Protest and Pentecost: Acts 2 in the Year of Our Lord 2020



The Briefest of History Lessons:
For those of you who don’t follow closely along with the Christian liturgical calendar, yesterday was Pentecost. Pentecost takes place seven weeks after Easter and as Christians, we celebrate because Pentecost also marks the day that the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples and the power of God began to fuel the early church. The Spirit falls like a fire onto the people and they are united, speaking plainly and celebrating. What a contrast to what we saw around the country.

Before Pentecost, there was Shavuot. Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks, was (and is) a Jewish celebration that mirrored the journey of the Israelites to Mt. Sinai. A people, weary of travel and generations of slavery, come upon a new land and they receive something very special.  A wandering people receive direction, a forgotten nation experiences God’s face smiling upon them and right there, on that mountain, they hear the very word of God. A snapshot of focus and direction, leadership and clarity. Does it feel like we could be any further from that?

Reflections on a Nation Afire
I’ve been spending way more time than I should be on news sites, social media and Reddit threads covering the protest. I ought to be playing with the wee baby Shelby, and giving her a million kisses because she is the cutest of all babies, but I’m hunched over my phone watching grainy, unverified videos of protests. I’m find myself looking to be outraged. I’m out for blood and I want to see swift justice fall on people’s heads.

I have an itch that needs to be scratched and a hunger that needs to be met, and after days and hours searching, I’ve yet to find something that does it. Yesterday was Pentecost. Yesterday was Shavuot. Where is our unity? Where is our guidance?

When I read about the longing of the Israelites to hear from God, I see my own desire in them.  I spent some time reading Exodus, Joel and finally Acts 2. It felt like something was sated and for my brothers and sisters out there, I’d like to share. I’ve written down some reflections but I didn’t want them to overshadow the Good Word, so I looked up some HTML and I’ve set them side by side below. This isn’t exposition and it isn’t meant to be. It’s just pausing to explore how the living word of God might still be speaking.

Acts 2 (NIV)

1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!

16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women,I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below,blood and fire and billows of smoke.20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

25 David said about him:
“‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand,I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’

29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Some Reflections

vv.1-15. The beauty of this gathering and the power of the Spirit to unite them should not be lost on us, especially in this time. People gather from regions and backgrounds that should shun and hate one another. They are united BY the power of God and FOR the glory of God. You see here a foretaste of the hope of Revelation 7, “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”.

vv.16. The Apostle Peter starts to quote the prophet Joel. The book of Joel is certainly a good read, given the times. Joel speaks of the locusts that have ravaged the land and the injustice of the rulers who govern the people. Joel urges people to place their hope in God–His Judgement and His Righting what is wrong.

vv.22-24. We should not forget that Jesus was arrested, “tried,” and executed with unimaginable cruelty under an unjust system. His innocence was unquestionable and only amplifies the wickedness of his captors. What I experience in these verses is the permanence of trauma and death. When I think about what would even the scales for something like the horrific execution of Jesus, there is no punishment severe enough to make up for it. When I think about what I’d do if someone harmed Shelby or Stephy the way we see marginalized people harmed in this country, no arrest, indictment or incarceration would be enough. How could you possibly look at generations of subjugation, dehumanizing and fear and even those scales? How could you think that accountability would be enough to make it up a mother who has lost her son. Of course we want justice, we want accountability and change, but the cup of wrath that is due on our society could fill the oceans. That’s why the anger is spilling out into the streets. If God condemned the whole of the human race for what we did to His Son, I think I would understand. How do we even begin to address the pain of trauma that runs so deep.

But in this passage we see something shift. We see that God raises from the dead. God frees from the agony of death and God removes the hold that the permanence of death had on Jesus. In doing so, God gives a path for us to be free as well.

vv. 25-36 Peter goes on to describe the victory that God has over death and strife. He quotes King David who knows that he can “rest in hope, because [God] will not abandon [him] to the realm of the dead.” Peter speaks hopefully and triumphantly about Jesus, who has conquered death itself. Anything less is not enough to undo the sting of pain and loss.

vv. 37-41. The men ask Peter what they should do. At this point when I was reading this passage late, last night, I was just as eager as them to know. All over the place you find people asking what they should do, and here Peter lays it out. Peter says to repent – admit your transgressions and turn away from them, never to return. Be baptized – die to your old self and rise anew. Be forgiven and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit. Save yourselves from this corrupt generation. Peter doesn’t condemn. He doesn’t play gate-keeper for who gets to enjoy the “new normal.” He invites people in and gives them a chance to repent and be forgiven.

vv.42-47. Then, and only then, the church begins to take on shape. They’re devoted to teaching and fellowship. They share and love and experience joy and blessing. They bring others to know the goodness of God. They begin to experience the community that churches around the world model themselves after. People love this passage but perhaps we forget that it is born out of a tragic death, a fractured community, humble repentance and a commitment to love others as themselves. People forget that it was only possible through the power of God.


