Sunday, February 14, 2010

Remember your first love

A few years ago I heard someone say that when she accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior, she promised Him that whatever He asked of her, the answer was already "yes." The how, when, why, etc., could be revealed in His timing. It stuck with me, because as a child of God, I have already said "yes" to whatever He asks me to do. I went to Verge last weekend with that in mind, because I knew God would use the weekend to teach me a lot, and I wanted to be completely open to whatever He had for me.

I'll be typing up [some of] my notes from the weekend mixed with my own commentary. I'm a journalism major, so I've even got some direct quotes. :-)  If you missed any of the sessions, hopefully this will help fill in any of the gaps and make a better connection with what you did get to hear.


Matt Carter focused on Revelation 2:1-6, which basically says that the church in Ephesus was doing all kinds of good things, but  "nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love." The church, aka the bride of Christ, had forgotten its whole reason for existence!

I should not love my mission more than I love my Savior. "Who cares if we figure out missional community if we don't love Jesus?" If I just have Jesus and nothing else, would that be enough?

Francis Chan started with Exodus 33:14-16. Basically, if God's presence doesn't go with us, there's no point. But the more God entrusts us with, the harder it is to just desire the presence of God.

When you're thinking about starting a church, a ministry, or whatever, don't base it off what you know of other successful ones. Search in the Bible and form it on that. What should it look like, for this particular group, in this particular place, according to the Bible? What can you come up with just from Scripture? This is so interesting to me, because if we just look in the Bible, the example of "church" is radically different from how we see it in the Western Church. It's almost like a support group coming together to encourage, exhort, build up, grow, pray, praise, equip, keep accountable, and send each other out to do serve people together who need it. When we're just looking at Scripture and making disciples and chasing after Jesus in a harsh world when we don't want to, then we'll seek out other believers. We'll find each other because we'll stand out!

Later that night I was reading Mark 7, and verse nine popped out at me: "He said to them, 'All too well you reject [set aside] the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.' " It fits exactly! Churches these days are often so caught up in tradition that they fail to obey what God set up the church to be used for in the first place.

"If Jesus says something, you don't have to do it, just memorize it." It's so sad that this is what we often do. He gave an excellent example of telling his daughter to clean her room. What if she came back and told him she memorized what he told her to do? What if she came back and said she prayed about it? What if she came back and said she met with some her friends and discussed what it would look like if she cleaned her room? Her dad would not be happy!

Acts 2: 37 says: "Now when they heard this [the gospel], they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?' " They knew the gospel was big, and that it would affect their lives. They knew they had a new Lord over their lives. They knew they needed to be obedient. So Peter and the others told them what they needed to do.... and they did it! And because of it, "The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." More and more people came to know the saving power of Jesus Christ simply through the obedience of His followers (and because He works mightily in their hearts). The way we truly show that Jesus is God isn't through our apologetics but through our unity.

For a simple and eye-opening example of what the church should look like, watch Francis Chan's cartoon, The Big Red Tractor.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Missional community

I went to a challenging, mind-blowing conference in Austin this weekend called Verge. I have pages and pages of notes (yes, I'm a journalism major...), and it will take me a while to process them all in my head. I hope to write blog posts on each session, so it will be easier to wrap my mind around it (and yours too, perhaps). I will also thread some common themes throughout my posts. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know what was coming. Check back often in the next couple of weeks!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Shift to idols

Background for this post:
Romans 1:18-32

Verses 22-23 are so sad; they basically talk about when humans first started making and worshiping idols:

"Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible (perishable) man - and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things."

At this point, they didn't have the 10 Commandments or a Bible or anything. They "only" had God's creation to see and His interaction with them. Verse 20 says this should have been enough!

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."

How sad. . . becoming so focused on themselves that they became blind to God and decided to create their own versions of what "god" should be. They turned from the creator to start worshiping the created (verse 25). And this caused them to just give themselves up to all kinds of consuming sin (verses 26-32).

Moral of the story: Don't take our eyes off God!

