Second-Gen: A Story of One’s Search for Belonging

Recently, I came across this photo and it triggered so many memories. This picture was taken, probably 20 years ago, in Toronto’s Koreatown on Bloor St.

My parents often went to that Korean Book and Video Centre to rent Korean dramas on VHS. I loved going in there as well because they had K-pop cassette tapes. That store helped my parents stay connected with their motherland (South Korea). For me, it helped me appreciate the pop culture of the motherland, although K-pop wasn’t as globally famous then as it is today. Thank you BTS!

Just a couple of doors down from the book store was Annex Submarine. Peter, the owner, had several arcade games and his famous beef patty subs were amazing.

The picture of the two stores side by side, which seemingly contrast from a cultural point of view, is a type of visual representation of my life growing up in Canada. As a second-gen, I could feel at home both in a Korean video store and in a Greek owned submarine shop. But that feeling of “feeling-at-home” for a second-gen can be a fleeting and elusive concept. It certainly was for me.

Maybe I should start by answering what is a Second-Gen?

The term second-gen is the abbreviation of second generation, and in my case, Canadian. A second generation Canadian is someone who was born in Canada and has at least one parent or both parents who were born in another country and immigrated to Canada.

My parents immigrated to Canada from South Korea in the mid 1970’s along with thousands of other Koreans in search of a better life for their families. Post Korean War Korea was poor and opportunities were limited. So my mom and dad came to Canada in pursuit of a dream of seeing me and my siblings thrive and be successful in life. That dream fueled them to work 12 or more hours a day, 7 days a week for years. I am so thankful for them and their sacrifice for me.

But I have to admit, growing up in Mississauga where there weren’t many ethnic people like myself, and being raised by parents who perceived life through a different cultural lens than what formed my perspective, was super confusing. And this confusion often led to misunderstanding.

I was misunderstood at school. The cause of this was my appearance. Although my skin colour, hair colour, and eyes were different from most of my classmates, on the inside, I wasn’t much different from them. I loved Nintendo games and wore Reebok Pumps. I loved eating spaghetti and meatballs just as much as eating rice and bulgogi. But my classmates didn’t know that. They misunderstood me because of the way I looked.

I was misunderstood at home. The Korean culture with its confucian ideals coupled with an honour/shame culture, created a performance based scale of acceptance and identity. In other words, the Confucius/Performance mindset meant my parents were the brain and I simply had to follow what the brain told me to do and be who the brain told me I was. It was the Korean way. I bucked against this point of view like I was allergic to it. As a result, my parents misunderstood me because of the way I thought.

I feel like my childhood life was constantly being misunderstood which led to my feeling of not belonging.

But, there were times when I did feel belonging. Like a cold drink on a hot summer day, my desire for belonging and meaning was met, actually at church.

East Toronto Korean Presbyterian Church, 1982

The thing is, I didn’t enjoy going to church for the religious stuff. I loved going because of the other second-gen Canadian Koreans who were there. We understood each other. We heard each other’s struggles. We joked and laughed about our parents. And we created that sense of belonging for each other. After church we rushed over to Annex Submarine and played arcade games, shared beef patty subs, smoked cigarettes, and hoped we didn’t get caught by our parents.

It felt really good to be understood.

But for me, that sense of being understood and the feeling of belonging, quickly faded away because I eventually went back home, to Mississauga, where my reality was in constant tension. Am I Canadian? Am I Korean? Am I both? Am I neither?

Eventually I went to university at the University of Waterloo. I was away from my second-gen Canadian Korean friends…

But you know what? I began to meet other second-gens from different countries. Not only that, I met white Canadians who loved hanging out with Asian Canadians like me. The girl I fell in love with, who is now my wife, was one of those people!

This was a very important discovery for me. One that helped me realize that belonging isn’t just something you experience when birds of a feather flock together. Belonging can be established and found even in the midst of diversity.

It takes intentionality. It takes a listening posture. It takes an attitude that seeks understanding.

And it dawned on me that finding belonging is like coming to a dinner table.

I love eating food. Especially food from different cultures. When sharing a meal with someone, I am sharing in the most basic thing we as humans need in order to live. Eating together is sharing life together.

