UBF is the church that I attended and studied with from 2006-2007. It's a bit different from American churches, as it was planted by Korean missionaries as a ministry to college students. The Sunday worship services are very similar to services at home - we sing, we pray, we hear a sermon preached from a passage in the Bible. Unlike my home church, they serve lunch after the Sunday service and everyone enjoys eating fellowship time together. In addition to Sunday worship, they offer 1:1 Bible studies with a Bible teacher. This was my favorite part of UBF, because I could dig deep into the Scriptures to see what God wanted to say to me. The church also offers early morning prayer time each day and Friday evening times for worship, study, and fellowship. I participated in all of these activities in 2007 and was blessed by the good teaching and the spirit of love shown by everyone there.
Since then, I've been moving about between states (PA-MD-DC) and jobs (part-time, temp, contracting, permanent), and I haven't been back to UBF. In April, I did begin attending 1:1 Bible study again once a week after work. I also attended this weekend's Bible conference. I was planning to attend for a few months, but when I found out that I didn't have the leave, I gave up on the idea. I was exhausted, frustrated, down, and in no mood to go out of town for the second or third weekend in a row. But my Bible teacher found someone who was leaving town after work on Friday, so I grudgingly agreed to come. I'm very glad that I did.
I caught a ride with an old friend from the church, along with his wife and her friend. We had fun chatting about baseball and English on the way. We grabbed dinner at Taco Bell in Manassas and arrived at the conference site around 9:15 pm. After a bit of wandering, we found the auditorium and took a seat high up in the back swivel seats. We were just in time to hear a missionary report from one of my friends from grad school days. He finished his bachelor's around the time that I completed my master's and we became friends at church. He had had some very difficult times overseas, and I was heart-broken as I listened. [To tell the truth, I wanted to jump up from my seat, run up to the front, and give him a big hug.] Lord forgive me for not supporting my dear brother in prayer. Wash away my self-focused attitudes and give me a heart of love and service for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are serving around the world.
Other missionaries also shared reports from various fields. A couple in Asia shared a video with photos from their region. It was heartening to hear about the great thirst that there is among the people to study the Bible. It was also neat to see their hats! :) Also, a fellow from Eastern Europe shared his personal testimony through means of a translator. As he spoke, I found myself listening with great interest. There were a number of elements in his story that were spiritual "parallel-opposites" of my own. I felt as though I were sitting on the other side of the see-saw for once. For example, while self-righteousness stood as a barrier between me and Christ, his sense of unrighteousness was the barrier. I was really touched by his words and found myself praising God for His work in this dear brother and also for refreshing my spirit with a renewed sense of His truth.
After all the reports, it was time for bed. I stayed up for a while chatting with my Bible teacher about all sorts of stuff.
The next day was Saturday. We started off the day with a tasty breakfast of waffles and apples, then headed to our group Bible studies. Since I registered late, I had not been assigned to a group. I tagged along with my Bible teacher. We had a diverse group with some Koreans, some Americans, and the European who had spoken the night before. Timid me - I wanted to chat with him about his testimony, but when my Bible teacher introduced us, I just smiled, nodded, and probably waved hello from across the table. The Bible study group was soon gathered and we began to study John chapter 13. As we were working through the questions, I found my heart stuck on the meaning of Peter's response to Jesus. Was he offended? surprised? humble? proud? right? wrong? My brain felt stuck spinning in gear, cogs grinding against one another and my mind tried to figure out the hidden spiritual significance. And then I had this train of thought: "Peter didn't want Jesus to wash his feet - Neh 8 - my own hesitancy to accept Jesus' sacrifice for me or to put my dirty heart in his hands for cleansing. we think our sins are too dirty for Jesus and we don't feel worthy to repent. feel ashamed of self/dirty feet. don't have a problem with Jesus washing others' dirty feet." My heart thudded a bit harder than normal at the thought that this could be the key to the mystery. It's the feeling that I get when I have an answer that I suspect is right, and if I don't share it, I regret it later on. So when the class leader asked for other comments on the third question, I blurted out with a more coherent version of this idea. As I spoke, I saw the translator lean nearer to the student across the table. I was very happy at having contributed something to the study (since I am normally shy and never speak up). I felt less elated when I saw that the next question asked about this very thing! I guess I wasn't so insightful after all :) God forgive me for my pride! One of the missionaries later pointed out that sometimes Jesus uses a tough scrub brush to "clean our feet" and that it hurts. I took a note down about that (trial = scrub brush) and said to her a bit quietly, "I like that." By the end of the study, I had covered nearly every square inch of the question sheet with notes, and spilled over to the next page. That's pretty normal! I had a lot to chew on and digest with regards to God's humble love.
