Heavenbound (Barnaby Lin)

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For some reason, reflecting on life and God always takes a minimum of a two hour car ride and a beautiful getaway. Yet, what the BEC Congregational Retreat reminded me of was that planned excursion or not, we all have a destination. Pastor Dave set the tone of the retreat by prompting us of Jesus' return: a promise of something greater than what we have in front of us. In the past four years of my graduate education in clinical psychology, I found it convenient to bury myself in school and work. I thought to myself that my time and effort was dedicated to an honorable pursuit. In reflection, I realized that my devotion served to quell my own anxieties and insecurities about being a good person. Being heaven-bound however, meant not just a well-organized presentation of my life, but the offering of my life.

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To that end, Pastor Dave encouraged us to relearn stillness before God. While so many things in the world compete for our attention, we must remember that God is our refuge and strength. That whatever trials and sufferings we face, we can turn to our Father, whose love never fails. Despite this, I know I tend to trust the things of this world to find peace and solace, only to remain restless and yearning. Allowing the Holy Spirit to convict and be my heart's mirror feels uncomfortable and even painful.  Nevertheless, I need the Spirit to search my priorities and reveal God's heart to me. The Christian life is not merely a religious practice, but an alignment of hearts. So my prayer is that we reflect not just during special occasions, but daily upon God's calling on our lives. Remembering that this place is not our home, that we would be heaven-bound.

Hiroshima (Brittany Byun)

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During my 4 years of college God revealed how weak and broken I am and how much greater His grace and sovereignty are in comparison. I had always wanted to go on short term missions with my church or campus ministry—and even signed up twice before, but the timing never worked out. A few months ago, God placed this Japan mission trip on my heart and here I am so blessed to go!

Right now, I am taking a gap year before grad school and while I am sometimes disappointed that I am not already in school, I know God is still leading me well. God is faithful beyond words and He has given me this time for good rest and has so graciously opened a door for me to help our missionary contact (Jessica Lee) fulfill the Great Commission in Hiroshima.

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Today, our team of 6 will be going to Hiroshima, Japan to share the gospel. Japan is one of the most advanced countries in the world, yet its people are widely unfamiliar with the gospel message. It is the 2nd largest unreached population group in the world. Less than 2% of the Japanese population is Christian today.

Despite these discouraging numbers, I know that God’s triumph is sure. Isaiah 25:3 says, “Therefore strong nations will declare your glory; ruthless nations will fear you.”I like this verse because Isaiah declares God’s sovereignty and grace and proclaims that all nations will turn to God. The triumph is sure because God is the one doing it all. “In that day the people will proclaim, This is our God! We trusted in him, and he saved us! This is the Lord, in whom we trusted. Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings! (Isaiah 25:9)”In all of our lacking, He abounds more than we know. He is all we need. This has been my prayer as I try to prepare my heart for Japan. Nothing done for the cause of advancing God’s kingdom is done vain, so I THANK YOU, Bethel English Church for sending and supporting our team! 

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Changing the Pace (David Jigu Kim)

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My life is busy and it doesn’t seem to slow down. My mentality in life was to work hard and not complain even when I’m exhausted.  As of now, I work in the hospitality industry, working long hours and hoping it’s all going to pay off. I think if I put in the time, work hard, and dream big, I’ll be that much closer to living up to my goals and expectations. 

I thought fixing my attitude and growing thicker skin would help me reach my goals and ambitions. But everyone gets burned out and needs time to recover. When I was at the Young Adults’ retreat a few months ago, I told myself I’m on vacation. But little did I know that God was going to rock me. I forgot what it meant to truly rest and to enjoy living in the moment rather than being so fixated on the future. 

I think about Psalms 62:5-7, “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation my fortress; I shall not be shaken on God rests my salvation and my glory my mighty rock, my refuge is God.”

This verse speaks to me because in the craziness of life, in times of stillness… our Lord speaks volumes. He reminds me that He is my rock, my salvation, my fortress and nothing can shake that up, not even the busyness of life. In this time of rest, I’m beginning to learn how to rest in Him and to put my trust in him. 

1 Peter 5:7, “Trust in me with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.”

When I struggle with my personal life, whether it be my shortcomings as a follower of Christ, not getting the job opportunities, or losing close relationships with people I love… I find myself unable to understand what is going on and why it is happening.  I don’t understand why these things are happening in my life. But at the retreat, I learned that you don’t always have to understand. Instead, I learned to place my rest and trust in His occurrence. Jesus doesn’t always provide details, but he promises that our struggles will be addressed. So here I wait in silence for his still voice, trusting that he is my refuge. 

My Calling (Sam Kim)

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My calling into ministry did not come out of an excitement to serve God. It did not come at a retreat where I was set on fire for God and I wanted to zealously spread the Gospel. It came as a stumbling block. It was a wall placed to prevent me from going down the wrong path. It was God saying to me, “Stop running away from your past and your problems. Stop running away from Me.” If there is one emotion that encompasses most of my life, it would be fear. And my way of dealing with fear, with problems and difficulties, is to run away. Of course, my younger self would deny that. Most of my life, I hid this fear and I turned to things like heavy metal or pornography to make myself feel masculine, to feel powerful. Heavy metal induced feelings of anger and hatred, and that made me feel powerful. Porn would let me objectify women and exercise sexual fantasies that made me feel masculine and powerful. But when it came to actual real-life issues, I never had the guts to stand up and exert my “power”. I always cowered, hid. 

