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I’m Paying for This Meal! A Commentary on an Asian Honor Practice

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Assessing this common Asian practice may seem like taking things too seriously, but there is an opportunity for us to clarify the dynamics at play and promote the values which represent Kingdom values.

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It’s all fun and games eating with other Asians until the bill arrives!

You eat with a group of people and towards the end of the meal, someone or a group of people fight for the bill. Does this sound familiar to you?

If you’re Asian, you’ll understand.

You’ll also understand that this can often get feisty. Someone wins the check battle and other members may be disgruntled. Or others ensue to sneak money in the winner’s purse, wallet, car, house, hat, cat, or whatever.

And when I eat with other Asian American Christians, this actually gets pretty funny because the same thing happens only it’s wrapped in Christian lingo.

I don’t know if you’ve ever come across a situation where another Asian American Christian just straight up refused your generosity. You’re like “let me bless you!” And they’re like, “Naw, let me bless you.” And the struggle for the bill ensues.

Depending on how culturally/spiritually aware these people are, believe it or not, this is, in fact often just the same tension going on…just with the Christian lingo.

What is going on here?

What I think is going on when we fight for the bill at the end of the meal is that this act is primarily about honor.

I’m beginning to see more and more, as I’ve said before, that Asians, like many non-Western cultures in the world, operate in a shame & honor worldview. Many of the our cultural cues veer towards the importance of honor in the society–the respect of elders, certain greetings, table mannerisms e.g. serving food, communication rules, etc..

Fighting for the bill at the end of the meal, I suggest, is one of those cultural cues which are about honor.

I think it can be a demonstration of love. But often with many things, actions are tied with multiple influences going on. Only to say that it’s not accurate to describe the dynamics of this act completely in the context of love. There is a lot of honor, honoring, fighting for honor going on.

Let me break it down…

It is honorable and respectable for one who pays the bill. So we perhaps fight to gain that honor and respect. It communicates our affluence, our favor with people, and provides a sense of responsibility hence authority over others. These may or may not be all true at every given moment, but you can imagine how these come to play.

And those who fight that one have their own honor to fend for, albeit on the opposite coin. They are fighting against the shame that could incur or missed opportunity for honor if not done so. After all, if you can’t pay for the meal, it’s pretty shameful to be appear poor or like you don’t want to honor other guests.

All right, so that sounds punitive and depressing when we break it down (Sorry…).

I’ll give you that-but why am I doing this?

Well because if we understand the underlying dynamics at play in this all-too familiar-fight-that-can-turn-sour, we have a better chance of figuring out what is the Jesus-like thing to do, instead of being confused, awkward, and shamed at the table.

The goal of this assessment is in being blessed by doing what Jesus would do and how he would do it. Because I reckon, like Jesus always does, that his actions inspire, bless others, and bring people closer to the kingdom of God…even in something really small as figuring out how we are going to pay for this Asian meal in front of Asian people.

Okay, granted, I don’t have all solutions (I’ll definitely need some comments with suggestions), but I did think about some things that can help:

1. Do not fight for our honor.

Fighting for the check, if we’re not keenly aware of the dynamics at the table, and more importantly the dynamics which are motivating our own hearts, can be an attempt at gaining honor for ourselves. We are not to fight for our honor because there is a better option…

2. Instead, honor others.

Romans 13 tells us to “outdo one another in honor”. To be a Christian is to honor, love, prefer, and lift up others. It sounds strange, but if someone is doing actions which are garnering honor, don’t fight them for it, just doubly give it to them! Verbally honor them with many thanks and with how God sees them. I’m sure there are other ways to do this though. 

3. Clarify values

What’s so amazing about Jesus is that when he did an act of love, he was such a good communicator (both verbally and circumstantially) that people understood it to be an act of love. And if he didn’t, he made sure to clarify it (remember that time when he tried to wash Peter’s feet and Peter fought him? Well if you don’t, Jesus basically had to clarify why he was doing what he was doing).

Paying for meal or things don’t have to be awkward but they often are because there’s a conflict of values. One is trying to show an act of love, while the other is interpreting it as an act of possible honor or shame.

If we can, at appropriate times and to appropriate people, bring clarity as to the dynamics at play. I do this by verbally prefacing my actions. If I’m taking someone out to eat, I’ll make sure to say, “Hey man I just want to love you. Will you let me show love to you by paying for this meal?”

That also means that if I’m sensing that they are still not understanding it to be so, I’ll graciously correct them because I want myself and them to be blessed.

