Jesus

Big Game Fathering

Warning – potential spoiler alert.

I recently watched a movie called “Big Game,” starring Samuel L Jackson and Onni Tommila, which chronicles the coming of age of a young boy.

From the very beginning, I was hooked. I’ll try not to give away too many spoilers, but I was amazed at the way Jalmari Helander, the director, depicted Oskari’s (Tommila) rite of passage and how Oskari crossed paths with Moore (Jackson). Essentially, we have a classic terrorist act as the backdrop of the movie. And Oskari becomes the unlikely unlikely hero.

What captivated my attention for all 87 minutes was the parallel of Oskari’s life and passage into manhood with every one of our lives and the way we grow and mature from boys to men or girls to women. I have to admit I don’t know as much about the way it works for women, so I’ll speak mostly from a man’s perspective.

In Oskari’s culture, you go out into the woods on your 13th birthday and hunt an animal in order to show your manhood. All the men of the village send you off into the woods and wait your return with whatever animal you were able to kill during your night-long stay in the woods.

At each progression in the story, we learn more intimate details of Oskari’s growth. A book that explains this progression well is called “Fathered by God,” by John Eldridge. I highly recommend it.

But I wanted to point something out. In all cultures throughout time, we see a motif of coming of age or rite of passage. Yet, in today’s society we are increasingly unaware of the role fathers, and father figures, must play in the lives of young boys. It’s this rite of passage that helps us mature from boys who are beloved cowboys to men who are warrior kings.

The difference? A personal responsibility toward a call. We see this in Oskari as he steps up and takes responsibility for the situation in which he finds himself. The world needs people who are willing to step up and take responsibility, even in situations that aren’t their fault. And the world needs examples of father figures who can establish moral authority, confer identity, provide emotional security, and affirm potential.

What happens if Oskari doesn’t make it through this rite of passage? He misses the chance to be affirmed in his potential. He finds himself without a clear identity and lacking the correct mindset that moral issues are his responsibility. His emotional insecurity will lead him to look for opportunities to medicate rather than facing difficult situations and emerging victoriously.

I applaud Oskari’s culture and father for providing him the opportunity. I applaud Oskari’s unending passion to do what’s right regardless of the consequence. And I applaud father figures and sons who do likewise.

I have seen several rites of passage in my life. There was my first job, 8th grade graduation, my first trip overseas, model UN and Mock Trial, among others.

Have you had a rite of passage in life? What was it? What happened? Can’t wait to hear your story!

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My Father’s Business (testimony)

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There’s a story of young Jesus not keeping up with his parents on a journey. When questioned about why He wasn’t where He should have been, He responded with this: “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business” (Luke 2:49)? Jesus committed His whole life to His Father’s business. He said, “I only do what I see the Father doing” (John 5:19). So what kinds of things did He do? He made a title sentence for “what the Father does,” when he read from the scroll of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).” He also showed us how to pursue the same thing when he taught us how to pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:9-13). Near the end of His time on earth, he put us to the same task when He commissioned us in Matthew 28:18-19 beginning with the words “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” But what does that actually look like today. I submit that it looks like hosting God’s Presence in your life. It means that you are all about what god would have for you personally, for your community, and for the unique life on mission to which He’s called you. Here’s one example of someone pursuing God’s Presence in their lives and seeing God’s breakthrough happen continually.

On Sunday after our church service, someone came up to me and said, “Can I talk to you for a couple minutes?” I politely obliged and she started sharing. She recalled,

I’m usually a pretty negative person. I get all these negative thoughts in my head and it takes days to get them out. A week ago during our worship time, I felt something click, and all the sudden, I didn’t experience those thoughts. In fact, I went an entire week without having any negative thoughts. That’s unheard of for me. But wait, there’s more. I’ve been working through dealing with shame in my life. I had felt that I couldn’t put my finger on what was causing the same. All the sudden, the Tuesday after that church service, I started crying on the MRT. I realized that God was clearly revealing to me what shame I could deal with. He showed me how He has been there the whole time and wants to heal those areas. But wait, there’s more. I know that God wants me to initiate forgiveness and honor in my family, so I reinitiated contact with some family members I hadn’t been in touch with. God has already started doing things through those conversations.