The dinner table analogy is perfect for cultivating a sense of belonging. Because at the dinner we are able to…

Share Stories

I love being able to, not only share my story, but also hear other people’s stories about life and experiences. Stories expands my understanding of where others came from, of what drives them in life, and what makes them feel a sense of connection. Sharing stories enables the posture of listening that allows for one to be heard and understood. That is the seedbed for roots of belonging to grow deep.

Feel Safe to be vulnerable

The dinner table can be a safe space where deep and meaningful conversations can happen. It can be a place where we can share our highs and lows of the day and not feel judged or misunderstood. Finding that safe place and safe people to be open and vulnerable with is like finding treasure. The bounty is the sense of belonging.

Laugh Together

They say laugher is the best medicine. I think it’s true. I recently went on a road trip with 4 other friends in an RV. There were moments on that trip where we would gather around the dinner table and just bust out in belly aching laughter. Those moments formed a deep sense of connection because we experienced this super incredible emotion together… Joy! Sharing moments of joy with others heightened that inner witness within our souls saying that we belong…

So what I’ve been learning is that belonging doesn’t have to be elusive. And belonging doesn’t require everyone to be the same. Belonging is something that every person desires regardless if they are second-gen or not. We all have moments of feeling alone. We all have moments of being misunderstood. We all have moments where we feel we don’t fit in.

These feelings can cause each of us to ask the question…

Where do I belong?

The answer to that question can be as close as a dinner table with others we can share stories with, be open and vulnerable with, and laugh with.

So, whose coming for dinner?

The Great Turn Around

We live such busy lives don’t we? If you look back at the years of your life, prior to the societal pause of Covid, what were your days like?

Prior to the lockdowns, my weekly schedule was so hectic that it felt like I was just going from one activity to the next. Being a family of 6, there were several schedules to maintain all under one roof. From dance classes to swimming lessons of different levels, homework assignments to school projects across different grades, each of our kids had something going on. By the end of any given day, my wife and I felt so spent that a Netflix binge watching session was a welcome method of decompressing.

Then came the Covid-19 pandemic. All of a sudden, our schedules came to a grinding halt. No more extracurricular classes. No more running around and feeling like I am always chasing time. No more hectic activity.

In the stillness of this season, without the consistent busyness of activity, some deep seated issues of my soul came to light.

Attitudes I’ve been harbouring… Toxic thought patterns that I’ve allowed to take root in my mind… Comfort zones I’ve created to prevent me from working out these areas of weakness… All these things were left unchecked and hidden by the seemingly endless list of to do’s and dizzying activity. (By no means am I saying that activities are wrong or bad. For me the issue was filling my life to the max with activity that it left me little time or space for self examination and spiritual growth.)

Wanna know how this all came to light? Well…

It started with exposure.

Like I said, I was harbouring a lot of toxic thoughts that led to extreme criticism of others around me. I was judgemental about people and the situations they were in. Whether it was their success or their failure in life, I was criticizing them in my heart. I had the belief that these thoughts didn’t actually affect my life, but they started to leak out in my words and actions. I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

One day, I was called out on it. A friend of mine called me out on my critical attitude towards another person. I didn’t even know I was being judgemental and critical until it was pointed out to me.

I felt exposed. Almost like I was standing naked in front of my friend.

The Great Turn Around starts with exposure. It’s crazy how you can be going down a path in life with the internal part of you completely unchecked. It’s so easy to veer off-course and start down a path of negativity, fear, pride, or judgement. You become so unaware of this, but make no mistake…

It is affecting your life.

Perhaps you are finding yourself feeling distant from your spouse or family members. Perhaps you are finding yourself self medicating a lot with any number of vices.

But then all of a sudden.

EXPOSURE.

It’s embarrassing.

But it’s a part of a process.

Think about King David in the bible. His exposure was a massive one. I mean, he actually got to a place in life, where he could justify taking another man’s wife and have him killed. It was as if he thought he could get away with having such deep seated issues in his soul that could bring him to the place of committing such sin.

But then the Prophet Nathan came and exposed his sin. David was made aware of his sin, and it broke him.

