Is It Worth It to Be a Christian?

Is it worth it to be a Christian? Is it worth it to follow God?

I have asked these questions more times than I can count. And with these questions another one always arises: Why am I so full of doubt?

When I came to college in August of 2013 I had my own bible and a few memorized verses but those were the only things that could label me as a Christian. I did not have a developed relationship with God and in fact, I did not even understand the Gospel. Over the course of my first year, I found myself discovering what it meant to be truly broken. I came face to face with an uncomfortable amount of change, brutal heartbreak, homesickness, a lack of direction, academic inadequacies, drunkenness, shattered relationships, and even the fierce power of the law. I messed up a lot and I bore the consequences of my actions. But, through this time, God took the broken pieces and made me new again. During my spring semester of first year, I renewed my relationship with God and I truly became a follower of Christ.

The reason I share this piece of my background is because it directly precedes these questions I began to tackle. Is it worth it to be a Christian? Is it worth it to follow God? And why am I so full of doubt?

At Servants Retreat, the pastor shared a message with us that he titled, “Is It Worth It to Be a Christian?” I remember as I was sitting there I could resonate so well with this message because I was not a stranger to the question in the slightest. The pastor led us through a passage in the Bible, Psalm 73, written by a man named Asaph. Asaph was a Levite and also a distinguished worship leader. I liked to imagine that Asaph had the influence and presence of some of the notable praise leaders we have in the church nowadays. Anyways, the bottom line is that Asaph was a man who grew up praising and worshiping God. God was no stranger to him. Yet, in Psalm 73, Asaph seems to have the same underlying question, “Is it worth it to follow God?” It brought me peace to know that not only did I have these questions but the retreat pastor as well as Asaph also had these same questions during their lives.

After dedicating my life to follow Jesus, I soon realized the cost of my decision. I saw the incongruities between a life centered on Jesus and a life dwelling in this world. For example, I now was brought joy by activities that my friends could not sympathize with. I found joy in reading God’s Word as well as listening and speaking to Him through prayer. But, they merely ridiculed, mocked, or ignored me when learning about these activities. I began to ask myself, “Is it really worth it to follow Him?”

Recently, I have been searching for a post-graduation job and I came to a point where I revisited those questions of doubt. I saw some of my friends who had ridiculed, mocked, and ignored me in the past now with great academic achievements, reputable extracurricular activities, and prestigious (and lucrative) jobs. It made me frustrated because I knew that the time I spent focusing on God, they spent on their studies, clubs, and interviews. I felt like it was unfair and that God was blessing them more than me. “God, I have given you my time, money, and energy in college. Why did they get these opportunities and I did not?” But, just like every other time, God began to take my broken understanding and piece it together for me to make it new again.

God created every single person on this planet. He was there in the very beginning and He will be there in the very end. He crafted each of us personally and He knows everything about us. This is the God that we can have a relationship with! During my first year, I learned about the Gospel and its significance in creating fellowship between man and God. I learned that my own sin was what was causing there to be a gap/void between me and God. But, God loves His people so much that He sent His only Son to die for them so that they may be pardoned of their sins and Christ would take that price. Jesus died and rose so that we all could have a chance to meet God face to face and be in communion with Him for eternity.

I think it is worth it to be a Christian. I think it is worth it to follow God. Our life on earth is pretty short and although my friends may be having more objective success than me right now, I know that I have a relationship with my Creator. It is not something you can quantify and it is something you can barely qualify. But, being able to be in fellowship with God is the greatest success I can think of. God is with all of us and He loves and cares for us every single day of our lives.

I know I will have these questions from time to time throughout my life. And that’s perfectly okay. This is what Asaph says in Psalm 73:26, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

It’s worth it.

– Tyler

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Sharing the Gospel

It’s currently only 12:30pm but I feel like it’s 5pm after such a busy Tuesday morning. I came into Clark Library to last-minute study for my exam that’s in 2 hours and, just my luck, I couldn’t find a seat anywhere. Kinda grumpy, kinda anxious, I decided to just take a seat in a not-so-ideal location. I think the girl next to me saw the expression I had on my face and happily offered her desk. I bashfully declined, didn’t think much of it, and just opened my notes.

