Monthly Archives: December 2011

new season, same reason.

Joey, man of God, as you take on the mantle to lead the R-AGE ministry that God has established through the hands of Pastor Douglas Frederick, which was then handed to me and Pastor Cuixian, always remember that the man is more important than the mantle. Your pursuit is first to be the man that God wants you to be in order that you can fulfill the mantle on your life.

Therefore, watch your life and doctrine closely. Flee from all kinds of evil. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.  Fight a good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Devote yourself to this generation of youths. With all your heart, proclaim the Gospel passionately, preach the Word diligently, teach and guide lovingly. Guard what has been entrusted to your care – the vision, mission and values of the ministry. Love and feed the young people like that of our Good Shepherd who loves and cares for us to a point of laying down His life for us.

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Use the gift that was given to you by the Lord Himself through the laying of hands on you, to build the ministry from strength to strength, glory to glory!

In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who gave His life for the church, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. To Him be honour and might forever. Amen!

— Reverend Ronald Yow
Outgoing Youth Pastor
@ R-AGE Handover Service
10-11 December 2011 

What a privilege and honour.

This is it – LET’S GO!

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see you at bare bones 2011!

When I was first told that I’d be leading Bare Bones 2011, I was filled with a sense of excitement but also of uncertainty. I pondered over how I was going take a conference with a well-established five-year history to a new level.

I had to take one step back to take two steps forward; I returned to the basics. I wanted the conference’s central focus to be on God and His presence. I wanted to zero-in on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I know that lasting change truly begins when you give Jesus Christ the Lordship in your life.

The Lord brought my attention to Ezekiel 37:4 during the final plenary session at last year’s conference. I read on the next couple of verses and it hit me clearly and surely – to prevent the hype and buzz of typical youth events from taking God’s rightful centre-stage. I believe that Christ doesn’t require fancy lights or impressive performances to move your heart because if Jesus is everything, then Jesus is enough. He alone must be the sole X-factor at this conference.

You just need to be still and silent; approach Him just as you are, and not hide behind responsibilities, accolades or experiences. He desires you to engage Him with your core and not your shell; after all, it was King David’s heart for God that caught His attention. You don’t need to impress Him for Him to take notice of you.

The adage goes, “The heart of the issue is the issue of the heart”. My sincere question to you: “Would you dare to let God address the issues of your heart?” I believe that unless our heart changes, nothing changes; our behaviour doesn’t change until our values do.

Therefore, I want to encourage you to enter this conference with nothing but your “bare bones”. Ask God to breathe life into you as you attend the morning plenaries and evening rallies with an open heart; ask God to put spiritual flesh and muscle back on you as you take part in the knowledge seminars and skills workshops. Let His Word refresh and recharge you as you get renewed in His presence.

It is my sincere prayer that in this conference you will find new hope in Him and know Him in a deep and personal way. Come before God without any pretense and let Him touch you in a riveting, life-changing manner. After all, what do you have to lose?

Allow me to close this foreword with Ezekiel 36:26 – “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

Sign up for Bare Bones 2011 if you haven’t… And if you have, see you there!

top ten ways to encourage someone.

I know that “A pat on the back pushes out the chest”. And I’ve also learnt (and taught) that to En-courage” someone is to “Put courage into” him. Sometimes, all we need is for someone to believe in us and to be our cheerleader; the older I get, the more I want to be someone else’s cheerleader. Don’t underestimate the power of speaking life into someone else’s life – you might just help him to realise his potential and help him to unlock his capacity to do things beyond what he’s normally capable of doing.

As such, in no order of importance, here are my top ten practical ways to encourage someone:

1. Listen to him intently and be genuinely interested in his life. Learn to draw insights out of him and provide a platform for him to share his heart. Don’t patronise him or brush off what he says but take him seriously. A good encourager listens.

2. Give him feedback whenever you see him in action. Every teachable person would want to learn where he did well and where he could improve in; you could be the difference between his future success and failure. A good encourager coaches.

3. Pray for him whenever you get an opportunity to, whether you’re with him or not. God is more powerful and loves him more than you do and so it’s comforting when you direct his reliance above. A good encourager intercedes.