Some Closing Thoughts
I’m appalled by what’s going on in our nation. I’m embarrassed by this country that I love so much and I resent that I have to be ashamed. But I am clinging onto hope. Not merely in justice, because there is no proper restitution here. How do you pay for a murder, or compensate for lives lived in fear and humiliation. You can’t undo death and you can’t wipe away suffering, there is someone who can, there is a Just One. In Him, I have decided to hope.

And in the meantime, I will take a page out of Joel and I will mourn. I will mourn the death of George Floyd. I will mourn the deaths of too many just like him. And I’ll repent. I’ll mortify prejudice in myself. I’ll embrace the forgiveness of a good God and I’ll pray to be a part of his power falling on the people– uniting them under God, indivisible, with justice for all.

Easter, This Year

This marks the first time in many years where I am not observing Easter as a professional clergy member. It feels strange not to prepare the prayers, embroil myself in those familiar passages and ruminate on the timeless truths of this somber, but joyous season. Ordinarily, this is the beginning of a mad stretch that includes major events revolving around Easter, graduations, summer retreats and mission trips. I am usually bracing myself for the brutal grind from March to September. This year, however, the season snuck up on me. Ash Wednesday appeared when I saw a coworker with a sullied forehead. Good Friday popped up suddenly without any fanfare. I’m accustomed to walking more slowly and more carefully through the season but this year, it feels as though I’m on the outside looking in.

Every year, I’ve had the obligation to examine this season and personalize it. I’ve always tried to make it a point not to do ministry by going through the motions, so if I’m preaching the resurrection, it’s a matter of integrity that I experience it as I invite others to do the same. This year, I haven’t had that same pressure. I’ve spent a lot of the lenten season getting fat on Postmates and binge-watching Yu Yu Hakusho.

Great moral lessons to be found here.

As a result this Easter feels distant and abstract. Today, I’ve tried to spend some time examining this, but deep down, I already know that for the past few weeks and months, I’ve been frustrated and disappointed with God. I don’t ask God for much. I mean, of course I do when I’m praying for other people, and for causes and other things. But I have to admit, with a lot of prayers, I am a cheap date and a quick apologist. I can see how God works for the good of his people, not causing, but utilizing the worst of situations towards the ultimate goal of human flourishing and properly allocated glory. And then I’m cool with whatever the Big Man decides. 

But there’s a special type of prayer that spills forth from the guts. Every now and then, I ask something of God and I can’t see how he’s gonna work his magic otherwise. In short, I become a brat and I don’t take no for an answer. There are some things that I’ve been asking God for and his answer has been no.

And thusly scorned, I’ve been pouting. This is where I find myself this Easter.


I’ve never really been a Lee Strobel fan. It’s not that I don’t condone or appreciate his work. It’s just that I never really needed a case to be made to me about Christ. Christ was my lifeline when the only thing I was destined for was despair and misery. Christ is the lifeline for me still. I often recommend Strobel’s books, but they were never my personal cup of tea. That being said, there’s an exchange in A Case For Faith where Strobel is interviewing Chuck Templeton, a peer of Billy Graham’s, a gifted evangelist, and at the time of the interview, a vocal agnostic. Templeton rails against shoddy Christian scholarship, apparent contradictions in scripture and the seemingly irreconcilable reality of a broken world. But then, when Strobel asks him about Jesus, his face softens, his voice grows nostalgic. Then Templeton raves about the character of Jesus and tearfully admits, “I miss him.”

This conversation has always stuck with me. I don’t remember much else when I rushed through Strobel’s books on the 7 train while commuting to Brooklyn Tech, but I remember this. “I miss him.” That’s how I was feeling, how I often feel when I’m a bit wayward. 

