Oh, we’re a family church.
Oh, we’re a Biblically based church.
Oh, we’re a church with the most amazing choir.
Oh, we’re just a small church hoping to stay open for a few more years.
Oh, we’re a church for people who don’t like church.
And let’s not go into how church-going folks describe other churches in their community.
But, I hope that we, as a church, can soon be known for what we do more than our theology or what we issues we stand for or what sins we require people to repent of.

I want churches to be described as, “Oh yea, that’s the church that serves the homeless.”
“That’s the church in our community trying to help the schools in that struggling neighborhood.”
“That’s the church that throws a banquet for the struggling people within their neighborhood.”
“That’s the church that makes our community a better place to live.”

Or something like that. You know, known more for our actions rather than our rhetoric.
I think if more Church’s took Jesus’ tactic of letting our actions (and not just our words) to show people we are a church, then, perhaps, we’d have less people using church as a scapegoat. We’ve all heard people say things like, “I believe in God, but I don’t believe in church” or “I believe in God, but I don’t need to go to church.” If the church really lived by their actions of unconditional love, then as Francis Chan writes, maybe they’ll say, “I can’t deny what the church is doing, but I don’t think I believe in God.”
If people, who never stepped inside your church, were to describe your church by what they’ve seen and heard, what would they say?
How would they know you by?

Would they even know that you exist?

A Long 3 Days

Prayer

Prayer (Photo credit: Chris Yarzab)

I’ve felt the prompting to do so a while ago.
But I kept coming up with excuses. Can’t do it right now, because so and so. Some excuses were legitimate, others were not.

The day before I went to the Gungor concert, I arrived at church 7a, sat in my office ready to do some morning devotionals… I opened my Bible and I couldn’t focus. So I grabbed my guitar and went to our sanctuary, and sat behind the big cross in our sanctuary, where the choir sits in our first service.
I sing a lot of my prayers. It makes no sense to me, still, why singing my prayers seem so natural when I’m alone. I’d be thoroughly embarrassed if someone were to walk in on me. But I begin to sing/pray. Things got more intense. And suddenly, I’m no longer aware of where I am, what I’m saying, what I’m doing or what I’m praying. It was the Korean Church in me that started pouring out. When it was all said and done, I walked away with a clear, distinct message: it’s time, no more excuses.

But… I came up with excuses. Of course.

At the Gungor concert, during one of their songs, I heard it again: No more excuses. It’s time.

Well… now might not be the best time…

Then on Sunday, I was listening to the pastor preach about “Practice, Practice, Practice” as we were going through our Lenten Sermon Series (and all-church small group study), The Power of a Whisper by Bill Hybels. In our youth small groups, we talked about practicing to be in the presence of God, and I shared with the youth the importance of spiritual disciplines. Pastor was basically preaching the same message.

Okay. I get it. I hear you. I knew, it’s time. No more excuses.

I hadn’t done a fast for years. I think the last time I actually fasted was in ’09.
God had placed in my heart to do one a while back, and I kept postponing and delaying it making excuse after excuse. (One of the excuses? Well, there’s a dinner meeting I have to go to, so it’ll put a cramp on that week… maybe a little bit later, God.) But after the week I had, I knew that I couldn’t (or shouldn’t) put if off anymore.

So I decided to do a 3-day fast, because I felt that it would be easy.
I entered the fast with 2 specific prayer request.
First and foremost for a child. I’m sharing that only so that those who read this can also remember us in your prayers.
And as odd this next sentence may sound, the second prayer request is a bit more private and personal. I know, I know, more personal than pregnancy prayers? Yes, and we’ll just leave it at that.

I learned a lot about myself in the past 3 days.

Mainly, how much clutter is in my life. Okay, I use the word “clutter” to not sound so uhm… I guess “fundamental”. But, I learned months ago that though my theology is rather moderate, my methodology and how I view worship and church would fit right in with the “evangelicals.” Anyhoo what I’m trying to say is I learned how much sin was in my life.

