Category Archives: Affirming Faithfulness
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases and His mercy endures forever; I recount His great faithfulness through my blessings.
On 20 June 2017, just before 5pm, I received another incredible gift from God—my beloved son. Praise the Lord! We are thankful to Him for Huiyi’s relatively easy pregnancy and quick labour, but most of all we are grateful for another arrow added to our quiver. With him, I am well pleased, indeed.
Some of our friends might already know that my wife and I take selecting names for our children seriously; we are meticulous, intentional and prayerful about it. Click here to check out how we decided on our firstborn’s English and Chinese names. And in keeping with tradition, I will journal on how we came up with our son’s names.
For starters, we avoided names that were too common, and we also wanted a name that appears in the Bible. We preferred a name that was derived from a biblical location, just like Eden. Thus, we thought of “Israel”, a nation that is special to God, but it didn’t go well with “Tan” and we didn’t want him to explain that he’s a Singaporean, and not an Israeli, for his entire lifetime. Haha.
But because we had considered Israel, we inevitably considered “Judah” as well.
In the Bible, Judah (pronounced as “joo-duh”, not “joo-dah”) made his debut as Jacob’s fourth son (Ge 29:35). It is a Hebrew expression that means “the praised one” and “thanksgiving”, for Judah’s biblical parents shared that sentiment when he was born. Judah then became one of the 12 tribes of Israel (Ge 49)—and the only tribe that remained loyal to King David’s family line (1Ki 12:20). When the Davidic kingdom split, the Northern kingdom was called Israel, and the Southern kingdom, Judah. What’s special about the Southern kingdom was that Jesus eventually descended from it (He 7:14).
Of course, Judah is not to be mistaken with “Judas” (Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus). I’ll teach my son to lovingly educate anyone who mistakens his name with Judas with, “Perhaps it’s time you read the Bible…” Hehe.
Well, we like Judah because of his actions in the Bible. In Ge 37:26, Judah intervened for Joseph’s life to be spared; that demonstrated leadership initiative. By being responsible for the family despite not being the eldest (Ge 43:1-18), Judah prevailed above circumstances and beyond limitations. I also love how courageous Judah was especially in Ge 43:9 and 44:18, as he took charge of the situation by boldly speaking his mind. And throughout the rest of Judah’s biblical narrative, he influenced the proceedings in his household and played a principal role in leading his family to redemption.
And of course, anyone who’s described as a “Lion” (of Judah, Re 5:5) gives the impression of an imposing figure. All in all, Judah just seemed like a young man who would lead the battle from the front. I love that imagery, which is probably influenced by my training as a tank officer. #oncearmouralwaysarmour
But perhaps the most significant thing about Judah was that he was the first to receive full blessings (from his father), without any curses (like some of his brothers). In Ge 49:8-10 (NLT), it reads,
“Judah, your brothers will praise you.
You will grasp your enemies by the neck.
All your relatives will bow before you.
Judah, my son, is a young lion
that has finished eating its prey.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down;
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants,
until the coming of the one to whom it belongs,
the one whom all nations will honour.”
As for his Chinese name, it was slightly more difficult because of the criterions we had set. Firstly, we wanted it simple, so like his sister, Judah’s Chinese name would be a single character (单名). It had to be unchanged from traditional (繁体字) to simplified (简体字) Chinese, so that no meaning is lost. It had to be in the fourth sound (第四声), so that it would sound unyielding as well as pleasant with my surname (陈). But most of all, it had to carry the meaning of “faith”, or along the lines of it, like “persevering”, “enduring” or “steadfastness”. Finding a single character that encapsulated all that was a tall order because I’m an #ACS boy and my alma-mater is (in)famously #anglominuschineseschool.
So the first person we turned to was Charles, a friend who has a PhD (!) in Chinese history (!!). He is the same church friend who gave our firstborn her exceptional Chinese name (晏). His first recommendation was 信. We liked it because it fulfilled all our conditions, but we were also open to other options. (As an aside, it would have been pretty cool to call my son 阿信 too, considering how much I liked 五月天. Ha!)
