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A while back I was challenged to think about the way I dealt with culture. I heard the challenge described in these two aspects that are to be held in tension: high context and low context. I’m not going to go in depth about how these cultures function. For that, I recommend this blog.

But one thing that did stick out was how I need to continue growing and adapting. I come from what is generally considered a low-context culture (the United States), but have been living in a high context culture (Taiwan) for nearly a decade. I’ve seen myself change in many ways over the last few years. For example, I sometimes avoid directness more than I did in college. I often find myself expecting people to read my body language and pick up on what I want, rather than telling them explicitly. In some ways, this may be good. Perhaps, I’m naturally finding ways to connect with Taiwanese.

While this may be beneficial (or potentially harmful depending on how you look at it), I want a Kingdom Culture more than I want to belong to any particular other culture. I appreciate the example we have in Jesus. He lived an “incarnational-hopeful culture,” in which he could meet us at our level and experience life with us, while preventing himself from diverging off the path of what He knew was right. Ultimately, He was able to honor people (John 4, woman at the well) regardless of culture, but also call people out when necessary (basically every time He talks to Pharisees, see John 8:44 if you need proof).

My prayer is that each of us would learn to discern the way Jesus did: connected and relevant in the cultural context while inviting into the glory of Heaven.


2018 New Year’s Hopes and Resolutions

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I’ve been thinking a lot recently about some of my personal hopes and aspirations surrounding 2018. Already, we’re two weeks in and good things are happening. Here are a few of my thoughts on the year. These are not in any particular order :-).

  • 2018 has been pronounced as a year of jubilee (emancipation and restoration), or celebration. We are expecting that God’s going to do great things this year.
  • I’m excited about reading the Bible. I’ve always loved Scripture (I’m a Bible and Theology major for heaven’s sake), but there’s something special about this year. As a church family, we’re going to read through the entire Bible starting in March. And I have the privilege of leading us through a sermon series in which we learn how to understand and apply Scripture in our lives for the course of an entire year!
  • Jamie and I are reading (albeit slowly) Emotionally Healthy Leader. Growing together with Jamie is something that excites me greatly and will happen more in 2018!
  • Our church is shifting its focus to put meeting together in groups at the forefront. Our aim is to focus on discipleship through these groups and to help people grow personally (in worship, prayer, Scripture), in community (through sharing and leadership development), and on mission with God’s heart for the world (through various trainings as well as opportunities to serve and minister). Small groups will be one of the primary areas in which God meets us this year.
  • In realigning our strategy, I’m spending a lot of time crafting the model for our cafe’s and church plants. We already have a second location open. Throughout this year, we’ll begin adding various church ministries like small groups, outreaches and eventually Sunday services. There’s already a buzz of anticipation!
  • I feel that God has spoken to me personally about the importance of continuing to strengthen my coaching and mentoring relationships, both the ones in which I am coaching and the ones in which I am being coached. One amazing fruit that’s come from this already is a partnership with a professional coaching friend who’s walking me through a ten year career plan. Our first conversation helped me land on three main areas of focus for my life moving forward: coaching relationships, strategy development, and musical worship.
  • I signed up for an online course regarding worship. There’s a lot to take in, but so far, so good!
  • I’ve made a commitment to running 18 kilometers (11.2 miles) per week for 2018. That will put me over 1,000k and nearly double what I did last year. I think it’s a manageable pace and so far, so good.
  • 2018 will include another 3 month trip back to the States and one of the biggest speaking engagements of my life.
  • Our Cafe continues to make forward progress. I have the blessing of walking alongside leadership to promote healthy spiritual life and onward growth.

I’m sure there will be more. What are you looking forward to in 2018?

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!

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).

