Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
Democrats in the end speak most of, and seem to hold the most sympathy for, the beset-upon single mother without medical coverage for her children, and the soldier back from the war who needs more help with post-traumatic stress disorder. They express the most sympathy for the needy, the yearning, the marginalized and unwell. For those, in short, who need more help from the government, meaning from the government's treasury, meaning the money got from taxpayers.
Who happen, also, to be a generally beset-upon group.
Democrats show little expressed sympathy for those who work to make the money the government taxes to help the beset-upon mother and the soldier and the kids. They express little sympathy for the middle-aged woman who owns a small dry cleaner and employs six people and is, actually, day to day, stressed and depressed from the burden of state, local and federal taxes, and regulations, and lawsuits, and meetings with the accountant, and complaints as to insufficient or incorrect efforts to meet guidelines regarding various employee/employer rules and regulations. At Republican conventions they express sympathy for this woman, as they do for those who are entrepreneurial, who start businesses and create jobs and build things. Republicans have, that is, sympathy for taxpayers. But they don't dwell all that much, or show much expressed sympathy for, the sick mother with the uninsured kids, and the soldier with the shot nerves.
Neither party ever gets it quite right, the balance between the taxed and the needy, the suffering of one sort and the suffering of another. You might say that in this both parties are equally cold and equally warm, only to two different classes of citizens.
Monday, August 25, 2008
I disagree with Rick Warren on some issues, but I just read a piece that the Wall Street Journal did on Warren's view of politics, and I think he said some pretty insightful things. He neither identifies with the Religious Right nor the "new" Evangelicals who seem to be pretty staunchly supportive of the Democratic party. While many accuse conservatives of "legislating" private morality -- things like gay marriage and abortion -- are the liberals really that different when they claim that the solution to poverty and other more corporate social ills are bigger government programs? Sounds like "legislating morality" to me, as well -- just a different set of moral beliefs (by the way, I think both sexual ethics and concern for the poor are biblical). Is it any wonder that both conservatives and liberals become very self-righteous when it comes to their "beliefs"? Perhaps the primary solution to both private and corporate moral problems is not legislation at all. Warren asserts that politics, in many ways, operates "downstream to culture." I agree.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
One of the things that has really transformed the way I look at life is a really honest realization of the things that enslave me -- my idols. And I think there are three "levels" of idolatry, and I think the deeper the level of idolatry you acknowledge, the more change in your life you see.
1. Shallow level: "External sins are idols." Getting drunk, lust, crude language, forgetting to read the bible and praying. Most of us know that these things are wrong and harmful, and sometimes we do them, and wish we didn't.
2. Deeper level: "Behind external sins are deeper idols." We realize that we can't break the pattern of laziness in our lives, or our pattern of anxiety, our our patterns of people-pleasing. And then we realize that behind our laziness, is a deep fear of failure -- we run away from hard challenges, because we hate feeling incompetent. Behind our anxiety is a deep fear of not being able to control our circumstances. Behind the people-pleasing is our deep desire to be loved and accepted. All our idols are an attempt to find some kind of self-worth.
3. Deepest level: "Even my goodness is an idol." Perhaps the hardest to acknowledge and the most important idol, is realizing that even our efforts at purging our idols, when we focus on our efforts to be good, are actually still turning away from God as our savior. We want to be our own saviors, by forcing God to bless us by our good behaviors. When our goodness is our idol, we become self-righteous, proud people.
In the end, all of life is seeing our idols, and turning from them to God. Because all of our idols are worthless -- approval from people and even our self-effort may temporarily give us comfort, but the end leave us empty and wanting more, like a cheap drug -- or like a wooden idol.
...the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, 'Deliver me, for you are my god!'...Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you, you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like a mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Isa. 44:17, 21)
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
There's too much to reflect on in one post, so I'll just start with my experiences in college. I have to admit I was pretty much on the look out for a future wife in college. I went to a Christian college, and I figured if I was going to find a suitable wife, what better place? For about two years of college, I was infatuated with one girl. In my mind, she was perfect. But looking back, I'm pretty sure I was really only attracted to her physically. But that one aspect clouded my mind so much, that I truly believed that she was nearly perfect in every way. I was infatuated but not very brave. I did manage to spend as much time with her as possible, all the while never expressing my feelings. I would define this as the ever-so-popular "let's hang out alot one on one but, we're not dating" stage. For me, this was basically an excuse to be a wuss: toy with the other person's emotions as much as possible to get what you want without taking any risks. Fortunately, I had roommates who couldn't put up with my non-action any more, so eventually they encouraged me to ask her to this big formal ball-type thing we did at Wheaton (long story...but it's basically a dance without dancing. Insert joke here.) And by "encourage", I mean that they actually dialed the number on the phone and gave it to me. But in any case, after that triumphant experience, I was convinced that I had to "take it to the next level", which, in our Wheaton subculture, meant having the "define-the-relationship" talk. Long story short, though I nearly attempted this talk, I aborted it because I found out second-hand that she was not interested in me "that way."