That’s how I was feeling today when I crawled up to the loft holding the wee baby Shelby. She was getting a little fussy, so I decided that I was gonna read something to her. Stephy was making dinner and my mission was vital because 1. If I don’t get Shelby unfussed, Stephy doesn’t eat the food while it’s hot. 2. You smell everything more clearly in the loft and Stephy’s cooking smells good (curry and grilled chicken today).  Unfortunately, a large portion of my library consists of crime novels, literary fiction or other genres of books inappropriate for tiny babies. So I decided on some poetry. We started with a little Rupi Kaur, because sometimes I’m a basic b****, and also because I want to introduce the tiny baby Shelby to female poets she can look up to like Rupi Kaur, Maya Angelou or Joy Chen. 

Then I stumbled onto what I certainly needed today. I pulled out The Book of Hours: Love Poems to God. I knew it was right the moment I held it in my hands. I was in need of some truth, but I wasn’t going to hear it from a theologian or a pastor. I needed to hear it from a poet. Sometimes it’s just like that.

So I began reading Rilke poems to Shelby and ultimately, myself. I reminded the tiny infant child that they mention Rilke in Jojo Rabbit and that’s where she might remember the name, but Stephy yelled from the kitchen that Shelby didn’t watch the movie (she slept through Jojo Rabbit, can you imagine?). Shelby was very quiet and contemplative when I read the original German (my butchered, surely racist, German), but she got fussy and inattentive when I read the English. Sort of rude, actually. But it’s ok, I love her to death and I could kiss those cheeks forever and ever a hundred years. 

I read this poem.

In tiefen Naechten grab ich dich, du Schatz.
Denn alle Ueberflusse, die ich sah,
Sind Armut und armsaeliger Ersatz
Feur deine Schöenheit, die noch nie geschah…

Und meine Häende, welche blutig sind
von Graben, heb ich offen in den Wind,
So daß sie sich verzweigen wie ein Baum.
Ich sauge dich mit ihnen aus dem Raum
als hättest du dich einmal dort zerschellt
in einer ungeduldigen Gebärde,
und fielest jetzt, eine zerstäubte Welt,
aus fernen Sternen wieder auf die Erde
sanft wie ein Frühlingsregen fällt.
In deep nights I dig for you like treasure.
For all I have seen that clutters the surface of my world
is poor and paltry substitute
for the beauty of you
that has not happened yet…

My hands are bloody from digging.
I lift them, hold them open in the wind,
so they can branch like a tree.

Reaching, these hands would pull you out of the sky
as if you had shattered there,
dashed yourself to pieces in some wild impatience.

What is this I feel falling now,
falling on this parched earth,
like a spring rain?

Rainer Maria Rilke – The Book of Hours: Love Poems to God “The Book of Pilgrimage: II, 34”

For what it’s worth, it rhymes in German. It’s also deep and evocative and along with others in the book, this poem sums up the feeling in my guts as I enter into Easter this year.

I’m not predominantly mad. I mostly just miss God, and I feel stupid for letting my disappointment get in the way of returning to the only well that ever gave me life-giving water. It feels stupid to wander, but it’s reassuring to know that the moment I turn around and head back to Him, he’s there.

Important treatise on repentance

In the end, Resurrection Sunday isn’t supposed to be about me and how I feel about it, it’s about a good God who did everything in His power to break the walls between Himself and the ones that He loves. It’s about the life He volunteered to give on our behalf. It’s about triumph over the death that spreads it’s stench over every dimension of life. I love this Jesus God. He is risen indeed, and it feels like He rises again and again, every morning to find ways to remind me of those things I already know and always forget. Passover, the OG Easter, was established as a time where we pray the prayers, eat the meals, and most importantly, remember— remember the one who brought us out of Egypt, out of bondage, into a better life, not a perfect one, but one where we are free. 

“When Were You A Stranger”

I have stronger feelings than I’d like to admit about this one. I’m a little too close to the issue. I know too many loved ones, friends and former students who are recipients of the DACA program and through it, have been able attend higher education and/or provide for themselves and their families. I’m around too many people whose lives would be entirely upended with the loss of a work permit and are spending today feeling confused, betrayed and afraid of what is to come.

To help understand how a DREAMer might feel today, here’s some context. In the early part of this decade and since the introduction of DACA, undocumented immigrants have come forward in good faith with the promise that their trust in our government would not be used by ICE as a weapon against them. Now, there is an announcement of the end of DACA with no information about the future prospects after expiration. There are no assurances that their trust will be met with protection and their security is pulled out from underneath them.

