Category Archives: In Your Face
Being authentic is one of my codes of conduct; I don’t want to be perfect, I just want to be real.
AIYS 2012 concluded with a riveting message preached by Ps Jesse Dedel. I’m still chewing on it but I thought I could share the same excerpt from the article he used in his sermon.
Well, if my youth group, church or nation is going to have a giant rise up against it, and it’s going to need someone with Someone in him who is greater than this giant, then I’d like to volunteer to be this someone with Someone in him.
Whenever children are born at a critical time in history, strange, supernatural things seem to go on in that culture. And people in high places know it. When those things take place, it’s in the demonic world that Satan puts out the contract on children.
In the records of the Bible each time a mass destruction of children fell on the world, a KEY LEADER was about to be born. Moses, Jesus – a deliverer was coming, and hell was afraid. As we’ve seen, the mass murder of children is not a new idea.
The contract is out again. It has come in our time, and it has come for our children. What does that say to us? What can we learn from this awful slaughter? We must ask ourselves: What is there about this generation that makes Satan so afraid? What does he see or sense coming that has triggered such an awful holocaust?
In the times of Moses and the Lord Jesus, that rage missed its marks. The targets of that destruction escaped each time. And the ones that got away did untold damage to hell’s domain. There is something precious and important about this generation, so deeply under attack.
It may well be the last generation before Jesus returns.
It may have among its ranks of survivors the makings of a major spiritual miracle.
There may be leaders-to-be rescued from the sword that will lead an entire generation of the abandoned, loveless, and lonely into the promises of God.
I believe that the children being born today are part of a whole prophetic generation God is bringing forth, and that’s why the enemy is trying to destroy them in any way he can – both physically and mentally. In the demonic realm the contract has gone out – and the contract on children today is greater than ever before in history. Much, much greater.
Source: Last Days Ministries
I guess it’s about time I breathed life into my blog, again.
Over the last weekend, I preached the final installment of “The Call of Duty: R-AGE digs deeper into Ephesians”. It was based on Ephesians 6:10-24 and the armour of God. I titled the sermon, “Is there courage in R-AGE?”. I had the luxury of having three weeks to prepare for this sermon (due to the combined adults and 180° Easter outreach services) and extra time meant that this sermon could pack more punch.
Most times at the end of a service, I always feel I’ve preached the worst sermon of my life, but surprisingly, I enjoyed preaching this one. Not because I tickled minds with interesting nuggets of information, but because I felt that I had executed the prophetic burden God laid on my heart for the youths. It’s similar to Apostle Paul’s cry for the believers in Ephesus – to boldly proclaim the Gospel. I challenged two groups of young people at the altar; those who used to preach the Gospel boldly and those who have never preached the Gospel boldly before – that the Holy Spirit would strengthen them to do so.
While I was thankful for those who responded, there were more who didn’t and I wondered why – was it due to my inadequate delivery of the message, their apathetic spiritual condition or simply because God didn’t plan it that way? Or was it something else beyond my comprehension? I couldn’t put a finger to it but it drives me to intercede more intensely for my beloved youths.
David Lee was the emcee for R-AGE @ GI and at the closing of the service, he echoed what I had actually said at R-AGE @ GII – that the responsibility of evangelism doesn’t fall on the shoulders of the leaders, pastors and those who are more fervent in their faith, but on everyone who calls himself a disciple of Jesus. How could we remain unmoved if the love of Christ has already moved us? It is my earnest prayer that R-AGE would experience the Father’s love first-hand!
“Stop evangelising. Instead, start loving people in the name of Jesus”, I first heard Ps Edmund Chan say that when I traveled with him to Perth last October. He repeated that statement at the recently concluded Grace Leaders’ Retreat and it was a sobering reminder for me. I had a short SMS exchange with Gabrielle Ong this morning and I encouraged her not to give up on proclaiming the Gospel to her pre-believing friends. I told her that one of the most effective ways of demonstrating the Gospel is to find opportunities to pray for people – you “speak life” into them and they get a chance to see your faith in action. It works!
Back to the sermon… Well, I’m not sure about other preachers, but the thing I enjoy most about preparing a sermon is how much I learn and am challenged through what I read and write. I already know what God would want me to do in response to my sermon and I look forward to walking in obedience this week. It is my prayer that R-AGE would take ownership of the souls within their communities who haven’t met Jesus.
Even as I type this, my heart is moved by the compassion Jesus has for the ones who are suffering and the ones who do not yet know Him. I am thankful for the Spirit’s reminder in my life – that my occupation isn’t one of a part-time youth pastor but a full-time Gospel preacher! I must never lose sight of reconciling others to God through the Gospel!
It’s going to be an awesome week, my dear friends. Let’s raise the shield of faith on each other’s behalf, gird up our loins with the written truth, wield the power of the spoken truth and advance the Gospel for the King! What a privilege to shepherd R-AGE – I am thankful for this season of my life. God is good.
You either choose to be right or choose to grow; but if you choose to grow, you will have to learn to give up your rights. I take my comfort in Philippians 2:1-18. Teach me to see it from Your point of view Lord, because nothing else makes sense; assure me, dear Father, that this is a divine appointment.
Tonight, I am devastated and defeated, but tomorrow, I WILL FINISH WELL.
Have the Attitude of Christ
1 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Shine Brightly for Christ
12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. 16 Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. 17 But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. 18 Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.
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.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the most refined of leaders and I still have a long way (read: a lifetime) to go before I can say I’ve truly mastered the art of leadership. While I may not be able to come up with a definitive “Five Key Ingredients of Leadership”, I think I might be able to articulate what I deplore about unacceptable leadership.
These are the five pitfalls, failures and dangerous types of leaders that I’ve encountered (and conjured), off the top of my head.
1. The Indecisive Leader.
There is nothing more frustrating for followers than to subjected to a fickle-minded leader with a soft ear; he who seeks to please people instead of standing firm on decisions is he who eventually loses credibility amongst the same people. Once compromise kicks in, the best decision is usually abandoned and no one will benefit in the long run. Leaders must be courageous in their decision-making ability. It is unbelievably demoralising for followers to do double-work to make up for a leader who didn’t do his work properly.
2. The Insecure Leader.
Leaders who are insecure do not plan for succession and are afraid to give their power away. Eventually, their dynasty dies with their departure, their legacy disintegrates with their downfall and their people disperse with their descent. What’s scarier than an insecure leader? A proud one, for he will end up becoming a control freak. Insecure leaders tend to be myopic and never lead beyond themselves. They exist only to build their own name, which will eventually go down with them anyway.
3. The Inscrutable Leader.
If a leader can’t articulate what’s on his mind, it is his sole responsibility to find someone who can help him express his ideas; if a leader refuses to tell people what’s on his mind, then how can he expect his followers to understand where he is taking them? I’m of the humble opinion that all leaders must learn how to communicate effectively. Contrary to popular belief, communication is a skill that can be learnt, not an innate gift. Also, I believe that there is no leader is beyond investigation and no decision beyond scrutiny.
4. The Incompetent Leader.
For any leader to be effective in his undertakings, he must first exhibit a fundamental level of capital and capability. In short, he must be competent at what he does and it would be a bonus if he inspires the people with his knowledge and skills. If a leader is low on skills, it is his onus to do something about his inadequacy. I’d like to think that the saddest thing that could ever happen to a leader is when he is no longer teachable. And as for the adage, I believe that there is no dog too old to be unable to learn a new trick; keep up with the times!
5. The Inactive Leader.
There is nothing more uninspiring than a lazy leader without drive, passion, intensity, hunger and an insatiable appetite to grow and improve. Leaders must always remember that they are leading people, not machines. Once their love for people diminishes, they will start to look at people like commodities to be traded and tossed about. Remember always, love people and use things, not use people and love things. A leader must always carry with him a discontentment with the status quo and an unstoppable desire to develop.
Now, my question for you – are you a dangerous leader?
May I never become what I have described, so help me God.
Let me declare this from the onset: I’m not in the business of replacing great leaders of the past, but in the business of raising good leaders in the present, so they can become greater leaders in the future. After all, I believe that youth ministry is about seed-planting, not fruit-plucking.
R-AGE is going through a season of transition and that means over the next half a year, we will see key leaders move on to another season of their lives. I think this is good for them, and honestly, I also think it is good for the ministry. People come and go, but the Lord’s work continues to be done; when the Lord tells me it’s time for me to go, I will leave, knowing that God has been, is, and will always be in control of my beloved youth ministry.
I share the same sentiments as Sir Alex Ferguson – you can never replace (great footballers like) Scholes, Keane, Giggs or Beckham like-for-like, but you can raise other players to take over their responsibilities. But you must also recognise that their roles in the team on and off the field will never again be duplicated; everyone brings something different to the team.
Even though I’m not in the football industry, I see many similarities in the succession-planning principles between a trophy-winning football team (like Manchester United) and a thriving youth ministry (like R-AGE).
I stand true to my principle of leading young people to lead young people. Look at the recently concluded R-AGE Olympics – it was led completely by a team of youth leaders who were leading a team of youths. A total of 145 people turned up and 38 of them were newcomers! What a mammoth effort by Bradley, Tiffany and their team, for a groundbreaking event such as this!
When I joined the pastorate in 2009, I told myself not to meddle in events planning – that’s not what I joined full-time ministry to do. Yes, I will still get involved, but never on the same level as the committee members. I believe in young people wholeheartedly and that includes taking risks with them, to simply let them lead (while I walk alongside them).
I’ve always told my young adult leaders that they can stay in youth ministry for as long as the Lord leads them to (or for as long as they want), but they should never remain at the expense of another youth leader rising up. This sounds a little cruel and makes me out to be a little unsentimental, but my heart beats for the long-term future and sustainability of the ministry, not to mention a certain kind of cultures I want to imbue into the youths.
I’ve repeatedly told many of my youths leaders that as their youth pastor and ministry leader, I don’t really care for their contributions towards this ministry. No, I care more about their growth. If they spend two years with me in shepherding position and yet have not grown, I have failed as their youth pastor in shepherding them.
For the record, I’m not here to grow the ministry. No, I am here to grow the ministers. If the ministers grow, the ministry will naturally grow. Conversely, the reverse can’t be said. There is no ministry without ministers. You may win or lose if you invest in a project or programme, but if you invest in people, you always win.
The youth ministry leaders of old (are different from the leaders today and) have added to the ministry in their unique ways. From the bottom of my heart, I thank the Lord for them and what they have done. But the truth is, we can never do what the yesteryear leaders have done. No, I don’t plan to match their achievements.
I plan to surpass it.
But only if God wills it and gives me the grace for it. My mentor often tells me: Obedience is the highest expression of stewardship.
By God’s grace, I want to lead and pastor a youth ministry that will be remembered for all eternity, and not as one that tried to live up to their inherited expectations. And if you think you belong to yesterday’s group of youth leaders, don’t rest on your laurels and start fading out of the ministry – may God forbid that! Instead, do whatever it takes to help this generation of leaders surpass you and all that you’ve ever accomplished. I pray that you will find great joy in doing behind-the-scenes work as you mature in your faith and ministry.
So come on, dear friends… Regardless of your age or season of life, let our good God blow your mind on the minister He alone can transform you into. And if you’re working with young people, be patient with them… One day they will surprise you with how good they can be.
We can’t replace good leaders, but we can raise better ones.
Redeemed youths redeem youths.