4. Spend time together because giving him your time is giving him a part of your life. Time is an irreplaceable and irreversible entity, so when you take time to hang out with him, it tells him that he’s important to you. A good encourager avails himself.

5. Find out what he’s been up to (and stalk him online). Subscribe to his blog and read it regularly; whenever possible, check out his activity on social media platforms and leave your comments. A good encourager validates.

6. Message him periodically and randomly. It’s always nice to know that you’re on someone else’s mind; whenever the Holy Spirit brings someone to my mind, I will pray for him and tell him that I’ve done so. A good encourager remembers.

7. Rebuke him whenever necessary, in private. It’s better to tell the truth that hurts rather than the lie that kills. This risk you take may just forge a deeper relationship, and to establish your spiritual authority in his life. A good encourager corrects.

8. Praise him verbally and audibly in front of others. Everyone needs recognition; when you acknowledge his good work publicly, he will be motivated to grow because someone took note of his effort. A good encourager acknowledges effort.

9. Remember what he shared with you from the last session. Those without good memories must learn to make mental notes. If it’s important to him, it should be remembered by you. A good encourager recalls.

10. Bless him with a meal or a gift. It’s about the gesture – be it coffee, a pen, a book, a meal or just a pack of chocolates. People like to receive (but it is better to give than to receive). I tell my youths to pay it forward. A good encourager blesses.

That said, I think one of the most powerful ways to encourage someone is to remind him of his potential – tell him that he can do so much more, and have so much more room for improvement. Inspire him to develop his gifts and talents. Plant an insatiable hunger and thirst in him to grow. Remind him (in a loving manner, of course) that he’s nowhere near his final product. I’ve learnt that this is one of the best ways to stamp out complacency and infuse humility into someone.

But some of you might say, “I always encourage people but nobody encourages me!” It’s true and I shall not deny that there’s not enough encouragement to go around the world. But let me be the first to declare that I encourage people more than I am encouraged, and it has done me a world of wonders. Contrary to popular belief, encouraging others is to our benefit.

Perhaps we can take a paradigm shift and think of it this way instead: 1) our job is to encourage others and 2) our prayer is that God will send someone to encourage us. You see, if enough people achieve part 1, then part 2 will naturally be accomplished. Don’t worry about what you cannot control; instead, focus on what is within your control.

The Greek for Holy Spirit is “Parakletos” and the Greek for Encourage is “Parakaleo”. Para means to be “Called alongside” (someone). And that’s what the Holy Spirit does – to walk beside us. So I’m inclined to think when we encourage someone, we are most like the Holy Spirit.

Yes, it’s that simple if you want to mimic the Holy Spirit – you simply need to encourage someone today. (Do it now!)

exactly how much should a leader give?

I attended the first session of the Fatherheart conference last Friday and while I appreciated what James Jordon shared, it was the ride back home with Garry and Peiying that I enjoyed more.

The two of them kindly offered to give me a lift home. I took my seat at the back and we caught up with what God was doing in our lives. The last time I had a chat with Garry was at the 40DOC thanksgiving service. And during that conversation, he shared about how he was contemplating whether to carry on leading the cell that he had been facilitating during the period of 40DOC. I was so encouraged to hear that he decided to obey God to serve as a cell leader despite his verbalised inadequacies.

Halfway through our conversation, Garry asked me a genuine question which I thought was a question most Singaporean Christian leaders might ask:

“How much should I offer to God as a leader? Exactly how much is enough?”

Garry’s a straight-talking guy – the man on the street – who wears his heart on his sleeve. He told me that he felt like he wasn’t doing enough as a cell leader. Like any responsible leader would, Garry wanted to do more. But he wasn’t sure where he should take the benchmark from.

I had all of five seconds to think about how I should respond to his sincere and honest question. I didn’t want to give him a Sunday-school answer or something that wouldn’t be of any help. He wanted to ask for my opinion because he felt that since I was leading R-AGE, I would be able to identify with his question.

I told him that to answer that question, we would first have to take a step back from it.

If we were to measure our performance as a leader based on what we did, then it would never be enough. A good (cell) leader could always give everyone a lift home after cell ended, or bless his members financially, or make hospital visits, or offer prayer and counsel whenever necessary, or lead multiple cell groups, or write cell curriculum, or host dinners for newcomers, or mentor the next cell leader, or lead mission trips, or call his members everyday, or organise fellowship activities, or conduct street evangelism, or…

It will never be enough; of course a leader could do something more, but there’s no end to it.