I don’t want to get into the politics and details of this. I don’t want to discuss all of the stats and numbers. I didn’t make this post to debate policies and pick sides. It was created because I hope to address hearts and hopefully convey biblical values in the midst of rhetoric and politics.

I’m not even trying to make an argument that accepting the stranger, whether DREAMERS, refugees or Muslims is better for our country or not. I’ve seen arguments about GDP impact, unemployment, tax issues, security, etc. What I’m suggesting is that the Bible encourages us to welcome the stranger and give to the needy.

I’ve seen numbers on both sides in support of and in contradiction to the effect of immigrants on the national economy and security. My point here is this: even if it came at a cost, should we as Christians be averse to it? I think we’re foolish to think that we can give to other’s without cost to ourselves. But isn’t a self-sacrificing generosity our calling? Wasn’t it the example set for us?

Matthew 5:38-48
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,[h] let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 25:31-46
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Leviticus 19:33-34
33 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.


art-shaped hole

I’ve been in a funk. It started before I left for Taiwan. A week before the trip, something awakened inside. In my sternum, a dark egg-shaped weight started to rumble with life.

Then, suddenly, I found myself in Taiwan, rushing around a humid island, trying not to lose team members and my job. The weight slept, dormant under the bustle of the mission trip.

Then, once I returned stateside, it rumbled again. I know exactly when it was born.

In early July, a week before Taiwan, I was on a boat to Catalina Island with Stephy. We were trying to stay warm on an unusually cold Southern California day and combat sea-sickness. She leaned her head on my shoulder, fighting the urge to vomit in front of a literal boatload of vacationing families. I pretended like I wasn’t getting hypothermia. There, it occurred to me, I needed to put my submission together.

You see, I had a deadline for an annual writing contest I wanted to submit to. Since I had previously submitted, notifications for the contest came into my inbox reminding me of this year’s deadline. The emails started coming in June, but on account of June being a busy, nightmarish hell-month, I put it off. That is, until my frozen, hallucinogenic mind brought it up.

Later, during the submission compilation process, I realized something rather unpleasant. My work kind of sucked. It wasn’t fake-ass creative false-humility, I mean that I looked at my previous submission for the same contest, and realized that it was better than anything I had written since. Thus, a weight was born.

Someplace, in my chest, there weighs a strange sensation that I should be creating something. It weighs heavier when I’m listening to podcasts and interviews with writers, creators and artists. At times this week, it could have been a thousand pounds.

There’s an art-shaped hole, and you wouldn’t know it, but a hole can be very heavy.


Today, I realized something. I realized something that I realize periodically and always forget. Kind of like Alzheimer’s or the ending to the notebook (insert crying emoji). Today I set aside some extra time to read the Bible and pray. I was time set aside for myself, not for church-work or anything else. Just solo time with the Big Guy. Even as I just started to read, I could sense a weight being lifted. The anxiety and tension of not successfully being a failed writer was assuaged.

I had turned back to the creative world to substitute something God is meant to provide. I ravenously drank from poisoned wells and suffered the resulting explosive-poop-laden dysenteric existence. I keep thinking back to a passage that Thomas often shared with me in our college days. I’ll wrap up by sharing it here.

John 6:67-68
So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

P.S. Funnily enough, time spent in a decent God-time made me pick up a pen (keyboard) for the first time in weeks. So… you know, (moralized summary of anecdote).

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

This week, the city of St. Anthony, Minnesota has awarded the family of Philando Castile $2.995 million in a settlement over his death during a tail-light traffic stop last summer. This comes on the heels of an acquittal of wrong-doing for Officer Jeronimo Yanez who was charged with second-degree manslaughter and endangering safety by discharging a firearm.

Without getting into the specifics of this case (or the many like it) and without diving into topics of racial bias, “routine traffic stops”, police militarization or any of a heap of issues, I wanted to hone in on one heartbreaking aspect of this case.

After the shooting, when Diamond Reynolds (Philando’s girlfriend) and her daughter Dae’Anna are in the squad car, Dae’Anna can be seen comforting her mother.saying “it’s OK, Mommy. I’m right here with you,” and imploring her mother to calm down. “Mom, please stop cussing and screaming ’cause I don’t want you to get shooted.” She also says, “I wish this town was safer.” The irony of this statement coming from the back of a police car should not be lost on the viewer.

Seeing this video challenged me to think about the relationship that we ought to have with the authorities in our lives. I have some of my own thoughts, but I wanted to do a little dive into what the Bible says. Here are some of my findings.

