Category Archives: Preaching & Teaching
Excerpts of all my sermon transcripts and lesson outlines are found in this museum of learning.
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.
Here’s an abridged version of the sermon I preached at the final youth service of Grace Retreat 2012.
The story of our faith is unbelievable to a thinking mind and sounds like a fairy tale to non-believers; any argument made would probably be counter-argued. That’s why it is important for us to be filled with the Holy Spirit – so that He’d confirm our message and make the Kingdom come alive. Hence, let us not dilute the power of God through the Holy Spirit!
Authentic Christianity with the power of Spirit is attractive because it makes you want to want it. When God’s power shows up, people would naturally talk about it; and it is more persuasive than cutting-edge creativity or intellectual brilliance. We are limited by our own ability, but one act of the Holy Spirit changes even the most stubborn mind. But it is ironic that we still choose to rely on ourselves.
Always remember that the power we receive when the Holy Spirit comes upon us (Acts 1:8) is mighty, miraculous, supernatural and environmentally-changing. That power was given to us for us not to be witnessing but to be a witness; it’s not what you do, but who you are. Therefore, be convinced that the Spirit is a catalyst for unbelievers to be drawn into the Kingdom.
On a personal note, I don’t want to lead a numerically large, but a spiritually powerless youth group. It is my prayer that R-AGE youths become Spirit-filled disciple-makers. After all, we are called to be a pentecostal Spirit-filled ministry. Let us not mute ourselves to the spiritual realm that the devil is trying to rule, but tap into God’s power that is available to all.
Be warned that the forces of darkness will not cower at our intellect or be intimidated by our creativity, but will shut down when they encounter a disciple who is filled with the Spirit. The best publicity for Jesus is when a Spirit-led demonstration follows a Gospepl proclamation. After all, it just takes one powerful, significant and authentic move of the Spirit to accelerate things to the next level. Aaron Kok (one of my youth leaders) can relate to that, I’m sure. Click here to read his powerful testimony.
In order to be catapulted into a Spirit-led way of life, I’d encourage us all to practise a PDA Lifestyle (I borrowed this concept from my wise mentor, Ps Edmund Chan):
- Personal revival – meeting God daily.
- Divine appointments – seeing doors open.
- Active obedience – responding with faith.
You see, if you dare to do the ridiculous, God will do the impossible. God is looking for young men and women to take spiritual risks, out of obedience to what God is saying. God is looking for (young) people who would potentially change their environments. So, R-AGE youth, would you be the next person God uses to do something extraordinary in your school, work place or home?
I aptly ended with a quote I picked up from AIYS 2012 (where this sermon was birthed at anyway):
For me, living an ordinary life is not an option anymore. — Peter Parker (aka Spiderman)
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.
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!)
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.