But since we were considering alternatives, I decided to consult Ps Walter, my superbly bilingual colleague and interpreter extraordinaire, for more suggestions. And after looking through two to three of his choices, we found one that was (close to) perfect. This new suggestion received rave reviews from Charles too. It carried the meanings of “perseverance”, “insistence”, “resolute”, “decisive”, “staunch”, “strong”, “firm”, “brave”, “fearless”, “urgency”, “determination” and “fighting against evil”, which are just about all we would want in our son, as a man, and as a future leader. (Yes, I’ve clearly done my research on its etymology.)
So, Judah’s Chinese name is 陈毅 (pronounced as “Chén Yì”). It is also a clever wordplay on 诚意 (“sincerity”, “good faith” and “frankness”). Well, 毅 has a few more strokes than we would have preferred, but a future ACSian could do with a bit more practice in Chinese! Haha! Incidentally, the English and Chinese names have similar meanings.
For Huiyi and I, the English name we pick calls forth the child’s destiny and the Chinese name describes the pregnancy journey. The lesson that God had been teaching us (especially my wife) in the year leading up to his birth, is to have faith in Him. (We’ll leave the details for a private sharing…)
We’ve always wanted to name our offspring after the fruit of the Spirit. So now we’ve got love (חֵן, “Chen”, 陈), joy (Eden), peace (晏), and now goodness (Judah, well sorta…) and faithfulness (毅). So I guess there’s still space for more! Ha-HA!
In conclusion, and on a serious note, my prayer and aspiration for my son is taken from 2Ti 2:1-2 (NASB),
“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
Hence, it becomes our prayer that our little lion will grow up to become a humble but bold individual who will lead others to praise God and give thanks to Him through his persevering character.
Family members and friends have enquired so perhaps it is helpful to explain what I understand about my medical condition.
I have an unusual and excessive growth of lipomas. These are fatty deposits. I think my body doesn’t know where to channel or how to process fatty acids so it gets dumped in random parts of my body. Some people have one or two lumps but I have a lot more. Having multiple lipomas is called Dercum’s Disease. According to NORD, “Dercum’s disease is an extremely rare disorder characterized by multiple, painful growths consisting of fatty tissue (lipomas). These growths mainly occur on the trunk, the upper arms and upper legs and are found just below the skin (subcutaneously).”
This is an uncommon condition, so rare that there is no known cause and no known cure. I am just thankful there is also no known danger. Apparently, these folks are most prone to Dercum’s Disease: older obese menopausal women. I fit none of the above four categories. None in my bloodline have it too. So I trust God for having a purpose in my pain.
Well, I need to remove these thorns in my flesh because they cause pain and discomfort. Some lipomas grow over nerves so it is painful when pressure is applied — like when Eden steps on me, or I get tackled during football, etc. Some lipomas grow in inconvenient places so it becomes uncomfortable — like on my wrist so it affects typing/writing, and on my back so I can’t lean against a hard surface (like a chair) for too long.
Yesterday’s surgery was my third. The first in 2007 was under LA, removed three lipomas. The second in 2010 under GA removed 25. This time, also under GA, another 20+ were removed. It is obvious that the lumps have increased with my weight gain; I’ve put on about 10 kilograms in the last decade. Most of the lipomas are on my arms, trunk, thighs and groin. I’m thankful that it’s not on my face, neck, palms, feet or on any joints. By God’s grace all these lumps are benign. The truth is, because this is not a life-threatening condition, it doesn’t scare me into a drastic change of lifestyle.
Unfortunately, I only bought my insurance after my first surgery so I can’t make claims for this treating pre-existing condition (the proper name treatment is called excision and biopsy of multiple lipomas). But God is good. He’s always provided for every operation and I trust him to continue to provide for my needs. For example, this time, the Lord’s providence came in the form of the surgeon, who is my church friend, and he has helped me defray the surgery costs and ensured that I have good care. I am grateful to God for him. Pray along with me that the group hospitalisation plan that the church purchased for pastors would be able to pay for this surgery.
