#PrayforDallas – responding to injustice

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Immediately after returning from a family mission trip in Asia, the news broke, in my hometown of Dallas, of the horrific acts of violence on the night of July 8, 2016.  Within the past month, there were multiple shootings across America: Orlando, Minnesota, and Louisiana.  However, this time, the shootings were directed at the people who swore to protect our lives and promote justice.

The wide range of public reactions were blasted all over social media.  Moral questions sprang up such as these: What’s happening to our nation?  Where is justice in all of this?  Where is GOD? How can he let this happen?  Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 12.07.32 AM
We knew church services that weekend needed to help people understand how we should respond and manage our anger, grief, and posture towards God and others. How do we make sense of these senseless murders with a Christian Worldview?

In clamorous times like these, we should always look to Scripture for wisdom.  For me, these scriptures come to mind in dark moments of injustice.  
  • Our courts oppose the righteous, and justice is nowhere to be found. Truth stumbles in the streets, and honesty has been outlawed.  Isa 59:14
  • We growl like hungry bears; we moan like mournful doves. We look for justice, but it never comes. We look for rescue, but it is far away from us.  Isa 59:11
  • Death has climbed in through our windows and has entered our fortresses; it has removed the children from the streets and the young men from the public squares.  Jer 9:21
There was a time in the Bible where the craziness all around us now resembled very much what the people of Israel experienced during their time of exile and injustice.  The people were crying out for relief because their brothers & sisters, sons & daughters, family & friends were dying all around them.  

The most important question in all of this is, “What do we do when we are in the midst of these horrendous acts?”  

Thank God, the Bible isn’t silent on how we should proceed in dealing with our emotions. The Prince of Peace has given us examples of how we should respond by 1) Lamenting our frustrations, 2) Worshipping our Lord, and 3) Seeking Peace with others.  

Read More…

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Why didn’t Jesus say He was God?

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I ran across a recent blog by Pastor Mark Driscoll that helped answered a question I was perplexed during my early youth years.  I wish had the WORD of GOD armed and ready, but failed in my feeble attempts to dual a self-proclaimed atheist.  This could have been one of those moments that later inspired me to enter into seminary training.   Much later in life, our family moved into a new home, and 2 sisters knocked on our front door from the Jehovah Witness church, asking the same question…

So why didn’t Jesus outright say, “I AM GOD”?  Instead, he frequently referred himself as the “Son of Man”.  Before we can answer this, you must also recognize that we’re over 2,000 years removed from the historical and cultural context of Jesus’ time.  The words and phrases written in the Bible may obstruct us from seeing what was SO OBVIOUS to the audience of that time.  

SHORT ANSWER: Jesus DID emphatically, publicly, privately, and unapologetically declare that HE was GOD.

Yes, Jesus wasn’t crucified because he supposedly broke the Sabbath laws, healed the sick, perform miracles, or teach “heresies” in the eyes of the Pharisees.  He was put to death because he called himself, “GOD”… “I AM”.  Here are 2 passages that may help you in answering this question.  There are many more, and I invite you to add them into the COMMENTS section below.  

  1. John 10:30-33: I and the Father are one.”  Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”  “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
  2. Matt 26:63-65: The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.

You see, pretty clear right?  Do you have any other passages that can encourage and equip others to firm up their faith in knowing Jesus was God?  Add them to the COMMENTS.

Thank you, Pastor Mark for helping us answer this question.  WATCH HERE

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Vision Night of Worship 2016

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This Easter 2016, we launch a new service time on Saturday at 5:00 pm.  With the growing need for an alternative service, we realized that it was time to open up the doors for greater community impact which consisted of lots of young families in weekend sports, increased urban housing development, and an internationally renown university down the street.  

Up to this point, I felt God pressing on my heart the need to recast a Vision for Easter preparation and a heightened sensitivity for our community.  Our team decided to do a pre-launch of Saturday night service with a Vision Night of Worship.  You can WATCH all of the Vision Talk I shared here: Vision MessageMay it open your eyes to the things God has for you this Easter Season, or read on with the summary.

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SUMMARY OF VISION TALK:

My Big Point: Easter is a time to refresh your vision and see clearly God’s movements in your life.  God is asking us everyday, “Do you see anything”?  1) It may be your first step to cross over and see Jesus for the very first time.  2)  For many others, like me, it’s stretching of our faith to see him, new every day.  

My Big Prayer:  I wanted to pray for our church family and all the churches nearby and in the world with these 2 verses –

Uncover my eyes so that I may see the miraculous things in your teachings.”                                              Psalms 119:18 (GWT)

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”                      Eph 1:18 (NASB)

4 EYE-OPENERS WE LEARN FROM THE BLIND

They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”  He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”  Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.  (Mark 8:22-25 NIV)

From this familiar miracle story, we find 4 Eye-opening lessons from the Blind Man’s encounter with Jesus.

