Category Archives: The Greatest Gift

The greatest gift one could ever give to a young person is to believe in him or her; may you and I give generously then.

Introducing Eden Tan // 陈晏…

On 18 March 2014 at 5:08pm, I received the greatest gift in the world — my precious baby girl. I’ll chronicle the epic labour process in another entry but today, I want to record a memoir of how my princess’ English and Chinese names came about.

Names mean a lot to me. A name carries identity, prophecy and destiny. And sometimes, it does feel like if you pick a good name, you’ve got half the battle won. You see, I selected “Asher” as my baptism name because it means “blessed, joyful and happy”, as well as “the most favoured one”.

As for our children, we’ve already shortlisted a number of English and Chinese names. The plan was to pick one that described the pregnancy journey. We’ve decided in the second trimester that our firstborn would be named “Eden”, because like her name suggests, she has brought us and others around us so much joy and delight. In Hebrew, it means “paradise” (she’s our utopia after all). And practically speaking, Eden is a simple, two-syllable, and easy-to-remember name.

Some years ago, I discovered the meaning of my surname, Chen (陈). While its most obvious meaning represents the sun (阳) that rises from the east (东), it’s actually also pronounced like a Hebrew word (חֵן) that means “loveliness, grace, and favour with God and men”. Not too shabby for one of the most common surnames in the world!

We’ve always wanted to name our offsprings after the fruit of the Spirit and since we had “love” and “joy” already working in Eden’s favour, we wanted to select a Chinese name that either described love or joy, or another of the remaining seven parts of the fruit of the Spirit.

As a typical ACS boy, I knew I needed some help with picking the right Chinese name for my daughter. So I approached a church friend, Charles, who’s studying for his PhD in Chinese history, who had very kindly agreed to help Huiyi and I pick a Chinese name for Eden. We met for coffee one afternoon and went through a few possibilities. I mentioned to him that I wanted Eden to have a single character (单名) in her Chinese name. So instead of the typical three characters, all my children’s Chinese names will only have two.

It’s not easy find a name that fits with the dialect and English “Tan” as well as the hanyupinyin “Chen” so we decided that Eden’s given name on her birth certificate will simply show “Eden Tan”, without her Chinese hanyupinyin name. After all, when you do introduce yourself, you don’t say, “My name is Joey Tan Chong Yi” or “你好, 我是Joey陈崇仪 but simply, “My name is Joey Tan” or, “我是陈晏”.

After an hour of tossing up possibilities of his initial suggestions and the Chinese names that I preferred, Charles and I went off topic and shared about the respective journeys we’ve each gone through watching our wives get pregnant. Many of which are very private so I’ll leave it that way. But as with several seasons of my life, God has always been teaching me about what it means to surrender… And everyone knows surrendering (to God) isn’t always the most pleasant or easy thing to do. I told Charles that through this process of surrendering, God has really taught me about His peace that surpasses all understanding — that assuring knowledge that He is with me and His presence is all I need.

That little sharing seemed to have ignited something in Charles’ eyes. He began sharing with me a little of his own journey into parenthood and how he’s learnt to trust God for all outcomes. Then he paused, and it was as if he rummaged through the virtual annuls of thousands of Chinese characters in his mind, then keyed one in on his cellphone. With aplomb, he made a suggestion…

“How about this character — 晏?”

Unsurprisingly, I did not recognise that Chinese character at all. And I’m confident that unless I’ve explained it to you before, or if you’re also studying for your Chinese history doctorate, chances are that this is the first time you’re seeing this character and you, like the rest of the modern world, have no idea how to pronounce “晏”.

“It’s pronounced as ‘yàn'”, he explained, “and it means ‘peace'”, he continued.

Upon seeing “晏” and perceiving its meaning, it became one of those moments for me. You know, those moments where you kind of know, this is it. I think Charles must have saw it in my eyes too. Like “Eden”, “晏” had a nice ring to it and immediately resonated with my heart. There was a certain sense of conviction about it. I knew there and then (barring consultation with my wife) that “晏” would be Eden’s (only) Chinese name. “Eden Tan” and “陈晏” — what a perfect combination of love, joy and peace.

