Blog Archives

Reflections on being courageous for the Gospel.

I guess it’s about time I breathed life into my blog, again.

Over the last weekend, I preached the final installment of “The Call of Duty: R-AGE digs deeper into Ephesians”. It was based on Ephesians 6:10-24 and the armour of God. I titled the sermon, “Is there courage in R-AGE?”. I had the luxury of having three weeks to prepare for this sermon (due to the combined adults and 180° Easter outreach services) and extra time meant that this sermon could pack more punch.

Most times at the end of a service, I always feel I’ve preached the worst sermon of my life, but surprisingly, I enjoyed preaching this one. Not because I tickled minds with interesting nuggets of information, but because I felt that I had executed the prophetic burden God laid on my heart for the youths. It’s similar to Apostle Paul’s cry for the believers in Ephesus – to boldly proclaim the Gospel. I challenged two groups of young people at the altar; those who used to preach the Gospel boldly and those who have never preached the Gospel boldly before – that the Holy Spirit would strengthen them to do so.

While I was thankful for those who responded, there were more who didn’t and I wondered why – was it due to my inadequate delivery of the message, their apathetic spiritual condition or simply because God didn’t plan it that way? Or was it something else beyond my comprehension? I couldn’t put a finger to it but it drives me to intercede more intensely for my beloved youths.

David Lee was the emcee for R-AGE @ GI and at the closing of the service, he echoed what I had actually said at R-AGE @ GII – that the responsibility of evangelism doesn’t fall on the shoulders of the leaders, pastors and those who are more fervent in their faith, but on everyone who calls himself a disciple of Jesus. How could we remain unmoved if the love of Christ has already moved us? It is my earnest prayer that R-AGE would experience the Father’s love first-hand!

“Stop evangelising. Instead, start loving people in the name of Jesus”, I first heard Ps Edmund Chan say that when I traveled with him to Perth last October. He repeated that statement at the recently concluded Grace Leaders’ Retreat and it was a sobering reminder for me. I had a short SMS exchange with Gabrielle Ong this morning and I encouraged her not to give up on proclaiming the Gospel to her pre-believing friends. I told her that one of the most effective ways of demonstrating the Gospel is to find opportunities to pray for people – you “speak life” into them and they get a chance to see your faith in action. It works!

Back to the sermon… Well, I’m not sure about other preachers, but the thing I enjoy most about preparing a sermon is how much I learn and am challenged through what I read and write. I already know what God would want me to do in response to my sermon and I look forward to walking in obedience this week. It is my prayer that R-AGE would take ownership of the souls within their communities who haven’t met Jesus.

Even as I type this, my heart is moved by the compassion Jesus has for the ones who are suffering and the ones who do not yet know Him. I am thankful for the Spirit’s reminder in my life – that my occupation isn’t one of a part-time youth pastor but a full-time Gospel preacher! I must never lose sight of reconciling others to God through the Gospel!

It’s going to be an awesome week, my dear friends. Let’s raise the shield of faith on each other’s behalf, gird up our loins with the written truth, wield the power of the spoken truth and advance the Gospel for the King! What a privilege to shepherd R-AGE – I am thankful for this season of my life. God is good.

Advertisements

what is the G.O.S.P.E.L.? GOD. OUR. SINS. PAYING. EVERYONE. LIFE. (transcribed.)

At the beginning of this year, a couple of youths from REAL 2011 came up with the idea of using multimedia to share the Gospel instead of through the conventional pen-and-paper method or via a personal testimony. I agreed and thought it’d be great to ask for just five minutes of someone’s time, lend him or her your earpiece, and let them watch a video from your iPhone, iTouch, PSP, mobile phone or whatever other device.

The good people at Humble Beast Records and Dare2Share Ministries (beat REAL 2011 to it and) produced this impressive audio-visual presentation of the Gospel in a nutshell. Kudos to them for condensing everything into a mere four minutes. Perhaps R-AGE might just utilise it one day, so that by all means possible, we might save some. (Thank you, Yixian, for sharing this!)

