Grace is for people who don’t deserve it = that’s us

These past couple weeks ive been struck by and also discouraged by what I see around me…in the church.  that’s right…the people that are supposed to be children of God…not really living like it.  all this with a general theme that I’ve been hearing/reading/seeing repeatedly that just because someone says (and even believes) they are Christian doesn’t necessarily mean that it is so (Isaiah 58, Matthew 25, John 15, James 2).  Then I find myself being super critical and judgmental.   Gosh, im really not any better.

So needless to say I’ve been feeling really drained and emotionally tired.

Then this morning God opens my eyes again to this thing called his grace.

On my drive to work I was listening to a message by Rankin Wilborne.  It was basically about the idea that one of things that makes Christianity so offensive to people, to us, is actually this idea of grace: that God would love us, regardless of where we are at in our lives.  It sounds nice but he challenged me to really think about that.  When you think you’re pretty good and someone treats you lovingly that’s pretty rad…duh, that’s obvious.  But when you know you’re pretty rotten inside and someone lavishes real love on you, that’s jarring…humiliating, and “traumatic” (in Wilborne’s words).

He drew out this point from the episode in Jesus’ life, the night that he knew he was going to be betrayed, when he washed his disciples’ feet.   So Jesus comes around to Peter to wash his feet (a disgusting job reserved only for the lowest person) and basically Peter says “No way, Jesus!  You’re my master…I can’t let you do that!”  Jesus then lets him know that unless Peter allows Jesus to do this, he can’t be part of a real relationship with Jesus (alluding to the fact that Jesus would, in fact, die for Peter’s sins).  Peter’s response seems like a respectful thing, but the idea that underlies what he said is that he can’t accept Jesus loving him this way…in his unloveliness.  But you see, that is what grace is: letting Jesus love us in our crappiness.  We can’t tell Jesus to love us when we have our act together…first off, that day will never come and second, if that day did come then that’s the day we are saying God should wash our feet.  WHY WOULD GOD, THE SOURCE OF ALL LIFE, BE OBLIGATED TO WASH OUR FEET?!?!

Just in case I wasn’t getting all this, Jesus shows me even more grace this morning.  So, I was completely lazy last night and this morning, even though I have sooo much work to do.   I was late to our professional development meeting this morning at work…but I still got “staff cash” (its like a little raffle ticket that people get for being on time).  Then Grace (Yun) sat down right next to me (haha).   Then at the end of the meeting, that I was slightly dozing through (I know terrible huh…after like 9 hours in bed!), I win the raffle.  Man, I really didn’t deserve anything like that.  I know that’s not even comparable to how Jesus died for ALL of my sins, even the ones i committed and will commit today.   Now, this is no license to keep living in sin, in fact, if I really taste his “traumatic” grace regularly, I shouldn’t be able to help but change…out of  love for him.  the moment I take his grace for granted is the moment it is no longer grace to me.



so im on spring break which means im just lounging about, you know just chillin…and lots of random web surfing.  these days in general, thanks to that random ucla girls rant about asians in the library, it seems the theme is asian americans in media (which means mostly unknown-by-the-masses web stuff).

so one of the things that i rant about is the lack of as well as the stereotypical portrayal of asian americans (especially males) in popular media.  well, part of that may be our fault as a race because pursuing a career in the entertainment/biz/arts is not exactly encouraged in most asian homes (okay im going to be writing a lot of generalizations, i know).  but that issue aside, the lack of exposure and well-rounded portrayals of asian americans in popular media has bothered me for some time.  unless someone actually spends significant time with an asian, popular media and stereotypes are the default ideas of asians.  so here’s a little outline of where im going with this (for the lazy readers and for the list-making thinker in me):

i. the stereotypes

ii. the asian american man

iii.  some steps forward

iv. random stuff ive found


all asians are chinese (yeah the new “karate kid” about KUNG-FU in CHINA, not KARATE in JAPAN, didnt help with that)

all asians can’t drive (okay this may be partly true.   but think about it, what kind of car do you drive?  just wondering.  has anyone been in a car in japan?  man, they drive in both directions down a street that is the size of one of our lanes in america, with bikes, pedestrians, and sometimes with a rice paddy on the side!)

all asians are good at math (im not.  im an english teacher.  my wife would say its not so much that we are naturally good at it but that we had to work a lot at it.  you know brain research says that you can actually grow your intelligence with lots of practice.  actually the reason why many asians are good at math is because our parents would beat us if we have mediocre grades.)

