Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas

The white candle in the middle of the Advent wreath is the Christ Candle, which is lit on Christmas Day.



Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:9-11)

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fourth Sunday of Advent

On the fourth Sunday of Advent, the last purple candle is lit. It is known as Angel Candle, representing PEACE.



"And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

(Luke 2:12-14)

Friday, December 21, 2012

12.21.12

This is it!

According to the Mayan calendar, some claim, the end of the world as we know it will come on December 21, 2012.

I just saw a friend of mine post on Facebook what he wished he had done before the end of the world. That got me thinking.

What do you wish you had done before the end of the world?

What would you like to see before the end of your life?

My brother was found with cancer 11 years ago. He thought it was the end of his life. That changed his life altogether. He asked himself what was really important in life and began doing it. He would not wait, for he had no time to waste. He began to spend more time with us. He poured out his life and love into his only daughter. He not only cherished moments with his family and friends but also were proactive in creating them. He said he had no regrets in life.

What would you like to do in life? What's your "bucket list"?

If the world is to end today, are you ready?

I personally don't think the world will end today based on what Scriptures have to say about the end times. But 12.21.12 gives us an opportunity to think about the meaning and purpose of our life.

And if you have dreams and aspirations, why wait? Start pursuing them today!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fear Not

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)


Fear often drives our decisions and actions. It's so natural that we are not even aware of it.

Fear not.

God's first words to us is "fear not".

Fear not, because God is Life. God is Light. God is Love.

God is good and willing. God is our Father as father should be. God the Almighty is in charge.

He is the good news. He is the source of joy. He is for all people. God is for you. He is with you.

God is our Savior, one who delivers from all our troubles, evil, sin, darkness and death.

He is the Christ, the Anointed One, the Chosen One to bring true peace to the universe. He is our hope.

He is the Lord, the King whose rule is perfect and benevolent, under whose authority we would be glad to submit.

Jesus is God who became a man and born of Mary on Christmas Day.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Heard the Bells

Murdering of 20 innocent grade school children and 6 adults at Sandy Hood Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut is pure evil.

I cannot even begin to imagine what their family members are going through. They lost their beloved sons and daughters, brothers and sisters whose futures were bright but now no more.

In my prayer I was impressed with the song below, whose lyrics were originally a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the era of Civil War.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day, there old familiar carols play,
and mild and sweet their songs repeat, 
of peace on earth goodwill to man

And in despair I bow my head; "There is no peace on earth" I said
"for hate is strong and mocks the song" 
of peace on earth goodwill to man

Then rang the bells more loud and deep; God is not dead nor does he sleep
The wrong shall fail the right prevail; 
with peace on earth goodwill to man

Then ringing singing on it's way, the world revolved from night to day
a voice, a chime, a chain sublime, with peace on earth goodwill to man 

from I Heard the Bell on Christmas Day by Casting Crowns


In Newtown, evil feels so strong and indeed mocks any song of peace, joy or goodwill of the holy Divine. And yet God is not dead. Nor does He sleep. I am not in any way trying to diminish the unspeakable loss their community is experiencing right now, but in the end, justice will be served. The right will triumph. The day of the good shall dawn. Innocence shall be restored. Life is neither random nor meaningless. Particularly, the little ones are never forgotten by the heavenly Father. Jesus declares, "For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 18:10).

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

Third Sunday of Advent



Today, we light the third candle, which is pink. It is called Shepherd Candle, representing JOY.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
(Luke 2:8-11)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Second Sunday of Advent


On the second Sunday of Advent, we light the second purple candle on the Advent wreath.

It is known as Bethlehem Candle, representing LOVE.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
 who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, 
 from you shall come forth for me 
 one who is to be ruler in Israel, 
 whose origin is from of old, 
 from ancient days. 
 Therefore he shall give them up until the time 
 when she who is in labor has given birth; 
 then the rest of his brothers shall return 
 to the people of Israel. 
 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, 
 in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. 
 And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great 
 to the ends of the earth. 
 And he shall be their peace.  
(Micah 5:2-5)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas Mystery

a scene from The Nativity
Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus the Christ.

The birth of the Anointed One (Messiah in Hebrew, Christ in Greek; often refers to a king) was prophesied throughout history by the Old Testament prophets. In fact, when the wise men (magi) from the east came to Jerusalem, seeking the one born king of the Jews, religious leaders of Israel referred to the prophecies and accurately pointed out where the child was to be born. Jesus was born to in Bethlehem of Judea, known as the city of David.

Indeed, Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled all the prophecies concerning the Messiah found in Scriptures.

His birth was announced to the shepherds by a host of angels. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of his birth is that he was born to a virgin. Mary was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Unbelievable? Before you quickly dismiss them, may I invite you to "dwell in them"? There are elements of mystery surrounding the birth of Jesus. Christmas is a good time to allow a bit of mystery in your life.

By the way, I am not anti-science. I love science. In fact, I believe that scientific pursuits will eventually lead to the discovery of God.

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. (Proverbs 25:2)

Imagine a child on Christmas morning. She could hardly stay in bed with the anticipation of gifts under the Christmas tree. Parents who put the gifts there are just as eager. They delight in her delighting. They love to see her joy.