I was pretty devastated after that. I remember very distinctly sitting in my apartment in the middle of the night, wanting very badly to get as far away as possible from Wheaton. I wanted to take a train going anywhere. I wasn't even rejected face to face, but the sting felt like the worst rejection I've ever experienced. It wasn't just that I didn't get the girl, it was a deep, gnawing sense of worthlessness. I wasn't good enough for her...maybe I'm not good enough for anybody. I had such high hopes and I had a plan: fall in love and get married. With my hopes dashed, I felt like I was relegated to being a second-class citizen. Still never dated. What a loser. What's wrong with me? Looking for something that could help ease the pain, I popped in a Matt Redman cd. The words from "The Father's Song" seemed to be directed straight at me.
I have heard so many songs, Listened to a thousand tongues, But there is one, That sounds above them all...The Father’s song, The Father’s love, You sung it over me and for eternity, It’s written on my heart... Heaven’s perfect melody, The Creator’s symphony, You are singing over me, The Father’s song...Heaven’s perfect mystery, The king of love has sent for me, And now you’re singing over me, The Father’s song.
The song is based on Zephaniah 3:17, which is part of a prophesy of how God will redeem his people: The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. In that moment, I felt God's gentle song of love over me. It was as if he was saying, "don't you see? What your soul is longing for, what it craves...only I can give it to you. Hear my song. I'm singing it over you." In the cross, God substituted himself for me. Not because I deserve it, or because I'm "worthy." But because I'm worthless, because I'm faulty, inadequate, and cowardly, he sent his perfect son in my place so that I could be his child. So that his perfection and status could be mine. So that the God of the universe, my creator, who knows all of my hidden flaws could call me his beloved, accepted child. There is now no condemnation. How could I chase after the approval of a girl to validate me? How could I chase after the approval of the world to validate whether I was a "loser" or not? And how could I chase after marriage as the all-encompassing goal of my life?
I have heard so many songs, but there is one that sounds above them all.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
- American Gladiators - I loved this show when I first watched it back in the early '90s. It came on right after Saturday Night Live, and I would frequently stay up to watch it as I rushed to finish my Sunday School homework (which I had procrastinated on earlier in the week). So we were pretty excited when it came back earlier this year, and again in May. The added trash-talking by the Gladiators can be somewhat annoying (especially from Wolf), but I do like the new and old events, as well as the enhanced storylines of the contenders - e.g., best friends, fellow cops, people who have had significant weight loss, newlyweds, a 52-year-old woman, a few people with disabilities, etc. It gives the contenders more of a human side rather than just people running around in spandex suits. Anyway we are always excited to watch AG, and it certainly provides a bright side to Mondays.
- America's Best Dance Crew - We thought it sounded a little silly when we first heard about it, but then watched the finale of the first season and subsequently a marathon of the first season and were hooked by the time Season 2 started. The dancing really is great and incredibly entertaining. Ben's favorites are Super Cr3w and Supreme Soul, while I am rooting for (and voting for) my hometown SoReal Cru. Another thing is that this show features Mario Lopez as host and JC Chasez as one of the judges, which is a small bonus for me as a huge Saved by the Bell and *NSYNC fan.
- Everybody Loves Raymond - We have both watched this show from time to time in reruns, and never watched it when it was originally airing, but now we watch reruns nearly every night during dinner (alternating between that and the Saved by the Bell reruns on The N). Some people might find it frustrating - and understandably so - but we find it funny and often quite insightful on life and relationships.
- Wipeout - This one and the one below are not quite as important for us to catch as the top 2 on this list, but they've also provided some significant entertainment. It's almost like AG but more comical and with lots of falling down, water, and falling down into water. Since I was a baby I have always gotten big laughs out of people falling down (as long as they are not seriously injured or anything), and this show has made me laugh to tears at times.
- I Survived a Japanese Game Show - Japanese game shows are pretty amusing by themselves, so we thought this was worth a shot. It's about a bunch of Americans in Japan who have to live together and compete on a Japanese game show while also trying to avoid elimination and win a large cash prize. The Japanese game show competitions can be pretty funny, and my biggest critique is that I wish they would spend much more time on those activities than they do on the drama among the participants about who likes/dislikes whom and who is going to get eliminated. But I guess if we want more Japanese game show activities, we should just watch a Japanese game show. Hey, whatever happened to that show called Sushi TV on the TV Guide Channel? (Actually, what happened to the TVGC? Does it still exist?)
