Mother’s Day Feels Different

Esther and Mom

Mother’s day feels different. It’s so nice to see everyone posting today honoring their moms. I want to do the same. I want to say thank you to my mom, Eun Kyung  “Eunice” Cho, one of the most loving, sacrificial and godly women I have ever known. I want to thank her for showing me such a godly example of daily Christian faith and what it means to grow in a relationship with Jesus Christ. I want to thank her for showing me what it looks like to truly cherish and love Jesus more than anyone or anything else and to truly depend on Him in all areas of life. I want to thank her for depending on God when my father, her husband, passed away, for being strong in the Lord for our family. I want to thank her for the countless hours of prayer and her continued love and sacrifice for my brothers and me.I want to thank her for loving my wife Esther so much, just as if she was her own daughter. I want to thank my mother for always reminding me how loved I am and how she has supported me throughout my life. I know it’s cliche to say, but I really would not be the man I am today without her love and godly influence in my life. Happy Mother’s Day, Umma!

Mother’s day feels different. You might be wondering why it feels different at this point. It doesn’t just feel different; it is different. This is the first Mother’s Day since my wife Esther and I lost our baby girl Ara last summer in July. Ara went to be with the Lord after 24 weeks in my beloved wife Esther’s womb. I want to honor my wife and say thank you to her on this Mother’s Day. I want to thank her for giving me the joy of being a father for those 24 weeks. I want to thank her for taking care of our daughter in her body for those 24 weeks. I want to thank her for loving our girl with all her heart and with every fiber of her being and doing all that she could for her. I want to thank her for wrestling with God in prayer after Ara was stillborn and for coming out on the other side by God’s grace with a stronger faith in Him. I want to thank her for enduring through such great pain and heartache and for continuing to love God and serve Him with her life. I want to thank her for the joy that she brings to me in my life. And I know with all my heart that if God blesses us with more children, ones that we can raise together in this world, they will grow up knowing that they are unconditionally loved and cared for by their mother. Let’s continue to place our trust in Him! Happy Mother’s Day, Esther!

Mother’s Day feels different. For all of the women who may read this post on this Mother’s Day, I don’t presume to know how all of you are feeling or what you are going through, but I do pray that God fills you all with His love, joy and comfort, and His peace that surpasses all understanding.

To the women who have the blessing of raising children in this world, praise God! May He strengthen you with His wisdom and love to care for your children well and to help raise them up in His truth. May you be joyful always in the Lord for them!

To the women who have experienced the loss of a child, including those beloved children lost through miscarriage and stillbirth, may God truly give you His peace and love on this day. God knows your pain, and He loves you so much. May His steadfast love and open arms hold you as you find comfort and rest in Him.

To the women who have the strong desire to have a child, but have not yet had children or are unable to, may you find peace as you trust in God’s good and loving character and His timing.

Mother’s Day feels different. It is different. But God’s love and care for His daughters remains forever the same. Happy Mother’s Day.


Til’ Death Do Us Part

It’s a vow that many have taken, and yet it is one that so many have broken long before any death does it part. Today, I think of my father, my abba, Happy Birthday! He would have been 61 years old today. He kept that vow faithfully up until he passed away from cancer and went to be with the LORD almost 13 years ago now. He was only 48. I think of all of the things that we would have all done together as a family were he still here. He’d be preaching and pastoring, no doubt, and having two of three sons in the ministry, I’m sure we’d have a lot to talk about. I’d get to ask him those questions about life and theology, about things that he had learned about raising a family, leading a church, trusting God through all of the ups and down, things that I never did get to ask him. My little brother would have had more time to get to know him; he was only seven when my dad passed. He’d probably crack jokes with Esther’s dad (all Korean pastors love corny jokes, I swear!) and tell me how lucky I was to have found such an amazing girl… And he’d still be here to be the warm and loving husband to my mother, comforting her and making her smile, watching and talking about how fast the years seem to fly by. You see, when you lose a loved one, you not only grieve the loss of that person, but you learn quickly that you need time to grieve through all of the things that you would have shared with them had they still been around. And though I know I will see him again in Heaven, I sure do miss him a lot.

As I continue to prepare for my wedding day, hopefully anticipating all that God has in store for my future marriage, I can’t help but think of these vows, “Til’ Death Do Us Part.” It leads me to truly pray in surrender to the LORD because I don’t know when my time will come to be with Him, nor do I know when my (future) wife’s time will come. I see my mom and dad who kept these vows and loved one another, cared for one another, served God together, until death did do them part. I want to live as my father did. l commit fully to love, care for and lead Esther to the best of my ability, trusting that God loves us and has us in His hands. I humbly ask and pray that God would grant Esther and me many years of happiness and love, growing in our relationship with Him and with one another, long into our gray-haired years.