Charles went on to explain that 晏 in one character, carries the same meaning as 平安 (peace) in two characters. Not only that, but it’s “peace that comes with day” because it’s “日” (day) + “安” (peace). To help me understand this, he explained that we sing “Silent Night, Holy Night” because we are looking forward to the peace that comes in the morning, knowing that we have survived yet another unknown night; that’s why we chorus “All is calm, all is bright” in the following line. It was like a double Eureka moment for me — new understanding of that Christmas carol and new knowledge to appreciate the profound meaning of this Chinese character. Another way of looking at 晏 is that everyday (日) Eden will be filled with peace (安) — 每日平安.

Charles also explained that 晏 is one of those rare Chinese characters that has not simplified its strokes over the centuries; 晏 in written the same way in both traditional (繁体字) and simplified (简体字) Chinese. So that means that it’s meaning has not changed through time! In addition, what I also liked about this character is how feminine it looks — don’t you think it looks really pretty?

And finally, I also saw a pictograph in 晏 — it looks like the sun (日) is forming a protection (宀) over my little girl (女)! And if I may stretch it and “Christianise” its meaning, it kind of looks like the Son is watching over my daughter! In summary, looking at 晏 was like marvelling at Eden for the first time — love at first sight.

Through bringing our baby girl to full-term, God has indeed brought us joy and delight, allowed us to experience His grace and love, and taught us the precious lesson of knowing His peace that surpasses all understanding.

Eden Tan, Mummy and Papa love you very much — beyond what you can imagine. Thank you for teaching us love, joy and peace even before you’ve met us. You’re going to be an awesome, and very precious daughter. What a privilege it is for Huiyi and I to be your parents.

陈晏, ILYTTE.

Baby Eden

“I don’t think I’m interested, but can I pray for you?”

As I work in a church, my opportunities to meet non-believers are limited. I asked God to show me new ways to evangelise and I was inspired to redeem telemarketing for His glory. So I told myself that instead of rudely and curtly putting down the phone whenever I get a sales call, I will ask if I could pray for the person on the line with me instead. After all, this idea had been on my mind for a while now.

My maiden attempt took place a couple of weeks ago. I was on the way to pick up my wife from work and I got a call from a dude wanting to sell me insurance. I told the Lord that morning that I’d definitely step out in faith to do it. So I put him on speaker, listened to him make that sales pitch then I asked him for his name, and went for it.

“Hi Sam, could I ask you if I could do something crazy? Can I pray for you?” I tried to sound as natural as I could.

“Oh… Sure…”, he said politely, probably not wanting to offend a potential client.

I went ahead and prayed a generic, unscripted and spontaneous prayer of blessing over Sam. And that one day, he would come to know God for himself. When we put down the phone, he actually signed off with, “God bless you, Sir”. To which I said, “God loves you, Sam!”

I was so fired up by that random four-minute conversation that I decided to pen down different types of prayers for different types of phone calls. So I composed word-for-word prayers for insurance, recruitment and credit cards sales calls. And boy was I excited to use it!

Two weeks passed and I, surprisingly, didn’t get any calls. For the first time, I was actually disappointed nobody wanted to sell me anything or recruit me to join their company!

Until this evening.

I received a sales call from a telemarketer called Catherine. She wanted me to buy a savings plan from her bank. When I politely refused her offer and asked if I could pray for her, she was surprised. She said she wasn’t a Christian but I said I could still pray for her to bless her.

She must have been surprised when I began to pray out loud. “Heavenly Father, I may not have purchased a savings plan from Catherine but I pray one day she will come to see that You’re the only savings plan she needs. May you give her success in her next sales call and help her to know the only one who can save her. In Jesus’ name, amen!”

It was almost as if I had caught her off-guard!

Then I told her that since she has my number, she could call me anytime if she ever wanted to know my kind of savings plan.