This was very much the case when it came to my family relations, especially my dad. My dad is a very complicated and complex man. He is a pastor and has been serving in full-time ministry for 25 years. Let me start by saying that I know he loves me, my brother and my mom. I believe that he is a man of God who is truly called to serve in ministry. But he is also a broken man, with a long history of family wounds. His mother passed away when he was in elementary school. His father was a non-believer, a physically abusive man with a hot temper who had no problem beating my dad constantly. He shipped my 12-year-old dad to boarding school far away from home to Seoul as a punishment for disobedience. When my dad decided to follow his pastoral calling and come to America to study at Talbot Seminary, my grandpa chose to cut ties with my dad and didn’t contact him for years. Thus, my dad ended up releasing much of his family brokenness onto my mom and me. When he came home tired from doing ministry, the smallest things would set him off. He inherited his father’s hot temper and I saw him say and do many things that you wouldn’t expect a pastor to do. My mother and I had to endure his brokenness and we ended up getting emotional and spiritual scars of our own. I began to become very fearful of my dad, and I found it hard to see him as the loving person everyone else thought he was. My self-worth deteriorated and I began to feel powerless and weak. I took what he said in his anger and made it truth in my mind and heart.

When I started planning out my future life as a senior in high school, my main goal was to get away from my parents as quickly as possible. The path I chose was civil engineering; it was a stable career choice and only required a bachelor’s degree. My plan was to graduate quickly, get an engineering job as soon as possible, move to the other side of the country and live free and far from my parents. I wanted to run away from my past, from my brokenness, from reminders of my own powerlessness and weakness. When I got accepted into the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, I thought my wishes were granted. It is a top ten engineering school in the nation and was ranked 2 for my major. This was my chance to be free. Oh, how wrong I was. My first weeks at U of I, I fell into a deep state of depression. I started having suicidal thoughts and feelings of worthlessness overwhelmed me. Worst of all, deep down I knew that I was just running away from my problems and that ate at me the most. I lived on the 11th floor of my dorm and there was this window next to my desk. Daily, I would envision myself opening that window and jumping off. The only thing that gave me some comfort were my two small group leaders, Monica Lee and Jones Soetoyo. They were part of Covenant Fellowship Church at Urbana-Champaign and they loved on me so much. They would text me, asking if I was doing ok. They would invite me to come out to church events. They would take me out and buy me food. There was this one time where I got sick with a cold and they put together a goody bag with Nyquil, Tylenol and some soup cans. I wept when I opened the door and saw the goody bag hanging on my doorknob. I couldn’t understand why they showed such kindness to a nobody like me. The things they did weren’t groundbreaking. They were little things, but they meant so much to me. 

One night, Monica and Jones invited me out to this revival that CFC was holding, and the dean of Wheaton College was the guest-speaker. He spoke on our calling as Christians, which is to go out and make disciples of all nations. He used Mary and Joseph and the disciples of Jesus as examples. When they received their calling, their immediate response was to obey. They trusted God, even though their path was fraught with danger and suffering. During his sermon, I remember getting this unexplainable feeling in my heart. I felt God speaking to me, saying “Look at the people around you. This is my Church and I love them. And I am going to use you to love them.” That broke me. This was God breaking into my life and flipping my world upside down. This was Him saying, “I see your brokenness and I am going to use your brokenness to spread My Love.” This was the stumbling block that ended up becoming a call to ministry. 

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My testimony doesn’t stop there but to cover the rest would take many more paragraphs and I feel I have already covered the essential part, which is my calling. To summarize the rest, I sought counsel from my small group leaders and from my old youth pastor. After months of prayer and seeking the Lord’s will, I decided to take a leap of faith and I dropped out of U of I. I took a semester off and I began the process of transferring to Biola University to finish my undergrad, not as an engineering major but as a Biblical Studies major. I wanted to learn more about the God that called me out of darkness and into His path. It is so ironic that I ended up going to the seminary that my dad went to and now I am serving as an intern at the church my dad was a pastor at. God brought me back full circle to face my past, my pains and hurts. I returned to the places where I have so many painful memories, only this time God is using them to teach me, to mold me. There is no neat ending to this. My life’s story is still going on. I am working on reconciling with my dad and that has been a bittersweet, but beautiful journey. But that is a story for another time. I would be lying if I were to say everything is great now. I still struggle with depression and anxiety and low self-esteem. There are so many mornings where I am overwhelmed with thoughts of panic. I would think, “What the hell am I doing at Talbot Seminary and at Bethel?” They are reminders of my past and it makes me want to run away again. I constantly find myself doubting whether I can be a good pastor. I’m not an extrovert. I don’t have good leadership skills. I am not a good public speaker. And yet, all I have to do is look back on the past 5 years of my life and see God’s fingerprints all over it. To be honest, I am not sure what the future holds for me. I still have fears and doubts. But God will be with me in the midst of those fears and doubts. And whom shall I fear when He is with me? I’ll close with a verse that Monica, my small group leader, gave to me when I told her I will be transferring to Biola. 

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Strong Foundation With Deep Roots (Sammie Lee)

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“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:26)

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30)

The women’s luncheon was something that I was looking forward to because I’ve seen many new young sisters but haven’t had a chance to get to know them. I thought this luncheon would be a great opportunity to get to know them.  

First, I was very impressed with the presentation of the whole luncheon.  It was the perfect example of how wise women should present the best with a low budget.  The food wasn’t from an extravagant fancy restaurant, but it showed thoughtfulness and it was well planned. It was an expression of how faithful and beautiful women can be without having to spend a lot of money on the outer appearance.  

