JUNE 20, 2018
RUNNING THE RACE
“D.N.S. (Starting is Half the Battle)”
by Marie Kerr
“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” — James 2:17
At the end of every race, the results are posted. It’s just like any other typical list of rankings. Naturally, all the runners want to see how they did against other runners. But there is a ranking that always stands out, mostly because it isn’t a ranking at all. D.N.S. - an abbreviation for Did Not Start. And it means that, for whatever reason, a runner never crossed the starting line. No cancellation, no deferment. Basically a no-show.
For most runners, there are 2 goals when running a race. The first is to show up, the second is to finish. (Optional third, don’t finish last and/or finish faster than last time.) Showing up for a race is half the battle... so what does it say about a runner who didn’t run?
James 2:17 tells us that “...faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” It’s harsh and hard to hear... but it’s true.
To be honest, I’ve been struggling the last few months with my training and spiritual discipline. There are all sorts of reasons I could come up with to explain why, and some of them are probably even legitimate. But if I’m being truly honest with myself, I just couldn’t get myself to the starting line.
So here I am, starting over. Again. This race I’m running is a daily effort to keep showing up and moving forward. And at the end of this race I will stand before my Lord and Savior, and He’s going to see if my faith was backed up by my actions. The last thing I want to see next to my name in the Book of Life is “D.N.S.” I want to be able to say that I showed up, and that regardless of the outcome, I ran the race.
JUNE 11, 2018
THIS IS MY STORY
“What Truly Lasts Forever”
A personal testimony by Sieun Soltero Park
My name is Sieun Soltero Park. I was born in South Korea. I came to America when I was 15 years old and became a Christian in college at the age of 20. Since then, I’ve been growing in my relationship with God and seeing Him as my heavenly Father, Lord, and Savior.
Today, I am going to share my testimony regarding my relationship with my dad. My dad passed away early last year. Throughout my life, my relationship with him wasn’t intimate, loving, or friendly because my dad was an alcoholic and unloving towards my family. He put his drinking friends over his family, and he would always go out to meet them and spend his money on alcohol. Then he would come back home in drunkenness late in the night when my mom and I were asleep. He would wake us up and torture us mentally with his drunken behavior.
Because of who he was, I never loved my dad deeply. In fact, I did everything in my power to not love him. I built a big wall between us to show him that I didn’t want to engage with him. When he was home, I would always go into my room with the door closed and be in my own world.
When I was 12 years old, my mom and dad got divorced by my dad’s request. Obviously, my mom earned the right for child support. My mom was unhappy and upset that he was the one who requested because many times, she wanted to leave my dad but remained with him for the sake of me. But one day my dad just easily made the decision to divorce my mom. My mom felt brokenness from the destruction of her efforts. But once it happened, she never wanted to get back together with my dad.
Not too long later, my dad deeply regretted his divorce so he tried to earn my mom’s heart back by going to her work, visiting my school and tutoring centers to talk to us while he was drunk. My dad was still a heavy baggage in my mom’s and my life even after the divorce. We decided to move to a different city to be far away from him. That was a big decision my mom made because she had no connection with people in a different city and had to earn her reputation from nothing as a single parent and a woman.
Later in my life, I came to America to study. When I became a Christian, God convicted me vividly and thoroughly to love my dad despite of who he was to me. In the summer of 2014, I visited South Korea for the first time after I became a Christian. I had a mission which was to love and share the Gospel to my dad. At that time, I did not contact my dad for a long time, and I had no idea how he looked and had been living, so I was scared to face him. Satan was pouring out so much ungodly fear on me. Nevertheless, God is God. No one can beat His sovereignty. He removed the worthless fear from Satan and filled me with His Almighty strength and confidence in my heart.
After receiving the blessing from God, I travelled to a city to visit my dad. The moment I saw him, I walked towards him, and I immediately smiled at him and gave him a hug. I engaged with him like a friend who I had been in touch with. My loving actions were able to happen solely because of God. At that time, my dad was still dealing with alcoholism and his health had diminished drastically. Therefore, my uncle decided to have my dad in a rehab center in a city where my uncle lives. The rehab center was one hour away from where my mom lived, so I visited my dad every Saturday.
That summer was filled with the most intimate and loving moments I had with my dad. Still, my dad would ask me about my mom and hoped to be back together with her. I realized my dad deeply loved my mom… However, his chain of sin made it hard to fix the broken relationship between him and my mom. It was very sad to see that. While my summer was used in spending time with my dad, I also worked at a company during the week. The first pay I received, I bought a Bible for my dad. I remember how he was actually studying it by himself, and he took notes on what he learned while he was in rehab. We also prayed together for his salvation and talked about God. But I felt like he wasn’t sincere when we prayed together. And I also was hesitant to talk about Jesus to him fervently and passionately because I was afraid of a potential tension from disagreements between us. Looking back, I wish I was more direct with studying the Bible with him… Towards the end of my summer in Korea, I was getting worn out because of the lack of rest. Monday through Friday I worked at a company. Saturday I traveled to visit my dad. Sunday I went to a church and spent half of my day there. My lack of rest affected my relationship with my dad. One day, he asked if he could go back to his hometown to bring some things back to rehab. I thought it wouldn’t be good for him to go back there by himself because all his drinking friends are in that town. At the same time, I was so worn out that I didn’t want to go with him. So, I decided to send him without me, as he promised that he would come back the next day. The next day, I called him, and he was drunk. He was again soaked in his sin that he couldn't fulfill his promise. I was heavily disappointed. I regretted not going with him. At the same time, I was selfish because I knew I could rest from that time on.
Not much later, I went back to America. Again, I lost contact with my dad because my dad didn’t have a phone because of financial issues. After two years, I went back to Korea again. This time, I came with Edgar who was my fiance at that time. I hoped to show Edgar to my dad for the first time. But all of my dad’s side of the family and my mom rejected the idea because my dad was not well. The family did not want to be embarrassed. Since their opposition was so strong, I decided not to introduce Edgar to my dad.
After a few days while Edgar and I were hanging out in Seoul with our friends, I got a call from my mom saying that my dad passed away from alcoholism. Sadly, my dad was alone at home as he was losing his ability to breathe, so no one knew when my dad had passed away. He was discovered by his caregiver when he visited my dad’s home to check up on him. Once I heard the news from my mom, Edgar and I immediately left our friends to go to the funeral. Unexpectedly, the funeral was held the day before Edgar’s and my engagement party with my mom’s side of the family and friends.
On our way to his funeral, I was questioning God unhappily and asking Him why it had to happen the day before the engagement party. After four hours of traveling, my mom, Edgar, and I arrived at his funeral. As we entered, we saw how empty the place was. Only small numbers of people were presented: a few of my dad’s siblings (his parents passed away a long time ago), and a few of his drinking friends. Again, his drinking friends were drinking, smoking, and playing card games even at the funeral site. In the other room, where there was a memorial for him, my aunt and uncle were grieving over my dad’s death. Seeing them in grief, I was able feel how lonely and depressed my dad was when he was alive because hardly anyone came to visit my dad’s funeral.
His life must have been worse without my mom and I. I understand now that he drank more and relied on alcohol to endure his emptiness and depression. My sympathy for my dad turned into deep sorrow. I became even more sad when I thought about how I didn’t know where he went after his death. While I was deeply grieving over his death, I asked God to tell me that my dad went to heaven. I knew my heart was believing that he didn’t make it because I didn’t see any fruit in my dad’s life. The next morning, I was still deeply grieving because God did not give me confirmation. A few hours later, God blessed me with a Bible verse, 2 Corinthians 5:7, which tells us “to walk by faith and not by sight.” God convicted me that I cannot judge whether my dad made it to heaven or not. Even though I didn’t see God working in my dad, God knew every single moment in my dad’s life. Then God brought remembrance of the memories with my dad from two years before. The memories consisted of the time we prayed for his salvation, the time we talked about Jesus, the time I saw my dad’s notes from reading the Bible, and the time I prayed for him in his presence. I started to have hope that somehow, before he died, my dad maybe called onto Jesus. My heart became lighter and I was more at peace. Soon after my uncle shared with me that when he saw my dad’s dead body lying on the bed at his place, he was assured that he died peacefully because his body was straight and relaxed, not contorted by deep pains from alcoholism. Hearing this, I was encouraged to believe God more for His goodness in my dad’s death.
Because of God’s work in me, I was able to see the funeral through to the end. While we were getting my dad’s body cremated, Edgar and I prayed and thanked God in the presence of our family. We were able to witness about God and our faith to them.
Once the cremation was over, Edgar, my mom, and I travelled back and went to a place where the engagement party was about to be held. We had a good time and I shared my testimony about the funeral to everyone who came. In the end, I realized how God’s timing to have my dad’s funeral before the party was actually a good thing, even though I was unhappy and complaining at first. Because of the funeral, Edgar was able to be introduced to my dad’s side of family prior to the engagement party. Also, I felt like my dad was invited to the party and that he was there in spirit, since I had shared about him with all the people who joined the party. I was grateful.
In the end, what I learned from this experience is that the time we have on earth is short. We never know what will happen tomorrow. My dad was only 55 years old when he passed away. What truly counts is whether he submitted his life to God. That’s what lasts forever. So if you truly believe God is your Lord, Savior, and Father, I want to encourage you to love others and share the Gospel. This will help us to be joyful in Christ, no longer condemned of our sins.
Do you want to share how God has been working your in your life? If so, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MAY 8, 2018
Discipleship and Fellowship:You Won’t Regret It, I Promise
By Grace Song
Lord, help me to write honestly, in a way that glorifies and magnifies You and Your power and all the workings of Your power in my life.
2017 was the most difficult year of my life. There were a lot of changes that took place, but that’s not necessarily what made it difficult. God revealed to me more issues of my heart; things that were deep inside of me that I had somewhat avoided during my years prior. 2018 has proved itself, so far, to not be any easier. I want to share one thing, among many things, that helped me not only just get through the past year and a half, but helped me to grow in my faith and recognize the work He is doing in my life.
It was during 2017 that I formed a special relationship with an older sister in Christ—a woman who is in a different life stage than me. I am single; she has been married for 20+ years and has many children. (Can you guess who? Hint: many children. Many.) Though she is incredibly busy, and though I am “busy,” (haha) we find time to meet and share our lives with one another. Over time, she got to know my predicaments and my pains, my struggles and my weaknesses. We always end each meeting with her praying for me, and I try my best to fumble over my prayers for her too. I always leave feeling encouraged, heard, supported, and comforted.
This past Monday, I met with my lovely mentor on a spontaneous whim. We happened to be at church at the same time, and she knew I was in a difficult place and going through something that was leaving me feeling very distressed. We talked things over as I attempted to not be a blubbering fool (yes, I cry a lot), and then she prayed for me. I was so down in my spirits, so tired and weary and just… BLEH. I was also sweating profusely, because it was a bit stuffy, and I felt a bit unwell in general. So, sitting there, all sweaty and tired and bleh, I bowed my head to pray with her, not really expecting anything except to hear her prayer and then go home.
But it’s amazing what can happen when someone who is more mature and more seasoned of a believer prays for you. Her prayers held so much power—not because she is some super-human (well… maybe she is) or she’s a perfect Christian—but because she had a different perspective than me. She was able to pray big prayers, with a fresh faith that I lacked from feeling so run down and weary. I realized that I hadn’t been praying big, bold prayers. It seemed to me that my mentor was literally trying to squeeze every last bit of God’s glory out of my situation. And she’s not even going through it herself. I was amazed at the empathy and love that God had given her for me, and it reminded me of the church and how when one part of the body is hurting, other members of the body hurt as well: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). I wouldn’t have fully realized these things if I hadn’t met up with her that night.
While I had been in this rut of praying quite insincerely and wearily, she prayed, “Lord, You have a wonderful plan in Grace’s life, to shower Your glory on her and every decision that she makes. Your will is for us to be sanctified and transformed for Your Kingdom. Please show her Your plan and that You are her strength in this painful and difficult time.” Boy, did I need a refresher on how to pray with faith. And that’s what a mentor is for. That’s what discipleship is about.
You might be curious, are my circumstances any better than it was before I started being mentored? Honestly, not really. They’re probably worse right now. But I am so encouraged. Not because I can see into my future, and everything’s gonna be great and fine and perfect. But because I am so supported by my family in Christ, and because prayer has the power to turn my eyes upon Jesus.
If you do not currently have a mentor, I would definitely recommend it. You won’t regret it, I promise. Yes, that older brother or sister in Christ is busy—yes, they have a newborn—yes, they have four kids and work a full-time job—yes, they’re a CEO at a startup—blah blah blah. We can make as many excuses as we want. But all you need to do is simply ask. If they really are too busy, they’ll simply let you know and you can ask someone else. God has got you covered, 120%. Maybe I make this sound too simple—but really, I need to, because otherwise no one is going to get off their butt and ask. So get off your butt and ask! Or, maybe you’re been a Christian for a long time, and have been mentored before and received all the blessings that mentorship brought to your life: step out of your comfort zone and offer to mentor someone who is younger in the faith.
On top of having a mentor, I also have my CG—an amazing group of sisters who always supports me and is there for me, and I for them. I am so thankful for the fact that even though they may not have so many words to speak when I am crazy-stressed and/or crying like a sad, sad baby, just the fact that they are there is so reassuring to me. Thank you, Steadfast CG, for being there. Thank you for every hand that you’ve placed on my shoulder, for every time you held my sweaty hand (gosh, why am I so sweaty?), for every time you hugged me. For those who don’t like physical touch, here is the sitting at least 2-feet away version of what I just described: Thank you, CG sisters, for every sympathetic smile, for every time you said a comforting word, for every moment you spent time with me. If you aren’t in a CG currently, please join one. You won’t regret it, I promise.
Jesus said that difficulties and hard times will come. And that yes, we can take heart because He has overcome the world. But let’s take heart together, in true fellowship, in learning from one another, and giving to one another words of encouragement, hugs, and prayers. Get a mentor. Be a mentor. Join a CG. Be an active part of your CG. Share your burdens and pray for one another. You won’t regret it, I promise.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
APRIL 27, 2018
“Changed and Empowered for His Kingdom”
A personal testimony by David Kim
Hi, my name is David Kim and I have been attending Pathway for the past 4.5 years. Looking back at the years behind me, I see now that God has brought me a long way.
I remember, especially back in my college years, how difficult and challenging it was to follow God. There were many times when I questioned my faith in Him. I often wondered if God, who was said to be so loving, even cared about me. I was struggling academically and got suspended from school due to my low grades. Everything felt hopeless. I decided to turn to other things to cope with the disappointment and stress. Alcohol, drugs, and late night partying came into play, and it was an escape route to get away from the challenges I was facing in my daily life. I then came to the breaking point where I just wanted to give up on God completely, and go live my life my own way.
Finally, I decided to give God another try. I didn’t have anything else to depend on at the time. So, I figured, why not give Him another chance? As much as I didn’t want to, I might as well try something.
It was so easy to just give up when I experienced struggles one after another. But in the end, I knew I couldn’t go anywhere without God. If there was one being that was going to get me out of this dark hole—it would be Him. Through this process of finding Him again, I was able to understand that sometimes life doesn’t always go my way, but I learned that I needed to keep trusting in Him. At that point, I could now confidently tell someone: He will never leave you—as He has never left me.
There are still times, even now, when it’s hard to trust Him in certain areas of my life. But as each day goes by, I’m striving to grow my faith and stay close to Christ.
As my walk is still growing in Christ, I’ve been learning to share more of God’s love with others. One of the things I have a big heart for is helping people with special needs and disabilities. One of my best friends was born with Muscular Dystrophy. It is a condition where the muscles in the body deteriorate over time. He is wheelchair-bound and faces various challenges such as getting around and applying for jobs. Witnessing that and being around him all the time made me want to do something—not just for my friend, but for God. I want to use the opportunities God gives me to help others who may not be as fortunate. I want to show others what it means to love outside the boundaries of this world. I’m always reminded that Jesus loves all of His children no matter what condition in which they were born. It breaks my heart at times when I see people with mental or physical disabilities get looked down upon by society. One of my life goals is to be able to fight for them and be the voice for those who may not be able to speak or act on their own behalf.
I pray that God will continually use me to build His Kingdom, as I am looking forward to the amazing things He has in store. As I live this life to build his Kingdom, I also encourage everyone to take advantage of the platform and opportunities God gives you. Trust in Him and He will do big things.
MARCH 3, 2018
“Taste and See that the Lord is Good!”
A personal testimony by Eunice Kim
This is the story of how God taught my family and me about who He is as we were waiting for the visa to return to Pathway.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Our plan was to step down from ministry in Korea and return to the U.S. by the end of 2016. We came back to the U.S. and Pathway in September, 2017. What happened during those many months in between? We had to face something very unexpected: a very long wait. Even though we knew we would need a work visa as Canadians to serve at Pathway, it took us much longer than we expected to receive it.
Was the period of waiting easy? Absolutely not! It was very difficult to face the uncertainty, watching my unemployed husband struggle, not knowing where we were going.
Was the time wasted, dry or barren? Not at all! God allowed that time because He had a perfect purpose and plan for us. It was a precious time that God truly taught us what it means to ask for His daily physical, emotional, and spiritual provisions, to trust and rely on Him only, and experience His goodness and faithfulness.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The visa documents were submitted to the government later than we anticipated. Then we heard there was an unexpected issue related to the documents early in 2017, which could have caused a much longer delay. The lease on our house was coming to an end in June and that added another dimension of difficulty to our lives—we wondered whether we could find temporary housing in Korea, or if we would need to go somewhere else? Because of the uncertainty, we would have no forwarding address so we weren’t sure where to tell the movers to send our things.
Because of these many unknowns and having no control over any of them, we had to pray desperately, because we truly were desperate for His help. One thing we prayed for daily was to have peace from above. And God is forever faithful. He truly guarded our hearts and minds as we desperately prayed for His peace that transcends all understanding. In the midst of this stormy situation, God gave us grace to have His deep peace in our hearts and minds. Besides praying for His peace, my family memorized many scriptures together, which helped us guard our minds against worries and concerns. We gave grateful praises to God as we recited Psalm 100 together throughout the day.
