Our Church is doing an event for the Movie To Save A Life. Please, if you know anyone that has teenagers, works with teens, or you know a teen, then tell them to come to the watch party and discussion afterwards. I will keep you updated on this event.
Here's a little blurb:
To Save A Life is an indie movie about the real-life challenges of teens and the choices they face. Check out the Trailer (featuring Switchfoot's hit Mess of Me) and learn more at www.ToSaveALifeMovie.com.
This book that I just finished reading rocked my world, blew my mind, and knocked my socks off (that one is for you KevRed). Jason and actually have both been reading it. There is something about those verses in the Bible that you just skim over because they DNA (Do Not Apply). Like all the ones about helping the poor, widow, orphan, and oppressed. Those are so far removed and usually we just throw money at them because "we aren't called to go overseas to be missionaries." Or what about the phrase "There is so much need right here in my own city and neighborhood." All I can say is wow...really wow! We are called to go to all the nations to make disciples, not neighborhoods and cities. It is a Global mission. But the question that Jason and I wrestle with is how do we do what we've been called to do here in Kansas City, but at the same time do what the Bible says, more importantly, what Jesus said, the Master himself?
Can't really answer that one, since we are working through that ourselves, but we do know that it is time to make some changes in our lives. Something is moving, something is changing. It's like our Pastor says, "When you aren't tracking or hooking up with God, go back to the last thing you have recently read in the Word that you haven't done, and do it!" Then you will begin to grow and connect with God like never before. So I am excited and anticipating great things to begin happening in my life because of obeying God and His Word!
Jason and I just got back from Acquire the Fire Youth Conference with SURGE our church youth ministry over the weekend held at Kemper Arena. It is 27 hours packed with worship, teaching, laughter, commitments, and multimedia presentation.
Joel Johnson (Keller, TX) was the main speaker along with Unhindered Worship Band from Atlanta, GA. God's love was the theme, and it just permeated my soul about how much he really, really, really loves me! It is one thing to mentally assent to think it and just nod your head in agreement like I already know that God is love and that he loves me. But it is another thing to really know His love in an experiential way; something you can tangibly feel deep down inside that surpasses all knowledge.
I like how one of our youth testified that God really revealed his love to her, and it was just pure and simple, nothing like human relationships feel. Because when you really get a revelation of how much God loves you, the barriers and walls that you have built up inside collapse and are broken down and you can trust Him with your life. If you think that God doesn't love you because of how you messed up or he is causing havoc and the hurt and pain in your life, or at least "allowing it," then you will not be able to fully surrender and completely trust Him since somehow subconsciously you think that He is the one behind all the screwed up things in your excuse for a human being and your existence. I think a lot of people have misbeliefs that God is really mad at them or is just waiting to catch them at their worst moment and going to spring out from behind the heavenly realms to say, "Aha! I caught you! You really messed things up this time when you did (insert sin). Now I am going to make you pay!" So then we think how can I trust a God who is causing all this pain and/or sorrow and wreaking havoc on my life? I better just be in control of my own stuff and take my life into my own hands or not fully put my hope and trust in Him because you just never know what God is going to do. Well, we can't live like that or else the things he wants to do in our lives to make it better won't ever come to pass since we aren't fully surrendered. Sure God is merciful and gracious, and is better to us than we deserve, but sometimes, we live at such a low level of his best in our lives because we want to do things our way trying to protect our own interests, when really all God wants us to do is believe that what He says in his word is true, and that we can place our entire life, every part the good and the bad, and turn it over to him and follow him completely. This is what it comes down to, a choice, to trust in Him and that He loves us. Oh How He Loves us!
Blair is the oldest brother in my family. Below is his story and I had to share it. (His wife Tonya wrote the introduction not me.)
Blair gave the sermon last Sunday in church. Most of the sermon is actually his story. I have had many requests for a recording but it was not recorded so I am posting it here for those who are interested. I tagged you if you expressed interest, if you are family and if you are part of his story. I am in awe that God chose me to be part of Blair's story - I am so blessed!
(I cut the beginning of the sermon because it was on the Scripture text he was to preach on, I left the last few verses so that the transition into his story makes sense).