Secondly, although it wasn’t my first time doing the “Five Love Language” activity, I was surprised with the unexpected results. I came to realize that my love languages can change depending on the circumstances and the needs in my life.  Becoming aware of my own love languages as well as other’s is very helpful when we want to connect with people because we want to speak other people's language to understand them.  It was great to find that many women speak the same love languages as me.  It would have been great if we had the opportunity to go deeper by engaging in small group discussion. 

During the luncheon, I had great opportunity to connect with sisters who I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to.  Due to time constraints, our connection and conversations were not too deep, but we were still able to share what’s happening in our lives. It helped me to understand what some of the younger sisters think and feel and what they were concerned with in their life. It helped me to realize how different and yet similar the older sisters and the younger sisters are. The Bible says that older women should train the younger women in the ways of the Lord and to honor Him. Often times, gatherings with more than three women could be the place where rumors and gossips are spread.  However, the luncheon was very encouraging, uplifting, and positive. It was a wonderful spiritual environment.  

Lastly I am very excited about the idea of pairing up the sisters to encourage and to support each other.  I am looking forward to knowing my partner sister and connecting with her. 

Women have a vital role in the church.  Whether we are raising up godly children or supporting the men of faith in the church, or being servants of God,  we all must have a foundation and be rooted in our faith.  If the foundation is not strong and the root is rotten, then whatever building is built will be unstable. I’m so excited to see the future of our Bethel women’s ministry! I see it being deeply rooted in the love of Christ with a sturdy foundation of powerful prayer. I see that our strong roots will help us to become a giant tree that will help us to become a Christ-centered community that expands the Kingdom of God. 

I pray that God will give all the women strength and wisdom so that we can establish a powerful women’s group in Bethel and that our church will be a place where we can safely share our concerns, get encouragement and support, and become sacrificial servants.  

Sisterhood (Hannah Yoon)

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To be honest, the ladies luncheon was not something I was particularly excited for. I remember seeing the announcement on our church’s social media platforms and thinking, “Oh that would be nice for the sister’s in our church”. Why didn’t I think that to include myself in that event? Good question…The short answer is, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to handle being in a room full of women.

I should explain…

All my life, I never had a group of girlfriends I was able to associate myself with. Sure, in elementary school, you have best friends who are usually the same gender because “boys have cooties”. But, growing up and going into middle school and high school, my group of friends were always changing. I always found myself getting along better with guys, and then feeling like I was putting up a façade when talking with girls. Am I being girly enough? Should I be more like them giving hugs every which way, laughing at everything? Should I start dressing prettier?

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Then, in my later years in high school, I got into a relationship. Now my head was filled with young love, high-in-the-clouds thoughts that this guy was all I needed. I don’t have friends? Well, at least this relationship seems pretty constant, so whatever. I must have blocked out trying to get to know others in the church, because soon, I became known as “Daniel’s girlfriend”, and not as Hannah. And you can ask him how he struggled knowing I didn’t have my own girlfriends to talk about things with, and how important that is or could be in my life. It wasn’t until he left for the Army when I was basically forced to venture on my own. I was too young to let a boy hold me back from making decisions and making new friendships.

Fast forward a couple years and I couldn’t be more thankful to God for where I am now. Even though I consider the amount of girlfriends I have now as small, I see them as genuine, constant, and real relationships.

Now about the ladies luncheon…

There I go, entering the room, only to find it met with my worst nightmare: assigned seating. The thought of sitting next to people I barely know for hours was terrifying. And knowing my luck, I’d be sitting with people I’ve never even met. But honestly, it was a good thing. A main point of the event was to get to know our sisters around us and go beyond the notion of seeing them as passerby’s on Sundays. It forced me to break out of my shell and at least try to start a conversation – something that has taken me my 22 years of life to learn. I was able to laugh, chit-chat, eat, and even go deep with sisters I never thought I would even introduce myself to.

One thing we did altogether was an “I Am…” activity. It made us look deep into ourselves and find the chains that were holding us down. It was really eye-opening to see what the sisters in our church were struggling with, and in some cases how similar we were in those struggles. It was a chance for us to be open and honest with one another, and a chance for us to pray for one another. All of the “I Am…” statements were anonymous. However, I hope to one day be able to share in front of each other and match the face to the chain and lift each other up in the name of Jesus that way as well.

So why didn’t I think to include myself in the event? All I can say is, I need to have more faith.

If you struggle with the same mindset as I do – being somewhat wary, cautious, maybe even having doubts about these things – I encourage you to just give it a chance. Break out of your comfort zone from time-to-time. There is nothing to lose because we are in the constant, never-failing, never-changing, all-knowing, and all-loving Christ Jesus our Lord.

Joy in the Midst of Great Pain (Justin Fan)

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My mom taught me to never show my brokenness not only because it made me appear weak and feeble, but also because it made those around me feel burdened with the thought of it. Even to God, I believed my brokenness was an extension of my own faults, and I had no right to bother Him with them. However, the journey that He took me on this past year tested and forged my trust and put me in places where all I could do was surrender at His grace.

2016 and 2017 were the toughest years ever for my family. My dad lost his business and we burned through all of our savings. Even when he found a job, the tension at home was thick. I visited home once in a while, and even then, things seemed off. I heard my dad speaking Chinese late into the night alone, and I would joke that he had a mistress. I swear that on those nights, the Lord gave me the spiritual gift of prophecy. My dad was cheating. He was cheating hard.

