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originality through imitation (part three) – the commandment and the trump card.

Previous post: The Grandeur of the Creation of Man

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Earlier, I have communicated that everything God created was perfect until sin crept into His scheme of creation. I will now examine the ramifications of the introduction of sin.

The Double-edged Commandment

It’s interesting to note that the first commandment to Man was to be fruitful and multiply. Of all the things God could command Man to do, He chose to authorise Man to reproduce. Why? I think it’s because immediately after God made Man, He was so pleased with Man that He wanted Man to propagate this perfection over all the earth and from generations to generations.

However, as we all know it, sin ruined it all – it not only plundered perfection but it also pillaged the intimacy that Man was actually created and destined to share with God. That’s why instead of spawning perfection, we’re propagating imperfection and iniquity instead, over all the earth and from generations to generations. How sadly ruined God’s original plan of perfection has become!

And with time, Man messed up again and again; after Genesis 2, you will read about how Cain killed Abel… And it seemed to get worse and worse as the story unfolded throughout the rest of the Bible until Jesus Christ came to set the record straight.

Jesus Christ the Trump Card

Now, I think this is where God used His trump card, Jesus Christ, to redeem all Man’s mistakes and to restore the fellowship into its intended intimacy.

Only Jesus Christ is the expressed image of God Himself (read Hebrews 1:1-4 and Philippians 2:6-11). That’s the sole reason we must be Christlike and follow His example. It’s not a suggestion or recommendation but a commandment and instruction! To a great extent, Christlikeness is the only route to Man’s final glory.

The grace of God was evident from Creation – God pardoned Man and allowed him to receive a punishment that was lesser than expected. The theatre of redemption reaches its crescendo at the crucifixion; the grace of God was even more evident at the Cross – where Jesus took on a punishment that was more than expected. He bore the entire weight of the world’s sin on His shoulders.

Now, if we juxtapose Genesis 3’s “The Fall of Man” and Matthew 4’s “The Temptation of Jesus”, we will realise that where Man has failed (in sinning against God), Christ has succeeded – this is pivotal to Christianity! Satan successfully ruined creation the first time and attempted to ruin redemption in his second try but Jesus overcame Satan’s overtures and secured the victory over sin and death on behalf of Man; that’s why we must imitate Christ!

We don’t imitate Christ just because we were taught to do that in Sunday School or because our pastors tell us to do that over the pulpit; we imitate Christ because the Bible has clearly stated His overwhelming triumph over the evil one! In all sense of the expression – Jesus Christ FTW!

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Next post: Conclusion – The Quest for Imitation

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the fire on the altar kept burning.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Command Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the law for the burnt offering: the burnt offering itself shall remain on the hearth on the altar all night until the morning, and the fire on the altar is to be kept burning on it. The priest is to put on his linen robe, and he shall put on undergarments next to his flesh; and he shall take up the ashes to which the fire reduces the burnt offering on the altar and place them beside the altar. Then he shall take off his garments and put on other garments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it. It shall not go out, but the priest shall burn wood on it every morning; and he shall lay out the burnt offering on it, and offer up in smoke the fat portions of the peace offerings on it. Fire shall be kept burning continually on the altar; it is not to go out.

– Leviticus 6:8-13 (NASB, emphasis mine)

It doesn’t take a genius to realise the key message that Moses communicated to the Levites; this was a part of their daily duties – to keep the fire on the altar burning through the day and night. It sounds simple but I reckon that it actually takes a great amount of diligence to execute this task. Think about it as you re-read it; they had to don different sets of attire for burning the offering and clearing the ash. It was probably cumbersome to follow through the detailed instructions.

The fire.

Firstly, it’s important to note that this fire first fell from heaven (Leviticus 9:24); God put the fire there Himself. This I think, represents a fire of devotion, a symbol of uninterrupted worship and an undying presence of Christ in our lives. Hence, it has to burn with heavenly fire (since it was of a heavenly source). Let’s recognise that this fire cannot be fueled by earthly means – the only way to God is through Jesus Christ. For the fire to keep burning, the priests had to keep refueling it. Again, this was a cumbersome task and I think it represents our constant need for atonement; as believers, we have to fervently persevere in offering ourselves to God as this is a perpetual fire, not a temporal one. This fire must keep going until we meet Christ.

