The Inconvenience of Following Jesus

Here’s my struggle with following Jesus… It’s so damn inconvenient sometimes. Missional living goes against so many of my natural inclinations.

In our consumer-driven culture, where Google chooses which ads I look at and Starbucks allows me to pre-order my coffee before I can even say hello to a barista, being a disciple of Christ doesn’t fit nicely into the rhythms of my life.


My navigation app, Waze, literally knows what I’m craving and tells me of restaurants I’ll be passing by on the way to my destination. I can summon a common stranger to pick me up and bring me home through this magical thing called Uber. Life’s getting more convenient and I’m loving it.

So I can’t help but notice this growing contrast between our culture and the call to be a disciple.

For many of us churches, the response to this stark contrast is an attempt to keep up with our culture’s advances. We find ways to make it convenient to follow Jesus. We make it a pit-stop, a drive-thru on our way to a destination. We erect billboards that indicate that you can “follow Jesus” at the next exit. We’ve broken down discipleship into these nice bite-size pieces, easy enough to swallow. We’ve condensed it into an accessory that can match our colour and style, we’ve made it convenient enough to be added onto our busy schedules. 

I love biking to work. You know why I love biking to work? It fulfills my need for efficiency. Think about it, I save on transit fare, get my exercise, reduced my carbon footprint and get to work all in one motion. Honestly, it just makes me feel like I beat every other commuter at life.

And what I do with my commute, is exactly what I try to do with the call to be a disciple. I want to somehow include it and cram it within my route to my destination.  I want “following Jesus” to be on the way to where I want to go. I don’t want to detour my commute to have a Christ-focused lifestyle. I want Him and his mission to line up to the rhythms of my life.

But that’s the very thing that contradicts the notion of FOLLOWING JESUS.

Instead of warping Jesus into the rhythms of my own life, I should seek a rhythm that resembles what it looks like to follow Jesus and warp my desires into THAT way of life. I should carve my schedules, my goals, my hobbies, my family life, into HIS mission.

Because following Jesus has nothing to do with our self-made destinations. Our five year plans, our promotion aspirations, or titles, are not the destination. Our destination is to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Teaching them to obey all that he has commanded us.

And it’s tough to make THAT kind of destination, a “Great Commission” kind of destination, a mere pit-stop to where we want to go.




Validate Me!: How we lose sight of the goal


What is success? What criteria do you use to determine whether you are doing well or not? In our day in age, we have metrics for just about everything we do. Our workplace have evaluations, schools have grades, gyms have scales, restaurants have reviews and social media have “likes.” It’s hard to go anywhere or do anything these days without a rating system attached to it.

In a way, we want these evaluation tools to exist in order to validate our work and existence. We want to know where we rank in this world. How do we compare with our neighbor?

I recently read a quote by Edward Skidelsky, author of a book called “How much is enough?”, who said “A measure is a dangerous tool, for it tends to take the place of whatever it measures. The thing itself – talent, health – disappears behind a numerical proxy.” Whether it’s measuring advancements in our career, calculating the number of clients served or monitoring how many kilometers we have travelled in a day, we as a culture are beginning to value the scoring system more than the endeavor itself. And what I’m realizing for myself, is that I lose sight of the goal when I begin chasing numbers.

The purest in me wants my intentions to be genuine. I want to play for the love of the game. I want to serve for the sake of the people. I’ve observed that the people I most respect in life are those who work for sake of the mission itself, who consider validation and recognition as an afterthought. They don’t seek praise, because it isn’t the object of their ambition.

I’m not opposed to recording the progress of what we do, I think it’s a necessary practice to ensure that we are doing well. But it’s the shift in emphasis that’s the problem. Why we “measure” makes all the difference in the way we work. When “measures” are emphasized more than what we do, our motives become clouded with self-preserving undertones. We make slight compromises in order to ensure that the self is taken care of.

I’m not sure how it all works out practically yet, but I think that the way we “measure success” has to take into account the principle found in Luke 17:33, where Jesus says “Whoever tries to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.”

When we can surrender our need to defend or preserve our existence, I believe we will gain a fearlessness, courage and determination that we see in Christ’s journey to the cross.

Playing Devil’s Advocate: The cost of trying to be original

A few months back, when the ALS ice bucket challenges was flooding my newsfeed, I found it interesting how so many people wanted to express their unique opinion on the matter (as I’m pretty much doing right now). After the challenge went viral, the haters came out of the woodwork. They made the case that by blindly giving to this cause, we are withholding money from other important causes (boohoo). In response, the haters of the haters fought back and brought their insightful rebuttals. Then finally, we heard from individuals who actually had ALS, and let’s just say it shut everyone up.