Friday, July 11, 2008
Asian American pastors find within the Gospel of Jesus Christ both affirmations and challenges to their cultural sensibilities. In our authoritarian hierarchies, we find both a recognition that authority and structure are needed and the abuse of authority to assert power, gain prestige, and neglect empowerment of others. In our collective identities, we find both an orientation to be others-focused and also a propensity for toxic shame and conflict avoidance. In our work ethic, we find both the biblical call to diligence and also an addiction to our self-effort. And let us not forget the American cultural strengths and weaknesses that are also engrained in us.
Writing this paper, I have discovered in myself many of the strengths and weaknesses described. I remember feeling a sort of “toxic shame”: I knew the reality of my sin deeply during my teenage years. Ever since then I have struggled with truly understanding and embracing the grace found in the cross. In my few years of ministry experience, I have always found myself emphasizing the need for vulnerability and brokenness: perhaps in reaction to the lack of vulnerability and the performance-orientation I’ve experienced in Asian churches. This year, my wife and I became members of a non-Chinese church (a first for me), and though the church is nearly half Asian American, interacting with other ethnicities in the church has forced me to deal with my cultural identity. I find myself becoming more timid around Caucasians, and even doubting my own call to ministry because of this. But I have realized that on one hand, I should not necessarily interpret my lack of aggressiveness in contrast with Caucasians as a sign of poor leadership, and on the other hand, I should not let my fear of rejection prevent me from “stepping up” and allowing God to work through me. Most importantly, it has reminded me to rely not on any of my gifts, but solely on the righteousness I have through Christ as the source of my self-worth.
As bicultural people, Asian Americans are often confused as to which culture they truly belong to. Many, deeply assimilated into Western society, have some level of animosity towards their Asian heritage. In my research, mostly from the Asian American authors, I observed noticeably more negatives than positives written about Asian cultural values (consequently, my paper also reflects this relative imbalance). Perhaps, as bicultural people, the failures and weaknesses of our parents stand out against the Western culture we have grown up in. But this also gives us the unique perspective to discern and embrace the best in both the Eastern and Western cultures. We must also guard against the tendency to react strongly to the weaknesses by merely going to the other extreme. As sinful humans, it is impossible to transcend our cultural trappings and leanings completely. Our only hope is not to find our identities in either our Asian or American cultures, but to “count all things as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him.” (Philippians 3:8-9)
Friday, July 4, 2008
Happy 4th of July to all! Let's be sure to give thanks for the freedom that we enjoy in the U.S. I know I definitely take it for granted most of the time.
During the last two summers, Ben and I have led youth missions projects together, and now that it's summertime and our former youth group kids are leaving for this summer's project, I find myself missing those trips and reminiscing about those experiences. The Lord definitely worked in the communities we served, and especially in our own hearts through the challenges and successes we had and the insights we gained. While I do not miss the discomforts - such as sharing sleeping quarters and shower facilities with 10 or 100 girls, and doing hard labor in 90- to 100-degree weather - I do miss serving with and interacting with our high school students. We have many fun memories and valuable lessons from our times with you guys, and although we are not serving you in the same roles anymore, we hope for more fun times with you in fellowship and ministry in the future!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Saturday, June 14, 2008
In the Public Garden
Friday, May 30, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
I've heard people say quite often: "it all boils down to this: Love God and Love People." And after all, that's what Jesus said. But to me the very next question is always: well, then, how do I love God? In fact, it usually sounds very burdensome to me: I know I must love God...God, how can I love you? I want to love you so much, but I'm always failing! God, I feel like such a failure!
But perhaps the key to Loving God and therefore to loving others isn't "how do I love God?" at all. 1 John 4 says the key is "do you know God's love for you?" And then the task becomes really knowing and grasping that radical love...which is the most counter-intuitive thing to do in the world. And then perhaps we can love God...and then perhaps we can love others.
Monday, May 12, 2008
For myself, I have to wonder what's at the core sometimes...is it the hope of a successful pastoral career? Is it my wife? Is it my own need to control my life and circumstances, maybe even through religion? Is it the approval of family or friends or people I look up to? Or is it at the core, just being a child of God? Life is about peeling back the layers...if I don't do it, God will do it for me.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Monday, April 7, 2008
Class-one legalists are auto-soterists; they declare what one must do in order to obtain God's favor or salvation. The rich young ruler was a class-one legalist.
