Friday, April 24, 2009

the april post.

Its April. In about three days, I will be heading off to Hong Kong for four months. The flight to Hong Kong is going to end my second year of studies at McGill, which overall, has been a very painful one.

This year has been a very lonely year. Coming from the kind of environment at the Vine and SCP, I came to Montreal last September with a goal to seek relationships with other brothers and sisters who could walk with me and support me. Unfortunately, the chemistry just didn’t work out with most Christians I met at church. I did not really have much fun this year. I did not have people around me who I could enjoy time with. For the few friends I did have, I seemed to break the trust a couple times, for reasons that I do not know. It began to take a toll on my self-confidence and I doubted my ability to be social. That explains why I may have acted weird or awkward this past year … I was not myself.

However, while at my most lowest moments, God lifted me up and placed me in His Sanctuary. Although my roommates know how annoying my room can be, it turned out to be a blessing. My room has been my sanctuary this year. It has been my first room that I have personally designed and arranged. I love the space and natural sunlight that it gets. Many days I have spent in that brown chair, just listening to God, and being comforted by him (and for all the friends of Caleb who have his brag about his “chair” … my chair is bigger). Many times I have worshiped on that carpet, just praising and crying to Him. Many times I have studied at my desk, just taking in all that God has been teaching me about Him.

God also told me in early January to go on a retreat, away from the issues in Montreal. God also spoke to Charis and Ricki to excessively advertise the IVCF retreat to me every time I met with them. So I went. It was such a great time of fellowship. I got to spend time with people who I could feel comfortable with, who I knew I could just be myself around. It was at this retreat that I met most of the MCF execs and staff workers. It was through meeting these people that I became a MCF leader. Crazy how He works eh?

Especially near the end of the semester, the frustration and the pain increased. However, also near the end of the semester, it seems that every sermon/bible study/devotional piece I have heard or read was about how painful times are placed in our lives for His purpose. There is a purpose for the pain, and that purpose is for our own benefit. I am reminded of a few of the verses that have gotten me through this past semester.

Proverbs 3:12
My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

Philippians 1:12
Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

Romans 8:18
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

I have learned that the comfort that I cry out for while suffering does not come from the end of suffering, but rather when I realize that the suffering exists because God is moulding me and training me, because he loves me and that he is doing something good in my life for His benefit and mine as well, I am comforted.

As most of you know, I am now in Theology studies at McGill. I decided to pursue this major because I felt that I wanted to really discover what it means to be a Christian, not what I have been spoon-fed/brained-washed my entire life. It is truly amazing what God has been teaching me about Him this past year, even from atheist and non-Christian professors.

It was around Reading Week that God started to show me what he wanted to do with my life. During that week, I was able to talk to a number of people about God, without even trying. The conversations I had with people naturally turned towards that direction. I was able to care for my brothers and sisters, to pray for them, and to encourage them that God is even more comforting than I could ever be. After reading week, I was amazed at how many people I talked to about Jesus, about what he has done for me.

I applied to Theology only for the sake of knowing more about what it means to be a Christian. I just wanted to learn, I didn’t really want to become a pastor. I wrote on my application that I didn’t really want to do ministry yet. I have this fear of full-time ministry that I would be dealing with a lot of problems. I think what did get me scared about ministry is seeing my Dad, and how much pain and crap he has gone through with ordained ministry in a church. Also, I felt that there was nothing special for a pastor's son to become a pastor... wheres the creativity for Josh? But the more I study about Jesus, the more I just cant hold him in. As I posted on my status a week ago, God is filling me up like a water balloon. The water is Jesus. Eventually, it is going to burst and everyone around me is going to get wet, even if I do not want to. The greatest thing I realized about ministry is that I really do not have to gather up my own energy to serve him. I mean, yes it can be tiring, but its like I do not need to find motivation for it. Its like those toy cars. I do not need to drag and pull the toy car backwards in order for it to go farther. All I need to do is just let my heart talk about Jesus. Its something I feel I am already ready for. All I need to do is talk about how ugly I was, about all the addictions, mistakes, mean things I did, mean things I thought, and how after Jesus, I became something I could never of imagined. All I need to do is talk about the truth, that there is a person who is willing to take lethal injection for me, while I stand behind the plexi-glass. If I just focus on talking about Jesus, then there is nothing I need to be scared about.

I don’t know what God has in store for me, perhaps its full-time ministry at a Church, perhaps its missionary work, or perhaps its work-placement ministry. But what I do know is that I want to talk about Jesus.

