America and the World

When people start thinking their causes are more important than the system, the system becomes at risk. And this is the point that the US system is at right now.

Meanwhile, on the global scale, the dollar is overweighted – all this debt denominated in dollar terms creates a hazard for America to start printing USD indiscriminately. As a result, globally, people will be looking in another currency to put more value in. RMB is a strong contender.

China is where the US was 100-200 years ago – horrendous human rights records (see native Americans and how US treated minorities) but focused on economic prosperity. The culture is radically different as well. American culture is focused on advancing socially but largely ignoring advancements economically. Chinese culture is focused on advancing economically but largely ignoring advancements socially.

The only problem is – social progress only lasts as long as the societal structures withstand. Relevant recent example – Nelson Mandela’s ANC advancing native South African rights socially, but the social advancements now plateauing as the economy struggles under an untrained and corrupt ANC bureaucracy.

Meanwhile, economic progress gets carried and transferred to whoever the dominant power is, as long as there is two or more strong powers. Technological knowledge is accumulated like the building of the pyramids of Giza.

Thus, I’d argue that America’s national security is curtailed by this focus on social advancements, particularly as we will eventually lose the very social structures that we fight for if we avoid focusing on the technological leapfrogging of those around us and start infighting for social stalemate.•••

Spiritual information failure

People spend their entire lives pursuing truths like philosophy, psychology, behavioral economics, because of perceived value in obtaining such truths. All the while, they don’t have sight of the most invaluable truth, that of Jesus Christ.

We waste so much of the spiritual economy because people think that other truths are more valuable than the truth of Jesus Christ.

There is such information asymmetry in the spiritual realm, in which there are those that know about Christ and there are those that don’t. But Christ is a public good, in which we can all share in… and if we truly believe in all His benefits, there is also so much positive externalities when someone believes in Christ.

They may certainly “benefit” us when they believe, but they benefit so much more when they do, hence the term, spiritual multiplication.

Thus, there is value in large institutions like churches and sending orgs that overcome the information asymmetry and the vast positive externality that create a market failure between those that are willing to hear about Jesus and those that are willing to share by uniting all people together for a common cause.

Scripture-thon Day 11

One of the hardest parts about moving to a new place is finding a church home. I’ve once been taught that I should take time going “church shopping” with a rubric of requirements – “Church A gets 9/10 gets biblical teaching, 8.5/10 on community but only 6.5/10 on outreach….” All too often finally ending up months later with a church that feels like a compromise.

However, I was only (pre-covid supposedly) going to be in NYC for 5 months. Rather than drifting from church to church, and have my faith drift along with it, my discipler advised me to quickly find a church with good theology and stick to it. Having stayed in Austin my entire life, I’ve never had to go through the trouble of church shopping. But for the first couple weeks in NYC, I got a glimpse of the struggle it entails.

Too charismatic? Too much money talk? Too woke? Not that any is inherently bad – perhaps my naive Southern Christian mind couldn’t see that in a different spiritual battlefield like NYC there needs to be different spiritual training. Nevertheless, by the end of January, I had checked off most of the churches I’d heard about. I ended up complaining the next Sunday morning to my roommates about the difficulties of finding a church in NYC. They told me to try out a church next door called the Brooklyn Tabernacle.


Down the street from Brooklyn Tabernacle – Myrtle Ave, Brooklyn, NY – April 28, 2020

I was skeptical at first since I’ve never heard of it – it’s not an international name like Hillsong. But thanks to MTA construction delays, I was far too late to make it into Manhattan for any other church service.

So assuming I was going to some local hole-in-the-wall, I took the subway one stop down the street to the Brooklyn Tabernacle. One Sunday service and Thursday men’s ministry later, I decided to make Brooklyn Tabernacle my church home in NYC. During my time there, I learned of the power of prayer, gift of cross-cultural ministry, and Christ-reflecting image of brotherhood. 

