Category Archives: Previews & Reviews
My honest opinion on just about everything – books, music, movies, websites, places, food, events and people.
In my 12 years of learning to be a leader and leading leaders, I’ve found that there are two groups of people who are a joy to be with: those who are enthusiastic learners and those who are easier to teach. Both groups had this in common – a teachable spirit – and that is indeed one of the key considerations when I select potential leaders.
I’ve always believed that a good leader knows how to feed himself, be it through books, mentors, sermons, journalling or in times of solitude. Leaders must see that it is their personal responsibility to learn. My friend, Ps Chua Seng Lee, once told me not to depend on anyone in the organisation for my personal training and development. He said that if I didn’t take charge of my learning pilgrimage, nobody will. I agree with him. After all, one can only be spoon-fed and hand-held for so long.
One of the common “complaints” of a believer, regardless of which church or ministry he belongs to, is that the “sermon is not deep enough” for him. I’ve had peers tell me that when they want to switch to another church. I’ve also had youths tell me that when they want to leave the youth service. Granted, some assert that because they are genuinely seeking something more, but some conveniently say that because they do not realise that the onus of learning is on the student, not the teacher.
In Mark 4:1-20, Jesus made the exception of explaining a parable. He hardly did this so it must have been a lesson he did not want his disciples to miss. He went on to explain the different metaphors used in the parable:
- The seed represents God’s Word. (And I think the farmer represents anyone who’s teaching you the Word of God – it could be a teacher, pastor, preacher, mentor, leader or parent.)
- The footpath represents Christians who are deceived by the Devil and are quickly scattered.
- The shallow soil represents believers who are joyful and enthusiastic at the start but are not rooted in the Word. As a pastor in a pentecostal church, I believe this is especially true of pentecostal believers who seek the experience more than the truth. They say that they “can’t feel God anymore” and soon after begin backsliding.
- The thorns represent Christians who are easily distracted and tempted by the world.
- And the fertile soil (the only positive example) represents what I believe to be teachable Christians who hear God’s Word and accept it into their heart.
With that parable as a backdrop, what then, is your posture in learning from the preacher, your leaders, the cell kits and your daily devotions? Do you approach it with a “Let’s see what he has to say” or with a “Let’s see how I can learn from him” attitude? Choose the latter for it is better! If a person think he already knows, then he can’t be taught; a person who carries an attitude that they already know as much as the teacher won’t receive anything from him. In my short journey of meeting youth leaders around the Asia, I have met some who think they already know all they need to know about the Word or youth ministry – it’s difficult and almost repulsive to converse with these people. I know, because I’m like that sometimes. (:
Truth be told, in my last three years as a youth minister, with the exception of sitting at the feet of outstanding bible teachers and expositors like Ps Benny Ho or Ps Edmund Chan, most of the growth I’ve made were through preparing and listening to sermons, reading books, reflecting during times of solitude (though fewer than desired – sigh!) and walking with the Lord. I grew because I took on the responsibility to learn and then God caused the growth!
I’ve sat into many youth services and to be honest, youth ministry sermon content doesn’t differ too much due to the limitations of preaching to a teenage crowd. So instead of scrutinising theological content when I sit into a youth service (or any other kind of service), what I do is to try to catch the preacher’s heart. You see, you can’t teach a love for the Word, a passion for discipleship, an urgency for evangelism or a desire for mentoring the next generation; these things are more caught than taught. I always remind myself to catch the teacher’s heart more than the stuff in his head.
Here’s what I’ve learnt: if you can’t learn from teachers, you will struggle to learn from God. Some believers have the mentality that since they are able to download directly from God, they won’t require a man to teach them the Word. Of course, there is truth in this (that the Holy Spirit can illuminate truth from the Word), but that alone is inadequate. Think about it, if that was so, then why did God give teachers to the church? In Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul writes that teachers were given to us “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (KJV).
Therefore, I believe that there is wisdom in having a teachable spirit. The way a leader receives instruction from teachers gives me a glimpse of his character. His posture as a student eventually determines his destiny as a learner. In sailing, the setting of the sail on a sailboat is also called the “attitude” of the sail. Wind is the irreplaceable yet uncontrollable component in sailing and the same wind visits both good and bad sailors. Depending on the attitude of the sail, wind would cause the sailboat to be steered into different directions. Two believers can receive the same teaching, but have completely different responses and takeaways. At the end of the day, it is the attitude of a teachable spirit that will enable us to travel in the right direction.
7 Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt.
8 So don’t bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you. But correct the wise, and they will love you.
9 Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.
10 Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.
11 Wisdom will multiply your days and add years to your life.
12 If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit. If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer.
— Proverbs 9:7-12 (NLT)
And in Proverbs 15:10, “Whoever abandons the right path will be severely disciplined; whoever hates correction will die.” That’s pretty extreme! So if you want to be a wise man, have a teachable spirit. If not, the one who eventually loses out is you!
There are four good examples of teachable men in the Bible:
- Moses shows us that a teachable man is a meek man. He was also hungry to learn from and lean on the Lord’s guidance.
- David shows us that a teachable man seeks to to God’s will. He demonstrates in many Psalms that he wants to receive instruction from God because he wants to follow Him.
- Jesus shows us that a teachable man knows the Father is the ultimate teacher. Try accomplishing the immense mission Jesus was tasked to do – no wonder He stayed so close to His father and did only what He saw the Father doing.
- The disciples show us that teachable men are led by the Holy Spirit. They demonstrate how the Holy Spirit not only empowered, but also instructed them in the way they should go. May we be wise, for it is tempting to try doing God’s will in our own wisdom and strength.
In application, being teachable means to:
- Receive instruction from the Word and the Holy Spirit.
- Receive correction from parents, pastors, leaders and mentors.
- Humbly learn from others regardless of age or experience.
- Bring compliments, criticisms and crises before God and godly counsel.
- Review moral standards in: alcoholism, dressing, academia, relationships and worldly vices.
- Be open, honest and humble about your lack of knowledge, skills, and character.
- Desire challenges that will stretch you but help you reach your goals.
- Be willing to let go of your own way of dealing with things and your own ideas to learn and develop new convictions.
- (And this I picked up from my mentor, Ps Edmund Chan,) have the “Double L” plate hung on your front and back, so that those who follow you see a LEADER, and when you look at yourself in the mirror, you always see a LEARNER.
God could use the disciples to such great effect not just because they were faithful and available, but that they were also teachable. Think about it, this was an uneducated and underwhelming motley crew of unknowns who had to depend on the Jesus to teach them everything they needed to know about their newfound faith! If they can and needed to be taught, surely we too should follow suit.
The difference between modern-day and Jesus-day Christians is that the former has two things the latter doesn’t: the Holy Spirit (sent after Jesus ascended to heave) and the complete Bible (written years after the early church was formed). Therefore, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to guide us on how we should conduct ourselves, and how we should approach God’s Word with a willing heart and a teachable spirit. If there’s one thing we ought to determine ourselves to do, it is to remain teachable in all circumstances.
My mentor in Perth, Bro Au Chin Seng, once told me, “No matter how high you climb, there will always be areas you’ll need growth in.” I’ve learnt from him that the day might come when I may no longer have anyone above me in a hierarchical setting, except for God Himself. This is when the greatest test of humility and teachability takes place. He mentioned that the two most poisonous words of a confident, mature and experienced man is, “I Know”. That single-handedly puts people off in correcting me and giving me feedback. He reminded me to always adopt an attitude of learning regardless of how old, wise or mature I am, in any situation, for the moment I stop learning is the moment I stop living.
[Credits: teaching materials adapted from Arlo Moehlenpah and Pierre Eade.]
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
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.
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)
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:3
I have mixed feelings about tonight’s prayer meeting.
Please do not misunderstand me; I sincerely believe that every prayer offered in those 60 minutes was uttered with the right intentions – to honour God, to spur each other on in the faith and to intercede for Grace AG.
But honestly, amidst the spiritual euphoria that was brewing in the room, typical of any church activity after a spirit-rousing church camp, I believe with all my heart that the way to sustain your post-retreat afterglow is tell yourself that you CANNOT do it on your own. That was what the Lord impressed upon my heart halfway through J333.
So young people (and adults alike), before you go around thinking you can spread the fire to those who didn’t go for the retreat, consider this instead: the way to prevent spiritual arrogance and complacency, and to promote spiritual growth and maturity, is to advance with humility on bended knees.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” — Psalm 51:17
The truth is, we can’t do it on our own. At least, that’s what I’ve learnt after 15 years of attending Grace Retreats. And quite frankly, I’m predicting the same eventual deflated outcome for you if you are intending to depend on your own efforts.
Therefore, I submit to you my honest thoughts. Serve other people and consider their needs before yours, ask the Holy Spirit to empower you, and be humble and the Lord will lift you up.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” — James 4:7-10
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