After Bible study, we had a morning message on this same passage. Even though we had just studied these words for an hour and a half, I found a lot of new wisdom and awesome truth in the sermon. In my notes, I wrote:
"serve for the right reason"
"receive God's love + give God's love or else be like the Dead Sea"
"self-realization is over-rated. Realizing Jesus is far better...the disciple whom Jesus loved..."
"saved for obedience and good works"
I was very blessed by the message and felt full of love from God. We ate lunch and then I headed off to a quiet corner to write my testimony. It had been so long that I forgot the format!
Key Verse: John 13:34
Part 1 - Jesus is washing my feet
The past 5 months have been really difficult for me. My boss committed suicide in February and this left me with the work of the whole department. I was very sad, very scared, and very worried. I knew that God had led me to this job, though, so I was determined to do my best and to be a blessing.
I've been learning a lot of spiritual lessons since then. Jesus has been washing my feet a lot. Most importantly, He is cleansing me from worshiping people instead of God. But Jesus still has a lot of cleaning to do.
Lately, I've been very grumpy and complain a lot. I know that God is in control of the situation but my job is very stressful and I don't like it. I want other people to see how hard a struggle this is for me, so I've been complaining. This attitude is very sinful. I complain because I want people's respect and pity like the proud man in Matthew 6 who wants everyone to know that he is fasting. And the more I think about my struggle, the more I focus on myself. When I'm in pain, all I can think about is how to escape the pain. And when I focus on myself and the pain, I grow more and more angry, impatient, and upset. This complaining attitude is my selfish heart and I need Jesus to wash it clean. I pray that He will forgive me for this negative attitude that did not honor Him - it only honored myself. I pray that Jesus will also come and heal my heart with His love. I want to praise Him like Job did, even after disaster: "Blessed be the name of the Lord."
I know that Jesus my great High Priest can help me because He felt pain and sorrow worse than this. Jesus could have complained to his disciples the night before his crucifixion; but instead, he denied himself, served and loved his disciples. It was in the Garden, in prayer and in private, that Jesus cried out and made his heart known. I want to do the same, believing that my Father, who knows my needs, will hear me, pity me, and comfort me. I will not be satisfied if I seek these things from men - I need to receive them from God.
So Jesus, take your painful scrub brush and wash away my selfish, complaining attitude. Teach me to trust in You and to "come boldly to the throne of grace to receive mercy and grace to help in this time of need."
There was a part 2, but I'll leave it at that, lest this entry become too long to post :)
After finishing my testimony, I found time to sneak in a game of DDR with the school kids before returning upstairs to share my testimony with the others in my Bible study group. They all did likewise, and we were encouraged by each other.
After testimony sharing, it was again dinner time! We had another tasty meal in the beautiful, brand new cafeteria, and then headed to the auditorium for evening worship. Between meals and meetings, I saw many sweet, familiar faces. Women who had made many lunches for me hugged me, warmly welcomed me, and asked me where I had come from :) And their husbands made shocked faces when they saw me and called me by name. They all remembered me! They loved me, even after so long away from them.
