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sermon recap: john the Jesus freak.

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The Facebook with the Newbies sermon series comes to a close today with John the Baptist the Jesus Freak. I have bittersweet feelings about it; while I may enjoy the mental (and physical) break of not having to think about and prepare the sermon, I will miss not being able to preach to a youth crowd. My next preaching assignment would be at the Pre-Teens service on 8-9 May and the next time I will preach at R-AGE services would only be in July. (Actually, I might just have to preach four times in June though…)

While there are many ways to approach the study of John, I’ve decided to streamline our focus to just two of John’s main ministries – Repentance and Reflection. Here’s a summary of my main points.

John’s first ministry – Repentance

  • In the Gospel of Matthew, the first recorded word of John (Matthew 3:2) and the first word in Jesus’ pulpit ministry (Matthew 4:17) was “Repent” – that’s “Metanoeo” in Greek. And it can simply be defined as a change of one’s mind or to change one’s ways with hatred of one’s past sins. Either way, it’s always for the better.
  • Observe then, the two steps involved in repentance – renewing our minds and renewing our methods. Phrased alternatively, it is to transform the way we think (Romans 12:2) with the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12) and to change the way we live so that we can show the fruit(s) of our repentance (Matthew 3:8).
  • Repentance is not just responding emotionally or intellectually – that’s remorse. The fruit of repentance must observable and obvious. Thorough repentance is naturally proven by action, and in more than just one area of our lives.
  • A great intention forever remains a great thought until it is followed-up with action; a repentance done in our heads and hearts must be followed-up with a repentance done with our hand and in our habits. Repentance should alter your direction, methods and perspective.
  • God wants us to come to Him in repentance, but He calls us to Him by His grace. We can only repent if we ask God to help us, not by our effort. God’s grace operates this way – you don’t sort yourself out before you go to God, but you go to God to get sorted out.
  • When we have a changed heart, a changed life will naturally follow. That is why God honors a changed heart and doesn’t despise a repentant heart (Psalm 51:17)!

John’s second ministry – Reflection

  • John constantly pointed others back to Jesus – that’s what we are also called to do. John knew his divine mandate and mission in life (John 1:6-8) and it was seen in his every response and answer. His mission in life was to witness about Jesus.
  • Imagine Jesus to be like the Sun and John to be like the moon. Without the sun as the source of light, we will never see the moon, because the moon can only be seen when it reflects the greater light of the sun.
  • Witnesses can only testify what they saw and heard. Usually they have nothing to do with the victim or the accused, or even the actual event. Yet they are crucial to solving the case.
  • Remember that we can do nothing to save our friends. The reason for evangelism should be birthed from a desire to want to tell others about the love of Christ that we have experienced. Turn up as a witness and bear the right witness for your case of Christianity.
  • Thank the Lord for your salvation, as well as that of your family and friends; take care of the new converts; tell everyone else about Jesus.
  • John knew the grand mission of his life – he was to be a mirror for Jesus Christ. Is Jesus in your reflection? As Christians, our mission is clearly stated (Matthew 28:19-20); Jesus gave us the The Great Commission, not the Great Suggestion.
  • The way to repent and reflect is to depend on the leading of the Holy Spirit. For when breakthrough comes, the glory belongs to God alone. We face the daily battle to deny ourselves and to take on the suffering of Christ, for true life follows as a result (Luke 9:23-24).

the heart of gratitude.

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:

  1. KY commissioned as a 2LT,
  2. MF & MW had a positive cohesion with their CMs,
  3. KJ & BL joined my team of shepherds,
  4. EL & YX recovered from their cough,
  5. CN & JC returned safely from Australia and China respectively and
  6. HY completed her FYP
  7. 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.

the REAL afterglow.

Thank you for lovely part one. Can't wait to receive the "even better" part two!

It is with tremendous pride and delight that I present to you the 9th alumni of REAL. The class of 2010 is a group of young people that have endeared themselves into a special place in my heart. I’ve had the joy and privilege to witness and rejoice with all their struggles and victories, successes and failures, and their strengths and weaknesses. I thank my God in all my remembrance of them.

I am confident that God has tailored a unique journey for each of their young lives. Another road begins at the end of this one and it is my earnest prayer that they will walk it even better than they did the last two months. Their impending progress fills me with a sense of anticipation.

I have never stopped believing in them; I began to believe in them when I first interviewed them and nine weeks later I still believe very much in the potential that God has put into their young lives of many more tomorrows.

Many of them will go on to contribute significantly in the marketplace and in the ministry – be it as high-flying professionals, civil servants, social workers, business people or even as missionaries and pastors. I secretly hope that they will remember the journey that they first began in REAL2010 and how this sojourn has played a pivotal role in shaping them to be the man and woman that God has designed them to be.

These 15 young men and women have, without a doubt, left an indelible legacy for the future generations of REAL participants. Well done!

My dearest champs, thank you for giving me the opportunity to love and shepherd you. I will miss all the times I’ve spent with you and I’m thankful to God for giving me the last 63 days with you. Remember to always be REAL before God, because that will set you free to be REAL with yourself and with others.

Never stop believing, never stop loving, never stop serving. Know that I love each and every one of you very much, I am always available for you and I will always be praying for you.

give until it hurts.

“And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44, English Standard Version)

All this while Jesus seemed to observe the action without indicating his presence. The poor widow and the rich folks didn’t seem to realise that Jesus was actually watching them; he simply took his seat opposite where the action took place and became a spectator.

Now, consider this – this woman wasn’t just a widow. It was as if losing a husband wasn’t bad enough. She was also broke. I’d like to think that the bible used this extremity to demonstrate that if someone like her can give, then surely everyone can – what excuse could we give?

It’s not about the amount but about the heart and attitude behind it.

Now, how did Jesus honour this poor widow? He commended her actions and said that it outdid the rich. I don’t know about you but I am relieved that Jesus doesn’t determine the significance of our offering by its monetary value but by its motivational source.

It’s not about how big the amount is, but about how big your heart is.

Jesus used a different yardstick of measurement and we should be glad, otherwise only the rich can move God. Hence I conclude that it’s not how much we give but how we give it. And it’s about what God can do with what we give. So let’s focus on what God can do and not what man can do.

A sacrifice is not a sacrifice unless it hurts. I’m sure that the poor widow considered the consequences of her actions and contribution before she actually gave the two copper coins. She probably knew that she would have to starve for the week. She probably knew that she would be worrying when she slept that night. Yet she gave and she gave until it hurt. And well, she got the attention of Jesus.

If we want to get the attention of Jesus, we’ll have to give an amount that hurts. And I’m not even talking about just giving our monies. I’m talking about our time, resources and talents. Our reward is the commendation of Jesus, and I pray that that itself is enough for you (as if the mere attention of Jesus isn’t enough).

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