She shared a couple more things I’m choosing not to say, but I can recount that it was amazing. I sensed God’s pleasure and joy all over her freedom and new life that’s been restored in her. The theme became “But wait, there’s more.” In fact, after that short conversation, she proceeded to send me more text messages. I’ll copy paste a bunch of texts and let you see it yourself.

There’s actually one more thing that happened in Sunday during the Christmas Eve service that I didn’t really share with you. Since my parents passed away I’ve always struggled with “Christmas depression” … usually it starts the first or second week of December and continues until the first week of January. This year it has been different. For one it only started to happen the week before Christmas, and also it wasn’t as intense. Anyway, Christmas Eve was a hard day for me. And when I showed up at Aroma I thought I was ok, but then I started tearing up as worship started. Then I felt Jesus asking, why are you holding onto this thing? Don’t you think that I’m strong enough to take it? Honestly, the idea had never occurred to me. I’ve always shared the burden with Him, but it never occurred to me that He wanted to release me from the burden of it. (Haha) So I did. And right away the sadness was replaced with this peace. Ah, Jesus is good indeed! And since Sunday the usually sadness hasn’t returned, only moments. And when those moments come, I give them to Jesus, and the sadness disappears. Umm.. and there’s more :). Remember that time we talked about family and I mentioned how broken things were. And you responded with something like .. not impossible. To which I responded with supreme doubt. Well, perhaps not so impossible (haha). Today my middle brother (whose father in law I asked you to pray for) messaged me saying my eldest brother had done something. Turns out he gave he 2 gift cards, $25 for my niece and a $50 one for Red Lobster for my brother and his wife. My brother said he was so surprised all he could say was thank you. This is the first time in 17 years that his eldest brother has given him a Christmas gift! I know this might just be a one-time thing, but it happened and my heart is so full! Just thinking about it makes me tear up. Jesus, seriously?? Even this you want to do?!? It’s like He’s taking care of business one thing at a time. Like He was just waiting for me to be brave so that He could begin to heal the brokenness. When I was on the mrt today the verse about the mustard seed and faith came to mind (Matthew 17:20).

Sometimes, we don’t keep up. Sometimes, we seem a bit off and a bit out of place. But God doesn’t see it that way. He sees us “about His business.” And that’s it. That’s precisely why we exist: to be about our Father’s business. What does He do? He builds highways in deserts. He sings songs over people. He speaks life. He raises the dead. He opens blind eyes. He sets people free from guilt, fear and shame. He’s so good! And I’m sure there’s going to be more. In fact, I’m sure that you’re going to get something out of this, too. What’s your struggle? What’s the impossible thing in your life? Jesus has given you the keys to the Kingdom (Matthew 16:19). He’s given you a mustard seed of faith (Luke 17:6). What burden does He want to remove? What situation does He want to radically change? Where will He put his resources. Will the Son of Man find faith on the earth (Luke 18:8)? I believe He will. Christ is in you, that’s the Hope of Glory (Colossians 1:27).

Why I LOVE Re-Looking New iOS Features

Be honest with me; there’s something to which you often return. You find yourself indulging in something and imagining how great it’s going to be. For me recently, it’s been the new features page of iOS 11 that’s set to launch this fall. This is a fantastic upgrade; it’s going to do a ton for my iPad. I’ll get to do more in-depth multi-tasking (which productivity gurus tell me isn’t true anyway). The files and dock functions are going to allow me to have a more unified approach to my workflow. It makes me want to leave my Macbook Pro at home more and more often. They’re even getting closer to convincing me to buy the most expensive pencil I’ve ever owned.

All of this is good. But when I found myself typing “apple.com/ios” rather than “asana.com” to begin my actual work for the day, I had to ask myself if I have a problem.

I do indeed have a problem (other than laziness and procrastination). This problem is called “desire.” And as Lewis notes, it’s a hat tipped to a bigger something we are all acutely aware of even if merely in our subconscious: There’s more. Lewis penned this phrase:

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Excuse me for being crude or overly simplistic, but this urge to scroll endlessly through announcements about keyboards and multi-tasking might be indicative of something bigger. Perhaps, it’s alluding to our other-worldly, cosmic desires. I submit that our desires tell us something about who we are and even more about who we are to become.