Class-two legalists declare what good deeds or spiritual disciplines one must perform to retain God's favor and salvation.
Class-three legalists love the law so much they create new laws, laws not found in Scripture, and require submission to them. The Pharisees, who build fences around the law, were class-three legalists.
Class-four legalists avoid these gross errors, but they so accentuate obedience to the law of God that other ideas shrivel up. They reason, 'God has redeemed us at the cost of his Son's life. Now he demands our service in return. He has given us his Spirit and a new nature and has stated his will. With these resources, we obey his law in gratitude for our redemption. This is our duty to God.' In an important way this is true, but class-four legalists dwell on the law of God until they forget the love of God. Worshiping, delighting in, communing with, and conforming to God are forgotten.
(I found the above on my friend Jason's blog)
I think I was a class four legalist for most of my life. The breakthrough in my life occurred when I discovered that the only way to please God, to live a holy life, was to do absolutely nothing at all. And I was freed.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
We celebrated my birthday with a lot of shopping and eating of sushi - two of my favorite activities. I am not one who needs a fancy celebration, and even simple shopping tasks make me happy. We went to Target, Dollar Tree, the mall and Trader Joe's before dinner and then finished the night with a trip to Wal-Mart to get a vase for the flowers my parents bought me. A perfectly lovely birthday.
We met up with the Moons for dinner one night and had a good time eating at Union Oyster House, the oldest restaurant in Boston and the oldest restaurant in continuous service in the U.S. (according to its Web site). Although it took forever to get our food, it was a fun experience. I felt as if we should have been planning revolution efforts.
On the last full day of my parents' visit, we drove out to some outlet malls and found lots of good deals. Successful shopping = happy Rachel.
I will post pictures in the next post.
Also, happy birthday to our brother/brother-in-law, Pat!
Monday, March 3, 2008
On the other hand, usually in these churches you have young people who get tired of the "church system." Seeing the hypocrisy in their parents, they rebel. They want to live life not marked by hypocrisy but freedom. They watch all movies and media -- even the most graphic. They go to bars and parties and hang out and maybe get buzzed from time to time. They are passionate about social injustice. Because in the end, being a good person was more than just following rules.
I have been caught in the middle of these worlds, being put in a position of being in a world of legalistic adults and also trying to teach impressionable youth at the same time. I've asked myself, what should I say?
All I've been doing recently is reading Martin Luther, because I have to hand in a paper on him tomorrow. I wonder what he would say if he stepped into a legalistic church like the one I described above. Because in his day, people at church were all about rules too, just different ones: go to church, fast, pray, confess your sins to your priest, take communion, and even pay your priest a few bucks so that your sins would be forgiven. It produced the same kind of nervous, fearful people. Luther's big discovery was that when we try to do good works to try to prove to God that we are righteous people, it always led to fearful, guilt-driven lives. However, if we receive God's freely given grace and righteousness, we become free, we become joyful and we want to love others and do good works simply out of pure joy and gratitude. We don't even have to "try" to do good works, they simply radiate from us. As Jesus said in Matthew 7, a good tree will bear good fruit. If you're a bad tree, you simply won't produce good fruit. And you can't make yourself a good tree. You have to be uprooted and replanted. And then you don't even have to "try" to produce good fruit. It just sprouts out of you. Of course, Luther recognized that even in genuine Christians, there still remains the old you that does not delight in God. But the answer is not to try to do more good works. The answer is to remember your new identity; you already have everything you need through Christ! You don't need praise from people, you don't need success in your work, and you don't need to do more good works to get God to accept you. He accepts you through Christ. This is a life of faith...when you are bombarded by the old you, you continually battle it by remembering your status as child of God, by remembering that God keeps his promises. I've heard this process called "mortification through joy."
I've rambled, and haven't even gotten to my main point...so I'll just sum it up; Luther uses Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 to show that to those who are stubbornly relying on rules, we must confront them blatantly and never conform to their systems. But to those who are caught in between -- those who are not sure what true freedom in Christ really is -- we must not flaunt our freedom, but instead try to show them that it really is about being a good tree not trying to grow good fruit, all the while keeping the rules. Paul circumcised Timothy so as not to offend (Acts 10), but he refused to circumcise Titus because of the people's legalism (Gal. 2). So this means, not letting our young people watch some graphic material and not letting them drink, but at the same time teaching them that it's not their abstention from these things that will free them. And at the same time, confronting the legalism of the older folks (or the younger folks) and not letting their rules oppress us. A fine line to walk, for sure...but one we must walk, out of love for all.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
I just finished listening to a panel discussion that Keller had at Columbia University with two secular religion professors. It is a fascinating and friendly discussion, and you can watch the whole thing here. I was quite pleased and startled to hear Wheaton, my alma mater, spoken of highly by a Columbia professor (in the second quote). Here are some provocative quotes.