In my reflection, I think that the greatest decision that a leader could make is to obey what God is prompting him in his heart to do. It could be any of the above, or it could be simply to wait and not take any action. “Obedience is the highest expression of stewardship” – words of my mentor, Ps Edmund Chan, that I have already engraved onto my heart. It’s not about how much you do, but more of why and what you do, and who you do it for – God or Man? The right deed at the right time for the right person is as good as a divine appointment; the best thing a leader can do is to do what the Holy Spirit impresses upon him to do – it will always be perfect.

I also believe that the greatest gift a leader can give away is to give his people Jesus. Jesus (the Gospel) is undoubtedly the best gift for any believer (or non-believer). In my years of mentoring, I always tell myself that my main priority as someone’s mentor is to connect him back to the Vine (John 15:5). I am not Jesus – I cannot be there for him 24/7 – but Jesus can. If a person is properly connected to Jesus, he will eventually yield himself to the Lordship of Christ and make Jesus the Master of his heart and life.

One of the emblems of my life is that “Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing; I am absolutely nothing without Christ”. I believe that if one is not connected to the right Vine, the fruit that he bears isn’t the right fruit. Hence, I’m inclined to believe that the most important thing a leader could do is to give his members Jesus because Jesus is all they need (not you, fortunately or unfortunately). And if Jesus is everything, then Jesus is enough.

I am reminded of Jesus’ edict for Peter (and all of us) in John 21:15-17. (This is the same passage that I laid the foundation of R-AGE @ GII upon.) Jesus’ response to Peter’s triple declaration of love for Him was to “Feed [His] lambs”, “Tend [His] sheep” and “Feed [His] sheep”. I’ll elaborate on this with another post some other time (as well as how I passionately believe that pastors should just pastor) but for now, the question that I have for every Christian shepherd is, “What are you feeding your flock?” and “How are you tending your sheep?” If a leader can answer that with his conscience clear before God, I’d run over to pat him on the back on a job well done.

So exactly how much should a leader give? Not much – just Jesus – because if Jesus is everything, then Jesus is enough. Be a good shepherd – it’s a privileged position to serve God in.

when FhLY meets Metallica.

I’ve been a consistent recipient of strange dreams. And last night, I had one of the most bizarre dreams ever; it happened with such lifelike detail that I better write about it before I forget!

Now, the dream took place at Tom Lee Music (a music megastore in Hong Kong). I can’t remember who I was with but I know I was with a band buddy – I’m guessing he was either Ricky, Jeremy, Jenn Hui, Liang Zhi or Daniel. And the two of us were browsing the store, looking for the latest music records and a new guitar (don’t ask why).

Halfway through our shopping trip, we learnt that there was a special store feature for that day – Metallica was in town and its founding members Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield were going to perform an acoustic set in 10 minutes! (Now get this – I’ve NEVER heard a single Metallica song in my life and I don’t even fancy heavy metal and death metal music so I have no idea how they even got into my dreams!)

So together with the larger-than-life crowd, we were standing in the atrium on the ground floor of the store. After a little fanfare led by the emcee, Metallica made their entrance from the stage up a flight of stairs that came down from the second floor. (THE MEMORY IS STILL VIVID!) They opened the set with their most famous number, and although I can remember how it sounds like, I obviously have no clue what the song was called… They ended that song to rapturous applause from the leather-glad and heavily-bearded crowd.

Then they played their second song…

And it sounded so much like the introduction of Roller Coaster, except it’s done acoustically with an injection of heavy metal. My curiosity was instantly piqued – that definitely got my attention! They did several bars of the introduction (like any hardcore metal band would) and then the scarily-tattooed James started to sing, with gusto and aplomb…

“I SOAR UP… AND SLIDE BACK DOWN…”

!!!

Imagine my stunned face!

“I FEEL GREAT! NOTHING CAN STAND IN MY WAY…”

I was truly in shock!

