Tag Archives: whole-life discipleship

IV Sex Conference ’13: INTEGRITY IN DATING (video)

In February, our area of central/western Virginia held our annual Winter Conference at Rockbridge. Every four years, we focus on sex and relationships (which is always extremely popular for obvious reasons). We believe it’s crucial to give students direct and gracious teaching on God’s design of sex, relationships, purity, and commitment. This year we had record numbers this year! Never before have we maxed out every room and mattress at the camp. God used the time powerfully to give students a deeper vision for how God intended relationships to be.

I had the joy of leading a seminar on dating and relationships. My desire was to show students the bigger picture, beyond terminologies and technocratic jargon that many pastors or leaders have burdened them with. So, I used a dry erase board and direct examples. Judging from the great questions, feedback after, and overflowing attendance both sessions, I think it went pretty well. See for yourself with the video here:

Using the dry-erase board to illustrate what relationships should be like!

Using the dry-erase board to illustrate what relationships should be like!

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InterVarsity Asian Ministries features my talk & many others!

InterVarsity Asian Ministries features my talk & many others!

IV’s Asian American Ministries page has compiled some of the Urbana PANA lounge talks! Right now, mine’s the most recent and at the top of the page! Such an honor to be able to contribute to our ministry resources and the national conversation. Click here to see it!

Also, check out the other speakers’ talks — these men and women are really eminent leaders in the Asian American ministry community. I can hardly believe I’m featured on the same page as any (let alone ALL) of these individuals! It’s an honor to be serving alongside leaders like these.

OneWay IV large group sermon: THE COST OF EVERYTHING (video)

Last Friday, I was thrilled to get the chance to preach at OneWay Christian Fellowship’s large group. OneWay is another chapter of InterVarsity here at U.Va ministering to and through black and African American students – they went before us in terms of doing ethnic-specific ministry here on Grounds! As sibling IV chapters, we staff love to serve each other, invite each other to lead or get to know our students, and share our ministry space as a family. Even in the midst of AIV’s intense fall outreach schedule, I was glad to serve my fellow IV staff worker Charlene as well as get to spend some time with OneWay students.

The inclusion of my story as a son of immigrants/being Asian, as well as a reference of many scholarship-recipients was purposeful. As ethnic specific ministries, we have to get into our context for the Gospel to take root. In fact, our whole sibling chapter/staff model of InterVarsity here at U.Va is very purposeful to engage with the ethnic heritage and context we come from and enter into through ministry. And when I said that OneWay set the tone for some of what AIV does, that’s not just a politician’s compliment, I really mean that. Much of what I learned as an intern, before I received the specific calling to minister to Asian students, was gained from observing OneWay! I can’t say enough how important cross-cultural learning and ministry is for us.

OneWay is in the middle of a 4-week sermon series called “Follow Me” discussing the real, nitty gritty nature of what it means to follow Jesus. No platitudes, no fluffiness, just direct messages and reflection upon what this call means. I was given Luke 14:25-35 as my passage, which is often subtitled “The Cost of Being a Disciple.” You can find the YouTube video of the sermon, embedded here!

Emphasizing a point

Lent: Reorder, not Renounce

*NOTE 1: I exempt this commentary from addressing Catholic tradition because, in my experience, Lenten season has greater significance and gravitas for real faithful Catholics, and I respect and appreciate it! I deal with the Protestant (particularly evangelical) experience.
*NOTE 2:
This post is inspired by an article from Christianity Today (mentioned below).

Lent for Protestant Christians is a funny thing. We rarely treat it with the same seriousness as Catholics yet we tend to make a pretty big deal about “giving something up” for Lent. Generally speaking, it’s obligatory behavior more than anything else. Usually it’s some inanity like chocolate, sweets in general, TV for more than 4 hours a week, YouTube or Facebook or something else.  We exercise self-denial supposedly out of respect and remembrance of the self-denial of Jesus. As Eugene Cho recently posted “Jesus didn’t ask you to give up coffee. He asked you to give up your life.” Now I don’t say this with judgment and vim and vigor, but Cho bears a point. So does giving up coffee/TV etc. have any worth with the weight of the true call to denial?