The biggest sin? Pride and arrogance.
I picked 3 days of fasting over 5, because I thought that it would be easy because I’ve done 3 days fasts before. I took it way too easy and lightly. And I was paying for it.
I have never felt so tired. Never felt so drained in a fast. By the day’s end, I was exhausted.  Perhaps if I approached it with more reverence and humility, it wouldn’t have been as difficult.
Meetings were exhausting. Sitting and listening took so much out of me, I was rather embarrassed. And I know I looked tired and may appeared un-attentive or even disinterested during those meetings. I assure you, I was paying attention and knew what was going on. I apologize for appearing that way. As much as I wanted to, I just couldn’t hide it or fake it.

I also realized my dependance on things not God.
Caffeine was a big one. Before the first day was half over, I started getting a dull headache and realized it was from the lack of caffeine. The headache wouldn’t go away, so I had to compromise and drink a little bit of caffeinated tea that my wife graciously brewed.

I also try to limit my intake of needless and mindless entertainment. It was difficult to cut back on the Internet because of how I’m always connected to it.

I realized why addiction is a sin: it replaces what God can and should provide.
Funnily enough, yesterday’s devotion from My Utmost for His Highest was about yielding. He wrote:

I am the one responsible for having yielded myself to whatever it may be…When you yield to something, you will soon realize the tremendous control it has over you. Even though you say, “Oh, I can give up that habit whenever I like,” you will know you can’t. You will find that the habit absolutely dominates you because you willingly yielded to it. It is easy to sing, “He will break every fetter,” while at the same time living a life of obvious slavery to yourself. But yielding to Jesus will break every kind of slavery in any person’s life.

Ouch. I read that entry over and over. On the last day, and arguably the toughest, this was my devotional reading.

I think the biggest reason why this was one of the longest 3 days of my life was that I was trying to fight for my independence from God, while depending on other things, which weren’t bad, harmful nor malicious in any way, but took more and more space and priority in my heart, where God should be.
I was yielding to all sorts of things, but reluctant to yield to God. The fact that I felt the nudge to fast last October-ish, and I finally did it this week (in mid-March) was a loud, blaring testament to my (whether subconscious or conscious) fighting for independence from God while looking for other things to depend on. And during these 3 days, I realized how much I needed to depend on God in all things life and ministry, like approaching church meetings depending on God for strength and wisdom.

It’s a very uncomfortable, queasy feeling being confronted by God’s Spirit with the truth. My brother constantly uses the word “jacked”, like “my reading today just jacked me up.” Not in an hyped up way, but in a way that let him know of his brokenness. I finally understand what he means by that. I’ve been convicted by readings before… but this time, this fast kicked my physical and spiritual ass up, down and all over the place.

About two hours before my fast was to end, I found myself home alone. The wife went to pick up groceries to make porridge (the official food to break fast in our family). I didn’t expect this time for myself. But, I took it as a prompting, a whisper if you will.
I grabbed my guitar and just sat, played and prayed.
As I was praying for strength and just obedience… all of a sudden, Psalm 51 came to mind. And I begin to pray that. “Create in me a new heart and renew your steadfast spirit in me.”

I need(ed) to yield to God more. Actually, I need to learn how to yield only to God. So much easier said than done.

While I entered the fast with my own agendas (pride/arrogance, again) God had a lesson to teach me.
My eyes are now open. So are my heart and soul.
However, I know how dense, dull and thick-headed I am. Six months from now, it is very, very possible that I may go through this again. And I’m giving myself more credit than deserved by saying “Six months from now.”

But I’m hoping and praying that this lesson stays with me for the rest of my life. I don’t want to re-learn it, at least not this way.

As I was ready to go to sleep without being hungry, I was just overwhelmed with gratitude.
I just saw how blessed I truly am. I mean, I knew and know that we are really blessed, but I don’t know. It just.. was overwhelming to know that I have a home. A job. A staff that I absolutely adore. A wife that I don’t have enough words to describe how awesome she is. Parents and Parents in-law who pray to tears over and for us. A brother who I can learn from, but don’t admit to him that I learn stuff from him here and there. Friends and colleagues. Insurance.
I am truly blessed and in a place and situation where I can, in return, bless God by loving the very people that God loves.

As for the 2 prayer requests I went in with.
A part of me hoped that somehow, someway my fasting can move God to make it happen already. All I kept hearing was, “wait.” How much longer? And why? I have no idea.

