All right, this post comes 125 entries later, but as the cliché goes, better late than never!
Many moons ago, I set up a competition to give away a handsome, spanking new branded NKJV Bible (worth $40+) and there were a number of people who very kindly submitted their reflections. I took a million years to decide on the winner and when I finally decided on the winner, I never found the right opportunity to pass her the gift! But last Friday, we finally met and I was delighted to give her the Bible.
Basically, the task was to extract a quote or an entire article to reflect on, and the winner is… SERENE WEE!
Thank you for taking part in this little competition and thank you for your support! Please allow me to share with you her two-page winning essay; she has written her insights based on the article, “you plant seeds, not pluck fruits.” I sincerely hope you enjoy reading her thoughts as much as I have!
Please consider this my entry to your competition. Reason being, this post came at just the right time in my life, and my thoughts about them are particularly personal. As you know, I am not all that involved in the youth ministry, but as a children’s church teacher a lot of the things you mentioned I find applicable to children’s ministry as well.
Childhood is the soil which determines what sort of teenagers and adults these kids grow into. If that is any indicator, then I must admit that I am literally stunned sometimes. I think, “If they can be so selfish, so rude, so cynical even at such an age, what then?”
“let them be, let them fall and let them learn”
This struck me particularly because I realise there are times when “No! Don’t do that!” doesn’t cut it anymore. Not that setting boundaries is not important, but after one whole week of being restrained in a classroom of 40 children, constantly shouted at to keep quiet, I think church teachers should strike a better balance when we see them on Sundays. Honestly, this phrase of yours really got me thinking about the children’s perspective, and how they may react to my actions, more.
“I encourage you to manage your expectations”
I think sometimes we’re so caught up on helping the child to achieve the “best” and forsaking the process, just as in the secular world. I was doing a craft with my class the other day, when this boy asked me if he could colour his foam flower with a marker. I looked at the flower and the flower itself was coloured, so I thought, if he adds colour on it, it wouldn’t look nice. So I said, no. But later I wondered why I wanted to wrest artistic license from him just because I thought it would look nicer. The craft was for mother’s day, and is not the child’s own effort, creativity and sincerity more important than “niceness”? With my control, he had one less chance to learn. And this is of course applicable in so many things.
“Their encouragement is a bonus, not a necessity; I’d love to receive it, but I do not need it to do what I am called to do.”
Yes, yes and yes!
“For if a leader is motivated by recognition and appreciation, he is sure to be left disappointed and disillusioned at some point.”
It is through personal experience that I know this to be true as well. I am a person who is very motivated by appreciation. Give me one nice phrase and I could probably remember it for life. But this can really distract from the primary purpose of ministry. Not only in terms of wanting recognition more than serving God faithfully, but in terms of what KIND of recognition is craved for.
In children’s church there are weeks when we have to do master teaching, which is basically teaching the lesson. Teachers have the freedom to structure the lesson as they will, and they can add in whatever games, object lessons etc. that they think would help bring the point home better. After weeks of hearing other teachers say “oh you teach so well”, and “oh the background you use for your powerpoint slides are so nice!” I found myself one night before a particular master teaching session, trawling the internet for nice backgrounds. My dad looked at me and said, “Instead of spending so much time on this, why don’t you spend more time praying for the children?” Wake up call!
And sometimes when leading worship (yes we juggle multiple roles in CC haha), I find myself judging the success of the worship session based on how many children are singing, and how many are raising their hands. While I do believe an outward expression of praise is important, I’ve come to realise, that I cannot simply look at the surface. The last thing the world needs is to have children learn hypocrisy at a young age. And if the children DON’T sing, will I then stop praising God with all my heart?
A lot of times too, teachers tend to take some form of pride in their ability to handle the classroom. And again, while I view that to be important, how sad is it that I should be praised for being able to make a rowdy class keep quiet. This to me, is again, simply on the surface. To show love, I believe I ought to dig deeper.
“that it is our job is to plant seeds, not pluck fruits.”
The way I read this goes hand in hand with the idea of patience. Matthew (Tan) once encouraged CC teachers that though they may not see it now, the children they teach may one day grow up to really love and serve Christ – men and women of God. Perhaps it’s because I am not that old myself, but I will think, “Huh, must wait sooooo long lehhh.” And that is the thing about planting seeds. Because seeds take time to grow, it’ll need a lot of patience to see them grow to fruition, or, like you said, we may not have the privilege to see that at all.