He writes, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Currently I am seeing good days. They are the result of many righteous prayers over the years. Prayers of my parents, grandparents, family, loved ones, and friends. There is story behind my good days, a story I’d like to share with you.
Many of you know that I was adopted. And like many stories, there is a beginning to the beginning. And my story started years before I arrived in America. I have the blessing of knowing my story because my father and mother wrote it for me in this book, so that I would never forget.
It starts with my Mom and Dad who were both music students at the University of Denver. My mother played French horn, aspiring to be a music teacher. My father was a violin player, wanting to perform professionally.
Though they were both music students at the same school, it was not until they both attended Calvary Temple Church in Denver, that they met each other. Attending church and pursuing their music degrees, they grew to love each other and eventually married in the summer of 1969.
Early on in their marriage, one of their shared dreams was to adopt a, “little oriental child.” After graduation from school, my mom taught Jr. High band and fell in love with the “oriental” kids in her class, building on the dream of someday adopting one as her own. Dreams produced actions and my parents applied to adopt internationally. At that time, the pastor of Calvary Temple was Charles Blair, a man instrumental in the spiritual mentorship of both my parents. My parents thought so highly of him, they honored him by making me his namesake.
Meanwhile, halfway around the world, my story was beginning to be written. According to Social Welfare documentation, on December 17, 1973, I was found abandoned on the steps of a public building with an attached note to take care of me. Under the custody of Social Welfare Society Inc. of Seoul, South Korea, I was placed at Choong Hyun Babies Home. Since I was abandoned without any identification, my date of birth was estimated and I was given the name of Woong Kwan. I was approximately 3 months old when I was placed in the orphanage. So for 3 short months, someone cared for me, but gave me up, unknowingly contributing to God’s master plan for my life.
Trusting in the Lord’s direction, my parents continued their pursuit of my adoption. Common to many international adoption stories, mine was filled with delays, conquered obstacles, and God’s faithful provisions. My parents prayed and trusted in God’s faithfulness. In the middle of the adoption process, my father even lost his job. Time after time, funds were needed. And time after time, some how money was provided.
One example stands out.
In my adoption story book, my mother writes, “On the 25th of November, Traveler’s Aid asked us to send the money for your air travel from Korea to the United States. The amount was $371.00 and we didn’t’ have a penny. We believed God to provide the money somehow so we wrote and mailed a check to New York for $371.00. The very next day, your Dad unexpectedly sold one of his violin bows for $400.00 which was more than enough to cover the check. How faithful God is.”
The prayers continued, soon my father was employed. However, the waiting for me continued. To my parents, the day of my arrival seemed like it would never come.
As my parents waited in America, I continued on in the orphanage. My parents were updated periodically, informing them about the orphanage, my health, and my development. The orphanage I lived in had approximately 260 children, ages 1-6 years old. Characteristic to Asian countries, there was under-floor heating, with many of the children sleeping on the floor. The typical nurse to child ratio was 1 nurse to every 12 children. During my time in the orphanage, I suffered from the measles, the chicken pox, and an upper respiratory infection.
Finally, on January 25 th, 1975 I made the trans-Pacific plane ride from Seoul, South Korea to the United States. I was 18 months old. My parent’s prayers had been answered, and a new chapter in my life was beginning.
I would be one of the five thousand Korean children adopted that year, with over 112,000 being adopted during the 1970’s and 80’s.
At 18 months old, my parents quickly realized that caring for me was going to be a challenge. I was developmentally delayed and did not walk until I was two years old. When toys were placed in front of me, I just stared at them not knowing what to do. I preferred to sleep on the floor instead of a crib, crying many nights before my parents discovered my preferable sleeping place. In Kindergarten, I couldn’t hold a crayon and was unable to even scribble. Through time, I eventually caught up. At least I’d like to think so.
Six months into my new life in America, the adoption representative recommended the approval of my adoption. In August of 1975, in a brief hearing at the county court, the adoption was finalized. For the next two years I was registered as an alien with The Immigration Department before becoming a naturalized citizen of the US. Though America was not my country of origin, using alien to classify me to this day seems a bit strong. Little did I know that it was prophetic for things to come. My mother recalls a time when I had just arrived in the U.S. and we were all in a restaurant. A man came over to our table curiously and asked if he could see me, telling my parents, “I’ve never seen one of those before.”
