Why Code for the Kingdom?

For the recent Global Code for the Kingdom Hackathon, I had the privilege of sharing “Why Code for the Kingdom?” This is a video and manuscript of the talk.

Brothers and sisters, welcome to Code for the Kingdom! My name is Chris Lim, I’m co-organizer of the Seattle hackathon and creator of Ceaseless, an app that helps you pray for three friends each day so that together we can personally pray for everyone on earth.

Having been an organizer and participant, the founder of Code for the Kingdom, Chris Armas, asked me to share my thoughts on “Why Code for the Kingdom?” What does it mean to Code for the Kingdom?

If you’re like me, you love to build, to explore, to invent. You love making awesome products and sharing them with the world. You love seeing the future and making it real for others to experience. You love tackling seemingly intractable problems with ingenious solutions. You love crafting delightful experiences that bring a smile to people’s eyes. You love seeing your ideas come to life and benefit lots and lots of people.

But for all these loves, most of all you love Jesus. You want to combine your passion for technology with your love for Christ. But there aren’t many opportunities to do that in a meaningful way with like-minded people.

That’s what Code for the Kingdom is about.

It’s an event and a movement convening bright technologists and entrepreneurs to use their gifts to advance the Gospel together. It’s a place where we take seriously the idea that God is our ultimate customer. He is the one we’re seeking to please and delight with our work. We deeply empathize with what he values, pay attention to his specifications, and apply all of our creativity, thoughtfulness and skill to deliver products, services and experiences that will make him happy and bless the world. And we do this, not alone, but in a community of people who share the same God-obsessed passion.

So as an event, Code for the Kingdom, is designed to be an inspiring foretaste of God’s Kingdom where people work together to use their gifts in technology, design, entrepreneurship, and every other discipline to deliver amazing and creative solutions that demonstrate the love of Christ for the world.

Now this happens in both large and small ways.

When you see a stranger struggling to debug his code at 3am in the morning before his pitch and step in to help him out, you’re creating a foretaste of God’s Kingdom.

When you forgo your idea in order to serve someone who needs a team and help them succeed you’re creating a foretaste of God’s Kingdom.

When you boldly stand up and share your idea for advancing the Gospel even though you feel scared or unqualified, you’re creating a foretaste of God’s Kingdom.

And of course, when you sacrifice your weekend and beyond in order to create solutions that will help release the oppressed, teach God’s Word, heal the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, support the church, build up the body of Christ, and bless the world, you’re creating foretaste of God’s kingdom.

So as a movement, Code for the Kingdom is about activating and unleashing people to do good with the grace God has given them; to use their gifts to advance the gospel. We are a community of people from around the world on mission together, serving one another, doing what we love and contributing our creativity, our skill, our inventiveness, our focus, our drive, our curiosity and all the best we have to offer for a common cause that matters: the Kingdom of God.

You see, there are many good causes in the world and we will be addressing several of them during our hackathons. But as Christians, what gives these causes significance is that they are delivering foretastes of God’s promise. We build things to help us enjoy and share with others our dream of a new creation, our hope of the day when God will make all things right in His kingdom forever. Through the things we build we invite the world experience the joy of having Jesus Christ as Lord, and to believe in Him so that they will also receive the marvelous new world he longs to give us.

Code for the Kingdom is an opportunity for you to carry on Jesus’ mission with the specific gifts, skills and passions he has given you. There are still people around the world who need to hear and experience the gospel of the Kingdom. You still have brothers and sisters who need to hear and believe the promises Jesus has made so that we can finally receive them together.

Could this be in part what your technical, entrepreneurial, artistic and other gifts are for?

When Jesus began his ministry, he quoted Isaiah saying:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” ‭‭(Luke 4:18-19, 21 ESV)

And Jesus has gifted us and given us His Spirit to carry out these and many other good works in his Name.

Do you love the poor as Jesus loves the poor? They are all around us–across the street and around the world. Why not use your technological privilege to serve them, to show and tell them about the kingdom Jesus wants to give them? Perhaps beginning with something as simple as feeding them and giving them access to clean water.

Do you hurt when you see people taken captive by physical or spiritual powers? Do you ache for those who are physically or spiritually blind or deaf? Why not use your gifts to help them hear and see and set them free? What can you invent to encourage people when they are down and overcome the strongholds that bind them?

Are you broken and angered when you see oppression, corruption and injustice? Why not use your gifts to help bear witness to the truth, to mitigate the abuse of power, to give a voice to the voiceless, to protect the vulnerable and strengthen the weak?

Then as we proclaim the message of God’s kingdom and invite people to trust in Jesus, they will know what we mean because they will have experienced a foretaste of it for themselves.

So why Code for the Kingdom?

First, because we love the King…
Second, because we love His people…
Third, because we love His world.
And fourth, yes, because we love to code…

Thank you for being here, to God be the glory and have fun at Code for the Kingdom!

Coding in the Dark: The Risks and Rewards of Innovating for the Kingdom

What is it like to live at the intersection of faith, technology and entrepreneurship? What makes taking risks for the Kingdom of God worthwhile even in the face of failure?

Find out in this talk.
(Given as part of the “Technology and the Word” series at University Presbyterian Church. Part 2 can be found here).

Good morning friends, my name is Christopher Lim and I am a technologist. This means that I invent technology as well as use it. After spending three and a half years as a software engineer at Amazon, I felt called by God to embark on an adventure to use my technical skills to advance the Gospel, to help people know and follow God.

Before I share my story with you today, let me define what I mean by the Gospel.

God created a good world and put it under the management of human beings so that it would flourish. Unfortunately, those human beings were incited by God’s enemy to disobey God’s command. They thought they could know better how to run the world than him. Their disobedience, called sin, ruined God’s creation and resulted in the pain, suffering, injustice, violence, strife, death and every other evil thing we experience today.

God could have scrapped his creation and restarted it, putting it under new management and judging human beings for their error. Instead, he decided to save his creation by saving human beings from their sins. To the first human beings he made a promise that one day, their descendant would defeat God’s enemy and then through promise after promise down through the centuries, God made preparations for the unveiling of the Savior of the world.

At the right time, God sent his Son, Jesus Christ to take responsibility for all the sins of the world from beginning to end. Jesus Christ took the blame for all the terrible things his human creatures had done and he died in their place. He is the picture of the perfect leader who so loves those under his authority that he lays down his life for them.

He was buried and three days later rose from the dead, becoming the prototype, the forerunner of what God would do for all human beings that believe in him. Jesus returned to heaven where God exalted him to the place of highest authority in his entire creation and one day he will return to restore creation and judge human beings. Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ will be forgiven of their sins and receive the power of God’s Spirit to manage their lives. On the day when Christ returns, they will be raised from the dead to rule the new creation God is bringing so that it flourishes as he intended from day one. Everyone who rejects Jesus Christ’s authority will be cast out of the new creation. Everyone who accepts it will live forever.