all asians know martial arts (i mean it would be awesome if we all did, but seriously?  asians aren’t necessarily known for their athleticism.  its not like that dreyers ice cream commerical with the old man, where we can suddenly bust out into flips and stuff.  but go jeremy lin!)

asian women are submissive exotic sexual creatures (you know that lucy liu dominatrix dragon lady stuff.  in terms of submissive, doode, have you watched any asian dramas lately?  they are boss!  they are definitely not all submissive…if anything more sassy and abusive.  asian americans girls are even less submissive because…they live in AMERICA!  yeah, asian girls dont know any special tricks anymore than the next person.  they are definitely beautiful but they still have snot, fart, and get messed up hair and all that other very human stuff.  although its a stereotype, i guess in the general sense asian females are seen as attractive.  not so their counter-parts, which leads to the next major point.)


unfortunately, asian american men are still cast in stereotypical roles and are largely portrayed as:

inarticulate (still unable to speak to english, or if they do they are unable to speak powerfully)

asexual (or not sexually attractive to the opposite sex)

– or just fricken weird

now i actually like some of the hard work these actors have done, but really america?  is that the only way we can see asian american men?

as an asian american boy growing up and even as a man now it was challenging not to see any more well rounded portrayals of asian american men.  especially, in those awkward teen years not to see anyone that looked like you in anything you watched on television and movies…not anything cool and desirable anyway.  in media in asia there are asian men that are seen as SEXY!  gasp!  so how come when they live in a different country, especially a country that boasts of a melting pot, they are not only seen as aliens in the figurative sense but actually portrayed as looking and acting like physical aliens…as in from another planet and as something to run from rather than run toward?

but there has been some progress…


– i dunno if you remember this short lived tv mini-series called “vanishing son.”   even though he was only half asian, he was an asian american that was actually protrayed as speaking english and was desirable to women.   that was a big step.

“better luck tomorrow.”  this movie was big for asian american males and asian americans in general.  it actually protrayed asian americans in america and didnt even focus on the race/ethnicity thing.  it just told a story that cast asian american actors.   it showed the good and the bad side of asian americans.  it was even loosely based on true events.  many people just couldnt accept this type of portrayal of asian americans doing deviant things.  even roger ebert had to stand up for us!  now i know it wasnt a totally positive portrayal…but it was human.   i remember even some of my asian american friends didnt want to see this movie.  they felt it too weird to see asians americans on screen.  i was like wtheck!?!  it was like this internalized racism.   if asian americans arent ready and willing to see asian americans on screen how could we expect the rest of america to be willing?

john cho.  i like this guy.  he’s one of the few asian american men that i feel have really made it to the mainstream.  he’s funny, down to earth, good-looking, speaks english clearly, and is an asian american.  he started off on side roles but then he was actually cast as a romantic lead (granted it was beta-guy-comedy) in a film that many people in america actually watched.


sung kang.  from fast and furious fame.  he is the “cool” asian guy.  thats cool.


daniel dae kim.  he is an example of the man in transition as a metaphor for the asian american man in transition of portrayals.  in “lost” (i miss that show so much!) he went from the korean wife suppressor that didnt speak english to learning english and showing his tenderness.  he still hasnt moved off the island of hawaii in his roles (well he did do work before in tv, who knows that stuff right?) but now in “hawaii-five-0” (with grace park!) he is shown as a pretty competent english speaking, supporting lead law enforcer.  he can solve crimes and he rides a pretty bad motorcycle.  to me he’s not really good looking (but im a guy so what does my opinion matter in that area…some people love him!) but america is getting more used to him.  thats good.



lastly, i’d like to share with you some asian american media stuff i’ve found, which is still relatively niche in terms of general pop knowledge that has grown outside of the asian american bubble.  but heres a step to circulate it more broadly and get some word out.


– kevjumba.  he’s a youtube star, that even jessica alba knows.  haha.  he’s not amazing hilarious but he seems like a pretty entertaining guy who doesnt take himself too seriously.

– nigahiga.  he’s also big on youtube but what makes him a little different is he’s apparently a little more photogenic and came out in a short film. 

ON TV (ok, i know most of this stuff is no longer on air and is pretty mainstream but i just had to write about them):

– “lost”  seriously, this show was so amazing, especially as a literature major.  the characters were so well developed and examined, it was like you grew to know them intimately to the point where one could anticipate their responses to events.  for example the kwons looked like a typical korean couple but so many layers were unearthed it turned the stereotypes inside out and revealed such a great story.  the show also played with every conceivable way to tell a story in time (limited perspective with flashback – season 1, alternate perspective of the same time – season 2, past leading to present perspective – season 3, future leading to present perspectives – season 4, time travel perspectives – season 5, and parallel universe perspectives – final season).