Now, I’m looking forward to the next call I receive. I am praying that these small acts of randomness will open the large doors of redemption. Since they’re stuck on the phone with me, I might as well stick something in their minds for them to remember. I’m believing by faith that these two to four minute conversations will one day change destinies. Join me as I redeem telemarketers one by one!

itisaugusteleventhtwentytwelve.

ANDIAMGETTINGMARRIEDTODAY!!!

(((:

glory > burden > fear.

Ps Julie Khoo gave an altar call last night and I responded to it – my first time at the altar since AIYS 2012 started. I asked God to confirm the things He had been putting in my heart because the weight was too heavy to bear by myself. I shared this burden with Brian, Jamie and a couple of others whom I shared meals with. I needed the Lord to give me strength, courage and wisdom.

In that 15 minutes kneeling down, two people came to pray for me; I recognised Ps Julie’s voice and I caught sight of a pair of red sneakers and realised it belonged to her assistant, Ps Danny Tan. Both of them had only arrived the day before and had no idea what God was doing and stirring in my heart the past week.

As I stepped forward, I wasn’t emotional at all, as expected – that’s just how I am. But I had faith; I knew God would speak to me. So I asked the Lord to help me remember this altar call experience.

Ps Julie and Ps Danny won’t know this until I tell them – both of them prayed identical things over me. And along with what the Lord had already revealed in my heart, I saw a complete picture of what’s next for me and what’s stopping me from getting there. Ps Julie prophesied over me almost immediately and described the vision she saw. When she laid her hands on me moments later, I broke down; I will never forget how the Lord broke my heart for R-AGE, its leaders and the campuses in Singapore. I had faith that God would speak, but I didn’t expect myself to weep this way.

With a new found confidence, I returned to my seat to record what I had received from the Lord. Amidst the seven things God revealed through Ps Julie and Ps Danny, I remember receiving this personal revelation as I walked back to my row:

“My burden is greater than my fear.
Your glory is greater than my burden.”

I skipped the after-service fellowship and retreated to my room. And as I wanted to remember that God gave this to me when I was in the Philippines, I opened up Google to translate that line into Tagalog, and posted it as my Facebook status:

“Aking pasanin ay mas malaki kaysa sa aking takot.
Ang iyong kaluwalhatian aymas malaki kaysa sa aking pasanin.”

The next morning, just before the second session began, I read aloud the Tagalog translation to my Filipino friend, Ps Welfert, just to share with him what God had done with me last night.

With tears welling up in his eyes, he told me that what I’ve read to him were actually lyrics from a Filipino worship song called, “Salamat Panginoon”! The essence of the song is about how God’s presence is bigger than my struggles, pains and worries, and how great favour will come with the Lord because He is control of what’s going on.

I WAS BLOWN AWAY.

It was a powerful moment for the both of us. Welfert got emotional as he shared the meaning of the song with me. God ministered to the two of us there and then – what a divine revelation and confirmation!

God is good, so good. And He is faithful – I know He will go before me. My confidence in the Lord for the task ahead is rising! Praise the Lord for the spiritual monument that He’s building in my life through AIYS 2012.

new season, same reason.

Joey, man of God, as you take on the mantle to lead the R-AGE ministry that God has established through the hands of Pastor Douglas Frederick, which was then handed to me and Pastor Cuixian, always remember that the man is more important than the mantle. Your pursuit is first to be the man that God wants you to be in order that you can fulfill the mantle on your life.

Therefore, watch your life and doctrine closely. Flee from all kinds of evil. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.  Fight a good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Devote yourself to this generation of youths. With all your heart, proclaim the Gospel passionately, preach the Word diligently, teach and guide lovingly. Guard what has been entrusted to your care – the vision, mission and values of the ministry. Love and feed the young people like that of our Good Shepherd who loves and cares for us to a point of laying down His life for us.

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Use the gift that was given to you by the Lord Himself through the laying of hands on you, to build the ministry from strength to strength, glory to glory!

In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who gave His life for the church, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. To Him be honour and might forever. Amen!

— Reverend Ronald Yow
Outgoing Youth Pastor
@ R-AGE Handover Service
10-11 December 2011 

What a privilege and honour.