How awesome it is to know that the Lord cares for us and hears our cries, and His promises are true and never change. How wonderful it is to know that the Spirit intercedes for His people and gives us what we truly need in accordance with the will of God.
“The more faith we have, the more specific our prayers will be. And the more specific our prayers are, the more glory God receives.” (Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge, Day 31).
My husband and I started to read the book “Draw the Circle”. We read one chapter a day during the day and shared the lesson from the chapter and prayed together at the end of the day. We learned from the book that specific prayers give God an opportunity to show us His power and for us to increase our faith in Him. So we listed out our specific prayers. First, that we would receive the visa by moving day, which was July 27th . Second, moving day was in the middle of Korea’s monsoon season, so the weather was forecasted to have rain throughout the week. We prayed for a clear cool day so it would be neither rainy nor humid or hot. Lastly, we prayed for specific items like our car, and furniture—what to take, sell, or give away.
Moving day came. We opened the window and saw the clouds in the sky but no rain, and along with the clouds there was a nice cooling breeze. Praise God. My husband and I gave a song of praise and we moved our things by our Heavenly Father’s care and provision. However, when the moving company asked us for the forwarding address, I couldn’t give them an answer because we hadn’t heard anything about our visa. I just told them to keep our things in storage for now but to be ready to ship to San Francisco (but in the back of my mind, I was thinking, maybe to Canada or back to somewhere in Korea).
After the long exhausting day of moving, we drove to my parents’ house to stay temporarily. On the way to my parents’ house, we were both quiet. I knew my husband was praying silently, as I myself was also praying. I prayed, “Thank you Lord for answering our prayers and giving
us this perfect weather, but how about the visa? What is going on? Where are you taking us? I’m so tired, Lord.”
At that moment of desperation, God reminded me of Psalm 43:5, “Why are you downcast, my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and God.”
The next morning at my parents’ house, my husband was quietly staring outside the living room window for a long time. I knew he was conversing with the Father, so I left the room to give him some space. Later I learned that he was asking the LORD, “Now what?” A few minutes later, the door burst open and there was my husband waving his iPad around and telling me to read his email. It said, “Congratulations! Your visa has been approved.” I dropped down to the floor and burst into tears. Tears of joy, tears of thanksgiving to the one who loves us so much and hears our prayers. At that moment, my husband reminded me that it is still July 27th (our moving day) in the Pacific Time Zone. God had a sense of humor to answer our prayers not in Korean time but in California time. Yet it was so perfect. There is no mistake in His timing.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.”
God reminded me of this verse as I reflected on our journey of waiting. We had to go through this unexpected waiting not because God was not powerful enough to give us what we needed right away. It might have been ‘unexpected’ to us, but God planned it all according to His perfect timing in advance to teach us who He is. We can only taste how truly good He is when we take refuge in Him through difficult times and challenges of our life.
Pathway family! Thank you for standing by us through this process and supporting us with unceasing prayers. It is our prayer that you may take refuge in Him, find rest and peace in His perfect love and His Truth, and personally experience (taste and see) His goodness and faithfulness through different challenges and difficulties you may face in your life.
FEBRUARY 21, 2018
“Out & Back (and Back Again)”
“Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God...” — Hebrews 6:1
Getting back into my running routine has been a truly humbling experience. On a recent run with a couple of friends, I found myself struggling much more than I thought I would. When we paused for a water break at our halfway point, I turned to my friends and said, “it’s like I’m starting over from the beginning!”
I didn’t think much of it in the moment, but as we continued running, I started thinking more deeply about my physical performance. If I kept running, even a few miles a week, how much better would I be now? If I wasn’t so lazy and caught up in other things, I’d be working on my stride and pacing instead of trying to re-teach my body to breathe and endure.
And then it clicked—it’s the same for me in my walk with God. If I kept up on my Bible readings, even a couple of chapters a day, how much better would I be able to cope with the struggles I’ve faced? If I didn’t let my daily quiet times slide and spent more time in prayer, how much easier would it be to hear God’s voice? Instead of struggling to start over again and again, how much more could I have grown by now?
In my physical run, my body wants to take longer strides and run faster. In my spiritual run, I desire a closer relationship with God and to experience Him more in my life. But in both of these areas of my life, my process of growth is slowed down because of my lack of consistency. I have to spend a lot of time re-training myself and starting over from the beginning.
Father God, help me to develop discipline. And this time, help me maintain it. God, I’m tired of eating baby food. I’m over the struggle to run a mile. I want to experience true joy in my quiet times with You. But God, I can’t do it on my own. Develop in me the discipline to get to the next stage. Help me take our relationship to the next level.
JANUARY 25, 2018
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” — 1 John 4:18
For 2018, I set two goals for myself:
It's all about transformation.
For physical transformation, I decided to train for a full marathon because with it will come better health, increased strength, and burning calories (which is always a plus). It will be tough, but with a good training plan I can do it. (Side note: I'm seriously out of shape. I went out for my first run in 6 months today with the intention of stretching my legs… my lungs felt like they were on fire and I only ran 2 miles. So much for my pride as a runner.)
“Perfect love drives out fear... the one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
Spiritual transformation means something different to me. It means trusting God and specifically, trusting in God's love for me. Knowing God loves me is a given. As for trusting that love and then acting on that trust… oh yes, there is fear.
But I don't want to be afraid. I want to trust in God's perfect love. I want to become that person God sees, one made perfect through His love, who trusts in that perfect love, and who has no fear because of that perfect love. So even though I'm scared, I want to change. I want to be transformed.
Lord, help me to be disciplined physically and spiritually. It's going to be a long journey, but I know that You are with me every step of the way. Help me to see myself the way You do. Not for my own benefit, but so I can be closer to You and give glory to You—my God who loves perfectly, and whose perfect love drives out all fear.
JANUARY 24, 2018
“Transformed by His Love”
A personal testimony by Christine Kim
“We cannot run through life and expect that we will hear what stirs deep within us or notice what begs our attention without regularly adjusting our listening antennae. God is present to us in the scriptures, the liturgical life of the church, our work, prayer, people, events, and nature. Not a person, place, or a moment is left out from divine revelation. Something of value for our growth is always being made known to us in the midst of our ordinary lives… Our spiritual development depends on our being alive and vigilant enough to hear the message of transformation that weaves through our daily existence.”
— Joyce Rupp, “Open the Door: A Journey to the True Self”
My decision and commitment to follow Jesus Christ came from His persistence and desire to draw me close to Him even before I was born. I believe everything—every part of my life from beginning to end—was and will continue to be intricately designed for God’s unfathomable glory and His presence to be known in and through me.
While I was born into a Christian family, I did not seek out my own faith until sophomore year of high school when my emotional well-being slowly spiraled downwards and the only hand that could pull me out of that darkness was that of Jesus Christ.
I came from a typical family consumed by pursuing the “American Dream” of success and prosperity. From South Korea to Canada to the United States, we were nomads seeking a better lifestyle than the one we already had. Chasing after false hope resulted in bankruptcy, isolation, being undocumented, and becoming bitter towards mankind. With increasing misfortune, I lost faith, thinking that if God really did exist, “Why was my dad deported? Why was I sexually assaulted? Why is there death and destruction?” Being young and very lost, I didn’t know the answer to these questions.
Sophomore year, I continued to ruminate over these questions and comforted myself with thinking that these things happened to me “because of free will” or “because of Satan.” But I couldn’t deny the thought in the back of my mind that in the end, God still allowed it, and therefore, He didn’t love me.
Then, in my darkest of times, Jesus met me at church and told me He really truly loved me and because He loved me so much, He died for me. He emptied Himself of all His deity, set aside His privileges of all glory and splendor and sank to the lowest point of humiliation by dying as a criminal on a tree stripped of his dignity (Philippians 2:5-11). How could a holy and righteous God want an unholy and unrighteous being like me tainted with sin and shame? I cannot answer this except by saying that this was God’s story of redemption and grace. It was never about us. It was and is always about Him. To even partake and be a part of something bigger than us is such honor, such amazing grace.
Once I was renewed, washed by the blood of the Lamb, God taught me how to love, how to forgive, how to see people with His eyes and His heart: the lost, the poor, the broken. I’m still a work in progress but every day I know I am being made alive in Christ for the glory of God. So I continue to adjust my listening antennae in my ordinary life for divine revelation, ways in which I could love and serve my loving Jesus more and more. No work of man could transform a life so beautifully and powerfully but Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior: the way, the truth, and the life.
December 25, 2017
LIVING OUT THE WORD
IN 52 WEEKS
WEEK 52: Find Out Your Love Score
December 24 - December 31, 2017
by Amanda Lee
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” John 5:2–3 (ESV)
Out of 365 days, how many days did you choose to love God? Everyday we have a choice to either obey God or reject Him. In other words, everyday we have a choice to love God or to be directly opposed to Him. If we want to love those around us (family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc.), but we are not right with God, we will ineffectively love them. It is only when we are right with Him (meaning we obey God and follow what He asks of us) that we can truly love people.
How is this possible, you may ask? Well, according to Scripture, the litmus test to see if we truly love others is to see if we are keeping God’s commands. It makes sense, right? How can we encourage, exhort and help each other press on towards God if we are not right with Him? Your spiritual health directly impacts the health of our church and people around you for better or for worse. We have a choice every new morning to love Him or reject Him. Let us choose wisely, because our choice has ripple effects in every path and area of our lives.
Week 52 Challenge
Looking back on 2017, how would you rate your spiritual relationship with God? Were you able to “truly” love others?
Pray to God and ask Him to help you dedicate 2018 to living and loving differently. Let us not allow the enemy to rob us of living the abundant life God intended for us to live.
If you’d like more information on the Life Journaling reading plan, please visit the following link: http://www.pathwaybible.org/resources/life-journaling
December 19, 2017
WEEK 51: Sow What?
December 17 - December 23, 2017
“For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” John 4:37–38 (ESV)
Grandma Gina, my Mom, my Sunday school teachers, my school teachers, my professors, my pastors, my mentors, my friends, my in-laws, artists, authors, entrepreneurs, and my husband. These are all the people that truly planted seeds and watered me during these last several decades of my walk with God.
Spiritual growth is a long-term process and is only made possible by the labor of many who sacrificially pour into other individuals.
Whether it was to plant seeds in others or to water them, we give glory to God because it is He who gives growth in each person's life. Everything we do requires faith and humility. To invest in others, even if you may not be the one "reaping" or witnessing their transformation in this lifetime, certainly requires faith. On the other hand, helping lead someone to Christ and witnessing their growth in Him requires humility because it is truly what God and others have sown in us year after year.
Week 51 Challenge
This week, reflect back on who has sown your seeds and watered them in your life to bring you to where you are today. Take this week to personally thank them if you can. If not, lift up a prayer for them and thank God for those who labored before us.
Additionally, be mindful and pray: Is God calling you into a ministry of sowing, watering, or reaping at this time?
December 11, 2017
WEEK 50: What Does Not Believing Actually Do?
December 10 - December 16, 2017
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” Hebrews 3:12–14 (ESV)
“I’m afraid God wants me to become a missionary to Africa.” I’ve heard this statement numerous times from Christian friends from all walks of life. What this reveals is that somewhere, deep down in our hearts, we think God is deceptive or manipulative. We think He’s in it to make us do things we don’t want to do or give up on things we take pleasure in. Even though God has proved His ultimate love to us in more ways that we can testify (including the sacrifice of His Son on the cross for our sins), we just can’t seem to trust Him completely.
So, how do we keep our faith strong and alive to the end of our lives? God reminds us that we must not only be in fellowship with other believers regularly, but also that we need to encourage each other to trust God every single day. It is in this community of believers that we spur each other on in love and faith and fight against the natural current of the world, falling farther away from God into the evil waters of unbelief, self-control, and apathy towards God.
Week 50 Challenge
Do you have unbelief in your heart? If you’re not sure, here are some telltale symptoms: worry, anxiety, stress, etc.
This week, pray and ask God to help you identify in which areas of your life the deadly but hidden sin of unbelief lives in your heart. Also, thank God for the community of brothers and sisters that you are in. If you don’t feel you have that kind of community just yet, consider joining a Community Group (CG) at Pathway to be in fellowship with others who will run with you towards God.
December 4, 2017
WEEK 49: How Passivity Can Cripple the Church
December 3 - December 9, 2017
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:15–16 (ESV)
Noam Chomsky, the renowned American linguist and philosopher, said it best: “Passivity may be the easy course, but it is hardly the honorable one.” It is always easier to avoid conflict than to confront it, especially in the church setting when you are constantly bumping into the same circles of people on a weekly basis. Yet, how much do we really care about our brothers and sisters to truly keep them accountable and connected to Christ?
Paul reminds us that every person needs to be connected to Christ; in helping one another to do so, sometimes we need to speak the truth in love. We are to be in constant prayer for timing and preparedness before conversations like these occur. Preparing also means that we must check our own hearts to be sure that our intentions are embedded on the foundation of love and care, instead of judgment and self-righteousness. Only then will the church body begin to experience growth and the true fulfillment of unity in Christ.
Week 49 Challenge
When was the last time you spoke the truth in love to a brother or sister at Pathway? When was the last time you didn't bring something up out of fear or possibly even apathy?
Pray and ask God to teach you how to better speak the truth in love and truly have meaningful engagement with brothers and sisters in our Pathway church body.
NOVEMBER 29, 2017
“Consecrated for His Kingdom”
A personal testimony by Roy Cho
It all began on a random Saturday night in September while listening to a message from my boy, Matt Carter. It wasn’t some “holy routine”; I’m usually out and about on Saturdays, enjoying time with other human beings. On this particular night, however, my room was beyond a mess and I needed a self-imposed intervention: clean up, or run the risk of never seeing the floor again! So, I cleaned and cleaned, and cleaned some more, while passively listening to my boy’s message. Some 35 minutes later I was making some real progress (!) when something stopped me dead in my tracks. Matt began to describe Hurricane Harvey’s devastation… and he used words like “catastrophic” and “apocalyptic.” I thought to myself, “How much damage can the wind really do? Could flooding really destroy a family’s livelihood?” Like many of you, I knew there was substantial damage resulting from the storm, but my brain couldn’t quite comprehend the magnitude of the storm’s destruction. That was before I decided to Google it. Thousands of people were displaced. Millions of dollars worth in damages. Trillions of gallons of rain. I had to do something, anything. A visceral shock soon overwhelmed my soul. That night, I looked up Austin Stone’s website and it showed specific ways to get involved with Send Relief—the Southern Baptist Convention’s disaster response team. A few minutes later I booked my plane ticket. I wasn’t 100% sure what I was going to be doing, but I could figure that out later. I finally finished cleaning, but my work was just beginning…
The word “consecrate” refers to ordinary tools set apart for God’s work. Our team in Houston was quite ordinary: A pair of new graduates, an account manager, a retired facilities manager… our team was a ragtag group of rather normal people. None of us were particularly strong, adroit with tools, or knowledgeable about construction processes. In other words, we wouldn’t be number one picks in the construction management draft! Yet, I would bet my bottom dollar that each of my teammates had a special longing to be used by God for His Kingdom work. As we tore down walls, pulled out countless nails, vacuumed dirt (yes, to ensure the anti-mold spray would cover the wooden 2x4s that served as the home’s foundation), there were many times we could have taken shortcuts. It was a huge temptation. Our team leaders, though, were having none of that. Dave and Robin made it clear from day 1 that we would not leave the jobsite—the victim’s home—until the job was done. (In a loving way, of course!) Why? 1) We were representing Christ, and 2) This was our act of service for the victim. We sometimes grumbled. At other times we stepped away to take a break. But the payoff occurred when the homeowners asked us to share our stories. Why were we compelled to take time off from work for this? Why would we drive/fly across the country to help strangers in the name of Jesus? Beautifully, each of our stories acted as gospel brushstrokes, painting the picture of broken people in need of redemption and finding it in Jesus Christ.
Of course we then had a chance to hear the victims’ stories as well. The story of Miss Rose—a lovely woman who needed help restoring the only home she’s lived in over the last 60+ years. In the grand scheme of things, we didn’t help her very much: We only cleaned and organized two sheds and sprayed anti-mold treatment throughout her house. But, she ultimately wanted our help so that her home could be a safe haven for her grandchildren. You see, her home was in an impoverished part of Houston and it served as a refuge. This was no small project for her; it was restoring a part of her pre-Harvey life. But our most important work was done as we shared the gospel and prayed with her. We prayed for healing, hope, and continued help. Nothing extraordinary, certainly nothing spectacular in a sense. We would go on to serve several others, everyday asking God to use us, but remember Him. And He did. What an honor it was!
Here’s what I learned:
After working with Send Relief in Houston, I now plan to be a first-responder when the next natural disaster hits. This ministry particularly convicted me to see it as my way to serve our God. How about you? Are you seeking ministry opportunities based on the needs around you? Are you finding more reasons to say yes than to say no? Are you trusting more in God’s ability to use you than in your abilities themselves?
I’ve learned that the best stories often include people taking risks for the sake of loving someone else; an uncertainty as to how everything will work out. Irregardless of how your story began, I implore you to take a risk for the sake of loving your neighbor. Step out in obedience. Have faith. Trust Him. Find pleasure in being used for extra-ordinary work. Before I go, do know that this adventure will surely include toil and trial. But, I also promise it’ll include some of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences God will ever pen for your life! Now go!
November 27, 2017
WEEK 48: When You Think You’re Doing Good
November 26 - December 2, 2017
“Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.’ ” Matthew 26:6–10
People want to do good and ultimately want more out of life. Many would sacrifice more pay for more vacation hours. Some would sacrifice a name brand company if it means their work could make a greater positive impact on the world. Anything that competes with loving and worshipping God foremost—even ministry, loved ones, and doing good—is in direct opposition to our primary calling in this life.
This passage reveals that Jesus’ disciples were strategic, practical, and rational in their thinking. Technically, this bottle of ointment was worth about $54,509 by today’s standards and technically they were right. This woman would have had “better” use of her money to sell this ointment and give the profit to those in need. Yet, we must remember that we cannot measure worship by the world’s standards. While the world is focused on doing good as their moral and generous goal, for us as believers, those things are simply a byproduct of our love for Jesus and our sanctification of being made more like Him everyday.