For Those Not In Authority


“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” – Romans 13:1-7

“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” – Titus 3:1-2

13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. – 1 Peter 2:13-17

The Bible is pretty clear that the attitude of those who are not in authority should be that of respect and submission. I know that isn’t fun to hear, but respecting the authority of those above you is found all throughout the Bible. To answer your question: yes, this still applies when the authorities are unjust.

Before we assert our own rights, lets remember that Jesus himself submit himself to the Sanhedrin and the Roman authorities to be unjustly tried, crucified and killed. Did Jesus’ silence make him complicit in the unjust system around him? I’d argue that his character did more to cast a bright light on his captors than protest would have.

Am I saying never protest? No. But character is key. “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” 1 Peter 2:15


“1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior…” – 1 Timothy 2:1-3

Pray for those in authority. Beseech God on their behalf. Pray for their wisdom and discernment. Don’t let bitterness corrupt your ability to care for those who have the power to influence. Jesus compels us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.


“But the LORD abides forever; He has established His throne for judgment, 8 And He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity.” – Psalm 9:7-8

“He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. 9 The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow,but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. – Psalm 146:7-9

It’s important to have perspective and remember that God is just, and is the loudest advocate for the oppressed. God is in the business of righting the scales and no amount of circumstance should shake our belief and compromise our character. Remembering that God in the author of Justice should set our perspectives right and as Christians we ought to know that standing up for things is most effectively done on our knees before God.

For Those In Authority

This is kind of tricky because there aren’t lots of scripture that address law enforcement, but I’ve tried to look into principles that guide different authorities and leaders throughout scripture. I believe that they would apply to our police as well.


“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

The Bible is clear that those who would lay down their lives, particularly to protect others are blessed. Those who would bring justice to the weak and oppressed are worthy of our thanks and praise. They are agents of the love has called us all to, and they are blessed by God.

A Higher Standard:

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. – James 3:1

“And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. – Ephesians 6:9

“Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 1 Timothy 3:1-4

I believe that those in authority are called to a higher standard. There is nothing so crushing and disillusioning as an authority figure that does not adhere to the expectations that they themselves give out. Parents, politicians, educators and any form of authority figure lost credibility and trust whenever they implement a “do as I say, not as I do” policy.

The police are more intensely scrutinized because more is expected of them. The badge is meant to represent a bastion of character that speaks not only of the integrity of the one wearing it, but the security and protection of those around him/her.

Accountability should be a natural aspect of having power to ensure that it isn’t abused. There’s a price to pay with authority, and perhaps that price is receiving grace when you make a mistake.

My Personal Appeal:

My personal appeal to those in law enforcement is simple; please protect us. As you bravely do already, take risk upon your shoulders so that we don’t have to. Be the ones who run headfirst into danger because we cannot.

I know it is too much to ask for, but show patience when we don’t. When you’re scared, protect us before you protect yourself. When someone seems like a threat, be willing to take the consequences. Please be willing to be shot if it means you won’t shoot someone unjustly.

I’m asking that you don’t view this as a war, where it’s kill or be killed. You’re shepherds where some of the sheep are looking to commit terrible evils. I’m asking you to be trusting and brave when we don’t deserve it.

So What Can I Do?

If you’re looking at this complicated issue around Police Accountability and looking for some action to take, I would encourage a couple of things.

1. Get to Know/Appreciate a Police Officer
For many of us average joes, we can’t imagine the complexities of the job of a cop. To constantly be called into the darkest, most dangerous places and occasions of our society must be nerve-wrecking and terrifying. Get to know someone in law-enforcement. Listen to them. Appreciate them.

2. Look Into Accountability

There are many policies surrounding accountability, including not only the practice of Body-Worn Cameras(BWC) but their admissibility in court (it’s complicated).  Look into your local and regional policies and see where they’re at. I’ve attached an email I sent to my local Police Chief to ask about BodyCams and Bias Training. You can start as easy as that!

Screenshot 2017-06-26 at 4

What are you doing here?

There’s a scene I love in Forrest Gump. Inspired by his late best friend Bubba (spoiler), Forrest has decided to become a shrimp boat captain and sends a letter to Lt. Dan, asking him to be his first mate. This seems pretty far fetched since Lt. Dan has since the war become a double amputee, wracked with guilt for surviving his stint in Vietnam and falling into drug and alcohol addiction. And by the way, he kinda hates Forrest.