I managed to find the lyrics/ transcript here and have pasted it below for your reading convenience. Brilliant work, really, by any measure. (But I suggest watching the video once through before following with the words the second time.)

It’s the full story of life crushed into four minutes./ The entirety of humanity in the palm of your hand crushed into one sentence./ Listen, it’s intense, right? GOD. OUR. SINS. PAYING. EVERYONE. LIFE./ The greatest story ever told that’s hardly ever told.

GOD. Yes, GOD./ The maker and giver of life, and by life I mean any and all manner of substance./ Seen and unseen; what can and can’t be touched./ Thoughts, image, emotions; love, atoms and oceans./ GOD./ All of which His handiwork, one of which His masterpiece./ Made so uniquely that angels looked curiously./ The one thing in creation that was made in His imagery./ A concept so cold it’s the reason I stay bold./ How GOD breathed into man and he became a living soul.

Formed with the intent of being infinitely, intimately fond./ Creator and creation held in eternal bond./ And it was placed in perfect paradise until something went wrong./ The species got deceived and started lusting for His job./ An odd list of complaints, as if the system ain’t working./ And used that same breath He graciously gave us to curse Him/ And that sin seed spread through our souls’ genome./ And by nature of your nature, your species, you participated in the mutiny.

OUR./ Yes, our sins./ It’s nature-inherited./ Blackened the human heart. It was over before it started./ Deceived from day one and led away by our own lust./ There’s not a religion in the world that doesn’t agree that something’s wrong with us./ The question is what is it? And how do we fix it?/ Are we eternally separated from a God that may or may not have existed?/ But that’s another subject. Let’s keep grinding./ Besides, trying to prove God is like defending a lion./ Homie, it don’t need your help. Just unlock the cage./ Let’s move on on how our debt can be paid./ Short and sweet: the problem is…

SIN./ Yes, sin./ It’s a cancer, an asthma, choking out our life force./ Forcing separation from a perfect and holy GOD./ And the only way to get back is to get back to perfection./ But silly us…trying to pass the course of life without referring to a syllabus./ This is us: heap up your good deeds, chant, pray, meditate./ But all of that, of course, is spraying cologne on a corpse./ Or you could choose to ignore it, as if something don’t stink./ It’s like stepping in dog poop and refusing to wipe your shoe./ But all of that ends with, “How good is good enough?”

Take your silly list of good deeds and line them up against perfection./ Good luck./ That’s life past your pay grade./ The cost of your soul? You ain’t got a big enough piggy bank./ But you could give it a shot?/ But I suggest you throw away the list/ ‘Cause even your good acts are an extension of your selfishness.

But here’s where it gets interesting./ I hope you’re closely listening./ Please don’t get it twisted. It’s what makes our faith unique./ Here’s what God says is Part A of the Gospel:/ You can’t fix yourself. Quit trying. It’s impossible./ Sin brings death./ Give GOD His breath back. You owe Him!/ Eternally separated and the only way to fix it is someone die in your place/ And that someone’s got to be PERFECT or the payment ain’t permanent/ So if and when you find a perfect person, get that person./ To literally trade their perfection for your sin and death in./ Clearly, since the only one who can meet God’s criteria is GOD./ GOD sent Himself as JESUS to pay the cost for us./ His righteousness, His death, functions as…

PAYMENT./ Yes, payment./ Wrote a check with His life./ But at the Resurrection we all cheered, cause that means the CHECK CLEARED!/ Pierced feet, pierced hands, blood-stained Son of Man./ Fullness, forgiveness, free passage into the Promised Land./ That same breath GOD breathed into us GOD gave up to redeem us./ And anyone and everyone, and by everyone I mean…

EVERYONE./ Who puts their faith and trust in Him, and Him alone./ Can stand in full confidence of GOD’s forgiveness./ And here’s what the promise is:/ That you are guaranteed full access to return to perfect unity./ By simply believing in CHRIST and CHRIST alone./ You are receiving…

LIFE./ Yes, life./ This is the GOSPEL./ GOD. OUR. SINS. PAYING. EVERYONE. LIFE.

top ten (re)discoveries of being in youth work.