We sang many songs and heard a brief message on Ephesians 2:10 yesterday evening. My notes for this message highlighted the following:
Dead in sins
Alive with Christ
For good works
I was challenged to believe that wonderful, good works are waiting for me to accomplish, as they have been since the beginning of time, by the grace and wisdom of God. After the message, we heard nine precious brothers and sisters share life testimonies. There were some young, some old, new Christians, and mature Christians. It was very uplifting to see the busy work of God among the children of men. His Holy Spirit is actively drawing hearts to him in countries around the world. Praise God! I felt in awe of God's power and goodness that night when the meeting ended at 11:30 pm. I was also eager to find my friend from college days, as I spotted his seat amidst the crowd. After finishing prayers, though, I looked and found his seat empty. My eyes darted about the room, trying to find him, until my Bible teacher pointed to the end of my aisle. I went and gave my friend a big hug. It was so good to talk to him again, after two and a half years.
That evening, like the evening before, I ended up chatting with my Bible teacher for a long time back at our room. We shared all kinds of deep-felt fears, troubles, questions, and faith. The moon was bright and well traveled by the time we doused the lights and went to bed. But I slept very soundly. I was so thankful for my Bible teacher who was willing to patiently listen to me (even in the middle of the night) and to remind me of the great truths of the faith - that God is good, that His design and will are good, and that we have power in the name of Jesus Christ. Thank God for His goodness! And thank God for dear Bible teachers who love their students sincerely as an act of worship.
This morning, we celebrated communion - remembering the Lord's death and proclaiming it till He comes. I've celebrated communion in many different churches and in many different ways. Sometimes, we drink juice, other times, wine. Sometimes we pass around a loaf of white bread, tearing off a piece as it is passed. Other times, we use unleavened bread or crackers. Some churches observe the Lord's Supper once a year, while others celebrate it once a week. But today, I had a very different experience, and I found it to be very agreeable to my spirit. In the front, they had a table with a large cup of wine (grapejuice in reserve) and a basket of pita type bread. We went up a row at a time, and each took a turn at the table. We were to take a piece of bread, dip it in the wine, and eat it, spending as long as we wished at the table. I only took a small piece of bread and I only spent a moment before the table, but the experience of watching everyone worship one at a time in reverent silence touched my heart. I found myself bowed down on my desk with tears, while no words could even take shape on my mind. Praise Jesus, Lord of all!
After communion, we sang and heard a message delivered on Acts 2 that focused on the role of the Holy Spirit in the unity of the body of Christ (the church). I learned that "fellowship was a gift purchased by the blood of Christ." We also heard a sending-off message on John 21:15
'So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?"
'He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You."
'He said to him, "Feed My lambs."'
As we began to read this verse, I had to stop, because there was more meaning being spoken to me than just the black and white here show.
"...do you love Me more than these - your teachers (even your Bible teachers), your supervisors, all those whom you look to. Do you love Me more than these?" In 2007, I would have lied had I answered in the affirmative.
Peter replied, "Yes" and called Jesus, "Lord." In 2006 and 2007, I thought it was awkward when people referred to Jesus as "Lord" or called him "Lord Jesus" in the midst of casual conversation. He was not my personal Lord in those days. But now I cry out without hesitation, "Lord, Savior!" How clear it was to me in that moment that I was not fit to feed God's lambs in 2007 when God led me away from UBF and led me into this valley of humiliation, this hill of difficulty. God had preached his own sermon to me before the room finished reading this key verse. Praise God, the Almighty One.
After the message, we ate, packed up and parted ways. Now I'm back at the old familiar apartment, armed with spiritual armor and looking to God to help me to implement all that I have learned.
-Jesus carries my burdens so I am free to help carry others' burdens.
-The Bible writers were divinely inspired; we also need to be divinely inspired in order to correctly handle the word of God. Praise God that the same Spirit is available to us, as was poured out on them, when we repent and believe.
-Sincerity is ok, but if I am sincere to myself, then I am also sincere to all my faults and sins. Why not be sincere instead to God and to the attributes of Christ: love and self-denial?
-How do we love one another? Forgive them, pray for them, encourage them, treat them as we wish to be treated, etc. Love ought to promote sanctification in others and myself at the same time.