But, to Forrest’s great surprise, one day, Lt. Dan appears on the pier. Forrest immediately proceeds to leap off of his boat and swim towards the him, leaving the boat to crash elsewhere in the harbor.


Forrest Gump: Lieutenant Dan, what are you doing here?
Lieutenant Daniel Taylor: I’m here to try out my sea legs.
Forrest Gump: But you ain’t got no legs, Lieutenant Dan.
Lieutenant Daniel Taylor: [mildly irritated, but understanding] Yes… yes, I know that. You wrote me a letter, you idiot!

Today, I am sitting in a corner of Panera off Culver and Barranca with a terrible cup of watery coffee and my bible. An app I use leads me to read John 21, a passage where Jesus makes a similarly unexpected visit to Peter.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.  He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. – John 21:4-7

Peter realizes that the resurrected Jesus is on the shore, and refusing to wait for the boat’s return, decides to jump out and swim a football field’s distance over to his Lord. He even brings his coat, for appearances.

Jesus appears suddenly to his disciples, and Peter can’t contain himself, he dives off of his fishing boat to greet his Lord, his teacher, his best friend. He is fresh off of his worst failure, but he doesn’t let the guilt drive him away, he recognizes how wonderful it is just to be in the presence of Jesus again. So, without hesitation, Peter swims feverishly towards the shore. Reading this today, I was moved by Peter’s response.

In that way, Jesus popped up unexpectedly in my day too. I just hope I won’t mind getting wet.

09.27 totems

I am writing this as I nurse a hot 奶茶 in the back-corner of a HK style cafe in Chinatown. The tables are rickety and sticky and green and the condiments on the table are watered down. I’ve finished my 皮蛋瘦肉粥 and accompanying 油条. Both were soggy and bland but my meal was six bucks and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I’m surrounded by senior citizens, but hearing so much Cantonese reminds me of a good friend and that makes me feel at home.

It is 8:30 and I realize that I’ve already been awake for two hours. When you sleep in your tiny car on a hill next to Candlestick Park, you don’t sleep much, and you don’t sleep well. I think it’s par for the course when you’re on the road, but I’m beginning to wonder if I’m getting too old for this [expletive removed]. I think there’s a special feeling inside of a man when he fills up the gas tank of his car and drives it until it’s empty. I did that twice yesterday, and I like to do it every now and then to quash the wanderlust. Every click of the odometer relieves the pressure that builds within me and tells me that there are goodies on the other side of the long road.

Despite appearances, I generally over-prepare for my road trips, booking campsites and establishing a working knowledge of distances between intended destinations and building a mile-based itinerary. This trip, I didn’t do any of that. It wasn’t until I was stuck in traffic in Big Sur and looking at a chart in the back of my atlas (yes, an atlas.) that I realized Seattle was a pipe dream, and I wasn’t going to make it unless I wanted nothing but highway for four days in a row. I set out with a cardinal direction (North), and my three day travel pack. That includes my sleeping bag, a bivouac sack, dopp kit, and three days worth of clothes. I didn’t have a mile or destination goal, just an understanding that I was going to end up closer to Canada before the day was over.

I set out like I did when I was younger: sans-a-plan, trusting that God would throw some adventures my way. So far, He has not disappointed. Circumstances have opened the door for me to stay in the Bay(ish) area and I’m given the chance to slow things down and ask the questions I need to ask instead of hitting the road and filling my mind with NFL betting lines and Debate commentary. The slowing of pace forces me to think.

Last year, I backpacked through Europe thinking about an answer to a question that I didn’t know until I got there. As I tossed and turned on the hotel bed in Madrid, I learned the question I needed to ask. Then, as I swerved on switchbacks through mountains in Switzerland with my tiny Fiat 500, I learned my answer. When I say answer, it was more like the sound of God laughing at me. Don’t be mad at Him though, I was laughing too. It feels like this trip is also becoming one that surrounds an important question. I can only hope I find out what it is in time.

For a wanderer, there are few anchoring forces, and perhaps fewer anchoring places. These anchors are few, far between and hard to predict. Ironic that for me, someone working in the church (a spiritual place industry), there are surprisingly few places that hold a mystical significance. I’m visiting two such places today. When I last visited these locales, I wrote extensively about them. They were places of ἀναγνώρισις (anagnorisis), that is, tragic revelation. At these locations, our hero glimpsed his fate, learned about himself, saw things that he didn’t before, and even saw things that were yet to be. Today, I will find out if his and ultimately, my own predictions are true. Wish me luck.

