Saturday, January 10, 2004

Urbana sharing ... uber lite version:

First, I want to thank you all for praying for me while I was Urbana. Some of you emailed and let me know specifically, it was very encouraging to get those emails. Sometimes you know people are praying, but putting a face on those "people" can be encouraging :).

Anyway, its been about a week since I came home from Urbana, school this week was just a tad bit chaotic. So I find myself here on a Friday night really enjoying some quiet and rest. Its actually been quite an interesting week in that people have been asking me about Urbana, and I really haven't been able to give an honest response. I was wanting to write this email a week ago ... But I was at a loss as to what to write. There were a lot of things that God hit on during the conference ... These are some of the things which are still working in my life. (DISCLAIMER: I have a ... Tendency to ramble and be long-winded; sorry! Bear with me :)

-- on Sunday night, the speaker really challenged us with a hard word: "when we let anything other than Jesus define our reality (what we base our lives on), that thing is idolatry." the essence of idolatry being something that has become more real to us than our relationship with Christ. The speaker then listed three idolatries: self-fulfillment (wordly honor, prestige and recognition), self-comfort, and self-empowerment. God's grace was really on this message; I realized all three of these things are in some way or another, deeply entrenched in my life. This false kingdom of self, Jesus calls us to give up everything and follow him. The young ruler in the gospels was so disappointed when Jesus asked him to sell all his possessions, its interesting that he actually had obeyed all of God's commands ... And yet, it was so difficult to give up what he had in the world. Responding to this message was a crucial foundation for the rest of the conference.

-- The next morning, the speaker gave an illustration about what it means to serve a king. "Yes, your majesty." The only words fit for a king. Here on earth, no one ever dares to say "no, I don't think so your majesty," its unheard of ... Because anyone who has said anything like that to royalty gets the sense knocked into them! In the same way, if Jesus is our Lord and King ... How much more shall we say "Yes, your majesty" to whatever he calls us to? And he is a good king!

-- I attended a seminar entitled "How to pray for and engage your unchurched friends." Even before Urbana, God had been convicting me on how much I seemed to be doing "christian activities," endless meetings and gatherings with believers ... But not much evangelism going on. I've attended many seminars about evangelism, this was definitely one of the most helpful. The seminar leader, Pastor Gideon of Liquid, (http://www.liquid-acc.com/), an Asian American church thriving in Texas. Some things that he said that were really fresh for me: when we pray for unchurched friends, pray that we will see what God is already is doing in their lives (God is always working, join his work), pray that the hope that we have will inspire questions (no one's ever inspired by religious fundamentalism or loudness, but they will be affected by a living hope!), and pray that we would avoid arguments in relating to unchurched friends. On the side of engaging those friends, Pastor Gideon exhorted us to "love relentlessly." It was incredibly simple, yet that is the core of the gospel, to love our neighbors. If we had any understanding of how God loves people, then we would understand hwo to love others. Funny how often I manage to complicate that into something else. Pastor Gideon also mentioned something else (very rough paraphrase), "If the answer to being spiritual stuck, or spiritual plateaus is having better bible study, resources, planning, and programs... Then the Western church should be the healthiest church in the world." Ouch.

-- I found that the coolest thing about Urbana was their emphasis on cultural diversity and different cultural expressions of worship. One of the most powerful moments of the conference was when a Native American worship team lead worship in their own unique cultural style. Similarly, the most powerful message of the conference (in my opinion) was delivered by the first Native American speaker ever to speak at Urbana. I don't think I really had any "crazy" emotional experiences at Urbana ... But there were moments were the Holy Spirit pierced deep into my heart, and woo... I wasn't the same! "When we become mature, we will not become something we've never been; but we will become the fullness of who we were called to be." As an Asian-American, I haven't gone through much of the discrimination that my parents and others have ... So in many ways I have been fortunate to freely express my identity as an Asian-American. The difficulty however, is that I don't think I've ever truly been able to reconcile the asian with the american. I find so often that I am a stranger in the asian context, and a stranger in the western context. Where do I belong? Why did God make me Asian? Something I realized at this conference was that the person that I am, God fully intended for me to be this way. He took great care in creating every one of us ... Ethnicity and culture are things that he values, I wasn't asian by accident! I guess I've always known this; but God's grace allowed me to understand this truth in my heart.

-- On the second to the last evening, I was hit with the message I had been expecting all week. The call to missions, the call to step out. I was dreading it, because I knew it meant leaving my self-comfort, my self-fulfillment, and self-empowerment. The "what-if's" and "buts," they went on and on. Praise God that his "but" is bigger than mines! "If we focus on our fears, we will never get out the door. Fears never ddisqualify us from participation! This fearful obedience..." And fearful obedience it was ... The speaker asked some piercing questions as we pondered our response: "Do you want to see God in greater ways? Will you risk and dream big for the kingdom? Will you choose the way of Jesus? The way of the cross? Do you know all that you possess? Do you want to be set free?" And in the end, I found myself at the cross in fearful obedience. Yeah, there is so much uncertainty, but I want to see God in greater ways ... I want to risk and dream big for the kingdom, I want to choose the way of Jesus, the way of the cross.

Woo..that was a uhm, a mouthful :). As I find myself a week removed from Urbana ... I can definitely say that the road has been paved to the cross. Every day I realize that I am no longer content in my self-comfort, fulfillment, or empowerment. I want Jesus and nothing else! And everyday is the painful reminded that I'm still clutching onto something of this world. I am no way saying that I am set for the quarter, set for life, or that I have everything together. On the contrary! Haha, I have never been so aware of my limitations and insufficiencies as a brother in Christ, a brother, a son, a student, a worship leader, a friend, the list goes on and on. In some ways, I can honestly say that I have never been so lost in my life ... But on the same token, I have never been more sure of the path that I am taking, because I have asked God to take me down the road of the cross. I don't know where this path will take me, who knows, I may find myself on the mission field some day, being someone crazy, or doing something totally unconventional. But if I realized anything at Urbana ... Is that God isn't so much concerned with whether I'm doing overseas missions or urbana ministry in the states as he is concerned with who sits in the throne of my heart. See all those things relating to identity, missions, career, relationships, evangelism, yada yada yada ... All those things are taken care of if my focus is set on the one who orders my steps, who directs my path.

I dunno, that's an amazing truth to realize :). I'm still trying to figure out this "summer plans" thing out, pray that I am diligent in exploring the doors before me. If you've read this far, haha, thank you. I can only hope God is using this email to encourage you as it has encouraged me. Once again, I thank you so much for your prayers! Our God is an amazing God, and he chooses to work through the prayers of his people.


Trying to live for the only thing I know to be true,
Benson

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