Let’s NOT use it to teach real self-denial
I think it actually does, but it requires some clarification about what the “self-denial” of mundane things is really FOR. I want to sort out this mis-targeted act. For one, if the thing in question is REALLY a distraction, shouldn’t this level of self-denial be exercised for more than 40 days? I think obviously yes but anyway let me get to the real point. I wonder if Lent (and the “giving up” of something) isn’t a spiritual way for Protestants to “make up” for all kinds of disordered living in general. Instead of dealing with the real issue (lack of regular self-control), they try and overcompensate to “catch up.”
An analogy: People feel guilty about not exercising regularly, so they use a vacation day or weekend to work out EXCESSIVELY (run 8 miles, bench 200 pounds 1000 times and the like). Particularly near summer (read: swimsuit season) they’ll freak out and then hit the gym hard. But then they’re so over-sore from the overexertion that they can’t work out for the next 6 days. By the time the soreness passes, they’re back to making excuses to not work out regularly yet again — “Oh I’m still kind of sore, and I wanna make sure I’m really fully-recovered.” I think Lent is the “oh crap I need to lose weight for swimsuit season” of Protestant Evangelicalism, except when it comes to self-denial to Jesus.

Instead, faithfulness in little things
What is the real problem though? Daily faithfulness in little things; our mundane life is disordered! Obviously we may have big discipleship/denying ourselves issues, but that is often of a different nature or caliber than the little things we face every day. And aren’t we called to be faithful with little before we’re faithful with much? Don’t burn me at the stake for being heterodox though, I know we are called to discipleship and to die here and now. Jesus in His grace however tends to cultivate us in stages. Nobody starts out praying for 4 hours at a time, but we begin with 4 minutes and grow from there. Thus, as far as a reflection/change ritual is concerned, let’s target the real thing here – faithfulness in little things.
Moreover, Jesus’ Himself was the suffering servant in order to bring the Kingdom of Heaven through propitiational sacrifice on the cross.  The cross brought us into a tension period where the Kingdom of Heaven was already come and not yet come too, bringing the “end of time” into the “middle of time” as Tim Keller puts it. While the Kingdom of Heaven is built on continual service and sacrifice of Jesus’ disciples, it is about a new vision of life lived in celebration.
Even in the midst of sacrificial living, feasting, celebrating, and joy are still valuable and validated things. The epistles talk about both sacrifice and celebration and so should we. Jesus’ images of the Kingdom of Heaven are of servitude/suffering for us disciples as well as new life, feasting, and joy where people are welcomed into the banqueting table of the King because we HAVE ACCESS to the King and are restored (and yet being restored) to full conformity and relationship with Him.

The inspiration for this post & thoughts about what to do instead:
All this was brought on by reading an article from Christianity Today. Author Devin Brown applies some good C.S. Lewis thinking to the Lenten season. You can read it here: Lent in Narnia: Would C.S. Lewis have renounced Turkish Delight from Ash Wednesday to Easter? Brown discusses Lent and C.S. Lewis’ understanding of consecrated denial as well as celebration.
I felt… comforted (?) by the way Brown accents that in an ideal Christian life, “feasts are as Christian as fasts.” Which is to say, asceticism and abstention has a place! But so too does feasting. I like how Lent is then to be (re)understood as “re-ordering” instead of “renouncing.”
So often, Lent gets reduced to “giving up (coffee, sweets, YouTube, Facebook, whatever [relatively harmless] vice is relevant)” as if this itself is helpful or sufficient in teaching us the real cost of total discipleship and self-denial of Jesus. Without overstating, I think it’s disrespectful at best, and we either need to do away with this “giving up of little things” or to re-understand it as the something else that Devin has outlined and I’ve exposited. I am all for reflecting on real self-discipline, self-denial, and sacrifice, but let’s not glibly call the 40-day abstention from Snickers’ that.
If we do want to continue dealing with mundanities and daily substance as sweets and social networking, the idea of Lent as “reordering” is exactly right. In this fashion, giving up or re-ordering coffee, TV, sweets etc. can help us learn faithfulness in little things.  Indeed, as Lewis is quoted in the article: “you can get second things only by putting first things first.” Let’s celebrate Jesus as our first thing and use Lenten “giving things up” to reorder our second things accordingly.
Whatever you do, I hope that Lent is a season that encourages you to immerse yourself more in the life, sacrifice, and already (and yet to) come Kingdom of God, whatever way you choose to do so.

