Monthly Archives: January 2010

my bleeding heart.

After four years, I will finally allow this letter see the light by publishing it on my blog. “Bleeding Heart” was penned when I was 23 years old. I’ve made almost no edits to the original content and kept it in verbatim as much as I can (including bolds and italics) to preserve its integrity. I’m using this letter to illustrate a point that I will make in the sermon that I am preaching over the weekend, titled “The R-AGE DNA”. It is my prayer that through this letter, you catch a glimpse of my heartbeat for youth ministry and my heart that bleeds for R-AGE. These are not just mere words; I’ve followed it up with action by stepping into full-time youth ministry with R-AGE. I truly hope that it inspires and encourages you. If you do read my blog before you hear my sermon, then do cover me in prayer.

November 18, 2006

My dearest beloved brothers and sisters in R-AGE,

You are receiving this mail because you are serving this youth ministry. I am sending this mail out to you after many days of prayer and consideration because the response to this could go either way. These issues have been burning in my heart for a long time and I think the time is ripe for me to verbalise them. This mail is borne out of my own initiative and passion for R-AGE, therefore I claim full responsibility for it. I am praying that it will spark off a positive reaction from you and that it will somehow ignite something in your walk with God, and more specifically change the way you serve R-AGE. My intention of writing this letter is to provoke reaction, but without offending anyone. This is as raw as it gets; these words come from the bottom of my heart.

I am passionate about R-AGE. I have been here since it inaugurated 9 years ago and I have seen R-AGE through the ups and downs. I am passionate about this ministry. I love the young people, I love my pastors, I love my mentors and all those people who have touched me in one way or another. I love the boys in my beloved TeamR-AGE, I love the people in CAMY and I love every young person whose life I am involved in. It has been a progressive involvement and I’ve never been so involved in my entire duration here. I am physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually involved. And I urge to you be! I love this ministry because without R-AGE, I’d never be who I am today. I am thankful to God for R-AGE. I thank God for His grace. I am living proof of God’s grace. And so, now, it is my turn, it is OUR turn, to make R-AGE the place for others, what it has been for us, for me. This place is my heartbeat. My heart bleeds for the young people in R-AGE. R-AGE is my battlefield and my paradise; R-AGE is my city of refuge. R-AGE is where I have grown and it’s where I wanna see growth.

How much do you love your ministry? My inadequacy in the English language is crippling my ability to describe how much I love R-AGE, really. I live and breathe R-AGE. This is where I belong. This is my home. I am an ambassador of R-AGE. I am a spokesperson of R-AGE. I am a fierce defender of my pastors and I am fiercely loyal to my leaders. I am devoted to this ministry. Try speaking ill of the ministry or of the leaders, and I’ll be on your back. I question rationales and theories no doubt, but at the end of the day, my heart longs for this ministry to realise its massive potential. This place has evolved to where I want my children to serve and be a part of, if God wills it. I take ownership of the ministry. Do you?

For years, I’ve been praying and praying for R-AGE and for God to raise leaders that want to see the ministry move forward. We need to be like-minded, there is a great need for that. We need to move in the same direction, which the pastors have set, as they hear from God. There is a great need for cohesion – amongst the leaders of all levels, the various ministries and amongst the young people. I am still praying. I applaud and thank God for leaders whose heart burn for R-AGE. But if you are standing on the fence, how much longer will you? It’s about time we started to unleash the immense amount of potential in the ministry. THE TIME HAS COME and we have to seize the day. We gotta have faith in what God can do in R-AGE! It’s about time YOU REALLY DID SOMETHING FOR YOUR YOUTH MINISTRY!

Let’s not delay a day further. We don’t have to live in spiritual mediocrity. We don’t have to be contented with JUST THIS. There really is so much more than this. A youth ministry utopia is really not that far away. It is not an absurd lofty idea that only happens to other churches. It can and it will happen in our church, in our youth ministry. But we, who are in it, must first believe in it. And we have to walk hand-in-hand. We have to run in the same steps. We have to look towards the same direction. To see people queuing for hours to attend an R-AGE service is really not that impossible.