Awareness is the place of decision making. The direction you take is up to you.

You see, for David, although he committed a terrible sin, he knew the way he needed to go. He knew he had to turn around and go to God.

Psalm 51 is the expression of this awareness and turning. If this post is speaking to you at all, I would encourage you to read this Psalm. For me personally, it was an encouragement because I initially felt alone in my sin. But reading Psalm 51 and seeing David pour his heart out to God inspired me. He knew the love of God and he felt safe enough to turn around and go to him rather than run away and hide.

The love of God for us is so great that He will use this season to expose things in our lives so that we can become aware and turn.

The bible says in John 16:8 that The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin. This conviction is to show us a better way. A better direction. That leads to freedom.

So are things being exposed in your life?

You’re not alone. In fact, there is a purpose to it. It’s not to kick you down and make you feel stuck. It’s actually the opposite. It’s to make you aware so that you can turn.

The Great Turn Around can start right now in your life. Behind you, you will find God the Father waiting with open arms to receive you, heal you, and set you free.

So… What are you waiting for?

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

 

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Christmas is coming!!!

At the Park home, our decorations are up.  We went to a tree farm and found the perfect tree.  We took out our eclectic collection of ornaments, our little Christmas village, and our Christmas train.  And of course, our most precious decoration, the nativity scene made of olive wood straight from Israel.

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It’s fun to display our “Christmassy stuff” and while we’re at it, there is a yule log DVD playing on the TV with Christmas music in the background.

Christmas can bring so much joy. All the lights, tinsel, gifts, and music can create an atmosphere of cheer and laughter and happiness.

However, Christmas can bring the reverse. It can bring anxiety as we rush to the mall or to the big box stores to find the perfect gifts. It can bring frustration as we encounter impatient people who are out to do the same thing.

Maybe you are shopping online. Although bypassing the lineups and the packed parking lots is a good deal, there is still the issue of spending a lot of money.

Because at Christmas time, there is this expectancy that, we have to buy gifts. We feel that we must show our love and appreciation through that picture frame, that bath soap set, that purse, that action figure, those video games and so on… Meanwhile, our bank accounts get drained, our credit card debts rise, and our stress levels increase each year around December.

Is there a better way?

The truth is, there are other ways to show our love and appreciation to others. Although buying something can be a show of love, so can our time spent with that person. It’s about giving “presence” over just “presents.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I love presents! I love giving presents. But often the presents that we give, though they may cost a lot of money, actually have little value. They may give momentary pleasure to the recipient, but after some time, it ends up being a dust collector, or worse, trash.

I believe God is the ultimate gift giver and we can learn from God, how to give gifts at Christmas.

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

God loves us so much.  And God’s expression of that love was sending Jesus to come into our world, into our mess, into our despair and give us hope through His presence.

This Christmas, let’s try not to get too stressed over the gifts for people.  That doesn’t mean we should put the kaibosh (A Seinfeld term for terminate!) on gifts totally, but think of something that promotes quality time spent with one another.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

Consider giving presence over presents this Christmas, and rediscover that it truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

 

In Light of #metoo

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I realize that I am jumping into this internet conversation a bit late, but I thought I would share some thoughts in light of the #metoo movement. I also recognize that being a man in this conversation may not give much weight to my words, but I hope that they will help bring awareness to the issues and empowerment to women who have been objectified. I also hope to address men, even the good ones and encourage them to not let this movement pass us by. We need to be a part of the change we wish to see in the world.

First of all, I just want to say from the start that my eyes have certainly been opened to the magnitude of the issue of women being sexually harassed, mistreated, and assaulted. Too many of my Facebook friends wrote the hashtag (#metoo) on their timelines. When I saw the first few, I was shocked, but when I began to see more and more of them write on their timelines, it was heartbreaking. I couldn’t believe how many were saying #metoo.

TOO MANY…

The #metoo movement has given voice to women (and some men) who, for various reasons, felt they needed to keep their painful experiences hidden from others. And I just want to say, I am amazed by your courage to speak out. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to overcome fear and shame and boldly declare #metoo. And for those of you who have experienced your humanity being taken from you but refrained from typing #metoo… again I can only imagine how difficult it would be to recollect your thoughts of the past and experience the stings all over again. I pray and hope that you would experience freedom from the sting of the past, or even for some… the present.