Men’s ministry at the Brooklyn Tabernacle – February 20, 2020

Afterwards, I mentioned it to a couple friends back in Austin, and they all remarked that they’d read a book written by its senior pastor Jim Cymbala – Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire – that had been a formative part of their faith journey. I was indeed a naive southerner living under a rock. But at least reflecting on my time in New York City, I realized how God’s been so good to me in so many ways that I took for granted while I was there. 


Still working on finishing Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire – Central Park, NY – March 26, 2020

I was reminded of all this when I was reading Psalms 27. It’s a beautiful psalm about the Lord being our light and our salvation, so we don’t need to fear anything else. But as I read through it this time, verse 4 stood out to me: 

One thing have I asked of the Lord,

That I will seek after:

That I may dwell in the house of the Lord

All the days of my life…

It sounded awfully familiar, and I realized that at the Brooklyn Tabernacle, we ended almost every service with the choir’s rendition of Psalm 23, concluding with verse 6: 

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

All the days of my life,

And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord 


Learned the value of getting to church early when we got front row seats to the Brooklyn Tabernacle choir – February 2, 2020

Why does David repeat the same lyric of “dwelling in the house of the Lord forever” in both Psalm 23 and 27? And what does it mean?

Witness Lee writes that “the ultimate goal of the Lord’s shepherding of us is the house of the Lord.” God leads us from one green pasture to another still waters not merely for the sake of eating and drinking. He leads us with the destination in mind, the house of the Lord. It is in this house where goodness and mercy are with us all the days of our lives. Yet in yearning for the future we are not to detach ourselves in the present. Lee elaborates that “today the house of the Lord is the church,” wherein we can glimpse our eternal home in Heaven that is promised to us tomorrow.

In the American church we often associate this house of the Lord with its visible and physical manifestation. However, the Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon said that “wherever we meet with true hearts reverently to worship God, that place becomes for the time being God’s house.” We see this on Sundays, as we worship together, in small groups as we pray together, with sisters and brothers as we fellowship together. But even these times and places eventually empty out, and along with it, the tenants of the house. David seeks not for temporary inhabitation, but to dwell in the house of the Lord, “all the days of my life” and “forever.” Merely seeking Christian community in a church is a stepping stone, but it cannot be the cornerstone. 

This is what led people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor and theologian in Nazi Germany during World War II, to build his life on the cornerstone of Christ. Despite the physical stones of the German church undermined and whittled away by the Nazi regime, he ran underground seminaries to continue teaching scriptural truth. He was eventually forced to flee to NYC, yet even in the comforts of the NYC church, he lamented that “Christians in Germany will have to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose but I cannot make that choice from security.” He returned to Germany on the last steamer to cross the Atlantic, knowing he’d face certain persecution and death. He sought not after earthly security, but after his heavenly home. 

Words as simple as seeking to “dwell in the house of the Lord” seem so innocent, even comforting. But in understanding the true implication, they should discomfort us from our earthly domiciles, riling us up from our bums, to follow our Shepherd as He leads us home.

Prayer Points

  • Pray for Brazil. As the country lurches into political divisiveness, Covid cases have spiked beyond the capacity of tests, ambulances, and hospital beds. Pray for peace and wisdom to soften the hardened hearts of the political leaders. Pray for support and safety for doctors and nurses on the front lines. Pray for comfort for the families of those dying of the virus. 
  • Pray for trust. Pray that we trust the Lord’s promises to us. As the tumultuous tides of the present rise and fall with time, God’s promises remain strong. Pray that like David, we hold onto His promise for goodness and mercy all the days of our life. 

Scripture-thon Day 10

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchablePsalm 145:1-3
The Psalms are a faithful response to all our human emotions – happiness, sadness, love, fear, anxiety, Hope.
Dramas and life coaches tell us that our life is dictated by the emotions that we experience. That we should “follow our heart” and always have emotions of “positive energy”.