I pray that you will serve out of commitment and not convenience. Don’t just serve because you have free time. This is not a hobby or a past-time; this is ministry! Young lives are at stake. Make time for it. Give priority to it. Spend quality time with people that are under your care. Get out of your comfort zone.

I pray that you will give your time, not just your talent. This is not talent-time. I thank God that you have chosen to serve God because you have a gift, but it’s so much more than that. Don’t take the easy way out. There’s so much more than just talent. It’s about heart. H-E-A-R-T!

I pray that you will be filled with involvement and not indifference. Don’t sit on the fence. If you want to do something, go ahead and get it done. Take initiative and make the first step. I think the young people deserve much better than a mere passive interest. They deserve nothing less than your best. Don’t shortchange them. Don’t shortchange yourself. Don’t shortchange God.

I pray that you will pursue and not just promise. This is not a wishing well. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be men and women of action, for it speaks louder than words. A sacrifice is a sacrifice because it hurts for you to give.

I pray that you will raise up young people and not rest on your laurels. There is a great need for duplicity, especially if you’ve been serving in the ministry for a long time. The greatest thing you can give to a young person is belief. Jenn Hui gave that to me – this is based on a true story, my life story. The best thing that he ever did for me was to simply believe in me; then he empowered me for ministry. I’ve never looked back. That’s what you need to do for them.

I pray that you will be in relationship, not in residence. If you love Jesus, you feed His sheep. Spend time with them. Invest in their lives. Pray for them. Impart to them. Share with them the many life experiences that you’ve had by the fact that you’ve lived longer than them. Teach them the Word. Wisdom is applied knowledge. Love them, for we love one another because God first loved us. I pray that you will move from passive liking to active loving.

Like it or not, YOU, as leaders, will determine the kind of youths that R-AGE will produce. You are responsible for their upbringing. Be excellent examples for them to follow. This is a call for us all – from the pastoral level to those in key leadership positions to those who are playing the basic leadership role. Don’t just make a difference in their lives… BE THE DIFFERENCE in their lives. The quality begins from the top. Inspire them to be an excellent leader of young people by first being one yourself. You have to lead by example.

I dream of the day that parents would flock to this ministry and they would be eager to be associated with R-AGE. They would be excited to call themselves a part of this ministry. They would be supporting their kids if they were to serve in any area. They would be the ones providing a spiritual covering over us. They would be our prayer warriors. They would be the spiritual fathers and mothers of young people who don’t have older folks to turn to. They would want to give, they would want to bless, they would want to teach, they would want to impart. In turn, they will receive. They would release their children to serve God and they would empower them to be involved. They would want to form the bedrock of R-AGE. Pray, it can happen. It WILL happen!

I dream of the day where we no longer have small little cliques all over the place. I dream of the day where all gossip and lying and breaking of unity would cease forever. I dream of the day where everyone – leader and follower, man and woman, boy and girl – come together to have fellowship, building each other up in the body of Christ. I dream of the day where there will no longer be any walls between young people. I dream of the day where apathy and indifference would vanish from the ministry. I dream of the day where our passion becomes contagious, and we’ll have a burning desire to see the ministry move forward.

I dream of the day when we grow so big we run out of space; the Chapel in Grace 1 and the Sanctuary in Grace 2 couldn’t even contain us. I dream of the day we become so expressive in our worship to God we become an example for other youth ministries in Singapore and all over the world to follow. I dream of the day we are so loud, so extravagant in our love for God and for each other, non-believers would flock to our church. I dream of the day our young people would become addicted to God. I dream of the day when we no longer have to ask our friends to come to church, because they’ll be the ones asking when the next service is, telling others about God, sharing with people the love of Christ.

I dream of the day where evangelism becomes part and parcel of the lifestyle of the young people in R-AGE. They would know what to say and when to say what. They would be unashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of salvation! They would speak life into the non-Christians. They would uncontrollably share their testimonies to their friends. They would be living testimonies for God where ever they are and the only reputation they care about is about what others think of Christ in them.

I dream of a thriving youth ministry – a leader of the youth ministry revolution in Singapore but also a quiet, humble, reliable supporter of missions and the lower profile ministries. I dream of seeing young people abandoning themselves in praise and worship. They feel free in God’s presence and they are not inhibited to do so. They just let it all go. It’s where their lives are changed. I dream of becoming a dynamic youth leader, and leading a legion of dynamic youth leaders who really would believe in Jesus so much they would go all out, to the ends of the earth for their Saviour. I dream of young people being equipped with the Word of God and having the abundant life that Jesus talks about, starving for the Word, turning away from their sinful ways. Being young is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

It is my earnest prayer that you become the catalyst in your cell group, in your ministry, in wherever you are in R-AGE! I am here to stay in R-AGE until God calls me elsewhere. I am dreaming big and I am gonna live the dream. This is home, this is where I belong, this is where I live. R-AGE is who I am. I love the young people and R-AGE because I love God. I’ll just keep on loving God and my love for the young people and R-AGE will keep increasing. It’s as simple as that.

I have flaws and I will have to work on the things that I have mentioned. But I dare to dream. And I dare you to dream. I dare to believe. I dare to inspire. I dare to influence. I dare to commit. I dare to rise up to the occasion. I dare to lead. I dare give it all. I dare to put myself aside. I dare to dream. I dare. Do you?

I am committed to make things happen in R-AGE. Now, will you join me? The time has come. The time is now.

Yours truly,
A product of God’s grace,

Joey Asher

“Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing;
I am absolutely nothing without Christ.”

coveting prayer.

Extracted from Wikipedia:

Adiposis dolorosa, also known as Dercum’s disease[1] (and which is different from Ander’s disease in which painful or painless fatty growths that do not resolve with weight loss), is a rare disease characterized by multiple painful lipomas[2] that arise in adult life… …It also occurs in men and women of all ages. The fatty tumors are most often located on the trunk and limbs with sparing of the face and hands. It was first formally described by Francis Xavier Dercum in 1888.

A disease accompanied by painful localized fatty swellings and by various nerve lesions… …Dercum’s disease is a rare disorder in which there are fatty deposits which apply pressure to the nerves, resulting in weakness and pain. Various areas of the body may swell for no apparent reason. The swelling may disappear without treatment, leaving hardened tissue or pendulous skin folds.

Read more here.

That’s the most current (and I think most accurate) diagnosis of my condition. I’ve already scheduled a surgery on 9th March to remove all the lumps (approximately 20+) on my body; it will be the first time that I’d be under general anesthetic. I could have gone for the operation before Chinese New Year but I didn’t want to fly to Sri Lanka risking infection with open wounds. If you are reading this blog, please pray that:

  1. Every lump to be identified and completely removed.
  2. No recurrence or regrowth.
  3. Root of the problem be eradicated.
  4. Insurance to cover 100% of medical and hospitalisation expenses (about S$3,000).
  5. No side or post-surgery effects.
  6. Surgeon to have skillful hands so that I won’t be left with unsightly scars.
  7. Peace of mind and trust in my Jehovah Rapha.

While you’re at it, do pray for the REAL team too. We are heading to Tanjung Pinang in Pulau Bintan (Indonesia) from 23-25 January. Our ministry includes preaching, sharing testimonies, conducting children’s church and youth programmes, giving English tuition, visiting homes as well as presenting a special item. RL and I will be leading a team of nine boys and six girls. Prayer pointers include:

  1. God’s anointing to accomplish His work for His glory alone.
  2. Good health and quick recovery for those who become unwell.
  3. Journey mercies in sea and road travels.
  4. Wisdom to do what’s right and appropriate.
  5. Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.
  6. Flexibility when programmes change.
  7. Favour of the locals.

Thank you for praying. Have a good weekend.

leaving a legacy.

For this blog, I refrain from narrative writing, but I want to testify of God’s goodness, so here it is.