Week 48 Challenge
Are there certain things in your life (even good things) that are competing for your consistent and focused attention on God himself?
November 20, 2017
WEEK 47: Your Best Deal on Black Friday
November 19 - November 25, 2017
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19–21
Cups galore. If you know me well or ask my husband, you would know that I own too many cups, mugs, bottles, and thermoses. For others, it could be collecting something as silly as cups or as serious as pursuing the hottest cars, trendy handbags, or luxurious vacations. This kind of value that lays in our earthly experiences and possessions could be at direct opposition to the value we place on investing in opportunities that have greater kingdom impact.
Jesus often gives His followers no-frill commands. In this passage, Jesus makes it clear that we cannot store treasures on earth and in heaven at the same time. There is always a trade-off and a cost. For every minute and every dollar spent on earthly treasures, we are actively foregoing greater opportunities to make an eternal impact in heaven. So, ask yourself, at this very moment, is your heart aligned with God or with the world?
Week 47 Challenge
Before this Black Friday hits, assess how much time and money you are spending on maintaining or accruing earthly treasures and how much time and money you are using towards actively worshipping God and ministering to others. Pray and ask God for help to change your heart’s desire to focus on heavenly treasures that will ultimately impact His kingdom forever.
November 13, 2017
WEEK 46: Love Doesn’t Expect ROI
November 12 - November 18, 2017
“If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2
“I want you to stop conveniently and selectively loving people.” It was a shock to me when God revealed that, in the midst of my regular actions of helping others and spending time with them, there really weren't many people that I truly loved. I may have thought I was a friendly, kind and helpful person, but my care was highly conditional. My love towards others was, more often than not, based on whether loving this person was convenient, not too overbearing, or whether there was potential for receiving some kind of love back in return. To put it simply, my love was outwardly nice, and inwardly incredibly sinful, which really isn't love at all.
God shared with me something similar to what Paul was trying to get across, in 1 Corinthians 13. Paul specifically chose to use the Greek word “agape” (which is a specific kind of love: unconditional love). He wanted to remind us that we are often stingy with our love. So, instead of focusing on giving God glory and relaying God's un-stingy and unconditional love to others, many of our efforts carry hidden undercurrents of trying to fill our personal needs. If my desire is to truly become more like Christ, my heart should be carrying more and more of this un-selective, sacrificial and unconditional agape love for others.
Week 46 Challenge
This week, ask God to help you assess your heart and the way that you love others. How many people do you "agape" love? Ask God to transform your heart to carry and exude an uncalculative love for those around you so that He may be glorified in and through all of our relationships.
November 6, 2017
WEEK 45: True Spiritual Growth
November 5 - November 11, 2017
“Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Galations 3:3
The Breville 700-watt Juice Extractor. This was my attempt, a few years ago, to begin a good, healthy habit. The juice craze was on and I jumped onto the wagon of "more efficiently" ingesting nutrients. If you've ever tried to start a good habit or change a bad habit, you would know that willpower alone would last, at most, a few weeks. My juicing habit lasted exactly that. A few weeks later, I came to accept I'd eat my fruits and veggies rather than drink healthy concoctions.
By its very nature, willpower will come and go. Paul negates the dangerous lies that the people of the Galatian church had bought into. They were beginning to believe that spiritual growth and sanctification was achievable through willpower and actions. Paul wanted to remind believers that sanctification and making spiritual progress are only made possible through the work and power of the Holy Spirit. Our focus then should be to worship God, know Him and rely on the Holy Spirit alone, always.
Week 45 Challenge
Relying on the power of the Holy Spirit is a choice that we need to make every day. This week, confess and repent that your default mode is self-sufficiency and being in control. Ask Him to help you worship and rely on God Himself rather than willing yourself, on your own strength, into spiritual growth or spiritual maturity (which isn't possible anyways).
OCTOBER 30, 2017
WEEK 44: FEAR FACTOR
October 29 - November 04, 2017
While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler's house some who said, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?" But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe." Mark 5:35-36
The truth is, every summer of my undergraduate career, I really struggled to accept that I might not be able to finish college due to financial challenges. It was a humbling situation, but in His timing (sometimes even after my classes began), God approved my loans and He made a way for me to pay tuition for another school year. What's crazy is that He gave me this test every year, for four years in a row, and I still struggled to trust Him each time. Slowly but surely, by His power and grace, each year God taught me how to cast my fears and anxieties more and more quickly and willingly at His feet.
Why does God test our faith? Do we really trust God when time is running out, when our options are running out, and when His help seems nowhere in sight? Like oil and water, faith and fear cannot mix or coexist. When we wait on the Lord, our dependency in our own skills, talents and resources slowly disintegrate, and our true faith (or lack thereof) begins to rise to the surface. What a perfect opportunity for God to teach us to surrender our fears and show His glory and remind us that it is never about what we can do, but it is always about what He in His power can do.
Week 44 Challenge
This week, reflect on an area in your life in which you are harboring fear. Tell God that you want to have greater faith and want to believe. Ask Him to help you believe in His promises so that you do not fear anyone or anything besides God Himself.
If you'd like more information on the Life Journaling reading plan, please visit the following link: http://www.pathwaybible.org/resources/life-journaling
OCTOBER 23, 2017
WEEK 43: MADE FOR A MISSION
October 22 - October 28, 2017
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24
Have you ever heard of a missionary named Nathan Barlow? Probably not, because Nathan lived his life with the sole focus of seeking first God’s kingdom, despite receiving minimal recognition and not possessing much significance in the world. According to an excerpt, “Once Nathan got a toothache, the pain of which was so intense that he had to fly away from the mission field to get medical attention. Nathan told the dentist that he didn’t ever want to leave the mission field for the sake of his teeth again, so he had the dentist pull out all of his teeth and give him false ones so he wouldn’t slow God’s work in Ethiopia.”
If in the world’s eyes you didn’t accomplish much in life, but in God’s eyes you carried out your purpose on this earth, how would you feel? Paul understood that the worth of his life did not depend on anything else except that he worshipped God and loved others by fulfilling his purpose on earth until his very last breath.
Week 43 Challenge
This week, meditate with God about your perspective on what living a valuable and fulfilling life looks like. Does it align with the purpose in life that God has called us to? If according to God, our purpose in life is to worship God, love others and testify the gospel, are you adjusting everything else in your life to focus on that single mission?
OCTOBER 19, 2017
"GOD WITH US"
A personal testimony by Christine Rhee
This is a story about how God helped me find the love of community. It starts out a little rough, and God works in mysterious ways, but I'll tell you upfront that it has a happy ending.
I found art very late, after finishing a bio degree. After going back to school, I was freelancing design jobs and preparing an illustration portfolio. My parents were skeptical about whether art was a godly pursuit or financially sound. But I felt that God wanted me to do art and speak to his children through it… I just didn’t know how. My husband and I agreed that he would be the sole earner for a while until I got my career going.
Then, my husband got fired for reporting financial problems within his company. I dropped everything to help him.
Just when we thought it could not get worse, we recovered memories of being abused as children. I won't go into detail about the abuse, but I'm happy to talk about it with those who'd like to know more. Essentially, we were suffering from serious PTSD symptoms as we navigated this scary work situation.
After a year of nasty legal back and forth, we were finally able to “free up” my husband’s career. We started a small company to try to continue his work, but the future looked bleak and we were carving into our savings.
Amidst all of this, I went into "fixer" mode. In most of my relationships, I was "the fixer" -- the person everyone turned to for help. I was the oldest child in an immigrant family and I'd never learned to ask for help or to share my concerns. I always tried to handle things on my own. Even when I was dealing with flashbacks and reliving memories day after day, I still tackled it without the help of church or community. And the really scary thing about being abused as a child is that it teaches you that people will harm you and use you. Abuse says that you are on your own and no one will help you.
After about a year of isolating myself and trucking along in my recovery in bits, I was finally ready to start facing people and to get my life rolling again.
But then I saw what was happening with my husband. For him, the combination of recovering his abuse memories and being fired revealed how his identity was tied up with work. Without the foundation of God in his life, he crumbled. He became deeply angry and depressed, and as a result, we fought every day for months at a time. It was at this point that my heart and faith in our marriage finally broke.
We needed God.
"That's it. We need church." We tried a few churches before a new friend recommended Pathway. Pathway had all the markers of those churches that taught me so much about God and his unfailing love -- compassionate sermons, a warm congregation, praise songs from the heart, good-natured announcements, and donuts. A part of me felt like I'd finally found a home church. But something (*cough*HolySpirit*cough*) told me that this time, we needed more than great sermons and praise songs. We needed a community to heal. We needed to join a Community Group (CG). We went to the welcome lounge and asked to be connected right after our first service.
I think about what our CG had to deal with when we first joined and I'm sooooooo thankful. During our first meeting we told them EVERYTHING… it just went on and on… (so sorry, everyone). They were so kind. A lot of it was outside of their scope, but they helped where they could, and let us be ourselves. And we were seriously WEIRD! We were overburdened, endless fountains of trouble whenever they asked how we were. And through their patience, love, empathy... and just treating us like people, we slowly took in that God loves us.
The problems we were facing were arduous ones. God sent us to Pathway to help us grow. He taught me what it means when a church is the body of Christ. When I was feeling lonely, God moved someone to introduce themselves. When I was discouraged and sad, my CG family gave me their prayers, words of encouragement, acknowledged my pain, and helped carry it. Through sharing our lives, God revealed how isolated and over-focused on work my life had been.
It isn't all smooth sailing. But through it all, God shows me that He forgives my mistakes and discouraged days, showering me daily with a constant stream of grace, love and kindness His children show me. For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a community and God's love is real and present through people, not just nature and His words.
He's answered some prayers, closed some doors, and opened others. God ended up leading my husband to his dream job and God’s purpose for him. I’m largely trauma-free now and I know He will use my experience to heal others (talk to me!). Our marriage still struggles--it’s better when we focus on what God wants us to do and worse when we try to seize control for ourselves. God continues to tell me to pursue illustration and art, even though I don't know where it will lead or how it will succeed--and He continues to bless my endeavors. He proves His faithfulness every day. Through it all, Pathway and my CG give me the spiritual foundation and strength to keep listening to God and his plans (even when things are scary) and celebrate with me when things are great. And I am filled with thankfulness just thinking about it all.
Do you want to share how God has been working your in your life? If so, please email us at email@example.com.
OCTOBER 16, 2017
WEEK 42: SPIRITUAL POKER FACE
October 15 - October 21, 2017
“But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?… You have not lied to man but to God. When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last." Acts 5:3-5
If you have read this passage, you may have wondered why God seemed so “harsh” by killing a couple for lying. Ananias and Sapphira’s sin was not that they held onto some of the money and didn’t give it all to the church. The real issue was that they lied (to God and to others) and gave off the false impression that they were more holy than they actually were. Why is this considered a sin and why did God seem to react so harshly? The root of this sin was pride.
Often, much like this couple, we are tempted to not be honest about where we really are with God. We want to be seen as “spiritual” and “godly” people, even when we are spiritually struggling, because we want to maintain our pride. With pride festering inside of us, we cannot carry the humble attitude that is required to repent and be made right with God again. Repentance must be a regular practice in our lives and it must happen now. Let us never assume that we can get right with God later. Let us never forget that our days are numbered.
Week 42 Challenge
This week, in your own personal time with God and within your CG, try to be more honest than before about where you are with Him and overall how you are doing spiritually.
OCTOBER 09, 2017
WEEK 41: DOING THINGS THAT DON'T COUNT
October 08 - October 14, 2017
“Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.” Luke 22:26
It’s your last meal before you die. Who would be there? What would you talk about? The day before His death, Jesus chose to share a meal and His final conversations with His disciples. It’s pretty astounding that, at a time like this, His disciples were more concerned about their reputation and were squabbling about who would be considered the greatest.
Jesus overturns the world’s view of greatness as he shares that the greatest people are not those who see themselves as more valuable than others, but those who carry humility. It’s serving others in ways that don’t “count” in the eyes of the world, but count in the Kingdom of God. If we truly want to be transformed, we need to begin imitating Jesus who went out of His way to serve and love those immediately around Him, regardless of who was watching or keeping track.
Week 41 Challenge
This week, go out of your way to love someone by serving him/her. Whether it is through words, actions, quality time, gifts, or even a hug, let’s practice imitating Christ by serving others without puffing ourselves up or expecting something in return.
OCTOBER 02, 2017
WEEK 40: THE "FOMO" THAT MATTERS
October 1 - October 7, 2017
“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place ...” Esther 4:14
Constantly being on social media can be tough because the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is real; it makes us feel like we are not participating in the exciting things that other people are engaging in. Similarly, when we accept Christ’s invitation to live a different, holy life, sometimes we to fear that we are missing out on worldly experiences.
The most amazing stories in Scripture highlight people who simply made themselves available before God. They allowed themselves to be used by the Father. One of the greatest privileges on earth is to be able to join in on God’s plan and will for the world. If someone chooses to indulge in all the worldly experiences but does not invest in both loving and worshipping God and investing in loving His people, I think at the end of their life they would be left with a more serious FOMO than what the world currently portrays.
Week 40 Challenge
This week, make yourself more available to be used by God. You may need to cut down on things (hobbies, media, games) to spend more time on God, His people or other things that will matter after this lifetime.
If you'd like more information on the Life Journaling reading plan, please visit the following link: http://www.pathwaybible.org/resources/life-journaling
SEPTEMBER 25, 2017
WEEK 39: DON'T EAT STALE BREAD
September 24-September 30, 2017
“Give us each day our daily bread...” Luke 11:3 ESV
Do you live to eat or eat to live? There were times when I definitely "ate to live" because thinking of what to eat for the next meal felt like such a hassle. I wished that my body could fully function and thrive off of one meal a month. Imagine how much time and money you would save. Yet, that was neither how God designed our physical bodies nor our spiritual bodies.
Jesus didn't teach his disciples to pray, "Give us our weekly bread" or "Grant us our monthly bread." He wanted us to meet with our Father daily and stay closely dependent on Him each day. What an ingenious reminder that God would embed in us this teaching about how our spiritual bodies are meant to be fed daily. When we confess our lack and admit that we cannot do anything without God, we bring ourselves into a rightful posture of worship before our God.
Week 39 Challenge
This week, stay as close to God as possible by meeting with Him daily. It's common, for many of us who are busy, to skip a day or two of meeting with God, but why eat old, stale bread when He offers Himself freely to us everyday? If you do meet Him daily already, would it be possible to meditate day and night on His Word like King David and Jesus did?
SEPTEMBER 18, 2017
WEEK 38: OH MY! GUESS WHAT HAPPENED?
September 17 - September 23, 2017
And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time. Luke 1:20
Have you tried that new, really good dessert place? Did you watch that new show everyone’s been raving about? We eagerly share things that are amazing and things that we enjoy. We can’t wait to share; sometimes, it just spills out. It is a privilege and a blessing to be able to use our mouth and share information with others. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth had been praying and waiting upon the Lord for decades that He would give them a child. When the angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah to share the amazing news, Zechariah responds with unbelief. In turn, Zechariah was disciplined for his reaction and was made mute until his son John (the Baptist) was born.
Many of us may not think that Zechariah’s punishment wasn’t so difficult. I mean, what’s so hard about being silent for several months? Well, it was incredibly challenging for Zechariah because he was not able to testify how God amazingly answered their prayers. God’s active work in and through our lives is meant to be shared with others. Just like we are not meant to keep the Good News to ourselves, we are not meant to keep answered prayers to ourselves.
When’s the last time you were so excited and couldn’t contain sharing how God answered your prayer?
Week 38 Challenge
This week, reflect on how God is working in your life. Is there is a recent prayer that He answered? What are some ways God has recently shown you his incredible grace or mercy? Share it with someone you haven’t told yet. Place the emphasis on how amazing God is.
The Bible Tells Me So
Conversations with Jesus in My Daily Life
By Janny Cahatol
Jesus: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 ESV)
Me: What does the first commandment have to do with the second?
Jesus: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20 ESV)
Me: Am I a liar because I don't love the people I can see?
Jesus: "You have said so.” (Matthew 26:25 ESV)
As I look at the long line ahead of me at the post office, I realize that I am called to love each of them because they bear the image of God whom I love.
*If you're interested in being a guest writer for our blog page, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
SEPTEMBER 13, 2017
WEEK 37: IS STEALING OFFICE SUPPLIES A SIN?
September 10 - September 16, 2017
“But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself." Daniel 1:8
Have you ever taken a little too many pens from work for personal use at home? Technically, if we were to be black and white, we would call this stealing. And technically, according to the Bible, stealing is sin. But most of us would ask, what’s the harm? I mean it’s just such a “little sin” or would we even consider it a sin?
In response to this, here is an example of someone who responded quite differently than most of us would. Daniel was firmly determined that he would not eat this food because he would be disobeying God. He was probably well aware that the food most likely came from people’s sacrifices to idols. The key thing to note here is that Daniel was well aware that this situation was not about the food. It was about being obedient to God’s commands, even in the little things. We commit, what we consider, “little sins” all the time. We brush them off and even forget to repent about them. Unlike many people, Daniel truly knew the heart of God and placed obedience to God as the highest priority, even if it meant risking his reputation, career and future.
Week 37 Challenge
This week, ask God to give you His spiritual eyes to see sin the way He sees it. Then, repent of even the littlest, most miniscule sins in your life. Lastly, if you dare, ask God to help you boldly obey Him in your home, in your community, or in your workplace, even if it means you may need to surrender the very things you hold dear.
