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to establish a FAT and Hungry culture (part IV) – hungry.

FAH-II

Photo credits: Caleb Kay

The final session with my leaders was the shortest one. There was no way they could have tanked (I’m learning youth lingo…) another trademark long sermon from me after being turned out at 4am to clean the entire church. I trust that the structured experience would be etched into their hearts for a long time. And if I can find the piece of paper that I scribbled down my debrief pointers (“Leadership lessons to be learnt”), I’d post in another entry.

At around 6:30am, we dismissed everyone. Most of them returned to their bunks and a handful became all-terrain sleepers; the GI Chapel morphed into a huge dormitory. At 10:30am, we assembled them in service for the last time, and I began my sharing by stating that we ought to be hungry for two things: God’s whereabouts (His presence) and God’s will (His plans and purposes).

However, what prevents us from getting hungry is when we are already being filled and have no more space in our lives.

I thought Kenneth Yeo brought out this lesson superbly at Minus One (an initiation of sorts involving the new leaders just before Leaders’ Retreat commenced). He split the leaders into a few groups, lined them up and got them to transfer water from a bottle at the start of the line into a bag at the end of the line by passing it from one person to another other via sponges. Then he introduced a twist by pouring a little Ribena syrup into each sponge, and challenged them to do the same thing without any trace of Ribena in the bag. The leaders instinctively used half the sponge to execute this task and ended up transferring less than half the original amount.

If you have too much of worldly things cluttering up our lives, how are you able to stay hungry for the things of God? Your appetite is directly proportionate to how full you are. Try eating an expensive dinner immediately after a cheap lunch – the thought of food would repulse you! If you want to be hungry for God, then you have to learn to de-clutter and de-accumulate. The scary but ironic thing is when ministry and church work clogs up your life and takes away your hunger – that would be a travesty.

In John 4:34, “Jesus said to them (his disciples), ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.'” I believe Jesus revealed to us the secret to being filled with the things of God. But to do the Father’s will, we must first know His will. Only then are we able to accomplish the Father’s work. That is why the Grace AG theme for 2013 resonates with my soul; paraphrasing what my senior pastor (Ps Calvin Lee) said, in order for us to effectively live life missionally, we must first be deeper in the Word.

Ezra understood that well. In Ezra 7:10, we learn that “Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the LORD and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.” Through this, I derived a four-step approach to God’s Word that I will share over the pulpit in greater detail in the last week of January. Grasping this, I believe with all my heart, has the potential to change the way we live as well as to change the world that we live in. If we are not changing the culture, we’re not changing anything. But if we, like Ezra, are determined to SORT out our approach to God’s Word, I’m sure we will constantly remain hungry for God’s presence and His will.

  • Study: read, remember and reflect upon His Word.
  • Obey: apply what we have learnt.
  • Reap: the benefits of applying God’s Word.
  • Teach: pass on these benefits to others.

In addition to that, I also shared Ps Edmund Chan’s PDA Lifestyle with my leaders (which I will also teach in greater detail over the pulpit):

  • Personal revival: experience revival everyday by getting deeper into God’s Word.
  • Divine appointments: sense the Holy Spirit leading you into a divine appointment.
  • Active obedience: learn to obey what the Spirit put upon your heart to do or say.

I believe that once you catch this method of evangelising, of loving people in the name of Jesus, you will never look at preaching the Gospel in the same way ever again. My desire for my (spiritual) household and I is to practise the PDA lifestyle and to leave the results to God. Sometimes, it doesn’t necessarily have to culminate in a dramatic conversion. Sometimes, all that’s needed at the moment is a simple spiritual conversation. All you need is to faithfully do your part, and learn to trust God for the outcome.

If you want to live from the inside-out, then your perspective must change; God didn’t call us to be a student, a teacher, a pastor, but to be a witness! Live your life in the Word and let the Gospel be seen in your life. We have to preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words. If anything at all, I think the X-factor of a believer is authenticity, and not perfection. I’d rather be real and flawed and to appear perfect. After all, if Jesus can love me even though I’m like that, then Jesus must really love me – that’s what the pre-believers should see in your life!

In summary, a hungry Christian is a growing Christian, and his appetite for learning and doing God’s will should never diminish regardless of his age or education level. If you call yourself a hungry and growing Christian, then I’d expect you to always seek the better way; choose the way of wisdom and apply it into your situations. The moment you stop learning is the moment you stop growing.

It is my prayer that I’d always display an appetite for growth and an active pursuit for opportunities to mature in Christ.

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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.

if it was up to us, we’d already be struck dead.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

I’m confident that almost every believer is familiar with this verse; it’s like our perpetual get-out-of-jail-free ticket and our permanent licence to do (pretty much) whatever we want and get away with it. Of course, if you are a mature believer, you’ll slowly realise that God’s grace should empower us not to sin some more, but to sin no more; the grace of God should empower us to do what the truth demands. I think I’ve mentioned that somewhere in one of my earlier entries.

Now, the question that I’d ask is, “Who or what is God faithful and just to?” That was what I posed to my REAL champs this afternoon, at the aftermath of their Old Testament Overview, where they learnt that the overarching theme of Exodus is the faithfulness of God by His demonstration of fulfilling what He has promised (i.e. Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt).

A knee-jerk response to the above-mentioned question would be He is faithful and just to me or He is faithful and just to my repentance. Think about it for a little bit longer. Do you really think that God’s forgiveness and cleansing was based on you or to your repenting efforts? If it was so, you’d be already be struck dead! I’m inclined to think that if God was really just to us (i.e. as a judge would demonstrate justice in a court), we’d get the death sentence ten times over simply for being unable to meet the requirements of His laws; after all, it is stated that the wages of sin is death (ref. Romans 6:23).

Thankfully for us, God is just to Jesus Christ, not us. That’s the reason why God has forgiven our sins and has cleansed us from all unrighteousness! By taking the fall for us, Christ presents us righteous before God. I’m convinced that we are absolutely too sinful and unholy to be in the presence of a holy God but we are allowed access because when God views us, He sees the atoning sacrifice of Christ and not our sin. By the sheer unchangeability of what Christ has already done for us on the cross, we can therefore approach God with confidence, knowing that we’ll be forgiven and cleansed every single time. God is faithful to what Christ did in our place.

We’ll never be able to fulfil our side of the promise, unlike Christ who has already fulfilled His and therefore, permits us to have communion with God. Now, that’s what I call a demonstration of a promise! I gave God the glory as I saw the REAL kids nod their heads away as they learn a new truth and it is my prayer that you will be liberated as you discover a new way to apply this familiar scripture into your life.

leadership reflections.

“Leadership is a process of influence. Anytime you seek to influence the thinking, behaviour, or development of people in their personal or professional lives, you are taking on the role of a leader.” (Blanchard & Hodges)

Of the countless number of leaders who have influenced me in my decade of development as a leader, the two men with the greatest influence in my life at this point in time would undoubtedly be RY and PL. While RY has sharpened me in ministerial skills and PL in my relational skills, I cannot quite compartmentalise their influence in my life because they have taught me so many invaluable life skills in both arenas.

I am quietly confident enough to believe that God has used me well over the last decade as an influence with a good number of (young) people; I say this adorning a hat of privilege, not pride. I’ve had opportunities to take up leadership positions wherever I’ve gone and it has certainly aided my personal character development. Now I am given the privilege to have direct influence over the REAL kids, the leadership core of the G2 Youth Community as well as the youths that I personally mentor.

A jump in thought here, but the question then is, “Am I seeking to serve or to be served?” As far as I know, my leaders have always served me and to the best of my ability to be honest, I’d also like to think that I’ve been serving those under my leadership. After all, I always believe that there’s almost nothing for me to gain or lose when I lead people; it’s always for their own good, not mine. Thankfully, this leadership ethos that I have adopted over the years is consistent with the leadership model that I will now actively adopt – the one of Jesus Christ.

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

Regardless of whether I serve in the ministry or marketplace arena, taking on the leadership legacy left behind by Jesus is never going to be an easy call. In a society where the outspoken ones are apparently deemed as the “best” leaders, the meekness of Jesus greatly opposes our educated mindset. It is especially prevalent for me because I fall into the category of a vocal leader who is always seen and heard. Hence I have much to learn before the promise of an inheritance of the earth is given to me (ref. Matthew 5:5).

I must condition myself to learn the power of listening intently, keeping silence and withholding opinion. This year, it is my earnest prayer that God will raise my leadership effectiveness and influence to a whole new level for His sole glory. The leadership style of Jesus focuses a lot on the workings of the insides instead of the works on the outsides. I desire to develop to be and to lead like Jesus, not just to do what Jesus did or would do.

In conclusion, I aspire to consider this thought in all my dealings with people and situations: WWJB – Who Would Jesus Be?

the first rewards of full-time.

REAL Lock-in Camp 2010 will go down as one of the biggest highlights and achievements of my 12 years of serving God in Grace Assembly of God.

I am reminded of the changing power of God’s presence, the massive potential of young people, the victorious satisfaction of a breakthrough, the immense delight of obeying the Holy Spirit’s guidance and amongst many others, just witnessing how these 15 young souls are surrendering themselves to Jesus. WOW!!!

Now, this is what I came into full-time ministry for. I love you all, I’m so proud of each and everyone of you, I believe so much in you all and I can’t wait to invest even more of myself in every one of you. The next two months, we’ll go into Holy Spirit overdrive.

(Okay, I know this post is kinda like a outburst of emotions and very unlike the typical way I write on this blog, but hey, it’s something worth shouting out loud for. God did such a miraculous work of restoration during the camp that I just HAVE to testify of it! More to come in later days. For now, I need to break the non-writing inertia.)

meritocracy is unbiblical.

Jesus looked at [the rich young ruler] and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:24-25, NIV)

Singapore is a great country to reside in – it truly is. I can say this because I’ve lived in Shanghai for nearly two years. We take pride in our credible and proven governance of meritocracy – where, by dictionary definition, “people [are] selected on the basis of their ability”. In other words, if you do well enough, you’ll probably get by. However, I’d like to think that meritocracy is poisonous, especially for a Christian making an honest attempt to live his life relying on God.

I’ve always lamented about the overly rigourous and demanding education system here. A young student is forced, whether voluntarily by his own will or involuntarily by unhealthy peer pressure, to do well in Singapore. Sadly, sometimes it’s not about doing well for his own good, but about doing better than someone else. We have produced countless outstanding people because of how (insanely) competitive we are. After all, it’s a known fact that Singapore’s greatest resource is her people.

Hence, existing in an environment as such, we have been continuously engineered to believe that we just need to do well enough, and we’ll be able to get what we want – chiefly wealth and status amongst others. Unfortunately for us, we have also allowed this secular mentality to creep into the Church and worse, into our walk with God. More often than not, we’d rather sort ourselves out first before going to God rather than going to God first to get sorted out.

We approach God thinking that if we have ticked the checklist boxes of praying, doing quiet time, worshipping, reading the bible, etc., we’d be accepted and be presentable before God. How scarily distorted that can be! Having a checklist may not be wrong, don’t misunderstand me, but it is severely inadequate.

A classic example is how we typically go to God in prayer only when we take our exams with insufficient preparation or when we commit a major mistake at work. It’s like we consider getting God involved only when matters are completely out of our control and domain of influence. Or sometimes when we ask for good results or work promotion (or even dating success), we use “I promise I’ll spend more time with You, Lord” or “I promise I won’t visit those sites again anymore, Lord” as stakes, thinking that it may actually move God to accede to our “requests”.

How dangerously misconstrued that is!

In a society where meritocracy calls the shots, we start to tattoo in our hearts and minds, “I CAN DO IT“. Great optimism and confidence, don’t get me wrong. But it may lead to one thing – that “GOD CAN DO IT” will slowly and steadily be obliterated from our operating system. We need to be extremely cautious because this swelling pride can mislead us – from trusting in God to trusting in ourselves. We constantly wage war between societal and biblical reality.

Now, may I beseech you to be alert and to quicken your spirit to this, that you do not draw confidence in your flesh but in God. Don’t become complacent when you exit an exam hall after a good paper because it doesn’t mean that you seeking God ends. In the same way, don’t become overly concerned about beefing up your resume just to raise your chances of getting a good job. Place not your confidence in yourself but in our faithful God who never fails to deliver! Be excellent but not wrongly/overly-confident.

For those with average grades, do not be discouraged – our God can operate with Bs and Cs (and even Ds and Fs!) and still give you success and a good future, only if you seek Him wholeheartedly. For those with soaring on societal favour and success, do not get complacent thinking that all these achievements arrived by your own merit – God can give but He can also take away, and what we are constantly challenged to say is, “Blessed be Your name”. Keep your eyes on Jesus, my friends!

Perhaps this is why the apostle Paul declared quite famously in 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV),

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.‘ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

When we rely on ourselves, we may fail. But when we rely on God, He will deliver! Let us declare that we can’t and that God can!

what does it mean to give?

I snapped this picture at the 777-feet Seoul Tower, located on the summit of Namsan Mountain, South Korea, where stalls upon stalls displayed little knick-knacks for sale. I aptly titled this photograph, “Useless”, simply because (almost) everything in this picture is. Why do we even bother buying gifts of little or no practical use? This reminds me of what it means to give.

Christmas is a time of giving and receiving. The gift of God is in His Son, Jesus Christ. The gift of Jesus Christ is His own life. I’d like to think that Jesus could have chosen not to die even though He was sent to die, hence I refuse to take for granted His sacrifice for me on the cross. With Jesus, it was solely Him giving and us receiving. So, what could we actually give to Jesus?

Try as I may, I am unable to find anything worthy to give to Jesus as a form of reciprocation. Even if I were to give my life – and that’s about all that I can give – it is still an unworthy gift. To better grasp the unparalleled gift of Jesus, I realise that I could neither out-give my mother’s 26 years of sacrifice nor HY’s gift of purity; regardless of what I do now, I will never be able to give my mother or HY the equal value of their gift to me.

I cannot imagine being born to die. That statement may be extreme, but even if I were to water it down, I still cannot imagine being born to give. I’m inclined to think that we have been wired to receive, regardless of how generous we have been raised to be or innately are. Every fibre of my being longs to receive more – pleasure, love, happiness, etc. It takes effort to give – at least for me it does.

And so this Christmas, I’d like to give to Jesus the best gift, still unworthy as it may be, that I can ever give right now – my future – because it is unknown to me and out of my control. Join me then, in rededicating and surrendering your life to Jesus once again as He dedicated His whole life to you. It is my earnest prayer that you will find new faith, hope and love in the Lover and Savior of your soul. And just to put the icing on the cake – He’s also the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and He lived to die just for you.

I conclude this entry with lyrics from two Relient K songs that made me tear the first time I heard it – “Give” and “I Celebrate The Day”.

“I’ll give, give, give – until there’s nothing else
Give my all – until it all runs out
Give, give – and I’ll have no regrets
I’ll give until there’s nothing left
I’ll give”

“And the first time that You opened Your eyes
Did You realise that You would be my Saviour?
And the first breath that left Your lips
Did You know that it would change this world forever?

And I, I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life”

Have a blessed and meaningful Christmas, dear readers. (:

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