Because it wasn’t ok for that to happen to you. It wasn’t ok for those things to be said about you. It wasn’t right for you to be treated as an object and to have your humanity taken from you.

For too long, men have disempowered women. The track record is brutal when we take into consideration all of human history and look cross-culturally. Even current stories of how women are treated in some cultures are deeply distressing. And in some of those cultures, the disempowering of women is so systemic that it distorts men’s worldviews to see it as normal behavior. Even in North American culture, the objectification of women is rampant. Sure not all men are Harvey Weinsteins but even the slightest suggestive behavior communicates the power differential.

It was never meant to be this way…

God didn’t create us so that one of us could disempower the other. God create us to be equal. He created male and female in His image. In other words, we were created to co-reflect the image and nature of God. The bible says that God is love. It isn’t just something God does, it is who God is. When men and women relate to one another within the realm of love, honoring and preferring the other’s thoughts and feelings, we are living within the realm of who God is. That means we are to empower each other to be who God created us to be.

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So again, I am not sure how much weight these words may have, but I just want to say to those who have been mistreated and assaulted, humiliated and objectified, disempowered and manipulated…

I am Sorry. On behalf of the people who selfishly took advantage of you, I am sorry. On behalf of those who thought it was ok to treat you like a slave, I am sorry. And on behalf of those who treated you like you were only good for your appearance and for sexual gratification, I am sorry.

And to the men and women out there who share in my hope to see this change in our lifetime… for sure let’s voice that #Iwill stand up for inequality and stand up against the sexual mistreatment of others. However, we need to do more than just type #Iwill. We need to model how men and women ought to relate to one another. We need to be examples for others to follow. We need to create new normals and new cultural paradigms that push out the existence of gender power differentials.

I believe the best model to follow is Jesus. Jesus lived in a culture steeped in patriarchal norms and values. Yet He brought dignity to women and empowered them. He gave them a voice and saw them for who they really are. One half of God’s image-bearing creation.

In the book of Galatians, it says that in Christ, all the social divisions come down and we are all one.

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

So May God help us in creating a new world where sexual disempowerment is not only not ok (hope you caught that weird wordage), but also non-existent. May we truly live out the “oneness” that Christ came to redeem within humanity.

 

 

What Now? Sept. 23 Has Come and Gone…

the end is near

I woke up on Sunday, September 24 and the first thought in my mind was, “Well, I guess the rapture didn’t happen.”

The next thing I did was search the internet to see if either North Korea fired another ballistic missile, if a massive earthquake hit somewhere in North America, or if some other major catastrophe took place. Well, none of those things happened either, apart from the ensuing devastation caused by previous hurricanes and earthquakes.

But then I began to wonder about all those who were expecting the rapture to take place. I was wondering how they might be thinking and feeling after waking up the next day, and the next… I can only imagine how much mental, emotional and spiritual energy was exerted into preparing for this event.

Cuz there were many in the Christian world, at least in North America, who were certain that September 23, 2017, during the feast of Trumpets, with the Revelation 12 sign in the sky, following all the natural disasters, following all the wars and rumors of wars, was the date and time of the fulfillment of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. Again, I can only imagine the disappointment and confusion. Perhaps there was even a sigh of relief and comfort.

But the question that still needs to be addressed is, what now?

Here are 5 things we should consider doing in light of September 23rd not being the date of the rapture or the end of the world.

1. Preach the Gospel

preachFocus once again on preaching the Gospel. It is the Gospel that saves sinners from that day which will come. Let your words and your life be a living testimony to the power of the Gospel. Let your life make Jesus irresistible… Irresistible for His Love and Compassion… For His pursuit of those who don’t know Him yet… For His sacrifice for us. We have a hope that this world needs… the hope of salvation, redemption, and healing. Make this a high priority in your life.