SEPTEMBER 04, 2017
WEEK 36: MORE EXCITING THAN NETFLIX
September 03 - September 09, 2017
“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever. He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and merciful.” Psalms 111:2-4 (ESV)
I think I know why so many people have fostered a love for watching TV shows and movies. Personally, I get sucked into great shows with incredible storylines and a talented cast. But more so, sometimes we are drawn because it provides an opportunity to engage in something more fun, entertaining, and less stressful than what our life currently provides us. What if God didn't mean for our lives to feel so mundane? What if He meant our lives to be abundant and exciting? What would that even look like?God has done, is doing and will do great and mighty works all over the world. His fingerprints are everywhere. The question is, are we looking for His movement in our life and in everything around us? This kind of awareness requires focus, effort, energy and studying. We must be invested in looking at the world through a different lens, through spiritual eyes. When we see His works for what they truly are, the result is that we see His work as being "full of splendor and majesty". Exciting would be an understatement when you see God working powerfully and creatively as He carries out His ultimate plan for the world. Best of all, it would move us to become more aware of His righteousness, grace and mercy, which would inevitably lead us into wholehearted worship once again.Week 36 Challenge
This week, ask God to help you be more aware of His movement in and around you. In other words, ask Him to see the world through His eyes. As you begin noticing things like how gracious He is, praise Him. If it's hard to see Him currently moving around you, look back to your own life, remember how you saw Him move and praise Him.
AUGUST 28, 2017
WEEK 35: CAN JESUS HAVE SOMETHING AGAINST US?
August 27 - September 02, 2017
“I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” Revelation 2:3-5
If you have ever served anywhere on the basis of a long-term commitment, you have come across the term “burn out” and certainly know the feeling of being tired and weary. We hang in there because we want to keep serving God and His people. Hopefully God is pleased with us since we are still helping out right? Well, in the case of the Church of Ephesus, Jesus rebuked them out of love.
Although people had persevered in doing a tremendous amount of work for God’s sake and this church looked relatively healthy from the outside, Jesus had something against this group of believers. He pointed out their root issue; despite all of their patient endurance, they were living and serving without love. In fact, He goes so far as to say that they actually left their first love.
So, how do we return to our first love? According to Jesus, we need to remember where this whole journey all began. We fell in love with God and that spurred on everything else that we did. He also commands us to repent and change our direction to focus back on the basics of loving God and His people. Lastly, He tells us to do the works we did at first—spending time in His presence, in prayer, in His Word, in fellowship, and in sharing the Gospel.
Week 35 Challenge
This week, reflect back to the moment you first fell in love with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Repent and confess that you have left your love for Him and His people and have become caught up with just the motions of life or even the acts of service. Go back to the basics of prayer, reading His Word, and sharing in fellowship with others.
AUGUST 22, 2017
WEEK 34: Did You Forget Something?
August 20 - August 26, 2017
”If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9
This is how most of our prayers go: Father God, thank you for this meeting/day/meal/person. Please help us to …., and I pray for….. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, Amen. When is the last time you humbly confessed that you sinned against God? We often overlook that portion of our prayers because we find ourselves just jumping into our need for God’s help. If Jesus specifically taught us to include “forgive us our sins” in his example prayer of how we should be praying, then maybe it should be something we as Christ followers need to emulate more often.
So, why is it so easy for some of us to overlook this portion of prayer and/or why do we find it difficult to confess our sins regularly? Maybe it’s because confession requires a lot of effort. We need to have incredible humility and submission on our parts when we repent of our wrongdoings that break our Father’s heart. In order to declare that we have done wrong and sinned against God, we are sharing God’s perspective and stance on sin.
Note: It is important to note that our sins were forgiven through the Christ’s atonement on the work of the Cross; the act of confession does not forgive sins, Jesus already finished that work on our behalf.
Week 34 Challenge
This week, confess your sins before God and stand assured that you are forgiven and covered by the blood of Christ. Be careful not to use the phrase “if I sinned for…” frequently. Instead, let us humble ourselves and admit that we have sinned as we confess for our specific sins.
AUGUST 16, 2017
WEEK 33: LETTUCE ROMAINE IN CHRIST
August 13 - August 19, 2017
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5
Both my dad and my father-in-law have amazing green thumbs. When they grow their gardens of persimmons, zucchinis, cucumbers, perilla leaves, and tomatoes, they flourish and our families get to enjoy eating all of these fruits and veggies throughout the year. I, on the other hand, have the amazing ability to kill succulents and cacti at a rapid rate. I don’t even know how I do it. They just die. I don’t get to enjoy the benefits of what I planted and the plants themselves don’t get to live out their purpose.
Now, people don’t usually go through all the effort of planting, watering, pruning and harvesting fruit-bearing plants to simply gaze at it. They want to eat what it produces and eagerly wait to taste the results. In a similar way, Jesus reminds us bearing fruit is the natural result of staying connected to Him. Even more so, we are meant to regularly humble ourselves and declare that we can do nothing apart from Him. Can you believe it? We were never meant to be “independent” as the world understands; we were never meant to do anything by our own strength, knowledge, or even willpower. Instead, we were meant to be desperately dependent and always remain connected to our Creator.
Week 33 Challenge
When was the last time that you told God that you desperately needed Him? This week, confess any area of your life in which you have fallen into self-sufficiency and doing things by your own strength and wisdom. Share with God that you truly can do nothing apart from Him.
AUGUST 07, 2017
WEEK 32: HIS WORK ON DISPLAY
August 06 - August 12, 2017
“Jesus answered, 'It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.'" John 9:3
If you’ve ever been sent to the principal’s office, raise your hand. If you’ve ever been disciplined or punished by your parents, raise your hand. You might have experienced one of these moments (or maybe both) in your life. It’s a natural occurrence, isn’t it? You do good and you get rewarded. You do bad and you get punished. A lot of times when we do suffer in life, we feel like God is punishing us for our sin. However, what if God is using this suffering so that His works could be displayed through you? Are you open to His plan if it brings God more glory?
This is an amazing passage because it reveals the heart of Jesus and the heart of God the Father. God is always concerned on how to reveal His love and Himself to all of the people on this earth. Likewise, He is concerned about His glory and that in all things His kingdom and His perfect plans will be fulfilled for all eternity. His ways are [truly] not our ways and His thoughts are [certainly] not our thoughts (Isa. 55:8).
Week 32 Challenge
This week, instead of asking why He is allowing you to experience your trials and suffering, ask God to open your eyes to see what God can do through this experience. Tell God you trust Him with His plans and that more than anything you want Him to be glorified in and through your life.
AUGUST 02, 2017
WEEK 31: MORE OF YOU
July 30 - August 05, 2017
“He must increase, but I must decrease." John 3:30
When we are striving in life (whether at work, at home, at school or at church), it is easy to believe that we are working hard and should receive a little pat on the back from others and even from God. Yet, John reminds us that the point in everything that we do is not for our own spotlight or credit, but that we may live our lives with the mindset that all our actions should point back to God.
In this passage, a group of concerned disciples approach John to tell him that more and more people were gathering around Jesus. John is not only completely ecstatic with the fact that Jesus was getting more attention than himself, but also he makes his position in relation to Jesus very clear—that Jesus is the center and all eyes should be on Him, no one else.
Week 31 Challenge
This week, how can you allow God to increase more in your life at this time?
On the other hand, how can you allow yourself to decrease at this time?
JULY 25, 2017
Christianity 101: Suffering
July 23 - July 29, 2017
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” 1 Peter 4:1-2
Many of us are quick to begin questioning our history of disobedience and record of sins when suffering begins to happen in our lives. Some of us begin to accept it as a logical ramification after all we’ve done to break God’s heart. Others view suffering as an injustice because they feel they’ve lived as a good person overall. What if someone told you that suffering is actually a must and even required for all of us, even devout believers?
Peter reminds us that it is silly to think we shouldn’t have to suffer in this lifetime, if even Christ who lived a perfect life had to endure suffering. He encourages us to arm ourselves in the same kind of mindset. We need to begin with the attitude that trials and challenges are normal and not an anomaly. There is also a kind of suffering that comes from wrestling with our fleshly worldly desires. We endure and battle our flesh so that we are constantly aligning our minds, hearts and actions with the will of God instead of our self-serving will.
Week 30 Challenge
This week, think about the last time you were struggling with an issue or circumstance in your life. It would be no surprise if you were struggling at this very moment. How are you processing that occurrence?
Pray this week, that in the midst of your current or future trials, you would thank God for sharing in the experience of Christ as He had his share of suffering during his time on earth. Regardless of what you think may have brought on this trial, ask God to help you align your heart with His will as you walk through the suffering.
JULY 18, 2017
WEEK 29: WHY SOME OF YOUR PRAYERS ARE INEFFECTIVE
July 16 - July 22, 2017
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” James 1:5-6
When things are going well for us in life, we don’t often ask God for wisdom. It is when the storms hit and life becomes a little too overwhelming that we truly realize we need God’s wisdom, not our own. It is only by God’s wisdom that we will know whether He wants us to endure this season in faith or move away from it in faith.
It is no coincidence that James, the author of this book, encourages the people of God to seek wisdom in faith right after he mentions going through trials and hardships. Furthermore, we know that “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). We must believe that God has the power to grant us His godly wisdom and that it is in His character to bless and reward those of us who do ask for that wisdom. If we question His goodness or ability to actually grant wisdom to us, we are asking for it without the faith component. In other words, James reminds us blatantly that we should not expect to receive His wisdom, if we do not ask for it in faith.
Week 29 Challenge
When is the last time you asked him for wisdom (in faith) instead of just answers to prayer?
This week, try to abstain from seeking advice from others brothers and sisters or reading Christian books. Instead, go straight to God and ask Him for wisdom. God promised He would generously grant His wisdom to us if we ask in faith, neither doubting His ability nor His loving desire to want to give it to all of us.
Note: If you sense in your heart that God is directing you towards something, someone or some decision, be sure check if what He is saying is consistent with His Word.
By Janny Cahatol
There once was a man who said he loved me
But he always did what he wanted to do,
And said what he wanted to say,
And gave what he wanted to give,
Did he know me?
He worshiped himself, never mind me.
I once was a woman who said I loved God
But I always did what I wanted to do,
And said what I wanted to say,
And gave what I wanted to give,
Did I know Him?
I worshiped myself, never mind Christ.
Now I pray,
“Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.”
Psalms 86:11 ESV
JULY 10, 2017
WEEK 28: Fighting Against Sluggishness
July 9 - July 15, 2017
"For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." Hebrews 6:10-12
There are certainly days or weeks or even months when opening the Word of God is hard, sitting down and praying is such a battle, and simply leaving your home to meet up with anyone seems like such a big task. Sometimes our walk with God can become sluggish. Maybe we are a little disappointed. Maybe we are tired of doing good or being good. Maybe we just feel overwhelmed with the rest of life. Maybe we are tired of it all especially because we see very little progress, change or positive results.
Yet, we are encouraged to press on, knowing that God does not forget our labor and work. We are called to imitate people who patiently persevere in faith. We must believe that God will surely remember the labor of love we have served for His kingdom. For it is only through faith that we can truly carry on despite the temptation to slow down and become sluggish.Thank God that He reminds us that our pursuit of Him is not in vain and it will matter in the larger perspective of eternity.
Week 28 Challenge
This week, command your soul to press on and worship Him. This means that even if you don't feel like praying, reading the Word, sitting in His presence, meeting up with another brother or sister, serving joyfully, or even participating in CG, try it anyways.
Because we will always want to follow our flesh by default, we must literally fight (with the power of the Holy Spirit) to press on in worship.
JUNE 21, 2017
WEEK 25: WHY WE SHOULD ALWAYS BE FIGHTING
June 18 - June 24, 2017
“But as for you, O man of God, flee these things [love of money/craving to be rich]. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:11-12
Desiring eternal things over earthly things is quite a struggle for many of us, isn’t it? The good news is that God is very aware of our desire to be wealthy and live comfortably in all of its luxury. Although both 1 and 2 Timothy are actually Paul’s letters to his dear disciple-turned-pastor friend Timothy, God reveals this message to us in the Word to both challenge and encourage us to pursue matters that will affect eternity.
The key phrase to note here is “good fight” because this fight actually goes beyond simply trying not to love money. In fact, in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he writes, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). This fight that he is talking about is the fight to place our hope in God and God alone. Desiring wealth is merely a symptom that reveals that we feel more secure in what’s in our bank account than the abundant life God has promised us. Fighting for something requires perseverance, training and an incredible amount of faith that it will all be worth it in the end.
Week 25 Challenge
What are some symptoms that you see in your life that you struggle with fully trusting in God about life matters?
If you are willing to fight the “good fight” of faith, wrestle with God in prayer this week by being honest with Him about why it’s so hard to trust Him. End your prayer session by declaring and praising Him for being your all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving Father.
JUNE 13, 2017
WEEK 24: THROW YOUR GRUMBLES DOWN THE GUTTER
June 11 - June 17, 2017
"Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” Philippians 2:14-15
How are you these days? Busy. Stressful. Tired. Could be better. Sometimes even the bare minimum that God asks of us feels like He's asking for too much. We have become so good at rationalizing legitimate reasons to complain about how stressful life is or even dispute with God about how difficult it is to obey Him. According to His Word, we are called to do all things (yes, every little thing) without complaint and without talking back. It is important to note the reason Paul gives for why we should avoid doing these things. He says we need to react and respond differently because this is one extraordinary way that we can stand apart from the rest of society. Can you believe it? We can be a light in this world simply by grumbling or arguing less and instead, obeying our Father with a grateful, faith-spurred heart. Imagine how people at work would react differently if we began opting out of the crooked, complaint-filled conversations. Imagine how the church body would transform and spiritually flourish if we obeyed God's voice with belief. Imagine how our family and friends would react if our demeanor and language switched from everyday grumblings to everyday gratefulness.
Week 24 Challenge
This week, when you feel a grumble coming out of your mouth, dare to react differently because every moment is an opportunity to live as His light unto this world.
June 09, 2017
PATHWAY COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT:
"Whenever I look back in my life and recount as far back as I can remember, I am always reminded of how good and great God is. Time and time again God continued to show His grace, loving mercy and kindness to me in every area of my life; through both joyous and difficult circumstances.
A more recent evidence of God’s goodness in my life is His full provision for me when I decided to move up to the Bay Area a year ago. He blessed me with more than I needed and asked for. A big part of that was God providing me with a community and a church family that I have at Pathway.
God has opened so many doors of opportunities for me here to serve and grow. He has given me a group of brothers whom I can share and walk life with. God provided me a community of brothers and sisters who invest themselves in my spiritual growth and continues to love, support and encourage me. God is continuing to grow my love for music and worship through serving in the Worship team. He revealed to me the gifts He has given me and helped me discover my mission and ministry. I am glad and humbled that He continues to grow in my heart to reach out to those who are in need through the different ministries we have at Pathway.
God is forever faithful! I am thankful for what He continues to do in my life and how He is continuously shaping me through my time here at Pathway."
MAY 30, 2017
WEEK 23: HOW TO WIN THE GAME OF LIFE
June 04 - June 10, 2017
“All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.” Ecclesiastes 3:20 (ESV)
Nearby, in Menlo Park, California, there is a prolific senior pastor/speaker/author by the name of John Ortberg. He is famous for sharing the story about a unique lesson his grandmother taught him when he was a child. Ortberg prefaces his story with stating that his grandmother was “the most ruthless Monopoly player” he had ever known in his life. She understood the strategic point in this game and left Ortberg in defeat time and time again. It was only after one long summer of practicing Monopoly for hours with his friends that he finally learned that the only way to win was “to make a total commitment to acquisition.” He was ready to face his grandmother and described that in the next game he played against her, he relentlessly won and “watched her give her last dollar and quit in utter defeat.” But when the game finished, she told him, “Now, it all goes back in the box.” He was shocked.
Interestingly, it seems that Ortberg’s grandmother has reinterpreted this lesson that originally seems to have come from good ol’ King Solomon. In his peculiar compilation of writings called the book of Ecclesiastes, he unashamedly and openly shares about how he had made it in life. I mean, this man literally had it all—an exuberance of money, an unlimited supply of food, custom houses, ginormous pools, “cars,” fame, women, children, entertainment, title, reputation, wisdom from God, and the list goes on. Yet, this man who had it all admits that at the end of his life, everything will return back to one place, the dust. We can’t take with us the very things we often spend our lives striving to attain.
So that leaves us with a serious question: “Are you playing the game correctly?” Because while acquisition of earthly treasures will end up in the dust, holy pursuit of His Kingdom and His heart will allow us to take part in the eternal glory of our beautiful God.
Week 23 Challenge
This week, reflect on the way you are currently playing this game of life. Bring all of your desires, goals, and aspirations before the feet of Jesus and pray this simple prayer: “Father God, thank you for reminding me that everything in this world will surely return to dust. Help me to refocus and constantly seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness in this life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
June 01, 2017
"Where do i begin? God is truly an amazing God. It is absolutely beyond me what He can do, what He did on the cross, and how He continuously works in my life. This season of my life has been about trusting and obeying Him.
It all started at our Pathway fall retreat in 2016. That's the time I restarted reading and applying His Word/Scriptures/the Bible with a child-like faith. Since then, I have never felt closer to God. It was one of the colder winters this past December and God had placed in my heart that there are so many people around us who are out in the streets that are suffering, hungry, cold and need our help. It broke my heart every time I would think about it. One night, I drove to St. James Park in San Jose, where many of the homeless people stay. As I continued to walk around park during the dark, I was heartbroken to see all the people that were there without shelter. The park was extremely dark and I soon realized that this wasn’t the safest area to be in. I was extremely humbled at that point because I knew that I had to fully depend on God. I began to be filled with doubt and fear but God soon revealed to me that it was His calling and I had a choice to either trust and obey or ignore what God had placed in my heart.
In the following days, with a conviction in my heart and the help of my Pathway brothers and sisters, we were able to start the Operation Lunch Bag Ministry, which gives us an opportunity to share the love through providing the homeless with lunch bags while building relationships and sharing the Good News about our Lord Jesus Christ. Throughout this ministry God has continuously reminded me of how helpless and weak I am without Him, which always pushes me to come before God days before, and ask Him for help. And looking back on it now, there was never a day where God did not come through. Of course this is only one story of God's Faithful character. There are many more stories/testimonies that I’d love to share so please, feel free to ask. =)
It's funny how through writing this, I am reminded of the very first time I ever felt God's presence, and it was through reading the Bible: Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths."
