Our Living Hope

This page is a testimony of the hope that we have in the midst of the darkness that is cancer....
see how dull and boring we are?
Like so many of you, up until about a month ago, I lived a very normal life. I've been married for over 10 years, live in suburbia with a great job in the city, and my beautiful wife and I are the proud parents of three young children. I love to travel with my wife, I love to play sports with my boys, and I love to go on "dates" with my little girl. Like I said, we're pretty normal - even boring you might say. Come to think of it, I'm Asian-American, studied Accounting, love baseball, and grew up Presbyterian - this is the very definition of "dull" and "boring".

Well, about five weeks ago (January 7th, 2012), our boring lives suddenly became very..."un-boring". It all started for us when, due to my wife's stomach pain, we took a trip to the ER on an otherwise normal Friday night. Over the course of two days the diagnosis evolved from a large stomach ulcer, to a pericardial effusion (massive fluid buildup around the heart) to Stage IV lymphoma cancer. Since then we have faced numerous surgeries, spent nearly 2 weeks in ICU, stared death in the face twice (see here and here) and started an aggressive chemotherapy regimen along with all the "fun stuff" (e.g. hair loss, hallucinations, intense body aches, nausea, fatigue, etc) that come with that.

Many people have asked us (or openly wondered) how are we able to walk with such grace in the midst of such a horrible trial. Some examples of this include one of our favorite nurses Kate, who wrote this beautiful note on our blog a couple weeks ago:

"Truly, everyone that your family has had the great pleasure to interact with at NCH have come together and we discuss you and your family and the latest details and lament together. In my nine years of nursing, I have not been touched or moved so deeply as I have been by your family's strength and courage. I have seen many people unfairly battle cancer in my years as an RN, but none so brave and so embracing as you and yours...you and Kim bring love and light to the world. Thank you for including me in this amazing journey." (see full note HERE)

Another good friend, who is a doctor at our hospital emailed me this: Working in a hospital and seeing sickness and death all the time tends to make even the most caring doctor or nurse, jaded over time.  The impact that you guys have had on the people who have taken care of you is unique and I've never seen it before. 

Now, I'd love to say that the reason for all this is because we are such amazing people who have great strength and fortitude, but in all honesty, we are not this nor do we have this. While we don't have much, what we do have is a humble faith which gives us a bright hope - even in the very darkest moments in life. Let me explain to you the reason for the hope that we have.

Many people in this world try to cope with the unpredictable nature of life by doing everything within their power to control outcomes and answer the many difficult questions life throws their way. The progression usually goes something like this:

Why don't I have more friends?
What is wrong with my skin?
Why can't I find a date to the prom?
How do I get into a good college?

How will I pay for a good college?
How do I find a good job?
How do I keep a good job?
Where should I live?
Whom should I marry?
When should we have kids?
When should we stop having kids?
How do we get our kids into a good college?
How do we pay for a good college?
How do I retire?
When will I retire?
Will I ever retire?

and of course....
Where did I put my car keys?

THE "BIG" QUESTIONS
I don't want to marginalize the above questions. They are all important questions, but in the grand scheme of things let's face it - they are all "small questions". And what I've found is that finding the answers to these "small questions" in life does not bring you any real lasting peace, joy or happiness. In order to find true peace and true joy - even in the midst of your darkest trials - you must find the answers to the "BIG questions" in life. In my mind those questions are:

Who am I? (identity)
Where did I come from? (origin)
What is my purpose in life? (meaning)
Where am I going? (destiny)


These are questions that I have sought answers to for much of my life, and these are truly life's biggest questions. However, I've noticed most people get caught up in the busyness of life and they never come face to face with asking themselves and finding answers to the "BIG questions" until they find themselves thrown headlong into a BIG personal crisis (i.e. health issue, death, catastrophe, etc). But over time, when the BIG personal crisis finally disappears - so often any attempt to find the answers to life's BIG questions often disappears as well. But, the truth is, those BIG questions never really go away...they just get inexplicably buried under all the small questions in life until another BIG personal crisis hits. It's a cycle that repeats itself with dizzying results until you choose to get off that crazy ride.