David writes psalms as an outpouring as he experiences these emotions. Yet rather than being swayed by the winds of human life, he holds onto his foundation in God, processing these through prayers, praises, songs, laments.

David chooses to let God drive him rather than his emotions.

This is why he is able to say that God is great even when he himself is weak.
He can bless God’s holy name even when others curse him.
He praises God even when he feels ashamed.

All these emotions that scream inside fade away when God starts to speak. And this is why we praise Him for His greatness.

You may have wondered from the previous Scripture-thon why I have so many photos. No, I’m not an aspiring Instagram Influencer. I just try to take photos whenever I notice God’s presence, to remind myself when I look back on them later. 

I always pick the window seat because I’m captivated by the view – March 5, 2020When I see a sunset covering the landscape or a massive skyline filling my view, I’m reminded of God’s greatness. It’s when I feel the smallest that God feels the biggest.

Passing over Far Rockaway as we flew into JFK – March 5, 2020
As I see how God’s hand worked across a vast sky, I have comfort that He will work in my life. As I see how He’s dictated the path of civilization to such prosperity, I can rest assured that He is in control.

Prayer Points

  • Praise God for how great He is. Thank Him that we don’t have to be in control because He is in control.

Scripture-thon Day 9

The original plan was to just spend the first week of this Scripture-thon on Philippians. I thought one day per chapter was plenty to squeeze the book dry of all juicy scriptural revelations. However, the more I pressed in, the more just kept flowing out. Scripture is truly the well of living water that never runs dry.

I’d often jog to the East River and watch the lapping water to remind myself of God’s living water in this dry anxious world – Williamsburg Bridge – April 11, 2020
Paul implores us in Philippians 2:14 to “do all things without grumbling or disputing.”

During my time in the city, I found that there were two groups of people – those that tolerate work in order to live in the city, and those that tolerate living in the city in order to work. Most of my UTNY program were of the former, and most my workplace were of the latter. Yet both are filled with grumblings of dissatisfaction for half their time.

First day of school – UTNY Center, NYC – Jan 17, 2020
Last glimpse of my work desk before packing and driving to Austin – May 8, 2020
It’s easy to blame our discontent on circumstance. However, Hebrews 12:15 tells “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”

“Bitterness” is described as a “root.” Roots aren’t external but underground. And in the same way, we harbor bitterness in our heart, towards people and circumstances in our life. It’s not what they do to us, but how we perceive them.

Paul continues in Philippians 2:15 to explain that we shouldn’t grumble so “that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”

If we forget about our stature as God’s children, we forget that this life is one that He blessed us with. The joy of living turns into a grind of day-ins and day-outs. Our light is put out. We start grumbling. And we just blend into the grayscale monotony in the dull background of everyone else’s life.

When I first came to NYC, I saw the city through the wide-eyes of a child, with every moment a photo-worthy memory. But as the season progressed, the experience became a routine.

Wake up at 7, make breakfast, shave and groom, eat breakfast, brush my teeth, change into work clothes, walk to the subway stop, pray for a seat on the G train, read my Kindle, switch lines, squeeze into the 7 train, go to work, work until 6, go to school, leave from school at 9, walk to the 7 train, switch to the G train, get home at 10, catch up on homework, shower, read, sleep at 12.

From being excited to wait in line at chick fil a – Jan 15 – to lacking joy while even holding the cutest dog – Feb 15 (dramatized before and after)
It quickly became a blur. And it made me grumble, is this the life that God calls me to live?

1 Corinthians 10:31 answers “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

It’s clear that whatever life I have right now, I am to live in a manner that gives glory to God. In the future God may have different plans for me (and indeed He did with Covid). But God has allowed us to find ourselves where we are right now, and we’re to give Him glory in the process.