Family on Mission

A while back I wrote a piece called “My Manifesto,” in which I outlined 10 life-guiding principles I want to see lived out in my life:

  1. We will seek God as Sovereign Lover and Source of All (James 1:17).
  2. We will seek Family as God’s Government (Romans 12:1-7).
  3. We will seek Growth in all areas of our lives (1 Corinthians 3:7).
  4. We will seek sustained encounters that span generations (Exodus 33:11).we will seek the Kingdom that is everywhere (Romans 14:17).
  5. We will clarify vision until communicated (Habakkuk 2:2).
  6. We will position passion until unity (Philippians 3:1).
  7. we will augment anointing until breakthrough (Exodus 31:1-5).
  8. We will scale back until excellence (John 15:2)
  9. We will live from the fullness of the book of Ephesians (Ephesians 1:10, 2:10, 3:10, 4:10, 5:10, 6:10).
  10. We will seek a personal manifesto.

I wrote these as “we” statements, because I feel it’s important to live out my life within the context of the greater community of which I am a part. I designed each of them to be something I must embody if I’m going to make a difference the kingdom. More specifically, I wrote this about “family.”

We will seek Family as God’s Government (Romans 12:1-7). We won’t create policies and structures as organizational scar tissue. Instead, we will focus on restoration of family. The purpose of government is the creation of a society, community, family that embodies a vision for a better future together. We protect freedom and invite people to live in righteousness. We believe the best in people and because of our fanatic discipline in the area of staff acquisition and development, we will give people huge amounts of freedom. We won’t waste time in discussions about things that aren’t mission-critical. We will speak the truth in love and build something great on the foundation of what God outlined in Scripture. We restructure now.

I’m taking this out and commenting on it now, because I believe now more than ever that we need a Jesus-centered model for family. The church I’m a part of has been using a description that really resonates with me:

“The Alliance is a Christ-Centered Acts 1:8 family.”

Because of Jesus, we have a clear mission. Because of the Spirit we have clear power. Because of the Father, we belong to a clear family that transcends simply a husband, a wife and 2.4 kids. The question we ask ourselves is this: why? Why did Jesus organize his life and ministry this way? Why have some of the most successful church planting movements of all time been built of smaller units of people. The answer: He’s a Father in the reconciliation business (Malachi 4:6).

So what is “family,” though? I’m reading through Breen’s text, called Family on Mission. He notes that we can build a basis for an extended family or “oikos” model based on God’s character, creation, the life of Jesus and even modern-cultural artifacts like the TV show, Friends. Becoming family means going through a process of transitioning from being merely friends, to positioning ourselves as followers and finally ending as family members that lay down our lives completely for the greater mission. In fact, and these are my points, I see government as administrative bodies designed for the purposes of steering the ship and building the house (biblical metaphors). I highly suggest reading this book for a better understanding of how family can exist in form and function.

There’s a strength that comes in the simplicity of family. There’s a safety that comes in the structure of family. I believe this can be a breathe of fresh air to a world that’s complicated and insecure. If we are going to affect long-term, systemic change, we must do it as Family. On Mission. We must align ourselves with God’s character, creation and credible plan for world restoration.

One (more) Thing I Got Wrong

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I was recently in a meeting where someone talked about the product vs the process. I googled it, obviously to find out some rock-solid information, and most it pointed to teaching children’s art. Absolutely, that makes sense. When I’m nine, I should be learning about the process of making art. We all know my drawing (if you can even call it that) might not be worthy of the fridge, much less the museum. But if I can get at practicing, if I can learn the correct processes, there’s a chance I may learn enough to begin putting together things that might be worth looking at in the future.

But now I’m 32, No more art classes for me. Does this apply to other aspects of my life? How? Perhaps, the idea of the process needs to be developed beyond my 3rd grade art class. One place that has stuck out to me is in the place of Crucial Conversations. Everyday, we have conversations that make or break relationships, products and organizations. These crucial conversations are much more manageable when we 1) learn a healthier process, and 2) act in ways that are conducive to engaging in ongoing relationship.

Crucial Conversations are one example of how important the process is. Let’s continue caring about the end product, but realize that the process is equally as important.