This is it – LET’S GO!

top ten ways to encourage someone.

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!)

exactly how much should a leader give?

I attended the first session of the Fatherheart conference last Friday and while I appreciated what James Jordon shared, it was the ride back home with Garry and Peiying that I enjoyed more.

The two of them kindly offered to give me a lift home. I took my seat at the back and we caught up with what God was doing in our lives. The last time I had a chat with Garry was at the 40DOC thanksgiving service. And during that conversation, he shared about how he was contemplating whether to carry on leading the cell that he had been facilitating during the period of 40DOC. I was so encouraged to hear that he decided to obey God to serve as a cell leader despite his verbalised inadequacies.

Halfway through our conversation, Garry asked me a genuine question which I thought was a question most Singaporean Christian leaders might ask:

“How much should I offer to God as a leader? Exactly how much is enough?”

Garry’s a straight-talking guy – the man on the street – who wears his heart on his sleeve. He told me that he felt like he wasn’t doing enough as a cell leader. Like any responsible leader would, Garry wanted to do more. But he wasn’t sure where he should take the benchmark from.

I had all of five seconds to think about how I should respond to his sincere and honest question. I didn’t want to give him a Sunday-school answer or something that wouldn’t be of any help. He wanted to ask for my opinion because he felt that since I was leading R-AGE, I would be able to identify with his question.

I told him that to answer that question, we would first have to take a step back from it.

If we were to measure our performance as a leader based on what we did, then it would never be enough. A good (cell) leader could always give everyone a lift home after cell ended, or bless his members financially, or make hospital visits, or offer prayer and counsel whenever necessary, or lead multiple cell groups, or write cell curriculum, or host dinners for newcomers, or mentor the next cell leader, or lead mission trips, or call his members everyday, or organise fellowship activities, or conduct street evangelism, or…

It will never be enough; of course a leader could do something more, but there’s no end to it.

In my reflection, I think that the greatest decision that a leader could make is to obey what God is prompting him in his heart to do. It could be any of the above, or it could be simply to wait and not take any action. “Obedience is the highest expression of stewardship” – words of my mentor, Ps Edmund Chan, that I have already engraved onto my heart. It’s not about how much you do, but more of why and what you do, and who you do it for – God or Man? The right deed at the right time for the right person is as good as a divine appointment; the best thing a leader can do is to do what the Holy Spirit impresses upon him to do – it will always be perfect.

I also believe that the greatest gift a leader can give away is to give his people Jesus. Jesus (the Gospel) is undoubtedly the best gift for any believer (or non-believer). In my years of mentoring, I always tell myself that my main priority as someone’s mentor is to connect him back to the Vine (John 15:5). I am not Jesus – I cannot be there for him 24/7 – but Jesus can. If a person is properly connected to Jesus, he will eventually yield himself to the Lordship of Christ and make Jesus the Master of his heart and life.

One of the emblems of my life is that “Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing; I am absolutely nothing without Christ”. I believe that if one is not connected to the right Vine, the fruit that he bears isn’t the right fruit. Hence, I’m inclined to believe that the most important thing a leader could do is to give his members Jesus because Jesus is all they need (not you, fortunately or unfortunately). And if Jesus is everything, then Jesus is enough.

I am reminded of Jesus’ edict for Peter (and all of us) in John 21:15-17. (This is the same passage that I laid the foundation of R-AGE @ GII upon.) Jesus’ response to Peter’s triple declaration of love for Him was to “Feed [His] lambs”, “Tend [His] sheep” and “Feed [His] sheep”. I’ll elaborate on this with another post some other time (as well as how I passionately believe that pastors should just pastor) but for now, the question that I have for every Christian shepherd is, “What are you feeding your flock?” and “How are you tending your sheep?” If a leader can answer that with his conscience clear before God, I’d run over to pat him on the back on a job well done.

So exactly how much should a leader give? Not much – just Jesus – because if Jesus is everything, then Jesus is enough. Be a good shepherd – it’s a privileged position to serve God in.

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