God's mysteries are like presents under a Christmas tree. They are hidden in his universe for you to discover.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

First Sunday of Advent

Advent Wreath

Advent is a season of anticipating the coming of the Christ, the birth of Jesus on Christmas.

On the first Sunday of Advent, we light the first purple candle on the advent wreath. It is known as the Prophecy Candle, representing HOPE.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; 
and the government shall be upon his shoulder, 
 and his name shall be called 
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 
Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, 
 on the throne of David and over his kingdom, 
 to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness 
 from this time forth and forevermore. 
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. 
(Isaiah 9:6-7)


Christmas



Retooning the Nativity by Igniter Media

Friday, November 30, 2012

Global Missions | Mutuality

That we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (Romans 1:12)

In the recent visit by a good friend of mine from Ethiopia, I experienced firsthand the power of mutuality in global missions.

I have been to Ethiopia. My mission trips have been fruitful. In fact, our Acts 8 partner in Ethiopia, GCME, has strongly affirmed that what we had to offer is what they need. The GCME has invited us back. They would like us to continue to send our mission teams in the coming years.

So Acts 8 Ministries has been working with other U.S. churches and inviting them to mobilize their resources strategically for Ethiopia.

Then in mid-November, my Ethiopian friend, who is on staff with GCME, unexpectedly visited us in the Pacific Northwest. Even though we didn't plan this visit, his presence here turned out to be significant for our partnership.

He was able to meet some key individuals in the area (though we missed some others for scheduling issues). Now these influential people know Ethiopia a bit more personally. My friend also encouraged and challenged us all with ministry reports from Ethiopia, his personal stories of faith, his contagious love for Jesus, God-sized vision for his people, and passion for leadership development.

We send our people, and we receive their people. Mutuality is a necessary ingredient for fruitful global missions so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both theirs and ours.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Ethiopia's Tomorrow

This week, I had the privilege of hosting a ministry leader from Ethiopia.

After our many conversations, I am further convinced that Ethiopia is at crossroads. What the Church in Ethiopia, the Ethiopian body of Christ, does today will largely determine the course of the nation's tomorrow.

Will the Ethiopian believers, both individually and communally, catch God's vision for their nation and region, lead the way of individual and societal transformation?

Will they lead the way of restoring the hearts of men and women and of healing their land?

Will they see and take hold of their destiny in Christ to be the bright beacon of hope for Africa and beyond?

Will they embrace their glorious identity in Christ as sons and daughters of the King and bring their godly and life-giving influence in every segment of society?

Will they live out the life of Jesus to be His witnesses - His life, His love, His light, His liberty, knowing that they are united with Christ by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit - Jesus in them, the Father in Jesus, they in Jesus?

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

If the Church does not let her light of Christ shine, there will be no light of the Gospel at all in the world.

Where and how are they to step up and begin leading in the restoration of the hearts and healing of their land?

First, follow Jesus to lead others.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Leading by following. To do that well, you need to walk closely with the Father and deepen your relationship with Him. This takes trust. Trust God moment by moment. Trust Him that He is in you and delighted in you as well as leading you, teaching you, mentoring you, coaching you, strengthening you, encouraging you.

Secondly, know yourself.

This requires maturity. This is a journey.

Who you are is defined by who God is and shaped by your relationship with Him.

Because you are created in the image of God, because Jesus the Son of God gave His life on the cross for you, because you are united with Jesus, and because your life is hidden with Christ in God, you have immeasurable worth. Because you know Jesus, you are now sons and daughters of God, and therefore, you are worthy. Because of Jesus, you are destined for glory (Colossians 3:4).

In other words, the inherent worth of who you are comes not from what you have done but from who God is and what He has done for you.

Lastly, recognize that you have a unique and critical role to play in His Great Commission.

When you begin to embrace your true self in Christ, you also realize how uniquely you are created to play a critical part in His Great Commission that only you can fulfill.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Out of Love (Part 2)

God is love (1 John 4:8).

This means that Jesus defines what true love is. The way Jesus loves us, the way Jesus loved His disciples in the Gospel accounts set the standard for love.

One summary of what true love is is found in 1 Corinthians 13. But experiencing the person and work of Jesus throughout the four Gospels in the New Testament of the Bible is a rich and rewarding way to discover what true love looks like and feels like.

Jesus is generous.

Do you recall the story of the wedding at Cana (John 2) and how Jesus turned water into wine?

Traditionally, a Jewish wedding would last seven days. Every host would anticipate and start with enough wine to last the entire celebration. So, by the time the wine ran out, the guests already had a plenty to drink. And yet Jesus still produced the good wine.

God always does an excellent work. He provides the best. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights (James 1:17).

And Jesus is generous. He gives over-abundantly. But you have kept the good wine until now (John 2:10).  Jesus has something much better for you later and lots of it (imagine 180 gallons or 900 bottles of good wine)!