I don’t know right now where God is calling me to live physically, what He’s calling me to do with a career, who He’s calling me to pursue. But I know He tells me to follow Him (Matthew 16:24), asks me to work for Him (Colossians 3:23), and commands me to love my neighbor (Matthew 22:39). These truths may not give me the answers to my “calling”, but if I follow Him every day, I can trust that He has a path planned out for me.

And though following Him may lead me through valleys of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4), I need not grumble about today because He has ultimately promised eternal life tomorrow (Romans 6:23). 
By living with confident hope in a world of grumbling, perhaps we’ll do a bit of the aforementioned “shin[ing] as lights in the world.”

Prayer Points

  • Pray for wisdom. Pray for our corporate, church, and political leaders as they navigate processes, decisions, and regulations surrounding Covid-19 and the reopening of businesses. Pray that they are not swayed by human emotions and instead seek God-given wisdom in truth.
  • Pray for peace in people’s hearts. Pray for those who are afraid – whether of racism, disease, or the future. Pray for them to have the peace of God which surpasses all understanding.

Scripture-thon Day 8

I have commitment issues. I’m afraid of getting too attached, whether to interests or relationships or pursuits. My friendships are too often like AYCE sushi buffets that start so good, yet end regretful. My New Year’s resolutions sound like the hopeful promises of political debates that inevitably lead to disappointment. A 30-day email list feels like the marathon runner who has gotten a cramp and flees from the racetrack to avoid confronting disappointed onlookers.

New Yorkers running despite/during Covid – Prospect Park, NYC – March 21, 2020

But at the root of such issues is being self-consumed.

Philippians 2:3 says “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

Pride is being focused on one-self. It’s more than merely a big ego. It can be self-love but also self-hate. Pride can be constantly thinking of what others think of me, being afraid of others’ judgement, seeking approval from others.

Pride is fearing what others think of me, and thus constantly focusing on myself. This fear of man makes me forget about God and fearing Him instead.

Proverbs 29:25 tells us that “the fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”

My fear of what others thought of me crippled me. We’ve all experienced the fear from Covid-19 that has locked ourselves in our houses, afraid to go out.

A deserted 6th Ave – Manhattan, NYC – March 13, 2020
The fear of man is imposed by myself, but much to the same detrimental effects. I’m afraid to reach out to others or restart the email list for fear of judgement. Even being genuine in this email begets fear of being a let-down.

But being consumed by myself prevents me from being attentive to the needs of others. Disappointment is the inevitable path if I do this Scripture-thon wanting something out of it for myself.

However, Paul implores us to “look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)

If everyone was always trying to get and never give, the world would be one of disappointed people not getting what they want. But if the world was one focused on giving, they’d receive more than they could have asked for in return. Yet even giving in order to receive is still inherently selfish.

Rather, Jesus Christ, who came to this earth giving his life and getting nothing in return except mockery, beatings, and crucifixion, points to true selflessness.

Paul describes Christ as one “who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)

If anyone has the right to be prideful, it’s Christ – the freaking self-proclaimed son of God. Yet he came down to earth to live with us mortal beings and die for us. It’s as though there was an ant hill in my yard, and I cared about the ants so much that in order to save the ants, I took the form of an ant and got crucified by the ant colony instead. And that doesn’t even come close to what Christ did for us.

Jesus’ attitude to submit to his Father’s will to have him die on a cross is one of a humble servant. And that’s the servant attitude that has captivated so many people and drawn them to believe in him.

The selfish nature endemic to human flesh was on full display amidst this coronavirus crisis as people stocked up on food and toilet paper for their own family despite knowing this left little for those behind them.

Trader Joe’s freezers emptied by panicked shoppers – FiDi, NYC – March 11th, 2020
Even the American free market built on rational selfish actors broke down with the formation of queues and quotas. 

Two hour long queue at H-Mart – Queens, NYC – April 17, 2020
It is amidst this climate of selfish pride (a climate that has existed in every moment of history) that people take notice when we act out of selfless servitude.

Just as people took notice with Jesus as “the light of the world” (John 8:12), we’re able to reflect his light in how we live in this world. 

