“What will people think?”

By Hamazasp (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There is a little question in my heart that tries to hold me captive:

“What will people think?”

It started when I was young. Growing up as “Stephen Chen’s daughter” meant behaving well, dressing appropriately, helping out at church, and generally living a commendable sort of life. My parents never spelled it out that way. Somehow between how I was corrected and praised by my parents and other adults, I concluded that the Christian life is a fishbowl life: people are always watching, so be careful what you do.

This mentality worked for a little while. It taught me to weigh my decisions. It helped me to be a little more cautious. It taught me to be sensitive to others’ feelings. The problem is that people pleasing became a way of life. I decided what to wear based on the people I would see. I chose my words based on what people might want to hear. When I needed to make difficult decisions, the loudest voices in my head were the expectations of the ones I love. Worst of all, I measured my worth by how well others thought of me.

One day, I came across this verse in the book of Galatians: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

Even now, my mind can’t fully grasp the enormity of my problem. When I get frustrated, when I am embarrassed, when I feel disappointed, when I’m stressed, I am beginning to realize that it’s often because I crave the praise of other human beings, not the approval of my Savior.

Do you worry about what others think of you? Remember this: Christ died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8)! Our worth lies not in how loud the applause may be or how well we do in school or how many likes we get on Facebook or how big our paycheck is. Our value has nothing to do with us but everything to do with the One who has chosen to love us and redeem us at infinite cost to Himself.

And that is why His is the only approval that really matters.

A Special Relationship

I’m leading a team of kids at the Vacation Bible School this week at our church, and my two oldest children are on my team. The organizers said they put my kids with me on purpose, and at first I thought, “Oh, ok, that makes sense.”

But throughout the morning I was treated to my kids constantly trying to assert their privileged relationship for attention that took away from the team. Asking to be allowed to sit out of activities. Yelling at me while I was trying to teach a Bible verse: “Daddy! Daddy!!! DADDY!!!” I happen to know that if they were on a different team, they would follow along very well with their teacher and happily take part in everything.

So my initial reaction was to think that my kids would learn better on another team, and I’d have an easier time teaching, so…why not that? They expect favoritism from me, and even if I don’t give it, that expectation makes them act and talk in ways that seem to take away from the team experience. And of course they do get better treatment some of the time: even if nothing else, there’s my being much more familiar with their names and the different meaning it has when I use their names as opposed to what it means to one of the other students. But doubtless there’s plenty more than that.

But then I thought…maybe God does play favorites with us. After all, God certainly cares about everyone in the world, even affirming that it’s legitimate to say that we’re all God’s children (Jonah 4:11; Acts 17:28). But he then gives a special relationship to those of us who accept Christ, complete with special grace, favors, attention…favoritism! (I won’t list out those special privileges here, but I trust you can easily find a full page or two mentioned in the Bible. Email me if you can’t!) My relationship with God is not all that different from how my kids treat me on the VBS team – “God, don’t you think I’m special? Listen to me! Look at me! I need, I need, I need!!!” And as near as I can tell, God says “ok” quite a bit!

Not to say that I’m planning to have a double standard with some of my students this week, but it does seem a bit more like the organizers might have had a good idea after all. My relationship with my kids is different from my other students, so the way I love them should be different. I think I’m seeing that this doesn’t take away from my ability to appropriately love and care for all of my students. After all, if it’s good enough for God, who am I to judge?

Identity in Christ

My identity in Christ. This is a phrase that I’ve heard my whole life, and I know the right places in a conversation to say it, but I realized that I don’t really know what it means. Yet it makes a big difference in life who I see myself as: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).

What is my identity to begin with? Who am I? What is your identity? Who are you? I’m Luke. OK, is that all? That’s my name, but is that me? I can change my name at any time, but surely that wouldn’t immediately change who I am as a person? The movie Batman Begins has the famous line in it, “It’s not who you are inside, it’s what you do that defines you.” Is that right? A lot of times, when we are “getting to know” someone, we ask what they do. Once we know that, do we know them?

Well, I’m learning that the meaning of having identity in Christ is that, in some way, it’s what he does that defines me. In fact, whatever it is that defines who Christ is, that also is what defines me if my identity is in Christ. So it’s helpful to think about who Christ is and how I get to know people in general, including Christ. Two things come to mind:

  1. I get to know others by learning facts about them.

I could spend a lot of time with someone, then later find out it was the governor, and what might I say? “I didn’t know who I was talking to.” Similarly, the Bible presents a lot of facts about me that are true because of my adoption into God’s family through Christ:

  • I have been given the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16
  • I am not my own; I belong to God (1 Cor. 6:20)
  • I may approach God with boldness, freedom and confidence (Eph. 3:12)

There are lots more facts like this that are true of us because of our relationship with Christ, and understanding and taking these to heart is part of knowing my identity in Christ.