Jesus is generous. He obliges Himself to the request of His mother. Mary is thinking about the wedding. For her, Jesus' miracle would be merely a matter of convenience. Jesus understands the significance of performing a miracle. It is the manifestation of His glory (v. 11), the beginning of His public ministry leading to the cross. His miracle is not a catering service. Nonetheless, Jesus provides. Out of love. Out of goodness. Out of His generous heart.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Intercultural Missions (Part 2)

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. (Matthew 28:18-20)

 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

We are to be witnesses to the person and work of Jesus and make His disciples in every segment of every community both locally and globally. This is the King's order. If we belong to His Kingdom, if He is indeed our King, then this Great Commission orders our lives. It comes with the sense of urgency and weight.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)

With new life in Christ, we have entered into a different reality. Our life is no longer really about making a living and reaching our life goals. It is now about kingdoms at war. Yes, our real life in Christ is far more grandeur and extra-ordinary than we are willing to admit. Our true reality in Christ is more like Narnia (of C.S. Lewis) than England during the World War II.

Of course, we don't get to walk around daily, dressed like a prince or a princess with a sword on our side (as Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy did in Narnia). Nonetheless, we are to bring the full weight of who we are in Christ to bear on our world each day as a son or a daughter of one True King of kings and Lord of lords.

I regularly meet pastors of newer churches that are living like that. It's inspiring to learn from them that their churches are already loving their neighbors globally as well as locally even though they are young (less than 2 years old). Instead of excusing themselves by saying that they are still too young or too new to be involved in global missions, they embrace the world in Jesus' name from day one of their existence as a congregation.

What enables them to do that? It's the perspective that they now live in a different reality - in the world at spiritual war - and, perhaps more importantly, their faith by which they are living out that true reality every day.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Discipleadership (Part 3)

Over the weekend, I had the joy and privilege of leading a seminar at Mission Fest Seattle held at Westminster Chapel, Bellevue, WA.

I shared my journey with Acts 8 Ministries, particularly how God is transforming the lives through the process I call discipleadership.

Discipleadership is a journey of discovering and living out our true identity in Christ (the new self). To be honest, it is nothing new. However, at least in my spiritual journey, I feel that this has been the missing link between the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment." (Mt 22:37-38).

The Great Commandment is about loving God. To love God fully, we need to know Him intimately. It is about who God is. However, inevitably who God is shapes who we are. Our love-relationship with God defines our identity.

"And a second one is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:38-39)

Love your neighbor as yourself. We cannot love our neighbors as God commands us to love them if we don't know who we are and how to love ourselves well.

Discipleadership is about discovering, learning and embracing who we truly are in Christ (by the grace of God, I might add!). Therefore, this journey is intimately related to the Great Commandment.

The Great Commission is about our mission. It is initiated by the Lord and begins by our coming together (Matt 28:16). Our work is preceded by worship (v.17). The Great Commission is about what we do. It is also what Jesus is doing in the world (v. 20).

It commands us to make disciples of all nations (v. 19). That means to lead others as we follow Jesus. We disciple others as we are being discipled by the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Timothy 2:2). In other words, unless we know who we are, we won't be able to disciple others well because truly effective discipleship flows out of our true self.

Discipleadership is spiritual multiplication. It is not only our personal journey but also walking with others who are in the same journey.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Out of Love (Part 1)

A few months back during my conversation with the Lord, He impressed on me this phrase: out of love.

We tend to throw around the word, "love" in the Christian circles that I have lost the sense of awe for what it really is. True love as defined and lived out by Jesus should define and shape us, our life, our walk with God.

Love is central. The Great Commandment is first and foremost to love God.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. (Matthew 22:37-38)

But we can love God because He first loved us!

We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:9)

So, in our journey of true love, we begin with the truth that God loves us. His love for us was ultimately expressed and most magnificently displayed in Jesus - His incarnation, His cross, His resurrection and ascension.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

God through Jesus has given us eternal life. That means, He has made us a new creation, partakers of the divine nature with all things that pertain to life and godliness and every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. He also justified, sanctified, and glorified us in Christ and has caused us to be born again to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1 John 3:1)

Ultimately, we have become children of God, sons and daughters of the Father, the King.

Let's dwell afresh on the love God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit has for us.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (John 15:9)

Abide in His love. God's love for us is the proper starting point of our life in Christ.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Intercultural Missions

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

More than ever, we live in a flat, connected and globalized world.

I am sure you know individuals at work, at school, in your neighborhood, in your circle of friends, who come from different cultural backgrounds from yours. You also may have been to other countries on a vacation and/or regularly travel abroad for business.

My friend who was on the short-term mission trip to Ethiopia this summer regularly visits an Ethiopian service in Seattle.

Another good friend of mine is temporarily relocating to Bangalore, India for three months for business with his family.

A pastor-friend of mine was hosting a student from Estonia.

Adventure, our home church (300 in attendance) in a small town of Duvall, recently helped launch a church in the Philippines.

Our former neighbors were from the Great Britain and Germany. 

Even my mother has traveled to more than a dozen cities around the world!

You get the picture. 

Global missions is today not limited to reaching strangers in far-away lands. A mission-minded pastor whose church spends 30% of its budget on missions said that the new vision for the church's global missions is to see the diversity of cultures both near and far.

I agree.

Thus global missions in the 21st century is truly intercultural missions both local and global, including both our Samarias and ends of the earth.

"Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Four Bs of Discipleadership

At the heart of discipleadership, there are four Bs - To Be, Bless, Belong and Believe.