2. Invest in Relationships

priscilla-du-preez-234138Invest in the relationships you have now. Whether that be with your closest friends, your neighbors, your family, your husband, your wife, your children… make sure you take time and effort to build one another up. That may mean to make amends with those you lost touch with, those who have become distant, those who have fallen away. The building and re-building of relationships have the potential to reap eternal benefits.

3. Be Mindful of what you feed your soul.

lysander-yuen-288916We live in an age of information overload. There is a lot of material out there, and not all of it is true. Not all of it is fruitful for you. If what you are taking in causes fear and anxiety, it’s probably not a good idea to indulge in those things. The Bible encourages us to keep that which is good and noble in our minds because of how it affects our everyday life. So when you hear about another possible date for the end of the world, keep your thoughts in line with Matthew 24:36. No one will know the time of the end except one person, that is God the Father. If you are filling your soul with His words and His thoughts, you’re good… And the occasional Netflix ain’t too bad either.

4. However, Be watchful…

Signs-of-the-Times
It is still valid to be aware of the signs of the times. The sons of Issachar in the bible were credited as those who were aware of the times to give warnings up ahead. So with that said, I am not negating the passages in the bible that talk about the signs of the last days. We are living in that time. However, let the signs of the times compel you to follow steps 1 and 2.

5. Enjoy Every Moment

luke-ellis-craven-231977Each day that you and I have is a gift from God.

This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:34 ESV

Whether the end of all things is tomorrow or 100 years from now, we still have today. See it for what it is. A blessing from God. To bask in the glory and beauty of His creation, to receive His unfailing love and extend it to others, to be blessed in order to be a blessing.

The end may be near, but it’s not yet. Make every day count.

 

 

It’s the End of the World as we Know it… Really?

Man oh man… There is a lot of talk on the internet about September 23, 2017, being the end of the world, the date of the rapture, the start of the great tribulation, and so on… And I’ll be honest with you… I kinda got sucked into all the theories…briefly…

Some of them sound super convincing. Well…the weather phenomena being the fulfillment of Luke 21 and Matthew 24 was a bit of a stretch.  Though this year has been devastating, and continues to be, 2004 was really bad too… And there have been severe natural disasters happening for as long as I could remember.

But the Revelation 12 sign… That grabbed my attention.

Revelation 12:1-2 says this…

 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head, a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. (ESV)

It turns out that on September 23rd, the constellations Virgo and Leo will be a part of a celestial spectacle that day. Virgo, which is a constellation depicted as a woman, will have the sun on her shoulder and the moon at her feet. At her head will be the constellation Leo which is made up of 9 stars.  The remaining 3 stars will be three planets that just so happen to align in a row that day right beside Leo, making it a total of 12 stars. The interesting thing about this is that the planet Jupiter has been inside the constellation Virgo, right around where the womb would be, and it’s been there for 9 months.  On September 23, Jupiter will exit the womb.

So WOW! That sounds crazy!!! I was hooked man… It grabbed my attention. After all, God did say that the sun, moon, and stars were created to be for “signs and for seasons, and for days and years” (Gen 1:14)

But then I remembered the blood moon tetrad that took place a couple of years ago. I was intrigued then too. The rapture didn’t happen then.  The world didn’t end then.

Then I remembered the Mayan calendar fiasco for December 21, 2012. The rapture didn’t happen then.  The world didn’t end then.

There have been many failed predictions over the years, and actually… if we look into church history, these types of predictions have been miscalculated for centuries.

After remembering those miscalculated dates, I was brought back to the most important passage regarding this sort of date setting.

Matthew 24:36 says,

 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”

Date setting is clearly not on the agenda for us. No one, not even Jesus, knows when that day will be.

I read a great article this morning written by Dr. Brian Irwin who is an Associate Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures at Knox College in Toronto. I would encourage you to read it.

https://www.wycliffecollege.ca/blog/end-world-hand-or-it

A bit of a spoiler alert… He had a great line in that article for the church. Dr. Irwin wrote,

“As the church, we’re not so much to be watching and waiting as watching and doing.”

I love that. We’re not called to sit on the sidelines and provide commentaries on the troubles of this world while we wait for the “rapture” bus. Sure the signs seem somewhat conspicuous, but that doesn’t change what we are called to do.