But, I should apply the lesson I learned, and just yield to God.

I’m (re-)beginning to see and really understand how much easier life can be if we stop fighting and just yield to God, and God alone. And how easy it is to always fight and think I know better. But, yielding to God and only to God leads to the most fulfilling life we can live.

How fitting, that the last song I hear as I’m finishing this post is Gungor’s Every Breath where the song ends with:
Here I am Lord, All I am Lord
Here I am Lord
I am yours…

Gungor Concert

This past weekend, I got to see Gungor on their Ghosts Upon the Earth tour at Santa Ana (a couple of blocks away from where we used to live in OC).

It was an amazing experience. They were great. They had a slam/spoken poet with them who just blew everyone out of the water.

I couldn’t get over how many young people showed up, especially since a couple of weeks ago, a colleague asked, “Where did all the young people go?”
The venue was packed. Majority of the people in attendance were young adults. But the crowd was still diverse. Even if we didn’t know one another, there was a sense of oneness in the air. Sure, we came to hear Gungor, but we also came to see what God is doing through them and those who listen to their God-given gifts. We had church. We were church.

Sure, majority (if not all) of the young adults there were church going folks. But still. There were hundreds of young adults packed into this small and intimate venue.

The truth is, whether young or old, in these times, people will make time for something they value, something they find important.

The bigger truth is, a lot of our churches in the Cal-Pac Annual Conference haven’t given something exciting for the young people to invite friends to, haven’t given something worth of value.

Worship shouldn’t be preference driven, nor product/consumer driven. I think that’s a trouble many of us pastors get into – making consumers out of church goers.
But, there’s no shame, I believe, in wanting and striving for excellence and relevance in our worship.

And if we want to strive for excellence and relevance, we have to give ourselves room to experiment, and more importantly, room to fail.

Gungor’s music brought many people to that venue. We invited 3 other folks to come join us, because we felt that strongly about Gungor as musicians.

Music is an awesome and wonderful tool for worship.
I’ve felt the presence of God stirring within my heart through a powerful worship song more than through powerful sermons.

Music speaks to many, especially in young people, in more ways we can describe.

We have this powerful medium, this powerful ministry tool, and yet we tend to put it in the back burner because that is not how church is supposed to be; that the drums have no room in our sanctuary.

Mike Slaughter once tweeted:

And if they do have an alternative worship from their “main” worship, it’s not given the room or attention (or respect) as the “main” worship. Some churches will have their contemporary worship as their first service in the morning simply because they don’t want any elements of drums and cables when their “real” worship starts at 10. Or, their alternative worship doesn’t happen in the main sanctuary, but somewhere else. Sometimes, the senior pastor doesn’t want anything to do with that worship. They have it because they feel they need to. But they don’t put time and effort into making that worship excellence. It’s there because someone said it should. It’s a half-hearted outreach at best. It’s often treated as the red-headed step child, if I may.

I know I’m a walking contradiction talking about not making worship a consuming/preference-driven experience and then in the next sentence talking about a style of worship. But there are many young people out there that like the robes, choirs and organ music.

But there are more who may refer to that as “funeral music” as my youth from a former church would call it. They absolutely hated being at worship on Sunday morning, and much preferred being outside and just loitering around the parking lot or Sunday school classrooms.

If some of us are driving away the young folks who are part of our church away from Sunday morning… how are we going to expect in bringing young people within the community?

I know you can find many holes in this post (I’ve found many already… like, we should go to the young people instead of just expecting them to come to our church, etc).. but I have to ask, for those of us who are complaining “Where are the young people?”, have we really made an effort to reach out to the young people? Even if it means that we actually have to (and willing to) change things instead of just talking about them?

Who Is Jesus Christ To You?

English: A colourful stock of web icons to rep...

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That was the last question that was asked in my last interview of the day for ordination.

I thought we were done, because everyone put their notes down and the time keeper said something like, “2 minutes.”

I’m thinking, “Okay. Day’s over. Let’s go home. I’m exhausted.”
And one of the BOOM (Board of Ordained Ministry) members of the Theology section says, “I have one more and final question: Who is Jesus Christ to you?”