The clearer I can be about the dynamics of our interaction, the more I have power to be like Jesus and to steer our interaction in a Kingdom manner.

Conclusion

All right, seriously, that was a pitiful list. That’s the only things I can say about it. I guess I’m better at diagnosis than prognosis.

For all my Asian American Christian peeps, what are some insights you have garnered about this? What are some recommendations you can give for us to be more like Jesus?

( Feel free to comment below)

Tips on Correcting People and Helping Them Walk Into Their Destiny

Counselling and Support

Here are five tips that can be helpful in the event that we need to correct someone to benefit both them and us.

Counselling and Support

Working with people is not always easy.

All of us encounter situations where someone else’s behavior be it a singular occasion or a habit is detrimental to that person, to you, or to other people.

And you want to help them.

But gracious confrontation is not something you’re great at. Or perhaps you think you’re doing it well, but the people you want to change around you aren’t actually changing (I’m looking at you family members who think endlessly lecturing other family members is effective…).

Correcting and helping people is something that I’m not still perfect at but I after talking with so many people are just not great at it, I figure some of the things I’ve learned along the journey are worth sharing.

So, for the sake of others and their growth as people and disciples, for your sanity, here are five tips that I feel are great for correcting and helping people.

1.Talk to people When You’re Not Emotional  

Like most communication, I think one of the most important things in correcting people is not what we are saying but how we are saying things.

And a lot of how we are saying things is from our emotional state when we approach a person. You always want to do things as they are done to you so imagine this–how would you like to be corrected? From someone who is clearly angry at you, or someone who carries spirit of grace? From someone is emotionally frantic or someone who is composed and appears to give you solid advice from a stable place?

I think the answer is obvious–someone who can talk to you graciously and in a composed manner. After all, we really are all fragile people. And being highly emotional when approaching someone has a high probability of evoking a defensive response (which is bad).

So I have found it helpful to avoid correcting people right after the situation happens.

That’s usually when I’m most annoyed, angry, offended, etc. Yes, that means holding your peace and letting people make their mistakes initially. Also, more importantly, it is easier for people to see their own actions objectively when they’re removed from the situation.

I learned this from I feel the way God corrects me. One thing I know for sure is that every time God corrects me, he’s always super gracious, gentle, and loving about it. The second thing I noticed is that God usually does it when I’m already away from the situation.

So if someone is consistently late to events, and it bothers the heck of you, don’t correct them the moment they walk in late. Find a casual moment after you’ve settled down, after they’ve settled down, and begin that conversation.

2. Correct People When You Have Loved them Enough.

The end of correction is always love. It is never vengeance, retribution, or a reason to vent your frustration.

Love is what builds people up. It is wanting to help people walk in their destiny in the Lord and to be better people. Vengeance is tearing people down and destroying people down.

Never correct someone if it is not done in love.

And the hard part is…love is not something you can conjure up in the moment. Love is prior actions which have communicated to the person that, in the end, their best interest has been in your mind.

I remember this one time, a person in our church had done something pretty inappropriate. My wife urged me to correct this person. I thought about it, and told her, “I can’t. I don’t have the authority to do so because I have not loved him enough.”

I did not think I had enough of a relationship with him with actions or conversations that demonstrated that I care about it to have the authority to speak into his life.

You see, when people are amped up about correcting someone, they can often think that have a right to correct someone. But it is not “rights” which allow access to speak into people’s lives–it is love.

When people recognize that you love them, it frames the conversation, yielding them more willing to listen. And it should frame the way you begin the conversation, hence the next step which I think is crucial.

3. Start the Conversation with Honoring the Person

Okay, so we are no longer emotional about the situation and we have loved the person we want to correct. It begs the question, “How should we start the conversation? What should we say?”

Here’s a powerful suggestion–start with honoring the person.

(If you don’t know what great honor is, you should really check out Bill Johnson’s teaching on it.)

Honoring is basically seeing someone as God sees them and as God sees them to be one day. It is seeing that they are not just this absent minded person who is making mistakes right now, but they have a great calling and great destiny.

So here’s a quick example of how to honor someone at the start of the conversation:

“Hey Joe, can we talk about something?” … “You know you’re an amazing person, and you’re called to be an amazing man of God. But there’s something in your actions recently that I really wanted to talk to you about.”

Starting with honor really frames the conversation so well. It’s not manipulation. It’s not flattery. You only say it if you mean it because people know if you’re BS’ing them.

