Monthly Archives: November 2010

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top ten motivations behind the insane marathon decision.

In the past few weeks, I’ve already clocked 5km, 10km and 15km in the build-up to my second full marathon. I’m supposed to clock 20km next Monday but there’s a part of me (read: knees) that feels it isn’t really a good idea and that I ought to just stop at the 15km mark. Although it’s been physically demanding, I’ve enjoyed getting myself into shape and just sweating it out.

When I was younger (and a lot fitter), I used to speak in tongues, worship and pray during my runs (and I must say I went at a much faster pace!). But these days, I have to focus all the remnants of energy on catching my breath! I do look forward to communicating with God this way again once my physical stamina improves. For those of you live in the Ghim Moh/Holland Road vicinity, you can consider embarking on these running routes which I have created.

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5.3km – 31m 37s.

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10.4km – 57m 59s.

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15.1km – 1h 36m 20s.

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Scheduled for 15 Nov.

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Scheduled for 22 Nov.

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Now, no one in the right frame of mind and wrong frame of fitness will sign up for a marathon; I have no idea what possessed me when I registered for it this year. So, in my attempt at self-consolation, here are ten reasons why I’ve bordered on insanity, again.

Before the marathon

1. Forces me to exercise regularly so that I don’t collapse during the marathon; this should make me more disciplined and of course, fitter!

2. Bonding together with fellow runners who’ve also signed up for the marathon; this hasn’t happened yet, but I’m pretty sure it will.

3. Makes me watch my dietary habits; I’ve eaten too much (rubbish) and it has really perpetuated ill-health.

During the marathon

4. I can’t wait to design a runner’s tag that will bring glory to Jesus!

5. I can’t wait to run with this tag that will bring glory to Jesus!

6. I can’t wait to encourage others who are also running to bring glory to Jesus!

7. I really enjoy the camaraderie in running in cadence and to motivate and be motivated by fellow runners.

After the marathon

8. Bragging rights! I’m going to wear the finisher shirt with so much pride; I think it’ll be an achievement to have run two marathons!

9. Storing stories for my grandchildren – “Do you know Gong-Gong ran two marathons before?” – and watch their completely unconvinced facial expression as they try to reconcile it with the sight of my big belly.

10. Motivation (and madness) to sign up (again) for the 2012 marathon at a discounted price!

Well, regardless of whether you’ve signed up or not, I’d be delighted to have you join me for a run whenever our schedules are able to coincide. Holler then!

finally, the winner is…!

All right, this post comes 125 entries later, but as the cliché goes, better late than never!

Many moons ago, I set up a competition to give away a handsome, spanking new branded NKJV Bible (worth $40+) and there were a number of people who very kindly submitted their reflections. I took a million years to decide on the winner and when I finally decided on the winner, I never found the right opportunity to pass her the gift! But last Friday, we finally met and I was delighted to give her the Bible.

Basically, the task was to extract a quote or an entire article to reflect on, and the winner is… SERENE WEE!

Thank you for taking part in this little competition and thank you for your support! Please allow me to share with you her two-page winning essay; she has written her insights based on the article, “you plant seeds, not pluck fruits.” I sincerely hope you enjoy reading her thoughts as much as I have!

Please consider this my entry to your competition. Reason being, this post came at just the right time in my life, and my thoughts about them are particularly personal. As you know, I am not all that involved in the youth ministry, but as a children’s church teacher a lot of the things you mentioned I find applicable to children’s ministry as well.

Childhood is the soil which determines what sort of teenagers and adults these kids grow into. If that is any indicator, then I must admit that I am literally stunned sometimes. I think, “If they can be so selfish, so rude, so cynical even at such an age, what then?”

“let them be, let them fall and let them learn”

This struck me particularly because I realise there are times when “No! Don’t do that!” doesn’t cut it anymore. Not that setting boundaries is not important, but after one whole week of being restrained in a classroom of 40 children, constantly shouted at to keep quiet, I think church teachers should strike a better balance when we see them on Sundays. Honestly, this phrase of yours really got me thinking about the children’s perspective, and how they may react to my actions, more.

“I encourage you to manage your expectations”

I think sometimes we’re so caught up on helping the child to achieve the “best” and forsaking the process, just as in the secular world. I was doing a craft with my class the other day, when this boy asked me if he could colour his foam flower with a marker. I looked at the flower and the flower itself was coloured, so I thought, if he adds colour on it, it wouldn’t look nice. So I said, no. But later I wondered why I wanted to wrest artistic license from him just because I thought it would look nicer. The craft was for mother’s day, and is not the child’s own effort, creativity and sincerity more important than “niceness”? With my control, he had one less chance to learn. And this is of course applicable in so many things.

“Their encouragement is a bonus, not a necessity; I’d love to receive it, but I do not need it to do what I am called to do.”

Yes, yes and yes!

“For if a leader is motivated by recognition and appreciation, he is sure to be left disappointed and disillusioned at some point.”

It is through personal experience that I know this to be true as well. I am a person who is very motivated by appreciation. Give me one nice phrase and I could probably remember it for life. But this can really distract from the primary purpose of ministry. Not only in terms of wanting recognition more than serving God faithfully, but in terms of what KIND of recognition is craved for.

In children’s church there are weeks when we have to do master teaching, which is basically teaching the lesson. Teachers have the freedom to structure the lesson as they will, and they can add in whatever games, object lessons etc. that they think would help bring the point home better. After weeks of hearing other teachers say “oh you teach so well”, and “oh the background you use for your powerpoint slides are so nice!” I found myself one night before a particular master teaching session, trawling the internet for nice backgrounds. My dad looked at me and said, “Instead of spending so much time on this, why don’t you spend more time praying for the children?” Wake up call!

And sometimes when leading worship (yes we juggle multiple roles in CC haha), I find myself judging the success of the worship session based on how many children are singing, and how many are raising their hands. While I do believe an outward expression of praise is important, I’ve come to realise, that I cannot simply look at the surface. The last thing the world needs is to have children learn hypocrisy at a young age. And if the children DON’T sing, will I then stop praising God with all my heart?

A lot of times too, teachers tend to take some form of pride in their ability to handle the classroom. And again, while I view that to be important, how sad is it that I should be praised for being able to make a rowdy class keep quiet. This to me, is again, simply on the surface. To show love, I believe I ought to dig deeper.

“that it is our job is to plant seeds, not pluck fruits.”

The way I read this goes hand in hand with the idea of patience. Matthew (Tan) once encouraged CC teachers that though they may not see it now, the children they teach may one day grow up to really love and serve Christ – men and women of God. Perhaps it’s because I am not that old myself, but I will think, “Huh, must wait sooooo long lehhh.” And that is the thing about planting seeds. Because seeds take time to grow, it’ll need a lot of patience to see them grow to fruition, or, like you said, we may not have the privilege to see that at all.

And so it hearkens back to what rewards we are looking for. The ones in heaven, or the earthly ones?

But my children do surprise me. Some surprise me with little bouts of maturity, way beyond what I expect from them. Some rough and tough ones surprise me with their gentleness. Some surprise me with their creativity. Some surprise me with their smiles and loving words.

i find myself in a strange place tonight.

I find myself in a strange place tonight.

An arsenal of eight speakers shifted many of my paradigms.
But my heart was never at rest, wrestling hurt and intercession.
Then You hailed a verbal reminder of why we do what we do.

The lessons I’ve learnt will revolutionise my leadership.
But tainted it was by a brutal confession with a closest comrade.
Then You lifted my soul with the heart’s cry of a leader.

Effective comprehension precedes radical application.
Then I put us on the line for hubris bruised Your name.
But prayers and encouragement further fueled the fire in my eyes.

I find myself in a strange place tonight.

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Faith in What We Don’t See

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.

By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word, what we see created by what we don’t see.

By an act of faith, Abel brought a better sacrifice to God than Cain. It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference. That’s what God noticed and approved as righteous. After all these centuries, that belief continues to catch our notice.

By an act of faith, Enoch skipped death completely. “They looked all over and couldn’t find him because God had taken him.” We know on the basis of reliable testimony that before he was taken “he pleased God.” It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.

By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. He was warned about something he couldn’t see, and acted on what he was told. The result? His family was saved. His act of faith drew a sharp line between the evil of the unbelieving world and the rightness of the believing world. As a result, Noah became intimate with God.

By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations–the City designed and built by God.

By faith, barren Sarah was able to become pregnant, old woman as she was at the time, because she believed the One who made a promise would do what he said. That’s how it happened that from one man’s dead and shriveled loins there are now people numbering into the millions.

Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that–heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.

By faith, Abraham, at the time of testing, offered Isaac back to God. Acting in faith, he was as ready to return the promised son, his only son, as he had been to receive him–and this after he had already been told, “Your descendants shall come from Isaac.” Abraham figured that if God wanted to, he could raise the dead. In a sense, that’s what happened when he received Isaac back, alive from off the altar.

By an act of faith, Isaac reached into the future as he blessed Jacob and Esau.

By an act of faith, Jacob on his deathbed blessed each of Joseph’s sons in turn, blessing them with God’s blessing, not his own–as he bowed worshipfully upon his staff.

By an act of faith, Joseph, while dying, prophesied the exodus of Israel, and made arrangements for his own burial.

By an act of faith, Moses’ parents hid him away for three months after his birth. They saw the child’s beauty, and they braved the king’s decree.

By faith, Moses, when grown, refused the privileges of the Egyptian royal house. He chose a hard life with God’s people rather than an opportunistic soft life of sin with the oppressors. He valued suffering in the Messiah’s camp far greater than Egyptian wealth because he was looking ahead, anticipating the payoff. By an act of faith, he turned his heel on Egypt, indifferent to the king’s blind rage. He had his eye on the One no eye can see, and kept right on going. By an act of faith, he kept the Passover Feast and sprinkled Passover blood on each house so that the destroyer of the firstborn wouldn’t touch them.

By an act of faith, Israel walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. The Egyptians tried it and drowned.

By faith, the Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho for seven days, and the walls fell flat.

By an act of faith, Rahab, the Jericho harlot, welcomed the spies and escaped the destruction that came on those who refused to trust God.

I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more–Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets… Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless–the world didn’t deserve them!-making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.

Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.

Hebrews 11 (The Message)

three choices within our control.

Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

James 4:17 (New Living Translation)

James concludes this chapter by issuing us with a stern warning. He doesn’t get any more explicit than this – he reminds us that it is a sin to know the good that we ought to do and yet not do it. This to me is a near-impossible standard to uphold. God gives us the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament, which tells us the things we mustn’t do – kill, covet, steal, lie, etc; whereas Jesus tells us what we must do in the New Testament – to love God and our neighbour. A violation of either renders us sinful; it’s virtually impossible to acquit yourself of blame when the stakes are so high.

I propose that there are three things we can do with the life that God has given to us to steward. The good news is, these choices are ours to make. We can either spend it, keep it or invest it.

  • Hedonistic – You can choose to spend it on your pleasures and make your life all about pursuing your goals and dreams. In other words, this life is all about you. I think we are most susceptible to this way of life.
  • Egotistic – Or, you can keep it for yourself and be selfish, self-centred, and live like a hermit, as if no one owes you anything and you owe nothing to anyone. You inevitably become greedy, mercenary and inconsiderate. I think we unknowingly choose this way of life.
  • Altruistic – Or (and I pray this you’d choose this!), you can invest it in the things of God and in His people, knowing that one day, God Himself will give you great returns – some of it on earth and most of it in heaven. Life is fast and it will soon past; only what is done for Christ will last.

Think about it for a little while – if everyone in this youth group invested their lives in the good that they ought to do, imagine what we would be capable of accomplishing for God! If the local church comes together, unified in one vision to bear fruit, I truly believe that we will be world-changers, history-makers and life-shapers! There’s so much power in the potential of us doing good unto all men.

So my question then to all of us is – What exactly is the good that we ought to do?

When Jesus ascended to Heaven, He gave us the Holy Spirit and left us with the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. These aren’t great suggestions but great instructions for all of us to carry out. The former tells us to love God and His people. The latter tells us to go out and touch and impact lives for Jesus. I don’t know about you, but if you call yourself a Christian, then these two great instructions must sound good to you; these are what we must invest our lives in if life is uncertain and death is certain. And to help us along, we can depend on the Holy Spirit; we are not alone at all in doing good for the glory of God. May we learn to involve God in all that we do in this short life for His glory alone!

God is my space.

What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you will be boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.

James 4:15-16 (New Living Translation)

If life is uncertain and death is certain then how in the world are we supposed to negotiate our journey in this lifetime? What on earth are we doing for heaven’s sake? James proposed his resolution in verse 15, which calls for us to tweak our alignment.

It’s not about the planning but about the perspective, not the pursuit but the priority. If life is truly punctuated by question-marks and death completed by full-stops, then I’m grateful that God is my space – the punctuation most-often used in every sentence; every word is preceded and followed by a space. I thank God that His grace is laced in space!

James instructed us to renew our mind. We naturally speak with presumptuousness so he wants us to think differently and speak with renewed positioning. He’s blatant enough to say, “What you ought to say is”, which signifies a deliberate change in speech; speaking like that won’t come naturally, that is precisely why we have to intentionally train ourselves.

So how exactly does James want us to change in our speech? First and foremost, we must acknowledge God’s will in our lives. Everything counts for nothing if God is not in it. That explains why he began his sentence with, “If the Lord wills”. Then he says, “We will live”, meaning that we should check if we are even alive, for it is pointless talking about plans if we are not alive to carry it out. Finally, James says this last, “And do this or that”. Once we have committed our plans to God (and asked Him for His purposes in our lives), and ascertained that we are alive to carry it out, we can consider implementing our plans.

Of course, James knows we’re hardly so obedient; he correctly diagnosed the problem by identifying the opposite of seeking God’s will, that is, to boast about our own plans. This evil boasting is rooted in human pride, where we think we are in control. In Greek, “evil” is an active verb, which means that if we boast of our own plans, we are continuously doing evil.

I didn’t plan to return to Singapore last July. I thought I’d be in Shanghai for a few more years. But everything changed within a week. In a nutshell, I was caught in the middle of a senior management dispute and had to make a decision. I sought the Lord and I made the decision to return home. I had His peace reigning in my heart. Everyone around me was shocked – my mother, sister, colleagues, business associates and even Huiyi’s family – because I was doing well in Shanghai. In fact, I left in the same month of a promotion and significant pay increment.

But a still small voice in my heart assured me that it was all right to come home. I knew that the Lord was going to take care of me, so I obeyed. That was simply it. I had no idea that it would lead to what I am doing now with R-AGE; I didn’t expect myself to be a full-time youth minister so quickly but God knows His timing and I trust Him for it – that’s the beauty of life.

When we understand that this life doesn’t belong to us but to God, we will realise that all we need to do is to obey. Obedience is the highest expression of stewardship; the best way to see the mark of obedience to God in your life is to observe how you have stewarded your life according to what God has revealed in your heart. I do not look forward to the day when God puts His arm around my shoulders to commend me on all the good things I have done for Him only to sound a tad bit disappointed because I missed out on the only thing He wanted me to do; it is important for us to be faithful to our calling.

People say that change is the only constant but I beg to differ for God is the only constant. And if God is the only constant, then wouldn’t it be wise for us to bank on Him to see us through this uncertain life leading up to a certain death? We must remember that life does not revolve around what we want but what God wills. Our lives ought to be a declaration of the true sovereignty of God and never about the imagined control of Man.

If I am an investor and someone told me about a stock that would eventually be good for me, I would buy it in a heartbeat. The stock will fluctuate, but because I know that it will eventually be good for me, I will hang on to it no matter what. The Bible tells us in Romans 8:28 that we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. Our job becomes really simple then; all we need to do is to love God and live out His purposes in our lives.

death is a full-stop.

How do you know what will happen tomorrow? For your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.

James 4:14 (New Living Translation)

All of us share one thing in common – we are going to die one day. Love it or hate it, it will come true. Every complete sentence contains a full-stop. Death truly is the ultimate statistic for one out of one dies. Incidentally, just over these couple of days, Singapore witnessed the sudden and completely unexpected passing of a 19-year-old Darren Ng at Downtown East. It saddens me greatly that such a tragedy has taken place and more so because the boy is so young and it was over such a trivial matter! Sigh… But it also reminds us all that the only sure thing about life is death.

James addressed these businessmen because they spoke with such certainty and presumptuousness. His reply in verse 14 is straightforward, honest and in-your-face – “You don’t even know what will happen tomorrow”. We have a tendency to believe that we are in control of our lives, but to that, James retorted, “Your life is almost like smoke – now you see it, now you don’t!”

Morning mist is never seen in the afternoon; we’re here now but we can be gone tomorrow. However, sometimes we live like we’re going to be here forever but the fact remains – we’re not. Are you living to die or dying to live? I believe that once you learn how to die, you learn how to live. Let’s live our lives knowing that death is sure to come but that we have no idea when it’s going to arrive.

It’s common to hear (young) people saying that they will serve God when they enter a freer period of their lives. Let’s face it – there will never be a season of life where you will be less busy than you are now. (Besides, you can’t even guarantee that you’ll enter that period.) After secondary school, you have tertiary education; and after that, you’ve got to build your career; then you have a family to start and raise… There’s no end to it. Are you going to wait until you’re dead before you serve God? If you want to do something for Jesus, whether it is in church or not, do it now. Don’t be presumptuous and think that you have tomorrow to serve God because tomorrow may never come!

I was only afraid of death once in my entire life. And that was when I learnt about the hell that was presented in Haw Par Villa; it was actually the catalyst for my conversion to Christianity from Taoism. However, I don’t think the biblical hell is actually like that – I think it’s worse. That excursion made me ponder about death and honestly, my initial motivation to be a Christian was simply to escape this place called hell. I heard John 3:16 and I wanted eternal life because I wanted a ticket out of hell. Nothing else mattered. It was only two years later that I started to be serious about my faith.

Whether you admit it or not, deep down inside you, you fear the idea of death. But I believer that it’s not death that we fear, but the judgment after death that we fear even more. Whether you’re a Christian or not, you instinctively know that you have to stand before a higher being (God) to account for your life.

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of judgment.

First, those who don’t know Jesus Christ will be cast out of the presence of God forever. They will go to a place devoid of God’s presence. And I think to be separated from God’s presence forever is a terrible, horrible and miserable thing. Every time I sin, I feel a temporal emptiness and I absolutely abhor it; I cannot imagine what life would be like if I didn’t have God’s presence. To me, an eternity like that is unimaginably painful.

But when you are faced with the fear of death, you must remember that Jesus Christ has won over death and through Him there is eternal life. Our Saviour has saved us from eternal death! It is my prayer that regardless of how far you have drifted away, you return to Jesus and fall in love with Him all over again.

The second judgment is for those who know Jesus; this is when you will meet God face to face and He will determine your heavenly reward based on what you have done for Christ. What would God say to you? Would He say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” or would He say something else?

You must remember that life is a question-mark and death is a full-stop. But I thank God that that’s not the end of it; this is where God’s grace enters the picture. He calls for us to constantly align ourselves to Him. In fact, that’s what James has resolved to tell us in the next three verses.

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