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originality through imitation (part two) – the grandeur of the creation of man.

Previous post: Introduction – The Quest for Originality

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Again, I state that the best creation is the original creation. To understand why I say it is the best, let us first examine the grandeur of the creation of Man; this blew my mind when I pondered over it studiously.

The Last Creation

Since Man was the last item God created, he obviously did not participate or had any hand in the creation of the world. No wonder Job was rhetorically and categorically rebuked by God in Job 38:4 – “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding”. Man certainly wasn’t present at first creation!

And there are two obvious merits in being last place. It was first an honour. God added on to His already perfect creation (only He could do that!) and it resulted in Man. I think that’s why God added “very” to “good” in v31. Then it was a favour. To be the final jigsaw of the masterpiece meant that Man could fit in perfectly with all that has already been created. This simply means that Man didn’t need to adjust to his environment because it was custom-made for him! Think about it – no one wants to move into a halfway-renovated house.

The Latest Creation

Is there a difference between last and latest? In my opinion, the former speaks of a(n pre-)arranged order and the latter indicates actual chronology. The whole of creation was already there for Man at the point of his creation. As such, according to Genesis 2:19-20, everything was there for Man to contemplate upon (that’s why Adam named every creature) as well as to take comfort in (as every plant was given for Adam’s consumption), according to Genesis 1:29. What a privilege! I think Adam must have been an extremely creative person with a formidable vocabulary to be able to name every single living thing!

The Lone Creation

The creation of Man was truly unique. Through observation, you’ll realise that everything that was created before Man was by God’s word of command (see vv3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 16, 20, 24) and this signified authority. However, for the creation of Man, it became a word of consultation (see v26). It was as if the Trinity personally undertook this creation together and it signified God’s affection for Man. Doesn’t it give you a warm fuzzy feeling to know that we were made out of love!?

A self-esteem check here; think about it for a moment – Man certainly seemed more important to God than day and night (v3), land and sea (v6), heavens and earth (v9), plants and creatures (vv11, 20, 24), time and season (v14), sun and moon (v16)! If that doesn’t make you feel special enough, then I think you have serious esteem issues! Come on, you and I are more important to God than all that! WOW.

Also, note that the creation of Man was conclusive and not concurrent; in the ESV translation, everything else created was with the conjunction, “And”. But for Man, it was with the conjunction, “Then”; To me, the real business of creation was in making Man because everything seemed to be leading up to it. Hence I think it’s not far off to say that, in the observation of Man’s consecrated creation, we were already set apart by God from the beginning of time; no wonder we are called to be set apart for God today.

The Likeness Creation

This is the part that overwhelmed me because I felt that Man was undeserving of God’s grace. With the greatness of Man’s creation etched in our minds, we must realise then the gravity of this magnificent creation which involved the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. That distinguished Man for he was to be dedicated and devoted to his divine Team of designers. As if being the last, latest and lone creation wasn’t enough, God made Man to be the only creation in His likeness. WOW!

Observe – I think God really stressed the significance of creating Man. He described this creation with two different words of similar meaning – “image” (Hebrew: Tselem) and “likeness” (Hebrew: Damuwth); to me, this really manifests the intense identicalness Man has with God.

So, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that at the point of creation, Man was perfect. After all, could there be anything more perfect than this? You can’t perfect perfection! If you add, alter or abstract anything away from it, it will no longer be perfect. Sin was added, the nature of Man was altered and the likeness of God was thereby abstracted. What a tragic ending to what was intended to be a beautiful beginning!

Sin became the blot of water on a canvas of oil painting – it ruined everything. We must come to understand that God cannot have any part with sin. So know that when you sin, you bring about damage and destruction to what was formerly a perfect creation – you. Thank God for His saving grace through Jesus Christ!

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Next post: The Double-edged Commandment and Jesus Christ the Trump Card

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the 2003 (self-)prophecy came true.

I’m currently away with my beloved GII Shepherds, GI Community Leaders as well as with all the R-AGE full-time staff at Aloha Yatch Club, planning for R-AGE in 2011. I know I’m a visionary, but planning isn’t one of my main strengths (that’s why I’m always thankful to God for sending me HY, for she is my ideal complement); I guess I could still be excellent at planning (or just about anything I put my heart to, even administration *puke* – which I’m sure will not exist in heaven…), but I wouldn’t be as thrilled about planning as I am about vision-casting. I believe that visionary leaders must determine the destination while strategic leaders chart the journey.

This is a long shot, but I think my gift for visions and prophecies started when I was 20 years old. In the final semester of my Mass Communication days in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, for this module called “Professional Preparation”, we was given the assignment of writing a cover letter to complement the resume which we had already put together. Most of my friends applied for positions like “Intern Reporter”, “Intern Public Relations Executive”, “Intern Advertising Executive”“Intern Radio Presenter” and the likes – basically jobs that we have been studying and training for in the last three years. No prizes for guessing what I applied for! Enjoy the read, and be careful what jobs you apply for. (:

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3 March 2003

Pastor Ronald Yow
Youth Pastor

R-AGE Ministry
Grace Assembly of God
355 Tanglin Road
Singapore 247960

Dear Pastor Yow,

HERE I AM, TO SERVE – AS AN INTERN YOUTH PASTOR.

I have been actively involved in R-AGE Ministry ever since it inaugurated in July 1997. My sizeable contributions over the past six years are testimony to the commitment I give to this youth group.

My character temperament – a Sanguine-Choleric – is ideal for the role of an intern youth pastor. My ability to influence and inspire, as well as my outgoing personality underlines the charisma required of youth pastors. Furthermore, I am perceived as a natural leader amongst my peers and I am initiated to assume the role of a leader in most group settings.

I also believe I possess the three most imperative qualities that an intern youth pastor should have.

Being Faithful: I believe this characteristic is displayed through my perseverance in serving in the Creative Arts Ministry Youth (CAMY). I started out as a backup singer; I am now confirmed as a worship leader. I also believe that an effective youth pastor must be grounded in the Word of God. In addition to pursuing the Word of God on a daily basis, I also attend Precept Bible Study classes on a weekly basis and am also a part of the Diakonos (discipleship group).

Being Available: Currently, my two main commitments are the CAMY and TeamR-AGE (a youth soccer team that I have pioneered) and I hold key leadership roles in both ministries. I have also been engaged in various R-AGE events over the past years; my proudest effort would be coordinating the hugely successful programme for Dream-Makers (annual youth camp). The extra involvements indicate my availability, enthusiasm, initiative and my desire to serve outside of my fixed duties.

Being Teachable: My mentors and leaders, who know and understand me well, assert that I have the humility to be corrected and taught. I am an autodidact; on top of picking up things fast, I always endeavor to learn new things and explore new ways to do old things, making every effort to be more efficient and productive.

My involvement with TeamR-AGE and my experience of leading SoHelpUsGod (youth cell group) also reinforces my ability to manage a group of young people. Besides singing and songwriting, I can also play multiple instruments – essential skills that can be utilised for corporate and personal ministry purposes.

Moreover, with the youth congregation rapidly growing to beyond 250, an increase of more than 50 per cent in just two years, I believe that my appointment would make a timely significant contribution to R-AGE ministry.

I am driven by a spirit of excellence and strive to give only my best. And with a relevant mass communication background, I have been conditioned to work under tight deadlines and to deliver quality work under stress. I believe this attribute, accompanied by the others I have listed above, makes me an excellent consideration for the role of an intern youth pastor, ultimately leading to a full-time youth pastor position after I complete Bible College.

Yours sincerely,

Joey Tan
Enc. One copy of resume (3 pages)

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Prophetic or whaaaaaaat? Hehe. I love my job; it’s like a dream come true to be doing what I’m doing, for a living. (:

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.

the difference between a job and a career.

I spent some time deliberating this over the past couple of days. I found some interesting attempts at defining and differentiating the two. These definitions are amongst the first few to appear when I googled the above question:

“Your job is what you are doing today. Your career is what you’ve done over the past years and what you plan to do in the future… Your job feeds you and your family today. Your career will feed you and your family tomorrow and beyond.”

“The job pays your bills, and a career is a path you’ve taken (hopefully because you enjoy it) to attain or keep the ideal job for you.”

“A career is something that you build during your lifetime. Jobs are often times task-oriented positions to help meet the goals of an organisation or business. Jobs are often a means to an end… Sometimes jobs lead to careers.”

“A job is something you do simply to earn money; a career is a series of connected employment opportunities. A job has minimal impact on your future work life, while a career provides experience and learning to fuel your future. A job offers few networking opportunities, but a career is loaded with them. When you work at a job, you should do the minimum without annoying the boss. When you’re in a career, you should go the extra mile, doing tasks beyond your minimum job description.”

There’s an endless list of dichotomous definitions but they are largely synonymous.

I remember learning this from somewhere – maybe in one of KK’s workshop (?) – that in a career, people usually stay for a long time and “climb” up the organisational ladder; the good ones care about the welfare and well-being of the company and its employees. To a certain extent, they live for others. Whereas a job is just something people do from 9am to 5pm and remain indifferent to just about everything except for the accuracy and arrival of their paycheck. To another extent, they live for themselves.

Now, this gets me thinking about my own predicament – is it a job or a career? I know for sure that during my army days, it was a job – I did what I was expected to do; on good days, I go the extra mile and on bad days, I do the bare minimum. When I was in Shanghai, it felt a little different because I treated it like my own company. There wasn’t such a thing called “Official Working Hours” simply because at the management level, you work as hard and as long as you’re required to; my boss did not believe in overtime pay for the managers because it was expected of us to get the job done and the project(s) completed. AT’s an excellent boss, and although sometimes he’s quite a slave-driver, he has successfully imbued in us managers the all-important ownership of the company.

So this brings me back to me today as a youth minister with Grace Assembly of God. Is this my job? Not really, because I’d have been imparting my life into young people anyway even if I was an army officer or a marketing manager – I’m just doing it full-time on a more intensive level. Is this my career then? Not really too, because I do not even know if I will be doing this for the long run. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m committed to what I have signed on to do, but I’m keener to listen to God’s prompting. The last thing I want is to overstay – I think that would be absolutely meaningless. But if God tells me to go, I’d be gone in an instant – I’m not worried about transitions and to start out all over again in any industry because I have confidence in my ability to excel wherever I go.

Hence, my answer to the question above – the difference between a job and a career is to know your calling in life and to pursue that calling wholeheartedly in any given time or space instead of being in an occupation for a season of life. I’ve said this to quite a number of people – in my current “job”, while it’s slightly easier than the previous ones because my gifting and skills-set are tailor-made for it, I’ve also poured in double the work hours and emotional involvement. Yet I feel that since I’ve joined Grace in October 2009, I’ve not worked a single day at all simply because I am pursuing what I believe God has intended for me to pursue for this season of my life.

Have you found your calling? Are you stuck with a job? Or are you caught in a career?

my journey into full-time ministry.

Before I headed for Shanghai, I told my uncle that I was reconsidering his offer because I was actually first considering heading into full-time work with church. He thought I was crazy. “Why you want to become a monk so early in your life!?”, was his candid retort, and his limited understanding of what working in church was like – a monastery. Of course, my mother disapproved my desire to work as a youth minister then, so I reluctantly headed to Shanghai instead.

I didn’t enjoy it at first, but God is good. Within six months, I got the hang of it, overcame the dread of being there unwillingly, made a ton of friends, settled in a cell group and began to excel in my job. When I decided to end my 21-month Shanghai chapter last July, my former colleagues were shocked when they found out that I went to work in church. They thought it was a waste of my talent and that I was too young for a job like this; they basically thought I was crazy to abandon a comfortable lifestyle for something so radical.

Of course, they had no prior knowledge of my journey with the Lord. Not many people know of my promise to God – that I’d give Him the best years of my career (which I think is now). I don’t know how long, far or intense this full-time calling is, but I know it is NOW. And my only response is not to trust and obey but to obey then to trust. Hence, tonight, I felt led to publish my cover letter to Grace Assembly of God. May my journey into full-time ministry inspire and encourage you, as well as to give you a glimpse of my conviction and surrender to God regarding this part and period of my life. Enjoy the read.

Click here to read my cover letter as a webpage.

Click here to read my cover letter in PDF format.

And just for the record, my mum didn’t just agree to me heading into full-time work, she actually supported it! Praise the Lord for answering a three-year prayer. The story of how she came to this miraculous decision deserves to be mentioned on a separate entry.

retrospection: painting on a white canvas.

In the blink of an eye, I approach the sixth month of my full-time work with R-AGE. I will not deny that it has been a dream job so far for I don’t even feel that I’ve worked a day – even when I’ve clocked way more hours than what I am required to clock per week. My “clients” are my beloved youths, my “managers” are my G2 Shepherds, my “boss” is my mentor, my “colleagues” are my friends, my “work documents” are the pages of the Bible, my “company” is the place that I worship, my “business meetings” are mentoring sessions with youths and my “products” are leading, mentoring and preaching – I cannot ask for a better combination of work elements. God is good!

At the start of this year when I took over the G2 youth community, I had set out several tasks to complete as well as to lay down certain ground rules for my leaders and myself. Looking back, I rejoice at what the Lord has allowed me to accomplish thus far. As I prepare the Barnabas sermon for this weekend, I feel a tremendous sense of job satisfaction that not many people can claim to have – I thank God and give Him all the glory for this. Indeed, the enjoyment of work is a gift of God to man (Ecclesiastes 3:13).

At the workplan retreat at the turn of the year, I remember sharing with my G2 leaders my basic expectations of them. I think I must have caught them by surprise when I said, “I expect you to mess up”. I’m not looking for perfect leaders or for exceptionally talented ones – there’ll be no sense of accomplishment, challenge or rejoicing if I’m working with finished articles. I believe the journey is more important than the destination, but if we do not know where we are headed for, we will be lost. I told them that I also expected them to be 1) committed to their kids and to be 2) accountable to their leaders (especially in the area of existing and potential BGRs), as well as to 3) pray regularly, 4) display initiative, 5) lead by example, 6) be responsible and 7) demonstrate excellence in all that they undertake – just seven golden requirements. I firmly believe that good leaders raise better ones and bad leaders produce worser ones.

I also requested for time and patience so that I can figure out their needs and wait upon God to give me a fresh vision and direction for the ministry, which I can roll out in phases in the coming months. I also identified the thin manpower, especially evident in the lack of male leaders. I understood their common initial sentiments of feeling inadequate, lacking readiness and struggling to connect with their kids. As a number of them up their ante in their pursuit of God, and as I see them step out and take their place as junior shepherds of the ministry, my heart beams with pride – for I see God’s strength in their weakness, Christ’s victory in their defeats and an inevitable reliance on the Spirit to see them through their leadership roles.

As I shared with NC over lunch today, I believe that we need God to be more godly, Christ to be more Christ-like and the Holy Spirit to be more Spirit-filled; we will never be able to approach a theocentric God in an anthropocentric manner. And I firmly believe in my heart that we are on the threshold of revival – first in our being, then in our ministry. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in G1, G2, Grace or another church, we are not going to accomplish anything if we depend on our own strength. We must continually seek the Lord for guidance and believe that the power of the Spirit will enable and empower us to accomplish the will of God for our lives and in our ministry.

It’s only been six months, and already there’s a lot to thank God for. Brothers and sisters – apart from Jesus, we can do nothing; we are absolutely nothing without Christ. The canvas is white – let’s paint it well.

fight today’s battles today.

I am grateful for the welcome that I have received from my colleagues. Everyone has been kind and helpful. It feels like working from home; after all, this is a place I’ve called home for over a decade. Premature to say, but I feel good about being here. Let’s see where that takes me tomorrow.

Attended a prayer meeting in the afternoon together and somehow it feels really good to pray during office hours and not feel like you’re taking time away from your work! I never felt this way before when I prayed for extended periods of time in my previous jobs during office hours.

Thought of the day – there’s no difference between relational praying and religious chanting if we’re just doing it for the sake of doing it without engaging God with our heart, mind and spirit. Whenever we pray we shouldn’t just vomit words but we should really seek God and ask Him what we ought to be praying about and for today. It’s all about praying the will of God.

HY and I experienced a breakthrough in our journey of faith today. She’s been such a courageous girl, bless her heart – I have a girlfriend who inspires me. God has shown Himself to be faithful and He granted us favour tonight. We are beginning to make sense of Romans 8:28 and have that verse personalise our faith in God. God is good, He is in control and He will bring it to pass.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Can’t wait to wake up to pursue His purpose in a few hours.

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