Needless to say, this is how it felt: (from 2:35-2:43)

It’s not the funnest of feelings trying to get back into interview mode after dropping your guard (even for a second).
I stammered, and repeated the question, hoping time would run out and when it didn’t, I blasted through.
The following is a more thought out answer from the day of the interviews.

I believe Jesus Christ to be my Savior. But I believe that is not enough. Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely important and vital to have Jesus Christ as our Savior. But, I can’t let my relationship with Christ begin and end there.

It’s part of human nature to take things for granted.
People who have a near death experience, they come out the other side with a whole new appreciation and perspective of life. They talk about how they love to hear the birds sing in the morning, the smell of nature, the way the sun feels on their skin etc. Because they could’ve lost everything, every small moment is now precious, and they soak life in. But after a period of time, that sentiment sort of fades. Sure, they still hold onto appreciating life’s every moment, but it’s not as enthusiastic and pure as before.
Simply put, the novelty fades away.

When someone is rescued by another person, they are grateful for the life saver.
The rescuee may go out of his/her way to show gratitude and appreciation for her savior. Not a single day may go by without thinking about the bravery of her rescuer. She may go as far as taking her savior’s entire family out for dinner, sending birthday gifts, whatever to show her appreciation. But 5 years down the road, while she may still have gratitude and appreciation for the person that saved her life… it’s very possible and realistic that the feeling of gratitude and appreciation may not be as intense.
It’s not bad, it’s just seems to be part of our nature.

That can happen with our relationship with Jesus if we let Christ be our Savior and nothing more. That’s why some people are “saved” many times over. I remember hearing a teen from the documentary The Lost Children of Rockdale County say something like, “I was just tired of getting saved every week.”

Yes, Jesus Christ is my Savior, but he is also my Lord and Master. Because Jesus saved me, my life is indebted to him; my life now belongs to him.
As Wesley’s prayer says, “I am no longer my own, but thine.”
So, as Christ as my Lord, I now live my life for him. So, ideally, where Christ goes, I follow. Where Christ decides to send me, I go. What Christ wants me to do, I do. But, I fight. I can’t lie, I fight and resist. But in the end, Jesus love wins me over. Because Jesus is a Master full of love and full of grace. That’s who Jesus Christ is to me.

He is the one who looks me into my eyes and says, “Child, where are they? Has no one condemned you?… Then neither do I condemn you.”
But he is also the one who gently adds, “Go now, and leave your life of sin.”

That is why when we accept Jesus as our Savior, Lord and Master, we are no longer the same. Because, we are handing our lives over to him, and his grace and love is so overwhelming, that it begins to change us from the inside out. We can’t remain the same when we start living for Jesus’ purpose and no longer our own.

And living for Jesus’ purpose, cause and mission – living with Christ as my Master – is where I know I’ll find true freedom.

 

Perfection

Perfection is achieved, not when there’s nothing more to add, but when there’s nothing left to take away
I originally thought that quote was from one of my childhood heroes/idols, Bruce Lee. But apparently he’s not the original source. It’s okay. It sounds better coming from Bruce Lee than someone else, anyhow.

I know there are lots of things in my life that I would benefit from eliminating in my life.

Since it’s Lent, I’ve been thinking about how somethings in my life just aren’t productive or fruit bearing.
I think the biggest sin that I commit on a daily basis is not being a good steward of my time.  And procrastinating…
Yes, I need to engage in some mindless things, like TV watching, cat videos, video games and so forth. But when they start consuming most of my time, something is not right there.

I know there is a weeding process I have to go through in my life. But it’s so hard to cut out laziness (and sin) from my life, as I’m sure you’ll find it difficult in yours.

But there are things that we all need to say “no” to in order to move forward; things that we need to let go of.

I think that’s one of the reasons why monasticism is so fascinating and frustrating to me. Frustrating, because I don’t know if I could live such a simple life. Instead, I’m shackled by many chains, some that I don’t want to be unshackled from, to tell you the truth.

But we can’t be freed from our chains by Jesus Christ, only to go back and re-shackle those chains to us ourselves.

There is so much clutter in my life.
Adding things onto my already clutter life may not lead to a better me.
But there are many things that I can start eliminating from my life that can help me towards my journey to perfection.