This is the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is everything under his management. When he is obeyed, everything flourishes. When he is disobeyed, everything falls apart. So when I speak of “The Risks and Rewards of Innovating for the Kingdom”, I mean the risks and rewards of inventing technologies that help people experience the joy of believing in and obeying God so that they will one day become rulers of God’s new creation.

One of the things that Jesus Christ commands is for this gospel to be proclaimed to every nation on earth because he wants people from every nation to be saved and to inherit his Kingdom. The task of spreading the message in word and deed is what I mean by advancing the Gospel and it is why innovation is essential.

Without innovation we are stuck with the status quo.

There is no better example of this than Gutenberg’s invention of the moveable type printing press. I will let him speak for himself:

“God suffers in the multitude of souls whom His word can not reach. Religious truth is imprisoned in a small number of manuscript books which confine instead of spread the public treasure. Let us break the seal which seals up holy things and give wings to Truth in order that she may win every soul that comes into the world by her word no longer written at great expense by hands easily palsied, but multiplied like the wind by an untiring machine…”

Gutenberg combined existing technologies into a solution that enabled the affordable mass production of books and the world would never be the same. He did it in part, for the sake of the Gospel–he wanted everyone to have access to the Bible. He innovated for the Kingdom of God and today we enjoy the fruits of his invention.

Since then, technology has continued to revolutionize human communication time and time again.

This dashboard shows how rapidly content is being created and shared around the world. Human beings are interacting with each other on an unfathomable scale.

In the few seconds between the time when I visited this page and took this screenshot, more than $82,000 was spent on Amazon. Almost 200,000 tweets were produced. There were over 1.9 million new posts on Facebook. And over 119 million emails were sent. All in a matter of seconds.

It’s overwhelming. And no one is affected more than my millennial generation. For example, this chart from the book The Hyperlinked Life, states that 49% of millennials feel that personal electronics sometimes separate them from other people. They end up consuming the endless stream of information on their devices rather than interacting with others around them.

I know that some people advocate disciplines like taking technology retreats without Internet access in order to reconnect with people face to face. While this is a valid technique, I would argue that it is better to invent new technologies that mitigate existing problems and advance the values of God’s Kingdom instead. What if technology products were designed to not simply connect people, but to help them cultivate healthy relationships with God and one another?

Whether we like it or not, information and culture is being created and shared faster than ever. The pace keeps accelerating and the best way to widely influence culture is to contribute and innovate rather than to retreat. Those who create the future are best positioned to influence it.

As believers what we invent and create must be infused with the values of God’s Kingdom. By doing so, we not only help people live out the Gospel, but we also give the world a delightful foretaste of the Kingdom of God. Furthermore, since getting the Gospel to everyone on earth requires courage, invention, creativity, skill and passion we end up creating opportunities for people to do what they love for a cause that matters–and that gives them contagious joy.

Imagine a congregation of people not only gathering for worship on Sundays or serving meals at a homeless shelter or teaching Sunday School classes, but coming together to collaborate, developing and using their most valuable skills to advance the Gospel. Imagine a congregation fully supported and unleashed to do what they really love to advance the Gospel. The energy, joy, vitality and creativity would be incredible.

But I am getting a bit ahead of myself here.

Pursuing such a vision of community and technology requires risk. You have to give up the familiar, the comfortable, the known and enter the foreign, the uncomfortable, the unknown. And when your innovation impacts people who are nervous about change, you will face great resistance and adversity in addition to the existing obstacles of self-doubt, persistent failure and feeling alone.

But the good news is that it’s worth it. Let me show you why by sharing my story.

As I mentioned earlier, I was a software engineer at Amazon for three and a half years. Everyone there is measured by a leadership principle called Customer Obsession: “Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competition, they obsess over customers.” This fits exactly with the company’s mission of being “Earth’s most customer-centric company”.

After my second year at Amazon, I started a small group called TheoTech to study the theology of technology with my colleagues. We eventually did a series comparing Amazon’s leadership principles with Scripture to see how we could grow as Christians while succeeding at the company.

I was preparing for the discussion on Customer Obsession, when a thought crossed my mind: “What if God was the customer? Could you build a company that began with God and worked backwards to deliver the outcomes he desired? What would Earth’s most God-centered company look like?”

It was interesting, ambitious, bold, but it also seemed too idealistic, so I just prayed about it and let it be. But God would not let it be.

On one lonely May Friday night I came home exhausted from work. I plopped on my bed and wanted to take a nap. Except I couldn’t. Instead of dozing off, I felt wide awake and it seemed like the Lord said to me: “Chris, I want you to leave your job and devote your attention to the purpose I have called you to and trust in me to provide for you.”

My immediate response was, “really God?”

Was I making it up or was it really Him?

I told my family and trusted friends about it. They were supportive and wanted the best for me and were mainly concerned for my welfare:

What about my career?
How would I be able to support a family?
What about my education and training–is this what it was for?
How would it impact my finances and relationships?

At the end of the day, the call seemed in line with Scripture since it was calling me to trust in God and to pursue his purpose. So after a few weeks of praying, talking and thinking about it, I told my manager of my intention to quit and agreed to stay until the completion of the big project my team was working on.

Now before you say, “Wow Chris, you’re a gutsy risk-taker”, let me tell you that in the following months, my heart sank like a teabag in a cup of boiling water.

I was very attached to my salary and my respectable identity as an Amazonian.
I was going to miss my team.
I was afraid of being alone.
I was afraid of being put to shame and looking crazy for doing this without being “ready” or because “God told me to”.
I was afraid of competition.
I didn’t know how I could make money in the faith+tech space.
I was plagued by self-doubt and the fear of failure.

The most emotionally difficult conversations were with well-intentioned people who recommended that I do this on the side until I had something solid. It was common sense, but I felt speechless because I believed God called me to leave my job.

So what finally gave me the confidence to make the jump?

I was with my family at a conference in Cannon Beach, Oregon. Walking along the beach and praying, I pondered the question: “What can you do after you quit that you could not do before?”

There had to be something more than just giving time and attention to pet projects and ideas.

This was the answer I discovered for myself: “By leaving you can witness to the supreme worth of Jesus Christ.”

I could discover for myself and show that He is more valuable than money and more desirable than a life of comfort. I could discover that following him is more secure than a successful career. If other people could be motivated to take risks to minimize regret, get financial independence and recognition, experience adventure, pursue passion, delight customers, change the world, et cetera, how much more should God’s call motivate me to go? How could I joyfully invite others to trust in my Savior, if I would not trust him in this matter?

And so it was settled. When the project wound down, I submitted my letter of resignation, celebrated with my colleagues and began a new adventure.

Now the truth is, despite my conviction, I didn’t know what I was doing. The path before me was shrouded in darkness. So naturally, I started doing what I knew best: code.

As a kid I loved being left alone in a room full of legos for hours. I could let my imagination run wild and implement my ideas brick by brick. Coding can be a lot like that. If you meet a pale coder who stayed up all night, bleary eyed and wired from caffeinated drinks and wonder why he would do that to himself, that’s why. He’s been in labor, trying to make his ideas a working reality and the process of trying, failing and figuring out how to make it work has completely captivated his attention.

