what Cathedrals and Youth Rooms teach us about God

This year I’ve had the chance to see some really old and grand cathedrals in Europe. Everything about it is really incredible – the detailed carvings, stained glass mosaics, high ceilings that are tens of stories above you.


You walk in and immediately sense the atmosphere of reverence. Either you stay silent or whisper because the sacred and solemn surroundings command respect. (And also because any sound you make would be amplified in the large hall.)

The youth room at my church is quite a contrast to these magnificent cathedrals. We have low ceilings, IKEA couches, a lamp, over-sized pillows, and a couple stuffed animals in the mix. It’s cozy and like a living room, probably similar some rooms of your own church.


Two very different places, both places of worship. The cathedral well represents the transcendence of God – He is far above and unlike us, and so purely holy that it should evoke reverence and awe in us. Sitting on a pew in a huge antique church reminds me of how God is high and lifted up, infinitely greater than me, and inspires the fear of the Lord and worship of His greatness.

The youth room reflects the immanence of God – He is a personal God who stoops down from heavenly majesty to earth to become human and to identify with us. He is present in our daily lives and acquainted with all our ways. Sitting on a couch in our youth room reminds me that God is entirely relevant and real today, not distant and impersonal. It inspires a response of relationship and trust.

The church is a place of worship and reverence. The church is a place of family and community. God is infinitely high. God is incredibly near. Praise and worship Him!

Real Beauty

Many of you have probably seen the video that was recently shared all over Facebook: Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches.” In a nutshell, Dove conducted an experiment where a professional artists draws a woman’s face without seeing her, once based on her description of herself, and a second time by another’s description of her. When the two were juxtaposed, it was apparent that the women saw themselves with more flaws and less attractive than how others viewed them.

image from abcnews.go.com

Of course, it seems like the kind of “experiment” that has a pre-determined result and video editing to highlight the parts that best communicates the message they  intend. But the point that “You are more beautiful than you think” is a valid one to consider.

You are beautiful, but not because others say so (though that is encouraging!). You are beautiful because the One who defines beauty is the One who designed you. You are beautiful because your kindness and other such adornments bring out the attractiveness  in your face. And as a child of God, you are beautiful because you have the beauty of Jesus in you.

It’s not so much “work on feeling better about yourself” in order to be more confident, but pursue abiding in Christ to walk securely in your identity. “Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” (Psalm 34:5)

Teach Me to Pray…

Ephesians 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”

Prayer is one of the most basic practices a Christian should engage in, but I confess that I am pretty bad at it.   There are many opportunities to pray for sure, but if I honestly evaluate those times of prayer, I find that I didn’t really pray. When others are leading in prayer, I’m often not following. When I’m praying in public, it’s sometimes more like an impromptu speech with my eyes closed.

It’s not much better in private. I made a prayer journal, complete with photos of people, but I barely use it. Every week, my job is to minister to youth through teaching, small groups, or music…but I usually plunge right into the work without taking time to ask God to do His work.

I tried to figure out why I’m such a weak prayer warrior. Am I just that lazy? After all, fervent prayer is seriously hard work. That is part of it; they aren’t called spiritual disciplines for nothing. But I also realized that I lack the motivation to pray because I don’t really understand how prayer “works”. I know in my mind that prayer makes a difference. But then I think, well, God is sovereign and He’s going to accomplish His will – it’s going to happen regardless of me and what I say or don’t say! So what does my prayer matter?

At the root of my prayer weakness is a lack of belief in the real power of prayer. I think I would identify that as the main problem, and now hope begin growing in this area by denying the skepticism and choosing to obey and believe.

Regardless of whether I understand of how my petitions affect God’s plans, I just need to OBEY the many commands to pray. (Matt 21:22, 1 Thess 5:17) And do so with the faith to BELIEVE that indeed the “effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much,” (James 5:16) even if I can’t make complete sense of how that works out.

Then, as I choose to be pray-er, I trust I will know and experience the purpose and power and joy of praying.

“Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it.” – Corrie ten Boom


A Meaningful Summer

Hi Everyone! This week’s post comes from my sister Rebecca, a 2007 V2 student, and recently graduated from university in England. Here are her thoughts…

At the beginning of this summer, I tried to have a perfect schedule lined up. It had to be productive and contain at least one exciting event of considerable length. And as happens every year, about half my plans fell through. So rather than tour Chile for a month or work for an English opera company, I’ve been spending my time back in Asia doing familiar things.

To an unbiased outside viewer, I’ve still been able to take some great trips and meet some amazing people. But because it wasn’t what I hoped, I found it hard to be completely invested in what I was doing. I was a transitory visitor, and I passed through each week without fully being present.

As I was internally whining over my empty ten day slot in August, God asked me, “Why don’t you care about the days I HAVE filled for you?” Even as I went on two mission trips to China and helped host multiple guests with my family, I carried out every task without giving of my emotions. Though physically there, I was always mentally in the future. 

Like the beginning of First Corinthians 13 says, if we perform all these great things, but have no love, it means nothing. It’s easy to be busy with tasks, but harder to care about those you are serving. So for me, showing love means living in my present, investing in wherever I am, whatever I’m doing. What does it mean for you to have love? 


help, please!

Either my personality or my Chinese upbringing makes me 客氣 (I don’t really know an English equivalent) and not liking to 麻煩 (inconvenience) other people.

When I was younger and more shy, there would be a dish or snack I really wanted to eat, but I’d usually go without it instead of having to ask someone to pass it or get some for me.

And I’d rather try to take a heavy box down myself instead of ask a guy standing around because I’d feel 不好意思 (bad…for lack of a better word).

But last week, I got an email that made me consider how letting others help you can honor them. It was just a short note from a 12-year-old girl in my Sunday School class. She was very overwhelmed and stressed with school projects, exams, and a competition (yeah, and only 12 – welcome to HK school life! =P) so was asking for prayer.