…but where to start…?
Eh, I’ll figure it out later. ;)

 

The Pressure To Perform, and Perform Well

Cirque Shanghai.

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We’re not performers.
And we’re not performing.
Some people don’t know the words to describe what we do from the pulpit, so they use the word “performance.”
Once, a church member came up to me and said, “I’d pay for something like that” in referring to my sermon. All in all, it was a pretty sweet compliment. But, it just felt so wrong. I didn’t know how to respond.
That was 4 years ago. Before then and to this day, I don’t know how to respond when someone’s really complimentary towards me regarding my sermon. I awkwardly smile, then say ‘thank you’ and if they continue, I awkwardly laugh and say, ‘you’re too kind’ or ‘you’re giving me a lot more credit than I deserve.’ This isn’t a humble brag or anything like that. I genuinely feel awkward. There’s also a fear within me that once I start liking those compliments and praises, it’ll be the start of very slippery slope.

But, there’s a tension within me to do well on Sunday mornings.
To be on top of my game. To know what I’m talking about. To work on my delivery and the cadence of words. To work in my awkward charm so that I’m me up there and not pretending to be someone else and that my voice is my voice and not a “preacher’s voice.”
I preach the sermon to empty chairs on Saturday evening (sometimes past midnight to ensure that know ones walks in on me… that’s also an awkward moment for me) to make sure everything goes well. A dry run, if you will.
Afterwards, I say a small prayer for each row of chairs in the sanctuary (something I learned from Rev. Cho when I was in seminary) that they will hear the message from God.

But on Sunday morning, as soon as worship starts, the butterflies start setting in. The pressure to “perform” well starts to push my stomach into a smaller and smaller place.

There’s always a prayer that eases a lot of my anxiety. A prayer that always refocuses my thoughts.
“Make me smaller so that you become greater. Let them hear your voice and never mine.”

And I repeat it over and over.
It doesn’t make the nerves go away.
But it does remind me that this isn’t about me or how well or bad I do.
It reminds that even if the sermon doesn’t go the way I want to, God can still use that to do great things.
It’s a good reminder to just get out the way and let God’s Spirit move.
And the pressure to perform goes away. Instead I just know that I need to be faithful.

“Make me smaller so that you become greater. Let them hear your voice and never mine.”
Because it’s never about me.

Control

English: XBox 360 wired controller. Français :...

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Control.
Even those of us who think we’re the furthest from being control freaks have things we want control over.

I think being in the passenger seat of a car shines upon the control freak in us all. You just feel better (safer) if you were behind the wheel, because you know how precisely you would react to certain situations.

It’s a not a pleasant feeling to know that you’re not in control.
And it’s often hard to accept that we don’t have control over things.
We don’t have control of what our kids will become like.
We don’t have control of how our vision for a ministry will come to life. We don’t have control over how people react to our words and sermon. Oh, but we so want that control…

I think that’s one of the hardest things about faith: knowing that God’s in control. And it’s more difficult to accept that when God’s in control, we are not.

We have a plan. An outline of life. What we expect to accomplish. Goals. Visions. Dreams.
And we do everything in our control to bring those things to life. A lot of the times (if not most), we ask God to bless our dreams and make it happen. Instead of asking, “What would you have me do?” we’re more prone to say, “This is what I’m going to do. Please make it happen.”

The hardest thing is to not only acknowledge that God’s in control, but to accept that God is in control.

So we fight with God. We argue. We pout. Sometimes we throw tantrums. But in the very end, after we go through all the pain… we end up obeying God.

You’d think one would learn after the first time. But wrestling with God seems like a given to me in my life. And the sick thing is, I know that God’s way will win in the end, but I still go in fighting for my control; to do things my way. I could save myself the grief, the embarrassing lesson of humility, the pain, the headaches, etc.

Control is one of the hardest to give to God.
But God doesn’t want only a part of me.
God wants all of me. God wants all that I am and nothing that I’m not.
And God doesn’t want to control me, in a sense that God’s a controlling God.
But, God knows us so intimately well… God has a plan for us, plans that are uniquely, fearfully and wonderfully carved out for us so that we can live the most effective and fulfilling life.

And life is so much easier if we just go with God’s flow…