ALL PATHS LEAD TO GOD?
Many people in today's day and age will tell you that all faiths are equal and that all religions lead to the same God. (see the blind man and the elephant, the wheel with many spokes, and the "we're all climbing the same mountain" analogies). Don't get me wrong, I am not here to disrespect other faiths or religions (I have many good friends of various faiths and I love them dearly), but as much as I have tried, I could not reconcile this "all paths lead to God" claim with what was being taught within the religions themselves. If you did an honest study of every religion you will find that they all make their own unique truth claims and they all have major differences in regards to life's "biggest questions" on origin, identity, meaning, destiny and especially salvation. So it's not only illogical but it's disingenuous to claim that they are all one in the same. (On a side note: Aren't making the absolute claims that "all paths lead to God" and "there are no absolutes" self-refuting statements and despite the appearance of "tolerance" doesn't it inherently assume an exclusive and more enlightened view over other views - which is the very thing people who make these claims accuse others of?) I won't get into all the details of the major differences here, nor am I trying to create a nasty forum which pits one religion against another. (Please don't leave comments of this nature). This is just a humble invitation to get serious about your own spiritual journey or faith walk, or whatever you wish to call it and to seek the answers to life's biggest questions with all your heart, mind, soul and strength before your heart, mind, soul and strength are taken from you. Life is too short, and it's only a matter of time before you are forced to confront these BIG questions in the midst of your own great personal crisis (if you are even given the opportunity of deep self-reflection) so you might as well start now.

MY TESTIMONY


I grew up in a Christian home and my dad was an elder at our church for as long as I can remember, but as I came of age I found myself seeking out a personal faith and my own spiritual identity. I wanted a faith that I could call my own, not something force-fed or handed down to me by my parents. So I studied different world religions in college, talked and befriended people of different faiths and engaged in dialogue and debate with all kinds of people seeking truth and answers to life's "BIG questions". I wrestled with a myriad of questions and doubts I had never struggled with before. But the long journey ended for me, when I finally came face to face with the person of Jesus Christ. Now, I had grown up in the church, went to a "Christian" grade school and had all the proper "credentials". But as someone once said, "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian, any more than going to McDonald's makes you a hamburger." The truth is I didn't really understand who Jesus was and what he was about until later in life and it didn't matter how much I fit the "profile" -  I just went through the motions. In fact, I vividly remember in 8th grade, at 13 years old standing on the roof of my house, tears streaming down my face, longing to jump off and end it all. I hated God, hated life and hated living. And if I had any more courage (or stupidity) I would have ended it right then and there. But God had different plans.

I never had this magical moment or epiphany in my own spiritual walk. All I know is that beginning in high school and well into college as I began my own spiritual journey and as I dug deeper into the Bible, I began to have a real and personal relationship with Jesus. I began to find answers to life's biggest questions. I began to realize who I was, where I came from, my purpose in life and where I was going. I began to find a transcendent peace and an inexpressible joy. 

WHO IS THIS JESUS?
Most people have no problems talking about God but for some reason when you start talking about Jesus it tends to make people uncomfortable. I get it. Although he lived 2,000 years ago, Jesus remains a lightning rod for controversy and is still a polarizing figure but no one can say that he did not leave a profound mark in history. I mean the calendar for much of the known world centers around his very birth. One could argue that his teaching rivaled the greatest thinkers of all time:
Socrates taught for 40 years, Plato for 50, Aristotle for 40, and Jesus for only 3. Yet the influence of Christ’s 3-year ministry infinitely transcends the impact left by the combined 130 years of teaching from these men who were among the greatest philosophers of all antiquity. –Unknown
His influence was not confined to the social elite or the well-educated but transcended all peoples, all classes, from all walks of life:
No one trusted in Socrates so as to die for his doctrine, but in Jesus Christ not only philosophers and scholars believed, but also artisans and people entirely uneducated, despising glory and fear and death. -Justin Martyr
The devotion of his followers was unparalleled by any other great leader and his reach more expansive than any known empire:
I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him. –Napoleon
When you read the eyewitness gospel accounts of Jesus in the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) you will immediately notice that people either loved him or they hated him. It was one or the other and there really was no middle ground. However, so many of us today love to put Jesus in this "middle ground". We love to put Jesus in this box and call him a great moral teacher (as Ghandi did) or an "enlightened man" (as many Buddhists do) or even a great prophet (as Mohammed did) but the truth is Jesus himself never offered up any of these as options to us regarding His identity.
Buddha never claimed to be God. Moses never claimed to be Jehovah. Mohammed never claimed to be Allah. Yet Jesus Christ claimed to be the true and living God. Buddha simply said, “I am a teacher in search of the truth.” Jesus said, “I am the Truth.” Confucius said, “I never claimed to be holy.” Jesus said, “Who convicts me of sin?” Mohammed said, “Unless God throws his cloak of mercy over me, I have no hope.” Jesus said, “Unless you believe in me, you will die in your sins.” –Unknown
There are many self-proclaimed "Christians" as well, who put him in this box and live a "middle-ground" faith because of their "middle-ground" Jesus. But the fact is Jesus is unique from all others before and after him and he made some incredibly unique claims. If what he said about life, about himself and about the past, present and future is true then there is no "middle ground". There are only two paths with two very different destinations (Matthew 7:13-14).
Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. -C.S. Lewis
Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life - no one can come to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) He made clear claims of divinity (John 5:18, 8:58, 10:30-33, Mk 14:61-62) and those who opposed him clearly understood these divine claims (Matt 26:63-67, Luke 5:21, John 8:58-59) and sought to destroy Him for them. He did not claim to be just another prophet but He claimed to be God Himself - and He willingly died making that claim and for a greater purpose (Jn 10:17-18). The essence of His teaching was distinct from all others in that he did not claim to SHOW a way...he claimed to BE the way.
Fundamentally, our Lord’s message was Himself. He did not come merely to preach a Gospel; He himself is that Gospel. He did not come merely to give bread; He said, “I am the bread.” He did not come merely to shed light; He said, “I am the light.” He did not come merely to show the door; He said, “I am the door.” He did not come merely to name a shepherd; He said, “I am the shepherd.” He did not come merely to point the way; He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” –J. Sidlow Baxter 
THE BIGGEST QUESTION OF ALL
As I mentioned earlier, many of us seek answers to life's little questions and until a moment of personal crisis we ignore life's BIG questions. However, I believe before we can find answers to life's BIG questions there is one singular question that transcends them all. And that question is:

"Who do you say Jesus is?"

Jesus asked this all-important question to his disciples (Mt 16:13-17), and I believe this is the BIGGEST question we will ever have to answer. Is he just a man? Is he a good, moral teacher? Is he a prophet? Is he a phony? Is he a lunatic? Is he a liar? (HT: C.S. Lewis) Who or what is he? The funny thing is your answer to this question will profoundly impact all the other questions (BIG and small) you have in your life. 

Paul tells us....
"He is the image of the invisible God..." Colossians 1:15a

The writer of Hebrews wrote:
"He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.." -Hebrews 1:3a

The apostle John says...
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" -John 1:1, 14 
Blaise Pascal wrote, "Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair." and S.D. Gordon once said, "Jesus is God spelling Himself out in a language that men can understand."  

If you choose to dismiss Jesus, that is certainly your prerogative, and I would completely respect that choice and still love you as a friend. I am not a right-wing nutjob. I am not here to peddle anything. I have no hidden agendas. I'm just a beggar who has found bread, with a great desire to share with others where I found it. If you felt you found a cure for cancer - would you just keep it to yourself? (no pun intended)

My wife Kim and I are blessed with a living hope in a hopeless world and we just want to share it with others. 

If you have not read through the gospel of John, I would encourage you to read through it, before you decide to categorically dismiss all the above. Even the greatest minds this world has ever seen have done this minimal amount of due diligence.
As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene. No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life. -Albert Einstein
I hope in your quest for the answers to the BIG questions in life you will find an answer. I don't believe God hides from us.

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." -Matthew 7:7


He wants us to know Him and He wants us to understand His great love for us and He orchestrates our lives so that we might hear His voice in our hearts and see His face (2 Cor 4:6). He longs for us to experience a transcendent peace and an inexpressible joy. 

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives." -John 14:27 

"I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." -John 10:10

If you are in any way curious to learn more about how to receive true peace and joy and most importantly eternal life through the person of Jesus Christ.than please visit this link: The Bridge to Life. It explains much better than I can the simple path to all the good things God desires for us - and this quest begins and ends with His Son. 
It is as if God the Father is saying to us: "Since I have told you everything in My Word, Who is My Son, I have no other words that can at present say anything or reveal anything to you beyond this. Fix your eyes on Him alone, for in Him I have told you all, revealed all, and in Him you will find more than you desire or ask. If you fix your eyes on Him, you will find everything, for He is My whole word and My reply, He is My whole vision and My whole revelation. -Anthony M. Coniaris
In closing, I want to share with you a brief poem I wrote and a brief video that I put together and posted on FB about a year ago.I think it will sum up much of what I have written over the past three days. The poem is a series of questions and the video is an attempt to answer them. Please feel free to share this post or even just the video with others! I've made it accessible to all. Thanks so much for reading and God bless.

What if God became a man?
Would he arrive in secret....or announce his coming?
Would he come in riches....or in rags?
Would he appear majestic...or ordinary?
Would he conceal himself...or let us witness?
Would he speak in clich├ęs….or transcendent truth?
Would he be pious….or perfect?
Would he abolish the old….or fulfill it new?
Would he feel what we feel?
Fatigue?
Thirst?
Sorrow?
Pain?
Would he come to be served…or to serve?
Would he demonstrate supremacy over…
Our laws?
Our traditions?
Our sins?
The natural?
The supernatural?
Disease?
Death?
Even his own?
What if we were not good enough to reach God?
Would he be good enough to come to us? 


FYI - click on the full screen arrows icon next to "Vimeo" and turn up sound for full effect.