Category Archives: Retrospective Reflections

Hindsight bias inclines me to interpret past events with an awareness of the present to reveal insights into the future.

The day I lost my thumb.

Last weekend, in my excitement to leave the house for a Christmas party, I clumsily knocked over the bottle of wine I was going to bring out. Well, my living room ended up looking like a homicide scene.

Thankfully, Eden was on her high chair and Huiyi was in the kitchen when the bottle shattered. I, on the other hand (HA), was left to pick up the pieces (HAHA) of my broken heart Montes Merlot 2010.

As I closed the lid of the rubbish chute, I carelessly sliced my thumb against a glass shard that protruded from the plastic bag. It literally became a bloody mess, and my sink ended up resembling an amateur suicide scene.

Yes, my well-documented fears — odynophobia (pain) and haemophobia (blood) — went into overdrive; Sheryl Crow said the first cut is the deepest and baby I know she’s right about that. It was painful and I bled a lot, but I wasn’t sure if my lips turned pale from the loss of blood or the amalgamation of phobias.

I was grateful for my cool-as-a-cucumber wife who took command of the situation; she cleaned up my mess (as always), attended to me with the issue of blood (phrase credits: DL) and even fed our bemused baby while we waited for my blood to clot and composure to return.

It’s been more than 24 hours since I’ve been deprived of my right thumb (now bandaged) and I’ve learnt how essential this small part of my body is, not just in function, but also in presence.

Functionally speaking, losing (the use of) my thumb was obviously and extremely inconvenient. I’ve come to realise how I probably need my thumb for just about everything I do: using the toilet, taking a shower, driving the car, eating my meals, carrying my baby, feeding her porridge, peeling her blueberries, washing the dishes, using my iPhone, locking my door, shaking someone’s hand, typing this post, patting Eden to sleep and even sleeping itself (fearing I might squash and injure it further)!

Percentage-wise, a thumb is a fraction of my body weight but its significance is unquestionable.

But what was more interesting for me was how I perceived the presence of my thumb, or better phrased, the impact of its absence; it was, after all, impossible for others to miss my bandaged thumb.

The owner of the convenience store I visited today didn’t, and made small talk with me about my injury; my friends at the party, with every handshake, asked me what happened; even my baby girl couldn’t stop touching my bandaged thumb — she’s either wondering how daddy hurt himself or thinking if that white thing is edible.

It got me thinking about the body of Christ (the Church), or applicable in this instance, any group of friends. Often, we instinctively miss people because of what they could do and have done for us (function), but there are times we will also miss people simply because of who they are innately and who they are to us (presence).

Perhaps as we approach Christmas, it makes for a good opportunity to remember the ones who have gone missing in our lives. Go ahead — give her a call and tell her how much you miss her, or text him and let him how much you miss having him around.

You have nothing to lose, except the friend you already lost.

In the meantime, I shall read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 and enjoy sticking out like a sore thumb for the next few days.

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My tribute to Sir Alex Ferguson, the football pastor.

Reading all the tributes about Sir Alex made me realise that the man is more than just a manager… He’s a leader, teacher, father, coach, friend, mentor and even a “pastor” of sorts (among countless other roles) to not just the football players but the entire football club. He’s built not just a few football teams but an entire football club.

When you have a “manager” attending youth training sessions, attending employees’ bereavements and sending personal letters to grieving fans, texting former players and calling up fellow managers to support them, you know that he’s so much more than just a salaried man. If only I had the chance to have coffee with him…

The dedication to the job, the desire to win and the demand for excellence… We are not replacing any other man. We are replacing a football institution. And how is it even possible? I cannot imagine anyone else in the dugout because truth is, no one else has been in there except him!

Fans of rival clubs and haters will never understand how we feel (and it’s even harder for non-football people to get it). He’s been around before I started supporting United in 1994 and he’s the only manager I’ve known since. Only United fans can say something like that. He’s brought United from nothing to something, so that’s why he’s everything to United and all of us.

United is a machine – his machine – and this club will move on. But it will never be the same again. Sir Alex has always said that nobody is bigger than the club. But I think maybe… Just maybe… Ferguson is as big as the club because he IS the club. His retirement feels like something is being ripped out from my heart. It was hard when Cantona retired; Ferguson retiring is the same gut-wrenching feeling magnified multiple times over. Supporting United will never feel the same again.

Legend, legacy, longevity. He’s not just a football manager. He is Sir Alex Ferguson – the greatest EVER football manager in all of history.

#thankyousiralex

conversing with God // week two.

I am constantly amazed at how much the Holy Spirit is willing to teach me when my heart is open to God’s Word. In case you’re wondering, I do not use any devotional materials (since 2008 anyway). In my daily time with Jesus, I’m accompanied by an NLT Bible, a black Staedtler pen, a yellow Staedler highlight and a trusty ol’ journal. I use a variety of methods to get deeper into the Word: including mechanical breakdown, SOAP (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer), word studies and of course unstructured incoherent scribblings. And since these observations are birthed from my journalling, they obviously make more sense to me than you.

When you feed your roots, you grow your fruits. (:

7 Jan // Mark 4:1-20

My observation is that a farmer (aka preacher/teacher of the Word) has a seven-fold responsibility:

  1. Firstly, he must faithfully plant (seeds). If he doesn’t scatter them, there is zero chance of plants growing.
  2. He must pray that birds don’t prey on his efforts of scattering seeds and eat up those that fell on the footpath.
  3. He must (re)position the plants growing on rocky soil to fertile soil, so that their shallow roots will grow deep.
  4. He must purge out the thorns and weeds in his farm that prevent the plants from producing fruit.
  5. He must prune the plants that are not growing too well, and this painful process usually involves patiently taking one step back (but two steps forward later).
  6. He must persist with the plants that fell on fertile soil by cultivating the ground and not getting complacent.
  7. Finally, he must press (in) and entrust the growth of the plants to God, and patiently wait for them to produce fruit in season in multiple folds, and then be ready to harvest them.

Thankfully, these roles actually have many limitations. It teaches me to be rested in the Lord who grows people and not get restless in wanting to grow them by my (enthusiastic but unnecessary) over-exertions. When I am rooted and rested, my life will be radical (back to basics).

8 Jan // Mark 4:21-34

“Secret” is a neutral word. I’m inclined to link it our sense of security. And those with nasty secrets live in fear; either it haunts them from time to time, or the fear of it coming to light makes them live defensively.

“Exposure” too, is a neutral word. And those who live righteously have nothing to fear. On the contrary, the good things executed and the bad things endured in secret receive commendation and vindication respectively.

That’s why the ideal but toughest part of your life to surrender God and let Him dwell in is your heart. No one but the Holy Spirit knows what’s truly meditating in the deep recesses of your heart; after all, who can hide from God?

The call to live out the kingdom of God isn’t just an outward show for men but an inward submission to the Master. If you allow the Word of God to purge you and the Holy Spirit to purify you, “secrets” and “exposure” might just become your allies.

Lord, grow the Word planted in me in secret and at the right time by Your loving grace, have the Holy Spirit expose to me my known and unknown sins so that I may become more like Jesus. In my secret time alone with You, reveal to me Your kingdom and help me to pay close attention to what You are saying so that I will understand You and receive even more from You.

9 Jan // Mark 4:35-41

Of course Jesus knew what He was doing when He sailed out to sea with his disciples after dusk. Of course He was “sleeping” in the middle of a fierce storm. Of course He knew that His disciples were oh-so-full-of-faith after teaching about faith the entire day.

In the midst of a storm in your life, is your first response to Jesus about how bad your situation is and why He would let you to go through it?

But despite our immaturity, Jesus is still faithful; He first sorts out your storm, then He gently confronts you with two key questions: “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

In life’s struggles, let’s learn to have faith in Him who doesn’t just control the situations but personally leads us in and out of them. And let’s remember that He is more concerned about us knowing “Who is this man?” than simply delivering us from shipwrecks.

Don’t put your faith in the practice of faith, but in the person of Jesus.

10 Jan // Mark 5

To “Legion” who possessed the man, Jesus represented the end, but to the suffering man, Jesus represented the beginning.

Jairus and the bleeding woman shows us that knowing Jesus requires both faith and fear. Both Jairus and the woman fell at the feet of Jesus; one overcame his reputation, the other overcame her reservations. Would you overcome these to know Jesus?

The woman foreshadowed the positive kind of faith that Jairus should have – drawing us towards Jesus. But the people at Gerasenes who chased Jesus away featured a negative kind of fear that drives us away from Jesus – what a contrast!

To Jesus, having faith is everything. Maybe that’s why He chased away those who laughed at Him when He said Jairus’ daughter was asleep – not because He was embarrassed, but that He didn’t want these mockers to douse the faith of Jairus, his wife and His three disciples.

No wonder He said to Jairus (and perhaps to us all today), “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”

Our response to Jesus determines our knowledge of Him. Indeed, without faith, it is impossible to please God.

11 Jan // Mark 6:1-29

You can choose to be amazed by Jesus, or you can choose to amaze Him. If you want to amaze Him, start by scoffing Him, then by taking deep offence with Him. It’ll naturally lead you to a refusal to believe who He is and what He can do.

Holy Spirit, please guard my heart and mind against unbelief.

12 Jan // Psalm 42

Lord, make my heart how it used to be. In taking care of young people, enable me to love as a father could, intercede as a mother would and help as a brother should. For I desire to lead Your people to shout for joy and sing Your praise. May my hope in You alone anchor my soul in tumultuous days of disappointment.

13 Jan // Mark 6:30-42

Do I depend on the power of the Master or the proficiency of man when I preach God’s Word, pursue God’s ways and perform God’s will? It baffles me constantly that Jesus would choose to use human agency to showcase the Kingdom of God; that the power of Christ is made manifest through the potential of Christians. Technically, Jesus wasn’t the one who fed the 5,000. His disciples were the ones who brought that miracle to pass. Jesus could have asked the Father to rain manna from heaven to feed the masses, but He chose to involve His disciples in this logistically astonishing mission. What a blessing it is for us to be used by God to bring Him glory!

conversing with God // week one.

If I can keep this up, I’ll try to consolidate my daily devotional reflections at the end of every week.

If I can…

// 1 Jan | Mark 1

In preaching the Gospel and doing God’s will, Jesus must be to me three things: the motivation, the means and the message. For without which, I’d have no purpose, no power and no point.

// 2 Jan | Mark 2

Continuous conversations with and a downright dependence on God remind us that salvation is for those who know they are sinners, not those who think they are righteous.

// 3 Jan | Mark 3

Discipleship 101 according to Jesus:

  1. Separate the serious from the curious.
  2. Invite those you want to go with you.
  3. Wait for willing ones to respond and come to you.
  4. Appoint them formally and call them your disciples.
  5. Allow them to follow and accompany you in ministry.
  6. Enable, empower and send them out to preach the Gospel.
  7. (Show them where your authority comes from and) provide opportunities for them to exercise their spiritual authority by faith to help others and set them free.

Strangely and stupidly enough, some of us desire to be accelerated to #7 before we accomplish #1 to #3.

For me, #3 is the most important step in discipleship because that’s the trigger point where a congregational believer grows into a committed one by being willing to die to himself and take up the Cross – the marks of a true disciple. #3 is also the only step where discipleship is not determined by the intentionality of the discipler but the initiative of the disciple.

Let us not be too hasty to do God’s work before we even surrender ourselves to His will and way.

// 4 Jan | 1 Peter 4

God-fearing Christians should EXPECT suffering, for God’s purpose in it is to help us IDENTIFY with Christ, and to enjoy the VICTORY that He has already won. Doing GOOD in the face of suffering, especially responding in LOVE to both friends and foes, creates a powerful OPPORTUNITY to share our faith. When we undergo fiery trials knowing that God is both SOVEREIGN and FAITHFUL, we will be RESTED not restless, for He is in CONTROL! God, I entrust my soul to You!!!

// 5 Jan | 1 Peter 4:1-9

On top of expecting suffering as a Christian, I want to EMBRACE suffering for it identifies me with Christ (since He suffered in the physical). But more than that, it allows me to experience the victory over the power of sin that He won on the cross. That is why my internal attitude towards suffering trumps my external ability to withstand it; an attitude of love displays my relationship with Christ, covers my own sin and causes my sins to be forgiven. Lord, help me to embrace suffering with an attitude of love!

// 6 Jan | 1 Peter 4:10-19

The Master has entrusted each of you with at least one spiritual gift (out of a minimum of 19 varieties) to use and manage well for two purposes: 1) serve each other and 2) bring glory to God. So the question isn’t whether you have a spiritual gift or not (because you do), but whether you are using it for its intended purposes, or to serve and bring glory to yourself. Serving with your God-given gift is a privilege; it isn’t something you have to do, but something you get to do.

reminiscing New Zealand: 10 unforgettable moments.

  1. Spending four hours with my mentor’s mentor, Jim Chew, and gleaning wisdom from his life.
  2. Catching up with Daniel and Vimun over the weekend and adopting Stacey as our god-daughter.
  3. Pulling off stupid stunts at Moeraki Boulders and convincing my wife to capture me in action.
  4. Navigating through a forest route on the final blinking bar of petrol, and without phone reception.
  5. Swinging 120m in tandem from one mountain onto the oncoming cliff face with my brave wife.
  6. Jumping off a 134m platform between two mountains – the highest bungy jump in Australasia.
  7. Experiencing shock and helplessness when my wife went overboard from white water rafting.
  8. Sailing into Doubtful Sound and seeing whales, dolphins and seals in their natural environments.
  9. Clocking a mileage of 3,283.6km in 18 days – covering the entire perimeter of South Island.
  10. Being and sharing every moment with the love of my life for all 1,555,200 consecutive seconds.

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an ode to lofty dreams.

Dearest Loft Bed,

This is my final night sleeping on you – a melancholic moment indeed. :(

Thank you for serving me so faithfully since 2002. You might creak and croak but you have stood tall and saw me through my days in polytechnic, National Service, Shanghai and full-time ministry. Yes, you have helped me develop from a boy to a man.

I salvaged you once when I moved from Bishan to Ghim Moh; the new ceiling was lower so I had to saw a few inches off your four feeble timber legs. Your adaptability allowed me to double the space in my room. However, this time, I cannot save you.

Removing the 3M plastic hooks and IKEA metal spotlights off you brought back a gush of memories. Some were pleasant, some painful, while some are better left unspoken. But every remembrance contributed to my growth towards maturity.

Letting you go is a milestone moment for me – that’s when I leave my days of being a swinging bachelor to become a married man. After all, you know that settling down has always been something I wanted to do, sooner than later.

It will grieve me to dismantle you in the morning but it’s something I need to do before I make Huiyi my wife. I had wanted to save you for my children but all good things must come to an end. But you will be in my heart forever – you know that.

For now, please accept my apologies; I couldn’t find you a new home and so the town council people will remove you (for good – sigh!) before the sun sets. Dusk will mark the end of your lifespan. I can’t bear to see you go…

We had a great ride. You were a great bed. We were a great team. And I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

I will miss you, Loft Bed. Goodbye. :(

Sincerely yours,

JAT

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the conclusion of AIYS 2012.

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!

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Watch me gobble down the hot chick! @ http://www.facebook.com/v/10150966084595973

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