– “battlestar galactica.”  ok, hold back from your mind clips from “the office”, the campy original series, and geeky sci-fi stuff.  this re-envisioning of the show was a great human drama that explored often taboo subjects such as religion, identity, death, ethics, and politics with such engaging complexity, style, and depth…the story just happened to be in outer space.  the asian american on the show, grace park, is not only a hottie but plays two pretty important roles (dont want to give away too much).

– “outsourced”  whats amazing about this show is that its set in another country and the majority of the cast is south asian…and its on a major american network!  its a funny and endearing show to me.  some people say it engenders stereotypes but it actually pokes fun at both worlds and gives you characters that you can care about.

ON “REALITY” TV (hopefully soon):

– “k-town.” theres been a lot of buzz about this show (which is like a “jersey shore” with asians) but i heard its been picked up.  many asian americans are wincing about this show.  i know it doesn’t portray asians in a positive light but it does what most shows don’t…it actually portrays them…in america.   the model minority and fobby minority myths need to be broken down.  any portrayal of a people group needs to be 3 dimensional, not just flat notions…that means the good, the bad, and the ugly.

– to learn a little about the k-town (korea town in los angeles) culture i found this web series to be educational and entertaining.


– angry asian man by a guy.

– disgrasian by two girls. 


“american born chinese” by gene luen yang.  great story / fable / commentary / comic.

– no this isnt new by any means but it really rocked my world when i read it in college.  no-no boy by john okada


priscilla ahn.  her sound is smooth with just enough quirky ness

susie suh.  soulful and deep.  you seriously have to check her out.

ken oak band.  im not super into male vocalists so i havent really listened to him that much.  but he seems well liked.  he actually discipled my brother for a bit.  sad thing i heard…some music industry people liked his sound but when they found out he was asian they were like nevermind.  : (


unfortunately a lot of stuff that i’ve seen is just kind of so-so, apart from “better luck tomorrow.”  but here is one that stands out in my mind.

– “charlotte sometimes.”  its understated but pretty deep.

– “white on rice.”  (<- thats the whole movie on hulu) i just had to throw this one in.  not super amazing but entertaining.  the main character is a little difficult to watch…think michael scott but more akward.

IN COMEDY (profanity warning):

– russell peters.  this guy is hilarious…at least to the asians i know.  he does so many great ethnic impersonations.

– joe wong.  he is fobby and his delivery is so deadpan and akward…but super witty…you actually have to think a second to understand the punchlines.

– aiko tanaka.  she is also fobby and random, but so charming and funny.

– david so.  i found him through his web response to that UCLA girls racist rant about asians.  his delivery is so hilarious, especially his facial expressions.


speaking of that racist ucla girls rant, this was one of the most endearing and loving responses…and a really catchy song.

and speaking of asians in the library.  this site is interesting.

hope you had fun!  and thanks for reading.   please share any comments!

what is saving faith?

the question was posed at the begining of this week: can christians go to hell?

here are some of my thoughts thus far in no particular order:

– when Jesus says that if we believe in him we are saved, belief is not just mental acceptance of his existence and what he has done.  basically it is not simply knowledge of who he is.  demons have this as james says.

– it is a lifestyle of holding onto him, like we actually trust him, even more than ourselves.  John 15, remaining in him and that apart from him we can do nothing.  we trust in him more than what we can see in our own circumstances.

to be continued…

suffering and the revelation of God

the redemptive nature of suffering has recently been on my mind a lot.  suffering – as a means to know God more, have  deeper fellowship with Him (Philippians 3:10) and its redemptive nature as the  Son of God was perfected through suffering (Hebrews 2:10).

in rev 5:9-10 it states:

9 And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign[b] on the earth.”

by the suffering and death of Christ he was able to save many.   he paid the price for our sins by his own suffering and death.  without that suffering and death we would be doomed to eternal suffering and death.  he took it on so we wouldnt have to…to save us and also to understand us.

maybe this explains the purpose of godly suffering for us as christians…we can help others and bear some of their suffering, we can connect with those who are also suffering, but most of all it can point us to how much God loves us that He was willing to suffer to be with us…to make a way so that He could be with us forever.

mercy triumphs over judgement…

aahh…sigh.   my students, a certain period in particular, are really pushing me to the limits of frustration, with their blatant disrespect.  i am so tempted to mete out justice and vengeance.   however, God has reminded me (twice this week) about Joseph (Genesis ch. 37 to the end of the book).  it is His kindness that leads us to repentance.  we deserve justice and judgment for our wickedness…however He doesn’t give us what we deserve…rather He gives us kindness – expressed in all its fullness through the life of Christ.  while humanity was heaping sins and abuse upon him, even then he willingly went to the cross for us, praying for us even as he hung upon the cross.