The first product I spent time coding after I quit had to do with prayer. I noticed that my prayers to God were rather selfish–everything was about me. I knew from Scripture that God really wants us to pray for others. For example, the apostle Paul passionately prayed that believers would have the strength to know the greatness of God’s love for them. He also taught them to pray for everyone (not just believers), especially people with power and authority. Unfortunately, many of us are so busy with our own lives and problems that it’s hard to remember to pray for others, especially people outside of our closest friend circle.

My solution to this problem was to build a service that integrated with Facebook and sent me an e-mail with 3 friends to pray for each day. I made it bite-sized because I wanted it to be inviting instead of overwhelming. Over time as the service cycled through my friends I would eventually pray for all of my Facebook friends.

I called this service Ceaseless and invited some people to join.

After about 6 months of praying for 3 friends a day, I discovered that with 70 users we had prayed for over 20,000 people. My mind was blown.

Assuming everyone had completely unique friends, 10 million Christians doing this could pray for the 1.3 billion people on Facebook in less than 2 months. Beyond that, it isn’t hard to see that if we can do this for the 1.3 billion people on Facebook, we could also pray for the 7.2 billion people on earth.

What would God do if we prayed for people we have never prayed for before? What might He do as we pray regularly for others with all the breadth and depth that he invites us to?

I unapologetically want to see God do incredible things in my generation. Prayer seems to be the first step he expects of us. I invite you to join us at www.ceaselessprayer.com. On a side note, I also built a beta version of Ceaseless that churches can use to help leaders pray for members. It sends leaders an e-mail with three members to pray for each day so that nobody falls through the cracks. I would be happy to share it with your church if desired.

Now as I mentioned earlier, I was just coding away doing what I knew best when God provided an unexpected connection soon after I quit my job.

This connection was Chris Armas, a man who is now one of my mentors. At the time he was leading an initiative to activate technologists and entrepreneurs for God’s kingdom by launching hackathons around the world that solve global problems from a Christian perspective.

A “hackathon” is like a marathon, but instead of running for 26 miles, developers collaboratively code for up to 36 hours to deliver a product solution to some problem they care about. In the beginning, people share their ideas, then they form teams, then they code, and then they present what they built to a panel of judges and the community. The best outcomes are rewarded with prizes.

Because it aligned with what I believed God called me to, I became an organizer for the Seattle Code for the Kingdom hackathon. We convened about 120 people to build solutions to challenges like:

How can we bring God’s word to a mobile-first generation of children?
How can technology help a homeless person find a home?
How can we leverage technology to create, cultivate and strengthen some of society’s most foundational relationships–marriage, family, and friendships?

One of the winning projects was a tool called WordCross. This web app enables parents to create Scripture-based crossword puzzles for their children. They select a list of verses and concepts and WordCross generates a puzzle from those verses complete with clues.

After organizing the Seattle event, I flew down to compete in the Bay Area Code for the Kingdom hackathon. One of the sponsors was a ministry called Faith Comes By Hearing. Their mission is to get God’s Word to every person. They do this by making the Bible freely available in audio, visual and textual formats in as many languages and platforms as possible. They challenged the participants to invent technologies to help spread awareness of the Bible in Chinese social networks.

My team worked on integrating Ceaseless with their Digital Bible Platform and the Chinese social network Ren-Ren. The aim was to help people pray for their Ren-Ren friends and share the Scripture verse of the day related to prayer. To my surprise our idea won two prizes.

Faith Comes By Hearing was so supportive they even provided server space and some designer resources to help make the Ceaseless vision come true. I flew to their headquarters in New Mexico with my dad and it seemed like doors were opening up for TheoTech the company and Ceaseless the product. We even flew to Hong Kong and Indonesia to promote it.

But while everything seemed great on the outside, something was wrong inside of me. I was doing the work and grateful for the progress, but deep down, I didn’t believe I would succeed.

I listened to my self-doubts. People unsubscribed from Ceaseless and it made me feel like all my work was worthless–even though others said they loved it. I didn’t see the growth I hoped for and was not motivated to achieve it.
I started worrying about my finances. I didn’t raise investment, had no revenue, and not enough user growth to warrant a “figure out the business model later” approach.
I spent too much time doing things I’m not good at (like fundraising, marketing, growth-hacking, etc.) instead of the things I am good at (like building the product). This made me feel constantly unsuccessful, which discouraged me from even trying.
I found out Facebook was making changes to its API that would fundamentally break the existing version of Ceaseless.
I felt alone and lacked the discipline to motivate myself, much less motivate my team.
I felt overwhelmed with other personal problems in life.

This apparent lack of success in every facet of life led me to question whether or not God really called me to do this. I had doubts that God would confirm his promise and come through for me.

I got depressed. I couldn’t care anymore, I wanted to give up and if I did, the dream was dead for sure.

The end result?

I let everybody down. I let down my team who had given their time, talent, and commitment to making Ceaseless a reality. I let down Faith Comes By Hearing, which invested its resources to help us deliver. And ultimately I let God down.

I said he was my customer, but instead of delivering the result he wanted, I got lost in my own self-centeredness and gave up. I was so worried about whether or not people liked what I was doing or if it was successful that despite my pretenses of doing it for God, it was really about me.

This was a very recent discovery for me and it took a timely and kind rebuke from my mentor Chris Armas to realize it. I let my customer down. My instinct was to try to pay everyone back, but then I realized–they don’t want to be “paid back”. Everyone wants the result. My team wants to make something useful and good. Faith Comes by Hearing wants the app. God wants the result of people personally praying for one another so that everyone is covered. The only option, the only way to make it right would be to deliver the result. That is what my customer truly wants. He does not want a refund.

And this marked the beginning of my repentance.
Up until that time, I was full of self-pity.
I kept asking:

“Why did God call me to this?”
“Why am I failing?”
“Why am I alone?”
“Why can’t I get this done?”
“Why did I take all those risks for nothing?”
“Why is there no reward for my labor?”
“Why am I facing disappointment in every part of my life?”
“Why don’t I care anymore?”
“Why isn’t God coming through for me?”

It got so bad that I told God one night, “Lord if this is your call for me, I need you to give me the enduring motivation for it. Not one day’s worth, but day after day after day. If I wake up tomorrow and it’s not there, I’ll take it as a sign that you will something else for me.”

And the next morning, the motivation was there, burning like a jet engine ready for take off. God answered my prayer. I had forgotten my “Why?”, I had lost my way and at my moment of deepest desperation, God brought it back at just the right time.

Not only that, but I found an answer to all my self-pitying questions. To my surprise it echoed the answer I received at the beginning of my journey. You cannot make this stuff up.

“Chris, you’re enduring all this because this is what it takes to show the supreme worth of Christ.”

This is what it takes to show that Christ is enough even when you have–figuratively speaking–lost everything you hoped for and desired. Christ is enough even when you have lost the motivation and the passion and are left with nothing but disappointment.