Starting with honor helps you too because it will help you remember what this correction is really about.

It is about helping others walk into their destiny, not getting your vengeance or venting your frustrations. It helps you remember who people are beyond their mistakes, and who God made them to be, a perspective that should always inform the way we speak to people. (As a matter of fact, we should be honoring people way more than we should be correcting people).

And that perspective of honoring others is all too crucial to be fostered within us before correcting them in love.

3. Next: Name Your Observations 

Okay, here is my big secret to correction. When I correct, I always, always, always use observations.

They are such a great way to bring up the behavior, trend, attitude that you feel the person needs growth in. Why are observations great? I think observations are great because they are judgment free.

What I mean by that is that, when we correct someone, it is hard, presumptuous, and difficult to accuse someone of their hearts, something that we want to do when we’re correcting someone. It is more fair to start a set of palpable observations that you have about that person.

Here’s some examples:

Judging (bad): Hey, I don’t think you really care about our relationship
Observation: Hey I noticed that a lot of times I call you but you don’t call me back.

Judging (bad): You know that you’re really rude and disrespectful during our meetings.
Observation: Hey I noticed that during our meetings, you tend to be on your phone.

Judging (bad): You’re really flirtatious
Observation: Hey I noticed that when you spend time with members of that opposite sex you tend to be pretty physical e.g. hugs, stroking, etc..

You see the difference?

We make observations about people’s actions and behaviors, which are unbiased. You’re more likely to garner a non-defensive response because people will always defend their intentions. But we don’t know people’s intentions. We only know for certain their actions.

The point of naming observations is to get people seeing the same perspective. It forms the starting ground for conversation.

And if you name your observation really well, you should pause to see if they see what you saw. In an ideal situation, they will say something along the lines of: “Yes, that’s what I did.”

If you get there, you’re well on your way, friend.

4. Provide the Implications of Their Actions 

Once you can agree on observations about the person’s actions or at least propose your observation (sometimes people don’t realize what they’re doing). You can therefore name the implication of their actions.

Let’s use the prior examples and build on them.

Person A (Observation): Hey I noticed that a lot of times I call you but you don’t call me back.
Person B: Yeah, you’re right. I’ve been getting your calls. I’ve just been really busy.
Person A (Implication):  Yeah I can understand that. Hey you know that I really care about our friendship. When I call you and you don’t call me back, it makes me feel like I’m not important to you. 

Person A (Observation): Hey I noticed that during our meetings, you tend to be on your phone.
Person B: Oh, yeah sometimes my wife calls me.
Person A (More Observation): I see. Hey did you know that when you’re on your phone, people in our meeting get pretty distracted by your phone ringing and your talking. Multiple people turn their heads multiple times during your conversation and I notice that even my own attention is drawn from the person talking to you.
Person B: Oh really?
Person A (Implication): Yeah, I don’t know if you intend this, but I feel like that action communicates that your conversation is more important than what we are meeting about. 

In separating our observations from implications, we leave permission for us to be wrong about the person’s motives. But it also opens the door for us to give insight into what the person’s actions communicate, something most people aren’t aware of.

I feel that this separation is really important for people not to feel judged. And that it actually helps them be an observer of their own actions as well.

If they come into agreement with the implications you are bringing, you are in a great place. This is where you can give helpful suggestions and affirm who they are.

5. Continue with a Posture of Learning and Humility

We can never enter into correction with complete certitude.

We must always come to the conversation with humility, being open to the possibility that our observations or assumptions about that person are off.

I find it helpful to ask clarifying questions to better understand why people do or did what they did. If people feel like you’re interested in learning about who they are, they’ll be even more convinced that you actually care about them.

While I’ve proposed very structured examples, we all know that there’s no set way that these conversations go. I feel that it is very Christ-like to maintain an attitude of learning and giving people the benefit of the doubt in their intentions without wavering in the power of our observations and implications to help a person a grow.

This humility does not apply just in the conversation but outside of it.

We shouldn’t be upset or judge people if our attempts are correcting people are not good. Perhaps they just really aren’t open to correction. But chances are, we just might not be good communicators and our attempt was not effective.

We should maintain a position of humility and continue to grow and be better in our skills to build people up.

In Conclusion, (AKA You Know You did it Well if…)

I hope that these tips are helpful. To be honest, these are not really original.

I think what inspires me in thinking about this is remembering the ways that Jesus corrects me in my character. That is the type of interaction we are striving to have with people.

