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how do you spot potential?

All right, it’s time for me to make a comeback on WordPress! I’ve struggled to recover my writing momentum after a five-day hiatus and being away in Cameron Highlands over the last few days didn’t help my cause. (It was a great break though!) Nonetheless, I shall give myself an easier head-start with a shorter entry tonight to break the silence.

Since PIERCE ended, I’ve had youths indicating their interests to be emcees, cell mentors, ushers and basically to serve in R-AGE. Of course, this delights me (and my shepherds) to no end! More significantly, this morning, I’ve had the privilege of welcoming the latest member to my beloved GII leadership family – NC! She shared with me her journey with God enroute to the DoYouLoveMe cell group and I just sat there at Ya Kun, and acknowledged the good work that the Lord is doing in her life. Her addition to the GII Shepherds means that “Plug & Play” will now be a monthly feature in the R-AGE @ GII services. (And everyone says “HURRAY!”) I can’t wait for the first installment in July!

I’d also like to record my answer to her question – “How do you spot potential in a young person?” I thought about it for a short moment and this was my response to her.

First and foremost, before you even identify any potential, you must get to know who the person is and this takes time and effort. The young people in this day and age are generally less likely to initiate approaching you, hence it’s important that you take the first step to be acquainted with them. Without any prior (or basic) knowledge of their background, personality and unique talents, you’d never get an idea of who they can become and how they can contribute to God’s kingdom.

Once that is established, it’s really about observing them. Again, this takes time and effort and most people write youths off very quickly, before they get a chance to express what they’re capable of and show you a glimpse of who they can become. I always believe that if you stick around long enough and are regular enough, young people will open up to you by the sheer virtue that you are ever-present; I’d like to believe that it’s never about charisma, but about consistency. No excuses for the introverted phlegmatic.

Now, I think I have an almost “blind” belief in young people because I trust God. I know He’s in charge of the process and I believe that He is in control of the outcome. Everyone is different and every person will become a unique jigsaw in the masterpiece of God; while some may have more significant roles and are more active than others, there is no one who is more or less important than the other – that’s my conviction, at least. So I tell myself that all I can do as a leader in authority, is to sponsor opportunities for young people to reach their potential, just like how my mentors have done so for me. I’m not afraid of making mistakes – even errors in judgment – and I think this helps the youths under me to feel that the pressure is off them. I always tell my youths that the only thing I expect them to do is to make mistakes – because I did and screwing up did me a world of wonders. Of course, I’ll try to prevent it, but I do not strive to stop it from happening. Some walls are meant to be crashed into; I always believe that God uses every single experience for His glory.

Often, I ask God to give me a vision of the “developed state” of the young person or leader that I am journeying with. I take a step of faith to believe that whatever I envision, I will play a part in helping that young person to realise his or her potential. The sense of satisfaction I enjoy when I see a youths soar in their capacities and capabilities is beyond what money can buy and what the world can offer. In an almost divine manner, God has been faithful to me – for most of the youth leaders and youths that I’ve worked with, they do eventually turn out to be what I’ve envisioned them to be. I thank God for giving me a “radical audacity” to dream and to see beyond what others can see – sometimes I even have the privilege of seeing beyond what the young person I’m journeying with can see. Don’t get me wrong – I’m far from being a soothsayer – I just try to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and act upon what is prompted in my heart.

Of course, there are some youths who didn’t quite develop the way that I had hoped that they would. Did I despair? I used to. But the older I get, the more I learn to trust God, because I know His plans for that young person are far greater than mine. God’s detours are better than Man’s direction. I’m reminded time and again that God is God, and I’m just a privileged mentor. I’m a risk-taker though, and I love to see young people lead young people. To an extent, I find myself in the process of lowering the average age of leaders in R-AGE and somehow, that gives me an immense sense of gratification – more than half of my key leaders are barely 21 years old!

After I finished my breakfast appointment with NC, I had lunch with SY and I remember telling him how he carries the potential to be one of the pillars of the cell mentors corps. He shared with me his keenness to take on the role of a service emcee (which thrilled me greatly!) and I told him that I can’t wait to retire from being an emcee because it’s such a powerful sight for him (and his peers) to take ownership of the ministry.

As if it’s not obvious enough already, R-AGE @ GII is on the threshold of revival. I feel it!

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youth camp update #3 – launch of camp tee!

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!

“i don’t know your mother but i know you have a mother.”

Yet another classic quote by the legendary RW that drew resounding laughter from the congregation. I love it when this man speaks – be it over the pulpit, vis-a-vis or in a meeting – he talks with aplomb, littered with audacity, authority and authenticity.

For those who attended the combined service at GII today, you’d have downloaded an excellent sermon preached by RW on the topic of faith. HY and I responded to the altar call and it was my first response at the altar as a full-time staff. What I thank God for was that this message did not make me think, “Yes, I can do it!” or even, “Yes, God can do it!” but it forced me to step back and ask, “Do I trust God about it?” For if I do, then I should also trust Him for the process and outcome.