They are all active verbs (may not be so grammatically). In the context of discipleadership and spiritual life, they all imply movement.

Be
Who we are in Christ is the core and starting point of discipleadership. Our identity is defined by our relationship with God and shaped by the local body of Christ in which we are placed. It is recreated in Christ, by Christ, and for Christ. The other three streams flow out of this one.


Bless
This is our mission. We are blessed so that we may be a blessing by witnessing to Jesus - His life, love, light and liberty. Keeping the Great Commandment (Matthew 22.37-40) and fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28.16-20) will bless the world in Jesus' name.


Belong
This is our community. As the body of Christ, we reflect the Triune God. We are not meant to walk with God alone and to face the spiritual warfare alone. We need the body, and the body needs each of us. We define fellowship as a community on a mission.


Believe
This is our system. In one sense, what we believe creates our worlds in which we live. Therefore, it is critical that we believe rightly and Biblically so that our system may align itself with the reality of the Kingdom. At the core of our belief is our faith in Jesus Christ.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Discipleadership (Part 2)

The vision of discipleadership is to unleash men and women who are fully alive in Christ into the world. They will turn their world upside down.

We have experienced it ourselves and seen it in others we know.

When we begin to experience the true character of our God and who we are in Christ, we enter a new level of freedom. Our hearts (the core of who we are as a person) come alive in the knowledge of Christ and of ourselves. When we begin to know who we are reborn to be, our mission in life emerges.  

Apart from Christ, we can do nothing, but we can do all things through the Son who strengthens us. United with Jesus, we become unstoppable forces for change in the world.

Being the change agent for the Kingdom is not about "being in ministry." Our very presence and action become weighty, witnessing to the goodness, truth and beauty of the Triune God no matter where God places us in whatever capacity.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Following Jesus

Following God is not often what I hoped it would look like.

I always wanted assurance of success in walking with God. A debilitating theology!

Even simple logic dictates that there would be no need for faith if success were guaranteed. There would be no adventure if I knew I could not fail.

It's like watching the Olympics women's gymnastics finals AFTER you've read the results on my iPhone/Android/iPad. [OK, I caught myself typing "in the newspaper" and thought to myself, "Hey, it shows my age. Nobody reads news in the paper anymore."]. Spoiler! Perhaps, you can still enjoy the amazing performance of the U.S. team over and over again, but there is no adventure in watching it.

My walk with God has been full of unknowns and uncertainty. I often erroneously concluded in the midst of uncertainty that I was not following God close enough. In reality, that's often how God wants us to walk with Him. A good Biblical example is found in 1 Samuel 14.

Jonathan the son of Saul decides to check out and attack the Philistine garrison with his armor-bearer. Scriptures are not clear how detailed of instructions Jonathan has received from the Lord before he took action. One thing is clear. He initiated with much uncertainty. He says, "It may be that the LORD will work for us, for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few." (v. 6)

"It may be"!? He wasn't sure of the outcome. He was sure of the power and ability of God. That's the life of faith. There are only a few things that are clear and certain.

First of all, the Lord is God. He is absolutely good. He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Secondly, Jesus is in me, I am in Him. He and I are in perfect union by the grace of God through the complete work of Christ. Apart from Him, I can do nothing. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. That's it! And that's enough for us to make the move!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Discipleadership

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11.1)

It's a bold command. Can you say that to someone, anyone? I don't think I can. Maybe it sounds arrogant.

It's not arrogance. It's humble and true. As long as a leader is imitating Jesus, he can and should invite others to imitate his example of following Jesus. It's really the Father's commandment for all of us to be imitators of the Son.

That was Paul's way of leadership - leading by following. We call it discipleadership.

Biblical leaders are first and foremost disciples of Jesus.

To the extent we are following Jesus can we effectively lead His people.

Discipleadership is an elegantly simple way of leadership. It's also profoundly rich. It's indeed a life-long journey.

Discipleadership is grounded in growing in the knowledge of who God really is, of who we truly are in Christ, and living more fully out of our complete union with Jesus in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

Knowing God and ourselves in Christ brings us right back to Jesus because Jesus is the perfect image of the invisible God and the visible example of the perfect man.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Adventure Youth Mission
July 10 - July 25, 2012
Adama [Nazret] & Debre Zeyit, Ethiopia


















Monday, July 9, 2012

Adventure Youth Mission

Adventure Mission Team
Adventure Mission
July 10 - 25, 2012
Adama [Nazret] & Debre Zeyit, Ethiopia
in partnership with Student-Led Movement of the Great Commission Ministry Ethiopia
You can follow their mission progress here on these Acts 8 Ministries pages.

Photos of the team are now available. Check Acts 8 Facebook.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time...

The Ethiopian ties to the Middle East date back to the Solomonic dynasty of Ancient Israel.

Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices and very much gold and precious stones. And when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. (1 Kings 10:1-2)

Solomon took her breath away with the splendor of his kingdom.

The exchanges between the two kingdoms were extravagant. The queen presented Solomon with 120 talents of gold (approximately $230 million at $1,600/oz). "Never again came such an abundance of spices as these that the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon," exclaimed the writer of 1 Kings.

It was quite a diplomatic mission!