This afternoon, just before my champs headed for lunch, I taught them Steve Green’s “Find Us Faithful”. For some reason, I was impressed to do this last night when I was seeking God for them. As it turned out, this simple one-song singspiration unexpectedly evolved into a powerful time of ministry. As the tears streamed, hearts responded, eyes turned, emotions stirred, hands raised and commitments evoked, I’d like to believe that God was doing a work of renewal and refreshing in their perhaps jaded journey.

I prayed over them and challenged them to remember why they have decided to be a part of REAL. And as I prayed, I was convinced that we cannot and will not be able to accomplish the upcoming work and undergo the remaining training by our own strength and motivation. We have to and must turn to God, for it is His grace that would see us through and His power that would be perfected in our weakness. I felt so much passion dripping in my prayer and God’s anointing really moved me to tears.

In a week, three would depart from this group and in a month, I’d graduate the remaining 12. (I anticipate it to be a bittersweet sentimental moment.) I reminded them again that the success of REAL is not about what happens or is completed in these two months but about who they will turn out to be in the years to come. What is the legacy that they desire to leave behind for future REAL participants and the current and next generation of young people? What is the legacy that you want to leave behind for others who would come behind you?

So before the REAL team writes their own song, I hereby declare this timeless classic to be REAL programme’s official theme song. The ministry in L4R7 was undoubtedly the highlight of today. God’s presence was so strong in the room; I believe we were standing on holy ground.

Find Us Faithful
by Steve Green

We’re pilgrims on the journey of the narrow road
And those who’ve gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who’ve gone before us, let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we’ve left behind
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find

Repeat chorus

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

time to colour.

The blog’s looking a little monochrome and so it’s time for a splash of colour. I snapped this picture while I was on the coach with LK, on our way back to Singapore from Port Dickson. God’s creativity amazes me to no end – it was probably effortless for Him to create a scene like that. How could our “art” ever compare to something as majestic as a fireball crawling down the empyrean into an invisible horizon? Enjoy.

if it was up to us, we’d already be struck dead.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

I’m confident that almost every believer is familiar with this verse; it’s like our perpetual get-out-of-jail-free ticket and our permanent licence to do (pretty much) whatever we want and get away with it. Of course, if you are a mature believer, you’ll slowly realise that God’s grace should empower us not to sin some more, but to sin no more; the grace of God should empower us to do what the truth demands. I think I’ve mentioned that somewhere in one of my earlier entries.

Now, the question that I’d ask is, “Who or what is God faithful and just to?” That was what I posed to my REAL champs this afternoon, at the aftermath of their Old Testament Overview, where they learnt that the overarching theme of Exodus is the faithfulness of God by His demonstration of fulfilling what He has promised (i.e. Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt).

A knee-jerk response to the above-mentioned question would be He is faithful and just to me or He is faithful and just to my repentance. Think about it for a little bit longer. Do you really think that God’s forgiveness and cleansing was based on you or to your repenting efforts? If it was so, you’d be already be struck dead! I’m inclined to think that if God was really just to us (i.e. as a judge would demonstrate justice in a court), we’d get the death sentence ten times over simply for being unable to meet the requirements of His laws; after all, it is stated that the wages of sin is death (ref. Romans 6:23).

Thankfully for us, God is just to Jesus Christ, not us. That’s the reason why God has forgiven our sins and has cleansed us from all unrighteousness! By taking the fall for us, Christ presents us righteous before God. I’m convinced that we are absolutely too sinful and unholy to be in the presence of a holy God but we are allowed access because when God views us, He sees the atoning sacrifice of Christ and not our sin. By the sheer unchangeability of what Christ has already done for us on the cross, we can therefore approach God with confidence, knowing that we’ll be forgiven and cleansed every single time. God is faithful to what Christ did in our place.

We’ll never be able to fulfil our side of the promise, unlike Christ who has already fulfilled His and therefore, permits us to have communion with God. Now, that’s what I call a demonstration of a promise! I gave God the glory as I saw the REAL kids nod their heads away as they learn a new truth and it is my prayer that you will be liberated as you discover a new way to apply this familiar scripture into your life.

scrunitising yourself.

