Dear Amanda

Brilliant proposal video made by a great guy for a special girl. Congratulations Brian and Amanda! Check out the rest of the story here.

Dear Amanda from Arbella Studios on Vimeo.

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The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Tsukemen

On the Food Network, there is a show called, “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” Last Friday, I ate coconut fried chicken at Cha Cha Chicken in Santa Monica which according to Iron Chef, Michael Symon, is the best thing he ever ate. Maybe the expectations were too high or maybe I was there on an off-day but the chicken left my culinary hopes lingering. I have to admit, the chicken was good but certainly not the best I ever ate.

Later that same evening, Sonia and I got a late night snack after the Drop Box premier with my brother and sister-in-law. They know the area very well and are quite the foodies so we headed over to Seoul Sausage in West LA only to discover it was already closed. Fortunately, a few doors down is a little place called Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle. Long name for a ramen house. But not just any ramen house. One of THEE best places in LA for ramen according to most food critics. Apparently, people sometimes wait over an hour to get a chance to eat their speciality. What is it?

TSUKEMEN.

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Tsukemen is the modern day version of a traditional Japanese staple. A sort of deconstructed ramen. The noodles are thicker and stiffer than traditional ramen and are kept separate from the broth until you choose to dip them in the heavenly demi-glaze-like broth of pork goodness. Practically, it keeps the noodles from getting overcooked so you can slow down to savor the heavenly combination of the rich pork fat flavor (over 60 hrs of stewing), the al dente noodles and the bright juice of fresh lime to achieve that elusive “umami” balance of flavor. I ordered the works which came with a soft boiled egg and tender, thick slices of Japanese-style char siu (think dark, soy-flavored pork belly rather than bright red pork shoulder). There was little room for the two bowls that made up my order because tons of condiments crowded the table. I had no idea what they were for, but I confidently added them all as if I knew what I was doing. Freshly ground sesame seeds, dark pickled tsukemono, crushed red pepper, pickled ginger and something called “tonkotsu sauce,” a tart, spicy flavored oil. Put it all together and it was truly the best thing I ever ate

…that is until I eat the next “best thing I ever ate.”

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The Drop Box

Last night I had the opportunity to see a sneak preview premier of the Drop Box; a film by director, Brian Ivie. It is a moving story about a pastor in Korea who literally built a metal box on the side of a building in order to receive unwanted babies. So many of the movie’s themes are dear to my heart: the sanctity of life, adoption, special needs. While it’s a film about a remarkable man, more importantly it is about living out the heart of a remarkable God who loves.

DSC00041Pastor Lee was at the premier and was the first to give glory to God for all that He has done. And while I whole-heartedly agree it is God’s story, I love the fact that God chose to raise up a very ordinary but faithful man to do it.

The even greater story is not the one told in the film but instead the one that developed in the making of the film. Brian Ivie set out to make a movie about a perfectionist, Korean culture’s challenge to address a shamefully, hidden problem. But instead, he discovered the heart of the Father and was adopted by Him through faith in Christ. I had the privilege of getting to know Brian when he shared at our church on Orphan Sunday last year. He is the real deal and God is using him mightily for His glory.

The Drop Box will be released in over seven hundred theaters nationwide on March 3,4, and 5. You can pre-order tickets or even buy out a theater for your whole church. It’s a well-made film worth seeing for all the reasons mentioned above and more. Check out this link for all the info.

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Family Farewell

Group OriginalOn April 16, 2006, I joined these people to plant a new church in Chino Hills. Yesterday, nearly nine years later, I worshipped with them for the last time while serving as their lead pastor. The day was inevitable but definitely not an enviable one. It left me emotionally and physically exhausted.

How do you suddenly say goodbye to people who have been such an integral and intimate part of your life for so long? People who partnered with me shoulder-to-shoulder in ministry. People who cried on my shoulder and allowed me to cry on theirs when life’s pain was unbearable. People whom my children call “auntie” and “uncle” although very few of them are actually blood-related.

In fact, when we brought Eden home from China, we had a hard time explaining the difference between the new “aunties” and “uncles” that she celebrated the holidays with and the dozens of people at church whom we celebrated the Lord’s supper with. After a while, we stopped trying. Partly, because it required further language acquisition, but mainly because we wondered if it really mattered at all, anyway. After all, these people are not just fellow church members. They’re family. And that’s why it hurts to know our journey with them is over.