Early in my life, I quickly realized that I didn’t look like everyone around me. Throughout my elementary school years, I was always reminded of my racial differences. Kids would always ask me where I was from; because it was obvious to them that I couldn’t be from “here.” Usually I was asked whether I was Japanese or Chinese. When I would inform them that I cam from Korea, they would furrow their eyebrows with puzzlement, unaware of a country called Korea and that people like me came from there. Kids can be cruel and I was not spared. Over the years, kids would refer to me using some kind of Asian slang name, always reminding me that I didn’t belong or fit in.
As I grew, my family grew. Soon after my arrival from Korea, my parents gave birth to a son. 14 months later a baby girl followed. And before I knew it, our family was in the process of adopting another Korean child. Only this time it was girl, 6 months old from the coastal town of Pusan City. To the delight of all us, she arrived December of 1978. My parents completed our family with adoption of two brothers from India in the coming years.
I grew up in a loving family, with Christian parents, going to church together since my earliest memories can recall.
In third grade I was scared into repentance of my sins and asked Jesus to be my personal savior after watching an end times movie at church.
After my day of repentance, life carried on. Day to day activities did not change much for me. My parents though were catching a vision. The very next year my parents decided to teach us at home. We all had attended public school previously. It was a new and at times, an awkward transition into homeschooling for the first time.
We enjoyed our first home school year and grew closer as siblings, often playing in the afternoons. My parents attended home school conferences. They read books such as, “Home Grown Kids,” by Raymond Moore.
Others thought us strange. We didn’t look like most families in our neighborhood or even our church. There were six kids, two from my parents, two from Korea, and two from India. When we were out running errands with my mom, people would often ask. “Why aren’t you in school?” Or, “Are you a daycare?” Needless to say, we drew quite a bit of attention when we were out and about. In the early 80’s, home school co-ops and support groups were rare. In those days, our greatest fear was the local school truant officer.
The next year I attended a small Christian private school, while most of my other siblings continued to be schooled at home. My parents continued to have a vision for homeschooling and planned to teach all of us at home again.
However, that vision and my life took a very unexpected and drastic turn in the summer of 1987.
I was 12 years old and looking forward to a week long Boy Scout camp. I left with my troop on a Sunday and made the 3-4 hour long road trip, looking forward to earning merit badges and spending time with my scouting friends.
It was Monday, the first full day of camp. I had just finished working on swim safety and headed up the dirt trail to the mess hall for lunch. Saying hi to my fellow troop members, I took my seat only to be surprised to have my scout master suddenly appear. He leaned over my shoulder discretely, informing me that there was a family emergency. All of my things were packed and in his truck. I left with him immediately, not knowing any more. The plan was for him to drive me halfway and we would meet a family friend that would take me home. It was a quiet ride, only a few exchanges of small talk.
On the way, I wondered to myself what kind of family emergency would constitute such an immediate need to get home. The only thing I could imagine was that my great grandmother, who constantly reminded me that I would miss her someday, had passed away.
Halfway point was at a Dairy Queen on the edge of the highway. Taking my seat in the red plastic booth, I saw the familiar face of a family friend named Murray Turner. I remember that Murray paused and then very solemnly, looked me straight in the eyes and told me the last thing I would have ever guessed.
My father had committed suicide the night before.
My only recollection is stunned silence. In that instant, my world stopped. Time stood still to me. I’m not sure how long I sat there, or if I even said anything.
The second leg of the trip home was even quieter than the first. I was relieved to arrive home. In response to my father’s death, there was an outpouring of support for my family. Friends brought meals and cleaned the house. Others tried to entertain and talk with us kids. Therapists provided family counseling.
Me, I just wanted to crawl in my bed until everyone went away. I was confused, hurt, angry, and in disbelief. The questions for me were infinite, and no one seemed to have any satisfactory answers.
After my father’s death, I became withdrawn and distant. I turned 13 a month later. Experiencing all the awkwardness that accompanies adolescence, the hormone surges, attitude changes, and identity problems seemed overwhelming. The addition of my fathers’ suicide made life seem desperate.
