Category Archives: Theocentric Orientation
The Word of God is living and active, and beckons us to discover its revelations through intentional exegeses.
In the next few posts, I’ll share snippets of my vision casting sermons at the recently concluded R-AGE Leaders’ Retreat called, “FAT & Hungry”. In this three-day camp, I preached on four attributes that I’d like to see in my youth shepherds and leaders. The first is Faithfulness.
I started my walk with God by faith. But did I stop there? No, I continued to grow in my faith by being faithful. In Luke 17:3-10, the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith but perhaps Jesus was calling them to increase their faithfulness instead, since they already had a measure of faith. In this parable, we learn that our attitude towards doing God’s work is that of a servant to his master. Jesus provided the proper response in Luke 17:10, “In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.'”
The difference between faith and faithfulness is that faithfulness is our response to our faith. Let’s ask God to increase not our faith, but our faithfulness. Faithfulness is what we do with our faith. Faith grows only when we faithfully finish what God has called us to do. If we don’t finish what God has called us to do, our faith might not actually grow. On the contrary, it may shrink! Since I have put my faith in Jesus (to save me from hell and to take me to heaven), now I should be faithful to Him.
Faithfulness does not mean “not being unfaithful”. If I say I am faithful to Huiyi, it means nothing if my faithfulness is about not acting negatively towards her but not doing anything positive for her. Faithfulness is not the absence of the negative, but the presence of the positive. Faithfulness isn’t only what we keep ourselves from but what we choose to invest ourselves in. Faithfulness is to be reliable, trustworthy, consistent and dependable. And these are rare virtues today.
There are two ways to develop a culture of faith and faithfulness:
1. Start enthusiastically in faith.
The son who pleased the father wasn’t the second son said he’d do it but didn’t, but the first son who didn’t say he would do it but did it. Obedience not intention pleases the Father. Actions speak louder than words; many people have great intentions but no many follow through what they intended to do. No one gets rewarded for intention. Automobile pioneer Henry Ford once said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do”.
Action not intention gets the job done. Let’s develop a tendency for action. If you feel God is calling or prompting you to do something to advance His kingdom, stop hesitating and just act on it. A thriving youth ministry must develop a culture of enthusiastic obedience by faith. After all, the proof of passion is in the pursuit. If I say I am passionate about Huiyi, then it’s only natural that you see my pursuit in action.
But watch out for the perceived “what if” fears that stop us from taking action. We need to learn to pull these perceived fears into the light, for fear is a dark room where negatives are developed. Something that I’ve learnt from my mentor, Ps Benny Ho, is this principle called, “Ready, fire! Aim…” There are some who fire without getting ready – these do not hear from God properly. But there are some that just prefer to aim forever but never fire the first shot. This is similar to how you’d zero a rifle – you must fire the first shot to get a sensing before you calibrate your weapon.
Remember, faith is to believe what we do not see and the reward of faith is to see what we believe.
2. Stay earnestly in faithfulness.
I believe that faithfulness isn’t about doing something for a long time, but about doing something well at a particular season of life.
Proverbs 25:19 tells us that unreliable people are like a bad toothache or a walking with a sprained ankle – it hurts! If we depend on an unreliable person, we can never quite relax because we’re wondering at the back of ours mind if the job is really done, and we’ve got to chase that person again and again. Come on, if we say we’re gonna do it, then do it! Let’s remove unreliability from our system and make reliability our greatest ability.
Faithfulness is an attitude of the heart. We should faithful because God is faithful but also because God rewards faithfulness. The hardest part in both the marathons I’ve completed is in the middle part, when the going gets tough from around the 21st to the 32nd kilometre; the novelty of starting a marathon has worn off and the euphoria of the finishing line is beyond sight. That’s when tenacity gets us going.
A great example of tenacity is footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. He is youngest son of a cook and gardener in small town in Portugal called Madeira. When he joined Manchester United (the greatest football club in the world) in 2003, he said, “There is no harm in dreaming of becoming the world’s best player. It’s all about trying to be the best. I will keep working hard to achieve it, but it is within my capabilities.”
He put in years of hard work and was rewarded for it in 2008 when he received the ultimate individual accolade in football – the FIFA Ballon d’Or. He was now officially the world’s best player. In 2009, he became the most expensive player in the world when Real Madrid bought him from Manchester United for S$158,580,800. His annual salary in 2011 was S$47,070,692. Putting that into perspective, that means that Ronaldo earns S$128,961 everyday, S$5,373, every hour and S$90 every minute. After he finishes watching The Hobbit, he’d have been richer by S$16,120.
His manager, Sir Alex Ferguson (the greatest coach in the world) said this about him, “Although he had a natural talent, he in many ways manufactured himself. He practised and practised. You build up a mechanism and it becomes a habit. That was Cristiano’s habit, to do something after training… …There’s no fluke about it. I see Ronaldo practising all the time in training.”
Persistence and faithfulness will help us to start well and finish well. Let’s be like bulldogs – their noses are tilted upwards so that they can bite onto something and continue breathe without even letting go. That’s why they’re such ferocious canines!
So what exactly is faithfulness in ministry? These were the practical pointers I shared with my leaders and shepherds – I challenged them to be faithful:
- To Jesus Christ in their personal walk with God.
- To their respective teams (shepherds cells, leaders circles, youth and tertiary cells, service teams and event committees).
- To their responsibility (as cell leaders, service team or event committee members, in ministry and committee meetings and to see what they’re doing as spiritual leadership and not simply labourious work).
- To pray for the youth ministry (R-AGE) and the church (Grace AG) both in their prayer closets and in corporate prayer meetings.
- To see evangelism as a part of their life and not a church event.
The great missionary Hudson Taylor once said, “A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness in little things is a great thing.” God can turn your faithfulness in a little thing that He has called you to into a big thing. The challenge for us is, are we able to do all the small little things that people won’t notice, and still be faithful in these things?
Acts 6-7 records the entire life of Stephen. He was faithful, full of the Spirit and he stumbled into the ministry as a solution to a leadership problem and a simple need – to feed and care for widows that were being neglected. It wasn’t anything glamourous or the kind of job that one would take to get ahead or receive recognition from. And it certainly had little returns. I can imagine working with widows to be like working with youths. Both can’t give much back to you.
But Stephen taught me that faithfulness is the little stuff you do that nobody sees and probably no one celebrates. He was faithfully doing his everyday duties until a group of people started to create trouble for him. And with it, he ended up preaching the sermon of his life. He preached the very best he could because once he’s done, he’d be with God. His life came to a tragic end in Acts 7:54-59, when he was tragically stoned to death.
In the Scriptures, we often read that Jesus sat on the right hand of God. It’s mentioned once in Luke, Acts and Romans, twice in Revelation, thrice in Matthew and Mark, and six times in Hebrews. But read Acts 7:55-56 again and you’ll see something amazing.
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”
In Stephen’s case (and probably the only mention in the whole Bible) after he preached, he saw the Son of Man STANDING! WOW! Can you see it!? In my sanctified imagination, I can’t help but to see a standing ovation from Jesus to welcome Stephen into heaven! What a way to end his life and ascend into glory and honour – I want that for the end of my life!
May we be a youth ministry that has a “finishing anointing” – to be youths who not only know how to start, but how to end. May all of us start well and end well. So that when we meet God face to face, it would be to hear him say, “Well done, you good and faithful servant!” and see Jesus giving us a standing ovation after that!
[Credits: teaching materials adapted from Benny Ho and Steve Andres.]
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
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.
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.