I couldn’t help but notice a bulletin peeping from her backpack that was from another Christian fellowship on Grounds. Then, I also couldn’t help but notice she was taking notes on not an academic textbook, but actually the Bible. She was doing her QT.

I’m not sure why this moment hit me so hard like the way it did but I felt guilty and ashamed of myself for being so irritated about such a small thing. For her, she was not only spending her afternoon with the Lord, but also readily and gladly sharing the Gospel through her kind gestures to strangers. For me, the day went on because it needed to and when things didn’t go my way, I let out frustration. But for her, she rejoiced in the moment and found opportunities to discomfort herself for the comfort of others, like my ungrateful self.

The sight of her doing her QT with smiles and nodding really encouraged me but also made me really question how I was portraying God’s light in my every day lifestyle. Am I offering my desk to others? Am I letting God’s love overflow out of my heart into my actions like this girl was? Am I being the salt and light of God’s kingdom? Or am I just a grumpy cat too focused on herself and how life is not going 100% the way she wants it to?

This interaction was brief but I believe God used her and her actions to remind me two simple but difficult things: give thanks to God for the good and the bad and extend God’s love to those around me. Spreading the Gospel doesn’t always have to be through words, it can be through actions. So, random girl from Clark, thank you for showing me a glimpse of God’s kindness, mercy, and love to me!

“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you, bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3:3.

Much love,

Sunjoo

Turning My Thoughts Into Prayers and Now This Blog Post.

 

I want to start this blog post by saying that I thank God for my bible study leaders, without whom I would not have found this gem of a verse that has led me to hope again tonight. May he continue to bless and use you mightily.

I have always felt like we had such a special relationship, God. Like you really knew me and made me. How 21 years ago you brought me into this world and chose me to be your own. It kept so much of my heart alive. It made prayer so meaningful and powerful, the world such a beautiful place. But these past ten months have been so brutal for reasons only you and I will ever know. My conviction and belief that I was really created by you became unstable. My prayers, weak. Sin, abounding. No conviction from or hunger for the Word. No amount of stars or trees or cloudless skies could convince me of your love or move me like they used to and yet my life moved on. I felt so bereft of the Holy Spirit and slipped into an Ecclesiastes of my own. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.  King Solomon was right. How could hurts matter? How could fears matter? How could insecurities, failure, misunderstanding, and disappointment matter when the sun goes down and rises the next day to a world that doesn’t care or stop for any of it.

What can we do for people who are suffering God? What can we do when we feel like our insides are dying? When we sound stupid, when we don’t want to complain, when we know that there are worse things in life than living ours? How can we come to terms with ourselves and the things that hurt when we can’t bear to say the word “suffering” in relation to us? How is what we are feeling a form of “suffering” when our lives are too posh, too privileged, too sheltered?

Those were my questions to you.

But this past week Jannis and Candace told us to try to read Psalm 139 every day until our next meeting. And this is where I found you again.

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them. If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.

The sun goes down and it rises to a world that doesn’t stop for anyone, to a reality where our problems still exist. But when we awake, we are with you. We are with you because you never left. You, who made us from before we were even born, who knew every one of the days we have ever lived and the days that are to come, are the answer to all those questions. You are the reason why it matters. Why? Because you are exactly who you say you are– Friend to the brokenhearted, Father to the orphans, protector of the widows, comforter of those who mourn, and Savior of the world.

Amen.

“And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

 

 

Appetite

In the Book of Genesis, we see the story of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. The gist of the story is that Esau spent all day outside hunting and came home to find his little brother, Jacob, cooking some stew. Esau was very hungry and wanted some stew, but Jacob asked for in return Esau’s birthright as the firstborn. Esau agreed to the exchange without much thought and received his bowl of stew, which he devoured quickly to satisfy his appetite.