Sunlight peeking through the cherry blossoms – Flushing, NYC – March 21, 2020

We’re called to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). By acting selflessly, we draw attention away from ourselves and instead to our Father in heaven. Sharing this glory of God for others to see it as well is far better than any glory that we can accumulate for ourselves.

However, we don’t have the strength to do this on our own. Even Jesus cried out to and relied on his Father while he was on earth. If we try to act selflessly on our own, we’ll be burnt out, lacking commitment to what we set out to do, and bitter at the outcome. But if we “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11), we point each other to the truth of a God who has never once lacked commitment, always offering His mercy and love to us.

I was really encouraged by y’all reaching out to me over these past few days, and through the grace of God, I’m looking forward to doing the same.

Prayer Points

  • Pray for light. Pray for people to see that there is a light in Christ amidst all the darkness of the world. Pray that this light draws people out of dark corners of self-depravity, anger, and depression.
  • Pray for technology to connect rather than separate. Pray for God to use technology to connect people to Him and to each other. Pray for the church to leverage digital platforms to multiply God’s kingdom.

Scripture-Thon Day 7

And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what beautiful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Mark 13:1-2

While in New York City, it’s hard to not walk around and look up in awe at the tall concrete and steel structures. We see the “wonderful stones” and “beautiful buildings” and attribute it to the work of man. When everything we see is seemingly made by man, it makes us lose sight that God is the ultimate creator. But Jesus says that even these tall structures “will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” Eventually, even the tallest structures crumble, the fanciest temples fall, and just like our mortal bodies, they “come from dust, and to dust all return” (Ecclesiastes 3:20).

St. Patrick’s Cathedral – next to my office on Madison Ave, NYC – March 9th, 2020

Jesus further tells us in Matthew 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and thieves do not break in and steal.”

All these treasures on earth are temporary and will never last. When I die, my earthly money will be worth nothing. The house that I build will eventually crumble. Even my relationships will be forgotten. But rather than a Babel-lian pursuit of climbing higher and higher on earth which will ultimately fall, I ought to put my trust on the one thing that is eternal. Paul prays to “our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever” (Galatians 1:5) The glory of any title, wealth, status on earth will eventually be forgotten, but the glory in heaven lasts forever. It’s up to me which I choose.

The sun will set but heavenly glory shines forever – Madison Ave & 51st, NYC –  February 19, 2020

More Thoughts

Perhaps the higher percentage of Christianity in rural areas compared to urban is in part due to rural folks encountering God’s creation more often. As a farmer spends his day outside plowing and tilling their fields, they see the beauty in the sunset and sunrise. As a carpenter chops down trees for their projects, they hear the cheerfulness of birds chirping and squirrels running. As a hunter tracks down a deer, they see the complexity in the quick wits of even the dumbest doe.

However, all we see in the city is evidence of man’s creation. As we build higher and higher, we continue flexing and pointing to our own power. For city-dwellers, the only reference of a power other than man is the sky. But for those that live in the densest shadows of the concrete jungle, not even the sunlight of God’s creation shines through.

Fog and rain at night – Financial District, NYC – January 17, 2020 

The trees on the streets are carefully curated and planted to suit man’s plans (Central Park is a completely man-made park – even the hills and the lakes). The coastline is expanded through man’s dredging and control of the flow of water (Battery Park City is an entire neighborhood built on what used to be the Hudson). The few animals we see – pigeons and rats – are merely pests that stand in the way of man.

Even the trees were planned & planted – Central Park, NYC – April 25, 2020

Social distancing my last day in NYC – Battery Park City, NYC – May 7

Rat spotted – 5 Avenue-Bryant Park Station, NYC – March 11, 2020
While living in NYC I had to remind myself of God’s presence in other ways – going outside for the sunsets, running along the East River, listening to birds in the two trees behind our patio. But as I drove home from NYC through the Appalachians, I realized what I was missing. I was surrounded on both sides by rolling hills and dense forests. I could barely keep my eye on the road as I was just taken aback in awe of my surroundings. 

Views while driving on I-40 passing through Tennessee – May 9, 2020
I knew from school and science that there is a probability that everything was there due to chance. But in that moment, all I could think of was how awesome God is in creating this beautiful world. And even evolution fails to fully explain the feeling of awe – rather, awe overwhelms us with a sense of the divine. A study found that experiencing the feeling of awe makes people more likely to associate evolution with structured paths (the work of a creator) as opposed to randomness. But the Psalms has long already captured this finding:

The heavens declare the glory of God,and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Psalm 19:1

These next few days I’ll be working on giving God glory for what He’s made – the skies, the hills, the flowers, the birds, the bees… Even the color green.

Prayer Points

Pray for Brazil. As the country lurches into deepening divisiveness due to politics, Covid cases have surged beyond the capacity of tests, ambulances, and hospital beds. Pray for peace and wisdom to soften the hardened hearts of the political leaders. Pray for support and safety for doctors and nurses on the front lines. Pray for comfort for the families of those dying of the virus.

Praise God for His glory. Look outside. If it’s clear, thank God for the beauty of sunshine. If it’s cloudy, thank God for the clouds that bring life-giving rain.

Scripture-thon Day 6

Philippians 4:6 tells us to “Not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Today’s Scripture-thon is a reflection of me discovering how to make such requests known to God despite not hearing any response at first.

For the past four days, I was feeling very down.

I was gloomy, unmotivated, and lacked self-control. For three straight days, I descended into a spiraling trap of clicking one news article or youtube link after another. I kept on expecting to find something meaningful but instead I was just being filled with more and more despair by the state of the world. The stream of content never stops yet it also never fulfills.

I would wake up at times from this self-imposed paralysis, read scripture, and preach to myself verses like Romans 8:23:
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry “Abba, Father.”

I prayed, telling God that He’s good because he saved me from being a slave to sin. I told myself that I’m God’s son and that my identity was in Christ. But even in prayer, I felt like I was just saying empty words.

Even if on the outside I was giving praise to God, on the inside I was still dejected and unmotivated. (you might have noticed the lack of emails being sent out). I felt tired of trying to put up a front of “feeling good like I should” with myself, God, and others.

During my bike ride yesterday, I listened to a podcast by the Church of the City New York about lamenting, and realized there was another option.

Golden hour during my bike ride in East Austin – June 15, 2020

Professor Glenn Pemberton at Abilene Christian University found that individual and corporal prayers of lament make up 40% of all Psalms (in addition to an entire book of the Bible dedicated to Lamentations). However, in modern mainline Christian Catholic and liturgical Protestant denominations, only 15% of worship songs are focused on lament. In the evangelical church, only 5% of the top 100 worship songs are those of lament.

NYC has a lot of different churches, but they all seem to share one thing in common – packed venues at overcapacity – From left to right: Hillsong Manhattan, Liberty Church Downtown, Brooklyn Tabernacle

I don’t remember my last prayer of lamentation. During church, all my focus was on praise to God, what He’s done for us, and His awesome characteristics. Perhaps it’s also due to my comfortable socioeconomic status as an upper-middle class Asian living in America that I’ve never felt the need to lament.

But living in New York shattered the happy shelter of my Austin suburbs. In this day of covid, where every New Yorker knows someone who has been lost to the virus, the reality of death and despair is far closer to us on the ground than that of life and hope.

Over the course of just a few months, New Yorkers have become far too familiarized with the sound of ambulance sirens  – Brooklyn Heights – April 23, 2020

I lived two blocks away from the Brooklyn Hospital Center. On my daily runs, I would jog past a line of refrigerator trucks parked in front of the hospital that were filled with Covid-19 victims because the morgues were out of space – AFP’s photo

All too often when I have any feeling of sadness, I immediately say “but Christ!” which is technically true, but it results in a schizophrenic dissociation between what I’m saying and what I’m experiencing. Words of praise seem empty when they are so different from the human emotions I’m feeling.