I look at this picture of my father, leading my mother down the aisle, so happy and excited, so in love, and it makes me smile. Image

Abba, you showed me what it meant to be a great husband, father, pastor, and man of God. Thank you for always showing me so much of God’s love in every area of your life. I hope that I can be the man of God for Esther as you were for umma, and the loving father that you were to me, Hyung and Paul. And God, thank you for always taking care of our family and continuing to show your love and grace in our lives.

Happy birthday, Abba! I can’t wait to see you again!


To Every Generation

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.” Psalm 90:1

What is a dwelling place? These aren’t words that we often use today. You may never hear a young child asking a friend, “Yo, you mind if I come over to your dwelling place?” Or a housewarming party where the hosts welcome everybody by saying, “Welcome to our dwelling place!” But in essence, that is what a dwelling place is. It’s a home, a refuge, a place where someone can return to for refuge and protection. Home is oftentimes where you know that you can go to experience love and warmth, and even safety from harsh weather.

In Psalm 90, I believe that such an important truth is revealed to us. It is one that I pray and hope every person would be able to really hold onto, stand firm in when faced with difficult circumstances and hard times in life.

I had the chance recently to serve at KOSTA Youth English ministry, which is a retreat for youth group children. I was given the opportunity to preach a couple sermons and join in worship through praise songs and prayer. It was truly an amazing blessing to be a part of it all as I experienced the Spirit moving. It was during the prayer times, however, that God made something ever so apparent to me. It seems like a simple statement, but the thing that kept popping up in my mind is that there is simply so much brokenness in our lives. Brokenness, difficulty of life, pains of loss, and the need for acceptance and true love are so real. My heart broke for many of the students as they shared with me and I prayed for them. In the midst of brokenness and hurt, I saw hope as many were crying out to the LORD, surrendering up their lives and circumstances to Him. Oh, how we need the touch and healing of the Heavenly Father.

 

 


It’s the End of the World as We Know It?

With recent talks about the 21st of May, which is of course tomorrow (unless you’re in a different timezone), being the last day of the world, it has definitely gotten some people thinking. I’ve seen people respond by calling the people who have made the claim lunatics and false teachers.

It says in the Bible in Matthew 24:36 in reference to the Lord’s second coming that “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”

With that being said, I recently saw someone post a comment about Harold Camping (the man who says he has figured out the exact date of the Judgment Day). I 100% agree that there is no way that Harold Camping or anyone else can determine mathematically or in any other way when the world will come to an end. Only God knows this! But then I saw someone’s reply to the post: “But what if the world really does end tomorrow?” And it got me to thinking, what if?

There was a catchy song back in the day by a group called R.E.M. called “It’s the End of the World.” The chorus goes “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.” The song seems to give the message, “It’s not really a big deal; I’m good.”

I wonder if we as Christians have fallen into this sort of carefree thinking. “I’m good because I have my faith.” “I’m good because I know I’m saved.” What if tomorrow really was the last day of the world as you knew it? What would you do differently? Would you spend countless hours on Facebook, watch your favorite movie or play your favorite game one last time, or maybe spend time with those you love? Or would you pray with all your heart, go out and share the Gospel of Jesus and His story of loving redemption so that even one more person might respond to the Truth and come to know Him and share with you in the coming glory. I’m not saying that there’s one right thing that we should do, but I end with this challenge for myself and for others of faith:

Fellow brothers and sisters, let us live with urgency, as if every day was our last, sharing the message of Christ’s love for us in every possible way, all for the glory of God.


Happy Birthday, Abba.

The last memory that I have of my father is him humming his favorite hymn songs of worship. Why was he just humming you might ask? My father had an incredible voice, he was a true tenor. In fact, after receiving his Masters of Divinity degree in Korea, he came to the States in to receive a degree in classical singing as well. I never was able to appreciate how amazing a singer my father was until I was much older, but man could he sing.

So why was he just humming you might ask? The simple answer in one word: cancer. You see, my father had gastric cancer and it was in its terminal stages. And so here he was, Reverend Kyu Hyun Cho, my loving father, who had once been invincible in my eyes, broken down by this disease. It broke him down to where he couldn’t see. It broke him down to where he couldn’t even speak. But, the thing it could never break down was his love for God, his faith in Jesus Christ. More than the reality of the pain, more than the reality of sickness or brokenness of his condition, more than the reality of death, the reality that God loved Him and was bringing Him to be by His side gave Him great comfort and joy. I know it saddened him greatly to leave us so early, but he knew we were in God’s hands as well.

