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November 2007

Truly Thankful

Last night I led a Thanksgiving worship service. It was an incredible time of gathering in the name of Jesus Christ and offering up praise and thanksgiving to God through songs, prayer, scripture reading and testimony.Dscf1316

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Even though I “led” the service I had nothing to do with its quality. God’s Holy Spirit orchestrated the evening.  The songs carried themselves with all of their meaning and tradition. The prayers sprang forth from the humble hearts of those who uttered them. The scripture reading pierced deeply into the fallow hearts of the listeners and the real essence of the gathering was realized in the power of the testimony.  Six people stood before the crowd of worshipers and shared from hearts of gratitude their experience of God’s hand in their lives.  In Revelation 12 it states that the power that defeats the evil one in this world is realized in, “…the blood of the Lamb” and in, “…the word of the testimony.” Need I say more?

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At one point in the evening celebration my experience changed from a time of thanksgiving and worship to a time of contrition of heart and a deepening of my relationship with God.  Days earlier I had asked a student named Joy (name changed to ensure anonymity) to share her testimony during the upcoming gathering. As Joy stood before the group of 300+ people she shared from her heart a glimpse of her personal struggles and of her trust in and thankfulness to God.Dscf1322

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Joy is what is called an “OCK” in our school. An “OCK” stands for “Out of Country Kid.” This means that Joy’s parents do not live in South Korea. Most of our OCK students are children of missionaries that live and serve in other places all around the world.  All of our OCK students live in the school dormitory program and are given scholarships by the school for their high school education.

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Joy's parents are underground missionaries for Jesus Christ in the country of China.  They make very little money and they serve the Lord in very humble circumstances and at times in very dangerous conditions.  Joy shared that it was very difficult being a “missionary kid.”

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Through tears Joy told of her anger at times towards God and towards her parents.  She didn’t like living most of her growing up years away from her family. She shared of the resentment she felt at times toward her father and mother because of the time and attention that they gave to so many others and yet they didn’t take time to be with her.  Joy shared of the frustration of having no money to buy the clothes and the nice things that others around her had.

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Joy is a high school senior and is now looking ahead to college.  Joy wants to go to a reputable school and receive a good education so that she might serve God with her life. She is frustrated that before she can even consider applying to attend a university she must first look at the cost of the school and at the scholarships they offer.  She is worried about her future.

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In the midst of her concerns Joy shared that she has so much to be thankful for. Joy is thankful to TCIS for providing for her a high school education when there wasn’t one available in her hometown in China. Joy is thankful for her dorm parents and teachers who have cared for her and encouraged her through the years. Joy shared that she is thankful for her parents and for their lives as missionaries for Jesus. She is proud of them.  Finally, Joy shared that she is thankful to God for caring for her and always being with her. She said that she has come to the conclusion that if God has taken care of her and provided for her up to this point in her life then she is confident that He can take care of university too.

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At the close of her testimony Joy shared this verse with the gathering:

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Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”--James 1:2-4

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And then she shared, “I am thankful for God and that I am growing in my relationship with Him.”

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Happy Thanksgiving.


Dawgs I'm Busy

"Thank God every day when you get up that you have something to do that day which must be done whether you like it or not.  Being forced to work and forced to do your best will breed in you temperance and self control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and content, and a hundred virtues which the idle will never know."       --Basil Carpenter

Dawgs!!....these are busy days.  It is a good busy, but busy nonetheless.  Work, studies, relationships, responsibilities....it never ends does it?  Or maybe it does......I am not sure I want to go there at this time.

Wise old King Solomon says:

"....when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work--this is a gift of God."  Ecclesiastes 5:19

At the sound of the morning alarm do we cringe?  We all have different lots in life.  For some people in this world, they literally have nothing to do--they can't get a job, they can't find constructive work.  For others, they are not able to move through the challenges and opportunities of the day because of sickness and debillitation.

Where are you?  Do you have something to do today?  Go to it.  Take God with you into your activities of the day and let Him form you in ways and through circumstances that some only dream about.