The sky can't help but display God's glory

I read Psalm 19 the other day, and it reminded me of a post I wrote back in October. Please go read it before you continue reading this post. :-)




Psalm 19:1-6

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.

There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

In the heavens He has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat."


The skies declare God's glory constantly. In verse four it says God has sent the skies (and their message of His glory) throughout all the earth. Basically, God has revealed His glory to ALL creation through the sky! And other things too, but even the sky should be enough!

Yeah. God created that!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Captured memories

One of my Taiwanese friends had a birthday party at an authentic restaurant last night, and we ate all kinds of exotic foods until we were absolutely stuffed. It was really fun! But it also made me miss East Asia so badly. I miss the culture, I miss the people, I miss the food, etc.....

I met up with one of my friends for lunch yesterday, and we ate our classic favorite - a Vietnamese noodle soup called pho.  We hadn't seen each other since last spring semester, because I spent the summer in East Asia, and she spent the fall semester in Argentina studying and traveling throughout the country. It was so good getting to catch up with her and share our experiences.

She said something that really resonated with me, though, because it's so true. She talked about how people look at her pictures from Argentina and think "Wow, that's a cool street scene" or "What beautiful mountains." But she looks at those pictures, and it means so much more. It's not just a random street with random street signs and a random guy playing an instrument on the sidewalk. It's a street corner she walked past every day to go to class, and there is an actual memory associated with it. It's not just a random "postcard picture" with mountains, a forest and a lake. She can't even describe what it felt like to stand there in the middle of all that beauty; she even remembers what the forest smells like.

I know exactly what she means.

You might think, "That's cool, Hannah spent the summer in East Asia, and it looks like she had fun. Now she's back in America, and it's just a part of her life I wasn't involved in, but it's moved on now." No. Every time I use chopsticks, I remember using them for every single meal, and I remember my friend who peeled a boiled egg with just chopsticks. Every time I eat family-style (where plates of food sit in the middle of the table, and everyone reaches in and gets what they want as they go), I think of all the crazy food I ate. I remember all our wonderful friends eating around the table with us. Every time I hear honking, I remember the constant, incessant honking in our city, and how it actually became a comforting, barely-noticed sound after the first few nights. I remember waking up to the the street vendor's recorded voice crying out the price for her tofu.

This campus is beautiful, but I remember living here for two months; it was my home.

This child at the orphanage is precious, but I remember how she barely responded when I played with her because her tiny body is disfigured and she has Down Syndrome.

It looks like a cool scene, but I remember watching this plot of dirt outside our dorm:

Turn into this by the end of the summer:

This classroom looks average, but I spent three hours every morning with some of my closest friends in this room, with the windows open, learning the language:

I still long to go back there. But then I look at pictures from last semester here at UT, and the same thing happens. What about all my friends and family who don't go here?

They look at this and see a cool stream. I look at this and remember hiking outside in the gorgeous air and watching the sun glint off the water with some of my closest friends:

You may think this is just an awesome studio, but I spent hours in here working on a feature story watching a wig-maker interact with her students:

You may think this is just a cool skyline, but this is my school. This has kind of been my life the past several years. And this picture was taken one day when Stephen and I climbed to the top of a parking garage to watch the sunset:

These aren't just random pictures. They're all memories to be treasured. But if I sit here and dwell on the past, I'm making no room for what God can do in the future. I look forward to everything He will do this semester!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fear and trembling

I've been reading through the book of Job in the Bible, and I've been focusing on learning more about what it means to fear God. I'd read Job all the way through in high school, but never with a "theme" in my head. If you've never read Job straight through before, I would encourage you to do it, because you start seeing patterns and themes, and it's way more than just a back-and-forth between some disgruntled friends and a suffering pity party.

If you've never heard of it, the quick summary is that Job was an upright man, and Satan wanted to prove that if someone was faced with awful enough circumstances, they curse God (basically saying that no one truly trusts or fears God). God said that Satan could mess with Job, just spare his life. All throughout, his friends and his wife try and convince him to either curse God and be done with it or repent to God for some heinous sin (that Job didn't do), rather than just worship God and fear Him because no matter what happens, He is the same.

