Sunday Corporate Worship will resume in the church building on Sunday, June 21, 2020. In order to prepare for this first worship back in-person, many of our members have been working diligently, and I appreciate their commitments and efforts greatly. For example, our COVID-19 committee members have been preparing new guidelines and essential items with the goal of making the worship space as safe a space as possible for our congregation members. It is essential that everyone follow these guidelines strictly and completely, if not for anything other than the health and safety of all of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. It will be made available through the ANF website as soon as it is ready. Likewise, multiple Magnification Team members have been coming to church to continue to make the livestream worship possible and adjust the sound and video settings as needed.
In response to the current pandemic, our church had completely moved its Sunday Worship from offline to online. In order to re-adjust to this “new normal”, our church plans to continue Sunday Corporate Worship online through livestream but, for those who are comfortable and able, also in the church building as well, starting Sunday, June 21, 2020. If I am being honest, I have mixed feelings about all of this. On one hand, I am excited to re-start Sunday Corporate Worship in-person. On the other hand, I have several worries and concerns that woke me up in the middle of the night last night around 1:00 am and kept me up for the rest of the night. It was then that I started writing today’s journal. Could you please pray with me that the Holy Spirit would guide each and every one of us, as well as ANF as a whole, through every step of our lives? Could you also pray that our lives, and ANF, would be used not for our will or for our purposes but for God’s will and for God’s purpose?
Continuing off of yesterday’s journal, the second lesson that I learned by using this special highlighting effect on my camera was that I was able to appreciate the importance and beauty of the pot. In these pictures, and in our lives in general, it is usually the flowers that catch our attention. Our eyes naturally gravitate towards and fixate on them. However, using this special effect, I was able to highlight only the color of the pot and set all of the other colors to gray. By doing so, I was able to clearly see the pot’s shape, color, texture and hidden beauty for all that it was. I was again reminded that, without the pot holding all of the soil in place, the flowers would neither grow nor blossom. Even though the pot does not ever speak out, ask for our attention or receive enough recognition, it does a lot of important work for the flowers behind the scenes.
I believe that our [spiritual] lives can be seen the same way. I encourage you to try and see the pots in your [spiritual] lives, particularly those that you have failed to notice or express your gratitude for, starting today. Thank you, pot! If you look at and compare the two pictures that I posted below, you will be able to see what I am talking about:
I recently found a special effect on my camera that allows me to take pictures using only the colors that I select. Using this function, I can have my camera highlight the color of my choice and make all of the other colors become gray. Here are some pictures that I took at home last night:
I learned two things by using this function on my camera. I will share with you the first today and the second tomorrow. Even though each of these pictures was beautiful as is, it was only because I chose to look at the flowers with a selected focus that I was able to see their hidden beauty so clearly. I believe that this same truth can be applied into our spiritual lives. By choosing to focus only on the things that a person is good at, and not the bad, you are able to see clearly the hidden beauty of that person. I encourage you to try and focus only the good things, rather than the bad things, whenever you think of your brothers and sisters.
This is the article from Pastor Choi, the founder of House Church Ministry. I highly encourage you all to read it thoroughly even though it seems a bit long.
Despite having to do worship online, churches were able to persevere all this time because of their hope that things would go back to normal once infection rates for the novel coronavirus went back down. However, with forecasts that COVID-19 might not go away as easily as initially expected and that current conditions may continue on for another one to two years, many pastors have found themselves perplexed as to how to revert their church ministries back to how they used to be.
COVID-19 brought significant changes to our social lives, interpersonal relationships, gatherings, etc., and it seems that these changes are here to stay. In the meantime, we cannot just sit back and wait for our pastoral conditions to go back to how they used to be, for there is no knowing if they ever will. Instead, we must dream of new ways to pastor and build up our churches, new churches befitting the new conditions that we are in, and I believe that, in order to do so, we must not get too hung up on “how” or even the ways we can do so. Rather, we must think back to the original purpose of the church’s existence.
