I just got back from second last youth camp coordination meeting with the GII super Shepherds and boy I tell you, the countdown to 15 June is getting more and more exciting! PIERCE is going to be historic, without a shadow of a doubt. We’ll be doing many things for the first time and I shall keep all of that secret because I do not want to diminish your camp experience! The 11 of us simply cannot wait to execute all the programmes that we have painstakingly planned specially for you campers!
Tonight, together with ET, I’d also like to officially launch the youth camp t-shirt? Why with ET? Simple – this chilli-padi is the proud designer of the PIERCE logo, name tag and t-shirt and I’m super proud of her for accomplishing this task! Her (first published) work of art will now be proudly adorned by nearly a hundred people. Well done, ET! This is certainly a special achievement to rejoice over because this is the first ever R-AGE @ GII t-shirt of any kind! (On a personal note, I believe that ET will go on to become an excellent designer IF she puts in every effort into learning and mastering her craft!)
GOLD prints + blood RED tee = gorgeous.
We cannot wait to issue this memento to you – at the camp itself. Aren’t you glad you only paid $7 for this? For those who didn’t sign up for the camp – don’t worry; we will make it available to you immediately after the camp, on 19th June (Saturday), after R-AGE service. But there are only 20 extra pieces printed, so first come first served!
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the countdown to PIERCE begins! Less than two weeks to go before we all go crazy at the best ever youth camp of R-AGE! Be excited!
Two days ago, I embarked on a five-parter with my GII shepherds on the topic of prayer, (loosely) based on JP’s chapter on Prayer in Desiring God. I’ll expand his excellent teaching in order to ensure that the lesson remains relevant and applicable to our context. This was a natural follow-up from my previous lesson on Philippians 4:4-7. Each time we meet for cell, I make us memorise scripture. Although these verses are familiar, I’m fairly confident they have taken a paradigm shift as they store these powerful, dynamic verses in their hearts.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7 (English Standard Version)
Anxiety does nothing for you. On top of adding zero benefits to your situation, it also distracts your concentration and injures your soul. Paul dispenses such practical advice – anxiety is so useless and negative that it doesn’t even change or improve your situation. No wonder he warns you against it.
The remedy to being anxious about nothing is to be prayerful about everything. When we pray, we acknowledge a few things: (1) We openly admit that without Christ, we cannot accomplish anything; (2) We deliberately turn away from ourselves because we have the confidence that God will provide the help that we need – I call this, “Anti-self-sufficiency”; (3) We actively humble ourselves as needy and exalt God as wealthy. No wonder Paul instructed us to turn to prayer!
Allow me to rephrase “prayer and supplication”. Basically, it is to present the request for the first time and continue to present the request earnestly (until something happens, or until the Spirit changes the way you pray). And you do this in an attitude of “thanksgiving” because you recall the many times that God has answered your prayers in the past. This should give you the confidence to ask boldly – for God is a faithful God who would answer prayers (according to His will)! Remember also, that you are actually making known your requests and not telling God about it like He doesn’t know; this gives you the confidence that God already knows what’s in your heart; So your role then, is to verbalise your request(s), and to do it ardently, both audibly or inaudibly.
An easier way to understand “guard” is to imagine our hearts (or affections, passions and emotions) safely protected in a castle that has bricks made of God’s peace. The peace of God supersedes all human understanding, garrisons our hearts and protects it in Christ Jesus – what a powerful imagery! It’s not any other peace that will be in our hearts but that which is subjected to the rule and reign of Jesus. This peace is a result of the Holy Spirt that is at work within us.
We pray because we need God’s direction and support in our often misguided and heavy-laden lives. And the result is God’s peace – which is all that we really need. No wonder Paul exhorts us to rejoice in (verse 4)! Finally, the question then, in light of this knowledge, isn’t “Why should we pray?” but “Why shouldn’t we pray?”
It is with gratitude to God that I am able to declare that my G2 Shepherds cell group is growing in quantity, quality and cohesiveness. I am thankful for the new additions (KJ and BL), the ones who joined us halfway (KY and YX) and the ones who have stuck with me from the beginning (HY, JC, MF, MW, EL). Tonight we’ve completed our two-part inductive bible study on Hebrews 4:12 (theme verse for “Pierce”); it was essential that all of in the organising committee understand this powerful verse at the back of our hand, so that our basis for planning is one and the same.
I enjoyed teaching them as much as they enjoyed receiving from the Word – I’m reveling in developing my gifts of writing, teaching and preaching. Bottom line is, I enjoy communication and it’s a boon that the medium which I’m promulgating is God’s word. We’ve gone into a fair bit of details through our study and one may need to be in the cell to fully understand the following summary. Nonetheless, here are the seven truths (in context of the Word of God) that I’ve left with them in my conclusion of this short, one-verse series:
- Our lives are changed when the Holy Spirit uses the scripture (which we first must have hidden in our hearts) to reveal specific truths to us.