The routine of life was drastically changed. Out of habit, I would expect the front door to open around 6 o’clock, my dad announcing that he was home from work, only to be greeted with silence and the reality of a changed life.
Another complicating factor was that I found it difficult to tell others that my father had died from suicide. For some reason, a car accident, casualty of war, or even fatal heart attack seemed more palatable. I struggled with the fact that I had been abandoned and orphaned before. I had been rescued, but now felt somehow that I had been abandoned again.
In the wake of my father’s death I experienced both love and arrogance from the church. We were blessed by countless individuals and families, many of whom we didn’t even know. Time after time, others found ways to meet our needs and minister to our hurting hearts.
The church leaders chose to help differently. Many of them did not know our family personally, but felt it best to have a board meeting in order to advise my mother how to manager her finances, our home, and the need for her get a job. Some families within the church grew frustrated when they were discouraged from helping us; being cautioned against the creation of a welfare situation.
Unfortunately, the pain from my father’s death and the injustices from church leaders, created a burning resentment. My anger raged, and I found myself becoming more and more disenchanted with, “the church.”
As a family we continued to go to church. My mother did all she could to raise us. She struggled at low paying jobs to keep our heads above water, always shielding us from the overwhelming pressures of raising 6 children alone. All the while my mother was grieving the vision lost when my father died.
In my junior year of high school, I had the incredible opportunity to travel back to my country of origin, South Korea. It was through Athletes in Action that my trip was made possible. It was a voyage filled with great anticipation, anxiety, and uncertainty. How would Koreans treat me? Would I want to return to my culture? How would I feel amongst people like me? The questions were endless.
I enjoyed my trip, but it was tempered with awkwardness. Everywhere I went, I saw people that looked exactly like me. However, I was thoroughly American in my language and culture. Koreans were dumbfounded when I couldn’t respond in Korean when spoken to. How does a Korean in Korea not know the language? Despite these differences, many of the Koreans were gentle and kind to me. I had finally journeyed back to my birthplace and was among my people, but I was not “home.” I still had not found that place where I felt I belonged.
After returning to America, I completed my senior year in high school and attended Colorado Christian University in Denver. I was looking forward to escaping the public school environment and being amongst Christians. Again, I felt displaced. I was searching for my place in the world and my faith. I didn’t fit in with the confident pious Christian students, but my values conflicted with the secular world I had just left.
My freshman year was characterized by searching. I contemplated leaving church as an institution. Always disappointed in my attempt to find the perfect church. I discovered that I was part of the problem, imperfect and fallen.
Through my readings, the words of Daniel Taylor stood out to me. He writes that “No institution has accomplished so much for good in the world; none has fallen so short of its calling! The church is God-ordained, God-inspired, but accomplishes its work through humans subject to every possible failing.”
I returned to church, understanding the struggles of a Christian life, but believing that a commitment to faith was a risk worth taking. During my time at Colorado Christian University, I met my wife Tonya, got married the summer of our junior year and graduated. Our first child, Hannah was born in winter following our year of graduation. In our plans, we knew that Tonya would stay home. A decision that we arrived at with difficulty. Tonya had been an ambitious career minded woman, with a full ride academic scholarship destined for career success. I lacked ambition and had no clue what career or occupation I should pursue. I had returned to church and was committed to Christ, but lacked any vision or goals for our family.
My wife home schooled Hannah from the beginning. With her usual ambition, she had prepared curriculum and lesson plans years before home schooling officially started. Soon I was enrolled and working through graduate school, often distracting me from my family. To me, homeschooling our children was my wife’s thing. I didn’t have reservations, but didn’t support her in the way that she needed.
Through the years, my wife won my respect through her diligent instruction of our children.
It was through our friendship with the Churchill family, reading books such as When You Rise Up, by R. C. Sproul, Jr., and attending a weekly morning Bible study with Kevin Swanson, which opened my eyes to the essential need for vision. My kids were growing, and though they were home schooled, I was failing in their discipleship.
In his book Upgrade, Kevin Swanson writes, “attempting to educate and train children without a purpose, without a vision, and without an understanding of the principles that govern that process is a sure way to fail.”
Uncomfortable at first, I began to assume the God ordained role of spiritual leader. Something I continue work on. There are times that I want to abdicate my leadership still today. However, I am renewed when I look not to myself, but to God’s wisdom and strength to continue.