One legend I heard in Ethiopia is that King Solomon sired a son by the queen of Sheba, Menelik I who was said to have ruled the Ethiopian Empire in 10th century B.C. Thus, the direct Davidic lineage has been claimed by the Imperial family of Ethiopia. The modern Imperial Ethiopian flag had the Lion of Judah at its center.


Perhaps, herein lies the origin of Ethiopian Jews.

Ethiopia has a fascinating history and interesting connection with Israel.

Flag of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Friday, April 27, 2012

Power of Identity

With the merciful you show yourself merciful; 
 with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; 
 with the purified you show yourself pure; 
 and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous. 
 (Psalm 18:25-26)

God reveals Himself according to who we are.

That is why embracing our true identity in Christ is critical in our walk with God.

I have known Jesus over 30 years, but I realize that I am still living out of my old self in many areas. For many years, having my share of disappointment in life, I have become convinced that nothing good ever happens to me. After all, life is full of disappointments, right? We cannot expect to get "everything we want" in life. Every time my hope was dashed over something I had been excited about, I would further solidify this belief that I am a man who will always be disappointed, a man to whom nothing good will ever happen.

Subtly that has deeply tainted how I experience God in my walk. My old self has resigned to be disappointed by God.

In contrast, to live out my true identity means to put off this old self of mine who has believed that he will always be disappointed by God and to put of the new self who embraces the goodness, grace and mercy of God who is our loving Father, faithful Provider and generous Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. In fact, my true identity, my new self also knows to put its hope in God that I may not lose heart in the face of life's disappointments.

The amazing thing is that since I began to live out of my true identity, I have experienced God differently. I am far more hopeful and peaceful. Even my life's circumstances are changing. Where it felt like a winter before, I now see the signs of spring.



Sunday, April 15, 2012

He Is Risen, Indeed!

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we enjoyed one of the most amazingly beautiful spring days on Easter!

Like a sunny spring day, the cross and resurrection of Jesus have brought to our gloomy world the vibrant colors and fresh fragrance of His life.

Jesus’s offer is LIFE, His life in us, an abundant life with God, a life of adventurous faith that we are meant to live! This is life in the large story of God.

Our life bought with the blood of Christ is too precious to waste in small stories of our everyday existence.

Survive we all must. It is the curse of our fall. But if we do not rise above that, we will have wasted this amazing new life in Christ and failed to witness to the new reality Jesus brought into our world through His death and resurrection.

I met in Ethiopia brothers and sisters in Christ who have chosen to step into the large story of God - joining with Him in His mission and desiring to fulfill His purposes - instead of remaining in their everyday survival. I certainly am learning from their examples as they often face greater challenges than I do. The lack of resources does not stop them from taking their parts in God's story. Hardship of everyday living does not discourage them. Persecutions do not dissuade them.

At the end of my life, I would like to be remembered as one who "glorified you [God] on earth, having accomplished the work that you [God] gave me to do" (John 17:4) and who "served the purpose of God in his own generation" (Acts 13:36).

With His life in us, it is possible to live like that.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Passion

Passion comes from the old Latin word that means "suffering" or "enduring".

Passion of the Christ, therefore, refers to the sufferings of Jesus. After the last supper with his disciples, Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane where he was betrayed by Judas. He was subjected to a mock trial, beaten, scourged and crucified.

Jesus suffered out of love. To love is to risk suffering. We cannot separate the two. It is interesting that the English word, passion, has had these two meanings - suffering and ardent love.

It is better to love fully with all your heart even at the risk of enduring deep pains than to shy away from love in order to make sure to avoid suffering. Jesus chose the former. He loved us well and suffered greatly for it. The cross is the symbol of this suffering love. It hurts to love fiercely.

I have shied away from such love for some years. I didn't even realize what my heart was doing until a few years ago when I began to experience afresh fierce love. Then I realized how painful it was to love fully and love well. The pains were often unbearable. I did entertain the thought that it would have been easier and less hurtful if I didn't love so deeply.

But I am older and a bit wiser.

I choose to love fiercely and gladly suffer for it. Jesus said to carry our cross daily and follow him. Perhaps, to love with all our heart is to carry our cross.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Apostle University Training Part 4

Our training is designed to help believers see their true and unique identity they now have in Christ. As "basic" as the truth of our identity in Christ is, absolutely staggering is to consider the full meaning and implications of being the restored image-bearer of the most beautiful and majestic Being, God the Creator!

Who we are, therefore, is inseparably related to who God is. In fact, the loftier and more exalted view of God we develop, the higher view of man we will have to embrace.

Yet You have made him a alittle lower than God [Elohim], And You crown him with glory and majesty! (Psalm 8:5, NASB95)

To be honest, I was a bit surprised at how the university students responded to our training in February. I had thought that they would have had a strong sense of their identity in Christ in order for them to remain so strong in their faith and zealous for the Lord in the midst of many trials and challenges many of these students had to face. But the training subject proved to be a critical one for all the student leaders. God deeply touched their hearts, speaking the truth about who they are in Christ.

Knowing who God is and understanding who we are in Christ are probably the two most important aspects of our Christian journey.

In fact, many of the Pauline letters begin with who God is and what Jesus has done. Then Paul reminds his readers of who they are in Christ as the result of His work. "Therefore", the half way through his writing, he finally transitions into how the believers are to conduct themselves because of and based on who they are in Him as a new creation and new self.