We are called to be salt.

We are called to be light.

We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Let’s not forget Matthew 25:31-46.

(Mic Drop) (Shameless walk off stage)

 

 

 

Prophetic Perspectives: Hurricanes, Earthquakes and the Judgment of God

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‘Tis the season for hurricanes and tropical storms. Coming from a resident of Southern Ontario in Canada, I have very little understanding of what that means.  Although not long ago, I guess, we’ve experienced heavy winds and a few tornado touchdowns… but nothing quite like a category 4 or 5 hurricane ripping through a coastal city. At least not in my lifetime.

But my heart breaks for those affected by Harvey, Irma, and Katia. Jose is out there somewhere too. And Mexico’s strongest earthquake in a century hit last week, leaving almost a hundred dead and thousands displaced from their homes. Add to that, the largest wildfire in the history of British Columbia is spreading into Alberta, causing devastation in its path. These are but a few of the many disastrous natural phenomena happening globally.

Certainly, the quantity and intensity of these natural disasters are alarming. And when anything tragic like this happens, we humans have a tendency to seek for answers. What is causing these storms to occur in such succession?  Are all these disasters due to global warming? Is it simply because we are in the season for hurricanes?  On and on it goes…

Some have answers. Scientists and meteorologists have answers.  But they aren’t the only ones to give them. Those in the religious world offer answers too. And some of them jump to announce that this calamity is a judgment from God.

I remember the earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010.  Maybe you do as well.  Well, I also remember hearing a televangelist announcing to the world that this was a judgment from God upon the nation of Haiti due to their spiritual practices. When I heard that, I’ve got to be honest… I was angry. I was angry because we were hearing about thousands of people dying. We were hearing about families being torn apart. We were hearing about cities left in utter ruins. And that was a first response from the Christian perspective?

Notice I didn’t say “the” first response.  I am proud to say that judgment isn’t the only first response from my fellow followers of Jesus… There are others from the Christian world whose initial response is compassion and they jump in to help in whatever way they can.

A woman from my church was in Haiti in 2010 to serve on a mobile clinic team visiting poor rural areas.  Not long after the team arrived, the earthquake struck and one of the team members died. Yvonne Martin was a retired nurse and she gave her life to serve those she loved. She had the heartbeat of God inside of her.

Now for people like my fellow Christian televangelist, though I respect his ministry and agree with many other things he preaches, this perspective of judgment from God, I must disagree with.

But I get it… this world can be a dark place. The existence of the sex trade, the growing violence, the rampant racism, and the widening chasm between the elite wealthy and the poor… It’s a call for justice in a world of great injustice.

Is there an answer?

Straight up… I do not believe that the God I read about in the New Testament coincides with the God that some of my brothers and sisters proclaim when storms come.

In Jesus, I see compassion for the poor (Matt 14).  In Jesus, I see the breakdown of racial boundaries (John 4). In Jesus, I see a God who is in the storm with His people (Mark 4).

Jesus paints a very different portrait of God than some of us do.  A God who cares.  A God who loves.  A God who walks with us through the storms.

In John 8:12, Jesus says this…

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Yes, this world is dark. I think it’s been that way for a long long time.

There has not been a single century in human history that didn’t have a major military conflict.

Earthquakes happen.

Storms happen.

Suffering happens.

But in Jesus, we see a God who says, “I am the light… follow me and you will have that light too.  Shine it for all to see.”

Matthew 5:14 is one of my favorite verses.  It serves as a reminder that I am called to be a light bearing follower of Jesus.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.”

This is a calling for followers of Jesus to be light in this hard time.  Our primary calling isn’t to bring an answer, it’s to simply show the love of God in the midst of all the chaos that goes on in this world.

Then when we do speak, our primary response should be to speak life and not death. To speak hope and not condemnation.