  1. I get to know others by spending time in relationship with them.

Conversely, I could learn all the facts there are about someone, and yet not know them: reading someone’s life story, however detailed and accurate, is nothing like being friends with them. So to know well who I am in Christ, I need to know Christ well. This is probably where I fall short the most – Christ is a person who is alive and can be interacted with, conversed with, related to. Like any relationship, it takes work and effort to learn the best ways and then do it, but there is intrinsic reward and benefit for making that effort.

Maybe working on these two aspects, I’ll make some progress in understanding my identity in Christ.



I had never really considered it before.

Even when I lived alone, half-a-world away from family, I’ve been blessed with a sense of security & protection all of my life. With safety a seemingly natural thing, I never really considered what it would be like to feel UN-safe, UN-secure, UN-assured. UN-protected.

Then I began a relationship… with someone who made me feel completely safe. Even safer than ever before! So I still didn’t notice it.

As I began preparing for our wedding, I ran across a few blogs, snippets of books, etc that talked about marriage and relationships. They talked about how to overcome common threats to deepening relationships: Anxiety. Insecurities. Inadequacy. Fears.

Suddenly, I began to realize what a precious gift I did have, by understanding what I didn’t have. I was so grateful to my parents, grateful to my fiancé, grateful to God! Moreover, I’ve begun to feel the beautiful weight of how our relationship with our earthly spouse is a mirror of our identity in Christ. (Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’d heard that all my life… but I didn’t KNOW it.)

For those who are 2nd or 3rd generation Christians, we take Salvation through Christ for granted. It’s hard to imagine life without Him. We obviously don’t want to turn back time and live a more sin-filled life in order to drink more deeply of His grace, but… we don’t know what it means to return to our first love, because we scarcely remember that far back! (Except maybe what our favorite toy was!)

And yet… it’s HUGE! It’s such a HUGE THING to be Saved. Washed clean. Redeemed. Uncondemned. Pursued. Loved. Secure. Accepted. Adopted. Wanted. Cherished. Completely whole in Christ. Made new. Safe.

The prayer of an unbeliever.

The prayer of a not-yet-believer.

An Uncourtship Story

“Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.” —Psalm 32:7 (KJV)

I searched the Bible for character qualities my future wife should have…and some I should have.

I made commitments to “courtship” when I was 12. I had crushes, accompanied by prayer and journaling. I read blog posts about “being the right one” rather than “finding the right one.” I looked for more character qualities I should have.

If I did what was right, I wouldn’t hurt others or be hurt myself, right?

Then I tried to “court” someone.

That’s when I discovered well-intentioned people treat one another shabbily, even when—maybe especially when—they’re trying to do everything right.

Along the way, I heard lots of advice. There were admonitions to be “serious” about relationships. But being “serious” didn’t guarantee I wasn’t also selfish.

There were admonitions to “pursue” relationship, that relationships take work. This idea pointed out where I focus on myself rather than another person. But my initiative and effort did not guarantee relationship success.

The shame became the hardest part.

While my friends were getting married and then having kids, I wondered why my relationships would last a while…and not work out.

In the two and a half years before I met my wife, Tina, at VOICE 2013, two 8-month relationships came and went—one mostly on Skype that couldn’t survive meeting in person, one relationship I ended for reasons I still struggle to articulate.

Even my good desires were all mixed up with something else. I’d think myself in the right…and realize how self-righteous that thought meant I was. I would decide my life direction didn’t match someone else’s…and then I would realize how much fear was influencing my decisions.

So when I met Tina, I didn’t experience it as answered prayer. I hadn’t thought to pray…although the guys on my team at VOICE did.

I didn’t “love Jesus more,” or receive a “rhema,” or get myself to a place where I had “no will of my own,” though those sound like good things.

Knowing Tina has been more like a sudden rain than like turning on a faucet, more like being forgiven than like “clearing my conscience,” more like grace than anything else.

Now that we’re married we need each other’s forgiveness even more. And the other’s forgiveness makes God’s promised forgiveness feel more real.

Maybe that’s the point.