And so it hearkens back to what rewards we are looking for. The ones in heaven, or the earthly ones?
But my children do surprise me. Some surprise me with little bouts of maturity, way beyond what I expect from them. Some rough and tough ones surprise me with their gentleness. Some surprise me with their creativity. Some surprise me with their smiles and loving words.
What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you will be boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.
James 4:15-16 (New Living Translation)
If life is uncertain and death is certain then how in the world are we supposed to negotiate our journey in this lifetime? What on earth are we doing for heaven’s sake? James proposed his resolution in verse 15, which calls for us to tweak our alignment.
It’s not about the planning but about the perspective, not the pursuit but the priority. If life is truly punctuated by question-marks and death completed by full-stops, then I’m grateful that God is my space – the punctuation most-often used in every sentence; every word is preceded and followed by a space. I thank God that His grace is laced in space!
James instructed us to renew our mind. We naturally speak with presumptuousness so he wants us to think differently and speak with renewed positioning. He’s blatant enough to say, “What you ought to say is”, which signifies a deliberate change in speech; speaking like that won’t come naturally, that is precisely why we have to intentionally train ourselves.
So how exactly does James want us to change in our speech? First and foremost, we must acknowledge God’s will in our lives. Everything counts for nothing if God is not in it. That explains why he began his sentence with, “If the Lord wills”. Then he says, “We will live”, meaning that we should check if we are even alive, for it is pointless talking about plans if we are not alive to carry it out. Finally, James says this last, “And do this or that”. Once we have committed our plans to God (and asked Him for His purposes in our lives), and ascertained that we are alive to carry it out, we can consider implementing our plans.
Of course, James knows we’re hardly so obedient; he correctly diagnosed the problem by identifying the opposite of seeking God’s will, that is, to boast about our own plans. This evil boasting is rooted in human pride, where we think we are in control. In Greek, “evil” is an active verb, which means that if we boast of our own plans, we are continuously doing evil.
I didn’t plan to return to Singapore last July. I thought I’d be in Shanghai for a few more years. But everything changed within a week. In a nutshell, I was caught in the middle of a senior management dispute and had to make a decision. I sought the Lord and I made the decision to return home. I had His peace reigning in my heart. Everyone around me was shocked – my mother, sister, colleagues, business associates and even Huiyi’s family – because I was doing well in Shanghai. In fact, I left in the same month of a promotion and significant pay increment.
But a still small voice in my heart assured me that it was all right to come home. I knew that the Lord was going to take care of me, so I obeyed. That was simply it. I had no idea that it would lead to what I am doing now with R-AGE; I didn’t expect myself to be a full-time youth minister so quickly but God knows His timing and I trust Him for it – that’s the beauty of life.
When we understand that this life doesn’t belong to us but to God, we will realise that all we need to do is to obey. Obedience is the highest expression of stewardship; the best way to see the mark of obedience to God in your life is to observe how you have stewarded your life according to what God has revealed in your heart. I do not look forward to the day when God puts His arm around my shoulders to commend me on all the good things I have done for Him only to sound a tad bit disappointed because I missed out on the only thing He wanted me to do; it is important for us to be faithful to our calling.
People say that change is the only constant but I beg to differ for God is the only constant. And if God is the only constant, then wouldn’t it be wise for us to bank on Him to see us through this uncertain life leading up to a certain death? We must remember that life does not revolve around what we want but what God wills. Our lives ought to be a declaration of the true sovereignty of God and never about the imagined control of Man.
If I am an investor and someone told me about a stock that would eventually be good for me, I would buy it in a heartbeat. The stock will fluctuate, but because I know that it will eventually be good for me, I will hang on to it no matter what. The Bible tells us in Romans 8:28 that we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. Our job becomes really simple then; all we need to do is to love God and live out His purposes in our lives.
Look here, you people who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.”
James 4:13 (New Living Translation)
Fact – you are not in control of your life; you can control your effort but you cannot determine your outcome. Life is uncertain and is a gigantic question-mark. The sure thing about our life is that we are completely unsure about it. It is impossible for anyone to tell me that they can guarantee that they will be able to do what they have planned. James gave us a glimpse of a presumptuous conversation in verse 13 – it was as if these people were sure of their plans coming to fruition.
