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enjoying a checkpoint before ending up at a checkmate.

By the time this post is published, I would have preached a total of 10 sermons since “Always And Forever” at Revival Service. I had the privilege to speak at two youth camps this month and I am penning this entry before my final session tonight. Frankly speaking, I am exhausted – physically and mentally especially – but I am reinvigorated spiritually, because of the amount that I had learnt through my preparation for these messages.

The weekend before Grace Retreat, I accomplished mission (almost) impossible and preached four freshly written sermons over three days. And in the past 30 hours, I delivered three messages. It was a grueling process (mainly due to the lack of rest and the constant demand to develop my content) and it forced me to change the way I normally delivered my content – by preaching without a full manuscript – and I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the change.

My dependence on the Holy Spirit to guide and keep me on track had never been higher and the sense of satisfaction had never been deeper. I felt a lot more natural when I’m not bounded by a manuscript; it gave me freedom, spontaneity of speech and truly allowed the Spirit to determine the words I uttered. This was a new milestone in my journey as a preacher and I thank the Lord for giving me the grace to grow into it. (There’s still a long way to go though…)

I preached “Leadership = Lead Your Sheep”, “Will I Catch A Grenade For Ya?” and “My Neighbour Is A Spy!” (twice) that weekend and I’d like to think I have made progress as a preacher. Shireen Lai once told me (perhaps prophetically), “Get used to this – it’s the life of an itinerant speaker”. I was a little embarrassed by that statement because I (still) feel severely inadequate as a preacher – I know I am a decent communicator, but I still lack (and long for) the connection of Ps Ronald, the relevance of Ps Benny and the profoundness of Ps Edmund; I strive (and sometimes struggle) towards these things as I attempt to grow into this role without any theological education (yet). The most common advice I’m given however, is to find my own style of preaching – something I’m still trying to figure out. It’s a steep learning curve so I thank God for His generous grace.

On a side note, what I also enjoyed about speaking at other youth groups, besides expanding my communication repertoire and gaining exposure and experience, is connecting with youths outside R-AGE. I try to add these new friends on FaceBook as soon as I can so that I am able to remember their names and my brief interaction with them. And at the end of each session, I will share the same sentiments as my Shepherds (who accompanied me to minister at these youth camps) – we are grateful to be a part of R-AGE that is now a part of us.

I also sense my heart for the Church (the body of Christ) being enlarged as I get a feel of the needs in other youth ministries – that is something that is definitely caught, not taught. However, I am just at the beginning of what (I hope) is a long and rewarding pilgrimage of preaching the Word… There’s so much more that I have and need to learn before I can call myself a proper preacher of God’s Word; this realisation keeps me humble in light of the applause that I receive from people; I must always remember to bring both criticism and compliments before the Lord, and to ask Him to help me make sense of it.

Well, it’s a relief for me to know that the next time I preach (in R-AGE, besides a session at another youth group in early July) is at the end of August so I’m going to make full use of this preaching hiatus to sink my roots even deeper into the Word of God. It’s also going to be a time for me to catch up on the Leading and Mentoring pillars of my daily ministry. And up(a)grading my Interceding life is part of what I hope to achieve in the coming months.

In the meantime, I’d like to direct your attention to Huiyi’s insights from “Will I Catch A Grenade For Ya?” Oh, and if I haven’t made it clear enough… I absolutely love preaching the Word of God – what an immense privilege to share His Word with young people! (: For now, I shall take Peter Chao’s advice to “Focus on the preacher [I] will become and not on the preaching [I] will deliver”. What a timely reminder for me to keep growing and developing!

And as always, I covet your prayers. (:

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perth day 8: top eight regrets of this holiday.

We have arrived at the end of our mini-sabbath… And it has been a good one that I am thankful for. Today’s programme was even more relaxing than yesterday’s. I slept in ’til the late morning while Huiyi and Ervina had D&M at a coffee joint in Fremantle. After that, we went to North Bridge Road (coincidentally also Perth’s Chinatown) to have lunch at the Vietnamese restaurant Tra Vinh. Then we headed to Coogee Beach to enjoy a beautiful sunset before returning home to enjoy home-cooked chicken and pork ribs curry prepared by Granny Aw. She treats me like her grandson. (:

So, I’ve decided to write something alternative on the eve of my departure from Down Under. Sounds untypically cryptic for me to write in a pessimistic manner, but here goes – my eight regrets on this trip (so far):

