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JAT reads in mid-March.

A part of what I do for a living is to keep up with my youths by reading their blogs; I’m subscribed to nearly 70 (and counting!) blogs and each time they update, Google Reader feeds it to me; you learn a lot about people by being a phantom reader. I also subscribe to other websites and often enough, I chance upon a good article that is worth sharing…

This is my first attempt to show you what I read and I plan to do this every other week if I can keep up. Hope you enjoy these articles as much as I have.

  • Bethenia Dixon refreshes everyone with a great perspective on giving – love her closing.
  • Clarence Chua puts himself in the shoes of his semi-deaf father – a riveting piece.
  • Dan Walker of the BBC captures Le Magnifique Eric Cantona in an exclusive interview.
  • John Piper brings us back to 2002 and reminds youth workers of their great responsibility.
  • Joshua Ng reflects on what it means to leave behind a legacy as a legend.
  • Lim Jun Hong reminds us of the importance of being properly rooted in the Word.
  • Perry Noble looks at the ten ways to fail as a minister – what a sobering reminder for all…
  • Serene Wee provides an excellent insight into the situation in Japan, as told by a Japanese.
  • Soann Chng writes about Cavan’s responsibilities as her firstborn – something I identify with.
  • Steven Chan shares how he missed the earthquake in Tokyo by a mere 50 minutes.

You never know – you might just be featured next month! I’m a big fan of superb writers and always on the lookout for read-worthy articles.

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top ten ways i will remember PIERCE.

I actually ought to be shot for only posting my reflections on Pierce now – especially when I encouraged all the campers to blog, facebook and tweet about Pierce – and I’m the last to be on the task which I set. Shame on me and thank you all for being merciful (I’m sure you’re more merciful than those who threw the water bombs with such glee!)

When I began the day, I knew that I’d write about Pierce tonight and I’m glad I met up with JH tonight; and as I shared with Him what God had done in Pierce, it helped me to consolidate my thoughts into bite-sized chunks. (I actually wrote a really long reflection on my mobile, but I think I’ll just can that for this instead.)

In no order of importance or significance, more like a what-comes-to-mind-first:

I. The difference between this awesome youth camp and the last awesome youth camp (Dream-makers) in R-AGE was the God-factor; what sets Pierce apart from the other events that I’ve been a part of over the last decade (and trust me, I’ve been part of a lot) is that God visited us in a progressively tangible manner with each passing hour. It is in the presence of God that our lives are changed and the presence of God was so strong in this camp that it was un-mistakable and un-manufacturable.

II. The youths rose to take ownership of the youth group. I smiled the widest during two particular moments; firstly, when I saw cell kids approaching cell mentors at the altar call to take turns to pray for them – forget about hierarchy or maturity, they just wanted to minister to their brothers and sisters! Next, when JN, TT, SY and LW approached me for a five-minute interval to teach the campers an R-AGE cheer which they had created themselves – that to me was “youths leading youths”. To these two items I’d say, “Outstanding and well done, R-AGE, keep it up!”

III. For me, there were two events that really galvanised the ministry. Even though we had already expected the youths to gang up on the committee during the war game, I felt that there was a spiritual significance behind that epic rallying of all the campers – I’d say this carelessly, but I think there’s something prophetic about that act of coming together for the same common purpose (of mercilessly destroying us). The other activity that, hopefully, would stick in the campers’ head for a long time to come would no doubt be the Midnight Workout and how they earned their camp t-shirt – it taught them about sticking together, no matter what, whatever it takes. I’m confident these two programmes brought our unity and togetherness to new heights. May it drive commitment to the youth group into their hearts.

IV. When you are surrounded by an outstanding team of Generals and Knights, you can’t help but to rejoice with them when you see them rise up to take the mantle of leadership and exhibit the qualities of excellence, passion, initiative, dedication and commitment. On paper, I already knew that my committee would make an amazing team and when execution took place, it confirmed their ability to deliver. I deliberately gave them autonomy and they reveled in it. Well done!

V. I had never in my wildest dreams expected Be a Barney to take off like that. When we printed about 400 cards, we thought it’d be just about right, and that we’d actually have a few leftovers for ourselves to bring home as keepsakes. I think it was just after dinner on the second day that EL reported the crisis to me, “Joey! We have no more Barney cards!” I smiled and thanked the Lord for how the campers really caught the Barnabas’ spirit of encouragement! They’re still at it now, I believe!

VI. Here’s some trivia for you – Plug & Play was actually an idea which I had wanted to implement in R-AGE way back in 2005 (I still have the meeting minutes!). It remained dormant for years until I identified the hidden potential in NC to “take over” it and take it forward. She took a good six months to say “Yes” to my invitation and it was my personal delight to see her execute the inaugural Plug & Play on the first evening. I was convinced there and then that there was no one except her who could pull it off in that manner and magnitude. She far exceeded my expectations and everything I had hoped Plug & Play would turn out to be; she basically took it and made it her own, and I’m sure she’d soar with it now.

VII. With every camp or retreat, and yes, I do mean every, there will always be hype at the end of it – there is no exception for Pierce. However, while it’s only been two weeks since Pierce concluded, I’ve already seen noticeable changes in R-AGE @ GII’s culture, both in and out of services and cells. It’s as if the youths finally realised that they could actually have so much fun, actually enjoy worshipping God, actually engage with sermons, actually pray for one another in such a manner and actually relate with one another with such kinship. Pierce somehow became a point of activation for the youths to actualise what they’ve always had. I remember telling JH that it’s not as if we went “higher from being already high”, but that we went from “zero into one”. Something just clicked and we never had that!

VIII. I am seriously considering publishing the evaluation forms for they will be a great source of encouragement for anyone who reads it. What encouraged me most was how a great number of youths indicated their interests to serve in R-AGE – as CMs, emcees, ushers and just about anything – simply because they want to contribute to the ministry and be a part of its growth!

IX. At the close of the first day, I had an opportunity to catch up with DL and she, very excitedly, shared her Dream-makers experience with me – she still kept Angel & Mortal notes from that camp in her Bible and she still remembered all the different activities and lessons, especially the one where we tortured the leaders. There and then, the Spirit reminded me of the potential of Pierce and that its impact and effect would continue to be felt a decade later. It has been my prayer and desire that this camp creates a mark in R-AGE @ GII’s journey to fulfilling God’s destiny. I believe and I confidently declare that, by faith, we will achieve our destiny in God!

X. Last but not least, Pierce seriously affirmed my full-time calling 1) with youths, 2) at Grace Assembly, 3) in R-AGE. I am immensely grateful to God for His faithfulness in my life and it gives me great courage in the coming days!

All right, I know the past few entries have been really long and grandfather-ish, but please bear with me for I already know what I am going to write about tomorrow and for the next couple of days and they sure look like they’ll be lengthy entries too!

is heavy metal music really satanic?

I fondly remember sitting through one of the most interesting and informative Sunday School lessons when I was still in Secondary Three. It was called, “Hell’s Bells: The Dangers of Rock ‘N’ Roll” and according to Wikipedia, “is a Christian documentary film released in 1989… …[that] examines the relationship of rock music to sex, violence, suicide, drug use, rebellion, the occult, and other activities considered immoral by Biblical Theology.”

JN and ET stopped me at G2 this evening and asked, “Is heavy metal music satanic?” I ceased my Hebrews 4:12 lesson preparation (which I am also very excited to write about!) and gave them an answer I learnt from a video 12 years ago.

Firstly, very simply put, music is a mere combination of notes and arrangements. String a few do-re-mi’s together and add in a groove, voila, you’ll produce a melody with rhythm. Is there anything “satanic” about that? No. It’s just music.

Next, if you add certain instruments, vocal arrangements, rhythmic variations and effects, you’ll get your musical genre. Insert piano, vocal harmonies from four boys and a basic 4/4 beat, you’ll arrive at pop music. Strum it a little more aggressive, add that dash of distortion effects and a nice little guitar solo, you’ll come to rock. Load in some double-kick speed-demon drumming, go wild on that extra distortion and start hollering like a man with very bad sore throat, and perhaps you’ll end up with heavy metal music. Is there anything “satanic” about that? No. It’s just music.

When Beethoven started composing all his masterpieces, the people weren’t used to it and called it, “The Devil’s Music”. Same thing happened for The Beatles, Elvis Presley, then disco in the 80’s, rock in the 90’s and now they’re calling R&B “The Devil’s Music” and Beethoven, “soothing neutral music”. This reflects the inconsistent and fickle cultural adaptation and acceptance; once something goes against the norm, it becomes “The Devil’s Music”. Now, may I propose that we STOP giving so much credit to the devil? Music is just a combination of notes, arrangements and effects, for crying out loud.

Hell’s Bells, however, did teach me a qualitative and quantifiable method of assessing music. Do remember that I learnt this when I was 15 years old, so forgive me if I have unwittingly modified the original lessons. (I think what I do know are practical handles anyway.) So look out for these three factors when you determine whether the music that you’re listening to is beneficial for you or not:

  1. Image they portray – consider their onstage portrayal and how they represent themselves in photographs, posters, CD covers, on the internet, etc. Example of a negative image – Marilyn Manson. See pictures of him here.
  2. Lifestyle they lead – consider their offstage way of life and the moral values that they subscribe to when they are not performing or in the limelight. Example of a negative lifestyle – Jimi Hendrix. (For your info, for the classical music maestro that he was, “Tchaikovsky was never emotionally secure, and his life was punctuated by personal crises and periods of depression. Contributory factors were his suppressed homosexuality and fear of exposure, his disastrous marriage, and the sudden collapse of the one enduring [13-year] relationship of his adult life.” Source: Wikipedia)
  3. Lyrics they produce – consider the message and philosophies that they subscribe to in the songs that they sing and present, whether live or in the studio. Example of negative lyrics – Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me”. See song lyrics here.

I hope these simple guidelines would help you to determine the type of artistes or songs you put into your iPod.

P/S: As it stands, my WordPress statistics reveal that 16 people have clicked on the personality temperament test link but only three have shared their results here! Come on, share your discovery with me! (:

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