- Who – “You who say… We are going”
- What – “Do business there”
- When – “Today or tomorrow”
- Where – “A certain town”
- Why – “Make a profit”
- How – “Stay there a year”
Sometimes we tend to think that it is us who determines what happens next, and not God. Be careful when you start to think like that. We are brought up in a meritocratic society and may tend to function like this – “So long as I attain this grade, I’ll be able to get into this school, and end up working in this job afterwards”; if you think like that, you’re not very different from the presumptuous businessmen that James was addressing.
Anything can happen in life. God used the incident of my failed MacBook Pro to teach me about the uncertainty of life and my helplessness towards it. Rain falls on both the good and the evil. I’ve learnt that life is uncertain but I’ve also learnt that there’s certainly nothing I can do about it. I can plan and work in advance to the best of my ability, but if my laptop decides without warning that it would crash on me, I have no choice but to restart my work.
Whenever you remember that you are not in control of your life, you must also remember that your life doesn’t belong to you. You do not own this life; you are only meant to steward it. The problem with us is that we think we own this life. And when that happens, we get into deep trouble because we don’t usually like to let go or give away what we own.
Remember that your life has been purchased by the precious blood of Jesus Christ and because it has been bought, it no longer belongs to you, or the devil, but to God. So never think that you own your life. Instead, submit your life to God and let Him have full control of it. We can propose but God can oppose; we can project but God can reject; we can rule but God can overrule. Let’s learn to accept His will and ask Him for wisdom and peace to deal with the unravelling of life.
Singaporean students easily get caught up in the relentless paper chase. Remember this – Jesus is greater than your grades. Do you really think that God’s plan cannot unfold in your life if you score badly or end up in the wrong school? No, God is so much bigger than that. Don’t be discouraged if you’ve made academic mistakes for there are no mistakes with God; nothing is ever wasted in His economy.
Proverbs 16:9 tells us that we can plan our course, but it is God who determines our steps. So let’s learn to commit our plans to God, for when we work, we work, but when we pray, God works! The sooner you realise you are not in control of this life, the easier it will be for you to accept that life is truly uncertain and always a question mark for you to discover and be surprised by its unknowns. It’s a good thing that life is out of your hands, but in God’s hands.
If there was anyone in the world I could ask to mentor me in spotting and developing potential, it would undoubtedly be Sir Alex Ferguson. One day, I will meet him, along with Eric Cantona and John Piper – these are the few people whose hands I’ve yet to shake and whose feet I will sit at to learn from.
I couldn’t help but to rack up my respect for the Gaffer with his latest statement on Rooney. Absolutely classic. I completely resound with the Boss.
… But Ferguson ratcheted up this extraordinary public battle, with a powerful and idiosyncratic late night explanation of why Rooney should have invested faith in his proven ability to spot talent and why the grass might not be as green as the striker really thinks it will be at Manchester City. “Sometimes you look in a field and you see a cow and you think it’s a better cow than the one you’ve got in the field,” Ferguson said. “It never really works out that way. It’s probably the same cow and its not as good as your own cow. Some players like to think there’s a better world somewhere else. It never really works.”
As metaphors go, it was about as memorable as Eric Cantona’s “seagulls follow the trawler” story, though and it was accompanied by Ferguson’s revelation that a lack of belief in his judgment in the transfer market had once persuaded a player – possibly Roy Keane – to leave because he thought Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were not good enough. “He was not prepared to wait until they were good enough,” Ferguson said.
“But that’s the trouble with potential,” he went on. “People don’t identify potential. They’re very poor at it. I’ve identified it all my life – the potential in young people. I know potential. I know how to develop and have faith in young people, who surprise you when given the opportunity and that’s what this club is all about. When you see Manchester United at the moment with all these young players, 14 under 22, you can’t see Manchester United three years ahead.”
(Source: The Independent)
WOW! What a statement of intent! I could totally see myself saying the same thing as Sir Alex! I always believe that we must be infinitely patient with (young) people, because one day, they will surprise you with their goodness. I’m sticking to my guns with this philosophy in my ministry. You can even look at the Bible to see traces of older men believing in much young men to mentor and take over their ministry.
