Restoration - by Jin ChoIn addition to my pastoral work with Anchor City, I’ve had the privilege recently of working also with the good people of Flourish San Diego. As implied by our name, the mission of Flourish is:

to help people and churches flourish into the fullness of who they were created to be so they can join God in flourishing our city and world.

One of the frameworks we use to describe how we see the world is The Four-Chapter Gospel (for reference: A two-chapter Gospel basically summarizes life as 1. You’re a sinner and 2. Jesus died for you—nothing false at all, but certainly lacking a broad biblical picture of the fullness of Christ’s love to restore, redeem, and renew all things). In brief:

  1. Ought: God created the world in goodness, love, and holiness. Deep down, many of us feel that longing for the world as it ought to be.
  2. Is: The world, and our own lives, are broken. Every relationship that makes life meaningful (with God, others, ourselves, and creation) has been broken and marred by sin.
  3. Can: Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection make it possible for us to live as citizens and representatives of the Kingdom of God (which, somehow, is already here but not yet fully realized).
  4. Will: One day, rather than burning up the world He so loves in a Nicolas Cage-worthy apocalyptic trainwreck, God will restore all things. As Samwise wonders in Lord of the Rings, we live for the day when our King will make everything sad come untrue.

“Christian” art can be a tricky thing, often being reduced to “successory” style motivational posters or saccharine nostalgia. Culture critic Frank Guan makes the following important observation about art:

To my mind, great art fails to embody a better world, but it carries the promise of such a world and encourages its audience to be worthy of it. Mediocre art, on the other hand, reiterates the world as it already is: Lacking transformative energy, it can only reflect the stinginess and squeamishness of its society of origin.

To my knowledge, Frank has no allegiance to the way of Jesus, but he manages to powerfully advocate for a Four Chapter Gospel understanding of art.

Flourish commissioned my friend Jin Cho for a series of original photos inspired by the Four Chapter Gospel called The Big Story Project. The results are stunning. Each photo of our city (SD forever!) was painstakingly well-thought out and beautifully executed.

The photo at the top of this page is the final photos from The Big Story Project series, “Restoration.” Jin can tell the story better than I can, but there are several ways this embodies the story of Revelation 21 in which God restores all things:

  • There is an ethereal, liminal sense of heaven touching earth—the bridge of reconciliation God builds
  • In the coming Kingdom, work still exists (notice the cranes in the skyline) and is redeemed
  • The light (as described in Revelation 21:23-26) is coming from the city; in fact, God Himself shines as our light forever
  • There is a palpable love for this great city throughout the entire The Big Story Project series
  • After several weeks of trying to line up this shot, Jin was able to capture this beautiful image—at sunrise on Easter Sunday!

Please consider purchasing these prints here. You will be a supporter of the good work of Flourish San Diego, a patron to the artwork of Jin, and a storyteller of the Four Chapter Gospel in your home (or wherever you choose to display these wonderful photos!).

When making the daily rounds through social media streams, it’s way too easy for me to devolve into cynicism. Between the shouty political noise and clickbaity look-at-me clamoring, it can all be a little much.

But this, this is an example of the power of genuine, authentic faith in Jesus to cut through the noise and brokenness of our culture.

Ingrid Williams, the wife of Monty Williams, the associate head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, was tragically killed in a car accident last week.

By all accounts, Williams is a beloved figure around the NBA and this incredible message he delivered at his wife’s memorial service demonstrates why:

Williams demonstrates so much to admire: his genuine love and admiration for his wife, his trust and faith in God even in these darkest of times. As he said during his beautiful eulogy, “This will work out. Doesn’t mean it’s not hard. Doesn’t mean it’s not painful. Doesn’t mean we won’t have tough times. What we need is the Lord. And that’s what my wife tried to exhibit every single day.”

But at 4:40, Williams says something truly stunning:

I’m going to close with this, and I think it’s the most important thing that we need to understand. Everybody is praying for me and my family, which is right, but let us not forget that there were two people in this situation, and that family needs prayer as well. And we have no ill will toward that family.

In my house, we have a sign that says ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ We cannot serve the Lord if we don’t have a heart of forgiveness. That family didn’t wake up wanting to hurt my wife.

Life is hard. It is very hard. And that was tough. But we hold no ill will towards the Donaldson family. And we, as a group, brothers united in unity, should be praying for that family, because they grieve as well.

Normally, I’m in the don’t read the comments camp of Internet browsing. Too often, the comments are worse than a schoolyard with their no-you’re-the racist accusations and anonymized name-calling.

But the comments (at least on one popular sports blog) speak to the authenticity of Monty Williams’ witness of the hope and power we find in Jesus. A quick sampling:

Comment 3

It’s always heartwarming when a true Christian is heard from. I am not religious, but I believe the teachings of Christ is the lessons of forgiveness. Forgiveness is what you need in your heart to look at others and understand they grieve too. To turn the other cheek, sometimes you need to see through the eyes of others, as painful as that might be. The test of your beliefs is when you are in the darkest place, when everything is crumbling.