So here I am today sharing my story, as an unfinished work of God. Over 34 years ago, my parents along with my grandparents, and others; prayed me to America. Like Kevin Swanson says, I stand before you today upon the shoulders of my mother and father, who stand on the shoulders of their parents, with the hope that my children will stand upon my shoulders some day. I am carrying on the vision that started with my father. A vision for my children and my children’s children to inherit God’s blessing, to love life, and have good days here on earth and on into heaven.
I began as an orphan, half way around the world, adopted into a Christian home, professed Jesus Christ as my savior, and discipled at home. But some of the vision fell short when my father chose to quit. I was not there when my father died, nor do I know the overwhelming despair he must have felt. However, I do believe that part of the vision demands that we finish strong. That we run the race to win it, and that requires us to finish the race. I thank my father for starting the vision, for showing me the path. My only regret is that he will not see the fruits of his labor here on this earth; the generations to come that will carry on the vision.
Through my journey I have found peace. I have discovered and realized that my identity is in Christ.
In Ephesians 1:5 it says, “He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” It’s not about fitting in or being part of the crowd, as nice as that may seem at times.
Peter even writes about this earlier in 1Peter, chapter 2 verses 11-12, when he says, “Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers to the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits.”
Our citizenship is in heaven not of this world. The world we live in is temporary. While our bodies age and decay, our souls yearn for the paradise God intended us to live in.
However, I am still charged to live a Godly life during my time on this fallen earth. When I follow God’s principles, I will look different to the world. So I must choose to live in the world, but not of the world. I’m going to look and act different. I’m going to do things like have a generational vision for my family, disciple my children at home, and be the spiritual leader of my family. Instead of getting revenge, I’m going do things such as repay insult with blessing, keep my tongue from evil and pursue peace. I am going to look and act strange to the world’s eyes.
Author Daniel Taylor writes,” storytelling is central to the human experience and life of faith. Stories give meaning and significance to human experience. The church is a place for Christians to gather to share stories-stories of where we’ve come from, stories of why we’re here, stories of what we are to do. In the process of hearing other’s stories, we must be about the making and sharing of our own.”
I believe that by taking opportunities to discover each other’s amazing stories, we can find deeper levels when we live in harmony with one another, when we are sympathetic, when we love as brothers and sisters, when we are compassionate and when we pursue humility.
I pray that through the sharing of my story you have found hope. The hope to carry on living in faith. I haven’t arrived; I am in need of daily forgiveness and renewal. But today I ask that you help me with my vision. To encourage me and hold me accountable to continue the journey and to finish strong so that my children and their children’s children may inherit God’s blessing and; have good days here and into eternity; ultimately fulfilling our purpose which is to glorify God.
"Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law." Rom 13:8 (ESV)
"You owe me...." Have you ever heard that phrase or have you been known to say those words either in a teasing manner or in all seriousness to someone after doing something for them? I said it to a friend the other day in a joking manner, but the more I thought about it, the more I was thinking that it wasn't right. I should do something kind for someone because of that second part of the verse about love, and in so doing I have fulfilled the law and what Jesus said about love. (Love God and Love People paraphrase). It is a strong statement to owe no one anything but Love. At face value I took this to refer to money b/c other translations of this verse talk about debt and that usually means money. But one thing I realized is that you can owe someone other things besides money. For example, you can owe them guilt, pressure, obligation, condemnation and the list goes on. Not only are we not to owe others money, but the reverse is true in that we also do not owe them our guilt or shame or blame or even our failures. Do you know this is freeing for someone that is a people pleaser? You can do things for someone because you love them and that way you are fulfilling the law, but if you do something for someone because you feel obligated to, then you are not really doing what the Bible says. A good measure you can use to determine if you are feeling like you have to is whether or not you feel pressure to do something for someone. It could even be external pressure from someone besides internal pressure from yourself. If you do, that may be a very good reason you are doing something for maybe a wrong motive or not in love, BUT if you have genuine peace and joy when you make a gesture, then you probably feel freedom and that you are doing it out of love. Just remember, keeping out of debt is a good thing, especially a debt of obligation.