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sermon recall: barnabas the epic encourager.

It was a whirlwind weekend for me – preparing the Barnabas sermon was more challenging than the Mary Magdalene one. Nonetheless, it’s over and I thank God for all of it. Honestly, I thought my delivery at the G2 youth service was not up to scratch.. Sometimes I don’t know what disappoints me more – a lack of congregational response or failing to meet my high personal standards. But God is good; while I felt that the preaching at G2 was one of my poorest to date, I was surprised by the response at the altar call and received rather positive feedback in both quantity and quality from people I didn’t expect. For that, I’m encouraged and thankful, for God worked through my weaknesses (2 Cor 12:9) and still brought Himself glory despite my shortcomings. Form may be temporary and class may be permanent, but the Holy Spirit is forever – I’ll choose the Spirit’s help over form or class, anytime.

After a post-sermon debrief with RY, some melancholy moments and an evening of personal reflection and self-critique, I refreshed the sermon contents and preached a significantly different sermon at G1 – new illustrations, analogies, activities, focus points as well as more internalising and tightening up of contents. (I’m actually slightly saddened by this phenomenon because G1 would almost always receive the more polished sermon while G2 would receive the raw one; my optimism, however, rephrases raw as original. Oh, euphemisms…) And this was the first instance I’ve reviewed my contents so many times; so I reviewed it again this afternoon and here are the key points in my sermon as well as my own lessons learnt, in no particular order of importance:

  • Let us become the “Encouragement Safety Net” and the “Pedestal Platform” for each other.
  • What does it take to be a “good man, full of the Spirit and of faith”? Answer: Encouragement! (It works both ways, get it?)
  • If we want to be like the Spirit, then we must do what the Spirit does – to encourage!
  • Barnabas was called the “Son of Encouragement”; if your friends were to rename you today, what would your new name be? What would you be a son or a daughter of?
  • What the Holy Spirit does for us on the inside, we should do for others on the outside.
  • The key to creating a culture of encouragement is hoping and praying to be encouraged by others (passive), while making every effort to encourage others (active).
  • Encouragement is beneficial for both the encourager and the encouraged.
  • Not everyone can be a Paul but everyone can be a Barnabas; not everyone can be a leader but everyone can be a supporter.
  • Encouraging others is not about you or how well or badly you do it, but about what the Spirit can do through you.
  • Our common ground is how broken and wretched we are – hence we certainly can emphathise with everyone regardless of age or life experiences.
  • Everyone needs a person to believe in him, a “no-matter-what” person – through valleys, mountains, victories and defeats.
  • The ministry of encouragement has a long-term effect in the lives of young people; so we should be patient with one another as God is patient with us, for if we wait long enough, they might surprise us with something good one day.
  • Encouragement influences us in whether we finish pathetically or emphatically – it is the extra strength that we can give to and find from other people.
  • You can encourage people you don’t know by affirming them on what they did and not who they are.
  • You cannot stop someone from falling – that is inevitable – but you can stop them from crashing.

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I look ahead and anticipate the preparation of the next New Testament character. Watch this space!

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too urgent to be important.

I just spent my entire evening putting together the Mary Magdalene sermon for tomorrow youth’s service. I am excited about delivering this one because of the sheer amount of lessons that Miss Magdalene could teach us with her life. While I have work on my mind, I also know that I have been writing daily and I have every intention to keep up the habit. So I shall blog while I take a break from writing the transcript and designing the slides (and I know that doesn’t sound like a break to most of you).

I think that it is especially relevant that I share my thoughts on the commonly debated definitions of importance and urgency. A man needs to realise which jigsaw he is and when he’ll be fitted into God’s masterpiece. If a man understands his role in his God-given life (be it a son, brother, boyfriend, buddy, officer, marketing manager, pastor or whatever), he will be able to derive his sense of vision – and this vision should steer him forward by way of goals and pursuits. Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) cannot be more true, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…”

It is from this vision that a man would be able to assign different levels of importance to his countless pursuits. Now, I think that there are many, too many, important quests in our lives, but once we neglect the important things, they becomes urgent. It stands true for aspirations like daily devotions, conversations with loved ones, consistent studying time, regular exercising, and even saving money; if you abandon any of these items for a long enough time, they automatically become urgent – spiritual dryness, detached relationships, academic straggling, poor fitness and health, and a pathetic bank account, respectively.

Let me give you a classic and relevant example. Fact – I’m a Sanguine and I procrastinate. (Now, I blame it on a lack of inspiration but the purists would rather attribute it to inconsistency.) I’ve known all along that I own this new testament characters sermon series since the beginning of the year and I keep telling myself that there’s REAL, there’s G2, there’s my surgery, etc. to clear before I attack this beast. Well, to put it honestly, I’ve deserted this important task for three months and only commenced work on it last week. So now this has become an urgent assignment (like it’s not obvious enough). There’s still a lot of quality and excellence put into it, don’t be mistaken; I spend on average 20 hours to prepare each sermon. And HY has already warned me against this consecutive burnings of midnight oil, yet it has still transpired. (Negative demonstration here – so learn!)

Now, from roles, we get visions, and from visions, we get goals, and from goals, we get priorities – the key to juggling importance and urgency. Remember, priority is not how much space or how many times it appears in your calendar, but the sequence by which it enters your calendar. If spending time with God is high on your priority list then it should enter your calendar first, and your other activities should be planned around it; the same principle applies to time spent with family and loved ones. So here’s the lesson – prioritise well if you want to perspire lesser.

the first was a woman.

I have been given the privilege to preach for the entire month of April. First, a traditional Easter message, followed by three consecutive sermons of lessons we can learn from three selected New Testament characters. This is one of the biggest ministry challenges for me (yet) and I absolutely relish it.

The Holy Spirit inspired me to merge the character study series together with the Easter message. As a result, this weekend I will launch the series and present to you my observations of Mary Magdalene the gutsy lady who was last with Jesus in His humiliation, and the same lady whom Jesus first appeared to in His resurrection. What an impressive reputation to own!

(There’s an external speaker confirmed for the Sunday youth service) So may I invite all who are reading this to head on down to Grace II this Saturday (3rd April) at 3pm, to hear from and learn with me the outstanding attributes of Mary Magdalene. Discover for yourself how relevant her experiences can be for you!

Extracted from John 20:1-18 (New Living Translation)

Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and I don’t know where they have put him!”

Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb to see. The other disciple outran Peter and got there first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying to the side. Then the other disciple also went in, and he saw and believed—for until then they hadn’t realized that the Scriptures said he would rise from the dead. Then they went home.

Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels sitting at the head and foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Why are you crying?” the angels asked her. “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

She glanced over her shoulder and saw someone standing behind her. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

“Mary!” Jesus said. She turned toward him and exclaimed, “Teacher!”

“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.”

Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.

Tomorrow will be my first Good Friday as a full-time staff and I’m filled with even greater awe of what Christ has gone through for me. See you this weekend!

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