The key here is vision. I’ve wasted more hours than I’d like to admit on software updates. But people and products of vision point me to one key moment: we were meant for more.

The next time you’re tempted to, or look at something that draws you, ask yourself why. Consider that maybe, perhaps, your desire is actually looking for something more than pixels. You’re destined for an update from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).

5Q: Answers to a Decade (or more) of My Organizational Questions

disclosure statement: I was given a copy of this book, 5Q, by Alan Hirsch to give an honest review of it.

It’s 5:30 in the morning and I can’t put this thing down. I’ve planted a church and started a business in Taiwan, a culture which has traditionally been more resistant to the gospel’s work, with around 3% of 23,000,000 people professing faith in Christ. There have been successes in our ministry. Just a few days ago we were recounting what God’s done and noted that 34 people have been baptized since 2012.  and I’ll be one of the first to admit I often feel I have no idea what I’m doing. The reason I couldn’t put this book down is because Hirsch is putting into words feelings I’ve had for nearly a decade (which is a lifetime for a millennial). The premise of Hirsch’s latest work is that Jesus Christ has already given us a blueprint for what leadership, mission, evangelism, care and teaching should look like and how it’s done. He’s calling us to allow the latent seeds of the fivefold gifts, also referred to as APEST or 5Q, Christ gave the church to begin to grow again. APEST, or apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, are five different gifts or ministries that Christ placed in the church as a result of his ascension (Ephesians 4:1-16). He writes, “In it’s simplest form, 5Q is the synergy of a holistic recombination of the apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching (APEST) capacities referred to in Ephesians.” These gifts were given so that we could minister as the body of Christ and ultimately attain to the fullness of Christ. But Hirsch argues the archetypal evidence of APEST predates the establishment of the church and is actually part of the prevenient grace that God established when He created the world. Essentially, understanding and utilizing the fivefold is THE KEY to healthy, thriving organizations across the board whether in business, church or elsewhere.

By understanding 5Q, we are able to assess the health and capacity of our organizations, churches and businesses included. Hirsch traces biblical foundations, primordial forms and archetypes and ultimately the life of Jesus as the architect and builder of 5Q. Jesus shows us that the patterns of 5Q can be used to understand and assess His ministry as well as his commandments to the church. He outlines the fivefold functionality of the church and society at large. In utilizing 5Q, we have a clear trajectory for how to impart, empower and deploy the greatest move of God the world has ever seen! Hirsch gives numerous accounts of how utilizing 5Q in our organizations will invariably lead to transformation on all levels of society.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

  1. It is not coincidental that this breakthrough has come at a time in my life when my spiritual life has never been better–I am experiencing God in a whole new dimension. I find myself spending whole days in prayer and meditation. My prayer life is rich to the point of overflow. In a real way, I believe that 5Q has played a significant role in this sense of overflow. 5Q feels both personal to me, but I also feel its universal significance.
  2. If you want transformational gospel movement–really want it–then you are going to have to unlearn some very ancient churchly habits and be willing to relearn some new–and yet paradoxically more ancient–more authentically biblical ones. You’re a leader; I speak to you as a leader responsible for your generation.
  3. In fact, I hope to show, fivefold-thinking (5Q) reaches into our deepest instincts for ministry by reconnecting the ministry of Christ with the Body of Christ.
  4. Jesus “gave” APEST to the church, distributing it among all the people as he sees fit. It is vital that you, the reader, feel the weight of the grammar that Paul uses to talk about the constitutional givenness of the APEST ministries to the church. The verb form used for “given” (Gk. edothe, the aorist indicative form of didomi) is an aorist indicative, a very resolute verb form perfectly suited for use in constitutions. This is because aorists reflect actions that took place in the past and as such they are once-and-for-all-time events. The effects of the past event are still felt in the present. They are historic in a similar way that the signing of the Declaration of Independence was historic—it will impact America’s self-understanding for all time…Jesus is actually present in the church, and by which he extends his own ministry through us.
  5. Because they operate within a system, each individual APEST function enriches, counterbalances, and “corrects” the particular bias of each of the others.
  6. The good news is that all five functions/callings are like seeds latent in the system. They are already there by virtue of the defining Word of God. This is a liberating idea—all the potential for a tree is actually already in the seed; we don’t need to mess much with that. What we need to do is simply focus on the environment that will allow the seed to flourish.
  7. [M]issional movements are essentially a recovery of the apostolic impulse; prayer and justice movements are manifestations of the prophetic impulse; revivals are an aspect of evangelistic; community and charismatic renewal is a recovery of the pastoral ministry; and theological renewals are largely related to a rediscovery of some lost motif in Scripture.
  8. It is this relationship between high internal resonance and explicit social patterning that this chapter seeks to address. The idea here will be to try to connect the resonance that you should feel in regards to APEST functions and callings with the community in which you are called to express faith.
  9. Giving the answer is always easier than teaching the process…I often say to leaders that we can change our structures in four to eight months, but it takes four to eight years to change our culture.
  10. We see the five marks of the church defined by APEST as follows: missional impact (A), covenant faithfulness (P), gospel proclamation (E), reconciled community (S), deep wisdom (T).