Correcting people is not a pompous activity. If done well, people should experience the graciousness, tenderness, joy, and humility of Jesus through our words and the spirit we carry.

As I’ve tried to communicate, correcting people is about making people great. It’s not an act of selfishness or personal vendetta; great correction is about humility and lifting others up to be better people as Jesus would.

I know for a fact that Jesus is super kind, super wise, and super gracious when he is trying to grow me. I’m sure that you have experiences of that. I hope that, above listening to me, God’s character informs the way we help people grow. And so, in doing so, God’s presence is released, and we become his vessels.

People are eternally changed not by how smart or forceful we are. People are changed when they encounter the living God, who loves them and transforms them. And so we should always strive to be the fragrance of Jesus in correction.

 

 

 

Full-time and On Fire: Strategies for Having Passion for God While Working

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Keeping my Heart Alive

Working full-time has its difficulties. One of the bigger challenges I constantly face is being an on-fire believer of Jesus while working full-time.

I think people are aware of the challenges.. The amount of time you actually have to do things is limited, not to mention you’re constantly tired, work is mentally exhausting and challenging, the amount of people you see is very limiting, and the workplace is probably not a conducive place for a vibrant relationship with Jesus.

I remember a few months ago I was frustrated with the way my relationship with God was going. In exasperation, I lamented to my wife, “My life is not sustainable! If I didn’t have certain meetings throughout the week at church, my spiritual life would be in decay!”

I hate the feeling of my love growing cold towards God. And not having the power in the Spirit I need to not just survive but thrive.

Lately, God has been teaching me ways of how to be working full-time and being on fire for God. I am sitting at my cubicle these days singing praises to Jesus because God’s Spirit is on me. And getting to that point required some changes.

Here are some things I learned that have been helping me.

1. Removing endless distractions clears my heart for God

God spoke something profound to me on my birthday. He said to me, “The rage of the world is to get people distracted with meaningless pursuits.”

Now that I’m married, I think about a typical American adult lifestyle, and the expectations of what people my age usually do. I have found that most of it to be one big huge distraction from eternal things.

Esther and I prayed and talked for a while about whether to get a TV given that we have some gift cards. We resolved that we were not going to get a TV to watch TV. I know the temptation of coming home from work and just clocking out in front of the “big distraction.”

That activity that a lot of American men engage in is just an escape for the day’s work. It wastes valuable time and heart space to engage with God after work. As of now, all we do with our TV is mostly stream IHOP’s prayer room to cultivate an atmosphere of worship and prayer in our house.

This process for us comes out of a recognition of a bigger observation that I’ve been noting.

As entertainment and media is increasingly a bigger part of our global technological culture, I have found that most Jesus-followers have opted to just be increasing consumers of it all without really assessing what it does to their spirits.

Not to say my experience is representative of every person, but I have found that entertainment, for the most part, dulls my spirit and sensitivity towards God. It distracts me from dealing with heart issues. It easier to put something onto a screen rather than to process my hard day at work with the Lord.

And it is in the media distribution’s mentality, the smart phone market’s mentality, and every up and coming media outlet’s mentality to to make addictive media more and more accessible to people. They put it in their phones, they make it stream, they load you with options, it’s all geared to get us to be hooked and distracted.

And so I am making clear decisions of not engaging in meaningless distractions. I want all my activities that my wife and I do to be intentional.

We have to be intentional about how we feed our hearts because I want to determine what kind of heart I want to have before God. Do I want a dull and entertained heart/mind? Or do I want a burning one for Jesus?

The answer to that question lies in what activities I choose. And because I’m increasingly saying “no” to typical American choices of entertainment, there is a direct correlation in my hearts ability to hear the Holy Spirit.

When people talk about TV shows, or actors, or movies, honest to God, I don’t care if I am not conversant or if I have no idea what you are talking about. Before the Lord, I want to rather fix my mind on things that will actually make me a meaningful person and will allow my heart to thrive.

2. Resting, Relaxing, Sabbathing, and Saying No

Continuing the theme of denying oneself, I have found that having adequate rest for my body and mind is of absolute importance in having my heart alive.

I am increasingly convinced that American culture does not know how to rest. And we honestly break the Sabbath. Rest is a biblical mandate because when we honor our bodies we honor God.

The connection between my physical restedness and my spirit is intimate. It is my belief that mind, body, heart, and spirit are all interconnected and if one suffers, they all suffer.

When I am working full-time, there is just so much beating the body and mind takes. I make it a priority to sleep 8-9 hours a night and to spend time with God in the mornings. The restedness allows me to make good decisions throughout the day and not fall asleep while praying.

To sustain that lifestyle means saying “no” to a lot of things. And that’s okay with me. I don’t care to be a weekend warrior. I don’t care to show people on Facebook how cool my life is. I know that I need rest and I will most likely continue to say “no” to hangouts, activities, birthday parties, dinners, etc so that I can be faithful with stewarding my heart and to be faithful with the few things God has entrusted me with.

What’s helped is not overloading my Saturdays. Last Saturday Esther and I spent the morning in long restful devotion before God. Our weekend was immensely blessed as a result of that! I want to continue living a life of balanced restedness.

3. Saying YES to Intentional community of God-pursuers

One of the things that Lord has taught me in the course of my life is understanding the difference between your friends and your partners in life. 

I consider partners to be weightier. These are the people who actually add to your life, who will partner with you in your growth in the Lord.

When working full-time, and being married, the amount of people that I can see and interact with is obviously much less. The lessening of time requires me to be strategic about my friendships and to really find partners in the Lord.

I intentionally invest in friendships that help me grow in my relationship with God.

For example there’s a couple at our church who my wife and I see as a valuable partnership and friendship. We had dinner together at a Mexican restaurant last weekend and it was amazing. All we talked about was how God was moving in our lives, ways we’re growing, how we’re being challenged, and difficulties we’re having. We prayed for each other at least 4 times that night, praying for healing, prophesying, and giving words of encouragement. It was so powerful. Oh, and we also had tons of fun playing and joking around too.

My point is that it’s easy to find friends to have fun with, to play, and to joke around. It is not easy to find friends who would do the former on a day-to-day basis.

Continuing to invest in these friendships means life to me. And saying “no” to friendships that don’t is important as well.

4. Finding Ways to Connect with God during Work

I’m at work 8-9 hours a day. That’s a huge chunk of time. And spending time with God in the mornings and at night is not enough. I love that Chris Tomlin song as it reminds me what my relationship with God should be like, “I need you Oh I need you, Every hour I need you.”

I understand that not everyone’s work experience is like mine, but I kind of know the in’s and out’ of my work where I know what I can do, when I can do it, and still have integrity in my work.  Here are some ways that helped me stay connected with God:

  • For me to connect with God at work, I am constantly reading the Bible at my desk. It is just open, all the time. I want to eat continually.
  • During my breaks, I intentionally go outside, rest my body, and have rested prayer time with the Lord. I have a Kindle with my Bible on there, and I carry it with me everywhere to keep eating the Word.
  • During work, I try to stay away from ESPN (my crux..), and other mind-fogging inherently-addictive internet activities.
  • I try to have conversations about Jesus with my co-workers.
  • I constantly talk with Jesus during work. I process my emotions with him. I process what I’m feeling.
  • I have my intercession list at my desk all the time with situations, circumstances, and people I need to be praying for constantly. The act of intercession helps me hear how God feels.

 

5. Saying YES to Living a Life of Mission

When asked about food Jesus responded to his disciples, “my food is to do the will of him who sent me.” Jesus’ food is do God’s work.

This season God has been growing my ability to release God’s kingdom and to evangelize. I have been more passionate about being a witness for Jesus and spreading the fragrance of Jesus everywhere I go.

I have found that when I set my heart to obeying the Holy Spirit when he tells me to minister to someone, my heart grows alive. When I go to work with a mentality of not just “this is my job” but “this is my mission field,” there’s a grace that is released for me at work as I’m working there very purposefully to make Jesus known in my work place.

I’ve gotten the opportunity to share my testimony here and there and to pray for a number of co-workers already. Those experiences make me hungry for more–hungry to see heaven invade earth in this dull work environment. I don’t care if I’m fired or let go, if I can leave this job one day having done the will of God, I will be satisfied.

I found that when I adapted this mentality about work and life in general, my heart is alive. My heart is alive because Jesus gives his presence to those who seek to build his kingdom. And he does that because you quite simply feel Jesus’s presence wherever Jesus is, and Jesus is always in the business of making disciples and expanding his kingdom in secret.

Setting my heart to living a life that minister to others is what replaces a lifestyle of entertainment and comfort.

 

So these are some ways that have been helping me be passionate while working full-time. I’m sure having kids will have it’s challenges one day…