Joseph is a type of this kindness:

Joseph Reassures His Brothers

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.

19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

Genesis 50:15-19

may mercy triumph over judgment in my heart and to my students.

rev. 2:12-17 -> to have one love

12“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives. 14Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. 15Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.



v. 12 “him who has the sharp double edged sword”

the sword represents judgment in the Old Testament. if you consider Hebrews 4:12-13 specifically, the double edged sword is the word of God (that makes sense as earlier in revelations a sword is pictured as coming out of Jesus’ mouth) that can judge heart.  Either way its related to judgment, which Jesus has the authority, right, and power to administer.

*we like to think of the bible in the words it gives us of comfort but we must not forget that the words of the bible also serve to judge.  God made us so He of all people, has the right to judge us.  We (I) need to let His word do the work of examining and cutting our hearts, and not be so casual or flippant about it. I got to really hear it and let it sink deep in me or there will be hell to pay.



In the midst of a very worldly city, the church in Pergamum (which interestingly means “thoroughly married”) still holds on to Christ. They still go to church.  They have not denied him even in the face of persecution and danger.

*its crazy that Jesus says that this church is in the city where he says Satan’s throne is.  that satan feels at home in this city.  its where he rules.  imagine that: the city where you live is where satan lives.  to hold onto ones faith in such a place is hard but good.



The church may be true to Christ, but there are people that hold on to false teachings and evil practices.  As a whole they may hold to Christ but are trying to hold on to other things too that are not of him. they are mixing.  they have other loves and lovers.

* its interesting and scary to me that Satan has his “throne” in a place that is not completely pagan.  it’s a city where he also has crept into the church.  his influence is everywhere, and even undetected where he most should be.  Has Satan’s influence crept into our churches, our lives without us being aware of it?

Both sins Jesus addresses (food sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality) are sins of mixing and have to do with not being solely faithful to God.  holding onto him and another is actually not really holding onto him (we cant wholeheartedly serve two masters).

–       Eating food sacrificed to idols – although Paul in 1 Corinthians 8 essentially doesn’t have a problem with it per se, this seems to be a people who still somehow associated it with worship of other things.  So they were in essence participating in pagan worship of false gods.

–       Sexual immorality – the greek word for this word is porneo.  the more equivalent word for it in our English language is fornication which means any sex outside the covenant of marriage.  this covers a whole host of sexual behaviors, not just what society considers “deviant” sexual behavior.  it means having sex with anyone / anything you are not married to.  So this would cover pre-marital sex too.  people do it all the time in this day and age and Christians are not exempt.  in this area for sure the church isn’t blameless.  this sexual immorality could be physical unfaithfulness as well as spiritual unfaithfulness (especially from the context of worship of idols, giving our love to other things)

*physical unfaithfulness – by the grace of God I haven’t physically been unfaithful.  However, that doesn’t mean im off the hook.  Jesus says just looking at anyone lustfully, that im not married to, is the same as unfaithfulness…its in the heart. im guilty. to be honest, i struggle with this more than I’d like to admit.  more than even my slothfulness, this is what i hate most about myself.  i adore my wife, but sometimes my eyes and mind wander.  why is faithfulness so hard for me?   for guys?  for humankind?  the divorce rates loom over our heads, like a fearful echo of a deeper flaw.  i’ve told my wife my problem.  it hurts her.  obviously.  when i see my wife shed these tears it feels like my chest is caving in.  she’s my best human friend and my lover.  but even more than that, it hurts God (see Hosea).  i expect and take for granted that God is faithful to me.  why do I forget this so quickly?  why do I not value faithfulness like Joseph, who loved God so deeply and recognized his goodness so profoundly that it was unthinkable for him to go against God?  i have a problem and i want to change.  one thing i know for sure is that i can’t just make my desires go away; i must fill my heart with a greater person on which to pour my desires…God…the greatest, highest, worthiest that I could give my heart to and indeed the source of all beauty.  God fill my heart up with you, so much that I would want nothing else but you and what you give.