As with any fire, I think that the priests faced three main dangers in their mission to keep the fire burning on the altar:

  1. Ashes – that’s why they had to keep clearing it… We have to keep clearing the junk out of our lives!
  2. Negligence – when they fail or forget to fuel the fire… We have to be alert when we pursue God!
  3. Apathy – when they can’t even be bothered anymore… We have to be aware of the dangers of luke-warmth!

Are you able to identify with any of the above-mentioned as you fan your own flame? For the priests, the presence of these elements would inevitably dim the fire and cause an immediate reduction of the fire’s supposed influence, intensity and interest (or relevance). Let’s avoid these pitfalls.

On the altar.

If there was a holy of holies in our physical bodies, I reckon it to be our hearts. God looks at our hearts indeed and we must remember that it burns only by God’s grace and supplication, which we should ask boldly for so that God will get all the glory. I think our hearts should be fueled by two things – scripture and time with God. I propose three necessary elements for our altar of private prayer:

  1. Regular – set it at the same time so you develop a habit of prayer.
  2. Frequent – seriously, how effective can praying annually or quarterly be?
  3. Undisturbed – get away from all distractions that compete for your attention.

We must remember that all fires are borrowed from the fire of private prayer. Again, I’ll say it – the revival of a ministry comes by the prayer of its people and not by the pursuit of its programme(s).

Kept burning.

It must have been a “holy barbecue” for the priests on duty. I can imagine them, at the commencement of their duties, being given the offering (lamb, fats, meat etc.) to be burnt.  For sure they couldn’t burn it all at one go as if they were at a Korean grill! I’m certain they had to burn it like they were preparing Chinese double-boiled soup. They had to measure the quantity of the portions, observe how it burnt and calculate the burning time; they took turns to be on “guard duty” to tend to the fire, to ensure that it kept burning the entire night and that the offering set apart for that night would last until the morning. Don’t you think that it’s actually similar to guard duty in the army? There’s no need to do guard duty in the daytime because everyone’s at work and on guard; it’s always at night that we let our guards down. Likewise, it’s easier to keep the fire going in the daytime when everyone can see, but it’s indefinitely harder to keep the flame from being extinguished at night as we’re on our own.

I find this analogy especially relevant to ministry leaders. Question is, what exactly are we burning? I think that there are three things which we normally burn:

  1. People – without people, ministry won’t exist or make sense.
  2. Ideas – without ideas, people’s effort would be wasted and misdirected.
  3. Events – without events, there’ll be no platform to execute ideas.

We must realise that we cannot burn everything at once otherwise we’d suffer a quick burn-out! The solution here is to offer a continuous offering with a spread-out intensity instead of an initial offering that overwhelms everyone – that’s our responsibility as leaders in the ministry. To be consecrated, we must establish a “slow burn” that takes place over a long time that has to be attended by leaders and pastors (priests). It’s crucial then, that ministers of Christ have the fire of their zeal constantly burning. We must remember that giving ourselves completely to God is not a “quick work” but a “slow burn”. But be careful, for sometimes we’re on the fire for too long we don’t realise we’re actually the ones burning!

It is with this passage of scripture that I felt led to start a couple of prayer initiatives because we’re simply not praying enough. Did you really think that 30 minutes of PUSH, five minutes of pre-service prayer and two hours of P&P would do the trick of ushering in revival? Far from it! From now until the end of 2011, with the right resources and people in place, I’d like to prayerfully initiate at least a quarterly 12-hour overnight prayer session, add in an annual 24-hour “Pray like Mad” prayer concert (inspired by an event of the same namesake I attended a decade ago) and invite parents to pray with youths.

Leaders – feel my heartbeat. I want to encourage you to mimic the priests. If you observe the way they lead their people spiritually, you’ll realise that there was really nothing beneath them to do; that’s right, they served their sheep with a no-matter-what and a whatever-it-takes attitude! That was their house-keeping responsibility – to ensure that their fire (and their sheep’s fire!) never burns out, but is kept burning continuously! Leaders, that is your mandate – to keep the fire of your youths continuously burning for God. Ask God to show you how!

You know, I’ve only had “Buddha Jumps Over The Wall” once in my lifetime and when I tasted it, I could almost taste the 48 hours of preparation, the expertly cut delicacies, and the freshest and most premium ingredients. It was one of my most memorable culinary experiences and I think that our prayer lives can be as gratifying and as tasty as that! Just remember to keep the fire on a “slow burn”!

the new R-AGE webpage.