Anyway, the other night I read Job chapter 21, which is Job's response to an accusation one of his "friends" made, saying he just needed to quit being a hypocrite and repent, and that he would be destroyed and cut off like the rest of the wicked, haghty people in the world.

Job reminds them again that plenty of wicked people prosper. He notes that that's the terrifying part: God works far beyond the simple cause and effect system they're trying to pen Him into.

"Is my complain directed to man? Why should I not be impatient? Look at me and be astonished; clap your hand over your mouth. When I think about this, I am terrified; trembling seizes my body. Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power?" Job 21:4-7

The biggest thing that struck me about this chapter, though, was Job's fear of God. Job trembled when he thought about how far beyond human reason God is. It terrified him. We can't explain God away. Sometimes He does things that don't make sense to us at all - that don't fit into what we think should happen or be deserved, and when I think about it, it is frightening! I don't like not being able to explain things. I don't like sitting there, mouth agape, knowing that God is good but wondering what just happened.

That magnitude 7 earthquake in Haiti the other day was devastating. As one of my friends put it, "Why did tragedy come to those who had nothing? Now they have less than nothing." It doesn't make sense that they should be "punished." But oh, the earthquake happened anyway. This isn't a reminder to myself that crap happens to "good people" and "bad people" alike. This is a gripping reminder that God isn't bound by me.

We need not live in terror, because even though God can (and does) do things that don't make sense to us at all, we can know that He loves us. Our response to anything should be worship, though, because no matter what, He is great!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Buckling in for the final sha-boom

Have I really not updated since November?  Yikes!

The most eventful thing in my life right now is that I got a car a few days ago!!  I thought it would be a miracle if I got one before I got married, but my 2002 silver Accord is now sitting in my parents' driveway. Wilbur (yes, I named him) drives soooo smoothly, and he actually has a CD player too. What a huge blessing! My mom thought I should name him something Japanese (because he's a Japanese car), but I told her it's ok, because I named Stephen's car "Sven the Munchkin" a long time ago, and it's not Scandinavian, it's an American.

* * *

I will return to Austin on Friday, and my final semester of college will launch into action. How weird is that? On one hand, I am looking forward to moving on in life and saying goodbye to all-nighters and droning professors. Three weeks after I graduate, I will marry my best friend, and that day cannot come soon enough! (It's 144 days away, if anyone was wondering...) I'm looking forward to married life and being a grown-up. It will be great not having to scrape by with what little sleep I can pick up here or there.

But on the other hand, I can't even imagine life without school. I have no idea what it's like to actually get paid for slaving away all day (aside from part-time jobs). I have no idea what it's like to look at the clock, see that it's 11 p.m., realize I have no homework and just go to bed when I'm tired. I have no idea what it's like to wake up in the morning and know I won't be seeing all my favorite people by lunchtime. I won't have to slave for days over intense homework assignments, but I also won't have the inexplicable feeling of utter freedom when it's completed.

I will miss meeting new people at Epoch with Suzie at 2 a.m. when we're trying to study. I will miss scrambling around in my apartment with Ashley trying to find more chairs for all the international students who came an hour and a half late to a dinner party. I will miss dropping by the BSM to eat my sandwich and getting caught up talking with Robbi, Marcy and Jamie. I will miss piling into a bus with 20 of my closest friends to go to a retreat. I will miss walking across campus between classes and seeing the Tower, ancient trees, beautiful buildings, interesting people and the bluest sky you could ever imagine. I will even miss sitting in the freezing cold Union at 7 a.m. studying for a test in a few hours (listening to Newton Faulkner and Fleet Foxes, of course).

I love Austin. I love everything about it (except the heat and humidity). It's such a crazy place with such interesting people. It's beautiful, and there's always something to do for everybody. It's so alive! And Arlington... well, Arlington will always have a special place in my heart, because that's where I lived during my freshman year of college. I love Arlington, but it's no Austin.

But wow. I still have a whole semester of adventures left! I know God has me here at UT for a reason - I hope I can use my time wisely while I'm still here before moving on to a whole new, exciting phase of life.