Going to the University of California, Irvine, my mom would come to see me from San Diego to run errands in Irvine. On Mother’s Day of 2017, one day after my mom’s birthday, while she was visiting me, my family found out the truth about my dad’s affair. Ten thousand dollars spent at a Pandora Jewelry right next to our house, the mortgage not been paid in months, internet bill, cellphone bill, every utility account was behind on payments. Confronted, he admitted right away to cheating with a woman from his work. A year went by, he promised he was no longer seeing his mistress, but he got caught again.

To my dad, it seemed so ordinary to cheat, as if it was a rite of passage for a middle aged married man.  He apologized, but in a way that only filled social decorum. His apology was hollow, insincere, and lacking true repentance. So many things, so many new struggles happened that I could never imagine. Financial, social, and especially familial problems arose and flooded my life. My mom’s fear of showing brokenness forced us to hide from the rest of our family. My identity as the child of my father, tarnished. My dad even had the audacity to send my mom to jail, accusing her of abuse, then lying to my entire family that she called the police on herself.

Even to this day, I feel like the events that unfolded in my life were just a dream. Beyond my brokenness, the hurt my mom had to endure and the hatred brewing in my brother chips away at my heart every day. But through it all, God provided. Through all my worries from tuition to fighting a miasma of depression, He provided abundantly. I realized my selfishness and sinful desire to hate my dad was what brought me even more despair and tribulations. By giving up my sinful heart to Jesus, I feel free from the immense pain caused by my earthly father. In application, I remember at the apex of the conflict, my mom would spew her spiteful agendas against my dad to me. Plans to take his every penny, to shun him to the ends of the earth, such dark words festered in her heart. In a moment of serendipity, I cried out begging her to love on him like Jesus loves us, and from there a transformation in us came as we surrendered our hurt, our dad, and actions to God. Though there is still great pain in the offering, I can say that there is joy in the Lord and that the Lord is with me and my family.

26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

(Matthew 6:26-34)

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Roots (Cara Kim)

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Recently, I came across an article that said “one of the best things a man can do for his health is to be married to a woman, whereas for a woman, one of the best things she can do for her health is nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.” Though I may not be able to vouch for the former, I can most definitely attest to the latter. Many of my greatest memories were shared with my girlfriends - girlfriends that I often met at church. There is nothing greater than finding a friend who not only loves and supports you, but loves and supports you because your God is their God. And I think for many Christian women, we all seek to find a community, a group of other women who we can connect with on a deeper level. This was the heart of one friend of mine and it is because of her desire for sisterhood that Roots was birthed.

We decided to rename our Women’s Ministry “Roots” because we envisioned every woman to be deeply rooted in Jesus Christ and His church. By doing so, our foundation in Christ is what will allow us to have meaningful relationships with other women. The more women we connect with, the more our roots will continue to grow. And as we share and do life with one another, these roots will grow deeper and deeper so that when trials come our way, we have an army that loves and cares for us because our foundation in Christ has remained constant. But our roots will not grow if we are not willing to go soil deep. How can we expect growth when all conversation stays surface level? How can we expect other women to really know one another when all they have time to say on Sunday’s are a combination of, “Hi, what was your name again?” or “How was your week?” So we decided to create an opportunity where women could actually talk and get to know one another uninterrupted.

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The Ladies Luncheon that was held on March 10 was terrifying for me yet at the same time, everything I could have ever hoped it would be. We had planned an “I Am” exercise where we were to write down one chain that binds us. What is your chain? There was great turmoil within me leading up to the luncheon because I was not ready to share what I knew I needed to say. How could I expect these women to know the very heart of Roots if I was not willing to go soil deep? So with trembling voice, as I held in my hands a yellow piece of paper with 3 words that haunted my very soul, I poured my heart out to 50 women. Truth be told, I was immediately filled with an overwhelming amount of sorrow and as I started to tell myself how Jesus loves me, how my chains were just lies, my army came beside me. I had sisters who squeezed my hand, gave me a quick hug, and whispered a “thank you” and in that moment, I was reminded that this is why we need each other. This is how roots grow deeper. 

With the new launch of Sister Roots, a 6 month program where sisters are paired to grow deeper together, I look forward to being able to cultivate meaningful relationships with those around me. If you are seeking sisterhood and friendship, I urge you to join this journey with me and all the other women here waiting to grow deeper together.

A Resolution to Pray (Pastor Justin Kim)

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At the beginning of the year, I made a personal resolution to shepherd and to lead my congregation not out of skill and competence, but out of prayer and repentance. In other words, I want to pray more. This desire to pray more is not out of some legalistic tendency or the idea that somehow if I pray more, then God will love me more as well. No, I want to pray more so that I learn to love God more. I want to pray so that I will learn to fully submit and surrender myself and my ways and my will to God.

E.M. Bounds said, “Talking to me for God is a great thing. But talking to God for men is greater still.” I am learning that a prayer-less pastor is a powerless pastor. I think it is the same for anyone. A prayer-less father is a powerless pastor. A prayer-less mother is a powerless mother. A prayer-less Christian is a powerless Christian. A prayer-less Church is a power-less Church.

In the Old Testament, one of the more popular character is Daniel. He is well known for his ordeal in the lion’s den. But for me, what sticks out more was Daniel’s prayer life. There’s three characteristics that we see about how Daniel prayed.

First, Daniel prayed when life was hard.