Near the end of the book, Hirsch quotes Peter Berger who notes, “Ideas do not succeed in history by virtue of their truth but by virtue of their relationship to specific social processes,” and as such we are called not only to revel in fun ideas, but to actually begin applying them. Thus, my personal plan to 5Q implementation: do it. In all seriousness, I am indebted to Hirsch and the rest of his team for packaging a biblical, theological treatise on 5Q. For me and my team, we typically think about church in three terms: personal growth, community growth, and missional growth. These are the outworking of pondering Jesus’ Great Commandment (love God, love others) and Great Commission (make disciples in the world). If we are affect the cultural fabric of society, speak truth to power and life to dry bones, plant the seeds of the good news and win souls for Christ, gather God’s sons and daughters, and ensure God’s Truth is passed on correctly, we are in desperate need of 5Q thinking, systems and action. APEST provides an excellent framework, aspects of which we are already integrating. We speak cultural transformation (A), share the good news regularly (E), and teach truth (T), but I have seen how we can and must grow in all areas of APEST and I’m confident with teaching and tools outlined in this book, we are already on the right path.

I would encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and check out additional resources online. The diagrams offered are more than worth the price of admission. Hirsch will offer insights into the fivefold ministry that will shape your ongoing business and ministry endeavors.

New Breakthrough OUTWARD in 2017

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At Aroma, we’ve developed a habit of beginning each new year with a time of prayer and fasting. We believe it’s a special way to usher ourselves into a new year with a focus on God’s work in our lives. This year, we had a coinciding sermon series:

prayer-and-fasting-2017

 Our second week focused on our inward relationship with the body of believers. Here are 10 of my personal notes and highlights from the content of the sermon.

  1. Throughout history, from biblical times until now, we have seen thousands of testimonies of cultural revival happening because of a chosen group of people who set themselves aside to pray and fast. 
  2. Azusa Street Revival started in 1906 as a small prayer meeting. Since then, they estimate over 600,000,000 people who have given their lives to Christ can be connected to this prayer meeting.
  3. Daniel was reading Jeremiah and realized that the prophecy was supposed to come true in the year in which he lived, but he didn’t see any revival happening. 
  4. Daniel said no to pleasant things. The Hebrew word here is “Shemuda” (credit attributed to Bill Johnson). When the Angel visits Daniel, he says, he addresses Daniel as “God’s dearly beloved.” The word here is “Shemuda. Something happens when we give up our rights to Shemuda. It’s almost as if our release of Shemuda allows us to become Shemuda to God. Daniel denied his right to desirable things here (Earth), in so doing became desirable there (heaven). Something is added to the favor realm by saying “I know I have a right, but for this season I’m going to say no. I want to push into something that’s greater.” 
  5. Yes, Jesus loves you. No, you can’t stay the same. 
  6. Daniel repented for his friends. We usually just judge our friends. We have to be the ones who can get in the middle of a situation without becoming that situation.
  7. The Angel was sent at the beginning of Daniel’s fast. It took him 21 days to get there, because of spiritual battle. It’s almost as if the Angel was saying, “Thank you for not giving up.”
  8. We underestimate the influence our prayer and fasting has on Earth and in Heaven.
  9. God gives us specific windows of time, or opporutnities, to press into Him to see extreme breakthrough in society. 
  10. Which area of society are you called to: arts and entertainment, business, education, family, government, media, religion?