Maybe grace is not “the desire and power to do what is right” but the work we discover God was doing all along. Maybe what we’re meant to know isn’t “how to live the Christian life” but to behold our Savior.

Embracing Our Identity

Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in His [own] image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

What’s the purpose of a reflection? Certainly not to point to the reflection itself. If you’ve ever seen a reflection, you know that it’s single purpose is to point to the thing that it’s reflecting. If we’ve been made in God’s image, we know that we reflect a part of Who God is and therefore were made to point back to Him.

I’m convinced that so often we shy away from who God has made us to be instead of rejoicing in our identity as His image bearers. So what makes you….you? What do you love? What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy? For example, I love music, adventures, perfection, and laughing. All of these qualities about me reflect Who God is. Just think about all the people in the world, past and present. Think about how diverse and incredibly unique each one is, each one made to reflect the image of God in varying ways. 

However, because of sin, our purpose of glorifying God has been turned upside down. Instead of using our qualities to point to God, we point to ourselves by either taking pride in who we are on our own or wallowing in self-pity because we’re not as good as we think we should be. However, through the gospel, Jesus has provided the way to restore us back to the joy of fulfilling our original purpose. By surrendering to Christ, He gives us new life. In Him, we find not the extinguishing of ourselves, but rather the awakening of ourselves as we see our lives and the qualities that make us unique as part of a greater purpose: to point others to the glory of God. When we see ourselves through this perspective, we can’t look down on ourselves or puff ourselves up in pride. All we can do is rejoice in the wonder of our Creator Who made us in His very image! 

So let’s take who we are and live vibrantly. Let’s use everything about ourselves (our gifts, talents, personality, passions, ideas, and dreams) to love Jesus more and to point others to Him. WE are God’s image bearers, created to reflect a part of Who He is–that’s an incredible truth worth rejoicing in! 




A wise man once stated,”For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:” God Himself recorded these words in the Bible, even as he put stars in the sky “for signs and for seasons.”

Fall is a glorious time in NW Oregon. The days are warm, the nights are cool, and the colors of the trees are fantastic. But with the coming of fall also comes the rain. Slowly but surely the weeks fill with more and more rain until we have transitioned to the winter showers that seemingly last for weeks on end.

Seasons of life happen too, when you’re a kid, you cannot wait to be an adult. When you are in highschool, you feel like it is going to last forever. College provides another change of seasons. Dating relationships are just for a season. This or that job is yet another season. We like songs for a season, foods for a season, clothes for a season, and even friends for a season.

I tend to hang on to seasons too long, finding my identity and my comfort not in God, but in the temporary things of whatever season I find myself. Seasons are good and natural, created by God and an important part of our lives, but our lives, and our God, are much bigger than any one season we go through.

Enjoy the season you’re in. Live it to the fullest. Thank God for it. Move on well when the seasons change. Let God be the one in whom you find your identity, comfort and delight, and remember that He will be with you in each new season you enter.


Who am I?

I hate revealing personal information about myself online. Look at my Facebook profile, and you’ll see no interests, no favorite books, no movies.

VOICE Team 1 throughout the years.

The problem was a couple months ago, Karen asked us writers and translators of this blog to write a bio to introduce ourselves. We were given the following criteria:

  • A brief bio (can include where you’re from, what you’re doing now, interests…)
  • What years you were involved in VOICE
  • Favorite VOICE memory

I didn’t know what to write.

Why am I like this? Maybe it’s because being the youngest person in my family, I’m used to just going along with what the older people in my family want to do. Maybe it’s because I’m fickle, so my favorites are constantly changing. Maybe it’s because I like to be mysterious. 🙂

One big reason, however, is that I’ve grown up with two months of every year taken up by both the CI (Children’s Institute) and VOICE. During that time, I don’t listen to music, I wear “VOICE clothes”, and I don’t have any time for my own “interests”. Without me realizing it, a big part of my identity and interests has become VOICE. I also may be subconsciously afraid that by stating my interests, people will think my views also represent VOICE.

The truth is, I have been doing VOICE for a LONG time. On the one hand, it’s easy for me to get tired of doing the same thing year after year. On the other hand, I have to wonder if I would face an identity crisis if I stopped doing VOICE.

This past weekend at the VOICE retreat, we’ve talked a lot about our identity: how the way we view ourselves, the people around us, and most importantly, God, will affect the way we live our life. While VOICE is an important way that God has worked in my life, at the same time, it’s still just a program. I will serve in VOICE as long as God has me here, and at the same time remember that I am here to serve God, not the program.