In reading Daniel 6:1-12, it’s easy to see that Daniel knew that if he were to be caught praying, he would be thrown into the lion’s den. But that didn’t keep him from communing with God. We don’t have to fear being thrown into a lion’s den today, but still, sometimes it’s hard to pray. Maybe it’s hard to pray because you are tired and you don’t want to pray. Maybe it’s hard to pray because you are too busy and you feel like it will take up too much of your time. Maybe you have a problem on your hand and you just feel like you need to handle it on your own. For Daniel, even when it was difficult to pray, he made a point to still do so. It is at times when you least want to pray… is when you probably most need to pray.

For some of us, sometimes it is easiest to pray when we have problems. But a lot of times once the problem is resolved, we stop praying. The only time we pray is when we’re in a jam. As soon as things improve, we forget God. If you only pray when you are in trouble, then you really are in trouble. But Daniel teaches us to press in and to pray even when life is hard and difficult. He didn’t just pray when times are hard, he prayed consistently, daily, three times a day.

Secondly, Daniel prayed as a habit.

In reading verses 10 and 13, Daniel prayed as he had previously. So not only on days when life was hard, but every day Daniel prayed. It was natural for him to do so because he made it a habit to pray daily. In other words, for Daniel, prayer was just like brushing his teeth. He didn’t need someone to tell him to brush his teeth… no, he just knew to do it. Prayer was a natural habit for him. He had disciplined himself to do so. He could pray even when it was hard because he had disciplined himself to do it, even if he didn’t feel like praying.

Prayer is not always like a jolt of adrenaline each time you pray. Although the “jolt” may hit us periodically, the benefits of praying are more like vitamins. People who regularly take vitamins do so because of their long-term benefits, not because every time they swallow one of the pills, they feel new strength surging through their bodies. At times, praying will have a sudden and intense impact on us. However, the real value lies in the cumulative effects that long-term exposure to prayer will bring to our lives.

Lastly, Daniel prayed with humility.

Daniel got down on his knees and prayed. Of course, we don’t need to pray on our knees. We can pray standing up, sitting down and some even pray with their face on the ground. The posture of the heart is more important than the physical posture. But for Daniel and there are times… when the outward expressions show inner condition. Often times, outward expressions help us to not only express what’s in our hearts, but it helps us to understand spiritual realities. Prayer humbles us and helps us to realize that we come before a holy King. Prayer is the ultimate expression of dependence. In prayer, we’re saying, “God, you know so much more than I do. Your ways are so much better than mine. Turn my will towards yours.”

Jesus the Ultimate Prayer Warrior.

Daniel prayed when it was hard and he made prayer a habit. Prayer made Daniel become a humble servant. Daniel was saved by God in the den of lions because he prayed to the Lion of Judah. Daniel indeed is a great example for us to follow and to emulate, especially in his prayer life. But in the end, we need more than example. We need a Savior. Daniel was someone who points ultimately to the ultimate Prayer Warrior, Jesus. Jesus’ whole life was a life of prayer. If prayer connects us to God and serves as a bridge for us to commune with God, then Jesus Himself is the Prayer of God. He became the ultimate bridge and connection to God for us.  

Appreciating Brother's Appreciation (Adam Cook)

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Brother’s Appreciation was definitely a night that will be remembered for a long time. I honestly had no idea what to expect and totally forgot about it due to the business of homework assignments, midterms, projects, and whatever curveballs that were thrown by life at the time. Standing outside the door, I was brimming with curiosity how this event was going to go. The doors open and it was quite a beautiful moment walking through. The ladies of the college ministry put so much effort into this event. A small tunnel of the college ladies forming with cheers made us feel welcome and surprise! It was a Super Mario Bros themed party waiting for us with games, food, and a nice mustache to live out an old dream of becoming an Italian plumber with a knack of saving princesses. Shout-out to the college ministry ladies who made all this happen! It was amazing and appreciated!

Reflecting on such a good time gave me a reminder about how important community itself is within the church. As we are called to God, our main priority is to cultivate a relationship with him and be based around him. All things in this world must come second. However, due to our weakness from sin, it’s difficult for us to stand up by ourselves and try to pursue God. Brother’s Appreciation reminded me about how important it is to have a solid community around you.

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Personally, finding a community that works has always been difficult. From middle school to high school, finding a solid community was hard and took time and investment. Church was no exception. Coming into college I lost my home church community due to inactivity and decided to find a new church with a goal to rekindle my faith. That didn’t work out either. I couldn’t find community at Bethel so I faded out believing I could rekindle it through my own means and no community.

Boy was I wrong.

Being out of touch with church, I became out of touch with God. Believing in my own powers, I thought I could rekindle my faith. Unfortunately, it became so much weaker. It wasn’t until later that I realized my error and started to invest more time and effort into the Bethel community that I was able to create the support needed for my walk with God. The friends that I made here are a blessing and I can feel comfortable sharing my sorrows, my joys, and of course, worship God with them.

Events like these are a reminder that I am not alone. God tells us that we should form churches and communities to keep each other accountable. Community has broken me and kept me away from God but it has also brought me back and kept me more deeply rooted within him. Events like these are just a reminder that God has blessed me with such a loving and amazing community. It’s something I should always be thankful for and that I should never rely on myself alone, but to put everything in him and there will be a church to support me.