Was Esau satisfied? Temporarily. But he probably had no idea how much it would cost him. When we read on through the Book of Genesis, we see that Isaac (their father) ends up giving all the blessings for the firstborn to Jacob instead of Esau. Esau asks Isaac for his blessings, but Isaac tells him that he already gave everything away. The Bible talks about God as the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” God of Jacob, instead of God of Esau.. Esau’s relationship and legacy was changed completely by a bowl of soup.

Imagine yourself in Esau’s place. Your father is about to pass away, and you were supposed to come and receive his blessings.. but you end up getting none because of a bowl of soup. How would you feel? Personally, I’d be devastated.

Maybe we read this passage and laugh at Esau for making such rash decisions. But how often are we controlled by our own appetites? Our appetites for our worldly cravings, for lustful thoughts, for success, for acceptance, for money, for control.. the list goes on. You yourself know what you crave.

Your appetites will either be controlled by you, or they will control you.

I learned that fixating on the thing that we really want or think we need can make us become obsessive. Our minds have the ability to blow things out of proportion, and we end up only thinking about that thing.

Appetites in themselves aren’t bad things. God created them. But sin distorted our appetites, so that they are never fully and finally satisfied. Your appetite will always whisper “now,” and never “later.” It says “more,” but never “enough.”

How we respond to our appetites will determine the direction that our lives will go. We live in a world of instant gratification.. and when you think that you have to have ‘that’ right away, that could be a red flag for you to back off and ask God to give you perspective.

What are you hungry for?

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” – Matthew 5:6

Jesus is not just enough.. He is more than enough. God will fill those who hunger and thirst for Him.. and He satisfies. He really does.

GCF, let’s not trade the temporary for the eternal. Sin takes us farther than we intend to go. Sin holds us longer than we intend to stay, and it will cost us more than we intend to pay. Proverbs 4:23 wisely warns us: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

What’s your bowl of stew? Is it worth it?

Prayerfully,
Sam

 

Fear of the Lord

In this season of my life, there are so many things that are uncertain. How do I use my last year in college well? What do I want to invest my time in? What specific path should I take with my career? What if I get rejected from grad schools? What will post-grad life be like? As I was thinking about these questions, I found myself flipping through the book of Proverbs. One phrase was repeated again and again throughout the book— “the fear of the Lord.”

What exactly is the fear of the Lord?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (1:7), leads to finding the knowledge of God (2:5), is hatred of evil (8:13), prolongs life (10:27), allows for strong confidence (14:26), is a fountain of life (14:27), is instruction in wisdom (15:33), turns one away from evil (16:6), leads to life and whoever has it rests satisfied (19:23), and brings riches and honor and life (22:4).

I’ve always heard from others that fearing God isn’t like being afraid of a hungry bear that is chasing after us, but more like having awe and reverence for who he is. As I thought about this concept, and about how perfectly holy and powerful God is, I realized that the reason that the fear of the Lord gives us life is because of Jesus. Because Jesus has allowed us to be children of God, we know that God’s greatness and power is not against us, but for us. A fear of the Lord frees us from all other fears because we know our God is bigger.

When I was reading through the verses from Proverbs, I realized that I often look and pray for wisdom or knowledge before I pray for a fear of the Lord. But true wisdom is not knowing how to make good decisions, but it is understanding who God is and who I am in Him. If I pursue after being a woman of God that fears the Lord, I don’t have to be anxious about the future because of the security that I have in Christ.

As we continue to pray for and seek after our vision of Kingdom Culture together, I hope that we can deeply understand this fear of the Lord and allow it to transform our lives.

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. -Hebrews 12:28-29

-Joanna

 

 

Death

6 days ago, I lost a very special childhood friend because of an awful and unexplainably painful homicide.

He was truly one of a kind with the most genuine, kind, and goofy spirit. He never failed to light up the room, wherever and whoever he was with. He never wronged anyone and, if anything, he was always the first to forgive. He was crazy about anime, orange juice, iced coffee, and dancing. His passions in life left an impact on the hearts of his family, friends, and even mere acquaintances. He loved anyone and everyone.  He was someone different. He loved to love life. He was THE Steven Hosung Lee who everyone loved, enjoyed, and cherished.

