Archives for category: faith

Every once in awhile, my lovely wife and I will bust out our Lord of the Rings special-edition DVDs (no, not Blu-Ray. We’re old-school like that) and immerse ourselves in the epic world of Middle Earth.

Funny timing, then, that we recently finished a viewing right before a set of events unfolded that would remind me that—as much as I’d like to be Aragorn or Gandalf—I’m more like one of the Shire-folk. But there is great honor in learning to fulfill our small part of God’s Kingdom work: after all, some of the greatest Kingdom work is accomplished through the unnoticed and overlooked.

As Galadriel tells Frodo in the midst of his fear:

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future

I am truly thankful for the leadership, tenacity, truth-telling, and grace of leaders (many of whom I’m blessed to call friends) such as Kathy Khang, Helen Lee, Ken Fong, Sam Tsang, Nikki Toyama-Szeto, Bruce Reyes-Chow, David Park, and many, many others.

Jesus is recreating a people for Himself from those who are near and far away, from every tribe, nation, culture, ethnicity, and language.

This is our story to tell the world:

A better story of hope, redemption, life, salvation, justice, beauty, and truth in a diverse church that reflects the creativity and joy of Christ.

Recent events have reminded us how far we have to go in that journey, but that there is always hope.

I invite you to join with pastors, doctors, professors, artists, students, missionaries, attorneys, editors, accountants, counselors, moms, dads, and friends and raise your voice and sign this open letter to the church, to commit yourself to racial reconciliation, understanding, and forming a more credible witness to a broken world around us.

As I mentioned, I have felt quite Hobbit-ish in the midst of all these heavyweights. Most days, all I want to do is be the best husband and dad I can be, provide for my family, and live into our calling here in our little corner of the world in San Diego. My role in this story has been quite small, but I know that it is important not to give up—to lift my voice for my family, our church community, for Asian Americans, and for all people so that the world will know how great a Redeemer Jesus is.

I am incredibly thankful for my lovely wife—a profoundly gifted pastor, church leader, wife, mom, and reflection of the humble love of Jesus to the world. In many ways, it was her voice that became a sort of holy tipping point for one particular conversation with our friends from Exponential. As she shared her story, the doors of empathy and understanding opened.

It is no mistake, I think, that God used her voice to speak powerfully to a group consisting mostly of men. Like my friend Eugene, I also support women in all levels of church leadership. I believe this is the faithful reading of Scripture and, from my experience, the story the church needs to share with the broken world around us: God is unleashing His dreams through all of His daughters & sons, just as He promised so long ago.

As this conversation moves forward, I look forward to the unique leadership of brave, godly, and strong women (as well as the voices of my brothers in Christ).

Friends, your voice matters.

If you need to be reminded, I encourage you to read Connie Zhou’s story. Perhaps some of you will see yourself reflected back. Or, even if you are coming from a different place altogether, you will benefit from hearing her voice.

As the Church, may we plant and cultivate communities who are radically committed to loving our actual neighbors with the transforming love of Jesus.

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Even though the marketers have been trying their darndest to co-opt this truth, I still believe stories will change the world.

I had the privilege recently of hearing some close friends share their stories of how God’s love has been real to them over the years. Our redeeming King is able to bring beauty from the burned out wreckage of our lives — and I see it in the faces and hearts of my friends.

Around that table, I shared how music has always been a part of my redemption story. Even when I hated “hypocritical” Christians and felt completely unmoored, His whisper was the dulcet melody calling clear through the noise.

There was a King who was more precious than silver, whose love was wider than oceans. When I finally began to understand the power of the cross — that Jesus understood our sorrow, pain, shame; that He never gave up on me; that real love is sacrifice; that Someone so amazing would die for us — the song Only the Blood was the soundtrack.

Only the blood of Jesus covers all of my sins
Only the life of Jesus renews me from within

I am thankful for the countless, talented, godly women & men around the world who are writing the songs the Church is singing. Yes, Christian music is an industry worthy of scrutiny (and, sometimes, heavy-duty eye-rolling). Yes, there is more to music that glorifies God than being “safe for the family.” And, yes, there are more ways to make God’s praises soar than with heavy reverb and delay-soaked guitars (banjos, for one!).

But, friends, no matter how jaded we become, let us hold fast to the One who was, and is, and is to come, before whom people from every tribe, nation, and language will bow down in worship, and let us sing!

Our God is infinite, yet intimate; mighty and merciful; creative and compassionate. Were all the skies of parchment made and all the oceans filled with ink, as the old gospel song sings, we would still only begin to describe how great is our God.

I need words as wide as sky
I need language large as this longing inside
And I need a voice bigger than mine
And I need a song to sing You that I’ve yet to find
I need You, oh, I need You
                                                             – David Crowder

Sometimes, it takes years to see the thread God has tied together, but wherever He is King there is beauty and soul and life:

Time and again, the words of the psalmist have been proven true:

You did it: You turned my deepest pains into joyful dancing;
You stripped off my dark clothing and covered me with joyful light.
You have restored my honor.
My heart is ready to explode, erupt in new songs!

It’s impossible to keep quiet!
Eternal One, my God, my Life-Giver, I will thank You forever.

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I returned recently from my second trip with Living Water International to Nicaragua to help bring clean water to a community in need. It is so humbling to be a small part of what God is doing there to demonstrate His love & care for the world.

