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Lent 09: what stirs my anger.

I was disappointed with myself for not being able to subdue my anger during a meeting yesterday.

No, I didn’t flare up at a particular person or used words that I wasn’t supposed to, but I produced an unusually strong reaction to a decision that was made. I was the only one with a bad reaction even though that decision impacted all of us; there was another colleague who raised her eyebrow to that decision but she was gentle. Somehow, that decision triggered something in me.

The first few questions I asked myself were,

  • How can a person who tries to be a man of God react in this unacceptable way?
  • Is a pastor even allowed to show such emotion or is he supposed to be even-tempered all the time?
  • Have I stumbled any of my colleagues with my display of emotions?
  • What does it mean to respond, and not react, in that situation?
  • How would I respond instead, if I was given another chance?

I excused myself, headed to the bathroom and attempted to sort out my emotions before I returned to the meeting. My colleague who went out with me encouraged me to speak to the decision-maker so that I can get it off my chest. I told her that I wouldn’t, until I sort out what’s in my heart, otherwise I’d get myself into more trouble.

I realised that over the years, a part of me gets especially annoyed whenever I feel that there is inconsistency in decision-making or in example-setting. I realised that I like things to be in black and white, yes and no, true and false. I operate in dichotomy and struggle to deal with ambiguity and ambivalence. I also have a low threshold for injustice.

Until I succeed in managing this tension, I’ve always asked the Lord to keep my head straight and stick to my convictions, but never at the expense of being self-righteous. I asked God to make me flexible leader with wisdom to know when to compromise and when to stay firm; there are some battles that are just not worth fighting. I asked the Lord for a greater threshold of grey areas.

Then the Lord reminded me to wear my Double-L plate; except that this time, a leader and a learner must also be ready to be a loser and lover. I want to learn to lose my rights and love others. I want to grow from this setback. I want to mature. I want to be godly.

I am thankful for the grace of God and how He would still use me despite my multiple flaws. I will do better next time.

Lent 08: there’s no substitute for relationships.

I met up with two of my closest friends today – Lionel Koh over lunch and Joel Tay over a late night chat.

There was no need for airs or icebreakers. We just dived straight into a heart-to-heart talk, being as honest and straightforward as we knew how to, without the fear of being judged. I am thankful that God has blessed me with buddies whom I can be truly be myself with.

It’s tiring (sometimes, honestly speaking) when you relate to people as a leader or pastor or mentor. It’s refreshing to just be Joey for a change, to be among people who grew up and will grow old with me. The older you get, the fewer they get.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. — Proverbs 17:17

Pray for me, for I’m losing sight of the goals of my Lent. I must persevere… I must stay focused. I want to experience that breakthrough.

Lent 07: exhausted.

One of those days where I allowed busyness to completely rob me of my time with God. I just want to sleep now. Goodnight.

Lent 06: this is why I love my job.

I’ve said this many times – I have a dream job.

I still pinch myself every morning because God has given me the privilege of being the youth pastor of the youth group that turned my life around. And because of indebtedness towards this youth ministry, work never feels like work as it is something I’d have done anyway.

Huiyi and I wanted to start a tradition in R-AGE – a 开工餐 at the start of the year to kick-off the year of ministry. I gathered those who were working together with me as full-time staff (my ministry interns) as well as those in my Think Tank (key leaders in my strategic team). These folks are critical to the operations, leadership and growth of the youth ministry.

So after dinner last night, my wife and I went to Sheng Siong Supermarket and bought over 20 different ingredients for the steamboat dinner that we were hosting tonight. There was enough food to feed a small army. We told ourselves to go all out to bless the people who go all out to bless the young people. We wanted the eight of them to feel loved and like they deserved nothing but the best.

Together with my awesome mother-in-law (who kindly and generously offered me her time and energy), I spent most parts of today preparing the food. I think she put in the most work for this steamboat – she prepared the soup broth, marinated the meats and chopped the vegetables. As I ate lunch and did a little grocery shopping with her earlier today, I felt so incredibly blessed. It is God’s grace that I’ve found favour with my mum-in-law, and I am grateful.

And I realised that my wife and I are like Martha and Mary respectively – you need both types when hosting a gathering. She is amazing – she helped me clean up everything when we finished dinner – and this after a full day of work. I am blessed indeed! Darling, you’re a wonderful pastor’s wife – thank you for being a part of and embracing my ministry and calling as your ministry and calling. (:

The 10 of us ate to our hearts’ content and had a great evening together. It’s truly a blessing to serve the Lord alongside brothers and sisters whom you like and love. These young men and women are like my family. I cannot imagine leading the youth ministry without them by my side. I also cannot imagine R-AGE without them.

Ministry is all about relationships indeed. I thank God for being a part of these God-given relationships and the privilege to do life with them.


Lent 05: a much-needed celebration and pit-stop.