I must be brought low in order for Christ to be lifted up.
I must be humbled and weakened for Christ to be exalted and glorified.
I must be emptied in order for Christ’s fullness to shine in me.

How else could I truly know that Christ is worth it unless I lose everything else and still find him to be enough?

And I consider this discovery the highest reward of innovating for the Kingdom of God.

When you take a risk, it means that you can and will fail. But when failure itself is a reward, you cannot lose. I believe this is in part what Jesus meant when he said, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life (not take risks) shall lose it, but whoever desires to lose his life for my sake (take a risk with guarantees of failure) shall find it.”

Failure is an opportunity to discover that Christ is still enough for you in the hardship of that circumstance. It gives you the conviction that he is your irreplaceable treasure in every circumstance.

Friends, if you do not know Christ, I invite you to believe in him and discover the joy of his goodness in the ups and downs of life for yourself. He promises the great reward of a transformed life today and in the future, the chance to rule with him over a new, perfect creation forever. He promises to always turn the failures and successes of your life for your good and I testify from my life that he is faithful.

Friends, if you do know Christ, I invite you to consider what risks God may be calling you to take to advance His Kingdom. What gifts and passions has he entrusted to you and what is the outcome he wants to see? Do not be afraid to pursue His call because He will be with you even in the times of deepest despair and you will discover for yourself the awesome power He will exercise to uphold you and help you.

And in addition to this reward, you will also gain:
Precious mentors and friends
Uncommon experiences
Insight and Understanding
Faith
Conviction
Joy

If you would like to join a community of people using their gifts to advance the gospel, I invite you to submit your e-mail address at www.theotech.org. We’re building a site to bring people together for this purpose.

Now, I want to close with a word for churches. How can churches help people do what they love for a cause that matters? How can they specifically unleash the technologists and entrepreneurs and millennials in their community to advance the gospel?

The truth is that we’re all trying to figure this out together, but I want to offer two suggestions.

The first is to use the things these tech entrepreneurs and millennials are building for the Kingdom. Try out their ideas. Share them with others. For example, you can help me by using Ceaseless, giving me feedback and sharing it.

The second is to support them. Entrepreneurship can be a very lonely road. Technologists frequently face failure because their ideas don’t work the first few times. People look at them funny and wonder why they’re messing with the comfortable status quo. They often feel underutilized at churches that simply ask them to run powerpoint slides for example. Many millennials are struggling to find stable jobs, but eagerly want to do work that fits with their gifting.

Churches are not well-equipped to solve these problems, but they are very good at bringing people together. That’s what you can do. Support and host events that convene the community so that they can support and serve one another. For example, I am helping organize a Code for the Kingdom hackathon in Seattle from October 2nd-October 4th. Your church could help by sharing the event with your community, activating volunteers and being one of the sponsors.

So in conclusion, what are the risks and rewards of innovating for the Kingdom?

The risk is failure, loss and disappointment. You could lose your money, your time, your opportunity costs, your reputation, your career, your relationships, your health and much more.

But the rewards make it worth it. You will discover Christ to be your all-sufficient treasure. You will connect with amazing people that will enrich your life. You will have your needs provided for. You will have the joy of doing what you love for a cause that matters. And by faith we know that in the Lord all your risk-taking, creative labor will never ever be in vain.

So let’s take risks to accelerate the Gospel together. This will be the subject of my talk on March 29th.

Thank you and God bless you.

Questions?

 

What is our place in God’s story?

If you haven’t had time to read the entire Bible (or want a refresher), you might like my attempted highlight reel of the story from Genesis to Revelation beginning in this section: Where we came from. By remembering where we came from and where we are going, we can better understand who we are and what we are to do in the present.

This sermon was delivered on January 24, 2015 to Indonesian Presbyterian Church Seattle where I serve as an elder.

Introduction

I’ve been with this community from day one. From the days of the Indonesian Christian student fellowship Ekklesia to the present time. My dad was a leader of that fellowship when I was born.

young_father_and_son_laptopI was the cute little toddler who crawled under the chairs of Larson Hall at University Presbyterian Church. All the ladies loved me and loved pinching my chubby cheeks and hearing me giggle.

I was the little the boy who squeaked along to Christmas carols on his quarter size violin, while everyone approvingly smiled despite the ugliness of the sound.

I was the elementary school student who recited bible verses from memory and won the award for being the most competitive Sunday School kid.

We moved locations a few times.

For me, the most memorable building was in Laurelhurst at what is now Seattle Community Church. There was a large tree in front where I would climb with my friends. We would make lego guns and run around the lawn shooting at each other, dreaming up stories of epic space battles or commando missions.

I didn’t know it at the time, but we shared the building with the up-and-coming Mars Hill Church. I think the adults were worried for our safety when they saw muscular tattooed folks wandering around the building. They always complained about the noise coming from the other services.

wpc_original_sketchEventually we left that building and came to where we are today: Wedgwood Presbyterian Church.

To be honest, my fondest memory is probably having all you can eat hot pot downstairs on cold autumn days.

More seriously, it was during our time here that I began to grow up, helping to craft the 2020 vision for our church, starting the Aletheia youth fellowship to serve those who outgrew the Sunday School and leading worship. I remember spending hours agonizing over what songs to sing, making beautiful powerpoint presentations and writing up meaningful things to share for the English service we started.

It was a lot of hard work, but I believed it was worth it since the Scriptures say:

“Therefore my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, because in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
(1 Corinthians 15:58)

Like many of you, I poured my heart and soul into this church and community.

But then some very painful things happened.

I began to realize how much of a stranger I felt like at my own church.

People were always expecting me to welcome new students coming from Indonesia since they assumed I was the “host”. But it always felt awkward—in some ways these guests were more at home at my Indonesian church than I was because it was the closest thing they had to home here in America.

I remember how hard we tried to integrate the American-born and Indonesian-born youth at our church by doing joint events and outings, but always feeling like an outsider.

One time all the young people agreed to eat dinner at a particular restaurant after church so I drove there to join them, but when I arrived no one else was there. It turns out that they changed their plans and went somewhere else without telling me. I was the outsider.

As a church we are at a crossroads. We have a difficult choice to make.

Who is an insider and who is an outsider?
Will non-Indonesians be insiders in this church?
Will my generation be insiders?
Will the children be insiders?
Will the poor be insiders?

Will the church simply be a comfortable place where people hang out with people like them and fulfill their religious observances?

Or will it be something more?

What does it even mean to be an insider? Who are we?

I do not intend to answer all of these questions.

Instead I want to zoom out and retell our story.
The big one.
The gospel.

Think of this as a highlight reel of the Bible. Talk to me afterwards if you want to know verse references.

Where we came from

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He made an amazing universe to display his glory, chose a special planet in which he created life, chose a special creature named Man whom he created in his own image, breathed life into Man and gave him the privilege and responsibility of cultivating the earth, multiplying and filling it with the glory of God.

He planted a beautiful garden and put Man and Woman in the garden with only one rule: they were not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, a crafty serpent came one day and deceived the woman by urging her to disbelieve and disobey God for her own apparent gain.

