Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ode to My Grandmother

I gave my first eulogy ever last Sunday before we buried the beloved spiritual matriarch of
our family, my grandmother Kyung Hee Cho. I wasn't planning on posting it but at the behest of a couple people I thought it might be encouraging to anyone who finds themselves discouraged when life does not go according to plan. Though our plans may fail, God's plan can never be frustrated. His is a good plan for those who know and love Him, because He is a good God. 

Good evening. Thank you for joining us to celebrate the life of my grandmother. Before I begin, I’d like to read two verses from 2 Timothy which I think capture her life and legacy so well:

2 Timothy 1:5  “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”
 2 Timothy 4:5 “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

My grandmother’s first name was Kyung Hee. But if she ever took an English name, I think “Lois” would have fit her well.  We don’t know much about “Lois” in the Bible, as this is the only time she is ever mentioned; likewise not many people have probably heard of my grandmother: Cho, Kyung Hee. Though, she lived to the remarkable age of 92, most would likely deem her life rather unremarkable -- at least by the world’s standards. She never amassed much in the way of wealth, never gained much in the way of titles; never even collected a university degree. But it’s truly an honor to call her my grandmother and to stand before you and share her story, because it is impossible to tell her story without telling God’s story. They both loved each other so much.

If I had to describe my grandmother I think I’d only need three words: Frugal. Funny. Faithful.

First, my grandma was FRUGAL. When you don’t have lots of money, you have to save everything to get by. She lived through war and poverty and I know that profoundly impacted her but this woman saved everything -- and I mean everything. She would stash napkins and bars of soap like they were diamonds and bars of gold. Sometimes she would give candy to my children but I’d always get a little nervous when they ate them, wondering if the candy was older than they were. And whenever we took her out to eat at a restaurant she’d always take the free bread and stash it in her purse and then ask for more. She loved Old Country Buffet. I think she had OCD when it came to OCB, because to her it wasn’t just all-you-can-eat, it was all you can stash. When I read about Jesus feeding 5,000 with 5 loaves of bread. Sometimes I honestly wonder if my grandmother was somehow involved in that miracle. I could just picture her showing up with that big purse and feeding all 5,000 from her personal stash. 

As I got older, I realized that she wasn’t saving things so she could enjoy them later for herself. She was saving things so she could give them to others when the opportunity arose. Her frugality was actually generosity. Last Monday morning shortly after my grandma passed away, the Hebron pastors came by to pray with us. After praying together Pastor Lee shared that every time he would visit my grandma in the nursing home she would always pull out a stash of one-dollar bills and force him to take some - so that he could buy his daughter some candy. It didn’t surprise me at all. That was my grandmother. Though she never had much to give, she always gave all she had.

Second, my grandma was FUNNY. She lived each day with happiness in her heart, and a smile in her eyes. That in itself is probably not all that unique but when you realize the great heartache, loss and suffering she has endured you can only conclude that the joy of the Lord was her strength. To give one example, at the start of the Korean War and in the chaos of fleeing from the North, she was separated from her 5 yo daughter – never to be seen again. As a mother, I know not a day went by where she did not grieve that loss, wondering if her child was still alive and praying that they might one day be reunited again. She made us promise to make every effort to find her, if the North Korean borders ever opened up again.  But you would never know that she carried that profound pain because she was always quick to laugh and slow to anger. This joy gave her the strength to just tell it like it is. She was never afraid to speak truth. In fact just a few weeks ago, we held a family reunion at my house and I woke up early one morning to find her sitting by herself on our couch in our living room. So I sat down next to her. I wasn’t wearing a shirt since I had just gotten up and in the quietness of that morning she looked over at me and in Korean she smiled and said, “Peter, your breasts are large enough to nurse a child.” I knew that was her way of telling me to lose weight. But that was my grandmother. Though she was losing her memory, she never lost her wit or her sense of humor. Though she had so much taken from her, no one could ever rob her of her joy.  