The difference between Lent and a full-on 40-day fast is that one is a journey while the other is a discipline.

One of the things I set out to do in my first Lent is to celebrate on Sundays and special occasions. And it’s been a while since I looked forward to Sunday as much as I have. It was like a much-needed pit-stop to celebrate the journey so far (however short) and to remind myself of the blessings that I’ve always enjoyed and taken for granted.

For starters, I drank my usual cup of Nespresso coffee in the morning. Then for lunch, I ordered a ribeye steak ‘xtra cut at Aston’s and even drank teh peng jia C to my heart’s content. And for dinner, I tucked into Mummy’s homemade chicken rice, helped myself to a serving of young coconut juice and before the night is over, I’m sure I’ll be gobbling down some honey mangoes.

There’s something beautiful about delayed gratification, especially in this microwave generation where everything is instant.

I also took the opportunity to log in to Facebook and Instagram and realised that there’s really nothing important that I’ve missed, despite the 100+ notifications that were beckoning my attention. Lull time (periods of inactivity where nothing happens) is better utilised when you sieve out the distractions.

But the most beautiful thing about today was the spiritual conversation that I had with Mummy in the late afternoon. She asked me all kinds of questions that young believers would ask. It felt like the Holy Spirit triggered her curiosity to learn about the things of her faith. I was energised by our interaction together and for the first time in her life, she actually said she would consider going to cell (to ask all these questions); she finally saw that there was another purpose for cell besides just sharing about her problems (which she is extremely reluctant to). Perhaps Apokalupto finally took place in her spiritual life. I am thankful. May God continue to fuel this spiritual hunger she has.

As I gave thanks for our 元宵 dinner just now, I felt an intimate connection with God; it wasn’t just customary, but heartfelt.

With that I greatly anticipate the week ahead.

Lent 04: prayer and my all-time low thus far.

Ordering Dark Soy Bean Curd at Thai Express and watching my wife dive into her Seafood Sukiyaki Vermicelli Soup must have been the lowest point of my Pescatarian diet decision in my Lenten journey thus far.

But it made me give thanks for the food in a new perspective – that is, to remember Christ before I partake in dinner.

From my understanding of Lent, it’s up to me to set the rules. And each luxury I abstain from is meant to remind me of Jesus. It’s working so far, I must confess. And man, I kid you not about the energy levels – I’ve never felt so physically exhausted (and it’s not even the peak month of December). I’ve slept earlier and enough but I still feel fatigued.

I am really not used to going through my day with such low energy levels… So I’m hoping this will be worth the effort.

As I delivered the sermon today on the importance of prayer and how that involves God in our everyday efforts to be a witness, I am reminded that Lent is a spiritual journey; the physicality of it should point me towards my spiritual pilgrimage.

I’m not sure if prayer can change God’s mind considering that He already knows all things (like what Lent would do to me) but I do know that (the) prayer (of a righteous man) can accomplish much. May prayer change me and cause me to know the heart of God.

Open my spiritual eyes to see Your will for my life in this season, O Lord.

Lent 03: what’s in a revival?

Ask any serious Christian out there and he’ll tell you he’s hoping for a revival in his life, family, church and workplace.

I try to be a Christian who’s serious about pursuing Christ. After all, I need to be considering what I do for a living. (I can’t help but hear “Don’t let your uniform stick to you” from Tahan ringing in my ears…) It’s not easy though – I’ve been praying for a revival to happen in my church and youth group ever since I joined the church in 1999. I believe generations after and before have as well. I have tried every method I know how: fasting, praying, leading worship, reading the Word, preaching my heart out, organising massive events, discipling young leaders, sitting at the feet of spiritual giants…

And yet… There is no revival – not in the way that I imagine, at least.

I was semi-distracted for the revival meeting tonight, where Ps Philip Lyn spoke at. I’ve listened to his sermons, I’ve read about him and I even share the same mentor as him… Well, I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more Word-based teaching tonight, but I did catch his heart… And I thought what he shared made a lot of sense.

According to him, revival is made up of three components:

  • Repentance through the blood of Jesus
  • (Power and) authority that’s being released, and
  • The unknown factor, which is the grace of God

I will use that thought process in the remaining 37 days of my Quadregesima. I’m game for anything that may work; I’m really desperate to meet Christ. I mean, I’m so desperate I’ve even called spiritual retreat centres to ask if I could check myself in. But it’s been difficult to find God – my energy levels are significantly lower, my workload is relentless and I have basic functional responsibilities just like everyone else does. (I have though in the last three days, quickened my spirit to be mindful of what I say…)

O God, highlight all the areas in my life that I need to repent, help me to release Your authority in every domain of my life and please let me walk in the path of Your divine grace…

If the height of revival is hidden in the heart for revival, then please position my heart in a place for revival!

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