I was afraid of having negative feelings because they don’t fit in the framework of a feel-good gospel of positivity. But our gospel isn’t one of unadulterated happiness.

In the same chapter of Romans 8, Paul writes that for God’s sake “we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” We’re not promised riches, nor even happiness on earth. Rather, we are promised the “sufferings of this present time.”

So what do I do with such overwhelming despair? Do I let it eat away at me and paralyze me from becoming useful for His Kingdom? What happens when telling myself that “I’m a conqueror because God loves me” doesn’t make me feel loved nor a conqueror?

The answer seems so simple, but it took forever for me to realize that…

I should forget about putting up a pretty front in my relationship with Him and just talk to God with the ugly feelings I felt.

Jesus lamented in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). He brings his true self to God, asking God to remove the cup of a gruesome death on the cross that he must bear for our sins. Even Jesus didn’t put on a costume of holy has-no-worries. Instead he humbly lamented to his Father of the pain he was experiencing.

I realized that by lamenting, I was actually embracing my identity as God’s child. Like a child to their parents, I was able to bring my deepest sorrows to God. And merely by speaking to Him, I was comforted with His holy presence.

When I lament, I am redirected to God’s mercy. Despite the messed up state of humanity that brings me to tears, God is still merciful to us. His mercy is reflected over and over again in scripture – from using a murderer, Moses, to lead Gods people out of Israel to producing out of an adulterous marriage, King David and Bathsheba, the Savior of mankind.

My friend did a data analysis of the Bible and found that the word statistically closest in association with ‘God’ is ‘mercy’.
And through this Son of David and Son of God, Jesus Christ, I can lament in hope. For I know that He’s already saved me from the deepest grave of my sin that threatens to bury me in guilt and depravity for all of eternity. So all these worries of the world do not compare

Finally, Jesus doesn’t just lament for his own situation, but he also laments for the city of Jerusalem. He cries out in Luke 14:21 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!”

In Lamentations, the author also laments for the city of Jerusalem while it is under siege.

When I started grieving for myself, I realized how it’s hardly anything compared to the collective grief of the world. I grieved for the city, I grieved for the nation. I grieved for the racial tensions, the tribalism that threatens to tear apart our democracy, the injustices towards those without power.

And in the midst of all this grief, I felt God telling me that He was still in control. Psalm 62:11–12 says, “Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that *power* belongs to God, and that to you, O LORD, belongs *steadfast love*.” I feel so powerless in face of systemic brokenness and my love for God is anything but steadfast. But God fills my inadequacies with His power and steadfast love.

And this is why we cry out to God in lament.

We lament so we come to a place where we can hear God. It’s only when we tear down these walls of artifice between us and God that we’re able to hear His whisper cut through the winds of life. It was only when I chose to come to God, sad, despairing, and desperate, that God spoke to me. Merely being able to send out this email today is a testimony of God’s ‘power’ and ‘steadfast love’ working in my life.

Prayer Points

  • Pray for the world. Lament for those who were already suffering and are now suffering even more in places like Yemen, Syria, and Venezuela. Lament for those who are experiencing suffering for the first time in places like Europe and NYC.
  • Pray to listen. Pray for God to calm the waves of our hearts as it is tossed around by the torrents of news and media. Pray that we’re able to hear Him calm our hearts and replace grief with purpose

Scripture-thon Day 5

Thanks to everyone for the prayers. I just got back to Austin from Houston safely in one piece.

The past day was spent driving around Houston offering support in the form of egg tarts and socially distant shouts from the driveway. It was a good day being able to see so many people I missed, but I’m feeling completely completely spiritually and physically drained now. 

I’ve been thinking about the meaning of Hebrews 4:8-10 – “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.”