"If Christians are serious about conversion, that means getting into a conversation where they’re listening and not just talking. Not just bringing the good news, but open to listening to other kinds of news. Not just there with your little tracts, but actually standing there and listening to what other people have to say.”
-Mark Lilla, Columbia Professor
"I’m completely sure that belligerently secular people who are hostile to religion can be just as intolerant as any religious fanatic can be. And I think in fact in some quarters of American intellectual life that the condescension toward religion and the refusal to take religious people seriously is a very serious problem…I spoke not too long ago at Wheaton College, an evangelical institution, and I found that the openness, the intellectual exchange, the sense of diversity of opinion actually compared rather favorably to what we have here at Columbia.”
-Andrew Delbanco, Columbia Professor
"Though we are infinitely exalted in the image of God and therefore we have rights, but at the same time we are infinitely fallen...and if Christians can get in touch with that, and I do agree that an awful lot of the rhetoric from the Christian Right is not in touch with that at all, we’re still not going to have any moral authority and people don’t have to listen to us because it won’t resonate. As a person who believes in the image of God and that Christianity is true I therefore think there are lots and lots of reasons in peoples’ consciences that a lot of these Christian themes will resonate even if these people don’t adopt Christianity per say. Therefore, we have to find ways as exclusive religionists to move out in society with a servant attitude with humility and serving people and recognizing that only if they recognize by the way we live and our attitude that we really are Christians. The onus is on us Christians to earn back any kind of respect in the public square so people will listen to public proposals that have Christian roots to them. Right now people aren’t listening, because in the last hundred years we haven’t earned their respect and you only get it back not by yelling, but by serving and by putting yourself in other peoples’ shoes."
-Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Here are some examples of cool pastors/christians:
Exhibit A. Pastor Mark Driscoll: the unshaven, unbuttoned shirt look:
Exhibit B. Pastor Dan Kimball: the California, punk rock hair look
Exhibit C. Musician David Crowder: the classic old-style glasses with crazy goatee. a crazy 'fro too.
Here's my main point. I am a young guy, and I'm impressionable. I've spent the last five years probably getting too caught up in trying to be a "cool pastor." On one hand, I think it is a very important and good thing to try to understand our culture especially for the purposes of reaching it with the Gospel. On the other hand, I admit that young guys like me get really excited about the "newest, coolest, and most innovative" new techniques. I still have these tendencies. But I think I'm beginning to realize that the most important thing is not being cool, but rather the most important thing is getting your message right. If you're cool, and people think you're cool, and they're going to your church, but they aren't changed, challenged, and completely transformed by the Gospel, you've really accomplished nothing. I'm far from perfect, but I'm thankful that for the next two to three years, I am required to read books from theologians and saints from centuries past who did not have goatees or cool glasses. I doubt that St. Augustine or Abraham or Jesus or the Apostle Paul were considered stylish in their day. I'm trying to undrstand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The more I study, the more I realize how rich, complex and multi-layered it is. But my prayer for myself and all the other young cool pastors out there is that we will focus on things of first importance: understanding the Gospel, and taking it deep into our hearts and identities. Then, we can have debates about the coolest eyewear.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Although today’s world is much different from Luther’s 1500s world, I can’t help but think of the nominal Christianity of America. Don’t most American Christians think Christianity is really just about becoming a better person and going to church so that hopefully their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds and they make it to heaven? Here are Luther’s words:
“You Lord Jesus are my righteousness, but I am your sin; you have taken on yourself what you were not and have given me what I was not.” (Luther’s prayer)
“The Christian life does not consist of being but of becoming, not of victory but the fight, not of righteousness but of justification [being declared righteous], not of comprehending but of stretching forward, not of purity but of purification.”
“The law says ‘do this!’ and it is never done. Grace says ‘believe in this man!’ and immediately everything is done.”
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
On another note, Rachel and I saw "Waitress" last weekend and I would definitely recommend it. I owed Rachel a chick flick b/c we have been watching all action movies recently, but it is a very thoughtful chick flick and really captures some very real, human moments in lives of ordinary people. It also presents an interesting pro-life argument (though that is not its agenda).
Friday, January 18, 2008
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
I read an interesting interview today between Willowcreek church and porn star Ron Jeremy. Not surprisingly, Ron Jeremy is not a Christian. But he made some interesting observations about Christianity: