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to establish a FAT and Hungry culture (part IV) – hungry.

FAH-II

Photo credits: Caleb Kay

The final session with my leaders was the shortest one. There was no way they could have tanked (I’m learning youth lingo…) another trademark long sermon from me after being turned out at 4am to clean the entire church. I trust that the structured experience would be etched into their hearts for a long time. And if I can find the piece of paper that I scribbled down my debrief pointers (“Leadership lessons to be learnt”), I’d post in another entry.

At around 6:30am, we dismissed everyone. Most of them returned to their bunks and a handful became all-terrain sleepers; the GI Chapel morphed into a huge dormitory. At 10:30am, we assembled them in service for the last time, and I began my sharing by stating that we ought to be hungry for two things: God’s whereabouts (His presence) and God’s will (His plans and purposes).

However, what prevents us from getting hungry is when we are already being filled and have no more space in our lives.

I thought Kenneth Yeo brought out this lesson superbly at Minus One (an initiation of sorts involving the new leaders just before Leaders’ Retreat commenced). He split the leaders into a few groups, lined them up and got them to transfer water from a bottle at the start of the line into a bag at the end of the line by passing it from one person to another other via sponges. Then he introduced a twist by pouring a little Ribena syrup into each sponge, and challenged them to do the same thing without any trace of Ribena in the bag. The leaders instinctively used half the sponge to execute this task and ended up transferring less than half the original amount.

If you have too much of worldly things cluttering up our lives, how are you able to stay hungry for the things of God? Your appetite is directly proportionate to how full you are. Try eating an expensive dinner immediately after a cheap lunch – the thought of food would repulse you! If you want to be hungry for God, then you have to learn to de-clutter and de-accumulate. The scary but ironic thing is when ministry and church work clogs up your life and takes away your hunger – that would be a travesty.

In John 4:34, “Jesus said to them (his disciples), ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.'” I believe Jesus revealed to us the secret to being filled with the things of God. But to do the Father’s will, we must first know His will. Only then are we able to accomplish the Father’s work. That is why the Grace AG theme for 2013 resonates with my soul; paraphrasing what my senior pastor (Ps Calvin Lee) said, in order for us to effectively live life missionally, we must first be deeper in the Word.

Ezra understood that well. In Ezra 7:10, we learn that “Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the LORD and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.” Through this, I derived a four-step approach to God’s Word that I will share over the pulpit in greater detail in the last week of January. Grasping this, I believe with all my heart, has the potential to change the way we live as well as to change the world that we live in. If we are not changing the culture, we’re not changing anything. But if we, like Ezra, are determined to SORT out our approach to God’s Word, I’m sure we will constantly remain hungry for God’s presence and His will.

  • Study: read, remember and reflect upon His Word.
  • Obey: apply what we have learnt.
  • Reap: the benefits of applying God’s Word.
  • Teach: pass on these benefits to others.

In addition to that, I also shared Ps Edmund Chan’s PDA Lifestyle with my leaders (which I will also teach in greater detail over the pulpit):

  • Personal revival: experience revival everyday by getting deeper into God’s Word.
  • Divine appointments: sense the Holy Spirit leading you into a divine appointment.
  • Active obedience: learn to obey what the Spirit put upon your heart to do or say.

I believe that once you catch this method of evangelising, of loving people in the name of Jesus, you will never look at preaching the Gospel in the same way ever again. My desire for my (spiritual) household and I is to practise the PDA lifestyle and to leave the results to God. Sometimes, it doesn’t necessarily have to culminate in a dramatic conversion. Sometimes, all that’s needed at the moment is a simple spiritual conversation. All you need is to faithfully do your part, and learn to trust God for the outcome.

If you want to live from the inside-out, then your perspective must change; God didn’t call us to be a student, a teacher, a pastor, but to be a witness! Live your life in the Word and let the Gospel be seen in your life. We have to preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words. If anything at all, I think the X-factor of a believer is authenticity, and not perfection. I’d rather be real and flawed and to appear perfect. After all, if Jesus can love me even though I’m like that, then Jesus must really love me – that’s what the pre-believers should see in your life!

In summary, a hungry Christian is a growing Christian, and his appetite for learning and doing God’s will should never diminish regardless of his age or education level. If you call yourself a hungry and growing Christian, then I’d expect you to always seek the better way; choose the way of wisdom and apply it into your situations. The moment you stop learning is the moment you stop growing.

It is my prayer that I’d always display an appetite for growth and an active pursuit for opportunities to mature in Christ.

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a September stock-take and an October onslaught.

It’s always therapeutic to do a stock-take after an eventful week, which would have been impossible to pull off and not fall exhausted on my face, if not for the grace of God that saw me though. Warning: long post.

Monday: attended QC (Questions and Contributions) time and a monthly mentoring session with Ps Edmund Chan; ’til this day, I still thank God for the divine appointment in which He has connected me to Ps Ed; what a privilege and honour.

Tuesday AM: led worship at the Tuesday staff devotion with Ps Meng Cham; that’s how I will do it from now on – being accompanied by a seasoned musician makes it so much more enjoyable (because I won’t need to practice with my guitar!)

Tuesday PM: prepared for and sat through a staff meeting, which was a heart-wrenching experience and threw me off my momentum; I’m thankful for Ps Ronald who patiently listened to me rant and vent my frustrations. This forced me to come before the Lord that evening to seek His face. And I’m glad I did. The Lord spoke to me through Genesis 13 and Hebrews 6.

Wednesday AM: Caleb crashed at my place the night before and we watched Man Utd surrender a 2-0 lead to Basel and equalised in typical United fashion at the dying minutes. I struggled through the second half, to be honest. I’m really getting old…

Wednesday PM: led worship at the weekly Wednesday church prayer meeting (J333) with Rafael.; exposing youth musicians through my J333 duties gives me renewed purpose when I find my name on the worship leading roster. My next session is on 30 November and I’ll go over-the-top because I’ll be teaming up with Ps Ronald and the church will be praying for R-AGE.

Thursday: presented the 2012 R-AGE budget in front of the Head of Administration, accountant and finance manager of Grace AG on Thursday (my first time presenting with Excel spreadsheets); administration is really not my strength. Thank God for Ps Ronald who rescued me by answering on my behalf on a few occasions.

Friday AM: had a delectable dim-sum lunch at Royal China @ Raffles Hotel with Sheryl from Eagles, together with Daniel and Xavier too, and joined the Vantage Point magazine editorial team. (I just received my first email from them!)

Friday PM: sat through another staff meeting, and wondered what it would be like next year when I’m chairing it.

Friday EVE: spent time with some of my favouritest people on the planet at the GII Shepherds cell, and facilitated our Harmony of the Gospels lesson; Yixian said if we continued at this pace (in-depth but extremely slow), we’d take two years to finish the book.

Saturday AM: led the R-AGE 2012 manpower deployment discussion with Caleb, Keith, Kenneth and Rachael; yes, R-AGE leaders, we were deliberating over your fate next year! HAHAHA. I can’t wait to see youths lead youths!

Saturday PM: preached an apologetics cum evangelistic sermon (my first attempt) for the Same Same But Different evangelistic service at R-AGE@GII. I actually enjoyed my preparation more than my execution. It was intellectually stimulating to read in greater detail how atheism, pantheism and polytheism (among many other -isms) stood against theism.

Saturday EVE: chaired the Bare Bones 2012 coordination meeting with Nicole, Keith, David and Grace – who have proposed some spectacular ideas for the year-end conference. It’s gonna blow Grace AG away; everything is going to be significantly leveled-up! I’m delighted to be working with such exceptional youth leaders. Watching Man Utd defeat Norwich 2-0 capped my day.

Sunday: preached the same sermon at R-AGE@GI. I took the opportunity to clear up some personal administrative work while waiting to have lunch with Huiyi and Yixian. After a short nap to recharge my batteries, I resumed studying for my 60% News Studies paper (the next day), which I have burned midnight oil for in the past seven days. Little by little, I’ve conquered the paper.

Monday (today): praise God for a relatively easy exam paper! It’s different when you understand what you are reading and memorising instead of mugging just for the sake of. I managed to finished the paper with an hour to spare, so I brought forward my appointment with my hairstylist. It’s 4pm now (at the point of writing) and my head literally and metaphorically feels lighter.

I’m going to complete this blog post before I go ahead to prepare the slides for the R-AGE 2012 Ministry Action Plans (which I’m presenting to all pastoral staff tomorrow!) Then I’m going to head out to China Square to treat my family to a nice dinner of Crab Bee Hoon @ Don’s Pie Club. We’re celebrating my sister’s belated birthday (1 October), as well as my 8th 21st birthday in advance.

This week, I also managed to meet Caleb and Lucas for lunch and mentoring on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. I thoroughly enjoy investing time into young men who possess a desire to grow. Lucas’ huge appetite for growth reminds me of me, especially in the way that I pursue my mentors. I told him to never lose his hunger (okay, boy?).

After our  mentoring session over coffee in Starbucks@Tanglin Mall, he asked, “How do you do it, Bro Joey?” It being managing the many things on my plate. I couldn’t find an adequate way to answer him except to say, with all sincerity, that this capacity is a God-given gift; how could I take credit for the grace of God? I told him to ask God for it as well, because I think God will give it. (I didn’t tell him about the price of increased capacity though, but I’m sure he’ll figure that out himself.)

September has been an exceptional month in ministry. Besides starting R-AGE on the Spiritual Disciplines: Training in Holiness sermon series, I’ve also been planning for R-AGE in 2012 and meeting up with lots of youth leaders who might be serving alongside me next year. I am convinced that it’s my time with the Lord everyday that’s keeping me afloat.

I’ve also been reading non-stop throughout the week (and at an aggressive pace too). Besides the Bible during my daily devotions, sermon preparation materials and academic texts, I’ve also been feasting into Edmund Chan’s Cultivating Your Inner Life, Philippe Auclair’s Cantona: The Rebel Who Would Be King and Larry Crabb’s 66 Love Letters. I think I’m concurrently reading eight books – and I love the variety! This is effective for someone like me who gets bored easily.

On a more personal note, I’ve also been spending lots of time with Huiyi with our wedding preparation; we’ve reserved Sunday afternoons to visit bridal studios and photographers, as well as to plan for our big day. The highlight of these trips is to catch a sneak preview of my wife-to-be when she emerges from the changing room in glorious, gorgeous white; she’s gonna be the most stunning bride in all of Singapore next August – you have no idea how much we are looking forward to be married to each other!

I’d probably be packing my luggage midway when this post is published; Jetstar is going to take me to Perth at 5:45pm (Tuesday). I look forward to hanging out with Chin Seng, Ervina and Liang Zhi, but the highlight of my trip is to spend time with Ps Edmund and Ps Ann. I’ve been looking forward to this trip ever since I purchased the air tickets (super cheap!) a few months ago.

When I began my mentoring journey with Ps Edmund around this time last year, he emailed me his traveling itinerary and invited me to follow him on one of his countless trips; so here I am, excited and still starstruck, counting down the hours before I get to spend quality, uninterrupted and extended time with a God-given mentor, whom I’m sure will sharpen, challenge and inspire me!

October, I am ready for your onslaught!

Quenching my spiritual thirst with living water! (@ The Pinnacles, Perth, Australia)

one day in the 40 days of community.

Post-script: My apologies to Ps Kieran Chew for publishing this entry only now… It was in my drafts since 3rd June, but the madness of June overwhelmed me, and this article got forgotten… Well, Ps Kieran, you’re right, “It’s no longer news”, but hey, it’s still newsworthy, at least on my blog it is. HAHA! Hope this works for you! (:

Credits to Matthew Tan for his good work in putting this video together.

About a two month[s] ago, the full-time staff at Grace AG embarked on its Home Improvement Project (HIP) as part of its internal 40 Days of Community (40DOC). This campaign is an initiative launched by (the Deputy Senior Pastor) Ps Calvin Lee, and is set to be launched church-wide in July-August in a strategic effort to bring the church together. It is adapted from Rick Warren’s programme (of the same title) that has been tried and tested with positive results, first in Saddleback Church, then in many other churches worldwide.

I’m not sure if I was alone in feeling this way, but honestly, I had to rummage my heart for enthusiasm for this project because it certainly didn’t come naturally from the onset. It was an acquired taste of sorts – the more you did it, the more you enjoyed it. I enjoyed Ps Cuixian’s leadership of my group as well as getting to know some of my colleagues (like Andrew Tai and Edmund Quek, who were great fun to be with) a little better.

My 40DOC began with the devotional series in the accompanying book, “Better Together”, which I hope most of you will purchase. If something could fire me up, it would definitely be the Word and its practicable outcomes. Coming together weekly to watch Rick Warren (who incidentally looks like a cross between a tour guide and a taxi driver – no offence – he has such a down-to-earth look about him!) on DVD was also refreshing – he has an uncanny ability to simplify biblical themes into instantly applicable aphorisms. Speakers (like Edmund Chan, Peter Chao and Benny Ho) with that ability always get my attention.

HIP was definitely the highlight of 40DOC. It required us to literally move out of our comfort zones, put our money where our mouths are and to get down and dirty with our hands and feet. (Clichés, I know, but definitely used in the right context.) I shall offer some honest observations of my day spent with over 10 other full-time staff; I don’t enjoy giving Sunday School answers anyway. Allow me to share these thoughts through 5 C’s.

Complaints

No matter how old you are, what species of gender you belong to, and regardless of whether you’re a church staff (even if you are a pastor), you will still have a tendency to complain. It’s a sickening and disgusting part of our wretched human nature and I caught myself at it. Of course, I tried to mask it under the cloak of humour but I could never hide it from my inner man if I was frank with myself. I was rather put off by some the apparently “harmless” and “honest” negative remarks that floated around the room. Sometimes, it is good not to say anything if you indeed have nothing good to say.

This alone I think, humbles the greatest of saints – even if they were ordained by a board of holy people! Our fallen state truly requires the infallible grace of God. Help us shine for You, Lord, simply by not complaining!

Contribution

From the way I see it, there are three ways a person could contribute in HIP – either by offering your time, energy or resources. I took a backseat (as there were enough leaders) for this project and I knew I had to leave a couple of hours earlier than the rest, so I wanted to make up for it by chipping in with a little more money. I gave an amount as the Lord put upon my heart to – this was my act of obedience. However, to my surprise, I received (almost) the entire sum back as we did not need to spend as much as we had budgeted for the house. So I decided to channel that sum into the weekend’s offering bags.

The bottom-line of what I want to say is that, due the complexity of planning and the complicated layers of coordination, this HIP might just be the first and last one for you and I; and if that’s the case, what’s there to lose by going all out?

Conditioning

If anyone told you that painting a house was easy – tell him to go paint another one. I regretted not taking before-and-after photographs of the house we helped to transform. Before we could give it a face-lift, we had to give it a face-off. Peeling and scraping the ancient paint off both the walls and the ceiling were a mammoth task in itself. Try arching your neck upwards for an entire morning in an unventilated and weird-smelling room and having every fifth of ten scrapes feel like a fork scratching a blackboard… Can you feel and imagine the icky sensation in your mind’s eye? And speaking of eye, you also had to battle with fragments of dried paint and cement flakes with each blink.

I felt like I burnt more calories than a regular workout and received a good toning on especially my arms, but it was the conditioning of my heart and mind that I truly appreciated from this experience.

Currency

If ever there was a cry that screams from within my heart as a shepherd of people (i.e. a pastor), it would be how I want to aggressively avoid being irrelevant to society. (No disrespect to anyone here, but) I felt sad to have heard some conversations that transpired in the one-room flat, between some of my colleagues and the home-owner we were helping. It was dismal to see how they were unable to converse on the same frequency because one has obviously lost touch with the harsher dimensions of society. Forgive me, for I know this is a quick, harsh and judgmental assessment (and I apologise for it if it stumbles you) but a part of me fiercely rejects an innate incapability to relate with the felt needs of the man-on-the-street. It would almost be ironic for a pastor to arrive at that state.

In the same breath, I will say that this applies to anyone who calls himself a Christian. How relevant are you to society? Are you so far-removed that you can no longer relate to those less-fortunate? HIP is a good way to get reconnected.

Collaboration

The saying goes, “Tough times make tough men” and as a staff team, we have not and do not go through anything tough as a collective; this HIP was enforced (as a professional obligation) and emblematic at best (we had to lead by example before we could encourage our sheep to do it), hence it already prepared and toughened us up psychologically before execution. Nonetheless, the beautiful thing about going through something uncomfortable, unconventional and uncommon like that was that it forced us to forge teamwork. And I reckon this category of teamwork (honed through hardship) is a little more cohesive than organising a church event or attending a staff retreat together.

I am confident that embarking on HIP together, be it as a cell group or a real family unit, will only serve to strengthen the existing bonds that are holding the body of believers together. This may just take your cell and your family to the next level.

***

It is quite unlike me to blog about something that I do not believe in, or write something here out of professional obligations. And so, I shall not. But hey, I have already written nearly 1,500 words on this upcoming 40DOC – perhaps this is a telling indication of my optimism towards this campaign.

I believe in it not because of its proven track record, programme or content – that’s just hype. No, I believe in it because I serve a big God who desires to unite His church. Like I mentioned it over the pulpit two weeks ago, I firmly believe that 40DOC isn’t just going to be another campaign, but THE defining campaign for Grace AG.

I bought home three things from HIP – a photo frame, a certificate and a recap sheet – but I took home so much more, if you know what I mean. I urge you to allow 40DOC to become a part of you. After all, what do you have to lose?

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