Soli Deo Gloria,
Mike, along with 3 other brothers and sister will be flying out Cambodia this Sunday for a short-term mission trip. Please continue to keep them in your prayer as they set foot on new soil to share the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ.
WEEK 22: BULLETS OR SEEDS
May 28 - June 03, 2017
“Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” Proverbs 12:25 (ESV)
The power of words is incredible. Even if someone’s key love language is not “words of affirmation,” no one can deny that words affect us. Gary Chapman, author of the bestselling book The Five Love Languages, shares that words can either be “bullets or seeds” in people’s lives. It can either bring serious damage or bring incredible healing unto others. In this simple proverb, we are reminded to express our love and care unto others in the form of good words.
Thank goodness, God does not expect His children to just “get over” their problems. He knows that the struggle to trust Him is real. Often our prayers are filled with lifting up our immediate earthly needs—whether it is about our family, friends, church, finances, jobs, health, or personal insecurities. It’s clear that God understands our hearts can become deeply restless and heavy— even in the process of learning to place our faith in Him. This is where the active body of Christ plays an integral part in our relationship with God. When we encourage others with good words that direct people back to God’s character, people are able to experience true comfort and joy.
Week 22 Challenge
This week, whether it is by written words (in a card, text or email), or by spoken words (on the phone, over Skype or in person), encourage and uplift someone in your life.
Be wary of empty words, but challenge yourself to speak words that will bring the individual’s focus back to the character of God.
MAY 22, 2017
WEEK 21: BETTER THAN GOLD OR SILVER
May 21 - May 27, 2017
“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.” Proverbs 3:13-14 (ESV)
People are always looking for ways to move up in life. Whether it may be for survival or to make life more comfortable or even more luxurious, we work hard in search for the next job or the next business that will reap profit. I’m not sure how many of us would say that we are regularly “searching” in the same kind of sincere manner for wisdom or understanding. Yet, Scripture clearly states that wisdom and understanding are two of many traits that are worth far more than any kind of earthly profit.
The fascinating part about Proverbs 3:13-14 (and even verses 19-20) is that “wisdom” is discussed separately from “understanding.” So really, what is the difference? According to other Bible passages that use the same words, wisdom is often referred to as “doing the right thing in a given situation” or “having insight into the true nature of things.” On the other hand, “understanding” is described to mean “the ability to find meaning from a set of facts.” While, in this day and age, knowing more and having a strong analytical mind is reputable, how many of us can honestly say that we actively seek wisdom in the same manner? Extracting meaning is an incredibly helpful skill, but doing the right thing is often the more difficult task. Regardless, both wisdom and understanding are traits that only come from God. He grants it freely to those who are willing to ask and seek Him about it.
Week 21 Challenge
This week, ask God to grant you wisdom and understanding beyond both your age and beyond your level of life experience. Seek wisdom, because He promised that the outcome is absolute; you will obtain something far more valuable than earthly treasures.
MAY 17, 2017
WEEK 20: AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
May 14 - May 20, 2017
But the king [David] said to Araunah, "No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing." 2 Samuel 24:24 (ESV)
Have you ever been to a potluck event where clearly some people brought the cheapest food item possible? The irony of this is that these are often the very same individuals who eat the most at the event. (Note: If someone was unable to purchase better items because of financial troubles, that’s totally understandable.) However, I am talking about those who are definitely generous towards themselves, but are awfully hesitant when it comes to blessing others.
In this scene, we see King David was instructed by Gad to erect an altar to God on Araunah’s threshing floor. Mind you, this is not just any land because in fact this land was on Mt. Moriah. Mt. Moriah was the place that Abraham offered Isaac up to God, and it was also in this nearby area that Jesus would eventually die for the atonement for the sins of all mankind.
David was not a skimpy giver. He refused to give God his leftovers. He also refused to serve, worship or praise God without all of his heart. I don’t think God ever showed Himself to be nitpicky about the amount or volume that people offer to Him, but He always included stories in Scripture about His concern towards the state of His children’s hearts when we worship Him. I think these very moments reveal more examples of why David was a man who truly pursued after God’s heart. His worship was not out of habit or ritualism; he worshipped His God from a place of love, humility and thankfulness.
Week 20 Challenge
Is there any part of your life in which you may be conveniently offering worship to God?
Here are some questions to get your mind rolling:
This week, ask the Holy Spirit to help you check the state of your heart —that ultimately all of our worship may be out of love, humility and thankfulness.
MAY 10, 2017
Grace, Hans, and Issac Lui
"There is a saying, “Home is where the heart is.” A home is not merely a house or the things inside. It is rather made up of the memories and the people; a safe place for a person to bring all of their burdens and share their joy. Pathway always gives me a feeling that “I’m home.” I still vividly remember the first thing my husband Hans and I both said to each other after walking out from our very first worship service at Pathway: "This is it!" When a person is home, he or she becomes part of the family. No longer would they consider themselves as guests who stay briefly and are served, but rather as members of the family who joyfully serve each other with love.
For the past few years, our whole family has been serving as part of the Operation Christmas Child team. We helped with organizing fundraisers, shopping for items to pack in the shoeboxes, filling the boxes with gifts during the packing parties, and even transporting boxes to the drop-off location. Not only do we connect with others in the Pathway community, we get the chance to reach out to communities around the world. By serving as a family, we create so many fond memories of our own."
-The Lui Family
MAY 08, 2017
WEEK 18: WHAT IS GOD'S WILL FOR MY LIFE?
May 7 - May 13, 2017
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified… Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 5:16-18 (ESV)
One of the most common questions that I used to hear when I was serving in both youth and college ministry was, “What is God’s will for my life?” This question was often asked in tandem with other questions like, “What college does God want me to go to? Does God want me to date this person? What career does God want me to choose? Is God’s will for me to eventually marry this person?” Although these are good questions to discuss with God, His will for all of us may be more clear-cut and simple than we would think.
In these passages, the Apostle Paul affirms and encourages the church of Thessalonica. He is relieved to hear that they are still walking strong in their faith even in the midst of temptation and suffering. Most interestingly, he clearly states the overarching will of God for all believers.
Paul shares that it is God’s will for us to:
Week 19 Challenge
Are you carrying out the will of God in your life? Which area are you most lacking?
This week, hone in on the area you feel you could focus more on and ask the Holy Spirit to continue to help you live out God’s will in all of these ways.
MAY 4, 2017
"If I only had one word to describe Pathway, I would call it "Home." The melodies and words of God through Pastor Bob's sermons and the songs we sing bring comfort and peace to my heart when I'm hurt or confused. When I'm alone and helpless, I have brothers and sisters here who support, listen and always pray for me. God brought me back here during a dark and hopeless time of my life, and He gave me a new life. He gave me a chance to forgive, self-reflect and be strong.
I like how Pathway continues to give and help the community through outreach opportunities like Operation Christmas Child year after year with so much kindness and generosity. This is an effort of the entire church. I pray that God will continue to do work and bless our church as a group and bless each individual and family.
Thanks be to God for always keeping His promises and miracles. Recently, I landed a full-time permanent job with great benefits and co-workers. This is more than I had ever imagined or prayed for. I believe my new life is going in a direction He had planned and promised. I hope God will continue to work in my life and my heart to serve our home called Pathway."
MAY 02, 2017
WEEK 18: WHY PRAY, DOESN'T GOD ALREADY KNOW?
April 30- May 6, 2017
Jesus called them and said, "What do you want me to do for you?" Matthew 20.32 (ESV)
Have you ever wondered what the point of prayer is? Some of us, even longtime believers, may be wondering, why should we pray when He already knows our concerns and needs?
In this passage, Jesus leaves Jericho and notices two blind men on the side of the road. They call out to Him for help and mercy even though they know the crowd is shushing them. If anything it makes them cry out even harder. That’s when Jesus stops and asks them a simple question, “What do you mean me to do for you?” If you think about it, it’s an interesting choice of a question. Didn’t Jesus already know what they needed? They wanted to see! Yet, Jesus still asked the seemingly obvious question that allowed them the opportunity to begin or deepen their personal relationship with Him.
Prayer is not just leaving God voicemail messages to keep Him in the loop about what is going on in our lives. It wasn’t meant to be a one-dimensional interaction. Yes, God does like to hear directly from us about everything, even the petty stuff, but prayer is far more than that. Prayer is ultimately for God’s glory, but the grace of God allows prayer to also benefit us immensely as well. When we pray, it builds and deepens our relationship with Him because we are spending time in His presence, allowing Him to speak to us and revealing our dire dependency and thankfulness towards Him.
Week 18 Challenge
APRIL 19, 2017
"At first, it felt like finding Pathway was by chance but it no longer feels like a coincidence. I had been searching for a church for almost a year when a friend mentioned Pathway and later invited me to attend service. I felt really welcomed by all the brothers and sisters there that with a few encouraging words, I immediately plugged into a Community Group (CG). Since then, I've been so blessed to be part of a CG and to have met so many wonderful people whose love for Jesus and for others is really inspiring. I was looking for an openness and honesty within a church community and I was touched by the sincerity of the individuals in Pathway's community. I'm truly thankful to be walking in Christ together with my brothers and sisters and I pray that Pathway continues to embrace others as God has embraced all of the people at Pathway!"
APRIL 26, 2017
WEEK 16: ARE YOU AN INTERNAL PROCESSOR
April 23- April 29, 2017
"Then David said in his heart, "Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines." 1 Samuel 27:1 (ESV)
I remember the day my dad had his stroke. It was the same rainy day that I totaled my mom’s car. It was also the same month that a ton of more than not-so-good things happened. When one thing crumbles, everything else seems to crumble, doesn’t it? I was internally processing all of these incidents on my own and they were compounding together into a giant overwhelming wave that hovered over me. I didn’t really talk with God, but instead found myself praying at Him for help. I was keeping my prayers a one way conversation with God where I did most of the talking, failing to realize that a relationship is a two way conversation.
When we get tired of trusting God, we end up feeling incredibly discouraged and stuck in despair. This is what also happened to David. He had been running from Saul for probably years and at this point of weariness, he completely forgot God’s past faithfulness and deliverance in his life. Instead, David internally processed the whole situation and hopelessly ran away into enemy territory. He ended up dwelling in this “wrong place” for over a year until God lined up his circumstances so that he was forced to leave. During this time, David neither wrote any psalms nor consulted with God like he had previously done.
When our calling as followers of Christ is to deny ourselves and daily take up our cross (Matt. 16:24), it means that the reality of our lives will undoubtedly include episodes of walking through hardships in faith and perseverance. Yet the story is never done here. Don’t forget, God called this same discouraged and weary David “a man after His own heart.” God looks at our lives as a whole. He understands that our walk with Him is part of a journey. All He asks is that when we fail and fall along the way, we still look to Him and ask for His guidance.
Week 17 Challenge
"One of the most rewarding moments of 2016 was having the opportunity to serve at Pathway Fall Retreat. Anyone who came out to our first retreat prep meeting could see that people were excited to serve the body. Many on the team had attended our past retreats and were eager to be a part of helping make the next one just as amazing. Although there were many needed areas for preparation, God truly equipped our team to bring everything together in the end. From finding the speaker to securing the retreat site, making announcements, and most of all praying for the retreat, the team was able to experience God's guidance and faithfulness throughout the entire process.
To no surprise, we ran into road blocks along the way, literally. Cars were stuck in traffic, and getting the retreat started on time, let alone on a Friday night, was nearly impossible. Yet, as people trickled into the retreat site, many brought ready hearts and were moved by His presence during worship. Even more, in between sessions, people began to engage and interact with people they hadn't met before. Witnessing people encountering God and building community helped affirm my strong desire to continually serve our church. God presented an opportunity to really serve Him and undoubtedly, I consider it a blessing to be able to serve my church and community to further His kingdom."
APRIL 17, 2017
WEEK 16: HUNGER AND THIRST
April 16- April 22, 2017
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." Matthew 5:6 (ESV)
Carne asada tacos. Korean BBQ. Fried Chicken. You name it. We all have that friend who loves food or maybe that friend is you. Your foodie friend is probably an elite Yelp reviewer, has their go-to list of hole-in the wall places to hit up, and is the first one to try the new restaurant that just opened up in town. But, you know what's terrifying? When that friend doesn't have an appetite. You know something has gone terribly wrong.
A loss of appetite is a sign that you're not doing well, whether that is physical, emotional or mental. In the same way, a loss of hunger and thirst for God is an indicator of our spiritual sickness.
In the beatitudes, Jesus shares that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are considered blessed and will be satisfied. What does hungering and thirsting for righteousness even mean? Based on the next couple of verses in this passage, righteousness can be broken down into three simple parts. First of all, righteousness is only possible for us because of Christ's atonement for our sins on the cross. A righteous believer has a passionate love for God and lives in the pursuit of becoming more like Jesus— whose character embodies mercy, purity and peace. If even Jesus held this kind of "zeal for his Father's house" (John 2:17), aren’t we also encouraged to carry this same kind of thirst for our Father and His people?
Week 16 Challenge
On a scale of 1-10 (1 being very sick and 10 being very healthy), how spiritually healthy or sick do you think you are at this very moment?
The Underratedness of Thankfulness
Preparing our hearts for Easter
By Grace Song
Thankfulness is deeply underrated. As my friend recently shared with me, “I realize lately I’ve become super grumbly, and partly because my coworkers cultivate that attitude. Sometimes I wanna think, ‘Well, we’re all just keeping it real.’ But is that reality? We have so much to be thankful for. Oftentimes we just have the wrong perspective.” When I read my friend’s text message, I felt a deep mourning in my heart because I understood firsthand how she felt.
With just a few days remaining before Good Friday and Easter, I wanted to share some words on thankfulness that God has been speaking to me lately. In thinking about what it means to live a cross-centered life, I realized that my mind was more focused on the things that I didn’t have rather than the wealth of love and goodness I have in Christ. Looking at my life situation right now, in terms of my career, my finances, my social life, my singlehood, and my independence, I am tempted to consider all these areas of life with a worldly perspective. I forget the riches that I have in Christ because of His work on the cross. I forget about my sins that once held me under God’s wrath and condemnation (because He is just and is true to His perfect, flawless Word). I forget about my wretchedness as a sinner who was once lost but is now found.
Jesus, in all His majesty, followed the will of the Father and came down to earth as a lowly baby born in a manger. And not only that, but He lived a sinless life, continually shepherding and teaching His disciples and followers, loving on people who didn’t deserve to be loved. He was then “was pierced for our transgressions … crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). And after three days He rose again, conquering sin and death once for all, giving us ultimate hope and attributing to God all power and glory.
The Gospel is the most beautiful love story ever told. It’s also the truest love story ever told, and we get to be a part of it as well. To think that Jesus died (while I was yet a sinner) so that I could live in righteousness and peace before God brings nothing but feelings of thankfulness. As we prepare our hearts for Good Friday and Easter, let’s put aside our grumbling that comes from the world and instead put on thankfulness. Let’s remember that we are healed by His wounds and that we have everything we could ever possibly desire or need in Christ. His work on the cross is more than enough for us.
Going back to what my friend said, the reality around us is all about Christ and what He has done. Yes, we have our brokenness, our pains, our shortcomings and difficult circumstances in life--and Jesus does care about those things, more than we’ll ever know. But in order to truly ‘keep it real,’ we should face the true reality that surrounds us with everlasting grace and hope: Christ Jesus died for us so that we could live the life that is truly life. That’s reality. Let’s live the next several days with peace and thankfulness in our hearts. Thankfulness can never be overrated when it comes to Jesus.
Jesus, help us to grasp the depth and ugliness of our sin, so that we might better understand how high, how deep, how long, how wide Your love is. Help us to know the reality of the cross, and foster in us a true thankfulness from within, and let it be poured out onto every aspect of our lives and all the people we meet. Give us the courage to be thankful in a world that is not thankful towards its Creator. Thank You Jesus for loving us and making a way for us to live our lives with eternity in mind. Amen.
Hope to see you all at the Good Friday and Easter services!
APRIL 10, 2017
WEEK 15: THE KING'S PRIORITIES
April 9 - April 16, 2017
"Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.”
1 Samuel 8.7 (ESV)
If you knew this next week would be the last week of your life, what would you be doing?
Rewind to 1,984 years ago, on this very Monday. Jesus was walking his last few days on earth before the biggest moment in the history of all mankind; it was four days before his crucifixion to be exact.
Now, let’s rewind another 1,000 years to 1 Samuel. The Israelites have been waiting for their Messiah for a very long time. They were tired of waiting and wanted to be like the other nations who had a human king. They couldn’t trust that God would come through in the fashion and timing that they wanted Him to. In other words, they were telling God that He was both not enough for them and that they had a better plan.
I think we struggle with these same kinds of internal battles within our own lives. Sometimes, we can’t trust that God will actually provide for our finances, find us a job or a spouse, repair a broken marriage, or even that He will lead our loved ones to salvation. Yet, remember this, in Jesus’ last week on earth, his primary concern was to help people wake up and turn to God. He wanted to break people’s expectations of what He should be like, should say or should do. He wanted people to care about God's priorities while simultaneously trusting that His work would be done in His way and in His timing.
Fast-forward back to that Monday. From the lesson of the fig tree that he cursed to the overturning of the temple, Jesus wanted to make it clear that it wasn’t about meeting people’s expectations of Him. He was only concerned about doing the work of God and wanted other people to be on the same page.
If Jesus is my King and I am a child of his Kingdom family, I don’t get to set the rules or dictate the timing of God’s plan. I trust wholeheartedly that Jesus is the rightful King and He will do whatever will bring God glory. We must only pray in faith as we strive to produce fruit, give pure worship and stay concerned about loving God and loving others, the very things that move the heart of God.
Week 15 Challenge
APRIL 5, 2017
"I grew up without church or anything much like it, except for maybe Boy Scouts. And even though I started attending church in grad school and got baptized, I don’t think I really got it – I was still sad and lonely. Mostly I attended service and never felt like I belonged.
Fast forward to a few years ago. I was out of work, discouraged, and extremely depressed. On our first visit to Pathway, things just felt right so we signed up to “try” a Community Group (CG).
They’ve been our church family ever since. Each week we meet to share our lives and what it means to live out our faith in the real world. They took me in at my most awkward and depressed stage. They listened to and accepted me, and then showed me that they were all real, imperfect, sometimes awkward people who were still trying to learn and love. In a way nothing else has, it has taught me and keeps teaching me that God really loves me - that He loves all of us.
Years ago, I never would've thought I'd be looking forward to meeting with my church group every Friday night, but here I am. They’re my church family and a part of my life, and it’s hard to imagine ever going back to the way things were before."
APRIL 3, 2017
WEEK 14: ACTIVE WAITING
April 2 - April 8, 2017
“But Hannah answered, ‘No, my lord [Eli the priest], I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation’... Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.”
1 Samuel 1.15-18 (ESV)
Like many other believers, I find myself spending the majority of my prayer time lifting prayer requests to God. I believe that there is a certain raw connection that is made when we are honest with Him by telling Him what is really bugging us.
Much like us, Hannah was frustrated because she wanted something from God. She wanted a child, but God had closed her womb (unbeknownst to her) for a greater purpose. Yet, in her time of anxious waiting, she poured out her soul to God regularly as a posture of active waiting. Two things to note here: First, Hannah did not associate her worth with her lack of something or even her unanswered prayers. She understood her worth as a child of God. Second, when she finished her prayer, her face changed. She had faith in God’s promises, regardless of the outcome.
When we lack something (whether it be a job, spouse, money, children, health, wisdom, or whatever else), we often feel more insecure than ever. We question if God really cares or if we did something wrong to fall out of favor with Him. What God wants from us is a posture of active waiting. He wants us to be honest with our frustrations, anxiety and bitterness towards our circumstances and even towards God Himself.
Week 14 Challenge
MARCH 31, 2017
THE WORD OF THE LORD IS FOREVER
by Grace Song
Most of us can confidently say with our mouths that the Word of God is powerful, able to soften the hardest of hearts. But when doubt overtakes me, personally, I find it hard to stay confidently grounded in God’s Word. I tend to doubt, asking questions like, “Is God really going to provide for me?” or “Is this really happening to me for my good?” And I think most of you who are reading this might be able to relate. We let our circumstances wipe out what the Holy Spirit has been teaching us throughout our redeemed lives.
But the fact is, circumstances are merely… circumstances. They are ultimately temporary, as opposed to eternal or infinite. The conditions of our own lives as well as around the world are not forever. Our lives on earth are not forever.
You can contrast this to the Word of God, which is forever: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8 ESV). How seriously do we take this verse? I honestly can say that I usually would nod my head in agreement when I hear or read it, but how much do I really believe it?
"God knew we needed a manual. And His manual is seriously the best, covering everything we need to know."
The truth is, when trials come, we have something eternal by which we can be encouraged and uplifted: God’s Word. And this is why our pastors at Pathway as well as so many other pastors and teachers around the world tell us to memorize Scripture. God knew we needed a manual. And His manual is seriously the best, covering everything we need to know.
The beautiful thing about not only reading but also memorizing and meditating on Scripture is that when we do, those truths lodge themselves into our hearts, and they’re there to stay. So, whenever you start to worry about something in your life, you can proclaim Philippians 4:6-7, which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (NIV). Or if you have doubts about whether remaining abstinent is really something that is beneficial for you, you can proclaim in your heart (or out loud, whatever floats your boat): “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18 ESV).
We are going to struggle; there is no doubt about that. So when we run into trials of all kinds, we can drop those truth bombs in order to resist temptations and doubts, and instead focus on God’s promises rather than our circumstances. So like the psalmist in Psalm 119, we can confidently proclaim, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (verse 11, NIV). This psalmist seriously and truly knew the value of God’s Word.
For me, I often times write myself off as not being experienced enough in life, or not having gone through as many struggles as other people. I at times think myself naive about the ways and realities of life. And maybe I am, in some ways. But the problem with this is that when I see verses about God’s provisions and His promises, I of course initially think, “Yes! God will always provide for me, regardless of how much money I earn or what the economy looks like. There is no need to worry.” But then I start to listen to the world and its pressures and then find myself doubting: “I’m just naive. Yeah, God does provide, but reality is kicking in, and I need to strive harder on my own strength to earn more money and guarantee that my future children can go to college and so that I can live a happy and comfortable life where I can travel, spend a little money here and there for myself, and save up more for my future” (yeah, I worry and make excuses in run-on sentences). I feel that when I doubt, I am essentially adding to God’s Word and definitely not trusting in His promises and in His truths.
"Because regardless of what the world might say, I am not a happy-go-lucky Christian living in an idealistic La La Land. Nor am I believing that God will reward my faith by giving me a comfortable life full of prosperity and riches. I am simply believing in and holding onto the truth..."
The fact is, hiding away God’s Word in my heart regarding finances and provisions will only help me in the future if and when I do struggle (I know I will). I can always fall back on His Word. Nothing can change His promise to care for me. He is sovereign. I’m learning to not disregard what the Holy Spirit has been teaching me through His Word and to not write myself off as naive. Because regardless of what the world might say, I am not a happy-go-lucky Christian living in an idealistic La La Land. Nor am I believing that God will reward my faith by giving me a comfortable life full of prosperity and riches. I am simply believing in and holding onto the truth, which says “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6). It’s not necessarily about some distant God giving me good things in life for the sake of providing--it’s about being with and knowing God our Provider.
There’s a Christian writer named Vaneetha Rendall Risner who says, “God turned my ‘what-if’ to ‘even-if.’” You can watch the video here. She essentially encourages us to stop asking ‘what if’ in regards to our circumstances, and focus on His promises--that ‘even if’ we go through trials, He will bless us and reveal more of His steadfast love. That’s the power of believing in God’s eternal, living, active, and loving Word.
MARCH 27, 2017
WEEK 13: STEALING GOD'S THUNDER
March 26 - April 1, 2017
“The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, 'My own hand has saved me.” Judges 7.2 (ESV)
When someone succeeds, we say things like, “I knew she could do it because she’s talented and has a lot of experience” or “Of course, he got the job, he’s smart and he graduated from xyz.” Both of these statements may seem like great compliments, and certainly in the worldly sense they are. However, these statements actually give glory to the individual. In other words, God was not needed in the equation to make things happen.
In the true story of Gideon and the Israelites, 32,000 was a very small number and a fraction of the 132,000-member Midianite army (To be clear, it was one sixth of their opposing army). Yet, in God’s eyes, he wanted the odds to be slimmer, even down to 300 men. God not only wanted His people to trust Him, but also wanted to use this situation as a way to bring Him glory. In other words, God wanted it to be crystal clear that He was the only way to makes things happen.
Sometimes, God does allow us to be in impossible life situations where all odds are against us. Like we read, He can place us in these types of “impossible” circumstances, so that others may be in awe of Him and ultimately become worshippers of the one true God. The question is, will you allow God to write your life story to magnify His name instead of your own?
Week 13 Challenge
How can you give more glory to God in both your successes and your failures?
MARCH 22, 2017
"Up until recently, I lead the Holy and Blessed Community Group (CG). I think CG is an important integral part of our journey in God. We all need accountability partners; some people have an accountability partner outside of church but I think it is important to have a good accountability partner within the church. Like individual families making up the society, I think the CG is the foundation of the church. I think it would be a mistake to think that one can be a strong believer without a strong accountability group (CG). We need someone who can mentally and physically lift us up when we are down."
MARCH 21, 2017
WEEK 12: WHEN GOD SEEMS LATE
March 19 - March 25, 2017
“At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.” Psalms 69.13 (ESV)
“I don't pray because it doesn't work. Prayer doesn't fix anything. Bad things happen anyway.” This is a quote from the ever popular novelist turned screenwriter and producer Nicholas Sparks a.k.a. the dude who wrote “A Walk to Remember,” “The Notebook” and other bestselling romance novels.
I think many of us actually think similarly even though we are believers. We’ve tried praying the same prayer sometimes for months, years or even decades and those prayers are still unanswered. It’s frustrating because often times than not those long term prayers are for good things like the salvation of a loved one, finding a job, getting married, getting healed or experiencing breakthroughs of sin. So, why does God seem so late in answering these prayers?
David had his own long-term prayer—ultimately he wanted deliverance from his tiring and seemingly never-ending bad circumstances. Yet, David understood the character of God. He believed that ultimately His Father did care about his present suffering. He believed that God had been faithful in the past and that he would be faithful today. He truly understood that God’s thoughts were not his thoughts, neither were his ways God’s ways.
Week 12 Challenge
This week, try praying like David and pursue God’s heart:
“In your perfect timing and out of your abundant love and steadfast faithfulness towards me, your child, please answer my prayer. I will trust You, Father God because Your ways are higher.”
MARCH 16, 2017
Growing up I had a dream to change the world in my lifetime. I was in love with life, humanity, and the world as a whole. My goal was to make it better. I didn't have a plan, but I figured I would positively impact the world through a scientific breakthrough, a contribution to technology, or by direct service to the community. This all changed when I started seeking God and following Him!
The first thing that changed was my priorities. Through personal trials and struggles with humility, I learned (still learning) to put the Lord first. Surprisingly, this paradigm shift didn't change my original goal, but it changed the lens which I view life, humanity, and the world through. It also completely changed my approach to pursuing my dreams. God has a plan for me!
One way God is revealing his plans for me is through the Bible, and coincidentally through the actions of Paul, the Apostle. Paul changed the world through his commitment to God and his commitment to strengthening the local churches. Following his example, I enjoy serving in the Children's Ministry in order to positively influence future generations. God has more for me though as the race is long and I must strive forward.
God is currently leading me to invest and strengthen other portions of the church body. I am currently seeking God's plan for me in this area. In the meantime, a simple step forward is to get to know you better. There are many brothers and sisters at Pathway that I can create relationships with. I will be reaching out to you or feel free to say hi to me!
MARCH 13, 2017
WEEK 11: ROYAL AMNESIA
March 12 - March 18, 2017
“So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Galatians 4:7 (ESV)
“Several years ago, I felt God was guiding me towards a very bold career decision—to purchase a small business. It didn’t make worldly sense to take such a large risk when all I really wanted was a well-paying job to begin paying off my mountainous student loans. The next couple of years were grueling to say the least, but the worst part of it all was that my relationship with God suffered. It became cold, distant and stagnant like it had never been before. In that season, I really saw God as my boss. I was doing what He had asked me to do and I was enduring through the hardships. So, what was the problem?
Paul’s strong message to the church of Galatia comes from his deep care and concern for the people. He heard news that the Galatian believers were primarily relating to God on keeping His laws a.k.a. good Christian behavior. They were still acting like God’s slaves instead of sons and daughters of the one true King. This kind of relationship with God prevented them from being able to worship Him in freedom and serve Him with the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Galatians served in ministry and lived morally as Christians should. Yet, Paul knew it would only be a matter of time until the Galatians would burn out. He knew that it would only be a matter of time until they completely forget their royal identity and ultimately lose their intimacy with God. Believers were not meant to live in this manner. Paul did not want believers to forget that God was foremost their Father, not their boss.
Week 11 Challenge
“The only person who dares wake up a king at 3:00 AM for a glass of water is a child. We have that kind of access.” – Timothy Keller
This week, approach God as His child—no filter, just raw words and emotions.
If you’re hurting, tell Him. If you’re short on money, ask Him. If you want something, nudge Him. And meanwhile, you’ve got to trust that He will respond to you, even if it may be in His time and in His way as He sees best fit.
MARCH 8, 2017
GINA & DAVID PARK
"David and I have been attending Pathway for over 5 years now. Within a few months we started checking out small groups and that's when we really got plugged in. Finding a community of Christ-followers was new for me, but so refreshing. Having sisters to confide in and be vulnerable with was initially scary but really freeing. Even now, I have to constantly remind my introverted self that I cannot run this race alone. And I so cherish my sisters who have lovingly encouraged me and kept me accountable along the way. Fast forward a few years since we first started attending, and now we are married and leading a co-ed CG together. Leading together has been a humbling and rewarding experience, especially in the early start of our marriage. God continues to show us through events and people that He is faithful always and that He's not done with us yet :) We're grateful for Pathway and the growth we've experienced here."
-Gina & David Park
MARCH 06, 2017
WEEK 10: THE GIFT OF FEAR
March 05 - March 12, 2017
“There is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes.” Psalm 36:1-2 (ESV)
“Besides being Christian, what do you look for in a spouse?” Before I got married, a handful of church sisters would often ask me this question. Actually, I still get asked the same question today! There are so many ways to answer this question, but after years, I chose a proficient answer to share with others. My answer is “I look for a man who fears God.” This may sound like some churchy, holy answer, but truthfully this answer was formed through years of contemplation, advice from my mentors and from my relationship with God. I believe a man who fears God is one who does not treat God or His people lightly.
Throughout Scripture, David openly stresses the importance of having a healthy fear of God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10). This teaching was passed down to his son Solomon who also declared the same truth everywhere in the book of Proverbs. So, why is having the fear of God so important? How does it lead to wisdom?
Any individual who fears the Lord begins to understand how amazing, almighty, and holy God truly is. It causes us to approach him with awe and submission because while God is all of those things, we definitely fall short. We cannot “flatter” ourselves by watering down sin or taking pride in it (like self-sufficiency or control). Instead, believers who fear God live in a manner that reflects both their desperate need for Him and their absolute trust in Him.
Week 10 Challenge
Everyday of this week, tell God that He is amazing. Tell Him that He is almighty. Tell God that He is holy. Tell him specifically why you believe He is all of these things.
In the words of John the Baptist, pray and ask Him to help you see God as greater and yourself as less so that you may become a believer who fears God
MARCH 1, 2017
PATHWAY MEMBER SPOTLIGHT:
"It's always interesting to reflect on the journey that God has for each of us through life and the spiritual "mile markers" along the way. Finding Pathway is one of those markers for me. My wife and I had just moved to the Bay Area from Chicago in the fall of 2012 and didn't really know anyone besides my brother who lives here and told me about Pathway. We were looking for a solid place to serve and grow. I think it was more rough on my wife initially as she left her family while I was returning to where I grew up as a kid. Slowly, God opened the doors to get the know this body. We started serving on the praise team together and got plugged into a community group where we've been challenged in our walk. I can confidently say that we are right where God intended us to be at this stage of our lives and look forward to seeing the next mile marker down the road."
(David Ahn, member for 4.5 years)
FEBRUARY 27, 2017
WEEK 9: UNEDITED STORIES
February 26 - March 04, 2017
“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.” Mark 5.19-20 (ESV)
In my CG (community group) at Pathway, we share weekly prayer requests. And by God’s grace, every couple of weeks, we get praise reports! We hear about God leading our members through financial breakthroughs, family breakthroughs, and especially spiritual breakthroughs. Sharing within our safe CG space, our members openly attribute their answered prayers to God’s workings and I can’t help but respond with “Wow” as I marvel at His power, faithfulness and love for His children.
During Jesus’ ministry in the Gerasenes, He meets a man with an unclean spirit. Jesus heals him by casting out the spirit. Immediately afterwards, Jesus instructs this man to go home to his friends and tell them what God has done for him and that God chose to show mercy on him.
It really got me thinking, how often do I openly share the unedited story of how God’s moving in my life and answering my prayers with family or friends who are either struggling in their faith or who are unbelievers? Even when I do share, I often fail to mention the full story—that I didn’t deserve it, that my CG has been praying with me for months, that it could not have been done without God. The next person I share my story with, I want to be more aware to share more of God’s fingerprints on my life so that ultimately His name may be exalted.
Week 9 Challenge
Tell your unedited story of how God is moving in your life (or about the last prayer He answered) to a friend or family member who is struggling with their faith or who is an unbeliever.
Let your story cause others to marvel and want to draw near to God.
Let your story bring Him glory and honor and praise.
FEBRUARY 22, 2017
"I would like to think that my path to attending Pathway (no pun intended) is no coincidence. I had just graduated college, moved back to the bay, and was in search of a new home church. I stuck with visiting the churches where I knew friends who were attending. But, none of the churches quite felt like home. During my search, I kept hearing about a church called Pathway, but I made excuses not to visit (i.e. didn't know where it was located, didn't know anyone there, etc). After a year of excuses, without knowing any details on location I agreed to attend a fundraiser event. You can probably guess where it was. I suppose God really wanted me to to check out Pathway. It has now been almost 11 years since I first started attending. Just as the community at Pathway has seen me grow from new college grad to now married mom, I have seen the community evolve and change so much. I am excited to see what the next chapter looks like!"
(Nancy Lee, member for 11 years)
FEBRUARY 20, 2017
WEEK 7: GOD IS NOT AN ADD-ON
February 19 - February 25, 2017
“And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 4.9 (ESV)
Jesus shared the Parable of the Sower to identify four different types of recipients of the Gospel. According to Jesus, the message is given freely to all, but the response is left up to each person.
What type of recipient are you?
The 1 st Type: The message is never received by the hardened heart and mind of the listeners.
The 2 nd Type: The message is received with enthusiasm. Listeners initially surrender their life to Christ and show some outward change of behavior. However, they do not fully transform from the inside. They do not regularly obey God because the cost is too great to sacrifice their own comfort or pleasure.
The 3 rd Type: Believers live with one foot in church and one foot out in the world. Their spending habits still reflect the cares of this world. They only maintain comfortable, reciprocal, or low-maintenance relationships. God is a mere addition in their lives. They don’t bear true fruit.
The Last Type: This last group hears the word, obeys God, pursues holiness, exudes transformation, produces fruit and ultimately directs others to Christ.
If you are a true disciple of Christ, you must strive to live in the manner that Christ has called us to. It is a high calling, but the truth is that if your life is not reflecting Christ, you are intentionally or unintentionally treating God with incredible dishonor.
Week 8 Challenge
If you can go a day without engaging with God, He may be an add-on in your life.
FEBRUARY 17, 2017
Reflections on Romans 8:
Intercession, the Whole Enchilada,
and the Love of God
At the tail-end of 2016, one of our members Chris Chen taught a Pathway University class, “Discover Romans.” We covered up to the end of Romans 8 (the halfway point) in 9 sessions (stay tuned for a Discover Romans Part 2!). Though our last class was at the beginning of December, I want to write a delayed reflection post on a couple of points we covered in our last session. This material is not only most fresh in my memory, but it also has really stayed with me in my heart up until now (and hopefully will stick to my very non-spongy sticky-proof brain!).
For those who are familiar with Romans, you know chapter 8 is basically WABAM! BOOM! PRAISE THE LORD!-worthy. Well, all of the Bible is, of course, super good. But Romans 8 really honestly makes me pound my chest and point to the heavens, singing praises to our God. I think I once read something written by a Bible scholar who said that if he had to get rid of the entire Bible but just keep one section, he’d keep Romans 8. And… I don’t disagree. But thank the Lord that’s just a hypothetical situation--let’s keep our Bibles intact.
In the latter half of Romans 8, the Apostle Paul talks about the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives. He says in verse 26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
I was so encouraged by this verse because:
I have felt many times that I didn’t know the exact words to pray when a friend or I myself was in a troubling situation--and knowing that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we are at a loss of prayerful words is comforting. He knows our needs and hurts. The Holy Spirit’s great omniscience is highlighted in this verse--and His omniscience is not snooty or just for the sake of being all-knowing. His omniscience is full of care and compassion, in fact to the point where He will pray for us when we feel we can’t pray on our own.
It says in the latter half of verse 34: Christ Jesus “is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Hebrews 7:25 also says, “Consequently, [Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” *Insert shocked-face emoji*: So… in addition to the Holy Spirit who prays for us, Jesus also prays for us too??? *Smirk-face emoji*: Yep, it’s true. *Crying-in-a-good-way-face emoji*: I sat there in class dumbstruck. Connecting these biblical truths really made me sit and give thanks to Him for His intercession. Jesus is praying for you right now. RIGHT NOW. In Heaven! Still praying. Even now? Yes. *Insert heart-eyes emoji*
"Jesus is praying for you right now. RIGHT NOW. In Heaven! Still praying. Even now? Yes."
And then a few verses later: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (v. 28). Here’s the first mentioning of the phrase “all things” in this passage. We’ll come back to this in a bit!
Paul goes on to say, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (vv. 29-30).
In class, we learned that this is kind of a bird’s-eye-view of our salvation, and that God’s calling to us is effectual, and part of this “unbreakable chain” that implies completeness and wholeness. I guess we can look at it this way: we (those who are called by God) are placed in this chain of unbreakable events, in which we have been predestined, called, justified, and will eventually be glorified. It’s the truth… It’s a promise. And part of Christianity 101 is that God never breaks His promises.
And the truth bombs just keep on comin’: verse 32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Again, ALL things--this time, implying blessings. But note verses 35-37, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” This time, the “all things” refers to suffering and hardships.
So if you put two and two together, and go back to verse 28 about how God works all things together for the good of those who love Him… Now we see that Paul really does mean ALL things. The good, the bad, the ugly; the blessings and the suffering; the sunshine and the rain--the whole enchilada. And in addition, “in all these things we are more than conquerors.” Not just conquerors, but MORE THAN conquerors. So much more, actually, because we know that He’ll keep His promise to glorify us. I still don’t know exactly what it means to be glorified by God, but it sounds pretty amazing, to put it lightly.
"There are so many layers to the Word of God; it invites us to work together to expound the text and marinate in its truth--together."
And lastly, Paul says that nothing can separate us from the love of God. How awesome is that! While sitting in this class, I remembered how wonderful it is to study God’s Word and be well-informed about the text’s true meaning. There are so many layers to the Word of God; it invites us to work together to expound the text and marinate in its truth--together. So here’s a big thank you to Pathway for providing these classes, and a thank you to those who teach Pathway U classes faithfully, and of course, just a big thank You to our Father who really, truly loves us, provides the Son and the Spirit to pray for us, and keeps us in the palm of His hand forever.
FEBRUARY 15, 2017
PATHWAY MEMBER SPOTLIGHT:
"I was referred to Pathway by friends and started attending services in the summer of 2015. This was a pivotal point in my life, as it was the first time I chose to go to church consistently on my own. For the first year or so, I stayed fairly reserved and absorbed God's Word from afar. Though reluctant, I joined a CG as it seemed to be the natural progression in my growth with Jesus. Looking back, I feel so incredibly blessed that God led me to make that decision as I have met irreplaceable brothers and sisters in Christ! My spiritual life as well as joy improved exponentially despite the stress of work and life outside of church. Though content with meeting new friends in the church, I still felt like there was more to be done. So with God's grace, over the last six months, I have committed to serving the Church's welcoming team, and I recently joined the Media team as well. I pray that with my skill set and passion, I can bring the well-deserved glory to God! It's hard to to really pinpoint one favorite memory or moment at Pathway since there are so many in my head, but I truly love seeing all the brothers and sisters gather once a month for fellowship and praise. The sincerity and faithfulness of everyone's hearts are nothing less than invigorating and inspirational. I am thankful to have found Pathway and am even more blessed to call it my home."
(Darren Tam, member for 6 months)
FEBRUARY 14, 2017
WEEK 7: HOW SERIOUS ARE YOU ABOUT HOLINESS?
February 12-February 18, 2017
“Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and my heart" Psalms 26:2 (NASB)
Despite all those cute messages on Valentine’s Day cards, bumper stickers, notebook covers, etc., do not trust your heart or your mind. The heart is highly deceptive and the mind can lead to errors and misunderstandings (Jer.17:9, Mk. 7:21, Rom. 3:10).
How many of us can sincerely ask God to test our minds and hearts regularly? It’s hard to do because it requires a deep level of humility and a courageous faith that truly believes the reexamination and trials that this task calls for will ultimately bring glory to God’s name.
David was able to make this kind of request before God because His primary focus was to live his life for the sake of God’s glory. He knew it would be incredibly uncomfortable, but that it would be worth it. He was willing and ready to wrestle with his own hardened sins, lazy rationalizations, and deceptive self-believing lies. This is why God has always deemed David a man after God’s heart.
Week 7 Challenge
FEBRUARY 8, 2017
Last year, I had the opportunity to drive by the home I grew up in as a child down in LA. It was our family's first home in the United States. I sat in my car for few minutes, staring at the apartment and reminiscing of the joyful times and even the sorrowful times. Whether the times were high or low, one constant remained: It was the first place I called home here in the States.
In many ways Pathway has been like that first home in my walk with God. I remember the first time I actually opened up the Bible outside of Sunday service, the times I actually got on my knees to pray, and the times spent in a small group where others sacrificed their time to encourage and grow with me. I also remember the first time I realized how much of a sinner I was, and how much more unbelievable His mercy and grace were and always will be. And it was in this home that I came to learn that an even more marvelous home is with Him in eternity.
Very much like my first home in the US, there have been high times and low times. And for as long as I call Pathway my home, I know that there will constantly be those waves. But as each wave has passed, I feel stronger in Him and closer to Him. With all the ups and downs, I realize how much I am growing in Him and becoming one step closer to the purpose He has for me from the beginning, which is for His name’s sake.
Many of you might be experiencing things that aren't going the way you expected today. What you’re experiencing may even feel unfair for you at this time. But through this, remember that you are being molded. So don't give up! In whatever circumstance seek Him with confidence, knowing that no struggle is outside of His perfect plan. Oh what it is to dwell in His house for all the days of our lives!
(MJ Cheong, member for 7 years)
FEBRUARY 7, 2017
WEEK 6: DOES GOD ACCEPT ALL WORSHIP?
February 5-February 11, 2017
“And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces." Leviticus 9.24 (ESV)
Let’s take a fun little quiz (don’t think, just answer):
In Leviticus, it was easier to see whether or not an offering was acceptable to Him. If it was impure or insincere, you either dropped dead or His presence (pillar of fire or clouds) was literally taken away. Today, there may not be as visible or clear sign about how God feels about what you’ve offered Him. However, His Word makes it clear. Whether it was a monetary offering or an act of obedience, He never accepted just any kind of worship from His children in the past and still today. He’s always been concerned about the state of our hearts. God accepts worship that is sincerely humble, deeply respectful and completely love-driven.
Week 6 Challenge
This week, before you do your quiet times, give offering, go to CG, or go to service, check your heart. Are you offering God a holy and pure-hearted worship?
FEBRUARY 1, 2017
WEEK 5: TIMELY DELAYS
JANUARY 29- FEBRUARY 4
When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, "Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him" Exodus 32:1 (ESV)
“I don’t trust that God will come through for me.” I have heard this phrase come out of my own mouth in the past and have also heard it being repeated within numerous small groups. Whether it was someone waiting to find a spouse or someone waiting to be set free from a financially difficult life, each found their own godless solutions to get the work done one way or another, by their own terms and timing. Less often, we are able to recognize that in that time of waiting, God is transforming us to become what He wants us to be—His child that is so humbly dependent, sharply aware, sacrificially serving, unconditionally trusting and absolutely loving towards their good, good Father.
It wasn’t one person’s idea to approach Aaron with “their” solution to encounter and see God for themselves. In fact, it was the Israelite people (as a whole) who all felt fed up with waiting for Moses to come down the mountain with God’s message and decided to create a golden calf to worship instead as their new visibly apparent, replacement god. Countless other incidents in the Bible reveal examples of people, much like us, who look for quicker and more convenient alternative solutions when God’s timing seems too late for comfort.
Week 5 Challenge
Have an honest chat with God about something or someone you’re still waiting for.
January 25, 2017
WEEK 4: MIND OVER MATTER
“Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.” Exodus 6:9 (ESV)
When it rains, it pours, doesn’t it? There are just certain weeks or even certain seasons when one thing after another seems to fall apart. It is in these moments that it feels the hardest to hear God’s voice and believe that He has good in mind for us. Seasons like these were frequent, even in the lives of Bible greats like Abraham, Moses and David, but each of them, regardless, clung to Him in the midst of their suffering, not because they weren’t struggling, but because they fought extremely hard to keep their eyes on the right goal.
Just a few chapters ago (Exodus 4:31), we read that the Israelites were filled with belief and were worshipping Him. Yet, when their situation under Pharaoh becomes worse than before and their spirits are left broken, whatever word of faith and encouragement they receive from God doesn’t sink in because their focus becomes their circumstance. It is no mistake that soon after, God reigns down ten plagues on Pharaoh and the people of Egypt. He wants to show them that He is God over all. But more importantly, He wants to remind His people that He is their only hope— He is their God.
Week 4 Challenge
Redirect yourself from focusing on the problems in front of you, and cling to your God who is your only hope.
I lift my eyes up unto the mountains / Where does my help come from? My help comes from You, Maker of Heaven / Creator of the earth Oh how I need You Lord, You are my only hope / You're my only prayer So I will wait for You to come and rescue me / To come and give me life
January 10, 2017
WEEK 3: KINGDOM INVESTMENT
“For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” Luke 16:8 (ESV)
Swimming in student loans galore—isn’t this the infamous burden of our generation? During my six years at private universities for my undergrad and post-grad life, all of my tuition and living expenses were paid by loans because of various family circumstances. The most challenging part of it all was that it was during this time that God asked me to trust Him and gently nudged me to faithfully tithe, generously give to those in my small group and commit to supporting a needy child in Malawi. Unmistakably, it was in this season that God allowed me to witness spiritual transformation and breakthroughs in people’s lives.
In Luke 16, Jesus wasn’t encouraging his disciples to become shrewd and partake in unjust acts. The “sons of this world” refers to unbelievers, while “sons of light” refers to his true followers. In this parable, Jesus points out that unbelievers think about more about the future impact of how they use their resources than some believers do. Jesus seriously wants us to think about the way that we spend the earthly gifts that He put in each of our possessions for the time being. He wants us to use what we have in a way that will actually matter in eternity. Do your financial goals and current spending patterns reflect that you are investing in God’s eternal kingdom?
Week 3 Challenge
Rethink and adjust your finances to helping people meet or grow closer to Christ.
WEEK 2: UNEXPECTED PLACES
“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” Gen. 28.16 (ESV)
Sometimes life suddenly hits you in the face, and you wonder what God could possibly be doing. It was only a couple of years ago that my grandmother passed away at the age of 77. This woman’s passing was no small deal in our family as she was the first generation Christian. Now, our family did not take the news well. It actually felt really unfair that she passed before my grandpa who had bad-mouthed Christianity for the majority of his life, saying that church was a well-run political scam.
I felt like God understood what I was going through, but I could not feel His presence. The woman who faithfully prayed for hours a day for our family had left so early to be with the Lord. It was a few days later that I found out my grandma’s church members ministered to my grandpa. That same week, my grandpa, who detested God for decades, declared Christ as His sweet Savior at the age of 82. It was undeniable that God was in this place of loss, sadness and chaos for my family, but we did not know it.
God is there where we do not think he should be or could be. In the exact moment we are sinning, He is sorrowful, but still there as He watches us stray. He is also where we didn’t even ask for Him to be, helping us miraculously breakthrough sin that we held onto for years. Now, Jacob had just been sent away from home after fooling his father Isaac for a blessing that technically belonged to his brother Esau. He was far from home, a sacred place where He knew his parents, Isaac and Rebekah, encountered God regularly. However, it is in this shameful, lonely and dark place that God reminds Jacob that He would be with him and will not leave him. Naturally, Jacob’s is stunned because he did not expect to meet with God in this kind of place.
Week 2 Challenge
Identify what spiritual season you are currently in.
Is it dry and unsteady, dark and lonely or refreshing and intimate?
If you are in a solid place, is there someone you know who is in a chaotic or difficult season?
January 6, 2017
WEEK 1: NAME
JANUARY 1-7, 2017
“Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” Gen. 11.4 (ESV)
More likely than not, it took your parents more than a few minutes to think of a name to give you before you were born. Personally, I have a very long name. My grandmother wanted a share in naming rights as did my mom and dad- thus my first name, first middle name, second middle name and last name. It wasn’t until I got married that I realized giving up my last name and embodying my husband’s last name would also mean that my behaviors and actions would ultimately affect my husband’s and even my in-laws’ reputation.
Making a name for oneself means drawing attention, respect, and glory onto oneself. The Israelites decided to build not only a city, but also a tower in order to make a name for themselves. They also did not want to be dispersed and spread out over the earth. Instead, they wanted to stay where they were and huddle in their comfort- and mind you this was just after God made an important point about them multiplying and filling the earth. This passage reveals so many levels of disobedience that it’s difficult to isolate one and let it sink in. Yet, the most offensive sin was that they were more concerned with finding ways to bring themselves glory and praise. Worship for God’s namesake was no longer a primary concern.
Week 1 Challenge
Make it a point to worship this week in a manner that gives glory to God’s name.
Be sure to keep the focus on how God reached out to you in spite of who you were before you committed your life to Him.
*Soli Deo Gloria= a Latin term for “Glory to God alone”
January 5, 2017
LIVING OUT THE WORD
Everything you need to know about Life Journaling
Pathway Bible Church has been following the Life Journal Reading Plan for several years now. So, whether you are an on-the-fencer, a newbie or a LJ veteran, we wanted to provide you with some refresher info on why Life Journaling (both in essence and in its format) has been a impactful tool in the lives of our church members as well as other believers worldwide.
Every believer knows that it is essential to “do your daily quiet time.” We also know that there are helpful ways to do this and not-as-helpful ways (like attempting to pray while laying in bed before you go to sleep).
What is Quiet Time (QT) and why should I do them?
Quiet time (QT) could include reading the Word, singing or declaring praise, bringing requests before God, listening for His voice, basking in His presence, and more.
But, how could journaling specifically help your QT?
Journaling is not only an excellent way streamline and process our thoughts, but it is also a helpful way to archive our conversations with God.
Both repetition and visuals (seeing the words on paper/digitally) are helpful because it helps embed His words into our minds and eventually seep His words into our hearts.
What is Life Journal (a.k.a. “LJ”)
This one-year chronological Bible reading plan* follows what is traditionally known as the “S.O.A.P” method. This method serves as a well-balanced guide to focus on Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer during our daily quiet times with God.
* This reading plan is chronologically organized. This means, for example, on the day that you read about David fleeing from Saul, you will also read David’s cries to God in the Psalms, chronicling how he felt about that experience.
Here’s how it works:
*For additional information and the full reading schedule, you can visit http://www.lifejournal.cc/
Missing Out on Christmas
By Ed Kim
“And she [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock at night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’ … And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.” - Luke 2:7-11,16 ESV
An acronym I learned not too long ago is ‘FOMO’. For my fellow slow acronym learners, FOMO stands for “Fear Of Missing Out”. People who have FOMO are afraid that in an event where they are not present, something memorable or amazing may happen, and they won’t be there to be a participant or a witness to that event. They try to attend every social event and would be disappointed if they were not invited. People who have FOMO would even adjust their previously scheduled events to squeeze another social event that they feel would be more fun or memorable.
I found out upon learning the acronym that I have a bit of the case of FOMO. I want to be where all the fun and action is. I don’t want to just hear about the amazing events from someone else’s memory, but have that memory too.
I remember back when I was in middle school, at the church I attended then, there was a rumor that a very famous Korean celebrity was going to be visiting one of the church services. None of my friends knew when, but we were all excited at the thought of seeing a famous celebrity. Unfortunately for me, my parents needed to go home and I never got to see her. I found out she arrived just 15 minutes after I left. She signed autographs and took pictures with my friends. I was the only one left out. I was devastated. My friends were giddy and wouldn’t stop talking about how pretty she was for almost a month.
I missed out.
Being someone who wants be there for all the cool and fun events and someone with a slight case of FOMO, I wonder where I would be at the birth of our King and Lord, Jesus Christ.
The birth of Jesus, to say the least, was very unusual. It would be a great understatement to say that the birth scene of Jesus was not befitting. Jesus was Christ, the Messiah, the Emmanuel, the Promised One. He was the one the nation of Israel had been waiting so long for.
But instead of being born in a grand palace or even in the temple surrounded by royalty or religious leaders, He was born in a manger – which is used to feed animals – in the company of animals.
It wasn’t epic. It wasn’t breathtaking. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t even ‘normal’.
The birth of a Savior, the Son of God, just happened, and there was no one in sight… except the shepherds.
The first to witness the birth of God in flesh weren’t the kings and queens, the priests and other religious leaders, or even just regular people, but the shepherds.
In that time period, shepherds were considered a lower class in the Jewish social ladder. They were considered similarly to that of tax collectors and poop sweepers.
In one of the greatest events to ever happen in all human history, the birth of our King, the Son of God, in flesh, the first to witness this glorious event were shepherds.
Where was everybody? Why the shepherds?
Sure, based on the what we read in Luke 2:8, it was night, so perhaps everyone was sleeping. And importantly, none of this, of course, was coincidence. It wasn’t a random turn of events that the shepherds were the first to witness the glorious event. God, through His angel, beckoned these shepherds to be the first witnesses. It was ordained with purpose. God allowed the shepherds to be the first witnesses, and have it so that Jesus was born in a manger because He came for the lowly, the poor, the downtrodden. Jesus was sent to earth to be the Good News to the poor, become the Freedom for the prisoners, and become the Sight for the blind (Luke 4:18). He needed to be born poor. Christ came for them.
Ironically, the religious leaders were the ones who were perhaps some of the most passionate in awaiting the coming of their savior, but they were not able to witness the birth of the Savior. They were probably sleeping just like everyone else.
For the people that missed out, this night was only just a night. For all the busy people who were in town or traveling because there was a regional census that was decreed, it was just a busy time of traveling. For the inn keepers and businessmen, perhaps this was just another day of great business.
However, to the shepherds, this day will forever be etched into their memories, as the day Christ was born. These lowly shepherds, who were just tending their flock, will remember that an angel of the Lord appeared to them to declare this Good News with a multitude of heavenly hosts appearing to praise God. To these social outcasts, they will remember the face of baby who is to be the Savior of the World.
Everyone else ... missed out.
What about us? And what about this Christmas?
Christmas is a day we celebrate and remember the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.
However, Christmas has become lost in so many places and in so many people’s hearts.
Christmas has become a day we exchange gifts, spend time with our families and forget for a moment our stress from work and school.
It has become forgotten that Christmas was and is about Jesus Christ, the greatest gift of all, and that He came so that we can have freedom from the penalty of sin and death and become the adopted family of God.
And when Christmas becomes a day about us and not about Jesus Christ, we will miss out on Him. Just like how everyone else missed out because they were probably asleep that night, we will miss out because our eyes are closed towards Him and we are living in the dark.
This Christmas, I hope for all of us that this day will truly be about Jesus Christ. It’s not about relaxing on your days off, it’s not about the presents, or even about spending time with your family.
May we not miss out this Christmas or any other day, on experiencing the joy and hope of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Merry Christmas - Jesus is the Reason for the season.
No one likes PE. After my first week of high school PE, I just knew that I had to get out of it. The only way out was to join a sports team, and the only team that I was able to join without trying out was cross country. I mean, it's just running, right? How hard could it be? The first thing I learned about cross country was that it’s way more than “just running.” Another thing I learned was that in every cross country race, your goal is to exhaust all of your energy before crossing the finish line. You want to feel like you cannot take another step after the race is over. Although it may be hard for others to tell, you always knew whether you have given all that you've got, or you have some more left in your tank.
The theme of the Pathway retreat back in September was rest. During the retreat, as I was reflecting on all of the things that made me weary, I realized that the majority of those things were selfish in nature. I was tired because I was working toward my own selfish interests. I was tired because I was working to maintain my life on my own strength rather than relying on God to meet my needs. I was tired for the wrong reasons, and even with those wrong reasons, I wasn’t tired enough. If I was honest with myself, just like when I was running cross country, I knew that I had more to give.I was not like the crowd of people we read about in Mark 5, hungry and exhausted, traveling long distances away from the comfort of their homes, in hopes to listen to the Messiah speak. I was not like the tired disciples being sent out two by two, and returning from a long journey, only to be greeted by more swarms of people wanting to see Jesus. In those moments, they were completely spent because they were seeking and obeying Jesus.When Jesus fed the crowd with five loaves of bread and two fish, and when Jesus took the disciples to a secluded place by themselves, I bet those were some of the sweetest and most restful moments of their lives. Not just because the moments were miraculous, but because the people were totally spent, hungry and drained, and needing to be replenished by Jesus.Similarly, next time I get a break like the retreat, I hope that I will be completely spent from seeking after God and obeying His words like the crowd and the disciples were. They were beyond the point where they could help themselves, and like them, I want to find myself so tired that only God could replenish me. Because I know that no matter how worn out I look or feel, God will provide the perfect rest so that I may carry on in hopes to bring Him more glory.
The Girl and Her Red Balloon – A story of death, truth, beauty, and life
by Theo Lee
There once and always will be that joy-filled girl,
the one that loved to dance with her beautiful red balloon.
The bond they shared blossomed through time unfurled,
the beginning and the end, never thought to come so soon.
The red balloon was such a wonderful gift,
For whenever the waves would shimmer in her eyes,
the red balloon would lift her by the point of her chin,
as if love always reminded the answer is beyond the sky.
While looking up at her red balloon the girl thought to herself,
it is like looking into the reflection of a pomegranate seed,
sinking upwards above in the blue sky abyss,
draped with curtains of clouds, dispersing through the sea.
Reminding her of the day when the string she must cast.
Never forgetting the red balloon was not only for her.
How could it be, that letting go of something so vast,
could make one's heart grieve with a heaviness so sure?
In her hand she saw the imprinted line where the thread once lay.
Aware it was never herself holding the beloved near,
but always drawing her dear was the One who always gave.
There was no letting go, only a severance within time's veneer.
For her hand was not that which held the red balloon close,
as she saw the remaining string was anchored around her heart.
Within the thread were woven colors of memories long ago,
that without eternal meaning would forever fall apart.
Wandering and seeking, the girl came to a cliff's edge,
the precipice composed of an heirloom of stars.
The kind from which royal tapestries are sketched.
She gently untied the thread to lay upon the altar.
The heirloom came alive and danced on strings of gold,
spurring with agility the tapestry began to fly.
Into the horizon of angels did the story unfold,
of the glory of Jesus and His victory on high.
For He is the reason the tapestry is written.
He is the Word that holds the universe together.
His is the blood that frees lives from prison,
free like His threaded flock that ascend with Him forever.
For never the gifts alone shall be the apple of the eye,
although forever cherished like a mysterious treasure.
As the red balloon soared to diminish within the sky,
all that remained was an aching glory without measure,
For the tapestry in the stars, a waving banner that flies,
left her with awe-filled gratitude for the love of the Giver.
Through eyes of grief-filled tears, through the perspective of God,
the girl gazed upon the Truth with a sighing heart of peace.
Not for the memories of promise and of hope said aloud,
but for the glory of Jesus, His passion, the beauty He brings.
She traced along the imprint in her hand with her fingers,
and will always feel the presence of the memory around her heart.
Knowing what is truth, meaning, love in the face of Jesus,
every second, every moment, is a part of His new start.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” - John 14:1-7
It has already been several weeks since we finished up our Pathway University course 401: Discover Your Mission. I wanted to review and reflect on one of my favorite lessons learned during this class. We went over the participant’s guide for the book Becoming a Contagious Christian (by Mark Mittelberg, Bill Hybels, and Lee Strobel), while also watching the video lessons that correspond with each chapter. I normally think that these types of videos are pretty cheesy, and… yes, it was a bit cheesy at some parts, but most of the time it was just throwing some serious truth bombs straight at our hearts. It ended up having so many practical implications and I think we ultimately saw more of God’s heart for evangelism through it all.
In one of the chapters, the authors introduce the idea of 6 different evangelism styles: Direct, Intellectual, Testimonial, Interpersonal, Invitational, and Serving. We all took a questionnaire and added up our scores to determine our primary and secondary styles of evangelism. I scored highest on Interpersonal and Serving (I actually had to take it twice because I felt like I wasn’t being honest the first time around… I seriously have the hardest time answering these personality test questions. Who really am I? Am I really an INFJ? I honestly am not sure. I’ll have to take the Myers-Briggs again. For the 6th time).
I wouldn’t say I’m the most outgoing person out there, and if you know me, you would probably agree. I grew up being taught to admire those who are bold in their faith, as I saw some of the kids in my youth group at the time become mini preachers at their schools (while I stayed quiet in class and ate my really good sack lunches with my three friends during lunch time). And inevitably, I compared myself to these bold and courageous Christians, usually degrading myself and my more reserved personality. I’m not the most eloquent speaker (that’s why I’m writing this), people tend to not hear me, and I get cut off mid-sentence about once a day at least (it doesn’t even phase me no mo’).
But… THAT’S OKAY! The main point of this chapter was to encourage us and let us know that God has made each one of us fearfully and wonderfully (Psalm 139), meaning we are purposefully different and relate to others in unique ways. I thought back on all the times I wished I had more boldness (in the typical sense of the word) like the Apostle Paul or like Sarah, my fellow CG sister. I thought back on all the times I wished I was able to reason with and prove to people that God created the world and all of the people in it (I tried reading Ken Ham’s The Answers Book... I didn’t get it. I fell asleep somewhere in chapter 3 and never picked it up again).
As I thought back on all these instances, I chuckled to myself because I had been so foolish to think that I needed to change my personality in order to love God by sharing His Gospel. I had wasted so much time worrying about what people would think if I didn’t have all the answers, or feeling really guilty because I didn’t speak boldly into another person’s life.
This is not to say that I can relax 100% and never get out of my comfort zone. But I think that it’s possible to get out of one’s comfort zone without trying to be someone else. If you like to have long conversations with other people over a meal, you are probably the Interpersonal style. So then, get out of your comfort zone by inviting some co-workers to dinner and get to know them in a more intentional way. Or if you like to do acts of service, why not do something for a person in need, and then tell them that God is the one who fuels that servant heart? It’s all about using those different styles for God’s purposes.
Just as Pastor Bob’s sermon series on work reminds us that God has no favoritism towards different kinds of jobs, no one evangelism style is better than another. And this reminds me of when the Apostle Paul talks about the members of the body and how they all have a different role to play. If everyone at our church was the Direct style, I think people would be afraid to visit our church. They would see us coming with our game faces, turn the other way, and never come back. It truly is beautiful the way that God orchestrates the local body to be filled with all kinds of people with different personalities, quirks, strengths, and weaknesses. The local church body is where we learn to work together to bring the Gospel to others.
And as the 401 lesson that week suggested, we can partner up with others who have different evangelism styles. If you have a non-Christian friend who struggles to understand the Bible or has a million questions about it, but you have more of a Serving style, then you can introduce that friend to someone else in the church who can better minister to them (I’m already thinking of those Bible scholars at Pathway… watch out!). But here’s an even greater challenge: don’t just introduce them to the Pathway Bible Scholar (PBS) and then leave--stick around and listen so that you can learn a thing or two as well. Church should be a place where we’re always learning and seeking truth.
With that said, if we strictly think in terms of our own styles, we may miss some golden opportunities to minister to people around us. Sometimes, we might be surprised and think, “Hey, I thought I wasn’t the testimonial type of person at all, but God really gave me the strength to talk about what He’s doing in my life to that person,” or “I usually hate inviting people to events because I’m scared they won’t have fun, but the Lord gave me this perfect opportunity to invite someone to a church event, and I put all those worries and people-pleasing tendencies behind me… and He used that for His glory.” God works in mysterious ways, and as we walk with Him, we’ll find that He never fails to surprise us. And whenever we feel weak or inadequate (which we are), we always, always have the option to pray.
So let’s pray for more opportunities to talk to, serve, approach, reason with, spend time with, and invite those who don’t know His great love. And let’s also pray that we mature in our thinking, for sometimes we are tempted to think that God can’t use us or that we are not “ready” to evangelize and build His Kingdom. And sometimes we feel guilty when we shouldn’t feel that way, and it causes us to focus on ourselves rather than on God. These are the kinds of prayers God loves to answer.
“[God] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
Keep your eyes peeled for the next 401 class! I’m excited to hear what kind of evangelism style you have :-)
A little over a year ago today, my wife and I made a commitment to become one; in flesh, in mind, and in spirit. By the grace of God, our lives intertwined, as “me, myself, and I” died and became “we, ours, and us.” Much to my surprise, if you were to ask me a year ago how I would have expected the journey to be like, I wouldn’t have imagined it to be remotely close to what I have experienced so far.
During my adolescence, I often fantasized about who I would marry, when I would marry, or even if I would get to marry at all. I always had a desire to get married, and even projected an arbitrary number for the age at which I would tie the knot, which to me was at the ripe age of 27. Then 27 came and passed, and I was still either single or was in a relationship that wasn’t fruitful. And without failure, during those seasons when I was dating someone, I always put God in the back seat. God was faithful when I was unfaithful; He always took me back after neglecting Him during my times when I took matters into my own hands and pursued a relationship. There were important lessons for me to learn before He allowed me to be blessed with a relationship that was edifying to Him. It was years later when I finally met my wife, Jina.
In the intermediate years, God was creating in me a new heart, one that sought after glorifying His name above all else. It’s still an ongoing lesson that God is giving me even to this day, but during those earlier times, it was still a foreign concept. The first step God revealed to me was to pursue and focus on Him rather than being sidetracked and falling into the same sinful pattern of making my relationship an idol. I still had a lot of sin issues that I needed healing from and I can see now that God wanted my heart to be fertile before allowing me to be in a relationship. Uprooting the sin issues of pride, lust and idolatry were excruciating, but it was a necessary step to shed off the baggage of sin before entering into a marriage. And being married only compounds the sin issues coming from both individuals. Essentially, your spouse cannot heal your brokenness nor can you heal their brokenness; only Jesus can do the job--and He does it wholly and completely.
Secondly, God wanted me to be in a prayerful state, always lifting up my future wife rather than focusing on secular desires. I learned this lesson while I was young, but had forgotten it all these years. I remember my oldest brother encouraging me to pray for my future wife ever since I was 10. While I was young, I would pray for foolish things like beauty, humor, and wit (all of which God has blessed me with :)), but instead, God reminded me again to lift up my future wife and pray specific prayers of humility, obedience and a passion for serving. I adopted Proverbs 31:10 to be my template when searching for a wife. Having this roadmap did not mean I didn’t need to do my part in seeking after Jesus for internal change, but it became easier to determine what kind of partner I needed in life: a godly woman.
Lastly, God was calling me to be the spiritual leader in the relationship. Leadership is not in my nature, as I tend to follow rather than lead. And when I do lead, I feel apprehensive that I’m not leading the correct way. Though I would initiate prayers whenever my wife and I would go through hardships while we were dating, it was never a consistent practice. It was only when anger flared or during times of tribulation I would kneel to pray, which is like taking a garden hose to a blazing wildfire. Sure, you can extinguish the inferno eventually, but damage in the fire's wake would be irreversible. I needed to learn how to take preventative measures as a spiritual leader. This meant that Jina and I would need to pray for each other on a daily basis. This did not happen while we were dating, but God was gracious to us and very patient with us, and the practice initiated once we got married. Every night before we go to bed, my wife and I will take each other’s hands and pray for the day’s troubles and burdens. Once we started making this a habit, we immediately saw the benefits of praying together and praying often. No longer did we go to bed angry or discouraged--rather we went to sleep with peace, knowing that Jesus was in control of the situation. It was a discipline that I wish I practiced at the beginning of our relationship, as a lot conflict could have been avoided. I remember this verse: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2) and hope to live this out faithfully with my wife.
As I wrap up my thoughts on the last 4 years of being in a relationship with my wife and beginning our life together as a married couple, I know that this is only one type of experience with which God has blessed me, and one that not everyone can relate. Being married and being single both come with their own blessings and struggles. Other married couples might go through experiences completely different from mine. However no matter your circumstance, it’s necessary to stop looking around and just focus on running towards God. While doing so, you’re bound to meet another individual that is also running towards the same goal, whether it be your future spouse or fellow brothers or sisters in the body of Christ. As we all pursue Jesus together, our relationships start to resemble the way God designed relationships to be: with two individuals becoming closer to one another as they get closer to the Lord. And the secret? Keeping Him at the very center.
While the world says to find “the one,” referring to our “soulmate,” we as Christians go towards The One: our good Father who redeems us in all of our brokenness, and reveals what True Love is really about.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phil 3:13-Phil 3:14
Photo by Sweetness and Light Photography
"For our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles." 2 Corinthians 4:17
NO GREATER LOVE
Grace Song, 08/01/2016
Welcome Pathway members, visitors, and anyone else who happens to stumble upon this page! We hope that you will be encouraged by what’s written here, and that you’ll come back often to see what’s new!
You might be wondering, what kinds of entries will be posted here? There will be posts on various biblical topics, features of people and their stories, reflections on sermons, Pathway happenings, current events, and more. We’ll even try to mix it up a bit with some comic relief here and there :)
For our very first entry, we decided to post a prayer for Pathway. We hope that Pathway would be a church that does everything to God’s glory.
Precious Heavenly Father,
We thank You for this church called Pathway that You brought to existence--and not just so that we would merely exist, but You brought this church to life, and You have been sustaining us and taking care of us so perfectly through Your wondrous Holy Spirit. Thank You for the reason for which we gather as a church: Your Cross and Resurrection. We thank You for Your endless love that is beyond our imagination. Not only do You grant us salvation, but You pave the way for us to get to know You more and to experience more of Your amazing love. Thank You.
Would Pathway be a body of believers who love You first above everything else. Would You equip us to look past life’s distractions and fix our eyes on You, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Help us to incline our hearts to You and to delight ourselves in You only. Would we not fall under the traps of money, worldly success, and the lies that the devil tells us about happiness and love. We need to know You more.
Grow us, God. Help us to become more like Jesus. We need Your divine help and Your strength, especially in times of pain and trials. Give us the joy that is only found in You. May Pathway be missions-minded in these troublesome times. Give us greater love for You because You love us with the greatest love.
Thank You, Jesus! In Your name we pray, Amen.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.