A couple of weeks ago, RY (t)asked me to rewrite the R-AGE webpage text on the Grace AG website as the current page is severely inaccurate and outdated. It’s been sitting on my list of to-dos for a while now and I felt really good to finally nail it yesterday. Here’s the raw copywriting of what we should see on the updated webpage in future, once the design and layout is completed. A shout-out to the six youths who have decided to help me with this! I was really blessed to receive your mini-testimony! Thanks! (The reward for helping me? Your names are now forever etched into R-AGE web history. HA!)

I’ve also decided to incorporate this as a part of my blog – you’ll see the link above as a tab. After all, R-AGE is a part of me. I don’t know about you, but I’m really proud to belong to this awesome, God-sent, life-changing youth group!

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“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into light.”

1 Peter 2:9

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ABOUT US

Established in 1997, R-AGE is the thriving youth ministry of Grace Assembly of God and its exciting activities are held at both the Grace I (Tanglin Road) and Grace II (Bukit Batok) campuses. At R-AGE, we are in the business of Redeeming A Generation for Eternity, and we desire to nurture a generation to have a heart that loves God, a mind that knows God, a character that reflects God, and a lifestyle that proclaims God.

R-AGE is specially designed for youths in secondary schools, junior colleges, polytechnics and other pre-university institutes – our curriculum is tailored to meet their unique spiritual needs. We want our young people to love God with all their hearts, embrace one another in Christ-like love, abide in the Word of God, serve each another in humility, and touch their communities with God’s love.

At R-AGE, our home-grown pastoral staff and team of dedicated lay leaders yearn to raise more young people to be more like Jesus; we want to see young people minister to young people. So get in touch with one of us today and join us for our happening services and homely cell groups this weekend! If you are our age, then you have to be a part of R-AGE.

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CONTACT US! Email DID
Rev Ronald Yow ronald.yow@graceaog.org 64100 815
Pas Li Cui Xian cui.xian@graceaog.org 64100 817
Bro Joey Asher joey.asher@graceaog.org 64100 825

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JOIN US! R-AGE @ GI (Tanglin) R-AGE @ GII (Bt Batok)
Youth service 11:15am, every Sunday 3:00pm, every Saturday
Youth cell 9:00am, every Sunday 4:30pm, every Saturday

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But don’t take our word for it – hear what our youths have to say about their youth ministry!

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R-AGE has impacted me in more ways than you can imagine. I’ve met so many new and wonderful friends that I’ll keep for the rest of my life. Getting closer to God and to know Him even more in the company of my friends has to be the best gift I could ever receive from R-AGE; now I want to walk the right path – with God!”

>>> Darren Toh, 13-year-old youth (student), Bukit Panjang Govt High

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R-AGE has impacted me from the day I stepped in. I’ve grown closer to God and no matter what difficulties I face, I’ll always find a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear and someone to advise me. In R-AGE, I know that when I’m afraid or in trouble, there’s always someone to help me and God to guide me!”

>>> Phoebe Tan, 15-year-old youth (student), CHIJ (Toa Payoh)

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“When I came to R-AGE, I was a lost soul filled with sin and doing bad things. As I attended R-AGE regularly, I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour and have grown in my faith. I am renewed, restored and redeemed, and I strive to shine for God, whose presence in my life is beyond words.”

>>> Tan Jun Liang, 17-year-old youth (student), Dunearn Sec Sch

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R-AGE is my spiritual home and it’s where I’ve grown and matured. ‘Friends forever’ is a reality made possible because of the strong bonds forged within R-AGE. I’ve had opportunities to serve and through it, I’ve come to love R-AGE even more. I used to think that I was a part of R-AGE, but now, I think R-AGE is a part of me.”

>>> Chua Yi Xian, 19-year-old youth leader (undergraduate), NTU

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R-AGE has been a part of my life for the last nine years and it has been such an exciting and vibrant journey! It’s the place to worship God with fellow sisters and brothers in Christ, the place to make friends – lifelong ones, the place to serve Him in creative capacities, and the place where He resides in!”

>>> Adora Tan, 21-year old youth leader (undergraduate), SMU

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R-AGE, to me, is a ministry where God is rising up a generation who loves and seeks Him with all their hearts; a generation who finds the reward of living a life for Christ or pursuit of God, is God Himself.”

>>> Kenneth Yeo, 24-year-old youth leader (working adult), IRAS

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