 

 

 

North Korea and the Prayers of the Saints

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A lot of fiery rhetoric is being thrown around the Korean Peninsula. North Korea has been developing and testing nuclear weapons for quite some time now, to the disdain of the United States and her allies.  Just a few days ago, NK tested their 6th nuclear bomb, this time believed to have been a powerful hydrogen bomb.  To add to this dangerous move, there are further threats of possibly another intercontinental ballistic missile test in the near future.  With all this show of muscle by Kim Jong Un and his military, the United States finds themselves in quite a dilemma.  Do they go ahead with a preemptive strike to take out the nuclear sites and run the risk of all out war?  Do they accept North Korea as a nuclear power and learn to live with this reality the way they have with countries such as Pakistan and India?  Both of those options have risky consequences attached to them.

Either way, a path towards peace seems nonexistent at the moment.  Is there a better way?  Is there a better mindset to have through all this?

Being a Canadian born Korean, the situation that is developing in my country of descent is troubling, especially since I have family within striking distance of the 10 000 artillery pieces from the other side of the DMZ.  Not to mention the nukes and the 6 million strong army reserve.  So to have a healthy perspective about North Korea is a struggle.  It is definitely something I am not able to ignore.

There are several questions that keep circling in my mind.  Can North Korea ever change?  Will they always be governed by a cultish dictatorship where the people are forced to worship their leader?  Will the forced labour camps and prison camps ever shut down?  Will the mass starvation ever come to end?  Will they follow through on their plans to bomb the South, Japan, and the United States?

Lately, I have found that my thoughts have been less optimistic.

However, recently I found a passage in the scriptures that caught my attention.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 says this.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

I realized afterward that there is a power greater than any nuclear bomb.  There is a power greater than sanctions and embargos.  There is a power greater than any Trump Tweet or Kim Jong Un provocation.   (Which sounds crazy I know, but I truly believe it…)

It is the power of God moving in answer to the prayers of His people.

Now I can imagine what some might be thinking.  That sounds good and all, but you still need to address the threat of North Korean nuclear capabilities.  It must be stopped now.

But there are no other answers.

Sanctions don’t work, as it has been proven over the years. War is not the answer either. South Korea and the nations surrounding the Korean Peninsula would be in danger of mass devastation.  Some have suggested that North Korea needs a regime change and that somehow it has to come from within.  But in a country that worships their leader the way one would worship a deity, that seems impossible.

But, nothing is impossible with God.  Do we believe this?

Where there is a group of Christians praying, there is power to change.

E.M Bounds wrote this on prayer.

God shapes the world by prayer.  The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil…

I want to encourage my fellow followers of Jesus all over the world.  We need to seek God in this hour and pray for change in North Korea. The situation is volatile and can trigger another dark era in human history. But I believe good can somehow come out of this bad situation.

May I encourage us to pray for safety on the Korean Peninsula?  Let us pray for Kim Jong Un, Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and Vladimir Putin; the world leaders whose got the attention of the world right now.  Pray for each of their salvation.  Pray that God would move in such a way that the world would say, “God must have intervened.”

 

To Live is Christ

cropped-23627_the_anchor_for_my_soul-1.jpgOn Sunday I preached a message on what it means to worship God at work.  Taking Philippians 1:20-21 as the biblical text, I shared how worshiping God is done when we do all things to make Christ look great.  I encouraged the congregation that this means we glorify Christ through the very work we do and through the relationships we have at our place of work.  The application of this message works in all of life, not just work.  We must seek to glorify Christ in our homes, in our marriages, in our parenting, and in the recreational activities we do.  I’ll come back to that last point in a second.

If you were at Trinity on Sunday you would have heard me preach my message with deep passion and conviction about the subject of glorifying Christ in all that we do.  It probably sounded like I had that aspect of my life nailed down.  Oh if you only knew… Here is my confession…

Well on Tuesday evening, two days after I preached my message, I failed to apply it in my own life.  I was playing slo-pitch on Tuesday evening with our church men’s team and I played a brutal game.  I even struck out.  (That’s right… I struck out playing slo-pitch).  I was so displeased with my performance that I threw a temper tantrum at the plate by hitting the ground with my bat and then came back to the bench only to use the fence as my personal punching bag. This was not what I meant when I talked about glorifying Christ in everything. And what makes things more painful is that the one who threw the biggest tantrum was the pastor of the church team who just preached that we need to make Christ look great in all that we do.  OUCH…

Afterwards, I felt so ashamed that I needed to go for a walk to pray.  As I was pouring my frustrations out to the Lord, I was reminded of John 15:5 which talks about abiding in the Vine (Jesus) and bearing much fruit from that place of abiding.  I must admit, a part of me was like, “OK Lord, I’m abiding in you so let me play some good ball please!”  But that wasn’t what Jesus was talking about and not what ended up happening for the remainder of the game anyways.