Like many others who attempt to pursue God seriously, I too have countless questions regarding faith. RW gave a good reminder that true faith is based on the word of God – that when it’s beyond my ability to accomplish it, I still believe in my heart that it will be done. We ought not to place our faith in the things of God but in God and His attributes; that signals the activation of your faith.

***

I remember a cognitively spiritual (or spiritually cognitive) battle at the turn of the year when I asked for a second opinion regarding treatment for the Dercum’s Disease in my body. (Read these two two recaps if you want the context.) From when I discovered the first lump at 14 years old, to the day that I scheduled a surgery to remove all 25 in my body, I’ve asked people to pray that God would miraculously remove every lump; I prayed that myself too. But as soon as the operation date was confirmed, I realised that people started to change the way they prayed for me.

Now, why doesn’t the original prayer retain its contents after people found out that I’d be heading for an operation? Where is the faith that existed before surgeries and operations were medically possible? This got me thinking about whether we trusted more in modern science that medicates or in Jehovah Rapha who heals. Is faith then determined by what we already know and are sure of (the surgery that would remove all lumps) or by what we do not know and are unsure of? How am I supposed to apply the Hebrews 11:1 definition of faith into this given context? Have we pigeonholed our faith and allowed our eyes (i.e. walking by sight) to determine how and what we pray for? How can we rise to another level of faith? I still haven’t found satisfactory answers to this series of questions so I will continue to mull over it.

***

That aside, faith does not presume – I’ve learnt that presumption could lead to hurt you and your faith or both. RW casted such a timely reminder that “good” (in the context of Romans 8:28) may not be God’s best for me. In reality, it is in the difficult times that the heroes of faith are born. Regardless of how small or little our faith is, we should exercise it, act upon it and learn to embrace the challenges that come with it!

When we juxtapose Hebrews 11:33-35 with 36-38, we must remember that those who suffer for the faith are very much in the will of God as those who experience miracles and answered prayers. In light of irresponsible and suicidal “Name It, Claim It” prosperity teaching, there may be pockets of Christians who only see positivity as part of God’s will for their lives and reject the other side of the coin. Those who are undergoing a tough time may struggle to see or understand God’s purpose in that moment – so they need to exercise even more faith than those who are going through a good time and enjoying fruitful outcomes. God is indeed still and always in control.

At the altar, HY and I prayed together and we asked God to give us the grace to submit fully to His will for our lives. And we’ll present our needs to God only after we’ve submitted to Him. We asked God to help us to wait expectantly (and be inspired by those who have gone before us in history and in the scriptures). Everyone has a different journey of faith – so we must learn to not give up or give in so easily but instead persevere by taking up the challenge to rise to occasion that faith demands us to. Today, HY and I asked God to help us to live a proper Christian life and to be joyous in our every in and out.

I like what RW stood for – that if you truly aspire to shine for Jesus, you must “find trouble” – and solve it by the grace of God. For when that happens, people stand up and take notice of what God is doing through you. God, who enables the problem to be solved and the trouble to be shot, will take the full glory alone. I believe that you can’t go wrong if you keep doing something right.

sermon recall: barnabas the epic encourager.

It was a whirlwind weekend for me – preparing the Barnabas sermon was more challenging than the Mary Magdalene one. Nonetheless, it’s over and I thank God for all of it. Honestly, I thought my delivery at the G2 youth service was not up to scratch.. Sometimes I don’t know what disappoints me more – a lack of congregational response or failing to meet my high personal standards. But God is good; while I felt that the preaching at G2 was one of my poorest to date, I was surprised by the response at the altar call and received rather positive feedback in both quantity and quality from people I didn’t expect. For that, I’m encouraged and thankful, for God worked through my weaknesses (2 Cor 12:9) and still brought Himself glory despite my shortcomings. Form may be temporary and class may be permanent, but the Holy Spirit is forever – I’ll choose the Spirit’s help over form or class, anytime.

After a post-sermon debrief with RY, some melancholy moments and an evening of personal reflection and self-critique, I refreshed the sermon contents and preached a significantly different sermon at G1 – new illustrations, analogies, activities, focus points as well as more internalising and tightening up of contents. (I’m actually slightly saddened by this phenomenon because G1 would almost always receive the more polished sermon while G2 would receive the raw one; my optimism, however, rephrases raw as original. Oh, euphemisms…) And this was the first instance I’ve reviewed my contents so many times; so I reviewed it again this afternoon and here are the key points in my sermon as well as my own lessons learnt, in no particular order of importance:

  • Let us become the “Encouragement Safety Net” and the “Pedestal Platform” for each other.
  • What does it take to be a “good man, full of the Spirit and of faith”? Answer: Encouragement! (It works both ways, get it?)
  • If we want to be like the Spirit, then we must do what the Spirit does – to encourage!
  • Barnabas was called the “Son of Encouragement”; if your friends were to rename you today, what would your new name be? What would you be a son or a daughter of?
  • What the Holy Spirit does for us on the inside, we should do for others on the outside.
  • The key to creating a culture of encouragement is hoping and praying to be encouraged by others (passive), while making every effort to encourage others (active).
  • Encouragement is beneficial for both the encourager and the encouraged.
  • Not everyone can be a Paul but everyone can be a Barnabas; not everyone can be a leader but everyone can be a supporter.
  • Encouraging others is not about you or how well or badly you do it, but about what the Spirit can do through you.
  • Our common ground is how broken and wretched we are – hence we certainly can emphathise with everyone regardless of age or life experiences.
  • Everyone needs a person to believe in him, a “no-matter-what” person – through valleys, mountains, victories and defeats.
  • The ministry of encouragement has a long-term effect in the lives of young people; so we should be patient with one another as God is patient with us, for if we wait long enough, they might surprise us with something good one day.
  • Encouragement influences us in whether we finish pathetically or emphatically – it is the extra strength that we can give to and find from other people.
  • You can encourage people you don’t know by affirming them on what they did and not who they are.
  • You cannot stop someone from falling – that is inevitable – but you can stop them from crashing.

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I look ahead and anticipate the preparation of the next New Testament character. Watch this space!

retrospection: painting on a white canvas.

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.

too urgent to be important.

I just spent my entire evening putting together the Mary Magdalene sermon for tomorrow youth’s service. I am excited about delivering this one because of the sheer amount of lessons that Miss Magdalene could teach us with her life. While I have work on my mind, I also know that I have been writing daily and I have every intention to keep up the habit. So I shall blog while I take a break from writing the transcript and designing the slides (and I know that doesn’t sound like a break to most of you).

I think that it is especially relevant that I share my thoughts on the commonly debated definitions of importance and urgency. A man needs to realise which jigsaw he is and when he’ll be fitted into God’s masterpiece. If a man understands his role in his God-given life (be it a son, brother, boyfriend, buddy, officer, marketing manager, pastor or whatever), he will be able to derive his sense of vision – and this vision should steer him forward by way of goals and pursuits. Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) cannot be more true, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…”

It is from this vision that a man would be able to assign different levels of importance to his countless pursuits. Now, I think that there are many, too many, important quests in our lives, but once we neglect the important things, they becomes urgent. It stands true for aspirations like daily devotions, conversations with loved ones, consistent studying time, regular exercising, and even saving money; if you abandon any of these items for a long enough time, they automatically become urgent – spiritual dryness, detached relationships, academic straggling, poor fitness and health, and a pathetic bank account, respectively.

Let me give you a classic and relevant example. Fact – I’m a Sanguine and I procrastinate. (Now, I blame it on a lack of inspiration but the purists would rather attribute it to inconsistency.) I’ve known all along that I own this new testament characters sermon series since the beginning of the year and I keep telling myself that there’s REAL, there’s G2, there’s my surgery, etc. to clear before I attack this beast. Well, to put it honestly, I’ve deserted this important task for three months and only commenced work on it last week. So now this has become an urgent assignment (like it’s not obvious enough). There’s still a lot of quality and excellence put into it, don’t be mistaken; I spend on average 20 hours to prepare each sermon. And HY has already warned me against this consecutive burnings of midnight oil, yet it has still transpired. (Negative demonstration here – so learn!)

Now, from roles, we get visions, and from visions, we get goals, and from goals, we get priorities – the key to juggling importance and urgency. Remember, priority is not how much space or how many times it appears in your calendar, but the sequence by which it enters your calendar. If spending time with God is high on your priority list then it should enter your calendar first, and your other activities should be planned around it; the same principle applies to time spent with family and loved ones. So here’s the lesson – prioritise well if you want to perspire lesser.

the first was a woman.

I have been given the privilege to preach for the entire month of April. First, a traditional Easter message, followed by three consecutive sermons of lessons we can learn from three selected New Testament characters. This is one of the biggest ministry challenges for me (yet) and I absolutely relish it.

The Holy Spirit inspired me to merge the character study series together with the Easter message. As a result, this weekend I will launch the series and present to you my observations of Mary Magdalene the gutsy lady who was last with Jesus in His humiliation, and the same lady whom Jesus first appeared to in His resurrection. What an impressive reputation to own!

(There’s an external speaker confirmed for the Sunday youth service) So may I invite all who are reading this to head on down to Grace II this Saturday (3rd April) at 3pm, to hear from and learn with me the outstanding attributes of Mary Magdalene. Discover for yourself how relevant her experiences can be for you!

Extracted from John 20:1-18 (New Living Translation)

Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and I don’t know where they have put him!”

Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb to see. The other disciple outran Peter and got there first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying to the side. Then the other disciple also went in, and he saw and believed—for until then they hadn’t realized that the Scriptures said he would rise from the dead. Then they went home.

Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels sitting at the head and foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Why are you crying?” the angels asked her. “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

She glanced over her shoulder and saw someone standing behind her. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

“Mary!” Jesus said. She turned toward him and exclaimed, “Teacher!”

“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.”

Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.

Tomorrow will be my first Good Friday as a full-time staff and I’m filled with even greater awe of what Christ has gone through for me. See you this weekend!

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