  1. Friends can Help or Hinder our meeting with Jesus (v.22)
  2. Clear Vision requires a Personal Encounter with Jesus (v.23)
  3. We can Experience Jesus in Multiple Ways
    • Touch (Matt 9:27-31) 
    • Spit & Mud (Jn 9:1-41) 
    • Spit & Touch (Mk 8:22-26)
    • Spoke (Lk 18:35-43)
  4. Jesus Blesses us according to our Faith                                             

VISION NIGHT TAKE-AWAYS

“And [Jesus] asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’” Mk 8:29 (ESV)    

 “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.”  Mk 8:31 (ESV)

Question: How will you Encounter Jesus this Easter season? 

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light,”  Mt 6:22 (ESV)

I want to share 3 prayers for 3 different types of blindness: 

  • Spiritually Alone

 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Jn 3:3 (NASB)

  •  Spiritually Broken

 “The Spirit of the Lord is with me. He has anointed me to tell the Good News to the poor. He has sent me to announce forgiveness to the prisoners of sin and the restoring of sight to the blind, to forgive those who have been shattered by sin,” Lk 4:18 (GWT)

  • Spiritually Dull

“The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.  The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down.  The Lord loves the godly.” Ps 146:8 (NLT)

“Create in me a clean heart, O God.  Renew a loyal spirit within me.” Ps 51:10 (NLT)

Advancing a Cause. Pushing the Urgency.

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blog contributionThis is a blog contribution to the Thirty.Network conversation.  Read more about the Dream and why I am passionate about it.  Below is my personal experience coming from the FIRST Thirty Gathering in So-Cal.  

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Not too long ago, I ran across this picture-only book, East Meets West by Yang Liu (YES, I am big fan of books with fewer words). The author attempted to depict intercultural dynamics between the Eastern-Asian culture versus the Western-Anglo culture. Some of the illustrations may be a bit exaggerated, I thought this picture (above) resonated most with me. Read more HERE and see which ones you gravitate towards.

After I wrestled through my own identity, God made it very clear that He gave me East and West experiences in order to prepare me for this season of ministry at Saddleback Church.

Being the first Asian-American campus pastor in a predominantly Western-Anglo church, I was received and accepted with open arms. It was liberating and refreshing to be invited into a church culture that was obviously anointed by God and pursuing His mission all the time.

However, it wasn’t always easy navigating a church culture that didn’t think like me.

Above, the blue picture represented how Western cultures deal with problems. On the other hand, the red picture, describes how “I” was indirectly taught to handle problems.

You can only imagine how one could struggle with leading staff, teaching members, resolving conflict with volunteers, or leading up to elders and pastors. Yikes!

But God is always gracious. There was saving grace in the loving people he placed around me at the church, and my awesome team that supported my leadership style.

I strongly believe that’s why I am so passionate about activating a new generation of Asian-American leaders who will wholeheartedly serve the church. The world’s population is changing fast, becoming more urbanized, diversified, and modernized. Especially in America, we are seeing the population becoming more Asian-ized. Recent census data and demographic research report a population growth of over 40% in the last 10 years, exceeding Latino Americans (see DJ Chuang’s article at edstetzer.com).

I’ve been privileged to receive mentoring from great leaders and organizations. Through this journey of learning, I am always reminded of King David, “For David, after he had served God’s purpose in his own generation, died, …” (Acts 13:36a NET).

Before I die, I want to run as fast as I can in advancing Asian-American leadership for the ever-growing diverse churches in America. We are to be stewards of developing leaders to better pastor the next 30 years.

This February, I helped host the first Thirty.Network Gathering. 30 Asian-American church leaders, recommended by credible pastors, gathered together for 30 hours to listen, learn, and lead change in advancing Asian-American church leaders for the next 30 years. The intent was to provide a SPACE for healthy conversations in sharpening each other in cross-cultural communications, leadership development, and strategic planning in a peer-to-peer learning environment.

30 hours was way too brief, but I did walk away with 30 gold nuggets. I made 30 new friends and co-laborers who will help me better serve my local church and use my influence, resources, and time to help shape the future for the next 30 years.

My hope is that you can find your own fulfillment and identity with the Thirty.Network. Join the conversation and help shape the next 30 years.

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Incubation: Multiplication by Addition (Part 1)

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I love Ed Stetzer and my dear ministry partner, Ray Chang. Lots of gold nuggets in this article in Christianity Today. It’s something I strive to do with our church Saddleback Church Irvine South.

Was there anything you gleaned from this short read?

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Several months ago, we launched our first church planter cohort.[1] Seven church planters sat around tables, each one sharing his vision for launching a new church. As each planter shared his background and story, I began to hear a common theme around these church planters. Out of the seven, five had already planted a church, but the church was unable to sustain and flourish. Each story was filled with pain, frustration and helplessness.

One planter was given orders from his senior pastor to plant a church in two weeks. He could ask anyone in the two week time frame and was given a two months salary to launch a church. Another planter left a large mega-church where he served on staff as the youth and college ministry pastor. After expressing his desire to plant a church, the senior pastor let him go without support or help. The next planter shared the story of starting off at a local college campus, where they started reaching the campus, but they soon realized that without a financial base of families, the church began to shrink and resources ran dry. The fourth planter shared how he had departed from an immigrant church with a co-planter and began to wander aimlessly for six years with a core of 30 people. There was little outreach and all the core members lived 20 miles away.