Some appropriate pictures from Google Image Search about Lent…

The typical approach to Lent

The more recent variant of the vice to abstain from.

A better approach to the Lenten self-denial; it's about MANY things and re-ordering life to be more faithful

And if you really want to emphasize self-denial, reflect on this

SIDE NOTE: I’m really tired of pugnacious low-church [I’m not judging them as inferior, I mean this in the term of ecclesiological style] that do silly things like “I’m giving up religion for Lent.” I guess it’s well-intentioned but can’t you make a point about Jesus’ saving grace (not works) without trampling on other Godly Christians’ traditions that are valuable, valid, and generally Biblical? I know we have to meet ex-Catholics or ex-high-church-ers and address whatever negative experiences they have but I can’t help feeling this is mostly contradistiction to create hype, which seems excessively divisive.

This seems silly at best, divisive at worst.

Staff Conference 2011 – Greater Vision

Hi friends! Thanks for those who prayed for me during Staff Conference and my two-day retreat afterwards. I will write a bit about both in separate posts.

Lessons from Staff Conference 2011

  1. IV staff workers are not in student ministry. We are in campus ministry. This means that we need to intentionally, proactively seek the renewal of the whole campus & not shrink our vision merely to chapter-related work, important as it is. God will use our campus work, but we must do that AND other things to flesh out this vision fully! God call us to put down roots & commit to the university itself! We see in Scripture:
    “Build houses & settle down; plant gardens & eat what they produce.  Marry & have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons & give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons & daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.  Also, seek the peace & prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:5-7). Once we have faithfully done this, God’s “plans to prosper [us] & not to harm [us], plans to give [us] hope & a future” will be made known! (Jer 29:11)
  2. God calls us to engage the powerful #1: There are God-fearing people in the administration/faculty who, even if not believers, genuinely desire to serve students. Like Nehemiah to Artaxerxes, Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar, or Joseph to Pharaoh, God will open doors for us to have influence on those in power & give us allies in high places. These privileged places are not taken for granted – not every subservient nation got its members in such high ranks. This should not surprise us – God has been pleased to use secular or non-covenant means, rulers, & institutions to achieve His ends since the Old Testament. That applies on campus!
  3. God calls us to engage the powerful #2: We will encounter unjust judges (Luke 18:1-8) in our schools who contradict the growth of the Gospel or renewal of the campus or even the presence of God. But they too can grant us justice if we find the right approach & are persistent. And if we have powerful allies & partners, this too will aid our cause.
  4. We are daily creating ripples in the lives of students & campus culture. But that should not dull our hunger for a great revival and tidal wave of the Spirit’s work to overtake us. We often neglect to hope for great things out of pragmatism or veiled jadedness. We need to humble ourselves to patiently but hopefully ask God to pour out His Spirit powerfully. We joined staff to see the transformation of a generation, not just ripples
  5. In spite of the professional demeanor, Christian faculty members get scared and discouraged too, just like normal people! The milieu & direct coworker interactions can easily dull the sharpness of their hope and conviction. Yet faculty, who create the curricula for universities, are some of the most important allies & pathways in seeking campus renewal. My job as a staff worker must include the intentional pursuit of and encouragement of Christian faculty to build them up & encourage them in their own campus-renewing work.
  6. In times of crisis or chaos, God will be pleased to show the power of His gospel. The racial incidents at UC San Diego proved again the failure of secular ‘diversity’ in all its shallowness. What proved better was the racial reconciliation, multiethnic, and ethnic identity fullness of the message that the InterVarsity staff worker offered to share when the administration was at its wits end. They gladly accepted. At St. Louis this happened as well (watch the video here from InterVarsity’s media branch). In all ways, we must “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks [us] to give the reason for the hope that [we] have” (1 Peter 3:15) & out of chaos & crisis God will prove His righteousness & love.
  7. We must encourage our students not to cast aside responsibilities & opportunities of academic life for the sake of just doing chapter work. We ourselves must increase our vision of integrated work and ministry to help our students find that way. Only when we do this will we develop whole-life disciples who seek the good of the ‘cities’ they are in.
  8. God is greatly at work at every corner & kind of university! Want proof? Watch ALL the video testimonies of God’s power at different types of campuses and chapters! From commuter schools to HBCUs, northeastern to southern, public & private, athletes & graduate students, God is bringing people to Him to renew the campus. Nothing is impossible for the Lord. Watch all the videos here:  Staff Conference ’11 videos