I went through each day of this past week as an empty shell. Talking to the usual people, going to the usual classes, and studying the usual things. But each passing day, I grew more and more resentful of God. “God, he was so young. He had so much ahead of him. If anything, he was the one who deserved the most in life. Why did You need him more than we needed him here?” I doubted, even hated, God’s will of taking his life away at only 21 years old. I found myself only praying to Him when I wanted to express how disgusted I was at this situation or when I wanted God to wake me up from this horrible dream.

“Hey, are you okay? How are you doing? You’ll get through it.” I got so sick of these phrases. Yes, I am fine. I am doing okay. Just leave me alone. I know I’ll get through it but is my dear friend going to? No. I appreciated every single soul that reached out to me but I still cried, I still wept, I still shook uncontrollably in agony. I just wanted to stay in bed and never leave. But a friend said, “I don’t cry when I am just doing whatever or when I talk about it with people. But I cry when I pray and I can’t stop. I think it’s because I am feeling God’s heart, Sunjoo. He’s sad with us.”

I think this was when there was a shift in my heart as I began to chew on this statement. God doesn’t want us to perish. God didn’t want my friend to perish. God simply had a different plan and in comparison to the world, yes, it was too short but it was still God’s plan. His timing was perfect and undeniable and I began to want to believe in this truth.

Fast forward to my friend’s funeral. His youth pastor shared that a relative recently prayed and got a warm confirmation that he was undoubtedly with the Lord now. In addition, as I approached the open casket and hugged his mother whom I have known for over 9 years, she said filled with tears, “Sunjoo, don’t cry. He doesn’t want us to be sad. He wants us to celebrate because he is with the Lord.” Her strength and boldness in God convicted me to do the same. Though I was still very shaken and painfully sad, I was filled with so much peace and hope. Though I had tears falling down my face, I was filled with so much joy. My dear friend was now in Heaven, dancing away and feeling zero ounce of pain.

I’d be lying if I said I don’t have moments of overwhelming sadness. I’d be lying if I said I don’t sit on my bed, stare at the wall, and wonder if this is all really true. However, assuring truth from God resonates in my heart each and every day. It is okay to not be okay. It is okay to be sad. But I should be sad with Jesus. The Lord was so faithful to my good ol’ friend. The Lord gave him the best 21 years anyone could ever have.

And with that, I am happy. We miss and will miss you until the rest of our lives, buddy. I know you always do you but now you can do you with God. Watch over us and keep sending over those silly smiles to us. Rest in peace, Steven. We love you.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

 

-Sunjoo

 

Complacency

‘And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

  • Luke 12:19

I never thought that two years could go by so quickly. Coming into college, I thought it would be a nice, long four years of goofing off and “finding myself,” whatever that meant. Yet here I am halfway done with college. Two years of being heavily involved in this fellowship, but what do I have to show for it? Sure, I’ve made friends and experienced growth in certain aspects, but how much more could I have done? And the worst part is that I never really felt guilty about all the time wasted on the Internet and games. I guess complacency will do that to you; it’s not like other sins where you feel that sense of guilt and you turn to God for forgiveness. You can’t exactly look back and think, “What have I done” when you’re not doing anything at all.

For a long time, I’ve been living with this “there’s always tomorrow” mindset. I would go to chapel, large group, and bible study, but I didn’t have that sense of urgency when it came to chasing after Him. Especially this semester, I would spend hours at Clark library for no reason at all, but I never was able to find time for QT or devotionals.

However, God has recently been reminding me of how precious time is. Small signs here and there (a Bible verse, Pastor IJ’s sermon on time, etc.) that have been telling me to not take the future for granted (which is a pretty sobering thought) and develop a sense of urgency in following Him. Very recently, for instance, I stumbled across this little snippet from C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters that struck home for me.

“You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but also in conversations with those he cares nothing about, on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room.”

It’s hard to constantly seek after God, especially in the college setting. We all have our academic obligations and stress, and I believe that everyone needs to rest every now and then. However, don’t use schoolwork as an excuse to grow spiritually lazy and push off your personal walk with God for tomorrow because tomorrow will never come.

-TH