Category Archives: Picture Perfect
A picture unveils a thousand words and a photograph reveals emotion; life is digitalised by a kaleidoscope of pixels.
One of the best prayers we could whisper to God everyday is, “Lord, I’m available”.
With that introduction, I preached the second installment of FAT & Hungry at the R-AGE Leaders’ Retreat.
Neal Maxwell once said, “God does not begin by asking our ability, only our availability, and if we prove our dependability, He will increase our capability.” We’ve heard it time and again that God isn’t looking for our ability but our availability. But what does it mean to be available?
I believe that a practical way to see availability in ministry is to have a “can do” attitude. After all, according to Philippians 4:13, it’s not a far-fetched idea to assert that a “can do” attitude is actually biblical. However, the “cannot” attitude has infiltrated the church and perhaps has even become her anthem.
If we were to examine 1 Samuel 17, we can pick out five ways to develop a can do attitude through the life of the shepherd boy David.
1. Know who you are (vv45-47).
David could wipe out Goliath with one stone because he knew who he was in God. With God, all things are possible – this should make Christians the most positive people on earth. Others thought Goliath was so big that they can’t beat him, but David thought Goliath was so big that he can’t miss him. David’s winning attitude came from it all being about God and not about him or Goliath.
2. Say what you know (vv34-36).
David focussed his attention on what he knew. Having battled with a lion and bear in his shepherding duties, he chose to look at the positives rather than the negatives. And with that, he bravely offered himself to battle Goliath. When uncertain moments come, do we focus on what we know or do not know? Sometimes, we are not as helpless as we think, so let’s stop declaring a negative self-fulfilling prophecy upon ourselves.
3. Start where you are (vv17-22).
David got involved in this battle because he was simply carrying out his father’s instructions to bring bread and cheese to the battlefield. He bloomed where he was planted and didn’t complain about where he was or what he was doing. Sometimes, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. You can’t have a “can do” attitude until you embrace where you are. Mother Theresa’s words to those who wanted to join her cause was, “Find your own Calcutta.”
4. Use what you have (v40).
Saul offered David first-class armour and weapons but David chose to use what he had and could find around him instead, namely one sling and five stones. What do you have in your hands that God could use? Let’s stop lamenting about what others have and what you don’t. Instead, let’s ask ourselves about the talents that God has deposited within us and the resources that we have. If God can use David’s humble elementary weapons, God can use whatever we have in our hands.
5. Do what you can (vv48-51).
David did what he knew and what he could – running onto the battlefield and confronting Goliath with his slingshot. Let us learn to do what we can with what we have. Johnson and Johnson started with sterilised dressings to help prevent infection from airborne germs. Bill Hewlett and William Packard started with a simple audio equipment in their garage. If God has called me to do something, it can be done for God will use what you have to bring glory to Himself.
To add on to these five ways, there are four strategies that we can apply to develop a “can do” attitude.
- Pause and redirect: Resist the “cannot” mentality and redirect it into positive actions.
- Divide and conquer: Take big goals and break it down into bite-size short term goals.
- Stop and evaluate: Take stock of progress and proceed with lessons learnt in wisdom.
- Rejoice and celebrate: Take time out to recognise and celebrate what God has done.What you don’t recognise, you don’t celebrate. What you don’t celebrate, you don’t enjoy. What you don’t enjoy won’t last.
Then I shared four practical areas that we could demonstrate our availability in:
- Pre-occupation: If you are consumed by your work or studies, then you aren’t of any use to the ministry. If something is important to you, make time for it.
- Priorities: If you can’t be available for majority of events, it shows that ministry is not a high priority for you.
- Presence: A leader who is available leads a flock to being faithful. Learn to be available for your sheep when they need you. And learn to give people access into your lives – upwards with your leaders and mentors, downwards with your sheep and sidewards with your peers.
- Posture: Simply put become someone the ministry can count on when help is need. If you keep telling people that you’re busy, sooner or later they’ll stop approaching you.
When many people each do a little, great feats for God can be accomplished. Remember always that we are not here to be served but to serve others – let’s lead by serving and serve by leading. I’ve always considered it a privilege to lead and serve. And because I consider it a privilege to be a part of what God is doing in His church, I will make myself available for Him to use.