I was really happy that she would share and give me the privilege of encouraging her now knowing her struggle. I was excited to be able to pray for her according to her need.

Through her little email and my response in receiving it, I started thinking how asking people for help isn’t always a bother, but gives them the joy of serving you. It actually honors others when you allow them to help you. I enjoy whenever I’m able to help people, so why should I consider others as less generous?

The body of Christ is to support each other and bear one another’s burdens. From things as small as passing something you need to as serious as asking for counsel, let’s have the humility to ask for help and allow God to bless us through others!


live to give.

team 5, VOICE 2009

I currently work as the associate youth director at a church in Hong Kong. I love being in ministry, including past and current involvement with Children’s Institute and VOICE. It’s meaningful work to invest in people whether it’s each week or in just one conversation.

Being in ministry though, also means you’re usually on the giving end of relationships. After all, that is the nature of your job – serving others. I have been taught me to have a “ministry mindset” which basically is to always be on the outlook for outreach. Initiate questions, find out about their interests, care about them.

Maybe even in some friendships, it feels like you are the one who does the listening, you know more about them, and are a part of their life more than they are a part of yours.

Giving is often very rewarding, but I’ve realized that you can’t expect or depend on those you serve (or your friends) to fulfill your needs. If your relationships are fueled only by what the other gives you in return, you may run out of energy to continue or have less to offer.

Well, God is not only real but very well-acquainted with you. In THAT relationship, you are the recipient – the receiver of His love and His understanding of you. Refreshed in the truth that God delights in you, you become fulfilled. Enough to keep giving when little comes back.

“I pray that you may…know this love [of Christ] that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19

“..for the Lord delights in you..” Isaiah 62:4

Remember your identity as His beloved! And with that confidence, take on a ministry mindset, whatever your job is.


Count Your Blessings

“Look at the bright side.”

“See the glass as half full, not half empty.”

Everyone has heard these common tips for being positive, but as familiar as it is, it’s still something often forgotten.

In Bible terms, we are to “give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thess 5:18) In other words, we should look at how much we have been given and all there is to be grateful for. It’s so easy to see the things we miss and wish we could have, but focusing on that brings about discontentment.

A friend recently shared some of the obstacles she was facing that kept her away from her desires and the resulting frustrations. But she was reminded to consider how far she had already come and how great it was to be where God already brought her.

It’s such a simple principle, and I’m sure it’s nothing new for anyone reading this. But I find myself needing to apply it and find it to be a good reminder for many difficult situations.

So what is your current struggle? And what can you be grateful for? Change your perspective and even if your situation doesn’t change, your feelings might, and your faith strengthened as you realize how much God has blessed you with.

from Taiwan to Hong Kong, with love.

I had been away from church for more than a month, and the Children’s Institute trip had ended only a few days ago.

It was last Sunday – I was riding the subway to church to teach Sunday School and see all the youth, but I didn’t feel ready. I was trying to get my heart there, but my mind was still thinking about the CI. It was a somewhat discouraging MTR ride as I struggled with the challenge of jumping back into another world.

But after I arrived, greeted the youth, and as the morning progressed, I began to feel more genuinely happy to be there and more “back home.”

I’m thankful that God affirmed for me that this church is where I can serve right now. I was (and am) learning to throw myself 100% into whatever people God puts in my life and says, “Love them and invest in them.” – whether they are CI kids, CI teachers, HK teens, or HK teachers (we had a character training for teachers today :-).

Who has God asked you to love today?

Truth that Transforms

People often warn about the danger of having only head knowledge about God and no life application. It’s true that simply amassing Bible facts isn’t of much worth if that knowledge doesn’t affect you.

But on the flip side, it’s also meaningless to try to do what is right without first knowing the basis for why you should do good. It should be knowledge of God’s character and the gospel that motivates us to do what is right.

I read recently that when Jonathan Edwards preached, he didn’t have to persuade people to start doing the right thing. He simply told them the fact of God’s holy wrath and that truth convicted the listeners; that knowledge drove them to repentance.

Yes, Christianity is about a change of heart and life, but it’s knowledge of truth that brings it about.

So! What do you know about the faith you profess? Do you pursue a knowledge of God? (theology) Are you interested what the Bible says about everything? (doctrine)

What motivates you to live like you know a Christian should?

True, knowledge shouldn’t stay in the head, but it starts there. Learn the Bible, so that its truth can reach your heart, and then be evidenced in a transformed life.

In God I trust.

I like having things well-planned in advance. I like to know that everything is prepared before it happens.

It’s hard to picture myself having the kind of faith missionary
George Mueller had when he didn’t know where his next meal would come from or if he’d even get one. Advanced preparation wasn’t possible then! He could only trust God to do the next thing.

I’ve never had to go through anything as drastically faith-testing as waiting for your daily bread, but recently experienced a small-scale parallel of the uncertainty, not of the next meal, but of the next ride.

Two weeks ago, my family was at a conference and only after arrival realized that the sessions were held at a different place than our lodging. We had no car and thus no way to get there.

Four times a day we had to find a ride between the 2 places, and I was regularly uncomfortable in this position of waiting for the next unknown benefactor. Not in financial poverty living hand-to-mouth, but in simple need going from ride-to-ride.

It was a very small “problem” but it was a situation I couldn’t control nor choose to have transportation all planned ahead. I knew God would provide, but harder than trusting was letting that trust transform tension into peace about waiting and not knowing.

What is your unknown that is causing a lesson in trust? We know God is trustworthy, but do we live like it? Or does our anxiety say otherwise?

I like to know what will happen and be prepared for it. But trusting God sometimes means being willing not to know…the future, or where the next ride is coming from.