"This is the day that the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it."  Psalm 118:24


Fields of Faith

06wallpaper1thumb On Thursday night we had a Fields of Faith activity here at Taejon Christian Internation School.  Approximately 70 high school and middle school students gather at 6:00 pm on our school soccer field in the name of Jesus Christ. Dscf1304 

We read scripture, sang songs of worship, students shared their testimonies and we prayed together.  It was an incredible time of worship and community.  The activity was a student led activity and the kids did a great job leading the event.  For more info take a look at the Fields of Faith link.


Autumn Hope

Dscf1309_2 Autumn leaves flame out as they make their descent through the cool harvest air.

Their brilliant colors wane under foot, broken and crushed into the darkening earth below.

Even in death they yield a harvest.

Hidden in winter depths their embers glow, fueling hope with a spark of new life.


Wake Up

Window

by Czeslaw Milosz

I looked out the window at dawn and saw a young apple tree translucent in brightness.

And when I looked out at dawn once again, an apple tree laden with fruit stood there.

Many years had probably gone by but I remember nothing of what happened in my sleep.

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Dscf1298 The other night Dina and I had the chance to babysit a precious newborn baby named Jacob.  His mom and dad entrusted him to us for an hour while they took a much needed coffee break together.

As I sat on the couch, holding baby Jacob as he slept on my chest, I couldn't help but think about my own two "babies".  It seems like just yesterday that I was holding each of them on my lap.  Where has the time gone?  The days have passed as quickly as an evening of sleep.  The hours of the night.... gone in a blink.

Lord, help me to wake up to those things around me that are most important.


Celebrate When You Can

It was Saturday night.  The end of a very long and exhausting week.  Becca and Sarah, my daughters, were involved in the high school musical, Godspell, and the final musical presentation was Saturday night.

Dscf1290 The musical ran for three nights and was a huge success.  After many weeks of practice and many long hours after school it was finally over.  Becca and Sarah each did a great job in the program and they each had the time of their life.

We got home very late on Saturday night and we were all exhausted and ready for bed....but we had to celebrate.  I ran down the street to a local store and bought some junk food (Bacon Chips...yipes) and some soft drinks and we celebrated the Godspell experience and God's goodness in our lives.Dscf1291

God is good.  Yesterday is gone and there are no guarantees of tomorrow (especially when eating Bacon Chips). 

Today is the day of salvation and.....celebration.

Celebrate when you can.


Classroom Ramblings--Creation

In the class that I am taking we are studying Biblical Theology and a couple of weeks ago we were considering the concept of “creation”.  As you know, the concept of creation is a hot topic in and outside Christian circles.

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As one of our assignments in class each of the students had to respond to the following question:  How might awareness of the biblical truths in today’s reading help an unbeliever more seriously consider the Christian faith?”

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There were lots of differing opinions in my cohort of 15 people regarding the concept of “creation”.  The posts and discussions were varied and interesting.  The following is my response to one of my classmate’s post.  It gives you a bit of an idea where my focus is in regards to engaging the world around me in the discussion of God, creation and spiritual things.

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Here was my response:

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Nate,

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As you have noted, the creation discussion involving literal ascription, evolutionary ideas, the metaphorical ascription and everything in-between has had a deleterious effort on the Christian message and witness in current society.  With all of the different ideas regarding creation that are offered within theology, biological science, quantum physics and others, it would be more than presumptuous to ascribe dogmatically to any one creation concept.

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However, after reading Scobie [our class text] I came away with two thoughts that I think are very important to consider when thinking about creation and when holding out those ideas to people considering the Christian faith.

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It is important that the creation concept is considered within context—the entire canon of scripture.  Creation and its fullness is not realized in only the opening chapters of Genesis but rather it must be considered within the entire concept of the Biblical narrative.  The glory of creation is not seen by Christians or seekers in the idea of six days or six million years but rather in the result of creation as it is realized in God’s hand and presence over time.