The Ethiopian college students we ministered to knew what their mission was - helping fulfill the Great Commission in their generation in Ethiopia. Now they know who they are that are called by God to serve Him. It's a powerful combination!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Heard on the Street

Ethiopia is an emerging nation. It will become a critical people in the spiritual realm.

During our February trip to Hawassa, I heard comments on the future of Ethiopia.

One person shared with me that Ethiopia can be an economic powerhouse in Africa in the next 40 years. They have untapped natural resources. It is one of the population centers in the continent (along with Nigeria and around Lake Victoria).

Ethiopia is the second most populous country with estimated 90 million people.

The government is pushing to educate its citizens. In 2011, 11 university campuses were opened each with the capacity of 30,000-40,000 students. Once you enter a university, education is free.

Imagine the economic, social and political influence of a nation well-educated!


Population Density Map of Africa
National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis, U.C. Santa Barbara

The world sees the future importance of Ethiopia. China is investing billions of dollars in Ethiopia. They are building a hydroelectric dam. In Addis Ababa, I saw a long stretch of a major road readied for the construction of a light rail system, a joint venture with the Chinese. China also has developed an industrial zone just outskirt of Addis where I was told that 100 manufacturing plants will be built. The role of China in Ethiopia is also seen in the construction of the magnificent African Union's HQ in Addis.

African Union HQ in Addis Ababa

The global fellowship of Christ's followers along with the Ethiopian body of Christ now stand at the critical crossroads that will determine the course of the future of Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Declaration

I give my life, my being and my all to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and furthering His global cause. I want a life of faith dedicated to the service of the Lord.

This is my commitment I made nearly 30 years ago.

Today, as I am given the charge to lead His mission, Acts 8 Ministries, I feel more strongly than ever to devote my all to Him and His global work through His church.

I believe that God is preparing His people, His body for new global waves of the mighty movement of the Holy Spirit. He will declare new things (Isaiah 42.9). Regardless of how old (or how young) you are, the station of your life and place of your residence, you are meant to play an irreplaceable part in His grand plan for this generation!

To participate in His master plan, first you must choose. There is no middle ground. Either you are in or you are out. Jesus makes this point clear in Matthew 10.37-39. You have to be willing to have your life turned upside down. You have to be willing to go anywhere and to do anything. He cares about the desires of your heart, for He is the author of them. But to enter His story, you also must be willing to let go of all your dreams, plans and aspiration. But perhaps the greatest challenge of all is that you will have to set aside your old self and its system (much of the way you are and do things, how you think and feel, if remaining unexamined, is likely still your old self) and become who you are reborn to be.

The world desperately needs such a man and a woman whose heart is fully given to God to witness to the goodness, holiness and beauty of the Lord.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Apostle University Training, Part 3

It took about 10 hours from Seattle to Amsterdam. We had a three-hour layover, then another 6 hours from the Netherlands to Khartoum, Sudan. This was our first taste of Africa as we waited on the tarmac for an hour. It was 100 degrees outside, and the airplane doors were open, allowing the air to "circulate". Less than 2 hours later we finally landed in Addis Ababa.

We arrived shortly after 9:00pm. Having waited for a long time to go through immigration, we got stuck at customs. We had to pay a deposit for the LCD projector we brought with us for our retreat! We initially balked at the idea of paying 100% of its retail price as a deposit, but in the end, we paid it and moved on.We were then greeted warmly by the staff of the Great Commission Ministry and were taken to the GCM's training center to spend the night.

Courtesy of Kerstin Pless Photography (c) 2012
The next day, Sunday, we visited Gospel Light Church. We went to the second service at this large congregation (about 2,000 attenders that day). I was not sure where their energy came from, being Ethiopian, or the Full Gospel tradition. Perhaps both! It lasted a little over 2 hours. Even though the service was in Amharic, we felt the presence of the Spirit! The message was simultaneously translated and made available via wireless receivers. The pastor walked us through the story of Samson from Judges 14 through 16.

We returned to the training center in the afternoon. We had three options for how to get down to Hawassa: public transportation (cheapest and most uncomfortable), charter a public bus with an unknown driver, or rent a van from GCM with our own driver. With this option, the van would be available during the training days as well in Hawassa.

Our team was interested in the second option. They didn't mind taking the public bus, but with all the luggage and equipment to drag around, chartering a bus seemed most logical. Then we couldn't get one at a reasonable price. So, we ended up renting a van from GCM. In retrospect, this was the best and safest choice.  

We had planned to leave Addis by mid-afternoon on Sunday. We ended up having dinner first because it had taken us longer to make an arrangement for transportation. We left the capital as the sun began to set.

After a nearly 4-hour drive from the capital of Addis Ababa, we arrived in Hawassa late on Sunday evening. There was one main road that connected the two cities. It was a two-lane road traversing through the highlands. It was lit only by the stars and our headlights. Then we came into a town that was teeming with people, cars and activity, even at the late hour.

Our team stayed at a hotel in Hawassa that night. The room had a mosquito net over the bed, a reminder that Malaria was a real threat in this part of the country.