The two to three-week recovery phase is always the most challenging because my mobility is significantly affected. Simple activities like sleeping and sitting (where I put weight on the wounds) and showering (potentially wetting it) or even using the bathroom can become troublesome. But the most arduous task is changing the dressing. Each dressing costs $2.50 (sigh) and I may have to change some wounds twice a day. There are also some wounds (on my back) that are beyond my reach so I need others to help me change it. So sometimes changing dressing and applying scar-reducing cream can take up to an hour.
I am grateful for family members and friends who have uplifted me in their prayers — thank you for raising your shield of faith for me. Every prayer counts. I am also believing that God my healer will one day heal me completely of this condition. Perhaps there’s a miracle waiting to happen with my body and I look forward to it. I have faith in God and I trust in His plans. For now, I shall look forward to my two weeks of rest and recovery, and I believe by faith that this surgery will be the last of my lipoma-related condition. Amen. God is good!
And yes, I’m going to make some lifestyle changes…
I have decided to take a mental break from preparing 14 messages (pray for me!) for this weekend’s Redeem Conference, next week’s youth camp at Elim Church and next weekend’s R-AGE Leaders Advance to record some fresh thoughts. Let’s see where this verbiage takes me…
A few times throughout the day, Huiyi will send me picture updates of Eden’s daily activities. She receives these pictures from her mother, who is Eden’s main caregiver from Tuesdays to Fridays.
And I have observed that more often than not, my typical replies to these lovely photos are, “I miss my family!” and “Love you so much!”, and not so much of responding to what Eden is actually doing in the photos.
Today, Eden’s 公公 and 嬷嬷 brought her to Jurong Bird Park. Eden looks so adorable in the photos and Huiyi commented that our baby girl “has such an awesome life”.
I wholeheartedly agreed with my wife. But there was a tinge of melancholy in my “Indeed!” reply.
As I thanked God for how blessed Eden is, a part of me yearns to be playing with her at the Bird Park instead of writing sermons in front of my laptop.
I found myself living vicariously through these daily photos.
I imagined myself taking those pictures and getting Eden to smile for the camera; I pictured myself pushing Eden in her stroller through the midday heat; I envisioned myself cradling Eden in my right arm, kissing her all over and littering her ears with, “Darling, Daddy loves you so much!”
Yes, I was truly experiencing life with Eden in my imagination through the actions of my in-laws.
And it got me thinking about the irony of parenting in Singapore; it is as if we bring our children into this world to have them being cared for by other people, and for them to spend time away from us.
When we are younger and more energetic, we have to work to earn money for our livelihood, and be away from our children. But when we are older and less spritely, we have enough money and all the time in the world, but our children have also all grown up! Surely there’s a way around this tension that I haven’t yet discovered?
My mother-in-law commented a few months ago that she is so much more active in Eden’s life than in her own children’s stage of infancy. She also said that that statement holds true for my father-in-law.
Both Huiyi and I were cared for by our grandmothers; I believe many of us in Singapore were taken care of by our grandparents and that (good) tradition seems to pass on from generation to generation.
As much as Huiyi and I are grateful for the tremendous support that we receive from our parents, we desire so much more to be Eden’s main caregivers instead. We are, after all, her parents — I mean, who wants to spend time with her more than us?
But the reality is, I have a day job (which I am most thankful for, because I enjoy what I do for a living) and by keeping it, I am fulfilling the other part of being a father by providing for my family.
On weekdays, Huiyi and I will only have about five hours with Eden — two in the morning and three in the evening. That is why, as working parents, we cherish weekends so much.
And that is why I treasure my off days that much more now because that’s the exclusive time I get to spend with my beloved princess and create memories for the both of us. On Mondays, I do not have to live vicariously through images on a mobile phone.
Every precious moment with my daughter is locked into my heart forever. I will never give up anything for time with her.