The most important fruits are the ones that grow within me.  The external fruits are important as well, but what God primarily wants demonstrated in my life are the fruits of the Spirit as written in Galatians 5:22-23 (Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control).  These fruits of the Spirit manifest as we totally abide in Christ for our everyday living.

That means that my performance is not what defines me.  Christ in me defines me.  If my performance defined me, than I would constantly come up short.  When Christ in me defines me, than He shines even when I don’t.

So… to my fellow slo-pitch team members… I am sorry for demonstrating the absolute reverse of everything I preached on Sunday.  As your pastor, I failed in demonstrating the application of honoring Christ in everything, including softball.  But I do have a word of encouragement for you and anyone else who happens to read this post.  Jesus is always beckoning us to come to Him and abide in Him, especially in our deepest times of frustration and failure.  Jesus is always inviting us to discover in Him, our true identity which is not wrapped up in our performance but rather in who He is in us.  And Jesus wants us to know that He is way more important and meaningful than some of the things we get so emotionally worked up over.

Hopefully this message will stick the next time we are out on the field.  Do me a favour though… next time I go up to bat just remind me… “It’s all about Jesus!”

Thanks guys, and thanks to all who read this confession of mine!

 

Lent

I have been pondering a lot about the purpose of Lent.  Growing up, I never really heard about Lent, possibly because I didn’t hear much in church anyway.  I mostly fell asleep during service and if ever I was awake, the preacher’s words went in one ear and out the other.  A few years ago though, my interest was peaked when I heard of Lent. Allie and I decided to do something.  We decided to not eat meat and do a vegetarian diet for Lent.  I remember going to the grocery store and lusting over the T-bone steaks on sale and having to grit my teeth and go for the tofu.  I remember trying out different forms of “vegetarian meat” products like veggie bacon and veggie sausages.  It was kind of an adventure… “what can I eat that would simulate eating meat without having to eat meat?”  At the end of the Lenten season that year, I immediately ate a Korean BBQ meal.  For those who know anything about Korean BBQ, it is pork and beef seasoned with heaven!  Absolutely wonderful. 

Looking back, I realized that the Lenten fast didn’t mean much.  It was a test of my own will power and possibly it was for bragging rights to say I went 40 days without eating meat.  I don’t think it brought me any closer to God, nor did it bring to light that I am very fortunate to be able to eat 3 meals a day or more.  To be honest with you, I don’t think I had a thankful heart at the time for the over abundance of food I get to eat.

So here I am in 2014.  I would hope that I’ve become a little bit wiser.  And it is day 3 of Lent.  I read a great article that a friend of mine on Facebook posted. It emphasized that Lent is not just about abstaining from our daily pleasures and wants.  It is about creating space to discover just how much gets in the way of us encountering God in our lives.

Our culture of consumption and materialism coupled with our pride of entitlement has enabled us to create great walls.  These walls, over time, have become fortresses that give us a perceived sense of security. These fortresses then have become the kingdoms we seek to maintain.  The problem with this mentality is that we think that these fortresses are forever and we can become blinded to the fact that there is another reality that exists over the ones we create ourselves.  It is a domain where moth and rust cannot destroy and where thieves cannot break into.  It is the Kingdom that Jesus came to proclaim and establish. 

Lent is a season for us to step outside of the fortresses we’ve built and look at our lives from a fresh new perspective. To let go of some of the things that give us a perceived sense of security. When we do this, we come into contact with the Kingdom of God, and the King of Kings who sits on the throne.  We get a glimpse of the real and find that God indeed is the one we can put our trust and hope in and God’s Kingdom is a reality that continues to increase.  It never gets dull.  It never gets old.

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