Finally, the most heart-breaking story came from the last planter, who shared his vision of planting in one of the most difficult parts of the city… READ MORE HERE

Recovering the Lost Art of Fasting

 

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I’m sitting in my bed with a painful stomach virus that started on the morning of Thanksgiving Day!!  Family and close relatives were coming over in a few hours to watch the Cowboys get blown away this year and gorge themselves with all the fixins’.  It’s one of my favorite holidays of the year, and I am stuck in bed shivering and about to swallow 2 Nyquil pills.

Trying to find God’s presence in my sickness, I was convicted to share about a spiritual discipline one would never think about during this holiday season: The Lost Art of FASTING.  Yes, you heard me, “F-A-S-T-I-N-G”. It was a paper I wrote in my first year of PhD studies around this holiday season.  It reminded me that this holiday season can be JOYFUL without GORGING yourself on every impulsive appetite for pleasure.   Yet the source of JOY is from our Savior King who once said, “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow” (John 15:11 NLT)!

—————–The Lost Art of FASTING ———————–

Growing up in the Midwest of the great state of Texas, much of my religious influences was a product of my own environment.  Right in the heart of Bible Belt, I enjoyed the comfort of being surrounded by openly professing Christians and church steeples at every corner of the city. I was confident that I knew what it was to live a Christian life along with the disciplines involved for maturation.  I was blessed to be raised up in a Christian home; my father was a pastor, daycare was at the church during the week, I was schooled in a local Christian private academy, I grew up in the church, most of my friends were churched, and I continued my education at a Baptist seminary.  Yet through most of my early years, the spiritual discipline of fasting was hardly practiced or mentioned.  At best, it surfaced as a side note on some occasions in sermons.  During these years, I never met anyone who seriously practiced fasting.  Later, I relocated and served in three different churches, observing no active practices of fasting by any of the members and leaders of the church.  If we can read through the many examples in the Bible, why has this discipline been neglected in the majority of American Protestant circles?  The intent of this research is to identify how the spiritual discipline of fasting has vanished from the modern Protestant church, and the second objective is my attempt to developing an intentional discipline of fasting within my life.  Finally, we can attempt to build a recovery plan by cross referencing contemporary practices with proper Biblical examples for the modern Christian church.

From his book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster attributes two reasons to the decline of this discipline,

“First, fasting has developed a bad reputation as a result of the excessive ascetic practices of the Middle Ages. … Second, the constant propaganda fed us today convinces us that if we do not have three large meals each day, with several snacks in between, we are on the verge of starvation. This coupled with the popular belief that it is a positive virtue to satisfy every human appetite, has made fasting seem obsolete” (Foster, 47).

His first reasoning is partially true; the decline in the practice started with the early church, and resurfaced in the Middle Ages, with little regards to the biblical faith and a higher inclination towards an act of penance.   Misguided at this time, fasting, a form of self-torture, would help rid the mind and body of the carnal appetites.  As a result, the ostentatious behavior evidenced superior holiness, very much like the intentions of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day (Nordell, 380).  Foster’s second reason is a whimsical response to make light of the distorted priorities of the American culture, focusing on the physical health over spiritual renewal.  In both of these extreme cases, fasting has been severely misinterpreted, and, therefore, the proper purpose of fasting has vanished…

Read More Here

Leadership Journal: Reloading the Leadership Team

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I recently wrote an article in Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal section.  They were doing an editorial series that surveyed the “State of the Pastorate”.  The editor wanted several pastors from different church contexts to weigh in and share battle stories in the ministry.  I’m confident my battle stories are quite trivial compared to the spiritual juggernauts that face the tyranny of religious persecution overseas.  Yet, I am comforted that God will and can use anything for His glory.  Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “… I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me” (NLT).  I hope my journey can encourage others in leadership the impact of developing future leaders in order for them to be released in expanding His Kingdom.

Ministry Leaders,  start from beginning, and read through the series, State of my Pastorate from Christianity Today.

This week, in conjunction with our most recent print issue of Leadership Journal, which explores the state of the pastorate, we’ll be featuring a series of personal essays by pastors answering one question: what is the current state of your pastorate?

Each entry represents the unique viewpoint and concerns of an individual pastor in a particular context. While the accounts may vary, all represent the current state of God’s work in the world through his church and those who lead it.

What’s the state of your pastorate? Let us know online through tweets, blogs, drawings, or smoke signals. Include the hashtag #mypastorate, (which might be hard with a smoke signal) and we’ll feature our favorites in a post next week.

October 26
John Ortberg, pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California: “Preaching Spit and Polish”

October 27
Doug Resler, senior pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colorado: “A Hazardous Duty”

October 28
Joe Thorn, lead pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, Illinois: “The Weight and Wait of Ministry”

October 29
Kevin Nguyen, campus pastor at Saddleback Church, Irvine (California) South Campus: “Reloading Our Leadership Team.”

Do any of these stories resonate with you?  Leave a comment or question below.  I’d love to keep the conversation going.

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