Lastly, and most importantly she was FAITHFUL. You cannot be faithful without faith, and my grandmother was a woman of great faith. And she had no greater passion than sharing her faith with others. She felt her calling in life was to be an evangelist. She would often tell me, that as a young woman her dream was to attend seminary and become an evangelist, but when the Japanese occupied Korea they shut down all the Bible schools. But she didn’t need a degree to share her faith. When she immigrated to the U.S. and was unable to speak English – most would call it quits. How do you share the gospel if you cannot speak the language? Well, apparently her purse was not only good for carrying bread. She also used it to store hundreds of gospel tracts which she handed out to pretty much everyone in the Chicagoland area telling them “Jesus loves you” in her broken English and every once in a while she would do this and see a grown man break down and cry.  

Looking back at her life I’ve come to realize what made her special was not her great faith in God, but God’s great faithfulness in her. Because she lived through a war, and experienced having nothing, she was able to live in peace and give away everything. Because she was separated from a child that she loved so dearly --longing to be reunited, she understood God’s love for His children, separated by sin, and who longs to restore us back into relationship with Him. Her heart for the gospel was shaped by her hardships in life and God did this for her good and for His glory.    

My grandmother prayed without ceasing, memorized large portions of Scripture, and passed her faith on to her husband and two remaining children – my grandfather, who passed away 13 years ago, my aunt, who went to be with the Lord five months ago, and my father, both of whom she loved dearly. The two children she raised married godly people in my uncle and my mother, who had a very close relationship with her mother-in-law. From the two children she raised, six grandchildren were born and from those six – sixteen great grandchildren -- almost all of whom are sitting here today. Those numbers include four elders, three worship leaders, a children’s pastor, and two missionaries. Though my grandmother never fulfilled the dream she envisioned for herself, she fulfilled the ministry God had given her and it was far better and far greater than she could have hoped. God was faithful to this woman of faith. Thank you, Lord!

And Grandma, thank you. Thank you for showing us -- all of us how to endure suffering well. Thank for you for doing the tireless work of an evangelist. Thank you for fulfilling your ministry on earth. And now your reward is in heaven -- where you stand united with your Savior who loved you more than His own life, and reunited with your two daughters whom you loved more than your own life. You have inspired us to give all that we have without letting anyone take away our joy. You have inspired us to have faith because God is faithful. And now your legacy stretches beyond your faith and into your family. May we all fulfill the ministries God has granted us, just as you have fulfilled yours. We love you. 


Monday, June 15, 2015

Sex, Ziplines and the Gospel

Kim and I had the privilege of hosting a youth retreat for my sister's church at our home this past weekend. It was a great excuse to put up a zipline in our yard which sits on a large hill. But, it was an even greater excuse to talk about some things that few parents and churches like to discuss with children. Sex. 

Come to think of it, sex is a lot like a zipline in many ways. It is exhilirating and fun but it was designed to be enjoyed under the protection of a few important things like; weight-tested carabiners, quality helmets, harnesses and a proper line install and tight fittings. Carelessness in its design and use and ignorance of its purpose can lead to great personal harm.
Given the fact that the kids who attended the retreat ranged from age 10 to 15, I felt the burden of teaching this weighty subject in an understandable. sensitive and biblical way. At times, they seemed a little uncomfortable but I'd rather they be uncomfortable with the truth of God's word, versus comfortable with the lies of this world. That said, I did struggle a bit with whether I was introducing them to these provocative ideas a bit prematurely (especially the pre-pubescent 10 year olds). However, the day after the retreat ended I came across an article from Women's Weekly entitled: "Lost Innocence: Why Girls Are Having Rough Sex at Age 12". (click for link) It's a sobering must-read which makes me grieve for my daughter and all the kids growing up in this confused world today. More proof that the world is looking for love, but has settled for pleasure and further confirmation that it is not too early to discuss these things with our children. So many kids are being thrown into a sea of lies without even being given a life vest to navigate the storm. And frankly, if a child is old enough to be exposed to and addicted to pornography (which is happening at age 10 and even earlier) then they are old enough to hear the truth about love, sex, dating and marriage. 