I’ve achieved what I’ve intentionally set out to do – to lower the average age of all my first tier leaders. No, it’s not meant to declare anarchy or rebellion but to simply demonstrate my absolute belief in young people – by putting them on the frontline of leadership. I’m already thinking about the members of my first tier leadership team in 2012! The first thing I told these my current leaders is to find a successor. I believe it’s all well and good if one of my leaders want to remain in young ministry and serve until they’re old like me – in fact, I’d rejoice and praise God for their commitment and passion to serve the youths alongside me! But it should and must never come at the expense of preventing another young person from rising up in ministry. As long as I’m in charge, I will never allow that to happen. Leadership must always renew itself (although I must state my caveat that the higher the position, the harder the succession, and the lengthier the process).
Never, EVER, tell a young person he is a failure and will never make it. Remember one thing – he or she is still young! They have the licence and the privilege (just as you had when you were young!) to make mistakes and more importantly, to learn from it. Our hearts with wrench each time we see a young person falter, but it’s all about the recovery process – never forget that! I remind myself time and again that I’m never looking at the final product. Youth ministry is known to be transient and quite rightly so – the young person you see before your eyes today is far from being the polished individual you will see years later. I don’t know about you, but I’m committed to play my role in cleaning and sharpening this young person.
If I may reiterate Ferguson’s words, there are two lessons to learn and two principles to cherish if you’re in youth ministry:
- Be patient to wait until they come good, for they surely will, with the right guidance from you.
- If you can’t see their potential – that’s your problem – it doesn’t mean they do not have potential!
I’ve stated it on this blog before and I’ll happily post this paradigm-shifting quote again from the legendary Sir Matt Busby:
If you are good enough, you are old enough.
The funny thing is, the reverse may not be true! Again, I’m spilling my heart out on this matter because I’m so passionate about believing in young people. You’ll do yourself and the young people you are working with a world of injustice if you merely look at ability and age instead of potential and possibilities. You can limit yourself. But never, EVER, limit a young person. OH YEAH, THE SPRINGTIME OF YOUTH!
P/S: I’ve really missed the catharsis of writing daily!
A couple of hours before I turned 21 for the seventh time, I received a Facebook message from a correspondent in BBC. She googled Wayne Rooney related news and chanced upon my blog. And she asked if I was keen to be on the “World, Have Your Say” radio talk show. I didn’t ask for this and I thought it was a pretty cool birthday present from the Lord, so I agreed without blinking. And it wasn’t before long that I was on the line with the talk show host, awaiting my turn to speak.
As a student, I was trained to talk on the radio, but nothing quite prepares you for your maiden experience, no less than on an international platform like BBC. Many things rushed through my head in the build-up to the programme and I was getting ready to regurgitate at least five minutes of continuous talking. As it turned out, based on the question that I was asked, I only managed to air about a tenth of what I had intended to share.
At the end of my very short interview, I hung up with a sigh of disappointment.
No, it wasn’t because I didn’t get enough time. And no, it wasn’t because I spoke poorly. It was simply because I didn’t get a chance to talk about Jesus Christ and about young people. I was disappointed with myself for that. I felt I had let the Lord down, and let my profession down.
So in order for me to go to bed with a peaceful heart, here’s the full part of what I had intended to say just now. Of course I would never dream of saying this entire chunk, but well, this is my blog and so I shall freely air my opinions here without any time or space limits. This is in context of the recent headlines of Wayne Rooney deciding to leave Manchester United and to answer the question: “Is money your priority at work?”
Hi Ros, thank you for having me on the show. Now, there aren’t many things that Wayne Rooney and I have in common except for the fact that we both belong to Gen-Y.
Before we talk about his supposed motivations of money, which we speculate, let’s take a step back to examine the generation that he belongs to. Unlike Gen-X, or the baby-boomers, who pride themselves in staying loyal to an organisation and finds it an achievement if they can call themselves a one-company man, Gen-Y, or the Millennials, is a group of people born from 1982-1995 and are motivated by their own personal ambitions. It has become a common practice for people of this age group to change jobs frequently, not because they are fickle, but because they are ambitious and adventurous; they are achievement oriented and want to attain as many career landmarks in their lives. We must not forget that Wayne Rooney is just 24 years old – he’s about as old as my extremely capable younger sister!