1. Oversleeping and missing the annual Anzac Dawn Parade today; not that I planned to go for it anyway…

2. Not reading any of the books I brought along; instead I bought three more at CS+E’s church.

3. Not dining at the famed Ciao Italia because it’s closed until 29th April; I need the tiramisu… NOW!

4. This is the biggest bummer of ’em all – not hanging out with Liang Zhi; I haven’t had quality time with him in years!

5. Not meeting up with Ps Benny as our schedules didn’t coincide; I was on a road trip on his free days.

6. Not asking Granny Aw to pray my recovery from Dercum’s Disease; I’m going to strike this out tomorrow though.

7. Earning a surface scratch on Liang’s car with a dustbin that I couldn’t see with either mirror; I’m flabbergasted.

8. Not applying medication to my huge ulcer below the tongue sooner; ulcers have a way of tainting any experience.

Less than 24 hours before Huiyi and I return to Singapore… I’m looking forward but I’m also feeling bittersweet. Won’t we all after a good break? (:

Rocking it out at Coogee Beach with air instruments…

perth day 7: it doesn’t matter where we go or what we do.

Top: Fremantle, 2007 and Bottom: Fremantle, 2011

Incidentally, I intentionally and instinctively posed the same way at the same place!

At around this time 48 hours later, I’ll be onboard the plane back to Singapore. It’s been a great holiday. I shall make the most of it and try to get some rest tonight. I’ve enjoyed attending Ps Benny Ho’s church (Faith Community Church) this morning, heading to the Love Birds’ church (Christian City Church International), eating at Little Creatures Brewery, walking around Fremantle, visiting the Easter Markets, having dinner at Nishi Japanese Restaurant and hanging out at home… It typifies the kind of holiday I’ve enjoyed – agenda-less and without programme or structure. I absolutely needed something like this.

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Amidst all the sights and sounds I took in today, I also made three observations:

  1. It doesn’t matter where you are located; as long as you’re beside the one you love.
  2. It doesn’t matter how funny you are; the one who loves you will laugh with you.
  3. It doesn’t matter what you say; the one whom you love hears what’s in your heart.

have you considered switching lenses?

This entry is referenced from the book of Haggai, where we observe two types of workers in the church. The older ones had probably experienced some form of glory days before. Hence it would be natural for them to:

  • Look backwards towards good old days
  • Reminisce past memories
  • Remember what it used to be, and
  • Relive history

More often than not, this constant comparison would leave them disappointed and disillusioned. The younger ones, however, are anticipating their own days of glory. Hence you would expect them to:

  • Look forward towards new beginnings
  • Be out to create new memories
  • Imagine what it could be, and
  • Want to make history

So this would naturally result in them being energised and driven. The difference was that the younger ones caught sight of the future – a glimpse of greatness and a flash of hope! So I believe that at the end of the day, in light of positivity or negativity which would inevitably happen around us, it boils down to perspective!

Ed Silvoso once said, “The greatest hindrance to faith is not unbelief but memories.” I concur. Our memories can indeed become hindrances and limitations to what God can do because we have a tendency to repeat positives and avoid negatives. This causes us to be reluctant to embrace new ideas and initiatives. Let’s not get caught in the rearview mirror. We must learn to honour the past, cherish the present and anticipate the future. It’s not our past that determines our future but God’s presence.

My favourite footballer, Eric Cantona (whom I saw in person just last week!) once said this, after he returned from an eight-month ban from kung-fu kicking a fan who verbally abused him – “I use the past to breed a better future.” We must not compare the former R-AGE, e-Gigs, camps, conferences or any other events (or even people!) with the future R-AGE. Every year is different and quite rightly so! Instead, we must look forward to the future with hope and expect that God will bring us from glory to glory.

For the older ones – don’t dishearten the younger ones… And for the younger ones – set an example for your leaders by inspiring and motivating them with your energy! When the energy of the young and the experience of the old comes together, the youth group becomes a powerful place.

Instead of comparing today with what happened in the past, the older ones must instead:

  • Remind the youths of their heritage
  • Encourage them
  • Rely on their strength, and
  • Not be wet blankets and water down their passion

Most importantly, they must provide a platform for God’s purposes to be performed through the younger ones. In turn, the younger ones must approach the elders this way:

  • Remind them of their destiny
  • Enthuse them
  • Glean from their wisdom, and
  • Not be foolish and ignore the advice of the older ones

One of the best thing they could do for themselves would be to approach the older ones to be mentored by them so that God’s purposes in their life could be progressed. The most dangerous thing for us to do is to compromise and meet in the middle – we end up neither here nor there and result in dissatisfaction. We must dream together to birth what God has deposited in our hearts! Remember, it’s all about interchanging our perspective for a better one from God!

if I’m really the way and the truth, I will lose my life.

Reality is a social construct – if we keep reinforcing a particular idea through the media and society, it becomes a reality; adjudged reality becomes present deceit and prolonged deceit becomes a fortified idea – even if the original idea is untrue! For example, popular sitcoms like FRIENDS or How I Met Your Mother promote pre-marital and casual sex. Over a decade, a practice that was once frowned upon by society has become acceptable to us – because it’s delivered through entertainment. Another example would be the lifestyles of Adam Lambert or Ellen DeGeneres amongst many other Hollywood celebrities, who are public about their sexual orientation. Over the years, a way of life that was once a taboo and biblically wrong has become tolerated and even embraced by most – because it’s endorsed by popular figures.

On a level close to home, being competitive and cutting each other’s throat in the name of academic excellence may have also cornered us to live and behave in a way that is not pleasing in God’s eyes. Yet we still continue to practise this way of getting ahead of one another because “everyone else is also doing it”. The result of this? Misplaced priorities which stem from an erroneous beliefs system. I know of many who engage in decadent activities even when they know it’s wrong and (eventually) meaningless, because fun is the highest priority of their life. But the end of the day, they still feel empty. Eventually, we will be caught in a state of repeated lack and dissatisfaction, where unmet expectations and a lack of fulfillment leaves us in a terribly frustrated state.

Through the many things that we pursue in this lifetime, we can choose to either build God’s house or our own… Unless we make God’s house our house! Are the things we build in this life for God to take pleasure in or for us to seek solace in? Where’s our focus – on our lives or on the God of our lives? We must examine ourselves and investigate our motives – be it at home, work, school or ministry. (I digress, but doing all four simultaneously is leaving me drained and tired.) Whose will are you pursuing – God’s or yours? Who will you believe and take reference from – God or the world?

And how will you know unless you spend time with the Lord? From my humble experiences, the root of all disillusionment and disorientation always stems from a lack of quality time (not quiet time) with the Lord. It has happened to me before (and it’s happening now, again); we must not lose sight of the purpose behind the passion. Benny Ho said this – “You don’t get what you should get because you don’t do what you should do!” I thought about it for a little while and drew the next conclusive statement… “You don’t know what you should do because you don’t know who you should know!”

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (Proverbs 9:10)

Are you short-changing God when you serve Him? Do you often give more attention, time, energy and resources to the office or school? You can, don’t get me wrong – in fact, you must do your best in your work and studies – but you cannot and must not give God any lesser than what you give to school or work. After all, God gave you the best – Jesus Christ – and eternal life! May we always invite the Spirit to investigate our ways and point us back to God!

happy first year anniversary.

Tonight marks the completion of my first year as a full-time minister in R-AGE and Grace AG. Three questions have dominated my heart in the last 24 hours.

  1. How have I contributed?
  2. What legacy have I left behind?
  3. Who have I become?

I am still in deep thought over these three questions. Actually, I have surprised myself by not asking, “What have I accomplished?”. I’d like to believe that it’s a sign of growth and maturity. I remember again tonight, that the Great Commission is not an assignment from God but an alignment to God.

Many things have also come to pass in the last 365 days. I’ve decided to exercise introspection tonight to perhaps, attempt to recall three ministry highlights.

  1. Directing REAL 2010 and investing into my champions
  2. Leading R-AGE @ GII and mentoring my shepherds
  3. The privilege of the pulpit and growing in my preaching

There were many other moments which were hard to leave out – like the unforgettable PIERCE – but my choices were made based on what I wouldn’t and couldn’t have been able to do if I didn’t come into full-time ministry. It all began with a simple act of obedience – which is the highest expression of stewardship – to answer the calling that had brewed in my heart since I was a teenager.

God has been marvelously good and gracious to me. And so I would also like to remember His many blessings in the past year. The three events have affected and reminded most me of His everlasting faithfulness in my life.

  1. Purchase of Dawson, for it catalysed my breakthrough with HY’s parents
  2. Providence of mentors – from Peter Chao to Benny Ho to Edmund Chan
  3. Potential of joeyasher.com, for through this blog, I’ve gained access into people’s lives

Looking back at the year that has passed also allows me to look forward to the year that is to come. 2011 looks next to be one of the most eventful years of my life. Amongst many new events that will be added over time, here are three that I look forward to the most. May God will these to happen in His time and way.

  1. Marrying and sharing my life with HY
  2. Embarking on various mentoring journeys
  3. Growing the youth ministry and as a youth minister

But above all else, I desire most to:

  1. Love God more
  2. Love God’s Word more
  3. Love God’s people more

So tonight, I do not celebrate a year of my forgettable achievements but a year of His unforgettable grace. And with that confidence at the forefront of my mind, I can’t help but to await the next 365 days as a youth minister in R-AGE with a great sense of hope, anticipation and excitement. I put my faith in a big God

Not my will, but Yours be done, O Lord. Thank You for Your favour, grace, mercy and loving-kindness. I love You Jesus, deep down in my heart.

sermon recap: time for spiritual puberty!

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First and foremost, I think it was amazing that R-AGE spammed Facebook over the weekend with testimonies of how God impacted our lives. I shared about purchasing Skyville with HY. Click here for the Facebook note and here for the original testimony. This activity was part of the Evangelism Pillar that RL, KY and I produced. It’s a simple idea that turned out to be brilliant beyond our imagination; we designed a lesson to help our youths share how God changed their lives and to tag at least five Christians and five non-Christians, then invite them to R-AGE services this weekend. It went better than we had expected and I’d like to believe that it’s an activity worth repeating a few times every year.

I can’t wait for Saturday! The first PLUG & PLAY (!) since PIERCE will take place at 2:50pm bring your friends this Saturday and be early! With PUSH at 2pm, service at 3pm, Be Our Guest at 4:45pm and cell at 5pm, July looks set to close on a high! RY will also be preaching the third installment of the LIVE LOUD series. We’re doing a verse-by-verse study on the book of James and I had the privilege to open the series with the overview. CX preached last weekend and I’ll be preaching again next weekend. I know this sermon recap is two weeks late but better late than never!

  • James is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get and an in-your-face book that teach us not just to live normally, but to live it out loud for everyone to see. The author is straightforward, direct, practical and honest. He was writing to young Christians who were scattered and were facing trials.
  • These five chapters are like a synopsis of the issues that the church faced then, and even now; the things that caused disharmony in the fellowship. The one root problem in these issues? Spiritual immaturity. James exhorted his readers to mature spiritually.
  • People, unlike the all-knowing God who can see through your heart and know instantly if there is faith in there or not, cannot see the contents of our heart; the world knows the faith in our hearts by examining the works of our hands.
  • BH phrased it perfect: “We are not saved by works but we are saved to work… …Faith is the root of salvation but works are the fruits of salvation.” Works are indeed the consequences of salvation. “People will work because of their salvation for work comes forth from faith.” (Woohoo! I can’t wait to meet BH for our mentoring session on Wednesday morning!)
  • Maturity is not 1) how old you are, 2) how much you know, or 3) how much you have done, but to be “brought to its end; a finished state; at completion; perfect human integrity and virtue; and a full grown adult of full age”. It is a process that doesn’t stop until we meet Jesus Christ.
  • He offers us eight distinguishing marks of maturity. A maturing person:
    1. Is positive in the midst of problems (James 1:2)
    2. Keeps his or her desires under control (1:4)
    3. Is accepting of others (2:8-9)
    4. Has consistent beliefs and actions (2:17)
    5. Is careful with his or her words (3:2)
    6. Strives to be wise (3:17-18)
    7. Has a humble attitude (4:10)
    8. Is connected (5:16)
  • We have to love God and others actively (NT) and passively (OT). It’s extremely easy to fall short of God’s holy standard so it is only by God’s grace that we can make the cut. I always believe that the way we treat the least and the weakest of us show us how strong we truly are as a ministry.
  • The mark of a true Christian isn’t in a perfect lifestyle, but a lifestyle that is being perfected. Your friends will recognise the effort that you make to change. If you keep doing what’s right, no one can tell you that you’re wrong. Consistency is proved and achieved over a long period of time and reputations are built on consistency.
  • When there’s a breakthrough with our words, there will be a breakthrough with our lives. I issued the official R-AGE language challenge: to once and for all get rid of crude words on top of all known vulgar words – from real-life conversations, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and MSN. Let people notice the difference by noticing the absence.
  • People may admire a person if he or she has a righteous, faultless and sin-free life but people will respect a person who desires to change. Wisdom is necessary for maturity because it will govern the way you speak and behave; so always strive for wisdom.
  • I introduced IBM (In-Between-Meetings): I encouraged everyone to have at least one IBM in the week. Initiate and organise meet-ups beyond the weekends – be it to study, pray, eat, or even play together. Don’t give up meeting one another. A united youth group goes beyond meeting once a week!
  • I challenged all leaders: Having a mature individual around brings about steadiness to a group. Love it or hate it, leaders are being watched and mimicked. Hence, we should lead by example by setting and being the example for the younger ones who look up to us.
  • Everyone grows up at a different rate and time, and the maturation point is what we strive for – being completely mature. God alone will bring us to that point. The key to unlocking maturity has nothing to do with us, but with God, so boldly ask Him for wisdom today.
  • Selfishness and self-centredness is the greatest obstacle to maturity for it is instinctive to think about ourselves first. When we can’t look beyond ourselves, we can never look toward the needs of others. It does take effort to consider the needs of others’ better than our own.
  • A maturing church is a growing church. Just like physical puberty, when you spiritual puberty you will experience all kinds of spiritual growth – gradual, sudden and new growth. When we emerge out of our comfort zone to mature spiritually, we will grow as a church.

I look forward to preaching again next weekend!

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