Jorge, the team leader in Rivas, Nicaragua, told us a heartbreaking story about the reality of the water crisis. Recently, after completing a well, an elderly man from the village told Jorge he was very grateful, but that the well was two years too late. Jorge found out that the man’s wife had died two years earlier from water-related disease.

As a friend from our church community shared in his testimony this past Sunday, as we spent the week in the mud, digging and drilling for clean water, we could sense God saying to our new friends there that He has not abandoned them.  Despite the staggering statistics (almost 800 million without access to clean water, over 2 million water-related deaths each year), we know that God has not given up — and neither have we!

When the church answers the call to action, being willing to get our hands dirty so that others can live, our living sacrifice paves the way for the Living Water of Christ to flow.

Learn more about LWI’s work here:

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Dallas Willard — author of seminal works such as The Divine Conspiracy and Renovation of the Heart — died today.

Although I did not know Dr. Willard in a personal sense, the impact of his work changed the direction of my life and ministry in ways that continue to reverberate today. Clearly, based on the outpouring of love & sorrow I’ve seen via social media streams today, many feel the same way.

My friend Steve sums this up beautifully:

Spirit Farmer

Dr. Willard opened my eyes to the ways in which we so easily distort the beautiful, wild, incredible life of loving & following Jesus Christ to become a gospel of sin managementIf I just avoid drinking/dancing/etc., then I will have fulfilled my Christian duty.

From The Great Omission:

Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone.

Willard’s call to live today in Christ, becoming an apprentice of His way, transformed how I viewed my everyday life. Grace is not a static theological trophy gathering dust on the shelf or a paperweight with which we can club others over the head.

Grace compels us to live.

Today, we are not only saved by grace, we are paralyzed by it. We will preach to you for an hour that you can do nothing to be saved, and then sing to you for forty-five minutes trying to get you to do something to be saved. That is confusing, to say the least.

Grace calls us to  a life infused with Christ’s resurrection life — His joy, peace, purpose, and strength:

Spiritual formation does not aim at controlling action. It is a matter of reworking all aspects of the self. It is a process that involves the transformation of the whole person, and that the whole person must be active with Christ in the work of spiritual formation.

This vision of life in Christ renewed my understanding of spiritual disciplines. We don’t pray or read our Bibles or fast to prove how “spiritual” or “mature” we are; we don’t fast as some kind of divine punishment. Rather, we are retraining our souls for a new way of life:

Spiritual disciplines are activities in our power that we engage in to enable us to do what we cannot do by direct effort.

A couple of years back, I had the chance to hear Dr. Willard speak live. It would have been easy for his words about discipleship, sin, and transformation to be heavy or burdensome. Instead, because of his winsome approach, I found his words to be freeing and pointing toward joy. One thing he said, in particular, has stayed with me (and I hear it echo in my mind today as I think of Dr. Willard fully entering into the presence of our beloved Savior):

Followers of Christ are people who live and live and keep on living such that, when we die, we won’t even realize it. Rather, we will continue living our lives in Christ.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ save us in every way, and bring you the fullness of God’s shalom peace today.

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All of the above quotes (except for the final one) are from The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’s Essential Teaching on Discipleship. I would highly recommend this book for those who are interested in engaging Willard’s writing. I found The Divine Conspiracy to be kind of intimidating (and heavy) at first — The Great Omission is very approachable and is overflowing with wisdom.

After our church services on Sunday, I spoke with a father whose son recently suffered an unexpected (and unjust) setback in his future career path.

This father shared with me how he counseled his son through the disappointment.

He, too, had suffered a similar setback early in his career. However, instead of letting it derail his sense of purpose, he rolled with it, bloomed where he was planted, and continue to seek God faithfully. His words were so wise:

“Son, your career is a means to glorify God. If He shuts one door, then you’ll be able to glorify Him through another. The most important thing is to honor God with your whole life.”

As a dad, I want my daughter to be resilient, to be able to bounce back from the inevitable disappointments and frustrations that will come her way in this broken world. I want her to fight the temptation to walk away or give up when life hurts. The truth is, I know I have to model this kind of holy resilience for her to catch it.

Friends, don’t give up. 

Light will break through this night. The fog will be lifted by the morning light.

The cross of Jesus Christ could have been the worst kind of disappointment: when hopes & dreams we had dared not speak were dashed apart in betrayal, darkness, and shame.

Instead, from the shipwreck of our lives, we see how far God will go in relentless pursuit of His beloved people. The cross tells a simple story: God has not given up on you.

And when Jesus emerged from the grave on that first Easter morning, we hear God’s voice again: You are alive and free.

You are not bound by sin and brokenness and death. God has hopes and dreams for you. Let this be your story and your song.

Wake up O sleeper

Love these superhero prints reimagined noir:

Sometimes, in choosing to pursue what is right, we will discover the way really is narrow.

We need to stay connected to the One who is life and to each other as we pursue lives of justice, mercy, and humility.

The season of Lent begins next Wednesday, February 13th.

As we enter this season of reflection and repentance, may all who are laid low in the dust be brought to life through our Savior.

From The Brilliance, Dust We Are And Shall Return:

I would encourage you to consider engaging a Lenten fast in which you make room in your heart for more of God and turn your heart outward to bless those in need.

Perhaps the Water for Water project from Living Water International to help bring clean water in Jesus’ name to some of the one billion people around the world who don’t have access to clean water.