She took the fruit ate it and gave some to her husband. Their eyes were opened, they realized they were naked, and tried to hide themselves from God. As judgment, God exiled them from the garden of Eden and cursed them. But he did not leave them without hope. He gave them animal skins to cover their nakedness and promised the woman that her offspring would one day crush the head of the serpent that deceived her.

Human history continued to unfold with Man going from bad to worse until God finally wiped the earth clean through a worldwide flood. He chose Noah, saving him and his family, to be the fresh start for humanity. They begin to repopulate the earth, but instead of filling the whole earth as commanded by God, their descendants decide to stay together and build a city and tower to make a name for themselves. So God confused their languages, dividing them into many nations and dispersed them throughout the earth.

After many generations, God calls one particular man named Abraham to be the father of a special nation through whom He would bless all the families of the earth. God calls him out of his homeland and promises to give him the beautiful land of Canaan and descendants as innumerable as the stars in the sky or the dust of the earth. Abraham believed God’s promise and God counted it to him as righteousness.

This promise is repeated to his son Isaac and his son Jacob (later renamed Israel). Unfortunately, Jacob’s family ends up in Egypt because of a severe famine in Canaan. After several generations, the people of Israel are enslaved by the Egyptians, but God remembers his promise to Abraham and chooses Moses to deliver Israel and return them to the promised land. Through many spectacular deeds God rescued the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and led them towards Canaan.

Their first major stop is Mount Sinai. This is where Moses first encountered the Lord in a burning bush only this time, it is a burning mountain. All the people tremble with fear when they hear the thunder and trumpet blasts as God tells them the Ten Commandments and they ask Moses to go up the mountain to speak with Him on their behalf. On the mountain, God gives Moses the Law: a covenant that promised blessing, land, riches, prosperity, peace and happiness as a reward for obedience and curses, suffering, loss, exile and death as the consequence of disobedience.

All the people agree to the terms of the covenant. God calls Moses up Mount Sinai once again to record the design for the Tabernacle where He would stay and the rules for the priests who would serve Him. And then God wrote with his own finger the Ten Commandments on two tablets of stone and gave it to Moses.

But in Moses’ absence, the Israelites grew impatient. In their boredom, they broke the covenant, created a golden calf idol, offered sacrifices to it and worshiped it as the god who delivered them out of Egypt. God sees this and is about to completely destroy them, but He relents when Moses desperately intercedes and asks God to remember his sworn promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Moses destroys the calf, disciplines the people and God graciously renews his covenant with the congregation. The people then follow the instructions for building the Tabernacle and the Aaronite priesthood is established to offer sacrifices to protect the people from the holiness of God lest they perish for their sins while He stayed with them. Even so, as the people journey to the promised land, they stubbornly distrust and disobey God resulting in judgment after judgment and 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

Finally the old generation passed away and God chooses Joshua to succeed Moses and lead the Israelites into the promised land. Against intimidating foes and overwhelming odds, the Israelites invade and successfully take over Canaan because God fought for them. They settled in the land and enjoyed some of God’s good promise. But as new generations came and went, the people forgot the Lord and began worshiping other gods. They cycled back and forth between repentance when oppressed and rebellion when at peace.

Eventually, the people rejected God as their leader altogether and asked for a human king instead. Despite their treasonous request, God rebuked and warned them through his prophet Samuel and then graciously chose Saul to be the first king of Israel. Saul began well, rallying the Israelites to fight their Philistine oppressors, but his glory did not last. He quickly went astray and arrogantly disobeyed the Lord on multiple occasions while pretending to honor God. He got so bad that God regretted making him king and rejected him, seeking a man after his own heart to take his place.

That man was David, the son of Jesse of the tribe of Judah. Despite being a young, lowly shepherd boy, God chose him to be king and sent the prophet Samuel to secretly anoint him in the presence of his family. From that day forward the Spirit of God was with David and left Saul. However, he did not ascend the throne overnight.

First, a tormenting spirit was sent to afflict Saul and David was called upon to play music to ease the king’s mental disturbances. This won him favor with the king. Next David was sent by his father to the battlefront against the Philistines to bring food for his brothers. With Saul and his troops daily cowering in the face of the giant Goliath, David, with God’s anointing challenged and killed the mighty champion. This won him the praise of all of Israel and in similar fashion through trial after trial, God gradually exalted David from being a lowly shepherd boy to becoming an honored leader.

Saul perceived the threat to his power and tried to kill David multiple times, forcing David to become a fugitive. But eventually God fulfilled his promise to give David the throne and Saul ends up killing himself in a desperate battle against the Philistines.

After his kingdom was firmly established, David wanted to build a house for God because until that time, God’s dwelling place was a tent—the Tabernacle. Instead God promised David that he would make him a house—a royal dynasty from his own body that would reign forever over Israel. David is overwhelmed by this promise of an everlasting dynasty and can only worshipfully ask God to fulfill his word.

God later tells David that he chose his son Solomon to be king after him and to build the temple. So, David makes extraordinary preparations before his death to ensure Solomon has everything he needs for the work including the plans, labor, finances, materials and political support. When Solomon ascended the throne, God visited him and gave him unparalleled wisdom. He successfully built the glorious temple for God to dwell in and became exceptionally famous, wealthy and powerful.

However, later in life Solomon’s heart was led astray by his many wives who worshiped foreign gods and Israel turned away from keeping the commandments of God. After his reign, Israel split into two kingdoms with two lines of kings. Some feared God and obeyed him while others continued to lead Israel astray in worshiping false gods and behaving like the surrounding nations.

The injustice, idolatry and immorality in the land becomes so severe that God finally evicts Israel out of the promised land. The Assyrians invade, defeat and exile the northern kingdom of Israel and the Babylonians invade, defeat and exile the southern kingdom of Judah.

It is a dark time. The glory of God departs and the temple is destroyed. David’s descendant no longer sits on the throne. The Law of Moses has been broken and its severe consequences have been enacted. Abraham’s descendants are scattered to the ends of the earth and the land is no longer theirs. God’s promise seems nullified (though it actually was the fulfillment of the covenant curses).

But during this time of despair and sorrow, God sent his prophets to promise that he would gather the people of Israel from the four corners of the earth and bring them back to the land he promised to their forefathers. God promised a new covenant in which he would give his people a new heart to fear him and cause them to walk in his commandments. He promised a new covenant in which he would remember their sins no more.

And God began to make a name for himself among the nations so that even the idolatrous King Nebuchadnezzar of the powerful Babylonian Empire was humbled before the Lord’s awesome majesty.

During these days, God raised up prophets including Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. Eventually the Babylonian Empire fell to the Medo-Persian Empire as prophesied by Daniel. To fulfill the word God spoke through Jeremiah, God stirred up the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to call the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple of the Lord.

The Jews return to the promised land in three waves over the span of almost 100 years, facing great opposition, discouragement, delays in the work and many distractions. During this season we read of leaders like Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther along with prophets like Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. The temple and the city of Jerusalem are rebuilt, but the nation continues under the reign of foreign kings. The people of Israel finally put away their idols in order to worship the Lord alone and they begin to hope for the promised Messiah of whom it is written:

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
(Psalm 2 ESV)

In other words, the people began to hope for God’s chosen king, the Anointed One, the Messiah who would restore the kingdom of God and fulfill the promise of God’s global dominion. The people believed that when the Messiah came, they would finally be free from oppression, restored to the blessings of the promised land and exalted above all the nations.

Over 400 years after the time of the last Old Testament prophet Malachi, the prophet John appeared to prepare the way for the Lord, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Many people of Israel repented and were baptized. Some wondered if John was the Messiah, the Christ, but he confessed that he was not and testified that Jesus was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”. John testified that he saw the Holy Spirit descend like a dove on Jesus when he baptized him and those present heard a voice from heaven saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Jesus was immediately led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan for 40 days. Satan tempted him to prove that he was the Son of God by using his power to feed himself, to test if God was truly faithful by throwing himself off the top of the temple, and to worship Satan in order to get the kingdoms of the world.

Jesus successfully fought back with the word of God and passed the test. God said that he was God’s beloved Son. God said that God would not be put to the test. God said that God alone was to be worshiped.

Israel constantly distrusted and disobeyed God, pursuing its own desires in its own ways, but Jesus refused to distrust or disobey God desiring solely that God’s will be done in God’s way.

Jesus refused to disobey God to satisfy his hunger.
Jesus refused to disobey God to satisfy his doubt.
Jesus refused to disobey God to satisfy his ambition.
His hunger, doubt and ambition would be satisfied only through obedient faith.
He believed the word of God and obeyed God flawlessly.

Do you want to be like Jesus?

After John was arrested for preaching the gospel, Jesus began preaching:

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15 ESV)

He called his disciples, taught, healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead, performed many miraculous signs, forgave sins, opposed false teaching, and step by step, made his way to the cross. He called it his hour of glorification when he would be rejected and killed by the elders, chief priests and scribes and after three days rise again. Jesus fulfilled everything that the Scriptures—the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms—said concerning him as the Messiah even down to his betrayal by Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve disciples who sold him for 30 silver coins as prophesied by Jeremiah (and Zechariah).

After many failed attempts, the Jewish leaders finally manage to arrest Jesus. They were envious of his popularity and charge him with blasphemy for claiming to be the Messiah, the Son of God. They hand him over to Pilate, the Roman governor of the region who had the authority to put people to death. Despite his attempts to have Jesus released on the grounds of his innocence, Pilate caves in to the pressure of the crowds who demand Jesus’ execution.

Jesus is flogged, mocked, spit upon and forced to carry his cross to Mount Calvary. There he is crucified for being the King of the Jews. While on the cross Jesus continues to fulfill the Scriptures with his dying breaths. He asks God to forgive his persecutors, believing that he was dying to pay for their treason against God. He cries out to God from Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and then dies.

Jesus knew that the only way he could establish God’s global kingdom without condemning God’s rebellious people was by suffering God’s wrath on their behalf. Without his death everyone would be wiped out as in the days of Noah when God destroyed humanity for all its evil.

Jesus was buried and three days later rose from the dead. He physically appeared to his apostles and disciples and sent them as his witnesses to every nation on earth to warn them about the coming judgment, urge them to repent and believe in him for the forgiveness of sins, and to baptize those who believed and received the Holy Spirit as a foretaste of eternal life in the kingdom of God.

Friends, if you have not put your trust in Jesus, today is the day to do so. Save yourselves from God’s judgment and become a citizen of the Kingdom of God.

Who then is Jesus?

Jesus is the offspring promised to the first woman in Genesis who would crush the head of the serpent that deceived her and sent humanity into disaster.

Jesus is the descendant of Abraham through whom all the families of the earth would be blessed and in whom God would give Abraham descendants as many as the stars in the sky.

Jesus is the Lamb of God who fulfilled the Law of Moses and all the terms of the covenant by bearing the sins of the world, suffering the curse of the Law, and making atonement for sin by bearing the wrath of God on the cross. In exchange he gave his righteousness, the forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who believe in him.

Jesus is the Son of David, the offspring to whom God promised to give an everlasting throne and all dominion. He is the King not only of the Jews, but the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, to whom God has entrusted all judgment and given all power and authority in heaven and on earth over every single nation.

Jesus is the new temple where people meet God.

Jesus is the leader who brings those who hope in him into the true promised land—a new heavens and new earth, a perfect city designed by God with everything glorious and good brought in for the enjoyment of His redeemed people and every evil, wicked, filthy thing cast out.

Take a moment to stand in awe of Jesus Christ and worship him.

Who then are we?

After Jesus rose from the dead, he told his followers:

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44-49 ESV)

They were Jesus’ witnesses and we are the people who believe their testimony. Jesus prayed for us saying:

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:20-24 ESV)

Who are we? We are people loved by the Father and given to the Son. Children of God through faith in Jesus. Disciples who abide in Christ and abide in his Word. The body of Christ, the new temple that the Holy Spirit is building to be a permanent dwelling place for God.

In the words of the apostle Peter:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)

We are God’s people, God’s priests, God’s nation, God’s possession, God proclaimers, God glorifiers.

Consider what this means for your life.

What does it mean to be God’s chosen people?
Have you experienced the vast contrast between darkness and his marvelous light?
What are the excellencies of God that you are to proclaim?
Who will you proclaim it to?

Where are we going?

Now that we have glimpsed who we are, let us go to Revelation to get a vision for where God is taking us. Where are we going?pnw_pathway

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:1-8 ESV)

There are only two places to go. Outside of Jesus Christ is the fire of second death. Inside of Jesus Christ is the beautiful holy city. God is taking those of us in Christ to His promised land: a new heavens and a new earth where we will dwell with him, see Jesus Christ face to face and enjoy him forever. We will reign with him and share in his infinite glory with ever increasing joy and brightness.

Where are we now? What time is it now?

By studying the arc of God’s story, we see that we live in the last days—the days between the first and second coming of Jesus Christ. We live in the days of the Acts of the Apostles as the Church progressively proclaims the gospel to the ends of the earth. We live in a time of proclamation by word and deed, a time to get the message that “God’s Kingdom is at Hand” to every language and nation on earth. Only after the gospel has been preached to all nations will the end come. Only then will every promise be fulfilled and our hope become reality.

Consider King Jesus’ commission to his disciples in Acts:

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 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 1:6-8 ESV)

I want you to consider this. If the apostles and disciples failed to fulfill their mission, there would be no Indonesian Presbyterian Church today. The gospel would have remained stuck in Jerusalem. No missionaries would have ever reached the rest of the Middle East, modern day Europe or Asia. No one would have come to America for the sake of the gospel.

We have been the beneficiaries of God’s faithfulness in sending generation after generation to the ends of the earth to proclaim the gospel so that we today could have faith in Jesus Christ and be saved. Therefore, we are under the same obligation to our King—we share a common responsibility to get the gospel to the nations that have not yet heard.