1. The Sentinel A.K.A. Columbus Tower, San Francisco. N 37° 47′ 47.774″ W 122° 24′ 18.288″



2. Albion / Little River, California N 39° 16′ 33.842″ W 123° 47′ 8.415″




One Month In

For those who don’t know about my home life, I can often be weird and obsessive. I will find a topic that interests me and I’ll binge watch/read/research. I’ve been slowly weaning myself off of detective novels (Chandler > Hammett, btw) and Humphrey Bogart movies and moving onto Japanese directors. It started mostly with Kurosawa, but I’ll be checking out some Ozu, Kinoshita, Mizoguchi and I want to include Chinese(ish) directors like Kar Wai, Chen and Woo.


I make lists like this.

Yesterday, I watched a gritty YouTube version of Hard Boiled (1992) where Tony Leung plays an undercover cop posing as an underworld strong-arm. Similar to Leo in Departed (2006), Leung has a scene where he discusses the stresses of being two people. In a way, the scene echoes a lingering feeling that I’ve had for this first month of full-time ministry. I have this sneaking suspicion that one of these days, I’ll be discovered. People will find out that I’d rather go to a Kid Cudi concert than a Hillsong one (actual situation this February), I’d rather read Murakami than C.S. Lewis, I listen to more Bill Simmons than John Piper (RIP Grantland). Parents will discover my tattoos and hide their children. A copy of my school transcript will leak, and the collective gasp will be heard all through Orange County.



Now that I’m full-time it feels different. Perhaps the days are gone when I could karaoke IDFWU, enjoy moonlight cigars, or sneak off during a church camping trip to sleep alone by the beach. It feels like I have to step up and into the shoes of the men I’ve known who’ve held this position, none of whom enjoy BIg Sean. I’m not wired like the pastors I’ve known, and I’m still figuring out if that’s ok. There’s a fear that if people found out who I really am, they’d be disappointed, like “bruh, this dude isn’t even that holy, though.” It’s not just people’s view of me, but the idea that a weight of responsibility weighs on my unholy shoulders, not just part-time, but full-time is a scary thought.

I think I’m coming to grips with it.  I could write a long spiel on how I know that it’s God doing the work (thankfully), but today, I’m thinking about the rest of the squad. My comfort is that the fruit of my ministry isn’t based on me. Since I’ve arrived, I’ve had the privilege of laboring beside a great team of passionate, dedicated people; something I’ve found to exist in every church in every corner of the world. But even if I didn’t have these great folks, I know that I’m not, and won’t be, the focal point. I’m starting to think that this is the whole point. Maybe I’m just the inadequate guy who steps aside to make room for others.

My philosophy of ministry, a.k.a. modus operandi, a.k.a. weapon of choice has always been delegation (not because I’m lazy!) and creating opportunities for other talented, gifted people to do what they do. I don’t mind being someone who just gets out of the way.

Untitled drawing

This year, if you take a look at the two powerhouse teams in the NBA, you see two very different narratives. In the West you have the Golden State Warriors, coached by Luke Walton while Steve Kerr recovered from back surgery. In the East, the Cleveland Cavaliers were coached by David Blatt until he was unceremoniously replaced by the guy Allen Iverson stepped over. People attribute Walton’s success in Golden State to the same quality that made him a great Laker; sitting quietly on the bench while the superstars win the game. On the flip side, Blatt was known to tout his own laurels from the Euroleague (LOL) and instill confidence in his coaching through extolling his own success and expertise.

I don’t mind being a Luke Walton (for one, he is very handsome in this photo). Let the kids be the Kobes and Currys. I mean, it’s clear that a lot of the teenagers I’ve met so far are better people than me. So I’m going to do what I can to let them shine as brightly as possible. When the time comes, I’ll protect them from the people who would try to dim that light but mostly, I’ll just get out of the way.

I don’t know what this means for my off the field antics, i.e. my love for Kanye West, Montecristos, tattoos, etc. I think it means that I must not become a stumbling block for these kids. I don’t think I have to stop being myself, but I’d be naive to think that I wouldn’t have to sacrifice in order to improve as a person. If that means giving up any and all of my preferences, I will. Just…can I listen to Waves, first?


