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the most memorable and precious morning of 2010.

I have decided to be as candid as I can because I want to capture the incredulity of the events that have unfolded in its rawest elements. This incident, to me, is a demonstration of God’s grace and divine timing, as well as His faithfulness in my life (especially ever since I stepped into full-time ministry). Some people may choose to express their joy in a different manner but this is how I will do it, so don’t judge me. Instead, rejoice with me for every word shared in this post comes from a heart of being humbly thankful for the favour that God has kindly bestowed upon me. I was actually reluctant to write about this because I was afraid of sounding pompous; however, this event has left such a mark in my memory that it would be travesty not to engrave it into my heart and mind. My sole intention is to give God the full glory for what has happened.

Ever since IDMC 2010 concluded, I’ve spent an abundance of time with the Lord and it’s been thoroughly enjoyable. It’s something I cannot describe with words; I’ve been waking up much earlier everyday just to have more time with God. If you want to get a glimpse of how I feel, just do what I do – spend time with the Lord. I have a newfound vigour and desire in wanting to cultivate a deeper journey with God and I absolutely revel in it! I remember telling the Lord how wonderful it would be if I could journey with someone who really knew how to grow deep with God… But I digress.

I had dinner with LK on Monday and (I’ll withhold the details of our conversation but) I encouraged him to email BL from CEFC. When I got home that night, I decided to give LK a head-start by googling for BL’s email. At the end of IDMC 2010, I had already wanted to drop EC an email and so when I searched for BL’s email, I also searched for the last correspondence I had with EC, which was dated back to 2009. He had agreed to meet me if his schedule allowed. Unfortunately, that meeting didn’t materialise.

Writing to EC is different from responding to an email; busy men do not have the luxury of time to read long-winded emails, so I needed to be efficient with my words – and it takes time and effort to condense your thoughts. Nonetheless, I clicked on the “Reply” button and left that window open for me to compose my response later on. I was also trying to clear my backlog and was replying to many other emails. The clock struck midnight and I decided to retire to bed so that I could get up at 6am to read the Word.

I depend on my Nokia alarm to get me out of bed. At 5:55am, without the typical snoozing, I sprang out of bed because I was hungry for the Word. As I switched off the alarm on the E71, I also saw the emails that arrived in my mailbox in the last six hours. I saw an email from “Edmund Chan” and I swear the croutons in my eyes leaped out of its socket. Needless to say, I powered up my laptop immediately and zeroed in on that one email. I was sure it was some server screw-up and that it was an old, resent email.

But no, it was really EC – the man himself. (Okay, I know Christians cannot idolise other people but HELLO, THIS IS THE REVERED REVEREND EDMUND CHAN OF IDMC AND CEFC – PLEASE, EXCEPTIONS APPLY. Aiya, whatever. I’m just being frank here with my emotions, wearing my heart on my sleeve…) His reply was simple; he wanted my contact number so that he could call me to arrange to meet me before he went on his travels again. I saw the reply before that and apparently I sent him an email I had intended to send to one of my leaders to confirm our lunch meeting time and venue! I was so embarrassed by this boo-boo!

I composed myself quickly and replied his 5:45am email at around 6:00am. Three minutes later, my Nokia E71 rang.

“Hello, may I speak to Joey please?”

>>> HI PASTOR EDMUND. (INSERT MUTED EXCLAMATION MARKS HERE!!!) WOW. I AM HONOURED.

I was starstruck. Not that it mattered at all, but I apologised for the previous email that didn’t make sense. He chuckled and told me he believed in divine appointments. I was still starstruck. Then he told me that he was free that morning and asked if I was free. HELLO WHAT DO YOU THINK!??? So I audaciously asked if he was free to meet for breakfast at 7am at the Bukit Batok Central McDonald’s. He agreed and we put down the phone. And I literally SKIPPED to the basin, SMILED as I brushed my teeth, SKIPPED back to my room, SMILED as I changed into my clothes, SKIPPED out of home and SMILED all the way to the main road to flag a taxi.

I texted HY immediately and asked her to call me. Enthusiastically, I told her what had transpired and she was convinced there and then, that she was dating a little boy. I also updated my Facebook status, not to show off, but to use it as an outlet to release the adrenaline pumping in my bloodstream!

Both of us were going to be late so when I arrived I waited outside the McDonald’s, and anticipated the arrival of my V-V-VIP. There was still no sign of EC at 7:20am, so I decided to inspect the inside of McDonald’s. From the outside, through the glass panels, I caught sight of a middle-aged man writing something in EC’s latest book, “Growing Deep in God”, and this following was what really went through my head, in sequence:

“Woah God, divine confirmation ah? You send someone who just bought his book to assure me that I’m definitely meeting Pastor Edmund ah?”

“Cannot be right – don’t tell me someone has been stalking him… I’m not prepared to share Pastor Edmund with anyone else this morning ok! I waited one full year for this meeting!”

“Okay, maybe Pastor Edmund arranged to meet me together with someone else… Aiya, ok no choice, beggars aren’t choosers, I’ll just have to learn to share… What to do…? It’s already a privil-”

!!!

“EH HELLO YOU STUPID BOY THIS MAN IS EDMUND CHAN!!!”

So, I composed myself again because I didn’t want to appear too eager for fear that I would scare him away. THIS WAS IT. I AM ABOUT TO MEET THE MAN! I walked up to the table, caught his attention, gestured that I am he whom he is meant to meet (HAHA SORRY COULDN’T RESIST WRITING LIKE THAT!), shook his hand and stuttered through this sentence: “Hi Pastor Edmund, I’m Joey. I was waiting outside.” Of course, as soon as I said it, I felt like a dimwit trying to justify why I was late. I could only offer a quick riposte of, “Sorry, I couldn’t recognise you because of your missing moustache!” (Yeah, he shaved it off.)

Finally, there I was, seated in front of quite possibly my greatest inspiration of a man of God. I didn’t know where or how to begin, so I asked him if I could buy him breakfast. He simply said, “No, let me buy you breakfast instead.” I nodded my head, still starstruck of course, and (for the life of me I do not understand why I) took out my wallet and went to queue up with him. He asked me what I wanted and told me to return to my seat. “Let me serve you.” I was almost helplessly humbled beyond humility and inspired beyond inspiration by his role-model example of servant-leadership.

He asked me to say grace and instantly I wanted to recite the grace I composed, but I was nowhere near being composed enough to utter it without making a fool of myself. So I prayed simply and sincerely – thanking God for this wonderful opportunity to sit at the feet (well, almost) of a man who is completely devoted to Him. I have never felt so happy in a fast food restaurant before, eating Sausage McGriddles; every mouthful tasted divine.

He broke the ice with some getting-to-know-you questions and there I was, happily over-answering every single question like it was the last question he’d ever ask. When ice-breakers were over, he asked me three extraordinarily simple questions, point-blank.

“How old are you?”

>>> I turn 27 next month.

“When did you accept Christ?”

>>> 15 years ago, when I was in primary six.

-a short pause-

“Would you like me to mentor you?”

-MY MOUTH OPENED BIGGER THAN A HUMPBACK WHALE’S-

>>> W-W-WOW! Y-Y-YES! It’d be my honour, privilege and absolute delight to be mentored by you!

Do me a favour here and fill in all the blanks for me, okay? EVERY EXTREME EMOTION OF ELATION AND DELIRIUM – YOU IMAGINE IT – BECAUSE I PROBABLY EXPERIENCED IT. Thank you, very much. (:

He proceeded to spell out for me what he expected of me as his mentoree and laid the ground rules for our mentoring relationship. Then he explained why he asked those questions, and everything suddenly made sense to me. But what was more astonishing was how God was involved in this truly divine appointment. He told me that God had spoken to him about me already. To keep the account brief (because I’m unsure how much I’m permitted to say), he told me that he shaved off his signature moustache because he was mourning for a mentoree who suddenly passed away over the weekend. However, God comforted him by telling him that He would send him a new spiritual son.

And that was when my email was accidentally sent to his mailbox.

***

The adventure didn’t stop there.

We ended our inaugural mentoring session at 9am and he asked me where I was headed to. I told him that I was heading to GII to lead devotion for a group of youths. He offered to send me there. As we approached the destination, I asked him to alight me outside GII because it was troublesome to turn in and out of the narrow basement car park. Nevertheless, he made a right turn into the compound and said,

“How could I pass up on the opportunity of watching you teach?”

I’d be a millionaire if I got a dollar for every time he stunned me that morning.

So I guided him to the car park, got out of the car, entered the lift with him, and walked to the classroom where the youths were waiting. I opened the door, exchanged morning greetings with everyone, held the door for EC to enter, then as calmly as I could, said, “This is Pastor Edmund”. The only person who knew who he was, was EL. EC was EL’s hero; you should have seen the look on her face when EC appeared after me. She immediately contributed to my a-dollar-for-every-stunning-moment-morning.

I have never taught with so much nerve before. When I asked the class to share their reflection on Proverbs 1:1-7 (the passage I’ve selected for the morning devotion), guess who also answered with a bag of nerves? No prizes. At the end of my 30-minute session, he sat me down by the vending machine and conducted one of the most enlightening debrief sessions I’ve ever attended. Throughout those three precious hours, he shifted a number of my paradigms and challenged an equal of my perspectives; I was tremendously sharpened that morning.

At 10:15am, I escorted him to his car and bid him farewell. That morning, I caught a glimpse of the remarkable leader and mentor that he is reputed to be. This is a morning that I will forever remember because it was a grand display of God’s faithfulness and goodness in my life.

***

If I didn’t send him an email a year ago;

If I allowed myself to be discouraged by those who sniggered at me when I boldly declared (by faith) that one day he’d mentor me;

If I gave up after failing to make an appointment;

If I weren’t discussing about BL with LK over dinner on Monday;

If I didn’t help LK search for BL’s email and remembered about that email from 2009;

If I didn’t click “Reply”;

If I wasn’t clearing my email backlog;

If I didn’t casually tell the Lord about my desire to find someone to teach me how to grow deeper in Him;

If I didn’t wake up to spend time with the Lord at 6am;

And this is just my part of the story… After this incident, I have become a firm believer of a God of divine appointments, a God who rewards beyond my imagination, and of a God who answers prayers – no matter how simple or casual they may be. My God knows my needs and He supplies them accordingly for His glory. I am also convinced that if you want really want something, and have the faith to receive it, you have to take action and go on to pursue it. After all, if you never ask, you never know. Oh God, I’m glad I asked!

I love You, Lord and I can’t wait to grow with and glean from your servant EC. I still cannot believe that You would send a man of his calibre to be my spiritual father and mentor. Truly, truly, it is my honour, privilege and absolute delight to call You my Lord, my God and my Father who knows my heart’s desire. I’m madly in love with You. Thank You for Your grace and favour that I definitely do not deserve. May I glorify You wholeheartedly through this newly established relationship.

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sermon recap: time for spiritual puberty!

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First and foremost, I think it was amazing that R-AGE spammed Facebook over the weekend with testimonies of how God impacted our lives. I shared about purchasing Skyville with HY. Click here for the Facebook note and here for the original testimony. This activity was part of the Evangelism Pillar that RL, KY and I produced. It’s a simple idea that turned out to be brilliant beyond our imagination; we designed a lesson to help our youths share how God changed their lives and to tag at least five Christians and five non-Christians, then invite them to R-AGE services this weekend. It went better than we had expected and I’d like to believe that it’s an activity worth repeating a few times every year.

I can’t wait for Saturday! The first PLUG & PLAY (!) since PIERCE will take place at 2:50pm bring your friends this Saturday and be early! With PUSH at 2pm, service at 3pm, Be Our Guest at 4:45pm and cell at 5pm, July looks set to close on a high! RY will also be preaching the third installment of the LIVE LOUD series. We’re doing a verse-by-verse study on the book of James and I had the privilege to open the series with the overview. CX preached last weekend and I’ll be preaching again next weekend. I know this sermon recap is two weeks late but better late than never!

  • James is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get and an in-your-face book that teach us not just to live normally, but to live it out loud for everyone to see. The author is straightforward, direct, practical and honest. He was writing to young Christians who were scattered and were facing trials.
  • These five chapters are like a synopsis of the issues that the church faced then, and even now; the things that caused disharmony in the fellowship. The one root problem in these issues? Spiritual immaturity. James exhorted his readers to mature spiritually.
  • People, unlike the all-knowing God who can see through your heart and know instantly if there is faith in there or not, cannot see the contents of our heart; the world knows the faith in our hearts by examining the works of our hands.
  • BH phrased it perfect: “We are not saved by works but we are saved to work… …Faith is the root of salvation but works are the fruits of salvation.” Works are indeed the consequences of salvation. “People will work because of their salvation for work comes forth from faith.” (Woohoo! I can’t wait to meet BH for our mentoring session on Wednesday morning!)
  • Maturity is not 1) how old you are, 2) how much you know, or 3) how much you have done, but to be “brought to its end; a finished state; at completion; perfect human integrity and virtue; and a full grown adult of full age”. It is a process that doesn’t stop until we meet Jesus Christ.
  • He offers us eight distinguishing marks of maturity. A maturing person:
    1. Is positive in the midst of problems (James 1:2)
    2. Keeps his or her desires under control (1:4)
    3. Is accepting of others (2:8-9)
    4. Has consistent beliefs and actions (2:17)
    5. Is careful with his or her words (3:2)
    6. Strives to be wise (3:17-18)
    7. Has a humble attitude (4:10)
    8. Is connected (5:16)
  • We have to love God and others actively (NT) and passively (OT). It’s extremely easy to fall short of God’s holy standard so it is only by God’s grace that we can make the cut. I always believe that the way we treat the least and the weakest of us show us how strong we truly are as a ministry.
  • The mark of a true Christian isn’t in a perfect lifestyle, but a lifestyle that is being perfected. Your friends will recognise the effort that you make to change. If you keep doing what’s right, no one can tell you that you’re wrong. Consistency is proved and achieved over a long period of time and reputations are built on consistency.
  • When there’s a breakthrough with our words, there will be a breakthrough with our lives. I issued the official R-AGE language challenge: to once and for all get rid of crude words on top of all known vulgar words – from real-life conversations, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and MSN. Let people notice the difference by noticing the absence.
  • People may admire a person if he or she has a righteous, faultless and sin-free life but people will respect a person who desires to change. Wisdom is necessary for maturity because it will govern the way you speak and behave; so always strive for wisdom.
  • I introduced IBM (In-Between-Meetings): I encouraged everyone to have at least one IBM in the week. Initiate and organise meet-ups beyond the weekends – be it to study, pray, eat, or even play together. Don’t give up meeting one another. A united youth group goes beyond meeting once a week!
  • I challenged all leaders: Having a mature individual around brings about steadiness to a group. Love it or hate it, leaders are being watched and mimicked. Hence, we should lead by example by setting and being the example for the younger ones who look up to us.
  • Everyone grows up at a different rate and time, and the maturation point is what we strive for – being completely mature. God alone will bring us to that point. The key to unlocking maturity has nothing to do with us, but with God, so boldly ask Him for wisdom today.
  • Selfishness and self-centredness is the greatest obstacle to maturity for it is instinctive to think about ourselves first. When we can’t look beyond ourselves, we can never look toward the needs of others. It does take effort to consider the needs of others’ better than our own.
  • A maturing church is a growing church. Just like physical puberty, when you spiritual puberty you will experience all kinds of spiritual growth – gradual, sudden and new growth. When we emerge out of our comfort zone to mature spiritually, we will grow as a church.

I look forward to preaching again next weekend!

wisdom from my favourite hunk in Perth.

As I attempted to clean up and archive the notes in my computer today, I found pearls of wisdom from CS. These were the things I remembered from his sharing with me over an afternoon coffee session in Clementi Central, way back in March. Re-reading it, I realised that wisdom and righteousness are timeless and evergreen – such advice never gets mouldy or irrelevant, regardless of which stage of life you’re at or in.

On ceilings:
“When people are against your ideas or what you share, involve them in prayer and ask them to bring it to the Lord in prayer too.”

This exhibits “Show your enemy the other cheek” in a different perspective. When you operate this way, it becomes unmistakable when God speaks to both parties. When we pray, He confirms and works, and even the most opposing opinions can work together, compromised and accepted, for the sake of working towards achieving His will. At the end of the day, all the glory will have go to Him for He enabled what was humanly impossible to be possible.

On arguing:
“There’s no winner in an argument. Someone will lose.”

CS’ sentiments on arguments confirm what I’ve always subscribed to – that I’d rather lose the argument than lose the relationship. (In the last six months, I realise that I have actually been practising this principle. And while it’s not easy deliberately losing – I’m being honest, I am a competitive and outspoken person and I have a man’s pride! – I’m actually at peace with it because I don’t find it a need to prove myself to anyone or to convince others of my ideas.) Conversely speaking, when you do prioritise people over problems, you may actually win both. Win them over and naturally they’ll be more inclined to listen to you and be opened to your ideas; they may even sway towards your argument and stand with you. Over the years, I’ve learnt that people are more willing to listen to you when they know that you have their best interests at heart. Ironically, they need to be first convinced of your affections for them before they are convinced of your argument.

On teachability:
“No matter how high you climb, there will always be areas you’ll need growth in.”

The day will come when you no longer have any man (or woman) above you in a hierarchal setting, but the Lord Himself. This is the greatest test of humility and teachability. The two most poisonous words in a confident, mature and experienced person is, “I know”. This arrogant phrase single-handedly puts people off in correcting you and giving you feedback. Always adopt an attitude of learning regardless of how old, wise, experienced or mature you are in a particular situation. The moment you stop learning is the (tragic) moment you stop living.

top ten ingredients of a worship leader.

I have decided to embark on a periodical series of “Top Ten” lists. To kickstart the series, I’ll share my initial insights of being a worship leader for the last 12 years. I received my calling to lead worship when I was 14 years old at a NA’s Bondage Breaker Conference (I know the topics are unrelated but I don’t decide when I’m called!). The first time I led worship was when I was 15 years old, at a Methodist Schools’ Combined Christian Fellowship Camp. I joined CAMY (before it was called CAMY) when R-AGE services first began as a 14-year-old backup vocalist (way back in 1997) and I began leading worship in R-AGE and in the adult services when I was 17 and 21 years old respectively.

Throughout the 12 years, God has always been faithful to me in assuring me of my calling – He consistently sends (at least) one person to encourage and affirm me of my worship leading anointing, for every single worship session that I’ve led, be it in school, small groups or services. I praise and thank God for His grace and faithfulness. While I sense that my calling has shifted to preaching, leading and mentoring for this season of my life (that’s one reason why I didn’t join the worship ministry in my church in Shanghai), I’m still blessed to have lots of experiences to share with current, new and aspiring worship leaders and hence the birth of this simple bite-sized list.

I’ve divided the list into two categories; the five ingredients in the “Worship” category deals with inward and internal character traits which I feel all worship leaders should possess; the remaining ingredients in the “Leader” category deals with outward and external personality attributes which I think all worship leaders should exhibit. This list is by no means exhaustive and I could probably list another 10, but these are the ingredients that come to my mind first. So here goes the alpha of many “Top Ten” lists to come:

“WORSHIP”

1. Personal worship – The songs you choose should minister to you first and your worship expression on stage should be as consistent as your expression at home, during your devotional time spent with God.

2. Private prayer – Anointing and spiritual authority flows into your life by one way only – an intimate relationship with God; you must develop a habit of regularly praying for yourself, your team and the congregation that you are leading.

3. Reliability and Reliance – Besides being a dependable and available worship leader (for your team), you must learn to be reliant on the Holy Spirit to lead you when you lead worship; failure to do so results in leading by charisma and not by anointing.

4. Humility – Realise that the definition of a biblical leader (modeled after Jesus) is first to serve before you lead, hence your team members are people you serve and not people who serve you; learn to meet their needs and always be concerned for their spiritual growth and character development.

5. Accountability – Being a worship leader means your life is now amplified for all to witness; it is absolutely imperative that a (more) mature and experienced (worship) leader watches over your spiritual well-being for there are many potential hazards as a high-profile personality.

“LEADER”

6. Excellence – Solid preparation is key to leading effectively and so you must memorise your music and your lyrics, as well as to be absolutely familiar with the arrangements, before you can even expect your team to do likewise. I also challenge all worship leaders to expose themselves to more musical genres, know basic music theory and learn at least one instrument.

7. Responsibility – Realise that you are now a public figure and hence your onstage leadership must be a reflection of your offstage lifestyle; you must be responsible for your speech and conduct for they carry a lot more weight now.

8. Initiative – As the shepherd of a flock, you should organise cohesion sessions (such as meals and meet-ups) to bond your team together as well as to give you a platform to get to know them better; take ownership of your team’s overall growth – first as believers, then as musicians.

9. Enthusiasm – If you are half-baked about the things that you do, you will end up producing half-past-six members and your worship session will also be a reflection of your personality. Hence, you must believe and be excited about what you are doing if you want others to catch your “fire”.

10. Connection – I’ve saved the most personal ingredient for the last; one reason why I am convinced of my effectiveness as a youth worship leader, is because I make deliberate efforts to get to know the congregation that I am leading (through intentional fellowship). Hence when I lead my congregation into worship, when I articulate lyrics, when I look into their eyes, (I think) I get an idea of what they are experiencing in their lives and I am to able lead and minister to them because I understand their struggles. You must feel for your congregation.

In closing, a popular perception of a worship leader is that he only needs to concern himself with the 30-minutes on stage. I vehemently beg to differ this dangerous rockstar attitude. You are the worship leader who leads others to worship God, not yourself. The glittering “glamour” of leading worship comes with the great task of leading your team during the time that you are not on the platform (which is the bulk!). Remember, a worship leader is not a superstar.

Suddenly I have a lot more to share, so perhaps I’ll write another “Top Ten” in the coming days. I sincerely hope that was helpful for you and can serve to be a simple yardstick for all worship leaders.

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