Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Hello Again.

Hello Counseling blog,

It’s been a long time. Two and a half years to be exact, and in that time a lot has changed. I went from a student to working full time, moved three times, lived with 7 different people, worked with over 30 different students, made new friends and lost old ones, and found myself stretched in ways that I would have never imagined. It hasn’t been easy. In the past two and a half years, I’ve been betrayed, rejected, and judged by those I’ve considered like family. I’ve struggled with finances, living situations and a lot of uncertainty about the future. I’ve seen people do awful things to each other and found that I could relate to all of them. My sin, pride, and stubbornness has popped up uglier and more loudly than I would ever want to admit. There were been many times where I wanted to give up and run away. And I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.

It’s been the best few years of my life. With all of those things, I’ve been totally and completely floored by God’s patience and grace. Life with Jesus is so FULL. I’ve laughed harder, hoped more, and relaxed with the best friends anyone could ask for. Anytime I worried about money, God provided in such obvious ways. I see more how God understands and has already gone through everything I have, and in turn have been able to allow people to know and understand me and get to know them more deeply. God constantly surprises me in his humor and how gently he takes care of his people.

One of the best and most painful things has been facing the reality of my selfishness, while experiencing the sweetness and freedom of God’s forgiveness. A few weeks ago, our church celebrated Easter and studied Matthew 28. I got really emotional as we were talking about Jesus’ relationship with Mary Magdalene, because I am just like her. I literally would have nothing without Jesus. Mary was the definition of an outcast. She was possessed by seven demons a.k.a. she was perfectly possessed a.k.a. this girl was messed up beyond hope. No one wants to hire, marry, or even touch a demon possessed girl, so Mary had no friends, no money, no husband, no sanity, nothing. She meets Jesus. He sees her and heals her. After that, Mary is his forever. Even after she watches Jesus die, she would do anything for him. Mary wasn’t thinking that Jesus was going to rise from the dead or worried about the next logical step for her life. All she wanted to do was to take care of Jesus’ body. You can see her just waiting for Sabbath to end. As soon as it’s dawn, she’s on her way to the tomb with the other Mary. It doesn’t matter that there is a guard of soldiers and a four thousand pound rock in the way. She goes, because Jesus saved her life, and she has nothing without him.
But Jesus is nowhere to be found. Instead, there’s an angel who tells them that Jesus is alive, and he’s headed to Galilee to meet them and his disciples. Jesus, in his signature unexpected style, makes a U-turn and comes to meet Mary and Mary. Jesus is really alive and in front of them saying, “Greetings!” and “Do not be afraid!” Jesus just rose from the dead, and all he wants to do is be with the people he loves. Mary comes to him, takes hold of his feet, and worships him.

I want faith like that. Forget figuring out what’s right and wrong. Forget trying to find that missing piece of information that will make you “get it”. Forget learning how to be a good friend. Forget any “sacrifices” that I made for God. Forget my expectations of what I think God is supposed to be like. Everything is trash compared to knowing my Jesus. I want to worship at Jesus’ feet, because I have absolutely nothing without him.

So dear friends, beloved church, hold on. Hold out with patient endurance in our life with Jesus. Loving Jesus and loving others is completely worth it. There are days where the bad stuff seems to outweigh the good stuff – When the world is against you, people inside the church are against you, and you’re a big old sinner—but God has a hold on his people that no one and nothing in all of time can break. Life with Jesus is not easy, but it’s full. Since we have such a faithful Savior/Redeemer/Friend, you can be vulnerable and love other people. They might disappoint. Actually, they will definitely disappoint you, but God won’t. Jesus loves his people to the end. Hold on and fix your eyes ahead to where God is taking us. Jesus is the same wonderfully merciful Savior right now to us all the way to the end of time. John, Jesus’ youngest disciple, has a vision where he sees Jesus in the throne room of God, where Jesus is in his full blazing glory.
“When I [John] saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades!’” (Revelations 1:17-18)

Do you see how He is the same Jesus through and through? He touches John and tells him not to fear, just like he touches Mary’s life, just like he is intimately in my life and your life.  The way that Jesus loves Mary is the same way that he loves us, all the way to the very end. So hold on.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The New Normal

One of the saddest and very unfortunately, most common things that I have heard through counseling is how people have been hurt by the church. I've heard story after story of people who felt like they were never good enough, who never measured up to the standard of the Christian they were supposed to be. Sometimes even sadder are the “successful” Christians, the ones who have some kind of leadership position and are looked up to and respected as a godly role model. They are often the most insecure, constantly working to keep up their image of what they “should be”. It’s as if church is the place where you have to keep up appearances – having the perfect career and family, while serving at church, all while keeping up a cheery smile and thankfulness for everything. Church becomes this exhausting list of “should’s “and “should not’s”.