Knowing God Bible Study (Jeni Kim)

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Many people would be surprised to hear that I am an introvert. Don’t get me wrong—I know how to “turn it on” when I need to and I also ironically use being loud and obnoxious as a defense mechanism to avoid deeper topics. But growing up an only child, I’m much more accustomed to being by myself. Not to mention, socializing takes a lot of effort. Social interactions can be so fragile: the potential to offend someone or to be offended, the potential to be socially awkward, the potential for misunderstanding and disagreement, the list goes on. It’s so much easier for me to just avoid it, altogether!

However, I know that this is not from God. He created us to be and grow in community. God, Himself, exists in community with the Trinity. We were not meant to go it alone. Adam needed a suitable helpmate. Even animals couldn’t make the cut—he needed someone like him. So I challenge myself to socialize. I definitely embarrass myself more often than not, but practice makes perfect... right?

My husband and I serve in the high school ministry at church, so it’s often hard to get out to English Church events, but we were so excited to hear about the Knowing God Bible Study class. Of course, I was excited to learn more about our Father, but I surprised even myself when I expressed that I was excited to be able to do this with others. After all, I can’t deny that God has planted that seed of longing for a community within my heart.

The Knowing God Bible Study is a short and sweet six weeks, but it has become a cherished part of my week. It’s nice to cut through the small talk and get down to the deep things of God, to try to tackle the hard questions of faith, even if we don’t have all the answers. It’s so refreshing to hear how different each of our journeys with Christ is, how each of us came to know Christ, our day-to-day struggles with living out the faith, and even our different perspectives on how God is moving. It would be easy to disagree and argue or shut down, but it’s a safe environment where we can toss around ideas and together come to a deeper understanding of our faith.

Even as an introvert, I am thankful to have a place to be able to hear and share thoughts without judgment. These Wednesday meetings have become so special to me as a time of refreshing and real conversation and learning. I think it’s so important for us as God’s children to do the hard work of struggling through topics that are far beyond our understanding, even if we don’t come to a definitive answer. We need each other and we need to continuously go deeper in our faith and knowledge of God. I didn’t want this to be propaganda for the Knowing God Bible Study, but next time it is offered, I really encourage you to check it out!

            

Letting Go of the World By Embracing God’s Love (Michelle Kim)

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The majority of my close friends growing up having been atheists, and I had always felt alone in my walk as a Christian amongst friends with such opposite values. These friends celebrated the freedom to live for their own happiness by embracing the world, and I found myself being brainwashed into believing that I should be living for myself. Though this is often confused as self-love, I knew it is just another concept that Satan utilizes to distract us from the true purpose and joy that God has in store for us. I was surrounding myself with sin and a community that embraces/encourages sin, and I saw that my once unbreakable values had corroded down and taken form of the values of the people I was around. For the first time in years, I felt the urge to go to a retreat and find a community I could identify with, and it was the genuine care and love I felt from the congregation members that opened me up to the idea of going. I was left astounded by the fact that God was not only willing to sacrifice His son for me, but additionally was willing to go out of His way to empathize with me in my sin and continuously show me grace. When I take a moment to remember these truths, they leave me dumbfounded and in awe of the patience and grace He grants me with, and this in turn sets apart His all-encompassing, multifaceted love from the conditional love that the world can offer me.

Our guest speaker, Pastor James Han from Redeemer Presbyterian Church, spoke about Lot and his struggle with Sodom and Gommorah. I related to Lot in that I could not let go of the world and have faith in God’s promises, saw a lukewarmness in him that I saw in myself (he found justification for living within Sodom and Gommorah in the fact that he was going to be the salt/light of the city). The story of Sodom and Gommorah had always been so unsettling to me, being that it seems to most accurately depict the world we live in today. A sense of fear always came along with any mention of the story of the sin-infested city because it illustrated to me God’s ultimate judgement against sin. I was so consumed by the idea of God’s judgement that Satan was able to use that fear to distract me from the true message behind that story, which is one of His incessant grace for me. Lot repeatedly doubts God, but God understood the hold that sin had on Lot’s heart and continued to protect him.

There were so many things I was reminded of through this retreat, one being the importance and impact of my environment. I was so encouraged by the love and care I felt from the church members, and I could only attribute that to knowing that they saw me through His eyes as God’s child and poured out their love to me in such a demonstrative way. And after seeing the impact that people with God-centered values and goals have had on me after just one short weekend, it has made me so much more hopeful that I can be influenced by them to bring that genuine love to the people I am surrounded in in my own life.

My takeaway from the retreat was a powerful reminder of God’s empathy towards me, and that the least that I can do is to try to see the world and my own sin from His point of view. I pray that I will be able to feel the spiritual agony that sin brings to God, and that He will allow me to feel brokenness in areas where He sees brokenness and feel genuine love for His children in the same way He loves me. I am coming to learn to embrace the place that God has placed me in, and I so look forward to being molded and influenced by the people that have reminded me of the depth of God’s love for me.

Romans 8:15 (NIV)

15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again;rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[a] And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

Who Is Your King? (Paul Lee)

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During the last week of 2017, I had the privilege of serving at Bethel’s youth retreat. The theme of the retreat was, “Reign: Who Is Your King?” It was a great reminder that our hearts can only follow one master. Although I had no experience serving in BYM, I knew that they were always looking for teachers. So in faith, I wanted to serve. I would like to share with you how I was blessed.