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Related to this is the concept of the unique and Godlike quality of human beings.  The hand of God and the work of creation are evident in the result of his creation.  The glory of God is realized in the people that are created in His image.  What is important is not “how” but “who” and “what” was created; not “when” and “how long” but “why” was it all created.

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It is at the point of these types of questions and considerations that a consideration of creation can move from a rejection of dogma to a realization of the Truth.

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Ryan

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Those are my thoughts.  What are yours?


Play the Part

Dscf1234 Last night we went to the TCIS High School musical presentation of "Godspell."  I thought the program was incredible!

Yeah, I suppose I am biased.  I am the assistant principal of the high school, I am friends with the musical director, I know most of the students that were involved in the production and....yes both of my daughters  were in the program (Becca playing bass guitar in the band and Sarah singing in the chorus and singing two solos) but other than those factors I can say Dscf1220objectively that it was a great program!  :)

I found myself on the verge of tears at several points in the program and it wasn't during the sad scenes.  To see a group of kids (a community) come together and do the hard work of practice, night after night, week after week, in the midst of homework, exams, and life, and then present a program of that caliber and with that measure of passion is nothing short of inspiration for me.

I love the freshness and sincerity of the students as they "play their part" in the program--whether it is the lead role in the spotlight or the light person in the back who saved the day during the intermission by figuring out how to replace a burned out fuse in the spotlight.

The message of Godspell is a current day version of the story of Jesus' life, death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.  The students conveyed the powerful message of the musical not only with their acting, singing and dancing but also with their joyful intensity and abandonment to the moment.

I suppose there is a lot that could be said about the church and how we as the church need to come together, in the midst of life, and present the message of the Gospel to the world around us.  But I am going to put that thought on hold right now and I am going to consider how I am playing my part in this Godspell presentation of the life that I am living.

This is my prayer:

God, thank you that no matter my part in this play of life I can have hope because of Jesus' death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.... for me.  Please help me to play my part for You, an audience of One--and may I do it with all of the passion, vitality, joy and abandonment that I can muster.  In Jesus' name, amen.


Risk Theology

I am starting a new "category" on my blog--"Quotes and Comments."  Under this category I am going to share quotes that I have come across and at times I may even comment (ramble) on them.

We all come across thoughtful and inspiring quotes that we want to share.  Instead of forwarding them to you in an email that promises you good luck if you forward it on to 10 more people, I will just post them on my blog.  I welcome your comments on the quotes that I post.

Here is the first one:

"If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever."    --Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

How does this relate to:

  • getting out of bed in the morning
  • our children
  • our job
  • our calling
  • our relationships
  • our hearts
  • ?????

Like a Child

Dscf1180_cinderella_2 The room was full of children of all ages.  They were all decked out in costumes, buzzing from the excitement of a night filled with trick-or-treating (and sugar) and now they were all gathered for a big party to culminate the evening.

Just as the festivities were getting started, in walked a little kindergarten aged girl (a princess) with her parents.  As she entered the room filled with children, costumes and excitement, her eyes fixed upon a large pumpkin that was sitting on the coffee table in the living room.  "Look at that pumpkin!" she exclaimed.  She bypassed all of her friends, the treats, the noise and the fun, and she ran to admire the pumpkin.  She lingered there for awhile.  I was taken back by the simplicity and the beauty of the scene.

I don't know why she was so drawn to the pumpkin.  Maybe it was because she had grown up in South Korea where they don't display many pumpkins during the fall season.  Maybe it was because as she looked down into the giant pumpkin she could see Cinderella being whisked away to the royal ball.  Whatever the reason, her childlike response to the pumpkin got my attention.

I find that I get so distracted from those things that matter most.  Material possessions, the crowd and a penchant for greatness, cloud my vision from seeing and focusing upon those things that are most meaningful in life.  Oh to view life and this world through the eye's of a child.

Matthew 18:  1-4

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"  He called a little child and had him stand among them.  And he said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."