Let’s face it. None of us can measure up to standards like that. And the consequences of this kind of thinking are awful. People are isolated, feeling like they are the only ones with problems, while life for everyone else is so much easier. People hide their hurts, hide their sins, and slowly drown in shame and insecurities. Instead of sharing with one another, people compare, feeling bitter when a person changes or gains something that they want. In our church, we are so blessed to be in a place that reminds us every single week, and even throughout the week, that we are all people who are worse than we think and are only saved because our God decided to take all of our sin and suffering on Himself. Even then, we still go back to that kind of thinking. We still think that our problems, our past, our thoughts are worse than everyone else. Or we feel this need to keep it all together and take care of our own problems independently. We make assumption that other people have it all, while we just keep screwing up. We can’t seem to understand why things are so hard for us, while we assume that things come so easily to others.

This thinking is against everything the gospel says! In fact, this is the very reason Jesus came! We can’t measure up, and we need someone outside of ourselves to redeem us. In fact, there is no one else but God Himself who could save someone like you or me. Since we have been shown such undeserved x 1,000,000,000,000,000 mercy, through God sacrificing His only Son for our curse, we must change this standard. We have to make a new normal. Instead of normal being the people who are “doing well”, the normal should be people who are struggling in some way or another. We are all imperfect people being re-created into a new creation, so we shouldn’t expect it to be painless. We don’t have to know how to be perfect friends or care about people the right way. We don’t have to have the perfect career that gives us purpose and satisfaction, while bringing home bank. And even more than that, there will be hard times. There will be “plagues” or circumstances that may seem devastating at first, but God’s Word is perfectly true. And He has promised,
“I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.” Exodus 7:6-8

Although we may not be in slavery to Pharaoh, we act like we are slaves to the standards, expectations, and idols that we have set up in our lives. God is working to strip away all those things that hold us in slavery in our lives. So all the more, let us make a new normal where we can share these things with one another, and it’s not the end of the world. In our church, let’s lay down our pride and work to build a culture where we do not face these struggles alone. 

Monday, October 14, 2013


Today, I am thankful. These past few weeks, I’ve been having a hard time. So naturally, a lot of my thinking has gone toward suffering and hope for the future and how things are supposed to be uncomfortable because we are waiting for Jesus to come back, which are all great things to think about. But, I forgot how much that God has already given me right now.  So here are 36 things that I am thankful for from the past 36 hours (originally was going to do 24 but there are too many):

1. Phone conversations
2. Sunshine
3. God’s consistent faithfulness day after day after day
4. It’s Katy’s birthday today!!! The best sister to put up with me and Nathan :)
5. Car rides to think
6. Seeing Christ transform lives in front of my face
7. Pastors that fix cars
8. Being able to complain to the right person
9. Friends with big teeth (hi Euna)
10. Friends that are trolls
11. Friends that are bullies
12. Friends that listen and talk
13. Seeing how the church practically provides
14. Hot showers
15. Brushing my teeth
16. Roommates to love
17. A practical education
18. Books by people with big brains
19. Meeting new people
20. My church family
21. Crunchy leaves to step on
22. My baker friends
23. Relationships with a lot of forgiveness embedded in
24. A place to call home
25. Parents that still surprise me with how much they care
26. God hooking up our church with the exact right people
27. Outside nighttime talks
28. Coffee
29. People that challenge me
30. People to laugh at me
31. That the bible is right and I am wrong
32. Serving the church
33. Working with people I love and respect
34. Being known (as scary as it is to not be able to hide)
35. My failures that force me to stop trusting in myself
36. Sundays!

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Real Relationship

I was flipping through the CCEF website the other day and came across a blog post about their upcoming conference, titled “Not Alone.” This quote in particular caught my attention:
"One of our core goals,” my colleague suggested, “is to move people toward a relationship with God that is every bit as real as their relationships with other people."
My heart skipped a beat as I processed the magnitude of the hope he was holding out. I am yearning for a deep experience of that but not feeling it right now, I thought, and I bet I’m not the only one.1
As I read that, I realized… that’s my yearning too. I’ve been trying so hard to “fill up” on good teaching, intimacy in relationships with people, and working hard toward changing to how I think God wants me to change. And all I feel is tired. I’m working so hard for these tangible “results” that I want to hold on to, but after each insight, each hang-out the feeling of dissatisfaction creeps back in. I’ve been looking for something that can only be found in God. I’ve been running so hard after the work of God that I disregarded God Himself. Reading those few sentences started to turn the tide of my weariness into a thirst for the Living God.
The fact is our relationship with God is THE most real relationship in our lives. However, this is not the way we naturally live our lives. We get so consumed in our own lives – our responsibilities, our concerns, our wants, our purposes, that we tunnel vision into our own reality that has us as the main character in our little world. It’s exhausting. And it is often in those times we feel like God is very far away. We can recall biblical truths, but it just doesn’t feel like God hears, much less cares.

God remembers. God sees. God knows. Jesus came and became a friend of sinners. And now we have the very Spirit of God living in us. This is an intimacy beyond what our brains can comprehend. In Jesus’ last prayer for us he prays, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me (John 17:20-23).” God our Father’s purpose for us is for our relationship with Him to be as intimate as the love between the Father and the Son.  I don’t think we really believe how real our relationship with God is. God is holding out an intimate, daily, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” relationship.
If you are feeling tired, weary, or purposeless, maybe, just maybe, you are looking more at what God is doing in your life than loving God Himself. God invites us to come. He invites us to come and have rest. He invites us to drink living water. He invites us to have a relationship with Him that will make our closest relationships pale in comparison.

Dear church, we talk about our relationship with God all the time, but I don’t think we realize the fireworks-going-off-in-my-brain hope that we’re talking about. We worship a living God. He is real. Do you want to know Him?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Under Construction

Do you ever feel stuck? On one hand, you know God’s word is true, and He’s God after all. But on the other hand, His word and your life seem to exist on separate planes. You learn great truths about God, feel convicted, go home, and nothing changes. You wake up the next day and the same problems, same escapes, same expectations are waiting for you.

The word around our church seems to be that God is poking into uncomfortable places in people’s lives. These are people that have been transformed by God, who would swear up and down that they love Jesus, but God is exposing parts of us that do not want to be changed. Unfortunately (but really wonderfully and graciously), God does not want a quick-fix makeover. God is after all of us – the good, the bad, the things we used to take pride in, our anger issues,  the secrets we keep, the hurts that have long been buried. Some of our insecurities have gone so deep that they almost seem a part of us. When those things are touched, it’s so easy to get defensive and say “that’s just who I am” or “that’s my personality”.  It’s all so … messy.

As I have been more and more exposed for the sinner I am, I find myself uncomfortably grasping for solutions. I go to bible studies, listen and read (couldn’t resist a plug for our transcription ministry here) sermons, try to pray, and the same struggle and feelings persist. But through this, I realized a very great promise – God is more persistent. So no matter how stubborn, near-sighted, self-deceptive, cold-hearted, uncaring person I am, I am never out of God’s reach. In fact, one reason it may seem like God is “slow” to answer prayers is because He is eager to cultivate faith in our lives. He wants to give us a faith that is not dependent on us getting our way every time, but a faith that trusts in God’s Word over our own experiences. God is not out to simply cut out the bad parts of our lives to build a bigger, better Christian, but He wants to teach us to depend on His goodness that cannot, will not fail.

The greatest security is found in how Jesus loves us. John wrote, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” God is not surprised by how messed up you are. He knows exactly who you are and the price it takes to save you. Knowing that, Jesus deliberately gives up his life to ransom ours. Because of Jesus’ love we can have the confidence to know that no matter how difficult it is to change, Jesus will never leave us. Jesus loves his people to the end. He did not just come to give us a new chance to get it right. Step by step, decision by decision, day by day, God is in the process of restoring us. So even though right now it may seem impossible to change, we can trust God’s promise that one day Jesus is coming back and every sin that we struggle with will disintegrate in His presence. In that day, we will be able to fully love God and love others. Jesus loves us to the end. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Prayer (Part 3)

Yesterday, Pastor Kenny really challenged our church to pray, and in light of that, I wanted to share a prayer that has really encouraged me in the past few weeks:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Sprit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:14 – 21

I know that many of us have been struggling through insecurities, sins that won’t seem to go away, or on the opposite end, being consumed with things that we want. Although these are things that need to be addressed, we can lay these things aside and look to our Beautiful Savior, who has already defeated our sins. God himself is the one who has already granted us every good thing (flashback to 2 Peter and Psalm 84!!!). Knowing that this is our God, we have the confidence to come to him in prayer. Paul’s prayer for the church was not for numbers or success or even to be good, disciplined Christians. It is simply that we would know more of who Christ is and rely on the Holy Spirit who is already in us and to understand more of God’s love with the church.
I’m excited to pray with everyone tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

So Why is Prayer so Hard? (Part 2)

Last time, we discussed how prayer is part of having a relationship with God. But if you’re anything like me, you might ask, “Why is it so much harder to pray to God than to talk to other people?”

Let’s look at four reasons that make it hard to pray. (Disclaimer: These are not all-encompassing. They’re just the ones that have been on my mind the past few weeks!)

1.    You can’t see Him. It’s easier to talk to someone who is right in front of you that can audibly talk back to you. We have to depend on what we believe and not what we see. God is with us, and He does hear our prayers.

2.     We are so determined to do things on our own. Admitting that I need help, not just any help but supernatural intervention, grates against the grain of my independence. The act of praying says, “I am dependent on God.” During prayer, you are not doing anything about your situation. You are simply asking God to move. Other “Christian deeds” involve doing something. When you read the bible, you’re learning more about God and His word. When you fellowship with other Christians you’re actively getting to know, care, and serve them. They all involve actions, and we get to feel a sense of doing and accomplishment for completing them. With prayer, there is no doing. There are no tangible results unless you believe that God moves. In our I-can-determine-my-own-destiny-and-make-a-difference culture, prayer admits inadequacy. Prayer says, “God, I want to love other people, but I have no idea how and need you to pick me up out of my selfishness and change me to care.”  Prayer says, “I’m feeling overwhelmed with financial worries and find myself looking for monetary security instead of God as my refuge. Help me remember that You are faithful and that the whole world is already Yours to give.” Pausing our to-do list and stopping our work to pray is no small feat, but it is one that is essential to the Christian life. We constantly need to be reminded that we can’t do it on our own, and we need our God to work.

3.     That’s just sitting down to pray. Actually praying is hard, because you are standing in the presence of the Holy, Almighty God-King. You can’t hide before Him. Our Father created us and knows every bit of us. He reads hearts and minds and is not fooled by our smiles or carefully crafted words. We have to face our sin and face the One we are ultimately sinning against. It’s here where we often put our human ideas of love onto God. We think that God is out to punish us for what we’ve done wrong. We think that God will get so tired of us repeating the same sin and will one day have enough and disown us. We act like we’ll come before Him in prayer, and He will reject us. But this is not our God. John reminds us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18). Don’t let fear or doubt stop you from going to God. God knows us down to the dirtiest depths of our hearts, but that doesn’t change his love for us. In fact, it is for our failures that Jesus willingly lay down his life to completely pay for our sins – past, present, and future. And now, God shines his face on us, seeing us for who we honestly are, and it is never too late for us to turn to Him.

4.     What happens when we pray to God, and it does not seem like He’s listening? We often come to God with certain prayers that we continue to pray for again and again. God, please save my beloved family member. God, help me to do well in school (for your glory). God, my family member is sick. God, I’ve been struggling with the same sin, and I’m not changing. And with each unanswered prayer, our faith wears down, bit by bit. Before we know it, we pray without expecting any answer. We pray, but we don’t believe God hears or cares.  We feel like God isn’t listening because He doesn’t give us what we want. If this is where our prayer lives end, we’ve missed out on the life-changing purpose of prayer. When we pray, our desires, hopes, worries meet God, and He prunes our desires to be more like His. God does hear, and He does care. James 4 explains this more (click here). If prayer is merely a litany of our wants, of course it’s going to feel impersonal! Listen to God – He does have answers for the difficult questions. And He always has a grander, deeper plan than we can imagine.

Let’s come before God knowing that we need Him, knowing that He loves us and answers our prayers.