Yesterday, I was naive enough in my male pride to think I wouldn’t shed a tear. My wife wisely made me put tissue in my pocket before departing the house. I should have stuffed some in my back pockets too. When I arrived, the first person I bumped into is the eldest and one of the godliest men in our church. He began to express his appreciation of me, how much he was going to miss me and how God was going to use me in mighty ways in the near future. He was blessing me. How did I respond in return? With a quivering lip and teary eyes. I cried during my sermon. I cried during the program they had in our honor after the best potluck lunch I have ever consumed. Why all the tears? Because Lifesong is our family.

Today, as I try to get over the emotional hangover, I hold onto the truth that they’ll always be family. Yes, our relationships are going to be different but I also know they do not end. Bloodlines in the family of God run eternal. God sent His Son to redeem us in order to adopt us. In other words, the Father wanted us to be family forever. The sweet joy of Heaven is by far God Himself but the icing is the family that he gathers around Him. At times, when our paths cross and even join while pursuing God’s mission this side of Heaven, we get a small taste of that delight and we don’t want it to end. True fellowship is like that. It’s a shadowed taste of Heavenly koinonia promised in and through the Son. So when it does end, we are left longing for more. That’s the way it should be.

Thank you, Lifesong, for being family to me and my household over these past nine years. My heart for you echoes the words of the apostle Paul in his affection for the Philippians, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

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Adoption Update

Update: My friends, Gavin and Lorraine are in China now! As they pick up Joylyn, please pray for their travel, the family transitions and bonding and God’s grace to abound in everything. 

Bring Joylyn Home

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These are my friends, Gavin and Lorraine Kajikawa and their daughter, Brielle. After seven long years, they have been matched with their daughter, Joylyn and are preparing to adopt her from China in the very near future.

Adopt_Product_Shot_largeThe cost of adoption is steep. I can personally attest to that. But the Father loves to provide lavishly for the things near His heart. I can personally attest to that as well. One of the ways He provides is through the giving of His people. One of the ways that you can help is by purchasing a T-shirt. But not just any T-shirt. A cool-looking T-shirt with a great message on the front designed and produced by Zoe Clothing Co.

This is a rare fundraiser in which 100% of the donation for the T-shirt will go directly to helping the Kajikawas bring Joylyn home. This has been made possible by the owner of Zoe, a kingdom-minded friend of mine as well. If you would like to read more about the Kajikawas’ story and purchase a T-shirt (or two or three), you can click on their photo above.

What better way to celebrate the Father’s love in Christ’s resurrection this weekend than to support those who are seeking to be like Him through adoption!

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Seeing Christ in All the Mess

Last few thoughts on the book of Ruth…

This is a video that I showed to our church a few weeks ago. Sometimes life may feel the same way. Random. Disjointed. Single events or even entire years in our life feel like chaotic splatters of paint. God is in control but we don’t understand what he’s doing. We can’t make sense of the picture he’s painting.

At times, this is what it must have felt like for Naomi and Ruth. Living in a time of little justice and a great famine, they both lost their husbands, their security and provision. Random tragedies all strung together in a matter of a few years. In chapter 2, there is a reprieve. A man named Boaz provided for the widows generously. Naomi’s hope was that her daughter-in-law could marry this noble man and so concocted a messy plan to have Ruth propose marriage to him. The plan was risky and appeared risqué but it all worked out and Boaz agreed. Someone else still had the right to marry Ruth but he stepped aside and Boaz fulfilled the role of a redeemer.

Such a mixed bag of events. Hopeful ones and hopeless ones. Ones that offer safety and ones that are extremely risky. Ones that provide abundantly and others that take away viciously. How does it all work together? Is there meaning and is there purpose? Or is life just a series of random events? Some good and many bad?

According to Romans 8:28, God works all things together for the good of those who love him. All things, whether good or bad, God uses for his glory and in that our blessing. While the details of each believer’s story may vary, the hope for God’s good is always rooted in the same source. That hope is always in Jesus. All things lead us to Christ. In Christ, all things will be reconciled whether in Heaven or on earth. Even the seemingly random events of Naomi and Ruth’s life ultimately led to Jesus. For Ruth gave birth to Obed who eventually fathered Jesse who fathered Israel’s greatest king, David. That is until, Israel’s ultimate King, our Lord Jesus, was birthed from David’s lineage generations later.

Whatever you may be going through, know that the details of your life are not random. God has a good and glorious purpose that he is working out. It may take longer than you’d like but as you wait by faith, hope in Jesus as the guarantee that God’s love will prevail.

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