I’ll take a break from writing an elongated Scripture-thon today to seek to discover more of this rest.


View from the Peter Detmold Park that I would walk to during my lunch break in Manhattan.I connect to God through nature. In the middle of the busy work-day in the concrete jungle, a few minutes of meditating in God’s word next to the East River always refueled my spirit.

Prayer Points

  • Pray for physical and spiritual rest for people as lockdowns lift and the pace of life quickens

Scripture-thon Day 4

I’ll be driving to Houston tomorrow morning at 7:30am so I’ll keep today’s Scripture-thon a bit short (1am edit: oops. please pray for a safe and alert drive)

People often say that New York is a lonely place. Even though NYC is the densest city in America, with 66,940 people per square mile, you can go an entire day without a single human connection. Walking down the streets, eyes are pointed straight ahead,  as much to navigate as to avoid the passerby in the periphery. Squeezing shoulder-to-shoulder into subway cars, eyes search and focus on any empty space, to avoid the fatal risk of eye contact.

Rush hour at the Court Square Subway Station – Monday, February 17

Even interactions with service workers are stripped of human connection – at the deli counter, pleasantries are forgone for shouting “rye, BLT, swiss, tomatoes, lettuce.”

A Mexican Deli in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, NY – January 15

But I’m a Texan who’s used to smiling at and greeting every person I passed during my suburbian morning walks. Of course, it would be impossible to extend verbal wishes to the throngs of people that fill New York City’s sidewalks. But just out of habit, I’d smile and ask “how’s it going” to those that smiled back at me.

I would certainly get self-conscious at times. But the moments of genuine connection precipitated by a smile made me recognize how this “Texan-ness” was a gift.

One of those moments was on a subway car heading back to Brooklyn from a late night at school. I was ready to settle into a state of half-podcast-listening, half-sleeping as the stressful day had pressed all my energy out of me. But as I stepped onto the car, I saw a man jamming it out in the back. The growing New Yorker instinct in me almost made me ignore him and crank up the podcast volume. But then I saw the shameless joy he had and it reminded me of how David shamelessly “danced before the Lord with all his might” in 2 Samuel 6:14. 

I did a couple dance moves back at him, almost forgetting the business suit and backpack I was wearing. When the train started moving, we sat down and shared about each other’s lives. He shared with me about how he grew up in the projects as a Christian, but left when he saw the hypocrisy in the church and started having doubts. He started pursuing spirituality on his own by trying to find the best combination of drugs and meditation to achieve spiritual fulfillment. I got to share about how I used to share the same doubts he had, but worked through them and found that my faith answered them far better than any explanation the world offered. And I agreed with him in the church’s hypocrisy, and how I saw that the brokenness that taints the American church merely demonstrates our need all the more for a savior. And thanks to a tunnel construction delay, God provided time for me to pray for him to find true fulfillment in the gift of Christ.

Moments like these that could have never been planned show me evidence of God’s hand working in my life. Even as I can attribute some parts to my Texanness, other moments like dancing on a subway train can’t be attributed to anyone but the Holy Spirit. It’s even more extraordinary if you’ve seen me dance before – I get my lefts and rights mixed up doing the Cupid Shuffle.

But most of all, I can’t imagine how I was able to converse so much with him. It was almost certainly the Holy Spirit working through my awkward Asian-American personality and giving me the words to say (Luke 12:12).

Looking back, I realize that embracing who God made me is far more genuine than any contrived mission to look like a saint before others. Just as I couldn’t pull off anything besides the Texan I was born as, living my life as a child of God is far better than any other identity I could invent for myself.

Prayer Points

  • Pray that the spiritual emptiness in the worldly pursuits of our generation will lead them to find fulfillment in the Lord – for their cup to go from empty to one that overflows (Psalm 23:5)
  • Pray for Christians who are worried amidst this time of crisis to find peace and comfort in their identity as a child of an all-powerful God.