I spent the last two days on course at SSTI (Social Service Training Institute), the training arm of NCSS (National Council of Social Service). There were many factors that contributed to my thorough enjoyment. It was conducted at their main office at Ulu Pandan Community Club – yes, a three-minute stroll over 200 metres – even nearer than walking to the bus terminal. It was great to network with people in this line of work; I was glad to meet three full-time staff from NCC and I think we connected well. The trainer was a former senior pastor of a local church and he received his postgraduate education from (my dream institution) Fuller Seminary. It was great to meet people from different demographics with a similar heartbeat for youths.

At the risk of sounding cocky (forgive me), I didn’t really learn anything new for there is nothing new under the sun. Most of the findings could be researched online and most of the principles could be self-deducted with common sense. Unfortunately, (the participants and) I do not have the luxury of time to do either, so I was glad that this course helped to piece together the thoughts that were already in my head; I declare it so arrogantly (forgive me again) because a lot of what was taught can actually be found in the 70+ drafts that I’ve written so far, just phrased slightly differently. The presentation may vary, but the train of thought and cognitive motivations are one and the same.

However, this (“Engaging Youths Through Their Culture”) course did affirm my calling, as well as my decision to enter full-time ministry to work with young people at this point of my life. I think it will benefit anyone who has “work with young people” in their job description. Here are the ten things I’ve (re)discovered about myself at the end of the course:

1. I truly am wired for youth ministry. Again, another immodest statement (forgive me, I’m on a roll!) but it is what I honestly believe; I am acutely aware of my strengths and weaknesses. This course has reinforced the preexisting thoughts and mentalities in my head which I have independently developed over the years. There’s no work I’d rather be doing than this.

2. I truly have the DNA of an evangelist. Within hours, I found myself sharing God’s goodness in my life and my journey to full-time ministry to Christians and non-Christians alike. We overcome the evil one by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11) and it was almost instinctive that I did what I did – intentionally share the Gospel through my life, by my speech.

3. I truly enjoy meeting new people and I’m not afraid to air my opinions. In other words, I find it exciting to connect with all kinds of people and I’m outspoken, even in a new or unfamiliar environment. It’s been a while since I’ve mingled with non-church people and today I realised that my personality is quite consistent in every arena of my life. I can only be thankful for that.

4. I truly understood why I was a marketing manager in my previous job before I went into full-time ministry. When the trainer gave us insights into the world of media and marketing, I found myself instantly connected to and comprehended what he was sharing. These topics were my professional competencies and rice bowl; it was what I “specialised” in, sort of.

5. I truly am a senior youth after all. Instinctive compulsions are synonymous with youth. I self-declared to be senior because I no longer act crazy out of impulse, but I self-declared to be a youth because I still have these crazy impulses! (And also because I’m within Singapore’s official 15-30 year old age range!) Nonetheless, I thank God for this all-important suppressing ingredient called maturity.

6. I truly relish communicating and expressing myself through words to a different audience. On a daily basis, I work with Christians, be it my colleagues or my youths. Even the couple of at-risk youths I work with are Christians. I must admit that it’s slightly easier to speak to this group of people because we subject ourselves to a greater authority (in the Bible), and often can use phrases like “I’ll pray for you”, or “Have faith”, or “Trust God” as part of our arsenal of advice. I cherished the opportunity to articulate my thoughts with a deliberate reduction of Christian jargon.

7. I truly am able to speak the language of youth. Be it through the mediums of music, media, colloquial expressions or the virtual world, I realised that I could feel what a young person is trying to tell me in their multi-coded and often pseudo-confused state of mind, evidently manifested in their language – both verbal and non-verbal. Simply put, I think I can readily emphathise with a young person and I thank God for it.

8. I truly see myself doing this kind of work should God lead me out of full-time ministry one day. I always tell people that I take working in Grace/R-AGE a year at a time. I’d love to do it for the long run, but if I ever do something else, with the right credentials, this could be the other dream job I’d want to declare as my occupation – studying youths and talking to youths and people who work with youths about youths – what a combination!

9. I truly love young people. We were shown a surfeit of video clips throughout the course and whether I see something spectacular or sorrowful, I’d spontaneously ask two questions – “How can I rejoice with them?” and “How can I reach out to them?”. It could be the celebration of an achievement, the recovery of a failure or the development and fulfilment of potential. I absolutely yearn to be a part of it – whatever it is!

10. I truly am privileged to work with a kaleidoscope of youths. This is the first time I see my clients playing a significant role in my own training and development as a youth professional (if I could lump all of us into one overarching category). Unlike other youth workers in specialised roles (like social workers or psychologists) who attend mainly to one subset of youths, I have the wonderful benefit of meeting all kinds of youths from all kinds of social backgrounds with all kinds of upbringing and all kinds of aspirations.

All right, this post has certainly evolved into a piece longer than I had expected so I shall conclude it here; at the end of the day, this is how I would consider my job, or better phrased, my current phase of life – that it is my absolute dutiful delight and delightful duty to work with young people. And I praise God daily and nightly for putting me where I am. This truly is a reward that the world could never give.

when you have less tomorrows than yesterdays.

In the last couple of weeks, I went to the hospital twice; one was to visit the grandfather of a youth leader, and the other was to visit my paternal grandmother, who had a bad fall a few weeks ago and needed to be warded. She is my only remaining grandmother.

We used to be a lot closer when I stayed with her through my primary school days. However, our recent conversations barely scratch the surface. I remember praying for her in Chinese many years back (also at the hospital) and evangelising to her in Shanghai. She was physically weak and emotionally frail then and was surprisingly receptive to the Gospel. But right now, she’s in better health and I think she may have closed the doors again. I just returned home from visiting her with HY and I felt so distant from her.

This got me thinking about the things that go through an old person’s mind. After all, one thing about growing old is that you have all the time in the world to think about all the things you have done in your life, as well as the things that you will never get to do. There are memories that you’d inevitably revisit for the umpteenth time and with it comes the repeated lashing of hurts and pains; each time my grandmother recalls my grandfather, tears well up in her eyes. Honestly, there are times I wonder if she misses him as a husband or misses him as a father for a family that has fallen apart. I’ve experienced for myself firsthand the impact of an absent father; my grandfather’s passing in 1991 seemed to be the turning point of my extended family’s journey into dismay. But I digress.

I reckon that the typical aged person tends to remember the sadder moments about his life instead of the happier ones – I hope that’s not too quick an assumption, but why is that so? Why does he become gradually pessimistic as he ages? I certainly do not wish to age that way. I want to live my life in such a way that I will not look back in regret but to look back and feel great about all the things I’ve done and all the people I’ve impacted.

That night at the hospital, I saw sadness in my grandmother’s eyes. This is a morbid statement but I believe she knows that her time is limited and the day to bid this world goodbye is approaching. I couldn’t help but to think that she was thought about the things she wished she could have done better, the people she wished she could have treated better, and the words she wished she didn’t say. I saw remorse – but I may be wrong.

Please do not misunderstand me – I think highly of my grandmother and I need not prove her credentials through words. It’s just that watching her count her days made me ponder about how I’d be counting mine eventually. Is aging scarier than death itself? Sometimes I can’t help but think so, as I watch the old folks around me get older. And for geriatrics who have little activity to pass time with, they seem to spend the entire day staring into space – maybe they’re wondering if that’s how they are going to spend the remainder of their life. How would I deal with such a devastating thought?

I think it’s miserable and I think there’s so much more to life, even at an old age. I remember this quote (apparently a traditional Indian saying) about living and dying which I quite appreciated when I was growing up.

“When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.”

I’m pretty confident that, as with any death, the world would cry if I were to pass away at this instance, but the question that lingers is, would I rejoice? I guess I’ll have the rest of my life to figure out the answer. I don’t want to meet God in heaven and have Him put His arm around me and tell me, “You know, Joe, what I actually wanted you to do in this life was…” That would be an epic sadness which I’d want to avoid with my whole life.

ever-ready, everybody; anytime, anywhere.

After youth service today, I found myself presented with the opportunity to share the Gospel with two pre-believers, in the presence of two other R-AGE youths who are believers. It wasn’t these guests’ first time in our service, so I was a little surprised that no one has taken the effort to formally share the Gospel with them. I enjoyed the 45-minute conversation with these youths because it has been a while since I presented the Gospel in such an informal manner; it was refreshing to remind myself of my own salvation.

As I shared, the Spirit started to bring back to memory on exactly how to do it in a systematic manner. The sequence, scriptures, truths and probing questions all arrived at the right time. I was a little rusty but I thought I managed to deliver the message clearly while interweaving my own testimony into it as well as involving the two christian youths to share as well as inviting the pre-believers to ask questions. Interestingly enough, on my way home after sending HY back, JP’s sermon on Romans 1:16 was the first track on my shuffled playlist.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

In the very short message, JP compared the shame of the 60’s against the shame of the 90’s. In the 60’s, a believer would be ridiculed for believing the Gospel to be the truth. In the 90’s, a believer would be ridiculed for believing that there’s even a truth. Isn’t that postmodernism in a nutshell? I realised that youths today are a lot less receptive to the truth (regardless of whether it’s biblical truth or moral truth), and would much prefer to define it for themselves, according to their terms and what works best for them. No wonder we have more and more free-thinkers and pseudo-intellectuals thinking that they know everything. (I don’t even dare to say I know anything, hence my personal pursuit of knowledge and prayer for wisdom.)

I’d like to think that believers these days, as many are second-generation Christians, are becoming slack in their knowledge of the Word, hence they are unable to put up a defense for their own faith. I’m not talking about big-time apologetics; I’m talking about the simple justification of why they are even a Christian to begin with. Faith is never a hand-me-down commodity. It has been well-documented and preached by many pastors that “God has no grandchildren”. I firmly opine that one must own and be responsible for their own faith!

Faith is becoming a poisonous element to skeptics. It is precisely due to the subject of faith, their lack of and non-subscription to it which prompted their skepticism. No wonder the Word declared it clearly in Hebrews 11:6, as if it preempted postmodernism, that, “Without faith it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” I’d like to think that one reward of having faith in God is that we have the peace of God that reigns in our hearts forever, in the face of skepticism and postmodernism, rendering our faith to be unshakeable (by God’s grace).

In future posts perhaps, I’ll share my other thoughts on my faith issues. But for now, I’d like to exhort all serious Christians (who naturally should be compelled to be passionate about evangelism) to be prepared to present the Gospel and their testimonies at any given time, for any given occasion, simply by ensuring that they have:

  • Memorised the necessary scriptures for sharing (John 3:16, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, Romans 10:9 etc.)
  • Practised the chronological sequence of themes (Creation, Judgment, Sin, Redemption etc.)
  • Written and rehearsed their own testimonies of how they came to know the Lord or how the Lord has been real to them
  • Familiarised themselves with frequency asked questions about the Christian faith

May I also encourage you to engage the Holy Spirit and rely on Him to direct the session and to do the convicting; this is crucial because we must remember that our duty is evanglism, not salvation – we leave that to Jesus. In closing, note that these above four factors are in past tense. I firmly believe that we must be in state of readiness, not preparation. Perhaps it’s time to have remedial sessions for Gospel-sharing.

by all possible means.

This post is a response to my conversations with WY yesterday and YX just moments ago.

To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. (1 Corinthians 9:22, NASB, emphasis mine)

Now, almost everyone in my church youth group would be familiar with the verse above. It is, after all, the theme verse for the evangelism pillar in 2009 – STBAPMIMSS (so that by all possible means I might save some). Well, I’d like to perhaps offer an alternative way of looking at this verse. This is my interpretation of it.

See, for the Apostle Paul to reach the weak, he became weak, to win the weak. I’d go as far to say that should he choose to reach the strong, he’d become strong, to win the strong. And this applies to whichever adjective that we can throw in here; it’s merely a figure of speech – it’s how low (I think) Paul would go to reach as many as he can for the Lord.

Now before I get embroiled into some unnecessary controversial mess with ISD, I refrain from commenting on the recent spate surrounding Pastor RT. I think there are radicals in every religion and the way to deal with over-zealousness and over-radicality, is this simple thing called wisdom.

In light of the upcoming What’s Your Next Move seeker-sensitive service in a couple of weeks, may I encourage you to remember a couple of things – you are neither the Messiah, nor the Convincer; Jesus Christ alone saves, and the Holy Spirit alone convicts. Our only responsibility, I think, is to preach the Gospel – be it literally or through our lifestyles.

So then, may I suggest that sometimes, it may actually be wiser to take a slightly more passive approach to preaching the Gospel. For an agnostic like my best friend CC, I’d never bring him to Christ by arguing with him about faith issues. In fact, in our aggression (often euphemised as passion) we may actually turn others away even more. So going by Paul’s statement, let’s rethink what it means to save some by all possible means:

  • Perhaps we can learn to be gentle some times instead of being aggressive every time in our approach
  • Perhaps we can try listening to real concerns instead of preaching for conversion’s sake
  • Perhaps we can attempt to be good moral examples instead of being holier-than-thou
  • Perhaps we can remember to consistently pray for our friends’ salvation instead of manufacturing an emotional altar-call experience

Don’t get me wrong, I am not compromising the content of my faith. After all, Jesus did declare Himself to be the way, the truth, the life and the only way to get to the Father – isn’t that a potentially religiously snobbish and aloof thing to say? I firmly believe that Jesus had a radical message (that obviously pissed off a lot of people) but His methods were full of wisdom. He always varied His approach but He never watered down His content.

Therefore, my challenge to you is to never compromise the message of your faith, but reconsider the method(s) in which you deliver it. It is my prayer that the Spirit reveals to you the best way to reach each of your individual unsaved friend. Do not underestimate the power of prayer and do not give up hope when you don’t get the desired result when you preach the Gospel to your friends. Failed the first time? Try something different and try again! Keep pressing on, my friends, and trust God for His perfect timing!

After all, our Saviour Himself “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4) and “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

systematic propagation.

God’s love is not created to be contained or kept selfishly. It is necessary for the good news of the Gospel to be preached – so that it can spread. And our role in evangelism is to propagate it!

Paul instructs us in a systematic step-by-step process in Romans 10:14-15. And this passage is obviously talking about sending out preachers of the Word – but not just pulpit ministers but anyone who proclaims the good news of the Gospel – that’s us!

“But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'”

The Father has sent Jesus. And Jesus sent His disciples. Get this – we are sent! It’s not a choice, really, because it’s already part of our “contract” when we became Christians. It is a pre-existing responsibility that we cannot and should not shirk.

How can people believe God if they have never heard of Him? And how will they ever hear of God if we do not tell them about Him? For most of us in our youth, our occupation would either be as a full-time student or a young working adult – but don’t forget that our pre-occupation is first as an evangelist! There comes a time for good deeds and meeting the needs of our friends, but we must never neglect to tell them about the God who has changed our lives.

As evangelistic Christians, let’s challenge ourselves today in our rightful duty to give others the opportunity to hear the good news, so that they have a chance to believe in God!

%d bloggers like this: