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God Isn’t Done With Your Story Yet

Growing up, I lived in great fear of my abusive father. I was neglected, beaten, and abused. His treatment convinced me that I was unwanted—a burden hardly worth being tolerated.

By age 15, this led me to become very embittered and depressed. I felt rejected, and covered up my incredible loneliness and pain with an angry protective mask.

Void of love and acceptance, I often questioned why I was alive, and whether my life even mattered. Somewhere deep inside, there was a part of me that longed to know that there was more to life than the hard, angry world that surrounded me.

As long as these questions about purpose remained unanswered, the emptiness I experienced persisted in a deep way. But when I found the answer to why I existed, there came a change so radical, things haven’t been the same since.

 

The dead, lonely end the world led me to 

As I grasped for purpose, my natural inclination was to turn towards what the world offered. So I sought my identity through sports and girls. I chased fulfillment through alcohol and drugs, and found temporary escape through music. I looked to bottles of vodka for peace, and another high from drugs to give me relief from my pain.

Of course, the relief never lasted long. I kept trying to convince myself that these worldly pursuits would help me, when in fact, they left me feeling more confused about my purpose in life—endlessly caught in a dangerous cycle of addiction that only left me empty.

 

At the end of myself, I finally looked to God

Through years of building up anger and bitterness against God and everyone, I had ignored the efforts of those who tried to share the Good News with me. But I eventually found myself desperate for something—anything—that could help me make sense of my life. And that desperation led me to reconsider the gospel I had distanced myself from. I had tried nearly everything else, and knew how deeply these things had failed to give me meaning. Perhaps it was time to give Christianity a chance.

From a point of despair, I was drawn to the rich promise Jesus makes, of a life of fulfillment and complete satisfaction in Him. I longed to experience that in my own life—to have a taste of the water that wells up to eternal life (John 4:12-14).

Finally, at age 16, I received Christ into my life and began a life-long process of learning how Jesus is the source of life and the answer to my quest for purpose.

 

A new creation in the same circumstances

However, once I accepted Jesus, my circumstances remained the same. Drugs and alcohol still beckoned me. My father was still abusive, and offered nothing resembling love or acceptance. Yet, while my circumstances remained unchanged, things couldn’t have been more different on the inside.

The difference lay in the reality that I no longer felt imprisoned by the situation I was in. Since Jesus had saved me from the confines of sin, He welcomed me as an adopted child, offering the unconditional love and acceptance that I had been so desperate for (1 John 3:1). Through redemption, He gave me hope for a life outside the traps of fear and cycles of addiction.

Though accepting Christ wasn’t a quick fix for all of my problems, it cut to the core of many of the deep struggles I had about identity and purpose. God taught me how to overcome the lures of the things of the world, and instead, to look to His Word to understand that I was made for Him (Colossians 1:16), and His purposes!

How God is still helping me understand my purpose

As I continue my journey as a Christian, God is constantly exposing ways that I rely on things apart from Him to understand my place in this world. Recently, I’ve had to work through the temptation to look to the applause of men for affirmation of the work I do in church. Instead of looking to others, I remind myself that in trying to make sense of who I am, or what I do, I must look to Christ. Because Christ is the reason I am. He is the one who sacrificed His own life—to offer us a way to come back into relationship with the very One who created us.

When we get caught up in the busyness of life, there are a thousand ways to lose sight of this. In order to carefully re-center my thoughts when I find myself straying, I’ve started a practice of pausing and praying. I ask God to silence the loud noise of my surroundings, which only offers loud, false hope. I ask Him to help me listen to His still, small voice that calls me to Him. In these moments, I’m reminded that God is all I have ever needed or longed for. Even if briefly, I can be still and rest in knowing that He is God (Psalm 16:10).

And this helps me remember one of the freedoms we have in Christ—freedom from the pursuit of seeking satisfaction from the things of this earth, from being failed by jobs and relationships, or whatever else we are tempted to define ourselves by. I have found peace in knowing that true eternal satisfaction is found in praising and worshiping God.

It’s my hope that I can encourage others to find hope in the freedom Christ offers—freedom which allows us to turn from self-indulgent pursuits, and to worship God freely with grateful hearts and satisfied souls.

3 Questions to Ask When Confronted with Fear

It was the darkest day of my life.

I was approached by a respected church member who threatened me, “Listen, Jap. This is our church and we were here before you got here. We will be here when you’re gone, so go back to your country. You don’t belong here.”

I had been at the church for four years. I was on pastoral staff. I knew ministry was tough, but had never experienced anything like this. I had heard negative comments in the past, but this time was different. I was scared. It felt like the church that once so loved me now rejected me.

My job was on the line, and my family was threatened. I felt like there was nothing I could do to change anything, and my fear only grew and intensified. I felt trapped. I felt hopeless.

I prayed to God, “Am I under attack by Satan? Are You working to move me to another church? God, I am so discouraged. I feel so low in my spirit, filled with a sense of emptiness, I am ready to quit. God why are you silent in my fears?”

As I submitted my fears to God, He comforted me, and here are three questions I learned to ask from the experience.

 

1. Why Do I Feel Fear?

In a nutshell, I felt fearful because my thinking wasn’t right. In fact, in the midst of my circumstances, I wasn’t even thinking about God! When on occasion I did think about God, He felt neither good nor close. I felt like God had forsaken me. I was letting my circumstances and situations affect my understanding of who He was.

The Bible tells us again and again not to worry: “Do not worry about your life” (Matthew 6:25); “Do not worry about what to say” (Matthew 10:19); “Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6); and many others. So why was I afraid?

I was afraid of what this world could do to me. In my own little world, I was so worried about what men might do that they became big in my mind, and God became small. In the midst of possible rejection, attacks or oppression, I completely left God out of the picture.

Fear is not just a horizontal problem—a problem of our circumstances or situations. Fear is actually a vertical problem—a problem in our relationship with God.

 

2. What Lies in My Heart?

Our knee-jerk reaction is usually, “get out of the situation!” We want to shift gears and avoid our negative emotions by changing our circumstances or situations, the people we surround ourselves with, our hobbies, our career, our possessions.

However, Proverbs reminds us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). When we respond to what life throws at us, our words and actions point back to what’s in our hearts. When I complain about my situation, what is hidden in the deep compartments of my heart are made evident.

Much of my fear revealed how far my heart was from God, and how close it was to the world. I thought my circumstances dictated how my heart responded, but that wasn’t true. The problem was that my heart submitted to my circumstances, instead of looking beyond them.

As I looked to the Bible, it became evident that my fear was magnified when I did not look to Christ as the source of all my hope and all my healing. Instead, my heart had made an idol of the approval of man, and could not see beyond the circumstances.

 

3. How Should I Respond to Fear?

The antidote to fear is the Father’s unconditional love. I need not dwell on my own imperfections and inadequate response to my circumstance. Instead, I needed to dwell in the abundance of God.

How do we do this? We remember God’s past provision in our lives as we look forward to His hopeful future. When we are hopeless, Scripture reminds us “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

I needed to surrender the idol in my heart, and let God take the throne. When I refocused on God, He became so much more pleasing, beautiful, astonishing, lovely, glorious, and breath-taking! This enabled me to overcome my sinful fear and experience true freedom.

Dr. Stuart Scott, one of my professors in seminary, said it well, “Hope is not defined by the absence of hardship. Rather, hope is found in God’s grace in the midst of hardship. Hope is found in his promise to give us a future.”

God used those moments of fear to make me more like Christ. In fresh ways, God pointed out the work that Jesus has accomplished on the cross. In the midst of the imperfections of this broken world, we all need reminders of the death and resurrection of the Savior Jesus Christ. When we do so, Jesus’ perfect, faithful, steadfast, and undying love becomes the strength for today and hope for tomorrow.

That is the reason the Psalmist can cry out, “For I was envious of the arrogant. . . Until I went into the sanctuary of God!” (Psalm 73:3, 17).

Why this hardship of fear in our lives? Ultimately to bring glory to the Father by redeeming His people from the curse of sin.

 

Faith Instead of Fear

This storm I experienced revealed once again my need of the Savior. Christ’s power is made perfect in my weakness and drew me ever closer to Him. In a divine moment, God allowed calamities and suffering for the sake of humbling my heart and bringing me back to holy reverence.

Maybe you know someone who needs to hear this, or maybe you yourself needed this reminder.

Even when things are not going the way you had hoped, you can still have hope in the Lord. God may not change your circumstances, but God promises to give us the perseverance needed to face tomorrow.

During that season, God did not change my circumstances. But He gave me His peace which surpasses all understanding, and that protected me in the midst of the storm. My future was no longer guided by the fear of giving up. Jesus became the source of my hope.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

If you’re facing fear in your life, be encouraged. God will give you comfort and draw you close to Himself.

You’re not alone in your fear and your struggles, and I want to encourage you to take a moment today to turn to the Lord in prayer.

What Does It Mean To Be An Ordinary Radical Christian?

I first heard the gospel at 16. Before that, I was an angry, depressed youth filled with hatred. I hated myself, hated my parents, hated my life, hated school, hated authorities, hated adults, and hated Christians. Above all I hated God with all my heart, since I thought He had abandoned me my whole life.

But then I met Jesus, and everything changed. I began to read the Bible and pray. I was involved with a youth group, church gatherings, Bible study, and prayer meeting. I took on responsibilities at church and checked all the boxes. But I knew there had to be something more. Was being a Christian simply checking off a list of church activities?

Then it dawned on me—Jesus gave us The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). We are commanded to reach all people on earth with the Good News. Discipleship is not a choice for Christians. It is a necessity.

When I came to this realization, I began asking myself: what am I doing with my life? How can I make my life count for others and for Christ? I didn’t want to waste this life that has been entrusted to me. I want this life to count for His glory.

I began to change the way I lived entirely. My religion was no longer confined to Sunday mornings. Instead, my faith in Christ impacted the way I talk, the way I walk, and every aspect of my everyday life. I was tired of the same old nominal, casual Christianity. I wanted to be filled with Christ every day, all day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. I wanted how I live to reflect what I believe. I wanted an ordinary radical life.

 

Radically More Than Sundays

When Christ called us, He called us to live a radical life. Our allegiance to Him is something that should affect every area of our lives. For instance, Jesus told us to deny ourselves (Luke 9:23), sell all our possessions (Matthew 19:21), give up everything (Luke 18:24), and renounce all things (Luke 14:33).

This is a radical calling. Following Jesus is not just sitting in church on Sunday. It is all or nothing.

This runs contrary to our culture of consumerism, which too often leaks into the church. Church has become a kind of spectator sport, where we go and merely watch what happens. It’s as if church were merely an event we attend or an organization we belong to. We sit back and let the pastor preach, administrate, and counsel. It’s our comfort zone, where we get our needs met.

But we are called to more than this. God calls His people in the midst of a crooked generation to be the people of faith and step out (Philippians 2:15). This is a radical stand that goes against our fleshly desire (Galatians 5:17). There is no such thing as a passive, purposeless lifestyle among those who embrace Jesus.

We might just be ordinary people, but the gospel ministry belongs to ordinary people doing ordinary things with radical devotion to Christ. It is not only the paid professionals’ task, but it is the task of the body of Christ to engage in the mission.

Well, what does that look like in practical terms? How can each of us play this role?

It is actually really not that complicated.

Find a friend and talk about Jesus.

You’re thinking, “No way, that’s radical?” Oh yes. And in fact, we don’t have to talk about Jesus, we get to! It’s a privilege that we get to turn our everyday conversations into gospel conversations.

When I was a seminary student studying to become a pastor, I memorized Matthew 28:19–20 for a class: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. . . ” And it hit me. I have been a Christian for a long time, and I’ve spent three years in seminary. But have I ever made even one disciple? I thought for a moment, and then I made excuses. Well, it’s not time to do that right now; it’s time for me to study and prepare for the future.

However, deep down, I knew my excuses didn’t make any sense. Knowing that people I walked by in my city—just a block away from my church—might spend an eternity separated from God? That didn’t seem right. Shouldn’t I do something about it? There seemed to be a gap between these simple Christian thoughts and the eternal reality at stake.

Kingdom ministry cannot be an afterthought. All of us are saints called to engage in furthering the gospel among all people. Dwight L. Moody, one of the greatest evangelists of the 19th century, said, “If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent.”

Remember who Jesus picked as disciples? Ordinary men. Nobodies. Fishermen, tax collectors, political zealots. God turned their weaknesses into strength, and used them to change the world. Just like those disciples, we are on a mission. Whatever our vocation or location, we are called to fulfill the great commission and make disciples.

Imagine if everyone in your church saw their primary vocation as a harvest and kingdom worker. It would be a whole movement of ordinary Christians! Discipleship would happen in prayer for one another, in bible studies, in serving alongside each other, in sitting down and listening to others with the regularity of commitment to one another and the Lord.