And so he hummed, not because he didn’t want to sing the words, but because he physically was not able to. But with all of his heart, he praised the LORD, even amidst such difficulty and pain. He was faithful until the very end. He went out humming songs with his lips, but singing songs of praise with all of his heart to the ONE who had given Him life and was now taking him Home.

Happy birthday, Abba. And thank you for showing me what it means to be a man of God. I want to be faithful until the very end, just like you. I can’t wait to see you again. And to God, thank You for blessing me with such a loving father, who taught me so much about who You are and Your amazing love for Your people. Thank You for taking care of my mother and brothers and me, for being forever faithful in our lives.


God, This Doesn’t Make Any Sense…

Why is this happening to me? I’m supposed to do what? What do you want me to do? God, this just doesn’t make any sense.

We’ve all been there haven’t we? The question looms large in our hearts and in our minds. And when there is doubt and uncertainty, the last thing that we want to hear from God is “Obey.” The last thing we want to hear from our pastor or Christian friends is “Just fight through it and keep your eyes on God.” In fact, many of us hate those cliche Christian answers, and we chalk them up to people who don’t know difficulty, people who are ignorant to the realities of just how hard it can be to live faithfully in the midst of trials. And the truth is, a lot of times, it just doesn’t make sense to obey God, especially in light of difficult circumstances.

So how ought we to respond when things are not going the way we had planned? When we wonder if God is really good, and if He’s blessing us, when we feel like He is no longer working in our lives?

The answer: Just obey.

There, I said it, and many of you will probably hate me for taking this route, but I’ll tell you right now, it’s the route the Bible takes. You can see from the first book of the Bible in God’s calling to Abram, as God commands him to leave his homeland, his countrymen, everything he knows (Genesis 12). He had everything going for him, why leave? Practically speaking, it doesn’t make any sense! But we see also with His illogical command to leave that there is great blessing that will come as a result of his faithful obedience: “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2). And for those of us who are believers, we are now a part of this great blessing that carried on into Christ’s life death and resurrection. Hence, the promise is for us as well.

In Joshua 6, we see Joshua as he faces the impenetrable walls of Jericho with a command from God to walk around the city once a day for six days, and then seven more times on the seventh day. And to top it all off, play some music and shout after walking around. Now, if you were a soldier and your leader told you to do this, how would you respond? I can imagine there may be some objections, “We’ve got weapons, why not use them?” “We’re just gonna walk around the city?” “Umm, Josh, have you lost your mind?” We’re talking about some thick walls here! Archaeological studies have shown that Jericho’s outer wall would have been about 6 feet thick, with the inner wall being double that! And so again, the commandment didn’t make much sense. There are a lot of barriers, literally, that could have kept Joshua and the Israelites from obedience. And as they marched around and around and on that seventh day doing all that God commanded, the wall inexplicably came crumbling down, and the Israelites took the mighty city.

When you think about Abram (later named Abraham) and even the account of Joshua and the battle of Jericho, one thing is very clear. God does the work of blessing and holding true to His promises, Abram and Joshua needed only to walk, go, and obey. Would they have been able to see the amazing work of God had they not obeyed? Imagine an Israelite soldier who decided that obedience was foolishness and left! Imagine if out of frustration and not understanding how this could at all be the right plan, he had left. He wouldn’t have been able to see those walls come crumbling down. God’s command is an opportunity for us to obey and to see His work and faithfulness in our lives; this is a blessing unto itself because we are reminded again that He is a good, trustworthy and powerful God!

The thing is, when God tells us to do something, our response of obedience or disobedience actually is a great indicator of just who we think God to be. If He is truly our God, the one we trust and know that loves us, we would obey in every moment, wouldn’t we? Especially knowing that He knows the past, present and future, all that is going in our lives, and that He is working for our good (Romans 8:28)! The question of obedience doesn’t lie in the action as much as the knowing and trusting, our faith in God and His character. Because we know God to be good and powerful, we trust and obey. In light of that truth, we must obey, not for the sake of blessing, but because we know God will bless His people and that He is in control. He is one who keeps His Word.

And so I want to ask those of you who might have made it this far down in this post. What area of your life has it been difficult to surrender up in obedience to the Lord? Are you going through a difficult time that is hard to understand? Maybe it is the command to love someone who just seems too difficult to love. Maybe it is the command to be faithful as a student, giving of yourself in your studies as unto the Lord. Maybe it’s trusting God as He is leading you to stay or to go, as you think about your future. It could be a plethora of different situations and circumstances, but in the end one thing remains the same, God in His love and grace for our lives. And when we trust in Him completely, surrendering our own plan to His, surely even in the most difficult or uncertain of times, we will obey.