Friday, February 6, 2009

the major

After high school, I decided to pursue university instead of going to art school. I debated for some time if I should go into photography and graphic design or go for a bachelor of arts degree at some university. After some time of prayer and reflection, I decided to go to McGill to study History. I then realized that memorizing the names and dates of kings and historic events was really boring to me. Instead, I was more interested in how the kings and politicians organized society and how their political agenda affected the lives of their citizens. So, next came Political Science which really sparked my interest. However, Political Science began to threaten my Christian faith (see some of my past notes for the reasons). Then came Philosophy which was enjoyable but way too much brain power was required. You either get it or you don’t and when you don’t. Its so frustrating. Then came Sociology which to be honest, I thought was going to be my last major change. I picked it because I really wanted to find out how come Christianity was so unpopular to mainstream society. I wanted to find out how come people thought Christians were intolerant and oppressive. I wanted to rescue Christianity and hopefully restore some of its respectability. I was really interested in gender, family, and religion so I picked courses which I hoped would give me the environment to express my Christian views and also to engage in constructive conversations with other people (not necessarily Christians) at the state of the family, the role of religion, and how gender impacts both. The intro course gave me a taste but I really wanted to get at the heart of why people are repulsed by the faith. So, I decided to take Sociology of Modern Family, and Christianity in the Woman Tradition (Christian Feminism).

In both courses, the professors were atheists and feminists. I am a Christian male. (Josh places and L on his forehead).

At the beginning of each course, I was pumped up, ready to be all “I am gunna stand up for Christianity!” After the second class, I completely gave up. I came to realize that my professors were not really interested in another point of view. I do not blame them, neither was I. My professors spent years studying feminist theory and have taught it for many years. My parents pretty much brought me up with a Bible in my hand. We were at two completely different ends of the spectrum and were not willing to budge. I was really frustrated.

Since I was the student and not the teacher, and because I got tired of all the other white-female-uggs-and-legg
ings-wearing-macbook-using classmates staring at me with"shut-up faces" every time I raised my hand, I had to be quiet and study what feminist theory actually was. After getting over my pride, I have to confess that my feminist professors did teach me quiet a lot.

My professors blamed most of the problems women face in society on the oppressive and sexist patriarchal structure in society. Since patriarchy stems from Christianity, my professors were highly critical of the religion and pushed my classmates to accept liberal stances on issues. I believe that my professors misinterpreted the heart of what Christianity was about.

Now before all of you start rebuking me and de-friending me off facebook, let me explain. I am not saying that I have "converted" to feminism, but what I am saying is that I have gained a new appreciation for the sacrifices women have made throughout history and a new respect for Christian women who have served God underneath oppression. Much of the oppression, admittedly, has come from Christians who have misinterpreted Scripture.

I have gained a new appreciation for the sacrifices women like my mother have made. Like a lot of Asian housewives, she stayed at home, raising me and my other siblings from the second we pop out of her womb. She gave up her career, her education, and her talents to serve God, my family and my father. She had a ton of opportunities available to her but she was obedient to God and never gave up even when facing sickness and problems from family. My feminist teachers helped me realize how much we undervalue and disrespect the job of being a mother.

I have also learned that throughout history, many women have given up their lives to serve God underneath husbands and male leaders who did not live out, or misunderstood, the second part of Ephesians 5:23 of loving their submitting wives. Yes, although there were a lot of righteous men who also gave up their lives to serve God, many serving women were not given the flexibility or the honour that serving men have historical had. Without the work and sacrifices that women have in the history of Christianity, we would be without many social movements and crucial teachings.

So a certain extent, the feminists did win a little. They were able to change a prideful, unwilling, and judgmental Christian like me to a more appreciative and respectful one. Ironically, I originally wanted to rescue the negative view of Christianity from intolerant and hypocritical Christians. However, I soon came to realize that I was one of them. I was rescuing Christianity from hypocrites like me.

However, after an entire semester of feminist professors, I believe I have had enough. Although I gained a new appreciation, if I study any more feminist theory, I believe I will go insane. I realized that religion and the state cannot mix. My conservative views on marriage, family, education, and religion cannot survive in a liberal-progressive state. It was hard to find people who are willing to actual engage in constructive conversations (with a few exceptions - thanks to Amina, Leora, and Tracey, you guys made it bearable :P). I have decided to switch my major again. This time, its Theology.

I took New Testament Studies as an elective this semester, which was amazing. I became aware of so many empowering and amazing passages which really guided much of my spiritual walk this past semester. I am switching with the only intention of sharpening my faith and growing to become a man who find peace and strength in His Word.

With this major, however, are many things I have to be aware of. I know that many people who go into Theology end up becoming really prideful. Pride has been something that I have struggled with for many years. It is the deepest cry of my heart that I will be humble and willing to give up all that I know in the hopes of being a Christian who has “lieu” (Chinese for substance).

With that said, I am excited. I am excited to see what God has in store for me and it is going to be amazing to share all the insights I gain in class.