Oh man, I am getting emotional writing this…
On 18 March 2014 just after 5pm, I received the greatest gift in the world — my precious baby girl. I’ll chronicle the epic labour process in another entry but today, I want to record a memoir of how my princess’ English and Chinese names came about.
Names mean a lot to me. A name carries identity, prophecy and destiny. And sometimes, it does feel like if you pick a good name, you’ve got half the battle won. You see, I selected “Asher” as my baptism name because it means “blessed, joyful and happy”, as well as “the most favoured one”.
As for our children, we’ve already shortlisted a number of English and Chinese names. The plan was to pick one that described the pregnancy journey. We’ve decided in the second trimester that our firstborn would be named “Eden”, because like her name suggests, she has brought us and others around us so much joy and delight. In Hebrew, it means “paradise” (she’s our utopia after all). And practically speaking, Eden is a simple, two-syllable, and easy-to-remember name.
Some years ago, I discovered the meaning of my surname, Chen (陈). While its most obvious meaning represents the sun (阳) that rises from the east (东), it’s actually also pronounced like a Hebrew word (חֵן) that means “loveliness, grace, and favour with God and men”. Not too shabby for one of the most common surnames in the world!
We’ve always wanted to name our offsprings after the fruit of the Spirit and since we had “love” and “joy” already working in Eden’s favour, we wanted to select a Chinese name that either described love or joy, or another of the remaining seven parts of the fruit of the Spirit.
As a typical ACS boy, I knew I needed some help with picking the right Chinese name for my daughter. So I approached a church friend, Charles, who’s studying for his PhD in Chinese history, who had very kindly agreed to help Huiyi and I pick a Chinese name for Eden. We met for coffee one afternoon and went through a few possibilities. I mentioned to him that I wanted Eden to have a single character (单名) in her Chinese name. So instead of the typical three characters, all my children’s Chinese names will only have two.
It’s not easy find a name that fits with the dialect and English “Tan” as well as the hanyupinyin “Chen” so we decided that Eden’s given name on her birth certificate will simply show “Eden Tan”, without her Chinese hanyupinyin name. After all, when you do introduce yourself, you don’t say, “My name is Joey Tan Chong Yi” or “你好, 我是Joey陈崇仪 but simply, “My name is Joey Tan” or, “我是陈晏”.
After an hour of tossing up possibilities of his initial suggestions and the Chinese names that I preferred, Charles and I went off topic and shared about the respective journeys we’ve each gone through watching our wives get pregnant. Many of which are very private so I’ll leave it that way. But as with several seasons of my life, God has always been teaching me about what it means to surrender… And everyone knows surrendering (to God) isn’t always the most pleasant or easy thing to do. I told Charles that through this process of surrendering, God has really taught me about His peace that surpasses all understanding — that assuring knowledge that He is with me and His presence is all I need.
That little sharing seemed to have ignited something in Charles’ eyes. He began sharing with me a little of his own journey into parenthood and how he’s learnt to trust God for all outcomes. Then he paused, and it was as if he rummaged through the virtual annuls of thousands of Chinese characters in his mind, then keyed one in on his cellphone. With aplomb, he made a suggestion…
“How about this character — 晏?”
Unsurprisingly, I did not recognise that Chinese character at all. And I’m confident that unless I’ve explained it to you before, or if you’re also studying for your Chinese history doctorate, chances are that this is the first time you’re seeing this character and you, like the rest of the modern world, have no idea how to pronounce “晏”.
“It’s pronounced as ‘yàn'”, he explained, “and it means ‘peace'”, he continued.
Upon seeing “晏” and perceiving its meaning, it became one of those moments for me. You know, those moments where you kind of know, this is it. I think Charles must have saw it in my eyes too. Like “Eden”, “晏” had a nice ring to it and immediately resonated with my heart. There was a certain sense of conviction about it. I knew there and then (barring consultation with my wife) that “晏” would be Eden’s (only) Chinese name. “Eden Tan” and “陈晏” — what a perfect combination of love, joy and peace.