And when they finished the second chorus, the both of them put their backs against each other and played Ricky’s guitar solo NOTE-FOR-NOTE. (This obviously, is the glaring discrepancy in my dream; only rock bands, not heavy metal bands, do this back-to-back action.) World-renowned musicians singing and playing Ricky’s and my song – COME ON, HOW COOL IS THAT!?

The next thing I know, I found myself at the counter – requesting an audience with their manager and agent, who unfortunately wasn’t around. So instead to speaking to him, I was referred to three Chinese old ladies (!), none of whom spoke a word of English but only Mandarin, Cantonese and Hokkien. I practically died there trying to communicate “Roller Coaster”, “Heavy Metal” and “Rock Music” with those old dames, whose faces I can still remember – wavy hair, wrinkled skin, chained glasses, gold bangles and jade rings no less to complete the look!

It was impossible to discuss royalties, fees and copyright issues with them – no chance at all.

By this time, Metallica finished playing Roller Coaster and moved on to their final song of the set. In yet another bizarre twist of events, Metallica shared their testimony of how they came to know the Lord (!!) and started to play “Leaving Ninety-Nine” by Audio Adrenaline – they were right about ready to evangelise (!!!) to the Harley-Davidson-esqe entourage! Impossibly unimaginable!

“I’d leave ninety-nine, leave them all behind, to find you…”

That, incidentally, is my iPhone’s ringtone… So you know what happened next…

BUT WHAT A BIZARRELY COOL DREAM!

I shall conclude in the words of the song made famous by Aerosmith… “Dream on, dream on, dream on, dream until your dream comes true…” This dream quite possibly fused together parts of my personality and aspirations! It’s amazing how creative we can get when we are dreaming. I love dreaming (and making my dreams come true)!

FhLY's first public performance @ Orchard Cineleisure in 2002. For now, my gigging days are behind me, but man, were those good days or what! Photo by Liang Zhi. From left to right: Douglas, Ricky, Jeremy and Joey.

if God was hungry, He would not tell you.

8 I have no complaint about your sacrifices or the burnt offerings you constantly offer. 9 But I do not need the bulls from your barns or the goats from your pens. 10 For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine. 12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for all the world is mine and everything in it. 13 Do I eat the meat of bulls? Do I drink the blood of goats? 14 Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. 15 Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory. — Psalm 50:8-15 (NLT)

There are generally two types of workers in church – those who behave like dogs and those who behave like cats. You see, a dog thinks, “You provide for me, you bless me, you protect me and you love me… You must be God”. On the other hand, a cat thinks, “You provide for me, you bless me, you protect me and you love me… I must be God”. And in my years of serving God, I’ve come across both types.

I believe that workers with the dog attitude serve God out of gratitude; it seems almost second-nature and instinctive for them to offer their time, energy and resources to God because of His redemptive work in their lives. However, there are also workers with the cat attitude and they serve God out of obligation, thinking that God actually needs them to serve Him. I’d like to commend the dogs of the church and speak in love to the cats, in light of Psalm 50:8-15.

Now, I don’t think God is picky, choosy or nosey about what you offer to Him. In my years of walking with God, I don’t think God has ever frowned at what I have offered. So the issue here isn’t with God, but with us, especially when we have a tendency to think that our offering to God is more important that it really is. God doesn’t have a problem with your offering so don’t make it a problem for yourself.

For those who serve God out of obligation – coming to church more than twice weekly, preparing a cell lesson, putting a song list together, counseling a troubled youth or organising an event – I am thankful for your contribution, but I also want to remind you that you’re not the only one who’s serving; in fact, there are scores out there who out-give and out-do what you have given and done.

Now, it is easy to get legalistic about serving God and once we start to compare our contributions with each other, everything becomes flawed. Therefore, I’m inclined to think that it’s not about the size of your contribution but the manner in which you contribute. Don’t serve God contentiously or competitively. That’s a foolish attitude to have. All of us are important to God, but none of us are indispensable workers.

Your output does not impress God – because everything you give to and do for Him belongs to Him anyway. Think about it – your domesticated gifts (“bulls from your barns” and “goats from your pens”) are His to begin with. Everything that you have honed and developed over years of training belongs to Him. And your undiscovered gifts (“animals of the forest”, “cattle on a thousand hills”, “every bird on the mountains” and “all the animals of the field”) belong to Him too. The way I look at it, what we offer to God pales in comparison to what He already has, in better quality and in abundance.