“Just obey” doesn’t seem so illogical when we know the truth of our good, sovereign and powerful God.


The Word of God Stands

Will you take road number 1 or road number 2?

Road 1: It’s quite the easy route, and you can enjoy your time along the way doing whatever you’d like, whatever suits your fancy. And you see that many people are deciding to go down this particular road.

Road 2: You can tell just from the looks of it that not many have traveled along this route, and it seems that there will be much difficulty upon making the decision to go down this particular road.

So again, which road will you take?

It sure would seem silly for any of us to take the 2nd road, wouldn’t it? I mean, who wants troubles and struggles in their lives? Who in the world would opt for hardships and difficulty when they could have it easy instead? Well, this would be the easy choice if we were only looking at the road. One who has a bigger picture in mind would ask about where it is that each road leads.

Matthew 7:13-14 says this:

[13] “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. [14] For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

These days, I wonder if we as Christians often acknowledge the truth that following Christ is difficult, but seldom know how to work out our difficulties in a healthy Christ-centered way. Especially in America, it seems that people are either being taught or have been sold on the belief that following Jesus is a piece of cake. In fact, following Jesus means you’ll just be happy all day, bluebirds and rainbows ahead. If you’re going through difficulty, you MUST be doing something wrong (not praying enough, not giving enough on the offering plate, not reading the Bible enough, not loving others enough, sinning too much). But Jesus says it right in these verses in the Gospel of Matthew that as genuine followers of Christ, we will indeed face hardships in our lives.

It’s hard trying to obey God no matter what. There will be times when something happens in our lives that will test us to the very core of our faith. It might make us even question the very character of our loving God. What will we do then? How will we respond? Will we look back on when we made our decision to take the hard road and follow Jesus and say, “Man! I made the wrong choice!” Or instead, will we look at God’s Word and be reminded of the truth that time and time again He has shown Himself to be one who keeps His Word at all times.

Reading through the account of King Balak and Balaam in the Old Testament book of Numbers, reminds that for those who are followers of God, His Word and promises for us will always stand:

Numbers 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

The story goes that Israel had just defeated the mighty Amorites by God’s might and power. The Moabites, who were a nearby nation were worried greatly because of the ease with which the Israelites had taken the Amorite cities. Afraid that they were next, the Moabites call upon a soothsayer named Balaam to go and curse the Israelites so that they could have victory over them. As Balaam prepares to give his divination of curses against Israel, God speaks to him, commanding him to do no such thing. And as Balaam continues to disobey God, God gets Balaam’s attention and gives him the words to speak to King Balak of the Moabites in Numbers 23:19-23:

[19] God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
[20] Behold, I received a command to bless:
he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.
[21] He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob,
nor has he seen trouble in Israel.
The LORD their God is with them,
and the shout of a king is among them.
[22] God brings them out of Egypt
and is for them like the horns of the wild ox.

There are a few things to take from these words and how it relates to us:

1. God always keeps His Word – there is covenant language here. Israel is blessed because God has chosen them as His people and blessed them. Spiritually, as followers of Christ, we are now His people Israel, and His promises for Israel are now ours. All the promises found in the Bible are for us to remember.

2. God is always with His people – “The LORD their God is with them and the shout of a king is among them.” Their king is God Himself. Do we see that God is always with us at all times? When we have a relationship with Jesus, we are trusting in His character to keep His Word. We are also saying that He is our King, worthy of our entire lives in every way.

3. God is powerful – There is a reminder of the Israelites being brought out of Egypt. It is not a testament to the strength of the people; rather, as it is worded, it is God who brought them out. He is the one who is keeping them. I wonder if we look back enough in our own lives to see the ever powerful faithfulness of our loving God. God never changes, and He is always FOR us.

In the end, God does keep His Word as He delivers Israel  from the Moabites’ quest against Israel (Joshua 24:10).

So we get back to the question we started with. Which road will you take? For those of us who have chosen the difficult road, let us remember that it leads to life, one that we will share forever with Jesus Christ. I’d be lying if I never thought about the easy road and asked myself “Why am I doing this again? Is it worth it?” And God gets my attention pretty quickly as I pray and read His Word. Not only this account of God acting on behalf of His people, keeping His promises, but until the very end, account after account of His amazing love for us. And as I see more of the unchanging character of God, I know that He is working for my good even when it is difficult (Romans 8:28). In Joshua 21:45, it says this: “[45] Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.” And neither will His Word fail for any of us. Are there places in the Bible where you know you can turn to be reminded of His goodness and His promises for your life? Let us hold to the promises of God; He is our God and we are His people, and His Word will always stand.