*spiritual unfaithfulness – In what ways am I mixing up my faith? I may say I am Christian but in what ways am I compromising my faith and what He treasures by participating in the impure ways of the world?  Now we know he wants us in the world but what does it mean to not be of it?  as we live in a secular society under a secular government we ought to be good citizens (as God expects us to submit to the governing powers he has put in place to the extent that they do not contradict His law, as well as examples like in Jeremiah 29 where believers live in a pagan society God directs them to seek the shalom (peace) and prosperity of the city).  This does not mean however that we participate in everything.  So what activities/practices/teachings of the world should we abstain from then?  from what the world adores instead of God.  or more specifically, from what draws our hearts away from adoring loving Him. why is that i can get more excited about a movie then spending time with him?  why is that people at church are totally down to hang out and talk but once it’s a prayer meeting people split like the plague has come?  are we more about what the world values or about what he values?  Do I love him most?  What else may I, and as church, be giving my (our) hearts too?



He will come to us in judgement.  We ought to cut off whatever is drawing us away from him, or he will cut it off…or worse we will have been cut off without knowing it.



(All of the following interpretations have been found in Fruchtenbaums commentary)

they will recieve:

Hidden manna can mean

–       messianic reference (keener), true spiritual sustenance without labor

–       Christ himself, the true bread from heaven

The White stone can mean

–       symbol of acquittal, not guilty in ancient courtrooms (keener)

–       membership into a private place in the roman world (mcarthur)

the New name can mean

–       promise

–       transformed identity

those who are truly faithful to him will receive all the special benefits of intimacy with Him, the one they have loved most.

rev. 2:8-11 -> what are you made of?

To the Church in Smyrna

8“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.



v. 8 – He is the First and the Last. This title was used of God in the OT (Isaiah 44:6, 48:12, 41:4) equating Jesus with God.  the First and Last of what? Of everything.  He is the first word as well as the last word on all things.  He is the creator and the completer.

*Do I live with Christ as the First and the Last of all things in my life?  Of me?   Too often I think of him as on the side of my world and I forget I am just an agent in His world.  It is so comforting when I relinquish myself to recognize that whatever situation I find myself in, He is the first and the last word on the matter.

v. 8 – he died and came to life again.

Christ is the only one who rose himself from the dead.  He is the only one who actually defeated death, so that those who trust in him might also be raised.

*I can entrust my future, my life, into his hands as I fully embrace that he can carry me beyond death. His resurrection proved that He was telling the truth, that he has authority even over death.



In all accounts, from the world’s perspective, this church is in the pits…it is in a totally undesirable situation: afflicted, slandered, poor, and persecuted to the point of death.  Yet THIS is the church for which Jesus has no criticism.  This is the church that Jesus considers rich.  They are true to Jesus. In the midst of the most terrible suffering, they have shown how loyal they are to Jesus.  Indeed is this possibly how they have been so refined?

*this total upside down value system of God just continues to blow my mind.  I still don’t think we get it.  I don’t get it. I don’t like being uncomfortable.  I don’t like to be slandered…and this for doing right.  It infuriates my sense of justice.  It sucks to be poor.  As for persecution…what do I even know about real persecution?  Now I don’t think that Jesus is saying that these things are good in it of themselves, yet these things have a way of really showing our true colors…what we really hold on to.  I think in this way the Smyrnans are rich.  They know where true life comes from, they don’t have any delusional/false securities.  When grapes are crushed, sweet juice is revealed. When jars of clay are crushed, the treasure inside is revealed.  When we are crushed what will come out? This reminds me of the story of how James, the brother of the writer of this revelation, died.  The very person that was responsible for bringing James to the authorities to be killed, was so moved by James’ faith, he asked for James forgiveness and they were beheaded together.  God help me to be true to you, to hold onto to YOU in the midst of suffering.



He sees their suffering but does he promise that suffering will relent for their faithfulness?  No, in fact he tells them that even more suffering will come.  However, even if they die, they will have shown their true faith and would receive “the crown of life.”  By going faithfully toward death they are actually going toward true life. By facing the hurt in this life, they will not be hurt at all by the second death.

*I need a transformation of my paradigm…by dying to myself now I can have real life.  By holding onto my security now more than Christ, I will be letting go of eternal security (Luke 9:23-27).

learning to love holistically amongst the urban poor