However we define who is inside and who is outside the church, the whole point is that Jesus wants the people inside to get the gospel to the people outside.

Do you want a church of friends? Fine, but the point is to get the gospel to those who are not your friends.
Do you want a church of your ethnicity? Fine, but the point is to get the gospel to those of every ethnicity.
Do you want a church of your politics? Fine, but the point is to get the gospel of God’s power to those of every persuasion.
Do you want a church of your socioeconomic status? Fine, but the point is to get the gospel to everyone whether greater or lesser than you.

Not everyone will receive the gospel, but out of those who do there will be many outsiders whom God desires to bring inside his fold.

Before we act based purely on duty, we must remember that it was God’s Spirit that activated the believers, dispersed them and empowered their proclamation.

Only after the Holy Spirit is given to the Church on the day of Pentecost, is the gospel proclaimed. It begins with Jerusalem, spreads to Greek-speaking Jews and following persecution spreads to the Gentile nations as the Roman centurion Cornelius and his whole household receive the Holy Spirit and are baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

The Spirit of Jesus was fulfilling his mission of giving the entire world the opportunity to repent and believe for the forgiveness of their sins before He comes as the judge of the world to make things right and destroy Satan, sin and death once and for all. And the Spirit of Jesus was fulfilling his mission through the people He filled.

What is God is calling us to?

Brothers and sisters, I believe God is calling us to be filled with his Spirit first. Unless we are filled with the Spirit, whatever missional activities we pursue are in vain. As long as we are worldly instead of spiritual, we will only seek our comfort, self-interest, deceive one another, fight one another, hurt one another, use one another, play favorites with one another, ignore one another, and ultimately destroy one another.

But if the word of Christ dwells in us richly, if the Spirit of Christ fills us, we will love one another, we will tell the truth to one another, we will serve one another, we will lay down our lives for one another, we will fight for one another, we will teach one another, we will bear one another’s burdens, we will not show favoritism, we will not form cliques, we will not slander, we will not manipulate, but we will do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Beloved church, my message for you is to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus. Repent of your sins and confess them to the Lord that forgiveness and times of refreshing may come. Your Shepherd loves you. He does not want you to perish or to suffer the loss of your reward, he wants you to flourish and thrive and to show you the riches of his glorious grace. He wants you to share in his glory and fulfill his good purpose for you. God is for you—he wants you to make it and that is why he will not let you stay as you are, he will not let you wallow in the status quo.

The Kingdom of God is at hand! It is glorious. It is full of justice, righteousness and steadfast love.

When the Holy Spirit reigns in your heart you will experience:
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Do you want that?
Do you want others to experience that from you?

Beloved today is the day. If you hear God calling, do not harden your hearts. Hear the Word of the Lord and repent of your sins and put your hope in the Lord. Ask him to fill you with His Spirit and ask the Spirit to direct your life.

If you confess Jesus Christ as Lord, then honor him by obeying him. And this is his commandment: that you love one another. As Christ has loved you, so you must love one another. And this love and the Spirit’s power will direct you individually and corporately on the mission that God has called this community to.

There is one Lord and his mission is for the gospel of his kingdom to be proclaimed to the ends of the earth. Where we fit in that picture is something that together we must ask the Spirit to lead us in as we search the Scriptures and our own lives. It will take time. But I urge you to take the first step today by submitting to the Lord:

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:7-10 ESV)

Give him your heart—not as an act of devotion, but because you are desperate for him to make your heart right before God and to uproot the sins that cling to you so closely and to give you the fruit of his work in your life.

seattle_space_needle_sunsetAnd if the Lord wills, this can be our story. That in our time of pain, confusion, weakness and brokenness, the Holy Spirit came upon us with power and transformed us so that in a way uniquely suited to us, God made us His witnesses in Seattle, Indonesia and to the ends of the earth.

Closing Prayer

O Lord, we tremble before your awesome majesty. Who is a God like you? Holy, righteous, the creator, ruler and redeemer of all things. We tremble because we are not holy or righteous.

Despite the grace you pour out on us day after day, we forget you. We forget what your grace is for. We forget your extraordinary love for us in sending Jesus Christ to die in our place for our sins and to give to us everlasting life in a new creation without pain, suffering, sin or death. We forget that you never intended for the message of the cross to stop with us, but that you always meant for it to reach the ends of the earth so that you would be worshiped by every nation.

We are allured by worldliness. We love so many things more than we love you. We disobey you and do not give it a second thought. We seek our comfort and security instead of your kingdom and for your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

O Lord, forgive us. Forgive us and let times of refreshing come. Holy Spirit, please be merciful to us and convict us personally of our sins that we may confess them, repent of them and be restored to a life of joyful obedience and unshakable faith in Christ Jesus. O Lord, restore to us the joy of your salvation. Make us a people who know who we are in Christ. Make us a people who love one another as Christ as loved us and laid down his life for us.

Father, thank you for disciplining us in love. You always give us only the best. It is painful, but already we see glimpses of your grace working holiness in us. Complete the good work you have begun in us. Fill us with your Spirit and give us boldness as you send us out to live a life worthy of the gospel and to proclaim the hope of your kingdom clearly to those who need to hear.

Give us one heart, one mind, and one voice in accord with the heart, mind and voice of Jesus Christ our King so that we may welcome one another for your glory Father.

We humbly ask in Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

What I hope to do – Memoirs of a Venture Calvinist (Part 2 of 3)

What is the most amazing, delightful, life-changing product, service or experience you can think of?

Take your time…

Palouse Falls

The Life-Changing Product

I believe there is nothing more satisfying or delightful than to know the vast riches of God’s love for you. It heals wounds no hands or words can touch. It produces overflowing joy that never grows old. It brings peace that overcomes the darkest of fears and washes away all anxiety. It is a mouthwatering foretaste of the glory of God’s kingdom. Nothing can compare with it.

I came to this conviction following a childhood of relentless achievement and striving to impress others. The only way I knew to affirm my worth was to earn people’s admiration and affection by exceeding their expectations. Exhausted from living this way, I found myself in a double of life of outward excellence and inward emptiness. I turned to things like games and pornography to dull the pain and satisfy my craving to be loved, but ended up in a cycle of guilt, shame and worthlessness instead.

Then, amidst my helplessness, I experienced the power of God.

Out of the blue, a friend from middle school contacted me on AOL instant messenger sharing his struggles with addiction and how God set him free. He did not know what I was going through, but God used his vulnerability to give me hope and that evening I began to experience a season of grace and freedom like I had never known before.

This grace enabled me to come clean with my family and prepared me to understand how Jesus’ death in my place and resurrection had the power to transform my life.  Though I heard the message growing up, it was at a conference later that year when I finally experienced the truth that in spite of all I had done wrong, all I failed to do, all expectations I failed to meet and all the filth accumulated in my life God accepted me, loved me and gave his Son to die for me. I did not need to win his approval or impress him, but was simply and completely loved by him as demonstrated on the Cross and attested to by the Spirit.