It seems that blame-shifting and responsibility-shirking has become ingrained in our systems. Time and again when something goes wrong, we never fail to push the blame to someone else and absolve ourselves of all fault. It happens everywhere – home, school, work, ministry and with friends. We are always reluctant to believe that we can be at fault, or at least, we have too much pride to admit that it might just be our mistake.

For instance, I’ve seen many people join and leave their church. More often than not, when they exit, they will find a pastor to crucify, a preaching style to criticise or a leader to cuss. I managed to do this of course, but in a less violent way. When I decided to leave my former church for Grace, I politely gave reasons like “you need to be 18 before you can serve”, “when the pastor preaches it’s like he’s scolding us” and of course the timeless classic of “it’s a family church that’s too cliquish”.

Surely we are familiar with these “justifications” when we considered leaving our church:

“Oh I prefer a more expository style of preaching.”

“The leaders are too demanding.”

“The youth group has too many rules.”

“I feel that I can’t grow anymore because the teaching is too basic.”

I think I recall BH (who happens to be one of my favourite speakers) saying something like this before, “If there was a perfect church, you wouldn’t be in it“.

Well, what is my point then? I think it’s always easier to change ourselves than to change other people.

  • Before you complain about your imperfect church, ask if you’ve been a good member.
  • Before you lament about your nagging mother, ask if you’ve been a good child.
  • Before you carp about your boring job, ask if you’ve been excellent in all your tasks.
  • Before you grumble about your substandard school, ask if you’ve been a good student.
  • Before you whine about your unsatisfactory grades, ask if you’ve been studying hard enough.
  • Before you grouse about your small allowance, ask if you’ve been a good steward of money.
  • Before you mutter about your weird cell, ask if you’ve been putting effort to unify everyone.
  • Before you kvetch about your disloyal friends, ask if you’ve been a reliable buddy.

So I urge everyone to do some self-scrunity once in a while. It may do you more good than harm.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)

leadership reflections.

“Leadership is a process of influence. Anytime you seek to influence the thinking, behaviour, or development of people in their personal or professional lives, you are taking on the role of a leader.” (Blanchard & Hodges)

Of the countless number of leaders who have influenced me in my decade of development as a leader, the two men with the greatest influence in my life at this point in time would undoubtedly be RY and PL. While RY has sharpened me in ministerial skills and PL in my relational skills, I cannot quite compartmentalise their influence in my life because they have taught me so many invaluable life skills in both arenas.

I am quietly confident enough to believe that God has used me well over the last decade as an influence with a good number of (young) people; I say this adorning a hat of privilege, not pride. I’ve had opportunities to take up leadership positions wherever I’ve gone and it has certainly aided my personal character development. Now I am given the privilege to have direct influence over the REAL kids, the leadership core of the G2 Youth Community as well as the youths that I personally mentor.

A jump in thought here, but the question then is, “Am I seeking to serve or to be served?” As far as I know, my leaders have always served me and to the best of my ability to be honest, I’d also like to think that I’ve been serving those under my leadership. After all, I always believe that there’s almost nothing for me to gain or lose when I lead people; it’s always for their own good, not mine. Thankfully, this leadership ethos that I have adopted over the years is consistent with the leadership model that I will now actively adopt – the one of Jesus Christ.

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

Regardless of whether I serve in the ministry or marketplace arena, taking on the leadership legacy left behind by Jesus is never going to be an easy call. In a society where the outspoken ones are apparently deemed as the “best” leaders, the meekness of Jesus greatly opposes our educated mindset. It is especially prevalent for me because I fall into the category of a vocal leader who is always seen and heard. Hence I have much to learn before the promise of an inheritance of the earth is given to me (ref. Matthew 5:5).

I must condition myself to learn the power of listening intently, keeping silence and withholding opinion. This year, it is my earnest prayer that God will raise my leadership effectiveness and influence to a whole new level for His sole glory. The leadership style of Jesus focuses a lot on the workings of the insides instead of the works on the outsides. I desire to develop to be and to lead like Jesus, not just to do what Jesus did or would do.

In conclusion, I aspire to consider this thought in all my dealings with people and situations: WWJB – Who Would Jesus Be?

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