Charles went on to explain that 晏 in one character, carries the same meaning as 平安 (peace) in two characters. Not only that, but it’s “peace that comes with day” because it’s “日” (day) + “安” (peace). To help me understand this, he explained that we sing “Silent Night, Holy Night” because we are looking forward to the peace that comes in the morning, knowing that we have survived yet another unknown night; that’s why we chorus “All is calm, all is bright” in the following line. It was like a double Eureka moment for me — new understanding of that Christmas carol and new knowledge to appreciate the profound meaning of this Chinese character. Another way of looking at 晏 is that everyday (日) Eden will be filled with peace (安) — 每日平安.
Charles also explained that 晏 is one of those rare Chinese characters that has not simplified its strokes over the centuries; 晏 in written the same way in both traditional (繁体字) and simplified (简体字) Chinese. So that means that it’s meaning has not changed through time! In addition, what I also liked about this character is how feminine it looks — don’t you think it looks really pretty?
And finally, I also saw a pictograph in 晏 — it looks like the sun (日) is forming a protection (宀) over my little girl (女)! And if I may stretch it and “Christianise” its meaning, it kind of looks like the Son is watching over my daughter! In summary, looking at 晏 was like marvelling at Eden for the first time — love at first sight.
Through bringing our baby girl to full-term, God has indeed brought us joy and delight, allowed us to experience His grace and love, and taught us the precious lesson of knowing His peace that surpasses all understanding.
Eden Tan, Mummy and Papa love you very much — beyond what you can imagine. Thank you for teaching us love, joy and peace even before you’ve met us. You’re going to be an awesome, and very precious daughter. What a privilege it is for Huiyi and I to be your parents.
As I work in a church, my opportunities to meet non-believers are limited. I asked God to show me new ways to evangelise and I was inspired to redeem telemarketing for His glory. So I told myself that instead of rudely and curtly putting down the phone whenever I get a sales call, I will ask if I could pray for the person on the line with me instead. After all, this idea had been on my mind for a while now.
My maiden attempt took place a couple of weeks ago. I was on the way to pick up my wife from work and I got a call from a dude wanting to sell me insurance. I told the Lord that morning that I’d definitely step out in faith to do it. So I put him on speaker, listened to him make that sales pitch then I asked him for his name, and went for it.
“Hi Sam, could I ask you if I could do something crazy? Can I pray for you?” I tried to sound as natural as I could.
“Oh… Sure…”, he said politely, probably not wanting to offend a potential client.
I went ahead and prayed a generic, unscripted and spontaneous prayer of blessing over Sam. And that one day, he would come to know God for himself. When we put down the phone, he actually signed off with, “God bless you, Sir”. To which I said, “God loves you, Sam!”
I was so fired up by that random four-minute conversation that I decided to pen down different types of prayers for different types of phone calls. So I composed word-for-word prayers for insurance, recruitment and credit cards sales calls. And boy was I excited to use it!
Two weeks passed and I, surprisingly, didn’t get any calls. For the first time, I was actually disappointed nobody wanted to sell me anything or recruit me to join their company!
Until this evening.
I received a sales call from a telemarketer called Catherine. She wanted me to buy a savings plan from her bank. When I politely refused her offer and asked if I could pray for her, she was surprised. She said she wasn’t a Christian but I said I could still pray for her to bless her.
She must have been surprised when I began to pray out loud. “Heavenly Father, I may not have purchased a savings plan from Catherine but I pray one day she will come to see that You’re the only savings plan she needs. May you give her success in her next sales call and help her to know the only one who can save her. In Jesus’ name, amen!”
It was almost as if I had caught her off-guard!
Then I told her that since she has my number, she could call me anytime if she ever wanted to know my kind of savings plan.
Now, I’m looking forward to the next call I receive. I am praying that these small acts of randomness will open the large doors of redemption. Since they’re stuck on the phone with me, I might as well stick something in their minds for them to remember. I’m believing by faith that these two to four minute conversations will one day change destinies. Join me as I redeem telemarketers one by one!