On one of the nights, our guest speaker Pastor Jacob, shared with us how the one thing (the only thing in the Bible) the disciples asked Jesus to teach them was how to pray. This simple lesson blessed me in two ways. First, I need more prayer before any action. As a man, I convince myself that I am more capable than I really am. But when I see the life that Jesus lived, I see him doing great things in our Father’s name only after a great amount of prayer. When I lean on my own understanding and try to figure things out, I am not trusting in God and I hinder my own growth. Prayer helps me to step back and put God back as the head of my heart.

Second, I realized that I needed to see God more as my Abba Father, an intimate God who knows me and loves me personally. The theme, “Who Is Your King?” states that our King is a “who” and not a “what”. By praying we can talk to an almighty God that cares for us. Through grace we are able to talk to God in the most personal way, yet even in my own quiet times I find myself trying to puff myself in front of God as if he cares more about the words I say than the condition of my heart. 

Throughout the retreat I had opportunities to talk to my fellow teachers and to the students. Seeing how God is moving in the lives of my brothers and sisters at Bethel filled me with so much joy and excitement! At times I get tunnel vision and I lose track of anything not related to work or what’s right in front of me. But looking out and watching God move encourages me to deepen my relationship and to share more of my life with my church family. Somehow even at church I forget that we are called to be one body that encourages one another and points each other to Christ. Too often I find myself both in life and in church trying to live out my own plans, concerned only about myself. This retreat was a gentle rebuke for me to thank God for allowing me to be part of this family of believers 

Though this retreat was meant for the students, I am taking so much back. God alone frees us from the conforming patterns of this world. At this retreat, through the message of prayer and the people I met, I felt God helping me to break free and remind my heart that it is my Abba Father who reigns in my heart.

 

True Rest in God Alone (Elaine Kim)

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Our young adult’s retreat was a time where I found myself being refreshed by His Word and encouraged by my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. When I first heard that we were having a retreat, I was a bit hesitant in going. I would define myself as an extrovert but over the years, I began to close doors for people to come into my life due to various reasons. I became complacent with maintaining my relationships with the few selective friends that I have. As the retreat date grew closer, I felt a tugging in my heart to attend. I prayed about retreat. God revealed to me that being closed off towards others was all due to my selfishness. I asked God for forgiveness and a change of heart. I am grateful that I went because I got to know precious people in our ministry on a deeper level. These are people I would see in passing on Sundays and at various church functions, but never had the opportunity to go past exchanging greetings. I was blessed by the brothers’ and sisters’ openness to share their life stories with me.

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Our guest speaker, Pastor James Han from Redeemer Presbyterian Church, gave a message about going to the Lord and finding rest (Matthew 11:28-30). It’s a passage I have read many times before, but did not truly understand what it meant to find rest and take God’s yoke upon me. Pastor James shared that one day, we won’t be able to suffer for Christ. Those words struck me. At times, when I am struggling in life, I would semi jokingly tell my friends that I wished Jesus would come and take me home. I would say that because I wanted to avoid going through my suffering and take the easy way out. After Pastor James said that, I realized that I had the wrong mindset. I was being self-centered. Going through trials and tribulation is a tool for me to use to share the Gospel. As I reflect on my past, my lows always came with a high. God’s provision over me was constantly present. I know I will be resting in Heaven so do everything I can now for the Kingdom with joy.

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. – Psalm 62:5-7

As I reflect on our getaway, I have found true rest in God and God alone.

A Needed Reminder & A Gentle Rebuke (Judy Jung)

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It seems like it’s been forever since I sat down in the main sanctuary, counting down for the New Year together with my family and thanking God for all that He has done in 2017. Thanking God in spite of all the challenges and the struggles we faced along the way, while anticipating things to come in 2018. Sadly, these rededications were short-lived as I was bombarded with a busy end of the year closing at work. Exhausted from the long hours of work and the tense, stress-filled environment, I waited for Gospel Revolution 2018 because deep inside, in the midst of this chaos, I was longing to pray and desperately desired to lay my burdens down before Him, not because I was necessarily on fire for God, but because I felt physically and emotionally drained.

As Pastor James shared about brokenness in our lives and how God desires to change these ashes into beauty, I began to feel anguish in my heart. God began to resurface the things that were tugging deep inside my heart. Relationships with few people continued to be rough, not to mention the financial burdens in my family that never seemed to get better. I was constantly so busy with my to-do lists and want-to-do lists that I caught myself once again trying to find things that I lacked and trying to resolve it with my own strength -- as if that would fill me up.

Gospel Revolution 2018 was an opportunity for me to realign myself with God -- trusting in His timing and His leadership. It personally challenged me to go beyond what was sitting on my plate and to reach out to those broken both within the Church and the world… not because I have the ability to do so, but because the Holy Spirit that’s living in me is constantly equipping me and empowering me for the sake of His mission. Pastor James said, “Holy Spirit has the necessary power that we cannot create. We do not need to rely on the traditions, the talents or skill sets, but in the power of the Holy Spirit.” This was a needed reminder and a gentle rebuke as I found myself relying on my own skill sets and work ethics to complete the tasks that were sitting in front of me. And because that was using up my time and energy, I didn’t think to consider the brokenness outside of my life. 

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As I held onto the list of “My Ashes” of an anonymous member in the Church, He revealed a glimpse of this holy burden, but also placed a heart of peace and delight in me, knowing that He has, is, and will continue to transform these ashes into beauty in ways beyond our expectations.

I believe 2018 will be an exciting year, not because I have a long list of things I want to do or accomplish, but because it will be another year of His goodness and His faithfulness. And as God uncovers my brokenness, not to instill pain in me, but to reveal His plans, I believe He will shape me and turn my brokenness into beauty.

