Archives for category: Kingdom of God

Adventure

A very happy new year, friends!

When I responded to God’s call over 17 years ago to serve in full-time vocational ministry, I had no idea what was in store. God always knows what He is doing, though, right? There’s no way I was prepared for the ups & downs ahead, but Jesus has always had more than enough mercy & grace for the journey.

Our family is so thankful for the next adventure to which God is calling us. We are incredibly grateful to partner with a group of generous, thoughtful, faithful, kind, compassionate, and talented individuals and families to plant a new church here in San Diego: Anchor City Church!

We believe God is calling us to plant a third culture, multiethnic, multi-generational church to bless and serve San Diego and the world, and are excited to respond to the call. We believe a diverse church with Christ at the center reflects the joy & creativity of God and forms a beautiful, credible witness to a broken, divided world (Revelation 7:9-10).

As Asian Americans, we have experienced the pain of being not accepted as fully Asian or American. However, through the redemption only Christ can bring, our journey has been transformed from “neither/nor” to “both/and.” We believe God is calling us to leverage this gift for the sake of others at the margins, who might not feel at home elsewhere and to invite them to sit at Christ’s table among the family of God.  As the psalmist says, “God sets the lonely in families.”

As pastors, my wife and I seek to unleash the God-given dreams of each member of our community, to cultivate better expressions of Christ’s love for the world, and to join the redemptive work of the Holy Spirit throughout San Diego and the world. Christ is the true Anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6:19), the One who harbors us in the eye of the storm and who gives us the courage to venture forth and risk the ocean.

We dream of kids & families growing together in the truth that this is our Father’s world and following Jesus is an adventure like no other. We want to engage and unleash the God-given creativity, curiosity & wonder of people of all ages through music, art, science, food, and play.

We will begin gathering in homes this week as the new year begins. If you, or someone you know, does not belong to a church community and is looking to find a church to call home, we invite you to consider Anchor City Church. We believe God has not given up on the world, and neither have we!

Friends, we deeply value your prayer & intercession. We want to cultivate an outward-looking ethos & culture in Anchor City, and we believe that is only possible through the leadership & guidance of the Holy Spirit.

In the weeks to come, I will be posting more about our heart, ministry, and life together — including our social media accounts and website. We look forward to connecting and collaborating for the Kingdom!

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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.

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.

.   .   .   .   .

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.

As I’ve shared here before, the Idea Camp tribe has been such an important part of my life & ministry over the last couple of years. This collaborative movement of idea-makers has been a constant source of inspiration.

No, you’re not crazy if you think that it’s more important to work together for the Kingdom of God than to seek individual credit or accolades. This ethos of partnership, collaboration, and getting things done is rooted in the ethos of Charles Lee, the founder and glue behind the Idea Camp.

I’m grateful for Charles, who has been an encouraging friend and wise mentor to me (and many others)  in so many ways. I’m never surprised to see the caliber of people Charles is able to bring together. For example, check out the roster of speakers Charles has lined up for this year’s Ideation Conference in Chicago.


Today, Charles’ first book, Good Idea. Now What? hits the shelves at brick & mortar bookstores (and, of course, at various online retailers). Good Idea is filled with practical insights, both from Charles’ experience and from his vast network of social entrepreneurs — including Soledad O’Brien of CNN, Scott Harrison of charity: water, and Blake Mycoskie of TOMS.

Good Idea is written for two kinds of people. From the introduction:

1. The idea lover who is sick of just sitting on great ideas: These are individuals who recognize that their ideas may never come to pass without a strategic process and a developed skill set.

2. The idea maker who needs to refresh and reaffirm his or her understanding of the elements for implementing ideas well: No matter how experienced you may be, this book will be a good resource for sparking meaningful conversations about your ideas.

The world needs us to dream better dreams, but even more than that, to act on our convictions. I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with Charles where I wasn’t encouraged, challenged, and/or inspired to action. I highly recommend Good Idea. Now What? and I’m excited to see the great ideas that get put into action as a result.

You can read a sample chapter here.

I just returned from visiting three cities across India in ten days with a team from my church community here in San Diego in partnership with Justice Ventures International, on whose board I serve. Putting into words all that we saw and experienced is extraordinarily difficult — in each city we visited, each day felt packed with a week, and the overall impression was a sort of “everything all at once.”

In this series of posts, I’ll share a bit about what we did, but more importantly, highlight people and organizations on the ground who refuse to be overwhelmed by the evil of slavery and human trafficking but, rather, hold fast to hope and continue to fight on behalf of those being crushed under the weight of sin.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

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As Eugene Cho commented recently, it’s altogether too easy to act like a jerk in the name of “contending” for the Gospel.

I think Rob Bell’s characterization of broader American culture is unfortunately true of the church many times as well: “There is this low-grade boiling rage that many people carry around with them everywhere they go.”

[Ironic edit: The aforementioned Rob Bell has become a trending topic on Twitter because of a group of people who are adamantly opposed to him, filled with the typical name-calling, gnashing of teeth, and end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it hysterics typical to such trending topics.]

Apologies for sounding like a stereotypical, institution-suspicious Xer when I say this (but totally not apologizing for still nerding out over The Breakfast Club, as seen in the photo above!), but I am growing weary of the infighting in my denomination. I think we could play a pretty mean game of church insider-bingo with the vocab being thrown around: tall steeple churches, white papers, open letters, angry responses, clarification letters… BINGO!

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As part of the Booksneeze program from Thomas Nelson, I received a copy of Richard Stearns’ book, The Hole in Our Gospel, for review.

In The Hole in Our Gospel, Richard Stearns describes his journey from corporate CEO to following Jesus into the poorest corners of the world. Stearns currently serves as president of World Vision US.

In the introduction, Stearns writes:

Being a follower of Jesus Christ requires much more than just having a personal and transforming relationship with God. It also entails a public and transforming relationship with the world. If your personal faith in Christ has no positive outward expression, then your faith – and mine – has a hole in it.

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