I notice these kind of online battles occur a lot when an issue arises. Everyone wants to input an original thought to the conversation, something that hasn’t been said yet. And the thing that got me thinking is that I tend to do this a lot in the way I form my opinions and values in life. I find that I base a lot of my convictions and beliefs out of a reaction or a need to go against the grain. But I find that an opinion birthed in reaction doesn’t always produce a sound position. In fact, I find that my desire to play the devils advocate distracts me from actually articulating an accurate, well thought out opinion that I can believe in.

This happens a lot when it comes to my theology. Many of my strong opinions on church and Jesus stem from a reaction I have to an ugly encounter I experienced in my past. Or in many cases, they birth out of a reaction to a mainstream belief that everyone jumped on the bandwagon to (i.e. Purpose Driven Life/Church campaigns, Prayer of Jabez book sales, ACT LIKE MEN conferences etc.). For some reason, I loath bandwagons. It’s like when I’m in a worship service and everyone is standing, something in me just wants to sit down. And the irony is that when they all sit, I all of a sudden want to stand. I’m messed up huh?

And so as I grow up a bit (note that it’s just a bit), I’m beginning to realize how strong my convictions stand up to the reality of life. Because when my opposing view point isn’t blazing back at me, and I no longer have a dragon to slay or an opponent to overcome, I’m left with opinions that I’m not so sure I believe in all that much. So many of my thoughts make a lot of sense in the context of a debate, but when the antagonist disappears, the true colors of my convictions are revealed.

And the funny thing is, the convictions I end up coming back to are pretty boring and unoriginal. But none the less, they remain true and trustworthy. I like how G.K. Chesterton puts it:

“It may be, Heaven forgive me, that I did try to be original; but I only succeeded in inventing all by myself an inferior copy of the existing traditions of civilized religion. The man from the yacht thought he was the first to find England; I thought I was the first to find Europe. I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy.” G.K. Chesterton

Amen to that!

Finding a “Worthy” Cause: How economics have changed the way we give

In his book, I Spend, Therefore I Am, Philip Roscoe describes how the influence of economics have changed the way we interact as humans. He argues that with the collapse of the economy in 2008, companies and NGO’s began running to economists in order to provide them with some kind of solution to do more with less.

Companies value the opinion of economists because they are unique in their approach to solving a problem. In particular, they have the ability to detach their reasoning from emotions and sentiments. For example, when an economist buys a car, he focuses on miles per gallon, safety and longevity, rather than the feel of the ride or how it might impress his friends. They are pragmatists to the core and when faced with a problem or challenge, they attempt to prioritize items, presumably without bias or prejudice. That’s why you can count on them to be efficient and productive with your resources.

By nature, I personally see the world through the lens of an economist. I have this tendency to maximize and leverage as much as I can from what I have. For the most part, it is smart and beneficial to approach life in this way, making the most of our limited time, resources, and energy. However, this lens also affects the way we approach other aspects of our lives, including charity and benevolence. In doing so, I’m realizing the collateral damage associated with this kind of thinking—an invisible casualty that doesn’t register on a spreadsheet or annual review. In a lot of ways, the cost-benefit approach disregards the human face behind the cause or issues I am trying to solve.

Recently, I read about a group of economists who were attempting to prioritize the “saving of the world” (Copenhagen Consensus). The group of economists literally went through all the major causes in the world and “impartially” determined which cause to support based on their cost-benefit analysis. Their goal was to ascertain the greatest amount of impact that could be made with the current resources we have. The team concluded that although causes like climate change appears to be an important and popular cause, the benefits did not seem to outweigh the cost. It would simply take too long and too much money to tackle the issue. Rather, they identified that the distribution of vaccines would actually be the best way to address the greatest amount of trouble in the world with the limited resources we currently have.

I’ve come to realize that this cost-benefit approach unconsciously influences the way we look at our charitable-giving or the causes we support. When a homeless man asks me for change, not unlike an economist, I unconsciously do a cost-benefit analysis to assess whether he will be a good steward of my resources. Does it look like he’s going to spend it on a bottle of liquor? Or will he use it to buy a healthy salad or purchase a toothbrush? Depending on my answers, I decide to give or not to give.

The danger in approaching social issues through this lens is that we begin to measure the value of human life. We end up creating a class system among the poor, separating the worthy from the unworthy. Our generosity is determined by a merit-based system we construct in our minds based on our values, perceptions, and assumptions. Economically, this might make sense.

But the funny thing is that the gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t seem to be influenced by our merit. His gift to us on the cross didn’t hinge on whether we would steward it wisely. The gift wasn’t set aside only for the righteous keeners who always seem to follow through on their commitments.


So here’s the big question… why is it that we attempt to place a burden on the poor that we could not carry ourselves (Acts 15:10)? Why do we impose a merit-base system on the homeless when Jesus invested his life for a people who seem to repetitively take advantage of his blessings?

How many times have I squandered the grace of God? How many times have I manipulated his gifts to accommodate my sins and addictions? Who am I to question what a homeless man might do with the $5 change I give him when I know that I have not always been faithful with the undeserved grace that has been bestowed on me. He sees each time I’ve been reckless with the gift of His forgiveness. He knows when I have failed to be a good steward of his unconditional love. And yet… the grace of Christ continues to beat against my shore, generously, with no conditions. It occurs to me that it is this unmerited grace that touches my soul, healing me, overwhelming me, sanctifying me, and ultimately, transforming me.

This realization has changed the way I look at the economics of my life. Instead of assessing who or what is “worthy” of my time, attention and finances, I remember to first ask myself how worthy I am in face of a holy God. Let’s look through the lens of Christ and envision what on earth made him think that he would get a return on his investment. What theoretical framework legitimized the way he would recklessly lavish us with his grace? I’d say it’s the upside-down, inside-out philosophy of the kingdom of God.

So although there is a place for economics in the way we steward our resources, it’s critical to situate it within the broader unshakeable framework of grace. Forgive as you have been forgiven. Give in the way that Christ gave his life for us.

The Simple and the Cautious: Two Streams of Discipleship

In responding to the Great Commission, there’s no way we can ignore the centrality of discipleship. That seems to be more of an emphasis among the churches I’m in contact with these days. But the important question moving forward is, what’s the best approach in making a disciple?

I realize there are countless of ways to approach it, but I’ve come to observe two fundamentally different lines of thought that forms the basis of how we understand the topic. The first version simplifies discipleship for accessibility sake, and the second version complicates discipleship for accuracy sake.

Advocates of the first version, who we’ll call the “simplifiers,” emphasizes the “priesthood of all believers,” a belief that everyone has the ability to correspond with God. They remind us how the message of the gospel needs to be simple and reproducible, how Jesus chose uneducated fishermen to be His conduits of truth. In reaffirming the bold stance of the Reformation, they exhort all believers to read, interpret and apply scripture for themselves. Due to the questionable track record of corrupt pastors/priests throughout history, “simplifiers” tend to be weary of relying too heavily on the interpretation of those in authority. They do as much as they can to put the text in the hands of the people. They want to ensure that every believer has the ability to hear God for themselves, a mindset that democratizes the way we intepret the Bible. Therefore, “simplifiers” tend to be generous when it comes to the messy process of attaining truth. They don’t mind the ambiguity that comes with this kind of approach.

Champions of the second version, who we’ll call the “cautious,” remind us that although many can hear the word of God, very few understand the depth of its truth. In addition to affirming the “priesthood of all believers,” the “cautious” emphasizes the distinctions within that priesthood Martin Luther lays out for us. They recognize the evident differences between those who are spiritually mature and those who are not. They aren’t afraid of making hierarchical distinctions within the body and they embrace the responsibility God places on church leadership to guide the flock.They would rather reproduce one solid disciple grounded in the word than hundred disciples who have vague understanding of scripture. They understand that humans are prone to wander so their approach ensures that a strong foundation is built with a robust theology. They are realists when it comes to the man’s ability to follow through.

In my opinion, these two lines of thought create the framework in which we discuss discipleship methodology. I know many of us will claim to be somewhere in the middle, but depending on your history with the church, your personality or values, you are likely to see through the lens of one or the other.

Which line of thought resonates with you more?

A Convenient Generosity

Give and Take

Often times, it’s a good idea to take a step back and examine the culture we live in. A guy who gets me thinking, and slightly cynical about the culture we live in, is Slavoj Zizek. He’s a unique character who comes from a completely different vantage point from me, but he sure knows how to dismantle our western culture. In one particular observation, he dissects the way in which charity is evolving in the west (click to watch his lecture). He points out how we have been able to merge two opposing ideas, consumerism and charity, into one motion. That when we buy a cup of coffee from Startbucks, we are also helping farmers in Ethiopia earn a fair wage, that when we buy a pair of shoes from TOMS, we are also giving a pair to a poor child in need. When you think about it, it’s a significant shift in the way we think about charity. We’ve somehow made it possible to give in the midst of receiving. As charity continues to be embedded into the way we consume, it is becoming more of a supplement to our consumption rather than an isolated action itself. This has become the new default mode in which we give. It’s generosity with a tax receipt.

Just look at the commercials on TV. Whether it’s Ronald McDonald houses or BP’s investments in the gulf coast, it seems like companies advertise their charitable contributions to society more than the products or services they provide. The eco-friendly, social justice angle of business seems to sell, and these days, they’re not afraid to let their generosity be made known. It seems like “going green” and investing in communities have become a foundational pillar in how marketing is executed.

But whatever happened to giving in secret, not letting your right hand know what your left hand is doing (Matt 6:3). It’s hard to find where the sacrifice in all of it is when we’re able to give and receive in one single motion.

More recently, the scriptures have been teaching me the simple truth of giving without expecting anything in return. It may sound obvious, but that’s a revolutionary idea in our culture today. It feels like some kind of string needs to be attached to our gift, a paper trail we leave in order for us to personally capitalize on our contribution.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind getting a tax receipt or buying a pair of TOMS, but it’s important to be aware of societies influence in the way we give. Pure sacrifice isn’t suppose to be convenient. Giving isn’t meant to suit our lifestyle or personal agenda. It usually sets us back, hurts our wallet or costs us something of value. In my opinion, it resembles the gift on the cross. It has no conditions, no expectation of a return in investment. It’s a loan too heavy to pay back, a favor too large to return. That, my friends, is the gospel’s renditon of charity.

Out of Character


If you’ve ever read any of previous blogs, you’ll notice that I spend a lot of time discussing the subject of “humility”. To be honest, I probably talk and write about it a whole lot more than I live it, but none the less, humility has been one of those characteristics I hold with high regard. And because this concept means so much to me, I am extremely conscious of the moments where my pride gets the best of me. I try to be careful not to speak over others, I’m cautious to detect any hint of arrogance in my tone, and I strive to be sensitive in how I assert myself among others. But recently, I’ve been realizing that my aspirations to be humble has often distracted me from actually loving others. I know that’s an odd thing to say, but when character development becomes an ultimate goal, I often care more about how pure my motivations can be than about how much I can serve those around me.

Don’t get me wrong, character development is a huge part of our spiritual formation, but there’s a danger when it’s developed without others in mind. It’s of no value when it becomes an end to itself, when it’s done for the singular purpose of personal health and a clear conscious. Although a strong character will have tangible effects in the way we interact with others, we must always develop it in light of the greatest commandment to love God and to love our neighbour.

Although taming our tongue is an extremely important practice, certain situations require an assertive tone whether we’re being humble about it or not. Often, out of fear that my pride might get the best of me, I would withhold words that could defend someone being falsely accused or another who I could possibly advocate for. I’m coming to realize that loving God and loving our neighbour isn’t always a clean and tidy process. When we’re in a battle, fighting for a cause, and defending the weak, we can’t be overly occupied about whether our character is perfectly in tact.

All of us desire to keep up a certain image of ourselves. Whether it’s the bold and assertive type, the strong and silent or the humble and wise, we tend to react to situations based on the kind of image we want to display. So when a situation arises that requires us to go off script and perform duties that don’t come natural to us, it becomes difficult to detach ourselves from the role we’ve committed to. But in these moments, you’ll realize how much you love someone when you’re willing to go out of character to fight for them. It’s the moments when an unaffectionate father gives you a hug, or when the outspoken chatty friend takes the time to sit and listen. It’s the times when the overly ambitious presses pause to make sure everyone is involved and when the timid places herself at the center of attention to support your case.

I see this is the life of Jesus, who took off his heavenly attire in exchange for human flesh, who in being in very nature God, chose not to use it to his advantage. Although he might have gotten dirt in his finger nails, it never changed who he was. His choice to wear modesty did not take anything away from his power. When you live to serve those around you, your rank in the hierarchy doesn’t effect the way you make decisions. There’s no dilemma in your mind as to whether your position or personality is suitable for scrubbing floors. Jesus didn’t stop to think whether washing his disciples feet was the “Messiah-like” thing to do. At times, we need to forfeit the idealized versions we seek for ourselves, in order to accomplish the task at hand. You might not want to be known as the one who speaks before he thinks, but some situations demand an immediate response. You might not want to speak out of emotion, but at times, the cause might require a passionate reply.

So it’s important for us to examine whether the development of our character is for the glory of God and the betterment of others, or whether it’s actually for ourselves. We can’t allow our need for a clear conscious to hinder us from rising to the occasion and we can’t permit our desire for pure motivations hold us back from being indiginate for justice and zealous for mercy.