- One biblical truth is infinitely better than countless worldly wisdom: revolution trumps inspiration and permanent trumps temporary.
- In spiritual warfare, Satan’s weapons do not stand a chance against the only offensive piece in God’s armour, which is the sword of the Spirit.
- God is the master markman and expert archer who never misses the target with His arrows of truth: for every occasion, everyone, and always relevant.
- If our life was an assessment book, then the Bible is the answer sheet hidden in the back pages: turn to it periodically for personal evaluation.
- The Word of God doesn’t just last forever; it never fades in brilliance too: think stars, matchsticks and torchlights that diminish with time.
- You criticise the Word because the Word criticises you: do not shun correction for judgment is a neutral word that merely determines outcome.
In the blink of an eye, I approach the sixth month of my full-time work with R-AGE. I will not deny that it has been a dream job so far for I don’t even feel that I’ve worked a day – even when I’ve clocked way more hours than what I am required to clock per week. My “clients” are my beloved youths, my “managers” are my G2 Shepherds, my “boss” is my mentor, my “colleagues” are my friends, my “work documents” are the pages of the Bible, my “company” is the place that I worship, my “business meetings” are mentoring sessions with youths and my “products” are leading, mentoring and preaching – I cannot ask for a better combination of work elements. God is good!
At the start of this year when I took over the G2 youth community, I had set out several tasks to complete as well as to lay down certain ground rules for my leaders and myself. Looking back, I rejoice at what the Lord has allowed me to accomplish thus far. As I prepare the Barnabas sermon for this weekend, I feel a tremendous sense of job satisfaction that not many people can claim to have – I thank God and give Him all the glory for this. Indeed, the enjoyment of work is a gift of God to man (Ecclesiastes 3:13).
At the workplan retreat at the turn of the year, I remember sharing with my G2 leaders my basic expectations of them. I think I must have caught them by surprise when I said, “I expect you to mess up”. I’m not looking for perfect leaders or for exceptionally talented ones – there’ll be no sense of accomplishment, challenge or rejoicing if I’m working with finished articles. I believe the journey is more important than the destination, but if we do not know where we are headed for, we will be lost. I told them that I also expected them to be 1) committed to their kids and to be 2) accountable to their leaders (especially in the area of existing and potential BGRs), as well as to 3) pray regularly, 4) display initiative, 5) lead by example, 6) be responsible and 7) demonstrate excellence in all that they undertake – just seven golden requirements. I firmly believe that good leaders raise better ones and bad leaders produce worser ones.
I also requested for time and patience so that I can figure out their needs and wait upon God to give me a fresh vision and direction for the ministry, which I can roll out in phases in the coming months. I also identified the thin manpower, especially evident in the lack of male leaders. I understood their common initial sentiments of feeling inadequate, lacking readiness and struggling to connect with their kids. As a number of them up their ante in their pursuit of God, and as I see them step out and take their place as junior shepherds of the ministry, my heart beams with pride – for I see God’s strength in their weakness, Christ’s victory in their defeats and an inevitable reliance on the Spirit to see them through their leadership roles.
As I shared with NC over lunch today, I believe that we need God to be more godly, Christ to be more Christ-like and the Holy Spirit to be more Spirit-filled; we will never be able to approach a theocentric God in an anthropocentric manner. And I firmly believe in my heart that we are on the threshold of revival – first in our being, then in our ministry. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in G1, G2, Grace or another church, we are not going to accomplish anything if we depend on our own strength. We must continually seek the Lord for guidance and believe that the power of the Spirit will enable and empower us to accomplish the will of God for our lives and in our ministry.
It’s only been six months, and already there’s a lot to thank God for. Brothers and sisters – apart from Jesus, we can do nothing; we are absolutely nothing without Christ. The canvas is white – let’s paint it well.
A couple of weeks ago, I was dealing with disappointment. In my journeying with and surrender to God, I’ve learnt that to deal with disappointment, I need to approach it with an attitude of thanksgiving and a realignment of purpose. I’m a highly committed individual synonymous with being passionate; hence I often get disappointed when people do not meet my expectations because I always wear my heart on my sleeve. When I was younger, I used to create a commotion each time this happens. As I mellow with age, I’ve learnt to be wiser in handling disappointment – sharing with the right people and only after settling my emotions with the Lord. PC once shared with me that it’s always easier to see God’s faithfulness at the end of a season; so I’ve learnt to be patient and to trust God for His timing and method.
20th March 2010 marks a significant day for the shepherds in my immediate ministry:
- KY commissioned as a 2LT,
- MF & MW had a positive cohesion with their CMs,
- KJ & BL joined my team of shepherds,
- EL & YX recovered from their cough,
- CN & JC returned safely from Australia and China respectively and
- HY completed her FYP
- I’ve removed all 25 dressings
This time, there’s something slightly different about feeling their joy and celebrating their victories with them. I can’t quite put a finger to it, but I’d like to think that it’s because I’ve been praying for them; there’s a sense of satisfaction knowing that maybe I’ve played a minute part in the spiritual shift of things. It’s like what RB shares in Nooma 018 “Open” – tapping into the creative power of God.