The truth is, God created sex and created us as sexual beings with a sacred purpose in mind. He is good and He created sex as good which is why we find an entire book in the Bible named Song of Songs testifying to the beauty and glory of sex enjoyed within the protection of a marriage union. However, when we disregard His design and deviate from His purpose, we only bring hardship and harm upon ourselves. And silence or bad-mouthing does not work. When we as parents or church leaders refuse to discuss this with them truthfully or only refer to it as something bad or evil, our children are left to conclude that we are hiding something from them, which breaks down trust and often leads them astray. As the article scientifically observes:
“If you only talk about what is dangerous, you are not a very credible source of advice, and you are not being truthful. They will dismiss that advice. If you talk about it being good, they are more able to make some sort of informed choice about what is the right time. The research from all around the world, the more parents talk about this topic, the more likely the children are to have safe sex, to put off sex until they are older and to have fewer sexual partners.”
Christians should welcome talking about sex and it's goodness more than anyone else because we believe it was created by God for our good and for His glory. I know this because it contains the story of the gospel within. The world chafes at the Bible and God's "rules for sex", but it is only because the world fails to realize that the rules God designed are to point us to the relationship God desires. 

If time allows, I will post a series of articles in the near future explaining why God created sex and how it tells us the story of God's great love for us. In the meantime, check out  a video of my niece below demonstrating how awesome ziplining can be when it is enjoyed within the protection of that which it is designed. Blessings.


Zipline Fun from Peter F Cho on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Losing My Job...and Never Been Happier

After 16 years with the company, I'm losing my job --- and I've never been happier. Don't get me wrong. I absolutely love my job and the people I get to work with every day. I know it's popular to bash large corporations today but how many companies would:
1. Pay for your continued education (MBA - books included) with no strings attached?
2. Grant you 8 months of leave and hold your job while you cared for your sick wife?
3. Help you galvanize a bone marrow registration effort company-wide to save lives? 
4. Allow you to work from home once a week so you can mantain a healthy work/life balance?

This one. I count it a privilege to have worked at one of the greatest companies and some of the smartest people in the world. But my job does not define me. My God does. As some of you may know, I have been in the process of writing a book on marriage and the gospel (some of which I have put on this blog), going on four years now and to date it's about 80% complete. I began in earnest when Kim was sick with cancer and have labored with starts and stops in between. This past New Year's Day my only resolution (and promise to God) was to complete this project but truth be told I still found it difficult to make progress given my busy work schedule, three kids, etc. 

So you can imagine my surprise when I found out that GE Capital was selling off virtually all of their businesses and Commercial Real Estate would be the first to go. I was shocked but not shaken. While the world might see this as an unfortunate turn of events I see it as a great blessing because it completely frees up my schedule to finish the book. I will be getting paid to essentially do nothing until early next year. God has removed the last of my excuses -- a lack of time.

As a bonus, I was only two classes shy of graduating with a Masters degree from Moody Theological Seminary before my wife got sick. I couldn't summon the gumption to go back upon life after cancer. Well, I found out that GE will also pay for my last two classes as part of their job-loss policy. Gumption summoned. God is good. 

After being summarily rejected by all the Christian publishers I knew three years ago I resigned myself to self-publishing. At the encouragement of a friend (and despite my hesitation to re-open an old wound) I attended a Christian Writers Conference in Wheaton last week called "Write to Publish". Once I got over the fact that I was one of the youngest people there, one of only a few males and definitely the only Asian (not on a panel), I pitched my book idea to four different publishers. To my surprise, all four of them shared in my excitement and wanted to see a completed book proposal. It was so affirming to see others in the industry, who have the power to get the word out, see the awesome potential of communicating the gospel through the context of marriage. God's timing is always perfect. Don't worry, I have no aspirations of becoming a full-time writer. I'm just following God's lead -- though admittedly it is a bit slow for my impatient taste.

A generous friend of mine helped me put together a teaser video (pro-bono) three years ago and it has collected dust since then. I hope it piques your curiosity in the project. (though the title has already changed) 

The Big Picture of Marriage from Peter C on Vimeo.