God really expanded my vision for campus ministry & helped to redefine what the scope of my calling and role should be!  But far from being burdened or worn out, I feel even more excited about my job than ever. It really is a privilege to be doing this ministry work. I was also blessed by great times of fun & fellowship with my other staff workers & enjoyed getting to meet new friends too! Whether Blue Ridge or class mates from summer training, or new staff all together, God really built me up in all those interactions.

While these 8 lessons apply to a campus minister, ask yourself how they might apply to you too – as a undergrad student, grad student, layperson in church, or parent too. God wants more partners in the university work, so we welcome your participation in His mission wherever you are!

Worship time at Staff Conference '11. They and the speakers were a major part of us hearing the Lord's call to deeper service & commitment to Him & the campus.

Christian? Or Christian Culture? K-Love vs. Colbert on Christmas

I recently got to visit my good friend Ben from Duke IV the other day. As we were in the car, he lamented to me that one of the nationally-syndicated Christian radio stations, really seemed hypocritical to him. It always calls itself “positive and encouraging,” and claims that it’s main mission is to broadcast content (whether music, mini-sermons or even down to its choice of DJs) that is God-glorifying, and Christ-centered. But during Christmas, “of all times!” said Ben, they regularly broadcast distinctly secular songs!

Now I’m not someone who always cares about the so-called sacred/secular divide, but Ben has a point. Not that I dislike “Jingle Bell Rock” or “Here Comes Santa Claus” but do those have a place on a Christian radio station? No. But they do have place on a Christian Culture radio station. I’m not trying to be legalistic, but if you claim that all your content is Christ-centered, then you can’t blast a song about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman. Nice as they may be to sing or enjoy, they are not at all related to Christ. Maybe they’re harmless, but what you’ve done is expressed that Christmas is as much about our cultural secularization as it is about Christ. And that’s a problem.

The pains of trying to live out Christianity in our lives and in our culture are always present and very hard to deal with. Conversely, I came across a video from Stephen Colbert. I don’t always agree with his word choice, political views, or his satirical approach but his supposed-satire clip — click here to watch it, called “Jesus is a Liberal Democrat” — is a lot more disturbing (because it might be true/logical) than we want to admit. Unlike the Christian radio station, Colbert’s message about Jesus doesn’t subsume or make excuses for secularized cultural values that have become associated with Jesus or Christmas.

Colbert’s last line is a very honest attempt to try and instantiate Biblical commands in life – to be Christian instead of the self-justified Christian culture that we often cling to:

“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we’ve got to pretend that Jesus is just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition & then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”

Again, decide what you will about his political values or the specific actions suggested by the satire (welfare etc.) but the process at least of Christian vs. Christian culture should make us pause to examine what we call Christmas, or Christian.