“In this changed environment, what is the best way for our church to save souls and make disciples of all nations?”
I believe that there is a difference between a church setting its sights on looking as much like it used to as possible and it setting its sights on finding ways to preserve the original purpose of the church’s existence. I find that the first can be exhausting, as it puts the church in constant management and keep-up mode. On the other hand, the latter carries a sense of achievement, or even accomplishment, as it puts the church in constant challenge mode. Even if the church fails to go back to looking like how it used to look in the past, it can boldly say that all is well because the church is still saving souls according to its original purpose.
Likewise, we must now also examine the three axes of house church ministry and consider the ways in which we can best preserve the original purpose of Sunday Corporate Worship, House Church and the Life Bible Studies, rather than expending our efforts on trying to revert them back to how they used to look.
In this changed environment, what can we do to continue to touch upon the will and bring about commitment and transformation through our Sunday Corporate Services? In this changed environment, how can we operate our house churches in ways that continue to touch upon emotion so that our house church members continue to share amongst one other and VIPs continue to experience the warm taste of house church? For example, if VIPs seem to be avoiding house church gatherings because there are too many people, then we must prioritize more one-on-one meetings instead. In this changed environment, how can we operate our Life Bible Studies so that our congregation continues to be filled with the Biblical knowledge that they desperately need?
In this changed environment following COVID-19, I encourage our house church ministry pastors not to be passive in their responses but to constantly and actively challenge themselves in these ways. I believe that if you hold fast to and actively seek to restore the church based on the original purpose of the church’s existence, as well as those of the three axes of house church ministry, God will give you the wisdom that you need for your specific church through Jesus Christ.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Following Sunday Corporate Worship yesterday, twelve people sent me their commitments and prayer requests via e-mail and text. I have copied some of their commitments below, in hopes that our ANF family might continue to encourage and motivate one another and be reminded of the message that God had given us yesterday:
- I commit that I will be thinking about the following question everyday.
1) how can my personality be used for God’s will?
2) how can my salary be used for God’s will?
3) how can my job be used for God’s will?
4) how can my house church be used for God’s will?
5) how can my knowledge be used for God’s will?
6) how can my time be used for God’s will?
- I commit to not let God fit into my life but commit my life to His will, His plan, His promise. I commit to stay obedient to His promises and remain faithful and consistent to His commands.
- I commit to God that I want to change my problem that I have of self-centeredness. I pray that I would not be interested in praying for my own selfish desires but to focus on how my life can be fit into His will. I pray that I would seek God’s kingdom first and put my wants last.
- I want to commit to be less self-centered in asking God for his will. I want to ask multiple times through my days “what is my life for God’s will?” And how my life can fit into His will for the world.
- I commit to make my life a tool to do God’s will, so I pray, Lord please direct my life to your will. I pray that your will takes over my life to fulfill my duties as your follower and your disciple. I pray that the decisions in my life follow your will and not my own desires.
- I pray not to have a self-centered heart and to not seek what is most beneficial for me but to seek for God's Kingdom. I pray that I will not find God's will for my life, but what is my life for God's will.
O Changeless God,
Under the conviction of your Spirit I learn that
the more I do, the worse I am,
the more I know, the less I know,
the more holiness I have, the more sinful I am,
the more I love, the more there is to love.
O wretched man that I am!
I have a wild heart,
and cannot stand before you;
I am like a bird before a man.
How little I love your truth and ways!
I neglect prayer,
by thinking I have prayed enough and earnestly,
by knowing you have saved my soul.
Of all hypocrites, grant that I may not be
an evangelical hypocrite,
who sins more safely because grace abounds,
who tells his lusts that Christ’s blood cleanse them,
who reasons that God cannot cast him into hell,
for he is saved,
who loves evangelical preaching, churches,
Christians, but lives unholily.
My mind is a bucket without a bottom
with no spiritual understanding,
no desire for the Lord’s Day,
ever learning but never reaching the truth,
always at the gospel-well but never holding water.
my conscience is without conviction or contrition,
with nothing to repent of.
My will is without power of decision or resolution.
My heart is without affection and full of leaks.
My memory has no retention,
so I forget easily the lessons learned,
and your truths seep away.
Give me a broken heart that yet carries home
the water of grace.
(from the puritan’s prayer, the Valley of Vision, 128-9)
Put God’s Will First. “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God” (Hebrews 10:9). A person’s obedience is to what he sees to be a need—our Lord’s obedience was to the will of His Father. The rallying cry today is, “We must get to work! The heathen are dying without God. We must go and tell them about Him.” But we must first make sure that God’s “needs” and His will in us personally are being met. Jesus said, “Tarry . . . until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). The purpose of our Christian training is to get us into the right relationship to the “needs” of God and His will. Once God’s “needs” in us have been met, He will open the way for us to accomplish His will, meeting His “needs” elsewhere. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, May 31)
Many Christians have some sort of daily devotional time or quiet time throughout their day. During this time, they read a short passage from the Bible or from a daily devotional journal and pray a short prayer to close. On average, it generally takes them less than ten minutes, or, for some people, twenty minutes at maximum. By doing so, they consider themselves to be good Christians, and, over time, “quiet time” has quickly become a Christian cliché. Many Christians fail to reflect on why they have this time of daily devotion and spend it in a rote manner, lacking passion and affection for Jesus Christ in the process. I am not saying that Christians should give up having this time of daily devotion or that there are no benefits to having it. I am saying that, without passion and affection for Jesus Christ, it can easily become meaningless, a religious decoration or emblem.
I encourage you to evaluate your time of daily devotion starting today. Ask yourself: (1) How many minutes do you usually spend on your daily devotion? In contrast, how much time would you want to spend with someone that you love? (2) Do you see that your affection for Jesus Christ is growing through your time of daily devotion? I hope that, through such reflections, everyone in ANF could begin to have more meaningful and intimate daily devotional time with Jesus Christ once again.
Continuing off of yesterday, here is the second article that I believe will be helpful for those struggling and praying with the question, “What is God’s will for my life?”
When Jesus says, “Follow Me,” He’s inviting us to totally surrender our lives, leaves whatever He calls us to leave, and follow Him wherever He leads. Asking, “What’s God’s will for my life?” focuses on self; Where do I fit? What is my role? How does God fit into my plans? We need to make a fundamental shift to the real question, “Will I obey God’s will for my life?” Rather than spending our lives looking for God’s will, which has already been given to us in the form of His word, God invites us to say to Him, “Use me, lead me, guide me, do whatever you want in and through me to make Your gospel and Your glory know to the ends of the earth.” (David Platt, Follow Me, 38)
For those of you struggling and praying with the question, “What is God’s will for my life?”, I want to share with you two short articles, one for today and another for tomorrow, the first of which I have attached below:
“This is one of the most commonly asked questions in Christianity today. We have questions and we face decisions all the time, and we often find ourselves wondering about God’s will in many of them. Some decisions are small and seem less significant. What book should I read this month? Where should I eat today? What do I eat? What do I do when my friend is mad at me? What do I do when my parents seem unhappy about me? What do I do when I am struggling? Other questions involve large, life-altering decisions. Should I date? If so, who should I date? Should I go to college? If so, where? What should I major in? What career path should I choose? Should I marry? If so, who should I marry?
Should we have kids? If so, how many kids? Where should I live? We find ourselves buried under a myriad of questions and decisions, and in the middle of it all we keep coming back to that one: What is God’s will for my life? What does God want me to do? How do I find God’s will for my life? We operate as if God’s will is lost and we’ve devised an assortment of methods for finding it. But what if God’s will was never intended to be found? In fact, what if it was never hidden from us in the first place? (David Platt, Follow Me, 36)”