New Breakthrough INWARD in 2017

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At Aroma, we’ve developed a habit of beginning each new year with a time of prayer and fasting. We believe it’s a special way to usher ourselves into a new year with a focus on God’s work in our lives. This year, we had a coinciding sermon series:

prayer-and-fasting-2017

 Our second week focused on our inward relationship with the body of believers. Here are 10 of my personal notes and highlights from the content of the sermon.

  1. God doesn’t want us to be unaware. He wants us to be fully aware (1 Corinthians 12:1)
  2. God is close. He’s close to us through the life of Jesus in the gospels (John 1:1), and He’s close to us through Holy Spirit (John 14:16), and He’s close to us through each other (John, 20:22, Matthew 18:20). The world knows us by our love (John 13:35) for each other. 
  3. Our life in Christ can’t be fully realized unless we do it within the context of Christian fellowship. 
  4. Only in this crucible can our commitment to Christlikeness be lived out. Interestingly enough, this context, the fellowship of believers (Acts 2:42-47), is both where God’s Presence Manifests (UPWARD) and where people get saved (OUTWARD). 
  5. “Struggle drains you of the illusion of self-sufficiency.” Leadership Freak, Dan Rockwell
  6. Fast on behalf of someone for the purpose of seeing cultural, systemic change in yourself and in them. The motive is love, not your way. Consider their needs above your own (think Esther). Declare a new season of breakthrough. 
  7. Fast in order to strengthen the word of the Lord on a person’s life. (think Paul being sent on his missionary journeys after they laid hands on him (Acts 13). Receive words and pictures that you can share with people. 
  8. Fast for extreme breakthrough in the community (think “the number was added to daily” from Acts 2:42-47). Pray people in to the family of God. 
  9. Fast together by sharing what you’re going through and praying for each other (think community in Matthew 6). Use what you know to intercede for that person.
  10. Fast on behalf of someone to receive biblical insight in an area (think 2 Timothy 3:16). Use Scripture to declare life over that person. 

New Breakthrough UPWARD in 2017

Embed from Getty Images

At Aroma, we’ve developed a habit of beginning each new year with a time of prayer and fasting. We believe it’s a special way to usher ourselves into a new year with a focus on God’s work in our lives. This year, we had a coinciding sermon series:

prayer-and-fasting-2017

 Our first week focused on our upward relationship with God. Here are 10 of my personal notes and highlights from the content of the sermon.

  1. Fasting is giving up something physical to pursue God’s spiritual best.
  2. God has presents for us. We often have to be willing to let go of what we’re holding on to in order to actually receive what He wants to give us.
  3. Relationship with God is a radical and well-rounded pursuit.
  4. Our life is often a tension between two things. There’s absolute truth in God, and there’s an in-absolute journey of God getting us there. It’s the joy and pain of life.
  5. You don’t get anywhere by being half something. The world is looking for a radical picture of life abundant.
  6. The goal of fasting is disciplining yourself so that you’ll receive. Abide in me. Discipline yourself. Then, you’ll bear fruit. Man doesn’t live on bread alone. Do we really believe our spiritual is as important as our physical nourishment. All of these say, “Trust God first. Rely on God first. Then, you’ll get what you need.”
  7. Manna, or God’s supernatural provision in your life, happens in the desert (Exodus 16:1-12).
  8. God is drawing us to an intimate relationship with Him. He’s inviting us upward, to abide. He’s inviting us to receive daily manna, or supernatural provision, in our lives for him. He’s inviting us to deny, even the good things in our lives, so we can walk in His best.
  9. Your taste buds physically reset after 21 days.
  10. Jesus is the only one tempted in every way as we are and yet without sin. One of the greatest examples of temptation he went through happened in Matthew 4. As he was fasting, Jesus was tempted with personal gain (loaves from stones), fame (angels’ care), and political power (the authority over all the nations in the world) (from Redeeming Sex).