Category Archives: Previews & Reviews
My honest opinion on just about everything – books, music, movies, websites, places, food, events and people.
Tonight’s the final time I will fall asleep in Asia Pacific Theological Seminary, Baguio.
AIYS 2012 has been a blast. By lunch tomorrow, I’d have sat into nearly 70 (!!) classes – that’s like attending 10 IDMCs! I’ve learnt so much from the instructors here; there’s a truckload to take home – new knowledge acquired, a renewed passion, a lifted spirit and of course, new friends and ministry partners from around the world.
The Lord has spoken to me personally and through pastors and friends who prayed for me. That’s crucial because I know if God is for me, then I can proceed with His approval. The trick now is to not go ahead of God, but to trust in Him and wait for Him to pave the way for me in the things that He’s impressed upon my heart to implement.
I’m thankful to Grace AG for sending me to AIYS 2012. The next AIYS takes place in 2015 and I declare this by faith – I will bring my full-time staff team with me.
Frankly, I think I’ve already reached saturation point for lessons. All I want to do now is to reflect on the 60+ notes, distill the ones that challenge me and sieve out the ones that are applicable to R-AGE. AND PUT WHAT I’VE LEARNT INTO ACTION. Otherwise, it’d be pointless.
And speaking of action, I’m pleased that there’s no chapel service tonight because traditionally, the last night’s always reserved for Balut Party – a rite of passage for AIYS delegates. I’ll let the photos talk!
Watch me gobble down the hot chick! @ http://www.facebook.com/v/10150966084595973
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.
When I was first told that I’d be leading Bare Bones 2011, I was filled with a sense of excitement but also of uncertainty. I pondered over how I was going take a conference with a well-established five-year history to a new level.
I had to take one step back to take two steps forward; I returned to the basics. I wanted the conference’s central focus to be on God and His presence. I wanted to zero-in on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I know that lasting change truly begins when you give Jesus Christ the Lordship in your life.
The Lord brought my attention to Ezekiel 37:4 during the final plenary session at last year’s conference. I read on the next couple of verses and it hit me clearly and surely – to prevent the hype and buzz of typical youth events from taking God’s rightful centre-stage. I believe that Christ doesn’t require fancy lights or impressive performances to move your heart because if Jesus is everything, then Jesus is enough. He alone must be the sole X-factor at this conference.
You just need to be still and silent; approach Him just as you are, and not hide behind responsibilities, accolades or experiences. He desires you to engage Him with your core and not your shell; after all, it was King David’s heart for God that caught His attention. You don’t need to impress Him for Him to take notice of you.
The adage goes, “The heart of the issue is the issue of the heart”. My sincere question to you: “Would you dare to let God address the issues of your heart?” I believe that unless our heart changes, nothing changes; our behaviour doesn’t change until our values do.
Therefore, I want to encourage you to enter this conference with nothing but your “bare bones”. Ask God to breathe life into you as you attend the morning plenaries and evening rallies with an open heart; ask God to put spiritual flesh and muscle back on you as you take part in the knowledge seminars and skills workshops. Let His Word refresh and recharge you as you get renewed in His presence.
It is my sincere prayer that in this conference you will find new hope in Him and know Him in a deep and personal way. Come before God without any pretense and let Him touch you in a riveting, life-changing manner. After all, what do you have to lose?
Allow me to close this foreword with Ezekiel 36:26 – “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
I’m always drawn to those who dare to wear their hearts on their sleeves. It shows a certain amount of security and authenticity in a person, and maybe even a fearlessness, knowing that his or her self-worth is fully found in God. I love the way he expresses himself so sincerely in prose and poetry.
However, it takes more than just mental-diarrhoea-rants to actually move and inspire me. And Jaeson Ma has done it. He’s just three years my senior and is an American-born Chinese pastor who also performs as a musician. I heard about his work when I was in Shanghai and decided to check him out when I learnt that he played a part in the salvation story of Vanness Wu (another man I’d love to meet some day).
It’d be great to meet him in person one day – to be able to speak to someone with such a journey as he has must be refreshing. But for now, before I get to rub shoulders with him in a divine appointment, here are some of his blog posts that have struck a chord in my heart:
- YOU ARE AMAZING (AMAZING LOVE)
- LOVE ME GOD LOVE ME
- YOUR BEST ATTEMPTS MAY FALL SHORT BUT DON’T GIVE UP ON YOURSELF
- GOD OVER MONEY. CHRIST OVER SELF. SPIRIT OVER FLESH.
- FALLING APART FOR THE GOOD
Jaeson, you inspire me to love and know God more. Thank you.
It’s always therapeutic to do a stock-take after an eventful week, which would have been impossible to pull off and not fall exhausted on my face, if not for the grace of God that saw me though. Warning: long post.
Monday: attended QC (Questions and Contributions) time and a monthly mentoring session with Ps Edmund Chan; ’til this day, I still thank God for the divine appointment in which He has connected me to Ps Ed; what a privilege and honour.
Tuesday AM: led worship at the Tuesday staff devotion with Ps Meng Cham; that’s how I will do it from now on – being accompanied by a seasoned musician makes it so much more enjoyable (because I won’t need to practice with my guitar!)
Tuesday PM: prepared for and sat through a staff meeting, which was a heart-wrenching experience and threw me off my momentum; I’m thankful for Ps Ronald who patiently listened to me rant and vent my frustrations. This forced me to come before the Lord that evening to seek His face. And I’m glad I did. The Lord spoke to me through Genesis 13 and Hebrews 6.
Wednesday AM: Caleb crashed at my place the night before and we watched Man Utd surrender a 2-0 lead to Basel and equalised in typical United fashion at the dying minutes. I struggled through the second half, to be honest. I’m really getting old…
Wednesday PM: led worship at the weekly Wednesday church prayer meeting (J333) with Rafael.; exposing youth musicians through my J333 duties gives me renewed purpose when I find my name on the worship leading roster. My next session is on 30 November and I’ll go over-the-top because I’ll be teaming up with Ps Ronald and the church will be praying for R-AGE.
Thursday: presented the 2012 R-AGE budget in front of the Head of Administration, accountant and finance manager of Grace AG on Thursday (my first time presenting with Excel spreadsheets); administration is really not my strength. Thank God for Ps Ronald who rescued me by answering on my behalf on a few occasions.
Friday AM: had a delectable dim-sum lunch at Royal China @ Raffles Hotel with Sheryl from Eagles, together with Daniel and Xavier too, and joined the Vantage Point magazine editorial team. (I just received my first email from them!)
Friday PM: sat through another staff meeting, and wondered what it would be like next year when I’m chairing it.
Friday EVE: spent time with some of my favouritest people on the planet at the GII Shepherds cell, and facilitated our Harmony of the Gospels lesson; Yixian said if we continued at this pace (in-depth but extremely slow), we’d take two years to finish the book.
Saturday AM: led the R-AGE 2012 manpower deployment discussion with Caleb, Keith, Kenneth and Rachael; yes, R-AGE leaders, we were deliberating over your fate next year! HAHAHA. I can’t wait to see youths lead youths!
Saturday PM: preached an apologetics cum evangelistic sermon (my first attempt) for the Same Same But Different evangelistic service at R-AGE@GII. I actually enjoyed my preparation more than my execution. It was intellectually stimulating to read in greater detail how atheism, pantheism and polytheism (among many other -isms) stood against theism.
Saturday EVE: chaired the Bare Bones 2012 coordination meeting with Nicole, Keith, David and Grace – who have proposed some spectacular ideas for the year-end conference. It’s gonna blow Grace AG away; everything is going to be significantly leveled-up! I’m delighted to be working with such exceptional youth leaders. Watching Man Utd defeat Norwich 2-0 capped my day.
Sunday: preached the same sermon at R-AGE@GI. I took the opportunity to clear up some personal administrative work while waiting to have lunch with Huiyi and Yixian. After a short nap to recharge my batteries, I resumed studying for my 60% News Studies paper (the next day), which I have burned midnight oil for in the past seven days. Little by little, I’ve conquered the paper.
Monday (today): praise God for a relatively easy exam paper! It’s different when you understand what you are reading and memorising instead of mugging just for the sake of. I managed to finished the paper with an hour to spare, so I brought forward my appointment with my hairstylist. It’s 4pm now (at the point of writing) and my head literally and metaphorically feels lighter.
I’m going to complete this blog post before I go ahead to prepare the slides for the R-AGE 2012 Ministry Action Plans (which I’m presenting to all pastoral staff tomorrow!) Then I’m going to head out to China Square to treat my family to a nice dinner of Crab Bee Hoon @ Don’s Pie Club. We’re celebrating my sister’s belated birthday (1 October), as well as my 8th 21st birthday in advance.
This week, I also managed to meet Caleb and Lucas for lunch and mentoring on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. I thoroughly enjoy investing time into young men who possess a desire to grow. Lucas’ huge appetite for growth reminds me of me, especially in the way that I pursue my mentors. I told him to never lose his hunger (okay, boy?).
After our mentoring session over coffee in Starbucks@Tanglin Mall, he asked, “How do you do it, Bro Joey?” It being managing the many things on my plate. I couldn’t find an adequate way to answer him except to say, with all sincerity, that this capacity is a God-given gift; how could I take credit for the grace of God? I told him to ask God for it as well, because I think God will give it. (I didn’t tell him about the price of increased capacity though, but I’m sure he’ll figure that out himself.)
September has been an exceptional month in ministry. Besides starting R-AGE on the Spiritual Disciplines: Training in Holiness sermon series, I’ve also been planning for R-AGE in 2012 and meeting up with lots of youth leaders who might be serving alongside me next year. I am convinced that it’s my time with the Lord everyday that’s keeping me afloat.
I’ve also been reading non-stop throughout the week (and at an aggressive pace too). Besides the Bible during my daily devotions, sermon preparation materials and academic texts, I’ve also been feasting into Edmund Chan’s Cultivating Your Inner Life, Philippe Auclair’s Cantona: The Rebel Who Would Be King and Larry Crabb’s 66 Love Letters. I think I’m concurrently reading eight books – and I love the variety! This is effective for someone like me who gets bored easily.
On a more personal note, I’ve also been spending lots of time with Huiyi with our wedding preparation; we’ve reserved Sunday afternoons to visit bridal studios and photographers, as well as to plan for our big day. The highlight of these trips is to catch a sneak preview of my wife-to-be when she emerges from the changing room in glorious, gorgeous white; she’s gonna be the most stunning bride in all of Singapore next August – you have no idea how much we are looking forward to be married to each other!
I’d probably be packing my luggage midway when this post is published; Jetstar is going to take me to Perth at 5:45pm (Tuesday). I look forward to hanging out with Chin Seng, Ervina and Liang Zhi, but the highlight of my trip is to spend time with Ps Edmund and Ps Ann. I’ve been looking forward to this trip ever since I purchased the air tickets (super cheap!) a few months ago.
When I began my mentoring journey with Ps Edmund around this time last year, he emailed me his traveling itinerary and invited me to follow him on one of his countless trips; so here I am, excited and still starstruck, counting down the hours before I get to spend quality, uninterrupted and extended time with a God-given mentor, whom I’m sure will sharpen, challenge and inspire me!
October, I am ready for your onslaught!