Archive for May, 2008

Summer brings change

Ariel committed to his leadership role for our ministry at the end of January 2007. He had guest-spoken at our church for a few months prior to then. This past Sunday (May 25) marked his last Sunday as our pastor. It’s been about 18 months that he and his wife have been with us. His announcement of resignation was unexpected and the time between my finding out and the inevitable “last day” seemed much too short.

I don’t have too much time to write my thoughts, as I have work in the morning. Just an update. Please pray for our ministry and our new pastor. I am so thankful that Ariel found someone to replace him. They will both be present next Sunday to oversee the transition. A new chapter begins…

I just realized I forgot to write about YKC’s 5th anniversary service. So I guess my memory was off…I had thought our first service was in July 2003, but my dad told me it was May 18, 2003, making it all the cooler that May 18, 2008 fell on a Sunday as well. The service also included the ordination of new elders, so there were a lot of people. The sanctuary was packed. There were a lot of people that I had never seen before and will never see again, but just to see every pew filled was a joyful sight. Andrew and I played a song. I hope one day the EM will have an ordained pastor, elders, deacons, families, converts, non-Koreans, and humble servants.

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Wow, I had written about this a year earlier

I wrote my “Bad Worship Songs” entry on April 11. I was looking through my old Xanga blog entries and I wrote an entry on the same subject almost exactly a year earlier. Good reflection. I’ll add the link at the end and also at the “Bad Worship Songs” entry, since I’m getting a good number of hits on that one through search engines.

Sure, not all hymns are good

J. Gresham Machen and the fear of God

J. Gresham Machen, “The Fear of God,” emphasis mine:

Even the Christian must fear God. But it is another kind of fear. It is a fear rather of what might have been than of what is; it is a fear of what would come were we not in Christ. Without such fear there can be no true love; for love of the Saviour is proportioned to one’s horror of that from which man has been saved. And how strong are the lives that are suffused with such a love! They are lives brave, not because the realities of life have been ignored, but because they have first been faced — lives that are founded upon the solid foundation of God’s grace. May such lives be ours!

May such a life be mine.

Discouragements on Mother’s Day

There are days when I’m encouraged by what I see at church and other days when I’m not. As I write this, I feel okay. But I can’t discard the many moments today when I felt a mix of negative emotions.

The kids weren’t paying attention during Bible study today. Partly because of how Ariel led it. The kids should be more respectful and Ariel should try to make the sometimes difficult language of Romans more relevant to the kids.

Almost no one was singing during praise today. Even the ones that were completely fluent in English. Maybe they were embarrassed to sing? I close my eyes these days not necessarily because I want to focus on the lyrics and mean what they say but more so that I don’t want to see that no one’s lips are moving. It looked so dead out there. Where is the joy with trembling?

Justin and Austin are (still, after how many years?) pretty immature. Justin needs to act like an older brother and be a role model instead of always putting his younger brother down and treating him flippantly.

The confessions of sin we read together every week are, in themselves, solid. But I’m afraid that Ariel reads too quickly and the sentences can be too long for someone who is still learning English.

The assurance of pardon, for some reason, didn’t give me assurance. I think it was the way he read it. It’s so hard to describe what it was that kept me from really “getting” it.

The subsequent exchange of peace was a little dreary. On a good day, all the kids are up, shaking hands at the very least, and I’m excited to go around and give a warm rub on the shoulders to the boys. Today, some of them didn’t even get up. Eye contact and smiles were hard to come by.

It took me a while to become convicted by the passage today. It was Isaiah 6:1-8, a familiar passage, one whose theme relates closely to my last blog entry: the holiness of God. Despite the routineness of hearing the same three-point format, I gradually became convicted of what the Word itself was saying. The random bits of background information Ariel gave started to stick and opened my eyes to the Word. At the same time that I became excited at what I was finally “getting,” I felt sad because no one else around me seemed to care.

Woe is me! I am lost! I am ruined! I am undone! I am unclean! When the word “woe” is used in the Bible, it’s directed toward another person. But Isaiah directed it toward himself! The prophet, who pronounced judgment on the people, in the presence of God, pronounced judgment on himself! Burning coal – pain was required for atonement. There was a scene in Iron Man where the terrorist leader puts a hot coal right next to the doctor’s head to try to get him to spill the beans. Can you imagine having a hot coal in your mouth, searing your tongue and the hyper-sensitive tissue inside your cheeks? It would hurt A LOT. After all this, after the sheer terror Isaiah experiences, does he run away in fear? No, the sweetness of atonement leads to a willing spirit: “Here am I! Send me.” This can be the only proper response.

There were small signs of encouragement despite all this. I press on.

If the Church realized what they “get” from worship

From John Piper’s The Dangerous Duty of Delight:

First, the true diagnosis of weak worship is not that our people are coming to get and not to give. Not a few pastors scold their people that the worship services would be lively if people came to give instead of to get. There is a better diagnosis.

People ought to come to corporate worship services to get. They ought to come starved for God. They ought to come saying, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God” (Psalm 42:1). God is profoundly honored when people know that they will die of hunger and thirst unless they have God. And it is my job as a preacher to spread a banquet for them. I must show them from Scripture what they are really starving for—God—and then feed them well until they say, “Ahhh.” That is worship.

The point Piper is trying to make is not that the Church should forget the Bible and its commands to offer our talents for service to the body of Christ. The point was to emphasize the whole reason for corporate worship, and that is to commemorate (M-W: to call to remembrance) God’s work on behalf of His people and its benefits. It is to ascribe glory, honor, and praise to the God who delivered us from the sure wrath and condemnation which we deserved because of our willful rebellion and sinfulness.

The worship service is (or sadly for many churches, should be) a weekly reminder of the gospel. The first part of the gospel is the fact that we are sinners, plain and simple, and that we will be sinners until we die. Ought not this fact bring us to the start of worship service in fear and trembling? But we have the assurance in the second part of the gospel, the good news, which tells us that there is forgiveness in Christ, that the great exchange has taken place. Our sins and the wrath which we deserved was placed on Jesus, and Jesus’ active obedience to the Law has been imputed (counted) to us.

Psalm 130:4 says “But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” I take care that I may not forget what I “get” from worship: the sweet (re)assurance of the good news and also importantly, a solemn reminder of the fact that I deserve God’s wrath without the blood of Christ covering my sins.

In The Dangerous Duty of Delight, Piper takes the concept of Christian Hedonism (you’ll have to read this book or the longer Desiring God from which this book was adapted to realize that this isn’t an oxymoron nor a heterodox teaching) and applies it to corporate worship, marriage, and evangelism. In this March 6, 2005 sermon titled, “The Present Effects of Trembling at the Wrath of God,” he follows a similar path for application. My fellow believers would do well to read (or even better, watch) this sermon and meditate on the wrath of God and how it should make us compose ourselves when we come to Sunday worship. Here is one line which stuck out to me, because it is exactly how I feel about many of our churches and services today: “Those who have seen and savored the holiness of God and justice and wrath and grace of God, can never again trivialize worship.”

Solemn, somber, sober-minded, staid. How can we not be? Transcribed from the actual sermon delivery: “This is not something you grow out of, like, ‘Oh, I’ll become a mature Christian and I’ll stop being a trembler.’ No, this is something, in fact, that the immature need to grow into.” The mature Christian will have these marks.

Another emergency

Today, about 2 hours before our meeting time for Sunday morning Bible study, I got a text message from our pastor (his name is Ariel) saying he had to take his wife’s grandmother to the ER and couldn’t make it to church. I have to admit, my first reaction was a mix of disbelief and disappointment. On Friday, we had prayed for him, and I was filled with emotion as the recognition of our sorry state hit me yet again. Yes, there was nothing we could do about the emergency, and yes, we should have prayed for her grandmother. But I couldn’t help but feel a little frustrated.

Normally, we join the KM service if Ariel can’t come. Today, I felt that it was too “easy” for us to simply show up in the KM service and zone out. I did my best to prepare something for our group. We sang worship songs, we read 1 John together (no sermon obviously), and we prayed for the church. We did our best to keep the fourth commandment. Though I held my head in discouragement as I waited for everyone to show up before we started, I was encouraged by the end. We prayed for our lunch and ate together. We played outside in the parking lot doing random things like kids do with whatever’s around: our old basketball hoop, a random tennis ball, exercises against the brick wall.

I hope the kids are growing spiritually.