Every now and then I get the irrepressible compulsion to drive away. I drive for as long as I can and as far as time will allow. I usually end up at an ocean. This urge is why I make an annual insane drive down to Myrtle Beach and why I spent Monday sitting on cold sand in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach. I wish I could explain it better, but I don’t know how. I think it happens when I’m stressed or weary or maybe a little heartbroken. Long drives with loud country music and the sound and smell of the ocean always seem to soothe whatever it is that needs healing.

Monday, I carried my shoes as I walked barefoot on the sand and I asked God (as I often do) what it is I’m doing here and what I’m supposed to do next. He was quiet (as he often is), but there’s the sense that he’s listening and present. He’s there, not with an audible voice, but sort of a spiritual 괜찮아, which is more than enough to assuage the fear in my chest. I pepper him with questions; all of the things I’ve avoided asking him for weeks and months. In typical fashion, he answers with other questions. The spotlight turns back on me and I have to think hard about what it is I want in life, and how it is I want to live it.


As I often do when I talk with God, I spoke in Chinese. I don’t know if this was always the case but it is now. It’s weird. My chinese isn’t very good, and I’m definitely more comfortable and capable of expressing myself in English, so it’s odd that I’d choose (if you could call an unconscious decision a choice) Chinese as my language of preference in prayer.

It occurred to me recently that I speak to God in Chinese because I speak all of my other parents in Chinese. It’s how I grew up with my parents so naturally, when I speak to my heavenly parent, I started to do the same. The limitations of my Chinese dress down my language and force me to simple and clear. I trust God to decipher the gaps in vocabulary and without English, I can’t temper my earnest prayers with cowardice and nuance. I just ask, like a kid would.

Simon Peter and My Mom Would Get Along: The Christian Duty of Nagging


Usually, I’m ashamed to tell people that I still live with my mom. There’s something infantilizing about living in the house you grew up in, where your baby pictures still hang in dusty frames on the wall. I could excuse myself with lots of reasons why I’m still on 59th ave., but let’s be honest, if I were making more money or if I stopped going to so many fights (Golovkin v. Lemieux is going to be great), I probably would have made the move already. I like living by myself. I miss it.

Anyhow, despite living with Mama Liu (sharing a wall with her, in fact), I don’t see her all that much. In a given week, I might sit down with her for one or two meals. During this meal, mom gets the chance to exercise her favorite activity with me: telling me stuff I already know. Boy, does my mom love telling me stuff that I already know. It’s gotta be one of her favorite things in the world. It’s right up there with seafood and complaining about my dad. Some may call it parenting, I’m going to call it 罗嗦.

Mama Liu has a couple of common reminders for me too. Save your money. Go earn some more money. Don’t come home so late. Stop wasting your time . Do well in school (seminary, now). Don’t break ladies’ hearts. Don’t let ladies break your heart. Use an umbrella. Wear a coat. Stop cutting your own hair. Eat more fruit. Also, vitamins.

In 2 Peter (or Segundo Pedro, as I call it), the apostle/badass Pedro does the same. He is explicit about his nagging “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have” (2 Peter 1:12). Segundo Pedro is all about reminding the church in Asia Minor of the fundamental tenets of the faith. Jesus Christ died for the salvation of sinners, in accordance with prophecy, as confirmed by eyewitnesses. And, He’s coming back. Apparently, in Peter’s day, there were lots of people saying other things, teaching other doctrines, and taking advantage of vulnerable church-goers. Peter is reminding everyone of the truth, so that when non-truths present themselves, people can defend themselves.


To this end, Peter beats a dead horse. He essentially tells his audience that he will remind them of these same things until he dies. The more I study this letter, the more I see that he is not concerned with the presentation of this gospel, but the reinforcement of a truth that should already be known. Peter, like my mommy, is trying to drill home simple truths. False teachers may conjure some “cleverly devised myths” and have sexy new spins that appeal to the people of the time, but the truth cannot be shaken by a trifling fad. Peter remains diligent to his message. It’s not new, and it shouldn’t have to be.

Every week, I try to drive the same message home. Jesus comes alongside us, pays for our debts. Jesus is a god worth following. I’m tempted to come up with fun new ways to say it, or give in the positivity of the prosperity gospel, or entice my friends with a sexy socially conscious gospel, or assuage the binary nature of the kingdom with a calming pluralism. Peter reminds me to keep it honest, keep it simple. Much like a good story, a good truth deserves to be told. Even when it isn’t the first time.