I’m forcing myself to do this before I sleep so that I don’t sink into an unexplainable post-sermon depression; yes, once again I feel like I’ve preached the worst sermon of my life. And this is one of the lowest moments in my short journey as a preacher.
1. 322: our highest attendance for a combined youth service in a very long time. The GII Sanctuary was packed and buzzing with energy indeed.
2. 29: the highest number of newcomers for a youth service – proud of our youths who brought their friends and those who had the courage to invite.
3. 6: first-time salvations. And countless rededications. Without a doubt everything that happened tonight must be credited to God. All honour to Him alone.
4. Stella and Caleb: respectively, the brain behind the creative concept (we took a risk with this format of Easter) and the hands that helped the brain bring the plan come to life.
5. Swift: reading their praise reports on whatsapp and rejoicing with them for the success they experienced tonight with their region – something they really needed for all the hard work they’ve out in.
6. Worship: I could really sense the comforting presence of the Lord tonight and that the R-AGErs were so sincere in their response to God. Nell did a good job too – this young lady has a real anointing. One of those evenings where you wished you could linger a little longer.
7. Performers and crew: they just get younger and younger, don’t they? The average age of the youths serving and making a contribution across the board has lowered and their potential excites me. This X team was so committed and dedicated to their roles; they really pulled off something massive.
8. Soon Huat, his team of cleaners and the youths’ parents: for being so patient and understanding although we ended so late. My sincere apologies for that. I hope it doesn’t happen again.
9. Huiyi: who patiently and painstakingly encouraged, counselled and assured me from the moment I left the stage all the way until now. I cannot imagine sinking into this pit without her by my side. Thank you for praying for me and embracing me in my moment of weakness.
10. God: that He would even use a wretched, broken and untalented pastor like me to preach His Word, and was gracious enough to even send Yixian to encourage and pray for me – I didn’t deserve that. Father, I’m sorry for tonight. I’ll do better next time. Thank You for Your faithfulness and for showing up tonight – it would have been disastrous if You didn’t. All glory belongs to You.
It has been a humbling and forgettable night. In Jesus’ name, please take these negative thoughts and feelings away from me.
Okay, I need to sleep now.
I’ve said this many times – I have a dream job.
I still pinch myself every morning because God has given me the privilege of being the youth pastor of the youth group that turned my life around. And because of indebtedness towards this youth ministry, work never feels like work as it is something I’d have done anyway.
Huiyi and I wanted to start a tradition in R-AGE – a 开工餐 at the start of the year to kick-off the year of ministry. I gathered those who were working together with me as full-time staff (my ministry interns) as well as those in my Think Tank (key leaders in my strategic team). These folks are critical to the operations, leadership and growth of the youth ministry.
So after dinner last night, my wife and I went to Sheng Siong Supermarket and bought over 20 different ingredients for the steamboat dinner that we were hosting tonight. There was enough food to feed a small army. We told ourselves to go all out to bless the people who go all out to bless the young people. We wanted the eight of them to feel loved and like they deserved nothing but the best.
Together with my awesome mother-in-law (who kindly and generously offered me her time and energy), I spent most parts of today preparing the food. I think she put in the most work for this steamboat – she prepared the soup broth, marinated the meats and chopped the vegetables. As I ate lunch and did a little grocery shopping with her earlier today, I felt so incredibly blessed. It is God’s grace that I’ve found favour with my mum-in-law, and I am grateful.
And I realised that my wife and I are like Martha and Mary respectively – you need both types when hosting a gathering. She is amazing – she helped me clean up everything when we finished dinner – and this after a full day of work. I am blessed indeed! Darling, you’re a wonderful pastor’s wife – thank you for being a part of and embracing my ministry and calling as your ministry and calling. (:
The 10 of us ate to our hearts’ content and had a great evening together. It’s truly a blessing to serve the Lord alongside brothers and sisters whom you like and love. These young men and women are like my family. I cannot imagine leading the youth ministry without them by my side. I also cannot imagine R-AGE without them.
Ministry is all about relationships indeed. I thank God for being a part of these God-given relationships and the privilege to do life with them.