May this year be the year in which the Gospel shines through our lives and to the people God has specifically placed in our lives! May we continue to strive to show Christ’ love even in the midst of absolute brokenness. 

God’s Approval Matters Most (Johnny Hyun)

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My name is Johnny Hyun, I am 21 years old and have been going to Bethel my entire life. I grew up in the youth ministry and learned and grew so much every year. One of the things that has stuck with me from my time in the youth ministry is something that Teacher Kenny, my sophomore year Sunday school teacher, told our class. He told our class, “You can’t just date Jesus; you need to be married to Him”. His explanation was that you can’t just spend time with Jesus here and there and talk to Him here and there, but rather when you wake up, Jesus would be the first thing that you think about. And he would also be the first thing that you see in the morning. Hearing that made me really think about my own relationship with Him and that quote keeps me accountable for my life today.

Havng that quote stick with me six years later is the impact I would want to have on kids today. In my sophomore year, I decided to serve in upper elementary with the sixth graders. I now teach those same kids who are now in eighth grade. Serving these kids, I have learned so much about God’s patience and love that He has for us. Even though my eighth-grade boys frustrate me so much sometimes, I know that I need to keep loving them unconditionally because God first loved us.

Every week, God teaches me so much about myself through these kids. They taught me about the plan that God has set out for me. My entire college career at UC-Irvine, I always had questions on why I chose UC-Irvine. I have lived my first two years thinking, “What would my life be like if I went to this other college?” And it wasn’t till the end of my sophomore year that I really found the reason as to why I went to UC-Irvine. I was serving at a summer retreat that year when I got a note from a student that said, “Thank you for showing me love and serving us. You have shown me a glimpse of what God’s love is like. You have truly touched my life.” Reading that note from my student was God telling me that I wasn’t at UC-Irvine to play golf, but instead I was at UC-Irvine to serve and love on the kids at Bethel. 

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Serving these kids, they never fail to encourage me. This past winter break, I served at the BYM Winter Retreat where it was combined with both high school and junior high students. The theme of the retreat was “Reign”. The entire retreat, the guest speaker spoke on what is Reigning in their life. A common theme within my students was that they were so worried of what other people think of them. When they told me this, I had time to reflect on their previous actions and it made complete sense. Many of them would act differently with their team and when their friends would be around, their behavior changed because they wanted to be the “cool” person. However, by the end of the week, many of those who wanted to be the “cool” person for their friends, stopped caring of what their friends thought of them realizing that the only approval they need is God’s.

It’s small situations such as those that I mentioned… that gets me excited every Sunday and Friday to serve the junior high kids. Not only am I excited every Sunday and Friday, but I am excited to do life with these kids when they go onto college and more. 

To Teach Is to Learn (Justin Chou)

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This past December, I had the privilege of serving at Bethel Youth Ministry’s winter retreat as a team leader. At first I was hesitant to commit, unsure if I could still relate to junior high and high schoolers. Fortunately, God has a way of moving us in the right direction. While debating whether to go or not, I remembered attending past youth retreats and how God used those retreats to still shape my walk with Christ today.

The four days in Big Bear was a blessed time of worship, listening to our guest speaker, and fellowshipping with one another. Pastor Jacob Cho from New Vision Life Church reminded us of the transformational message of the gospel. The theme for the retreat was “Reign”, to let the Lord reign supreme in our lives. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day busyness of life and forget His sovereignty over us. As Christians we are to find satisfaction through Christ and live our life as a joyful response to the gospel message. The retreat was a heavy hitting reminder that my life belongs to Him.

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For me the last night of prayer was the most memorable and emotional part of the retreat. It was the culmination of our time together. My heart was touched seeing broken relationships restored and an outpouring of Christ’s love. As everyone worshipped together in one voice, I could feel the Spirit moving in everyone. It reinforced the importance of youth ministry and how it is an incredible honor to be a small part of their lives.

In leading a small group, I found myself sharing more than I ever intended to. At first I thought it would be better to not share some of the messier details of my past. The first few discussions in the group were awkward and quiet. I realized if I wanted the boys to speak and share, then I would need to lead by example. In being vulnerable with my small group, they in turn opened up about their grievances about their spiritual and personal lives. 

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My sixth-grade teacher once said, “I learn more from you kids than I could ever teach you.” Fifteen years later, his words still resonate with me as I serve at BYM.  It’s been a blessing to walk alongside the students I encounter. Oftentimes students speak insight and wisdom far more impactful than I could ever hope to impart on them. Through teaching, you truly end up learning more about yourself and God.

Sometimes there are days when I wonder why I serve, why God has put it on my heart to be a Sunday school teacher or a counselor at a retreat. However when I look at the faces of our younger brothers and sisters and see God’s light shining through them, I feel an inexplicable joy. My hope and prayer for the ministry is that the students take ownership of this body of Christ and continue to pursue Him with reckless abandonment. 

God Works in Mysterious Ways: Gospel Revolution Reflection (Hong Yang)

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I looked out the window of the bus on the way from the Vision Parking lot to Bethel English Church for early Sunday Service.  The bright winter morning sun was shining onto attractive and inviting green fairways of the golf course right across the street from Church.  It had drizzled lightly on Friday night and made the course look perhaps more invitingly green than I recalled when I played this course many years ago.  Then I thought back to the testimony that Pastor James Myong shared on Friday night. It was one of those testimonies that, being an avid sports fan, I loved to hear but with a twist.