Monday morning we woke up to the bustling sounds of a city and found our way to the courtyard for breakfast. While we waited for our food, we met the regional director of GCM. He was a man full of the Spirit and grace.

We needed to exchang our dollars into the Ethiopian Birr ($1 to 17 ETB). This became rather comical since their largest bill is a 100 Birr. Imagine getting thousands of Birr in 100 Birr currency! We were literally stuffing piles of money in our bags and purses! It made me a little nervous!

We then drove to the retreat site, a guest house owned by a denomination, Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus. Every property is enclosed by walls, usually of corrugated metal sheets. The guest house was spacious on the inside. There was a church/chapel, another building with a meeting facility, another building with rooms for guests. About half of the rooms had Western-style toilets. The other half shared a few toilets at the end of the building. Yes, there was a toilet that was a hole in the ground as well.

One unsolved mystery is that most of the western toilets were either missing their seats, or they were broken! That led to a few challenges.

Next time: Hippos and the monkey queen! 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Apostle University Training, Part 2

photo courtesy of Kerstin Pless Photography/Radiance Communications LLC (c) 2012
Our team of youth leaders from Adventure Community Church, Duvall, WA (my home church) consisted of BJ Hillabush (youth pastor), Seth & Beth Clemons, Lydia Jensen, Kerstin Pless and myself. We were in the southen city of Hawassa and the college students we trained were all ministry leaders from different universities. Our training focused on their true identity in Christ. 

Why is their identity so critical? 

Ezekiel 37 gives us an answer. It is the story of raising up an army out of the dry bones. 

Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:4-6) 

Knowing our true idenity in Christ and living out of it is like receiving breath and coming fully alive. God is using GCME, which is a world leader in training. GCME has equipped these students well for ministry. Their training is like putting together the dry bones, laying sinews and covering with skin. 

So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. (Ezekiel 37:10) 

It was when the students began to grasp their identity in Christ that the breath of life came into them! 

Here are what some of them shared after the event: 

"I felt that God sees me as a hero, right person for his mission, the right person to be sent, right person to deliver those caught by demons, the right person to light the darkness." 

"The great thing that God say [sic] to my heart my quiet time is that 'I am one who is in Jesus and useful [worthy] for my generation.'" (cf. Rom. 3:12) 

"God has given me a great opportunity to do and perform his task by appointing me as a queen for the Kingdom of God. So, I decided to live with such a big dignity and position by representing his Kingdom on earth and without degrading honor by Satan’s temptations."

"God says to me by his voice inside me, 'I have chosen you. I have seen what you have been through...I was there when you insulted me...[and] when you were in trouble...I have been shaping you through these challenges and struggles. You are my Joseph, my new leader.'"

"...I awoke from my sleep this time [at this training]. I rejected myself seeing myself as weak, unable, insignificant, unimportant, but this time, I am feeling I am very necessary, very important, very significant, a one whom God is sending to the dark to light, bind to delivery, the discriminated to set them free [sic]...because God is giving me grace and with me."

Acts 8 Ministries was privileged to bring these two ministries, GCME and Adventure Church, together. As the result of this training, they deepened their partnership. Adventure has been invited back to lead two training events for GCME's high school student leaders this summer!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Apostle University Training, Part 1

At the request of the Great Commission Ministry Ethiopia (GCME is Ethiopia Campus Crusade for Christ), Acts 8 Ministries facilitated the formation of partnership between Adventure Church's Youth Ministry and the GCME's Student-Led Movement (SLM).

Adventure Youth Ministry sent a 6-member team to Hawassa, Ethiopia on February 3-12, 2012 to offer its Apostle University training for 30 college students involved in SLM in the Southern Ethiopia region.

At the heart of the Apostle University training is the promise of Jesus that in Christ we may have life and have it abundantly. We acknowledge that there is far more than we have ever imagined possible to our conversational walk with God. We dare to believe in the lavishing goodness of the Father and to press into knowing Him more deeply and intensely.

If the training is successful, it is because those who participate in it are desperately desiring God and because they have encountered Him in a very personal way. In other words, Apostle University is not program-driven. It tries to create space where the Spirit may be free to move and where His people may be more willing to step outside of their normal sense of expectation and to wait eagerly upon the Lord.

Just as the lives of Moses and Paul were disrupted and forever changed by the encounter with the Lord, our lives will never be the same once we experience His manifest presence.

It was our prayer and desire that the Ethiopian college students would taste the beautiful and powerful presence of God at the training.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ethiopia

According to SIM (Serving In Mission), the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, "is the diplomatic capital of Africa. There are more embassies there than in any city in the world besides New York, Washington DC or Geneva."

This alone makes Ethiopia a strategic spiritual hub for all of Africa. But if so, why is Ethiopia still one of the poorest nations in the world by many matrices? How could it be strategic for reaching the world for Christ?

Maybe not from the human perspective. But we live in the world at spiritual war. Is it possible that the enemy has tried to destroy Ethiopia precisely because its people fully turned to the Lord will pose a greater threat to his domain of darkness? It is also said that Ethiopians can easily reach out to peoples not only in neighboring African nations but also in Middle East.