I think I can scarcely identify with Rooney because I am a Gen-Y in contact with Gen-Y everyday. I’m a youth minister with a Christian church in Singapore and for me to even be doing what I’m doing is proof of the characteristic Gen-Y attribute – to pursue your dreams; I’ve always had childhood dreams of being a youth pastor simply because of the way that I was brought up and the people who came into my life to invest in me. To be in the pastorate is something I’ve always wanted to do.
Before I worked in church, I worked in the marketplace as a marketing manager with an imported wine company. To a lot of my peers, especially the older (Gen-X) ones, what I have done is career suicide, simply because I have swapped a relatively high-paying salary to take on this job and earn an amount that half of what I used to take home. There are initial struggles with the financial adjustments of course, but I’d gladly do it all over again, anytime, any day. Simply because I’ve always dreamed of being a youth pastor.
That is why I think it wouldn’t be too far-fetched an idea to say that it’s for monetary factors that Rooney has decided to leave United. Even in his latest statements, we can pick up traces of ambition and pseudo-guaranteed success (or at least the platform to achieve it). On one hand, I won’t be surprised if Rooney cloaked his decision to leave United due to the recent controversies surround his private life – and I think if family is his priority, then good on him to move abroad to escape the vicious press in the UK – but on the other hand, I think it’s really because he’s an ambitious person.
Maybe he’s doing a Ronaldo, where he’s won everything he could win in England and wants to move to greener pastures. Or maybe he simply wants a change of environment after being at United since he was a teenager. A lot of people will tell him many different things – some advice are born from personal financial gain (his agent, perhaps) and some would simply be for the sake of his family (Coleen, perhaps). I wouldn’t be surprised if Rooney’s father was against his decision to leave United because of the loyalty-stained blood he has as an older gentlemen.
What I would tell Rooney, if I ever had the opportunity, is to listen to what his heart is telling him to do. I would love to say that he should listen to the voice of God, for that speaks louder and clearer than any other voice this world is offering – the only catch is that you have to first hear it! Unlike Rooney, who I assume isn’t a believer, I had an inner peace and an inner motivated that I’d like to believe is placed there by a divine being. With a supernatural backing, it was easy to go against the natural. I banked on God’s prompting in my heart and I made a decision based on a simple virtue that is uncommon in this world – obedience.
I’m not sure what you would think about it – but honestly, it doesn’t matter – because we could go on and on about opinions; they will continue to differ and digress. Everyone has childhood dreams. For Mr Rooney, he wants to be constantly on a platform that would enable him continuous success; I don’t think it’s really about money and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up with a club that gave him a similar salary as what United offered. For you, Ros, maybe you’re already halfway through your childhood dream of being able to speak to a worldwide audience.
For me, I am certain that what I am doing – and man! I absolutely love what I am doing! – and at this point of my life, I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I consider it an immense privilege to be able to play a small part in influencing, inspiring, intervening and interceding for a generation. For I know that whatever that I am doing with them today will impact them in their tomorrows. It gives me great satisfaction that I’m investing my life in theirs, and to tell them how much God loves them, has a great plan for them, and then to play my part in believing in what God can do through them – wow, what an honour! It really gives a reward that the world could not offer.
Thank you for having me on the show. I know that I’d never get to say all these things on air, but I thank you for giving me an opportunity to spill my heart in this setting, on my blog, as I always do. It is my prayer that this blog gives God full glory, for I am merely putting into words what He has put into my head. What a way to kick off my seventh 21st birthday. Be blessed, and be awesome. Cheers!
I know I am supposed to sleep, but I just remembered that United is playing Bursaspor now! Of course I will give in to this temptation to watch a Rooney-less United in action! With or without Rooney, Ronaldo, Beckham, Cantona or the plethora of talents that have gone before them, United will continue to advance. If they have survived Busby, Best, Charlton and Law, they can survive anything! United we stand, divided we still stand and remain United! GGMU!
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.
- How have I contributed?
- What legacy have I left behind?
- 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.
- Directing REAL 2010 and investing into my champions
- Leading R-AGE @ GII and mentoring my shepherds
- 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.
- Purchase of Dawson, for it catalysed my breakthrough with HY’s parents
- Providence of mentors – from Peter Chao to Benny Ho to Edmund Chan
- 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.
- Marrying and sharing my life with HY
- Embarking on various mentoring journeys
- Growing the youth ministry and as a youth minister
But above all else, I desire most to:
- Love God more
- Love God’s Word more
- 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.