Sometimes it’s not about being the best, but being available.
[Credits: teaching materials adapted from Benny Ho and Scott Martin.]
In the next few posts, I’ll share snippets of my vision casting sermons at the recently concluded R-AGE Leaders’ Retreat called, “FAT & Hungry”. In this three-day camp, I preached on four attributes that I’d like to see in my youth shepherds and leaders. The first is Faithfulness.
I started my walk with God by faith. But did I stop there? No, I continued to grow in my faith by being faithful. In Luke 17:3-10, the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith but perhaps Jesus was calling them to increase their faithfulness instead, since they already had a measure of faith. In this parable, we learn that our attitude towards doing God’s work is that of a servant to his master. Jesus provided the proper response in Luke 17:10, “In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.'”
The difference between faith and faithfulness is that faithfulness is our response to our faith. Let’s ask God to increase not our faith, but our faithfulness. Faithfulness is what we do with our faith. Faith grows only when we faithfully finish what God has called us to do. If we don’t finish what God has called us to do, our faith might not actually grow. On the contrary, it may shrink! Since I have put my faith in Jesus (to save me from hell and to take me to heaven), now I should be faithful to Him.
Faithfulness does not mean “not being unfaithful”. If I say I am faithful to Huiyi, it means nothing if my faithfulness is about not acting negatively towards her but not doing anything positive for her. Faithfulness is not the absence of the negative, but the presence of the positive. Faithfulness isn’t only what we keep ourselves from but what we choose to invest ourselves in. Faithfulness is to be reliable, trustworthy, consistent and dependable. And these are rare virtues today.
There are two ways to develop a culture of faith and faithfulness:
1. Start enthusiastically in faith.
The son who pleased the father wasn’t the second son said he’d do it but didn’t, but the first son who didn’t say he would do it but did it. Obedience not intention pleases the Father. Actions speak louder than words; many people have great intentions but no many follow through what they intended to do. No one gets rewarded for intention. Automobile pioneer Henry Ford once said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do”.
Action not intention gets the job done. Let’s develop a tendency for action. If you feel God is calling or prompting you to do something to advance His kingdom, stop hesitating and just act on it. A thriving youth ministry must develop a culture of enthusiastic obedience by faith. After all, the proof of passion is in the pursuit. If I say I am passionate about Huiyi, then it’s only natural that you see my pursuit in action.
But watch out for the perceived “what if” fears that stop us from taking action. We need to learn to pull these perceived fears into the light, for fear is a dark room where negatives are developed. Something that I’ve learnt from my mentor, Ps Benny Ho, is this principle called, “Ready, fire! Aim…” There are some who fire without getting ready – these do not hear from God properly. But there are some that just prefer to aim forever but never fire the first shot. This is similar to how you’d zero a rifle – you must fire the first shot to get a sensing before you calibrate your weapon.
Remember, faith is to believe what we do not see and the reward of faith is to see what we believe.
2. Stay earnestly in faithfulness.
I believe that faithfulness isn’t about doing something for a long time, but about doing something well at a particular season of life.
Proverbs 25:19 tells us that unreliable people are like a bad toothache or a walking with a sprained ankle – it hurts! If we depend on an unreliable person, we can never quite relax because we’re wondering at the back of ours mind if the job is really done, and we’ve got to chase that person again and again. Come on, if we say we’re gonna do it, then do it! Let’s remove unreliability from our system and make reliability our greatest ability.
Faithfulness is an attitude of the heart. We should faithful because God is faithful but also because God rewards faithfulness. The hardest part in both the marathons I’ve completed is in the middle part, when the going gets tough from around the 21st to the 32nd kilometre; the novelty of starting a marathon has worn off and the euphoria of the finishing line is beyond sight. That’s when tenacity gets us going.
A great example of tenacity is footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. He is youngest son of a cook and gardener in small town in Portugal called Madeira. When he joined Manchester United (the greatest football club in the world) in 2003, he said, “There is no harm in dreaming of becoming the world’s best player. It’s all about trying to be the best. I will keep working hard to achieve it, but it is within my capabilities.”
He put in years of hard work and was rewarded for it in 2008 when he received the ultimate individual accolade in football – the FIFA Ballon d’Or. He was now officially the world’s best player. In 2009, he became the most expensive player in the world when Real Madrid bought him from Manchester United for S$158,580,800. His annual salary in 2011 was S$47,070,692. Putting that into perspective, that means that Ronaldo earns S$128,961 everyday, S$5,373, every hour and S$90 every minute. After he finishes watching The Hobbit, he’d have been richer by S$16,120.
His manager, Sir Alex Ferguson (the greatest coach in the world) said this about him, “Although he had a natural talent, he in many ways manufactured himself. He practised and practised. You build up a mechanism and it becomes a habit. That was Cristiano’s habit, to do something after training… …There’s no fluke about it. I see Ronaldo practising all the time in training.”
Persistence and faithfulness will help us to start well and finish well. Let’s be like bulldogs – their noses are tilted upwards so that they can bite onto something and continue breathe without even letting go. That’s why they’re such ferocious canines!
So what exactly is faithfulness in ministry? These were the practical pointers I shared with my leaders and shepherds – I challenged them to be faithful:
- To Jesus Christ in their personal walk with God.
- To their respective teams (shepherds cells, leaders circles, youth and tertiary cells, service teams and event committees).
- To their responsibility (as cell leaders, service team or event committee members, in ministry and committee meetings and to see what they’re doing as spiritual leadership and not simply labourious work).
- To pray for the youth ministry (R-AGE) and the church (Grace AG) both in their prayer closets and in corporate prayer meetings.
- To see evangelism as a part of their life and not a church event.
The great missionary Hudson Taylor once said, “A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness in little things is a great thing.” God can turn your faithfulness in a little thing that He has called you to into a big thing. The challenge for us is, are we able to do all the small little things that people won’t notice, and still be faithful in these things?
Acts 6-7 records the entire life of Stephen. He was faithful, full of the Spirit and he stumbled into the ministry as a solution to a leadership problem and a simple need – to feed and care for widows that were being neglected. It wasn’t anything glamourous or the kind of job that one would take to get ahead or receive recognition from. And it certainly had little returns. I can imagine working with widows to be like working with youths. Both can’t give much back to you.
But Stephen taught me that faithfulness is the little stuff you do that nobody sees and probably no one celebrates. He was faithfully doing his everyday duties until a group of people started to create trouble for him. And with it, he ended up preaching the sermon of his life. He preached the very best he could because once he’s done, he’d be with God. His life came to a tragic end in Acts 7:54-59, when he was tragically stoned to death.
In the Scriptures, we often read that Jesus sat on the right hand of God. It’s mentioned once in Luke, Acts and Romans, twice in Revelation, thrice in Matthew and Mark, and six times in Hebrews. But read Acts 7:55-56 again and you’ll see something amazing.
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”
In Stephen’s case (and probably the only mention in the whole Bible) after he preached, he saw the Son of Man STANDING! WOW! Can you see it!? In my sanctified imagination, I can’t help but to see a standing ovation from Jesus to welcome Stephen into heaven! What a way to end his life and ascend into glory and honour – I want that for the end of my life!
May we be a youth ministry that has a “finishing anointing” – to be youths who not only know how to start, but how to end. May all of us start well and end well. So that when we meet God face to face, it would be to hear him say, “Well done, you good and faithful servant!” and see Jesus giving us a standing ovation after that!
[Credits: teaching materials adapted from Benny Ho and Steve Andres.]
To find out more, visit www.GDC2013.com.
Mark 3:14 – And Jesus appointed 12 to be with Him, that He might send them forth to preach. This is the key strategy of Jesus Christ for world evangelisation. Intentional disciple-making and a call to a radical new testament discipleship to Jesus as Lord of all.
It has been said, that the world is in trouble and the church is in need. Sure, we have said that the world is in trouble; look at the financial meltdown, global warming, the rise of terrorism. And we look at the church, we say that the church is in need; the church is in need for more manpower, more missionaries, more pastors, more money, more buildings.
But we got it all reversed – the world is in need and the church is in trouble. Superficiality, immaturity and mediocrity has characterised the church. Carnality and compromise has robbed the church of her spiritual power and her spiritual authority to make a difference in this world.
There is a need for us to come back to the ancient paths. There’s a need for us to come back to the Holy Scriptures to understand the call to disciple-making. Today, God is on the move. We are healing a fresh call, heeding it, hearing God’s call from on high – a call to disciple-making, a call to make Jesus Christ Lord of all.
The Global Congress on Discipleship (GDC 2013) is issuing that call. We aim to bring together 10,000 disciple-making leaders and disciples from all over the world, to champion the call to disciple-making, to return the church to her disciple-making roots, to go make a difference. It is my belief that intentional disciple-making is the key to world evangelisation. At the heart of that key is radical discipleship to Jesus.
We’ve brought together good men to come and champion that call; Robert Coleman, on The Master Plan of Evangelism; Ravi Zacharias, to give us his exegesis of culture and the state of the church today; pastors like Randy Pope and Peter Tan-Chi, disciple-making pastors who will champion the call of disciple-making in the local church; leaders like Bill Lawrence and others, giving us a call to lead from the inside-out, to make disciples; and then there are others, like Luis Bush, calling us to come back to discipling the young in the 4/14 movement.
Come and join us, we want to see the move of God as never before because this is the critical need. The church is in serious trouble but God is restoring the church. There is a compelling call, a compelling vision, to go make disciples, revitalise the church so that once again it can make a difference. Once again, there is a transformational power in the life of the church to turn the world the right side up for Jesus.
This is at the heart of the GDC 2013; the Global Congress on Discipleship is not issuing only a call. It is giving a model. It is championing the vision and the strategy necessary to return the church to her disciple-making roots. So whether you’re church pastor, a missionary, a para-church leader, a lay leader, come together and let us champion this call because God is on the move, and you and I are part of history.
So God bless you, we pray that the world would come together and see what God’s strategy is as we join our hearts in GDC – the Global Discipleship Congress in May 22-25 in Manila, Philippines. See you there.
— Rev Edmund Chan
- Spending four hours with my mentor’s mentor, Jim Chew, and gleaning wisdom from his life.
- Catching up with Daniel and Vimun over the weekend and adopting Stacey as our god-daughter.
- Pulling off stupid stunts at Moeraki Boulders and convincing my wife to capture me in action.
- Navigating through a forest route on the final blinking bar of petrol, and without phone reception.
- Swinging 120m in tandem from one mountain onto the oncoming cliff face with my brave wife.
- Jumping off a 134m platform between two mountains – the highest bungy jump in Australasia.
- Experiencing shock and helplessness when my wife went overboard from white water rafting.
- Sailing into Doubtful Sound and seeing whales, dolphins and seals in their natural environments.
- Clocking a mileage of 3,283.6km in 18 days – covering the entire perimeter of South Island.
- Being and sharing every moment with the love of my life for all 1,555,200 consecutive seconds.
As a youth pastor, I’m all for contemporary worship music from western countries. But every once in a while, you chance upon a powerful song written from the sincere depths of one’s heart; and when you unearth a local gem like this, you know it’ll be a timeless song that you and I will sing for generations to come.
My exhortation to all worship leaders – keep close to God and write songs of breakthrough for your generation.
Make A Certain Breakthrough
By Ps Ann Chan & Ruth Ling
In my life of searching
For the plain and simple way
Many paths were so winding
The roads were never straight
Then the Spirit of God broke through
And healed my broken wings
And showed me the way into His heart
And I know that God is leading
In a clear and certain way
My one life for your purpose, Jesus
I offer up this day
To follow you completely
To do all that you say
Cleanse my life, fill me up
And use me this day
Make a certain breakthrough
Make it today
In these days of danger
Lord, we rest upon Your grace
With Your tender and skillful hands
You shape this stubborn clay
Yes, You calm my inmost being
Giving courage to hope again
And to build this one life
In power and faith
Unity is important because Christianity is not meant to be done alone, but with the your immediate family, your church family and spiritual family of other believers worldwide. I believe this meeting in Luke 1, between a teenager and geriatric, is one of the most important in the Bible and teaches us a lot about unity.
1. Unity requires being humble in spirit (Luke 1:26-38)
With the Messiah in her belly, Mary could have behaved arrogantly and acted like she knew everything, but the she demonstrated her humble spirit in the way she followed the instructions of Gabriel to a T – carefully, diligently and quickly. Her statement of faith was also astounding; she barely knew what she was in for and yet she said to Gabriel, in effect, “Use me anyway you want, even in the lowliest manner because I believe in God!”
Elizabeth, however, who was also miraculously pregnant with one of the most important characters in Jewish history no less, was just as humble in spirit. I think it takes a ton of humility for a reputable old lady like Elizabeth to acknowledge a teenager without any reputation and that the baby in her to be greater than her own.
When we humble ourselves before each other and relate without needing to prove anything, there’s a sense of identity and camaraderie. Talking to each other about what Jesus is doing in our lives builds our faith and deepens our fellowship.
2. Unity requires making things happen (Luke 1:39-41)
Since Mary had no clue what Elizabeth had experienced, she took two steps of faith that day: to believe that she was going to be pregnant without sexual intercourse and that an old woman was six months pregnant. Her steps of faith (pun unintended) to travel around 160km from Nazareth in Galilee to Hebron in Judea shows us her willingness to make things happen. I wondered what she must have pondered over as she made that journey, since she couldn’t confirm that Elizabeth was pregnant until she saw her for herself.
Elizabeth had no idea that she was going to receive a visitor that day, or that the visitor was Mary, or that Mary would be pregnant with the Saviour of the world! So for Elizabeth to greet Mary so spontaneously, she must have received a revelation and acted upon it. With her act of faith, she brought the both revelations to a full circle. She went on, in effect, to repeat what Mary said to Gabriel, “You are blessed because you believed the Lord would do what He said.”
Mary greeted Elizabeth in faith and Elizabeth responded to Mary in faith. Extraordinary revelations require extraordinary faith and obedience, and produces extraordinary results.
3. Unity requires honouring others above yourself (Luke 1:42-45)
Elizabeth congratulated Mary (“God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed”), condescended herself before Mary (“Why am I so honoured, that the mother of my Lord should visit me?”), confirmed Mary’s encounter with Gabriel (“When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy”) and commended Mary (“You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said”). All that must have levelled up Mary’s faith!
Elizabeth could say all that Mary because six months ago, she did the same thing in faith. If we do not deserve the favour that God shows us, we shouldn’t envy those the Lord has given more favour. Moreover, those who have personally experienced God’s faithfulness would naturally encourage others to put their faith in God.
4. Unity requires hanging on until it comes to pass (Luke 1:56)
Mary didn’t leave after that encounter but stayed with Elizabeth for three months before she returned home. I think she wasn’t there just to help a relative through the crucial months of pregnancy but perhaps to see through God’s promises surrounding both of them. I’m not sure if she witnessed the birth of John the Baptist but I know she definitely saw enough to know that Elizabeth was ready to go into labour.
Being a part of Elizabeth’s life in the first three months of her own pregnancy must have given her courage when she eventually returned to Nazareth to ready herself for the next six months of a gossip-filled, doubt-inducing, fear-instilling and awe-inspiring pregnancy. She was probably visibly pregnant but she was definitely convinced, comforted and convicted of the miracle that was about to take place through her. Through Mary’s care-giving with Elizabeth, God must have done some faith-strengthening with Mary.
What does unity look like and what stops us?
Unity is when all of us worshipping God with abandon; so don’t worship Him with arrogance, thinking you know better. Unity is when all of us are acting out our faith with obedience; so don’t respond with indifference, waiting for someone else to do what God has called you to do. Unity is when all of us are serving each other with selflessness; so don’t let your ego get in the way, putting your needs first.
I believe that the sole purpose of these two unbelievable pregnancies is found in Luke 1:37. To prove that nothing is impossible with God and that no man should take the credit for a miracle of God. If a virgin like Mary and a geriatric like Elizabeth can give birth, then surely God can bring revival to R-AGE, for nothing will be impossible with God.
It’s a lofty dream but I know one day, by faith, it will come to pass. I believe with all my heart that when revival comes to R-AGE, it won’t be through a large corporate fire, but through the small fires that we fan daily. I believe it with all my heart and I will hang on to it until it comes to pass or until God tells me I won’t see it in my time as a youth pastor.