Imagine if every one of us “ordinary Christians” were having gospel conversations with people around us. Instead of giving a presentation about the gospel, we have a simple conversation, a back-and-forth, a friendly chat. We do not have to “make the sale,” “close the deal,” or “force a decision.” Instead, we intentionally sew the threads of the gospel into our everyday conversations.

It will not always be easy, but it will be worth it, because we know that God can use our ordinary conversations to cause radical change.

 

A Costly Commitment, A Call for All

The Great Commission is so wonderfully freeing, because it is big enough to fill the whole world, and yet small enough for every single one of us to play a part. Every person called to salvation is called to make disciples, and God delights in taking even the least of us and doing much through them.

When we obey God and live ordinary radical lives, we can turn the world upside down. But obedience can cost us. Jesus told us that we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily if we are to follow Him (Luke 9:23). He laid down His own life for the sake of someone else—and there is nothing more radical—so we are called to do the same.

If you want to be distinct, love someone who disdains you. If you want to be extraordinary, serve someone who discourages you. If you want to be radical, pray with someone who despises you.

If we call ourselves Christians, we must be willing to let God use every aspect of our ordinary lives in radical ways.

 

This article is adapted from Ordinary Radicals: Returning to Christ-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan Hayashi (Lucid Books). This version has been edited by YMI.

 

How God Comforted Me in the Midst of Pain

Nobody told me how hard it was going to be.

Nobody told me about the emotional roller-coaster ride I would go on after hearing the words of the emergency room doctor: “Your daughter needs immediate attention at a larger hospital.”

My helpless little baby had had a seizure out of nowhere. I had stood there in the room, watching my wife hold our daughter. “What am I supposed to do?” Thousands of thoughts ran in a million different directions. The adrenaline rushed through my veins, my palms were sweaty, yet my body couldn’t respond. I must have looked pitiful and helpless as a father, frozen in shock. Anger and fear collided as we rushed to the emergency room that Saturday morning.

“Is she okay? What is going on?” No answer.

My wife and I had run out the doors, driving madly to the hospital, our 8-month-old screaming at the top of her lungs. And there was not a single thing we could do to help her.

From the gut of my soul I cried, “Why God?”

Where are you, God, in the midst of my pain? How can I trust your goodness in the midst of this suffering?

Here are two ways God comforted me in my situation:

 

Christ Is Our Peace in the Midst of the Storm

After spending all day in the emergency room, caught between worry and anxiety, I was reminded by God of His closeness in our lives.

When Christ is the captain of your soul, there is this peace in the midst of the storm of life. While Jesus does not always rebuke the wind and the waves and calm the storm (as He did in Mark 4:35-41), Christ’s sustaining presence never leaves us. God doesn’t necessarily change the circumstances, but He gives us peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

When the circumstances and worry hit me like truck, I cried out, “God, why is this happening? Why aren’t You doing anything when I pray?” And God granted me peace simply by being with me in my trials. God reminded my wife and I, “Be not weary and dismayed, I will get this right. Be not bitter and angry, for I your God am in control of it all.” All things have happened by His eternal permission.

Though I lay awake at 2:00 a.m., thinking through the responsibilities at church that I had to carry out in only a few hours, the scriptures I had memorized as a young believer struck me like an avalanche of grace: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

The grace of God alone allowed me to be able to step away from my family that day to preach, teach, and lead the congregation, as He was the solid rock I stood upon. He used this trial to draw me even closer in Christ-likeness for His glory.

 

Nothing Can Separate Us From the Love of Christ

When the storm of life hit and I needed to take shelter, these words comforted my soul:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? . . . For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35, 39)

In the midst of my anxiety, God revealed to me that He is a good and  perfect Father. When I thought, “I could have, should have, would have. . .” and felt like a major failure of a father, I trusted instead in the sovereignty of God—who was perfect in all of His ways. When I felt like I couldn’t take another step or take another breath, my Heavenly Father reminded me, “My son, trust Me on this roller-coaster of anxiety. I’ve got you in my righteous right hand.”

After the adrenaline rush, I looked to my wife’s head on my shoulder, and my daughter in my arms, and I was overwhelmed by the reality that was set before me. God granted us the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). In the silence of the night, God’s close presence pressed upon our hearts.

God used this suffering of our daughter’s illness for His own glory. Though I was in despair the entire journey, His grace and His infinite power held us tight.

God reminded me that, no matter what happens in our lives, we can place our trust in the Creator of all things and be sustained by His irresistible grace.