I make no claims of being a marriage expert but in the end this book is not really about marriage -- it's about the gospel and I'm a lover of the gospel. Please pray for me (and Kim) if you feel led. Obviously, this topic is deeply spiritual and though I believe God created marriage to be a light to the world, it has instead become a lightning rod with the world. My prayer is that through this book God would unveil the mystery of the gospel found in marriage so that many might come to understand and experience the great love of our Lord. 
"Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."  -Ephesians 6:19-20
In His Grace & For His Glory,

Peter 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Seeing Jesus in an "Ass": Blessings and Curses

Now that I've got your attention please allow me to explain my blog post title....

I had the great privilege of giving the Sunday sermon at my home church yesterday from Numbers 22-24 which covered Balaam and his donkey (i.e. "ass"). Since I didn't have much time to prepare I recycled an old sermon that I have given a few times before at various churches. It's actually part sermon/part personal testimony of how God has taken some of the greatest "curses" in my life, like my wife's cancer, and transformed it into a myriad of incredible blessings and how this dynamic is true for all believers. So, if you are in a difficult place and find yourself questioning the goodness of God in the hardness of life - please take a listen and be reminded again of what the message of the gospel really is and what it means for you today and for your future. God is in control - even when we are not. God is good - even when we are not. God is always working for the good - even if we (or others) are not.

You can listen by using the embedded MP3 player below, or you can find the archived sermon HERE or MP3 link HERE, if you'd rather download the file into your iPod/iPhone and listen later.



I've also posted a few diagrams/pics I used in my powerpoint slides below because it is difficult to envision what I am speaking of via audio alone. I'd recommend not scrolling down and reviewing the diagrams and pics until you're about 25 minutes into the sermon. That is where I begin to tie everything together with the gospel and show you how can you see Jesus....even in an "ass".  =)

Lord bless.

Peter
 








Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Jewish Moral Law and the Gospel of Christ

There are many moral laws in the first five books of the Bible (i.e. the Pentateuch, the Books of Moses, the Torah) which many people, even Christians, find confusing and others often mock as proof that the Bible is an antiquated book with little relevance to me today. This is probably best exemplified in an open letter written to Dr. Laura Schelssinger a few years ago posted below. Schelssinger is a radio personality who gives advice to those who call her radio show and this satirical letter was posted on the internet in response to her quoting Leviticus 18:22 and condemning homosexuality as an abomination. 

Dear Dr. Laura: 

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law.  I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can.  When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination.  End of debate.  I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them.

1.  When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord—Leviticus 1:9.  The problem is my neighbors.  They claim the odor is not pleasing to them.  Should I smite them?

2.  I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7.  In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3.  I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness—Leviticus 15:19-24.  The problem is, how do I tell?  I have tried asking, but most women take offence. 

4.  Leviticus 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations.  A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians.  Can you clarify?  Why can't I own Canadians?

5.  I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath.  Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death.  Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

6.  A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination—Leviticus 11:10—it  is a lesser abomination than homosexuality.  I don't agree.  Can you settle this?

7.  Leviticus 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight.  I have to admit that I wear reading glasses.  Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

8.  Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27.  How should they die?

While I give the writer of this letter points for creativity, wit and humor, it is misguided for several reasons. One, it completely ignores the context in which these laws were written. The Bible is not a code of moral ethics by which people curry favor from an insatiable and insecure deity. It's ultimately a story, written by and about a God who loves us and who is pursuing a relationship with us which has been broken and initiating that restoration through His Son. 

Second, the writer fails to understand the fundamental problem of sin -- especially in the presence of a holy God. Have you ever noticed that anytime a person enters the presence of God in Scripture their immediate response is to fall on their face? That's "shock and awe". Notice it's not a holy God scurrying away from sinful man. It's sinful man falling down and hiding his face from an awesome and holy God. 

"Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?" -Exodus 15:11
As a child I used to think that sin somehow has power over God - as if God is Superman and sin is his kryptonite. We have it backwards. It's not so much that a holy God cannot dwell with sin - but rather it's sin that cannot dwell with a holy God. When Uzzah touched the Ark of the Covenant (2 Sa 6:7) the Ark was not destroyed....he was. Sin and anything sinful is simply vaporized when it comes into contact with the awesome holiness of God. It's as simple and sobering as that. And so God did not send His Son as a panacea to His greatest weakness - He sent His Son as a panacea to our greatest weakness. This was not God's solution to His greatest problem - it was God's solution to ours. 

If you're still not convinced or would like to understand how it all ties together better please watch the video from The Bible Project below which does a great job of describing the structure and purpose of the book of Leviticus. Here you will see that Leviticus is pointing (as every book in the Bible does) to both the nearness and to our need of a Savior -- Jesus Christ -- who is ultimately revealed in the New Testament. 


You can choose to see the confusing moral laws in the Old Testament as arbitrary nonsense that disproves the relevance of the Bible. Or you can choose to see it as defining our problem with sin before an awesome and holy God, leading to God's gracious and merciful solution in His Son - Jesus Christ. 





.Peter

Monday, May 18, 2015

Life, Death and the Glory of God

I want to share a quick story on the sovereignty and goodness of God in the midst of aching trials. When Kim was sick with cancer, we were served by some wonderful people. One of the best was our friend Jen (and her husband Rob) Stotz. She was truly a blessing to us -- constantly praying for us and greeting us with that positive attitude and infectious smile of hers. We were more than happy to partially return the favor this past year after we heard that her brother Bob was stricken with cancer and battling for his life. I did not know Bob personally but followed his journey of faith and suffering. He struck me as a godly man with a beautiful young family who loved to serve the "least of these" as proven by his dedication as a pediatric surgeon and his heart for medical missions.

Well, long (and tragic) story short -- Bob passed away last week after fighting to the end. The grace he and his sister Jen displayed through all of it is truly a testimony to the indescribable hope and peace we have in Christ. Though the outcome was not what we had hoped for, I know God was glorified by their faith. I share this because last night we got a message from Jen. Apparently, as soon as she got home from her brother's funeral a letter was waiting for her. It was from Be the Match and she was notified that she is a possible match for someone with cancer in need of a bone marrow transplant.

Jen wanted us to know since she registered when Kim was sick in 2012 when we were trying to get the word out for everyone to sign up. Only God could have orchestrated the timing of all these events. Obviously, the outcomes were very different for Kim and Bob and frankly it's something we don't understand ourselves, but one thing remains the same: GOD. God is good. God is sovereign and God is near to the broken-hearted.

p.s. If you haven't done so already please visit bethematch.org and register to be a donor. It's as simple as mailing in a cheek swab.

Peter

Friday, March 27, 2015

Faith, Hope and LOVE

I ran across this "spoken word" poem from a very talented artist named Janette...ikz about 4 years ago.  Her poem was entitled "I Will Wait For You" and it's an honest look at the disappointments in seeking a soul mate but finding satisfaction in the one who created her soul. I remember listening to this and thinking "she gets it".  Though she learned some tough lessons in dating the best thing she learned was that ultimate love can only be ultimately measured by and found in the One who is love -- Jesus Christ.


Well, I was happy to find another video from her this week. Apparently, she waited in hope for that man and she got married recently and recorded her vows. I'm so glad that her faith was rewarded on earth as it yet will be in heaven. God has granted her a Prince Charming for her time on earth but a greater Prince awaits her in heaven and she has not lost sight of that greater hope and promise.


I pray that my little girl gives her first and greatest love to the only man that can never disappoint her. Not her boyfriend. Not even me, her father. But the one who made her and loves her more than He loves himself. I hope she sees that the marriage vows she makes before her husband one day are only a picture of the covenant vows that Jesus has already made to her so that her struggle to keep her promise will be strengthened by Christ's promise to always keep His (Rom 8:38-39). I pray that she will find herself whole and complete not in an earthly man, but in the perfect God-man who provides a lasting "shalom" (wholeness, peace) and a perfect (complete) love.