God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. (1 Corinthians 1:27)


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reflection IV

Three months have already passed since our trip to Addis. What stays in my mind, and what I see in my memory everyday are the beautiful faces. While sitting in traffic one day, just over the guard rail there was a shepherd boy sitting on a steep hill. His goats were grazing in the stubbly grass while he sat, staff in one hand, chin resting in the other. He was deep in thought, and I wondered what his dreams were. What opportunities would be open to him?
I see the smiles of the Great Commission staff that we met, and feel again their love and graciousness. I was humbled by their servant hearts.
Remembering the children makes me smile! Everywhere I went I would hear “Hello! Hello!” I always answered, and loved the responses I would get. (maybe I just like the attention J)
Another face haunts me. It was the earnest, desperate face of a legless man who was begging from cars at a busy intersection. His eyes were clear. He was strong. And he had no legs…a condition that had defined him. What would an education have given him?
How will lives be changed, and a country impacted if we begin to train up leaders and equip believers in Christ to reach children? How will lives be changed when people discover their role in the Big Story-the part Jesus created them to play? We can dream. We can join GCM Ethiopia as brothers and sisters in Christ with a common mission-and maybe future generations will look back and say “look how they changed the world!”

Monday, January 23, 2012

Different Spirit

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-discipline.
(2 Timothy 1.7)

The world without God and Christ is run and driven by fear. Even for those who know Jesus, we can be controlled by the very subtle forms of fear.

I am learning to keep my guard up against all forms of fear to influence my decisions and actions in life and ministry.

Acts 8 Ministries firmly stands on the conviction that Jesus is absolutely sufficient. Therefore, His people we minister and partner with do indeed have all the power, love and wisdom to follow the Holy Spirit to do all things through Christ who strengthens them and to turn their world upside down.

Our strategy is, therefore, to focus on building local leadership rather than direct aid and resourcing. This takes time. This is not glamorous because we are trying to be the coach rather than the quarterback.

Subtle fears creep in. "You are too naive; nobody will buy such a philosophy of ministry." "If your ministry is not on the front line (i.e. ministering to the poor, preaching the Gospel), you will not be able to gather people, funds and resources to fulfill your (organizational) mission."

Every time I sense them, I have to reject them and bring them to the obedience of Christ. Acts 8 Ministries will operate in the spirit of power and love and self-discipline [prudence] and stay true to its calling.

When and where have you sensed the subtle forms of fear in your life? You have the spirit of power and love and self-discipline to stay true to your calling.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

There Is Hope

Can the prey be taken from the mighty, 
or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?
For thus says the Lord:
"Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken 
and the prey of the tyrant be rescued,
for I will contend with those who contend with you, 
and I will save your children."
(Isaiah 49.24-25)


What is your "mighty" and "tyrant" from which you need to be rescued?

They may be sins or addictions. They may be habits that you feel powerless to change. They may be the spirit of resignation so that you often feel resigned to whatever happens to you or the spirit of hopelessness so that you have lost heart.

God promises that He will fight for us. He will fight with us. He will rescue us from our mighty and tyrant that keep us captive. He will set us free!


Yes! There is always hope!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Jesus (Part 3)

Listening to God or hearing His voice, as critical and normative as it is for our walk with God, is not the end. As the result of hearing God is to love Jesus deeper.

Being in the beginning of a new year, the fresh start in my life, I am brought back to this. Love God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind (Matthew 22:37).

If you love him, you will obey him. Then he will manifest himself to you. There is a life-giving power in his manifest presence.

The heart, soul and mind, here, do not refer to three different parts of man but are essentially the same - the center of who you are as an individual human person. Thus, to love God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind simply means that you are all in when it comes to loving God. No turning back, no regrets, no reservation, no limits. You love God with all that you are and all that you have every moment of every day, all the days of your life no matter where you are and with whomever you are.

The heart, soul and mind also remind us that the nature and characteristics of our love for God are passionate (heart), alive (soul) and creative (mind). Our love for God is the adoration of our heart, the affection of our soul and the admiration of our mind.

It is my goal for 2012. To love Jesus more in response to his love for me (1 John 4:19).


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

This past week, I became doubtful about the upcoming February training trip to Ethiopia. Voices in my head said, "This will never work." "You will fail and disappoint everyone." "Who do you think you are to send a team all the way to Ethiopia?" "This whole thing is insane!"

I knew I was supposed to have faith. But I was having a hard time shaking off these lies and accusations at that moment. So I turned to Scriptures. Looking for verses on faith, I came across Hebrews 10:38.


My righteous one shall live by faith.


Yes! I thought. Actually Hebrews 10:37-38 was a quote from the Old Testament. So I continued.


And if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.


My heart sank. Doubting God's grace and my role in the mission and ministry the Lord clearly invited me into, I was the one who was shrinking back. The Lord would take no pleasure in me. It was a conviction and not a condemnation. So I felt remorse. I quickly asked the Lord for forgiveness for my lack of faith in Him. I never wanted to be the one in whom His soul would have no pleasure. 


Then my eyes fell on the following verse (verse 39).


But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.


"You are not of those who shrink back but of those who have faith," the Lord clearly spoke to my heart.


Thank you, Father. My burden was lifted. The voices ceased. I heard the Lord through Scriptures. The Word breathed life back into me.