People often compliment me for my speaking and writing skills, as well as my leadership capacity. I am thankful for their generous encouragement but when I bring compliments before the Lord to ask Him to help me make sense of it, I know that these gifts and talents that I have do not belong to me. God planted it from the beginning and grew it over time. I would never take credit for His grace in my life. It’s always humbling to remember the route that I would have taken if Jesus didn’t save my soul. When people praise me, I thank them, but on the inside, I tell myself that it is God whom they are praising, not me. Reality check – don’t believe your own press.

No wonder God stated that if He was hungry, He wouldn’t even breathe a word to us because of how big-headed that would make us! I think King David wrote that because he wanted to remind us of our finiteness and finality. It would be preposterous for us to think that God desires and longs for our offering. Come on, what a ludicrous thought in light of the Almighty! God is already powerful and in control. Contrary to popular belief, He doesn’t need us to serve Him.

Don’t get me wrong – yes, the Church needs workers, but God doesn’t. It’s not about the work that we do but the attitude that we do the work with that distinguishes us. The scary thing is that we focus on making the work excellent and the job impressive for accomplishing it well would garner praise and attention from men. But how dangerous it would be if we do not check the condition of our hearts! It’s something that only the Holy Spirit and you would know… And we can’t deceive Him.

If I were to use my sanctified imagination to read this text, I can almost imagine a sarcastic tone from the psalmist when He asked the two rhetorical questions: “Do I eat the meat of bulls? Do I drink the blood of goats?” Seriously, I think we should stop patronising God with our “service” because quite frankly, it insults Him and makes Him look desperate for us. May God forbid that attitude! Get this right – God is never hungry and God owns everything. Don’t try to impress Him (like Cain tried) by offering something you think is impressive. How impressive is it really, if we give to God what already belongs to Him? Stop fooling yourself.

Instead, do the four things the psalmist suggests.

Firstly, always be thankful (v14a). In the context of God being all-powerful and in control of everything, isn’t our only and right response be one of thankfulness? I’m truly inclined to believe that an attitude of gratitude pleases God most. The most appropriate phrase to utter after you’ve been blessed is, “Thank you”. When we adopt that posture, it helps us to remember that we are helpless and not in control. It reminds us of our finiteness and finality, that we are mere mortal beings created by an eternal God.

Next, fulfill your vows (v14b). Obedience is better than sacrifice; how you obey God trumps what you sacrifice for God. Perhaps this is a good time for us to think about the many things that we have promised God: doing our quiet time, fulfilling the missions pledge, going on a mission trip, evangelising to our colleagues, bringing our classmates to church, spending time with our family, working on our weaknesses, etc. If we actually accomplished 50% of our spiritual goals, our ministries would flourish – I can almost guarantee that! A healthy and growing Church has healthy and growing members! My mentor says, “If you take care of the depth of your life, God will take care of the breath of your ministry”.

Thirdly, call upon God (v15a). I hang on to the scriptural truth, that if I call unto God in my day of trouble, He will answer and deliver me. I trust that God is my ultimate search and rescue team. He is the One who will lift me up and bring me out of pain and despair. He is the One who will show me the way to eternity as I run this race to see His face. There’s one thing that only Jesus can do that I (or anyone else) can’t do myself  – saving me from eternal separation from God. Let God be God and let Him deliver you when you are in trouble!

Finally, give God glory (v15b). This, I think, is the easiest of all to do, because it is a natural response. God’s grace is this: using the gifts of God for the glory of God. When we are thankful for all that He’s given to us, we will give Him glory; when He helps us to fulfill our vows, we will give Him glory; when God delivers us when we call upon Him, we will give Him glory.

So today, if you are a dog for God, continue in that attitude of gratitude. But if you possess a cattitude, then it is time for you to rethink the way you serve and honour God – in and out of church. Failure to do so would be a catastrophe.

continue to pray for R-AGE!

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Do keep me in prayer too. 2012 looks to be a massive year with the increased ministry responsibilities, a lack of manpower resources, embarking on my theological education on a part-time basis with a full-time workload, and most importantly, getting married. Lots of transitions… Lots of grace needed… Lots of prayer coveted… May Jesus remain at the centre of it all…

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