20th March 2010 is also a momentous day for my Church – we voted in favour for the redevelopment of G1 (on the condition that the 1.4 plot ratio is approved) and if necessary, would take bank loans to finance this project. I’m confident that the Board and the leadership of the church understands that while it is the hardware that’s being rebuilt, significant time, energy and (financial) resources must be invested into its software. Failure to do so would result in an ultimate inability and incapacity to realise the vision. The last thing we want is to have a spectacular building without the right people trained and enabled to fill the spaces which we have catered expansion for.
I am learning to trust God more and more for His providence and I believe that, in the words of BH, “When there is total submission, there is total protection“. On one hand, I’m delighted that we can finally advance as a Church, on the other hand, I pray that we will understand the sobering responsibilities that now line our way. I believe that if we, as a Church, have missed this point of investing in our people, then there really is no point in physical redevelopment. The leadership must be committed to see through this vision.
Let our hope be in You, Lord, and may You show us Your way – I desire nothing more and nothing less.
On Tuesday, my Shepherds and I attended a short talk conducted by Dr Ed Pousson, author of Jesus Mentor Me. He taught from Luke 2:39-52 (the anecdote of how the 12-year-old Jesus was away from His parents, at the temple of Jerusalem, discoursing with teachers five times his age). Dr Pousson’s insightful sharing caused a paradigm shift for most of us. I’d like to capture the key lessons I took away from that session:
- Jesus did not have a headstart with His knowledge of the Word; He had to be acquainted with scripture, go to school and study hard just like everyone else – He was on a level playing field with you and I.
- The difference between Jesus and us – we have Jesus to learn from but Jesus didn’t have Jesus to learn from! Therefore, He is our teacher and so we as students ought to adopt a posture as one who would sit and absorb from a great rabbi.
- Many of us find a job but miss our spiritual vocation – let’s not forget what our true purpose in life is, and we can only know that when we seek God continuously.
- We should learn as much as we can from our teachers, pastors and mentors but there comes a point where we can learn no more and hence it’s necessary to have a direct download from the Spirit.
- If Jesus practised spiritual disciples, then we have no excuse to not do what He did.
- We should always have a burning heart and an open mind.
- The Holy Spirit reveals the truth in our hearts; the best way to store truth is by memorising Scripture. If there is no software installed, then there’s nothing to recall.
I returned home with the purchase of C.S. Lewis’ The Weight of Glory. Yet another book queued up and waiting to be devoured. Such optimism…
One of the items I’ve been praying about throughout the course of my week-long MC was the theme and direction for the G2 Youth Camp this coming June. Last night, at 2am, the Spirit began transmission. And I was tired – my body said, “Sleep”. But my eyes refused to shut; the Spirit downloaded one idea after another into my still very alert and awake mind. I couldn’t risk forgetting the vast amount of information, so I climbed down from my loft bed, took out my notebook and started scribbling. This is the result of the cognitive diarrhoea:
It was nearly 3am when I was nearly done with it and I slept soundly after that. My alarm was set to ring at 7:30am but at 7:25am I was already out of bed, raring to go. I didn’t know how and where I found that vigour. On the way to work, I couldn’t wait to transfer the scrawl into a working document and to share it with RY (who approved it immediately!) and my G2 Shepherds in the evening. I texted HY to share my excitement, of course.
HY: “Honestly I don’t know how you do it, sleeping so late, waking up so early, but still so full of energy! Haha. Amazing!”
I replied: This is obviously not my flesh. I guess this is what you call… Being joyful in the Lord for that gives you strength? So do find your source of strength in God.
HY: “I learnt this from Benny Ho… You’re a true example of a man who is very, very busy, whose heart and inner soul is well rested in God.”
To a certain extent, I gained a better understanding in this application of Nehemiah 8:10b. When you find that deep, inner joy in the Lord, it strengthens you from within in a way sleep or food doesn’t. I was filled with a wave of gratitude for the successful operation and subsequent trouble-free recovery – that gave me joy too. Finishing the chicken scratch on my notebook filled me with joy too. I felt like a renewed man today!
Anyway, this year’s G2 Youth Camp will blow your mind. That’s a promise. In my mind’s eye, I see my G2 Shepherds nodding their heads away in agreement. Why the confidence? Because the Spirit inspired. So mark the dates, young ones. 15 Jun, Tue – 17 Jun, Thu. Three full days and three full nights of intense insanity. Trust me, you do not want to miss this camp.
The theme verse and camp theme will be released in the coming days. Watch this space!