This realization transformed my exhausted drivenness into immensely productive contentment. It healed my soul so that I no longer medicated pain with porn. It moved my heart to ceaseless praise. My self-absorbed personality turned outward in genuine love and generosity. This experience and others like it have led me to conclude that the knowledge of God’s love in Jesus Christ is the central need of all people. It is the most magical, revolutionary, life-changing “product” there is and it is one we need continually.

The Mission

So here is what I hope to do: I hope to help people experience the power of God’s love for them through technology entrepreneurship for the gospel.

  • Technology – Instead of accepting the status quo, we invent and simplify solutions to problems. We constantly discover new ways of doing things, cultivating the best ideas into real products and services.
  • Entrepreneurship – We take responsibility for delivering value to real people in a sustainable and profitable manner. We iterate, learn, risk and suffer whatever it takes to fulfill the mission.
  • Gospel – We measure ourselves by the values of God’s kingdom and shape what we create accordingly. We know the solutions we deliver cannot substitute for God, but trust that all good things we make can help people hope in, enjoy and obey Him.

Let me share two specific examples of pursuing this mission.

First, in Scripture, we see people praying that others would have the strength to know the greatness of God’s love towards them. We also see examples of sharing the gospel with others. Unfortunately, many of us are so busy with our own lives and problems there is little temporal or mental capacity for praying for others and cultivating relationships outside of our existing circle. Both we and others miss out on the joy. Ceaseless is an initial attempt to solve this problem by bringing to remembrance people to pray for.

Second, preaching and teaching are common means God uses to help people experience his love–but what if people cannot hear the message in their language? Or what if churches are so segregated by language or ethnicity that the experience is incongruous with the message? The Synchronous Presentation Framework is a prototype solution for this problem used each week at my church.

Admittedly, technology is no substitute for the work of God in people’s hearts, but it should be employed where it can make a difference.

The Vision

The happiest investor is one who sees a great return on investment not only for himself, but for everyone served by his capital. The happiest laborer is one who is rewarded for the fruit of his labor and is satisfied that it made a difference. The happiest customer is the one whose greatest needs and desires have been met beyond what they ever imagined. I hope the interests of all three can be aligned in the service of God’s kingdom.

I dream of a day when you can visit any church and hear the gospel in your heart language and experience it’s power lived out in the community. I dream of a day when every person on earth is personally prayed for by Christians and experiences the difference it makes. I dream of a movement of investors, laborers and customers who together know the riches of God’s love and thereby bless the world at large with the products of their just and fruitful collaboration.

I suppose I dream of the kingdom of God. What’s your dream?

venture calvinist
definitions
  1. someone compelled by the love of God to embark on risky adventures for the sake of the gospel because he/she loves others and trusts in God’s sovereign grace.
  2. a “speculator” who makes themselves and all they possess available for innovative projects that magnify the supreme worth of Christ and bless the world at large because they trust in God’s sovereign grace.
  3. a silly pun on venture capitalism which allocates money to high risk/high reward opportunities frequently in the technology industry.

See also: Why I Left Amazon – Memoirs of a Venture Calvinist (Part 1 of 3)

Next: The Journey of Faith (Part 3).

Why I left Amazon – Memoirs of a Venture Calvinist (Part 1 of 3)

In his commencement speech at Princeton renowned entrepreneur Jeff Bezos challenged the graduating students:

  • How will you use your gifts? What choices will you make?
  • Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?
  • Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?
  • Will you play it safe, or will you be a little bit swashbuckling?

These were convicting questions after working for three years at Amazon (affiliate link). Before joining, I wanted to start a company based on my research in automatic language translation. I competed in business plan competitions, vigorously working to turn ideas into products that could help people, but as my degree came to a close, so did the doors of opportunity.

Dejected, I submitted resumes to recruiters at career fairs and despite interviews and offers found myself in deep depression. Through my parents’ comfort and counsel I eventually came to terms with the death of my dream and changed my ambition to simply serve God faithfully where ever he sent me.

That place turned out to be Amazon and it was an incredible blessing.

What I learned at Amazon

Working closely with world-class engineers motivated me to become skillful enough to scale up and productionize any idea. I learned that things take time. I learned the importance of figuring out the right thing to build instead of building as an end in itself (balanced with a bias for action). I learned how to recruit and how to work with and lead a team. I gained a treasured community of Christians at Amazon, and organized events to discuss the Theology of Technology and to compare Amazon leadership principles with Scripture. I loved my team and enjoyed a comfortable income with which I could bless others.

But on a lonely May Friday night, everything changed. The dream came back.

The Adventure Begins

Exhausted after working late, I plopped on my bed and tried to take a nap. But instead of dozing off, I felt wide awake and it seemed like the Lord said to me:

“Chris, I want you to leave your job and devote your attention to the purpose to which I have called you and trust me to provide for you”.

I wasn’t sure. So I talked with family and friends who expressed concerns for my welfare, but nothing that led me to doubt the call. It seemed in line with Scripture since it was calling me to trust in God and to holiness.  After a period of discernment, I told my manager of my intention to leave and agreed to stay until the completion of the big project my team was working on.

In the ensuing months, my heart sank like a teabag in an eco cup. Self-doubt, fear of failure, attachment to my team, my salary and my identity as an Amazonian, fear of being alone, of being put to shame and looking crazy for doing this without being “ready” or because “God told me to”, hearing about competition, hearing cautions about making money in the faith+tech space, and innumerable other anxieties plagued me.

The Lingering Question

Some of the hardest conversations were with people who recommended that I do things on the side until I had something solid. It was common sense, but I felt speechless because I believed God called me to leave my job. So during a weekend at Cannon Beach, I pondered the question:

“What can you do after you quit that you could not do before?”

There had to be something more than just giving time and attention to my dream. While praying on the serene shores of the Oregon coast, I arrived at an answer:

“By leaving you can witness to the supreme worth of Jesus Christ”

I could show that He is more valuable than money and more desirable than a life of comfort. I could show that following him is more secure than a successful career. If minimizing regret and the promise of independence, riches, fame, adventure and changing the world are enough to motivate people to entrepreneurship, how much more should God’s call compel me to go? How could I joyfully invite others to trust in my Savior, if I would not trust him in this matter?

And so it was settled. Despite all of the pros and cons, I had to leave Amazon in obedience to God’s call. I wanted to show by my actions that Jesus Christ is more precious than anything else I desire in life. So when the project wound down, I submitted my letter of resignation, celebrated with my colleagues and began a new adventure.

In my next post, I want to get you excited about the vision :).

Call to Action

If you’re a Christian, is God calling you to do something challenging? Does it help to know that this is an opportunity for him to show his trustworthiness in your life?

If you’re not a follower of Jesus, do you believe there is some other person or cause that you can unreservedly devote your passion, affection, intellect and energy to? I believe there is no greater pleasure than giving unmitigated love to Christ because he is worthy of it all. And though I still have far to go, this is the joy I would like to invite you to as well.

Please share your comments below!