Judgment and Hope: A 5 Week Series on Isaiah

As church leadership, we recently felt drawn to the book of Isaiah. Sometimes, the Old Testament can feel distant for Christians. However, it’s as relevant today as it was when Isaiah wrote it thousands of years ago. His words are a reminder of God’s majesty, holiness, judgment and hope. He’s the Almighty God, the beginning and the end. There’s no other God like him. We’re all invited to a closeness with Him. Over five weeks, we discussed the implications of Isaiah’s 66 chapters for us as a community. Here are a few of my favorite points from the series. You can also watch the sermons on our Facebook Life Feed.

  • Isaiah is a “Little Bible.” It has 66 chapters just like the Bible has 66 books. The first 39 (as many chapters as there are books in the Old Testament) focus on the judgment of God and lay a foundation for God’s restoration and hope. The last 27 (as many as there are books in the New Testament) focus on the hope and restoration of God along with His epic plan for humanity. Isaiah’s narrative and prophetic words fit in the greater context of Scripture; written over thousands of years, the narrative of the Bible points to one person as the Savior of the world: Jesus. “Isaiah” means “The Lord Saves.”
  • Isaiah is preeminently the Messianic prophet. This means he prophesied about the Messiah (Christ). More than any other Old Testament prophet, Isaiah foretold the coming of Christ (2:1-4; 4:2-6; 7:14-15; 11:1 – 12:6; 24:21-23; 25:6-8; 26:1-2; 27:12-13; 30:18-26; 32:1-7,16-20; 33:17-24; 35:1-10; 42:1-9; 49:1 – 55:13; 60:1 – 62:12; 66:18-24).
  • God is big. He’s powerful and strong (40:12). God created us and knows us (43:7). He knows what’s best for us (10:15). People have rebelled against the way God originally intended us (1:5, 59:3). to be, and this rebellion has come at a cost (53:5-6, 1:2-5). There is judgment (24:1). God sows a seed of hope in our lives (51:5, 57:10, 60:9). Jesus is our Sure Hope (7:14, 8:8). We are chosen to share that Sure Hope with others around us (6:8, 49:6, 60:3). God’s ultimate plan is redemption and restoration into the family of God and the establishment of a new heaven and new earth (60:19-22, 66:22-23).
  • Isaiah had unique access to the rulers of Israel at the time and was able to be highly influential because of the place in which God put him.
  • In an increasingly unclear and confused society, God uses Isaiah to bring clarity to our situation. There are two kinds of people: those who are following God and those who are not. It’s not our job to convince God to be on our side. He’s already established His side in Jesus. It’s our job to make sure we’re on His side by submitting to His will in every situation.
  • In the story of Hezekiah listed in 36-39 (also in 2 KIngs 18-20), we come to understand an ongoing plot issue that the Israelites, and ultimately all of us struggle with. Reliance on God in the midst of trials and judgments. Don’t rely on other people or other gods (36-37), yourself (38), or your treasure/accomplishments (39).
  • God is clear that there are judgments: past (like Noah and the flood, Genesis 5-6), present (we are to judge each other in the church, 1 Corinthians 11) and future judgments (the book of revelation). His judgment is meant to bring us back to Him and right living. It’s meant for restoration, like the good discipline of a father.
  • We have hope, the knowledge that God will come through, because of His Character (Isaiah 40:1-8), His past works (Isaiah 43:1-7), and His current work (Isaiah 43:18-21).
  • Our response to God is to draw near and wait on Him (Isaiah 40:28-31).
  •  If God is who He says He is; if He’s a righteous judge and the giver of hope, then what is our response His hope in our lives? We are to respond to the Holy Seed (Isaiah 6:13) placed in us by living lives of holiness before Him.
  • Personal holiness means that we put off our old self (Isaiah 44:13-20, Ephesians 4:23-32).
  • Community holiness means we live out the fruit of the Spirit (Isaiah 54:1-5, Galatians 5:13-26).
  • Missional holiness means we shine our light (Isaiah 49:6) and preserve God’s justice (Isaiah 56:1-2) by sharing the gospel (Philippians 1:27).
  • God has given us work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3).
  • God will judge us according to two things: 1) our actions, and 2) our hearts. You can’t divide these two things.
  • Jesus came as the perfect example of life lived in and held onto hope.