It is truly awesome to behold.

Comment 1

“We didn’t lose her. When you lose something you can’t find it. I know exactly where my wife is.”

Damn. Those sentences right there. Stopped me cold and made me think. What a powerful thing to say in such a simple and concise manner.

Comment 2

I’m a huge Knicks fan an I remember when they drafted him out of Notre Dame and everyone was concerned about his preexisting heart condition. It turns out he managed to rise above it and made a good career for himself. As great as that was, it appears his life off the court was even better.

Its heartbreaking that he lost his wife the way he did, but man, having that type of faith is pretty awesome. I don’t care what religion someone believes in, but when you see that type of faith, love, and forgiveness in someone, you know they will be able to carry on.

Was his condition that his heart is enormous? Sure sounds like it.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus rest upon the Williams family as they navigate their sorrow and loss, and may they continue to walk in such genuine faith.

My lovely wife was featured in this great interview at Christianity Daily!

PJ interview

Her leadership, wisdom, and pastoral insight are so vital—not only for Anchor City, but for San Diego and the world.

Working side-by-side with her and watching her mentor & coach other pastors & planters, discern & guide the culture of our church community, and pour into the lives of our leaders and church members is a tremendous honor and joy.

As Philippians 1:27 says (emphasis mine), “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”

As I told a friend on Facebook, she’s the beauty & brains in this operation. Fortunately, I can provide some of the brawn!

Sermon 4 - Saint Exupery

With each passing day, I discover a new joy in this journey of church planting. As any planter will tell you, it’s lots and lots of work—but absolutely worth it!

I enjoy many different kinds of work, including graphic design, web editing, and freelance writing (and love that they’re part of my vocational mix) but I’m discovering that being a part of and helping to pastor Anchor City is really where my heart is. As God awakens and unleashes His dreams for each member of our amazing community, I’m filled with gratitude and wonder.

As the author of The Little Prince notes in the quote image above, pastoring at Anchor City isn’t about assigning tasks or accomplishing my 5-point vision plan: it’s standing shoulder-to-shoulder, discovering the vast, endless ocean of God’s grace.

A couple of unexpected opportunities have come up from this church planting journey, and I would truly value your prayers, friends.

  • First, my lovely wife and I will be sharing a breakout session at The Fellowship Community National Gathering on Wednesday here in San Diego. We’ll be sharing about our planting journey and what we feel it means for us to be a church for our great city.
  • Second, I’ll be part of a panel discussion at Exponential West on October 8th called “Engaging Healthy Conversations on Race Relations” alongside an incredible group of Kingdom leaders (for real, how did I end up in this group?). I hardly consider myself an expert on racial reconciliation, but I passionately believe a diverse church who reflects the joy and creativity of Jesus is a beautiful, credible witness to our divided, broken world (Revelation 7:9-10). As an Asian American, a central part of my life of faith has been Jesus’ redemption of my “neither/nor” existence into a “both/and” identity in which I can empathize with those who haven’t found a place.

“Platforms” are a funny thing. More power to those who want to, and are able to, reach large audiences through preaching, writing, or online. My lovely wife and I often say that we just want to be faithful in our little corner of the world. That’s not some kind of “holy” humility talking: as I’ve grown more comfortable in my own skin, I recognize how God has wired me as an introvert (and shy, to boot), so public speaking events (outside of our church community) are not a top priority for me. At the same time, I’m discovering how much I love and am energized by seeing life transformation happening in our Anchor City community and, through us, in our city and world.

As C.S. Lewis wrote, “The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become – because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be… It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.”

If there can be some kind of Kingdom impact through sharing my story, let it be so. As we seek to join God’s mission of redemption for our cities and for our world, we need each other. Maybe I’ll see you at one of these gatherings!

Our church community isn’t the most liturgical or formal. Even though my lovely wife and I have been ordained as ministers of the Word & Sacrament for a little while now, we generally don’t often wear vestments. [An aside: I did wear a clerical collar for the first time when taking my daughter to an event at the USD campus to protest racial discrimination as part of the post-Ferguson movement.]

Yesterday, as part of our worship service, we celebrated the Eucharist together. Whenever my lovely wife and I lead communion at church, we wear stoles in recognition of the significance of this sacrament (after all, for Presbyterians, we’ve only got two!).

As I began to read the Words of Institution, one of our first graders asked why I had put on a stole. I began to explain that when farmers lead oxen, they need to use a yoke—otherwise the oxen might run roughshod over the entire farm! In the same way, I told him, the stole is a symbol that we are all yoked to Christ, that He is the Leader.

Our first grader thought about it, smiled, and said, “So… it’s sort of like a leash then?” 

Sorta, I told him, as we all laughed! However, for followers of Jesus, we willingly accept His guidance and direction in all that we do (or, at least, that’s the goal).

*   *   *   *   *

Friends, may your Lenten fasts remind you that you are made for more than this world has to offer. May your capacity to love God & others expand as you make room in your hearts for more of Christ. And may you find joy in being yoked to our King.

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