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the importance of spiritual peers.

The older you get, the more you don’t take things for granted.

Tonight’s no-frills dinner was an example of that. This meeting was Lionel’s initiative and had to be planned a month in advance. Lionel bought dinner up to his place and I enjoyed a time of catching up with him and his wife, Jeanie. Ministry is so intricately woven in our tapestry of life that it was an inevitable conversation topic among us.

When Johann arrived 30 minutes later, we got down to why we gathered tonight. It was refreshing to share about what the Lord was doing in each of our lives, as well as how we could keep each other in prayer in such an unpretentious manner. I enjoyed how we ended the night lifting each other up in prayer.

I don’t know about other (youth) pastors, but I find that as I age and as I “climb” the leadership rungs, there are lesser and lesser spiritual friends. That is why I appreciate what we shared tonight – three men whose histories intersect, who are in different seasons of life, who like and love each other, coming together to share honestly with each other.

It was nice to find a platform to share about ministry aspirations and frustrations, marriage and wedding preparations, parenthood and career, among other things, and know that you won’t be judged or frowned at for what you say. We had nothing to lose, nothing to prove and nothing to hide. And that was a breath of fresh air.

Spiritual peers are a blessing to any man.

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primitive means to a deeper connection.

My apologies for the lack of updates. Writing four sermons in consecutive weeks meant that I exhausted my bursts of energy for writing on producing the transcripts. It has been a good albeit tiring experience – personally stretching – and I felt like I’ve grown from it. However, I wouldn’t like to repeat this feat again. Note to self: the optimum is three consecutive weeks, at most.

Over the public holiday, my best friend and I took the opportunity to get away from Singapore. This is the third year running that we’ve gone on such primitive vacations. And there were many highlights to take home. I’ll stick to 15.

  1. Building a friendship is an intentional decision which requires time and effort – not by default but by design.
  2. Our friendship has never felt as strong as it does today in the last 14 years. That’s half our lives.
  3. No camping experience is complete without a campfire, cooking over an open flame and catching crabs.
  4. It’s better, cleaner and more pleasant to bathe in the ladies toilet. True story.
  5. Always assume that your buddy forgot to bring toothpaste, soap, shampoo and facial wash.
  6. During overnight slumber in a tent, one must choose between stuffiness or mosquitoes.
  7. A good and deep conversation is a gift from God. We praise God for speaking through us.
  8. A wife who loves her husband to free him up for 12 hours to be with his best friend is a good woman – thanks Jeanie!
  9. A best friend’s company at St John Island is just about the next best thing when your fiancee is in France.
  10. Both of us bleed Grace AG. We are passionate about our church and we’re committed to see it fulfill God’s will!
  11. Since 2009’s trip in Port Dickson, we’ve thought every trip would be our last. It’s wonderful to spend time together like that.
  12. It is wise to prepare a packing list. We missed out so many crucial items – like insect repellant and wet tissue!
  13. Speaking without weighing words and from the heart is such a privilege. I praise God for Lionel’s breakthrough!
  14. My Sanguine connects with Lionel’s Phelgmatic. Can’t wait for our Choleric to work together. We make an awesome team.
  15. We take nothing from granted. It’s God’s blessing for us to enjoy this moment together. What a friendship to commemorate!

missed the bus again? don’t fret.

This morning, I was powerless to prevent the bus from taking off without me.

Normally, I would leave home when SBS iris tells me that my bus was going to depart in 5 minutes. I did likewise today but forgot to compensate for my temporal geriatric movements. One of life’s depressing sights is to catch sight of your bus only to see it leaving the berth. Unlike other mornings, there was no way I could have chased after the bus if I hobbled like Jacob.

The Holy Spirit brought to mind a song which Jeanie led during the leaders’ retreat last August. I vividly remember it for it was my first time hearing the song and I had to quickly grasp it before strumming it out on the guitar for the worship leader. Today, only two lines flashed in my head.

Are you tired of chasing pretty rainbows…
… Give them all, give them all, give them all to Jesus.

I smiled and thanked the Spirit for such a timely reminder. So many times, we get so uptight and insecure when we miss opportunities; have we forgotten that our good God who bestowed this opportunity for us has the magnanimity to provide another? Do we sometimes trust our instincts more than we trust the One who gave us these instincts? Shall we then move away from looking at what we know and fix our eyes instead on Who we know?

Are you chasing grades in school?
Are you chasing promotion at work?
Are you chasing legacies in church?
Are you chasing favour amongst colleagues?
Are you chasing popularity amongst friends?
Are you chasing acceptance amongst family and loved one?

Are you chasing after… yourself…?

I think then, the only remedy to prevent chase exhaustion is to simply surrender. “Give them all” are three basic but profound words. A verb, a noun and an adjective (or pronoun, depending on how you perceive it). When you give them all to Jesus, I’m convinced that God will add to you according to His will. No wonder Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

It is my prayer that the next time you miss an opportunity, the Spirit would overwhelm you with peace and help you remember that, in His perfect timing, another one is just ’round the corner; and perhaps, the latter one might just be better. Unsurprisingly, I hopped onto the next bus 10 minutes later and while I arrived at the office slightly later, I still reached my destination.

teamwork is everything – would you rather go fast or go far?

So, what exactly is teamwork? Obviously, this buzzword describes work performed by a team; here are the other definitions that I’ve found on online dictionaries which will form the perimeters of my thoughts today:

  • the combined action of a group of people, esp. when effective and efficient.
  • cooperative or coordinated effort on the part of a group of persons acting together as a team or in the interests of a common cause; work done with a team.
  • the cooperative work done by a team; the ability to work efficiently as a team.
  • work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.
  • a joint action by a group of people, in which each person subordinates his or her individual interests and opinions to the unity and efficiency of the group.
  • when a group of people work well together.
  • the capability to comprehend and recognize the diverse strengths and abilities in a group setting and then applying them to one final solution.
  • when people work collaboratively towards a common goal as distinct from other ways that individuals can work within a group.
  • cooperative effort by the members of a group or team to achieve a common goal.

I don’t know what you have observed from the above definitions. For me, two words stick out – “people” (team) and “work” (work). I’m inclined to believe that the end result of teamwork (i.e. to achieve the objective) is actually secondary. I opine that teamwork is rooted in people involved in work, or if I may put it this way, teamwork is basically about being (people) and doing (work).

Teamwork gives the unique platform for both the task-oriented and people-oriented individuals to come together to achieve a common goal. Sometimes I wonder what carries greater significance – to achieve that goal or to come together. If a group of people accomplish something and yet kill one another in the process, then it defeats the purpose of working together. Similarly, unless it’s a machine or a computer accomplishing a task, it’s virtually impossible to get work done without involving people.

I led worship three times at the recently concluded retreat and while I celebrated at my accomplishment of playing the guitar for 90 minutes straight on the first night when I co-led it with JQ (and I’ve never played the guitar for such a long stretch of time), it was the second morning’s session which I will remember for a long time to come. I had already prepared a set of songs – complete with pre-retreat printed chords sheets for myself and lyrics sheets for everyone else. However, on that morning, just 15 minutes before the worship set, I randomly played “O Praise Him” (by David Crowder Band) and KY, who sat beside me, quickly caught the song and started to sing along with me.

SOAR247 (my youth group in Shanghai) instantly came to my mind at that point in time and with it came the triad of songs that the youth worship leaders there always led – “O Praise Him”, “Marvellous Light” (introduced at Rhema 2009) and “Prince of Peace” (an all-time favourite with the RLs). All three songs were in the key of G and I naturally medleyed from song to song. In an inspired moment (these moments do encapsulate the randomness and suddenness of youth ministry), I decided to lead these three songs for the morning session instead. Everyone around me immediately captured the idea; it was like they also wanted to be led into worship by these songs too.

It was then I saw the most spontaneous display of teamwork. HY, KY and MS took out their phones to google for lyrics; and in an instant, MW, YX and AT took out the flip charts and started writing lyrics on them. I can’t remember who else got involved but it felt like everyone chipped in without hesitation. I was moving from chart to chart, scribbling down the chords. It almost felt like a rehearsed routine except that it was second-nature for the leaders to get cracking – to make this worship session a reality. 10 minutes later, we were up and running and ready to go. I took a snapshot of that moment of togetherness in my mind’s eye and I thanked the Lord for giving us this wonderful thing called teamwork. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed that worship session because WE led US into worship.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 10:20-27)

“Family” is one of the three DNAs of Grace Assembly of God Church (and R-AGE). I’d go one step further to say that a family isn’t effective and efficient unless they learn to work together and love one another. Teamwork is absolutely essential to the core value of a family church, and in a larger context, the body of Christ. May we always remember to be excel in both our being and our doing – and there’s no better way to achieve this than through teamwork.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” (Warren Buffet)

pardon the movie title, but this was my best friend’s wedding.

Most of you know that my best friend got married today. And since I was their best man, I had the honour of giving a speech. I say that it is an honour because they have given me 10-15 minutes of the most significant and important event of their lives thus far. Thinking about it humbles me greatly. Well, regarding the speech, I enjoyed delivering it and honestly, I thought it was well-delivered; people were kind and generous with their encouragement and that gave me a huge boost too. More importantly, I thought I managed to nail what I had intended to say to the couple, and more specifically to LK.

I think there were two lines in the speech that seem to have caught everyone’s attention and so for the sake of downloading it to my digital memory, I shall share it here.

“… This is the best friend who has given me the privilege to be his best man; and I actually think that I can be his best man because first and foremost, he has been and is the best man in my life…”

“… There’s an old wedding joke about rings; before the wedding – engagement ring; during the wedding – wedding ring; after the wedding – suffering. Well, I have my own version. I’m praying that the two of them would be enduring, restoring, and since this speech is for the groom, maybe a few more diamond rings…”

I knocked out at 2:30am, got up at 6am and spent the entire day playing the role of a personal assistant and time-keeper for LK. I’m comprehensively exhausted. On hindsight, after being involved with so many weddings, this wedding is one that would definitely be closest to my heart – simply because it’s my best friend’s wedding; as I watched the event unfold, I found myself nearly in tears as I prayed in my seat and gave thanks to God for the work that He’s done with the two of them. I shall conclude this short post with a poem I wrote nearly a decade ago, specially for newlyweds.

Wedded
By Joey Asher Tan

Before me stands a beautiful bride;
Her groom gleams in radiant pride.
A big day, a grand day,
A wonderful day; it is today.
Smiles aplenty, hugs and kisses,
Both enter a stage where one turns a missus.
Unaware what lies before them,
Tests and trials and even small exams.
But one thing I know that will shine through:
It is, “Our love for me and you”.
I say a prayer for them right now,
That God turns all their frowns to smiles.
Beautiful bride, submit to your man;
And may the man stick to God’s plans.
You haven’t married a person you could live with;
You’ve married a person you couldn’t live without.
May God bless you and keep your home,
Now that you’ve found your matrimonial dome.
And now I see a beautiful wife,
Her husband revels in glorious pride.

when the best friend becomes the best man.

Please allow me to get all sentimental with LK as I await with bated breath the end of his bachelorhood. Although the picture below was taken at my fourth 21st birthday cum farewell party, it’s quite appropriately used now – only this time, I bid him farewell.

What more can I say about LK? He is a true friend who allows me to have total freedom to be myself; he’s someone whom I trust and love and have every confidence that the feeling is mutual. Being best friends for over a decade certainly reinforces the steel in our friendship. While I observe everyone’s “best friend” filtering in and out of their lives in the various stages of life, I thank God that I’m able to say that I have the same one.

I love you, bro, from the bottom of my heart. You better honour your word – we have to keep up with our monthly hangouts! Finally, heartiest and most heartfelt congratulations to you two and may you and JQ bring glory to God through your marriage!

a break before i break.

A number of misunderstandings have taken place during the planning process for this trip, but I guess, at the end of the day, I’m still really looking forward to Langkawi. I’m heading there for the weekend together with HY, the recently engaged LK and JQ, CN and JW. I’m sure it’s gonna be a great trip.

I hope the weather holds and I am looking forward to quality conversations with everyone. It’s great to have my girlfriend, best friend and super friend on the same trip. I’m blessed. That combination itself is worth it. Let’s see if I’ll have time to post a short entry while I’m there.

On another note, besides being excited about this short weekend getaway, I’m even more excited about the REAL applications that will be confirmed this weekend. I can’t wait to put faces and names to the 10 slots. It’s gonna be a great camp from 28-31 Dec and it’s gonna be a great journey with the 10 of them until 28 Feb. You can either leave it on my table or better still, pass it to either RY or CX.

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