I am constantly amazed at how much the Holy Spirit is willing to teach me when my heart is open to God’s Word. In case you’re wondering, I do not use any devotional materials (since 2008 anyway). In my daily time with Jesus, I’m accompanied by an NLT Bible, a black Staedtler pen, a yellow Staedler highlight and a trusty ol’ journal. I use a variety of methods to get deeper into the Word: including mechanical breakdown, SOAP (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer), word studies and of course unstructured incoherent scribblings. And since these observations are birthed from my journalling, they obviously make more sense to me than you.
When you feed your roots, you grow your fruits. (:
7 Jan // Mark 4:1-20
My observation is that a farmer (aka preacher/teacher of the Word) has a seven-fold responsibility:
- Firstly, he must faithfully plant (seeds). If he doesn’t scatter them, there is zero chance of plants growing.
- He must pray that birds don’t prey on his efforts of scattering seeds and eat up those that fell on the footpath.
- He must (re)position the plants growing on rocky soil to fertile soil, so that their shallow roots will grow deep.
- He must purge out the thorns and weeds in his farm that prevent the plants from producing fruit.
- He must prune the plants that are not growing too well, and this painful process usually involves patiently taking one step back (but two steps forward later).
- He must persist with the plants that fell on fertile soil by cultivating the ground and not getting complacent.
- Finally, he must press (in) and entrust the growth of the plants to God, and patiently wait for them to produce fruit in season in multiple folds, and then be ready to harvest them.
Thankfully, these roles actually have many limitations. It teaches me to be rested in the Lord who grows people and not get restless in wanting to grow them by my (enthusiastic but unnecessary) over-exertions. When I am rooted and rested, my life will be radical (back to basics).
8 Jan // Mark 4:21-34
“Secret” is a neutral word. I’m inclined to link it our sense of security. And those with nasty secrets live in fear; either it haunts them from time to time, or the fear of it coming to light makes them live defensively.
“Exposure” too, is a neutral word. And those who live righteously have nothing to fear. On the contrary, the good things executed and the bad things endured in secret receive commendation and vindication respectively.
That’s why the ideal but toughest part of your life to surrender God and let Him dwell in is your heart. No one but the Holy Spirit knows what’s truly meditating in the deep recesses of your heart; after all, who can hide from God?
The call to live out the kingdom of God isn’t just an outward show for men but an inward submission to the Master. If you allow the Word of God to purge you and the Holy Spirit to purify you, “secrets” and “exposure” might just become your allies.
Lord, grow the Word planted in me in secret and at the right time by Your loving grace, have the Holy Spirit expose to me my known and unknown sins so that I may become more like Jesus. In my secret time alone with You, reveal to me Your kingdom and help me to pay close attention to what You are saying so that I will understand You and receive even more from You.
9 Jan // Mark 4:35-41
Of course Jesus knew what He was doing when He sailed out to sea with his disciples after dusk. Of course He was “sleeping” in the middle of a fierce storm. Of course He knew that His disciples were oh-so-full-of-faith after teaching about faith the entire day.
In the midst of a storm in your life, is your first response to Jesus about how bad your situation is and why He would let you to go through it?
But despite our immaturity, Jesus is still faithful; He first sorts out your storm, then He gently confronts you with two key questions: “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
In life’s struggles, let’s learn to have faith in Him who doesn’t just control the situations but personally leads us in and out of them. And let’s remember that He is more concerned about us knowing “Who is this man?” than simply delivering us from shipwrecks.
Don’t put your faith in the practice of faith, but in the person of Jesus.
10 Jan // Mark 5
To “Legion” who possessed the man, Jesus represented the end, but to the suffering man, Jesus represented the beginning.
Jairus and the bleeding woman shows us that knowing Jesus requires both faith and fear. Both Jairus and the woman fell at the feet of Jesus; one overcame his reputation, the other overcame her reservations. Would you overcome these to know Jesus?
The woman foreshadowed the positive kind of faith that Jairus should have – drawing us towards Jesus. But the people at Gerasenes who chased Jesus away featured a negative kind of fear that drives us away from Jesus – what a contrast!
To Jesus, having faith is everything. Maybe that’s why He chased away those who laughed at Him when He said Jairus’ daughter was asleep – not because He was embarrassed, but that He didn’t want these mockers to douse the faith of Jairus, his wife and His three disciples.
No wonder He said to Jairus (and perhaps to us all today), “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”
Our response to Jesus determines our knowledge of Him. Indeed, without faith, it is impossible to please God.
11 Jan // Mark 6:1-29
You can choose to be amazed by Jesus, or you can choose to amaze Him. If you want to amaze Him, start by scoffing Him, then by taking deep offence with Him. It’ll naturally lead you to a refusal to believe who He is and what He can do.
Holy Spirit, please guard my heart and mind against unbelief.
12 Jan // Psalm 42
Lord, make my heart how it used to be. In taking care of young people, enable me to love as a father could, intercede as a mother would and help as a brother should. For I desire to lead Your people to shout for joy and sing Your praise. May my hope in You alone anchor my soul in tumultuous days of disappointment.
13 Jan // Mark 6:30-42
Do I depend on the power of the Master or the proficiency of man when I preach God’s Word, pursue God’s ways and perform God’s will? It baffles me constantly that Jesus would choose to use human agency to showcase the Kingdom of God; that the power of Christ is made manifest through the potential of Christians. Technically, Jesus wasn’t the one who fed the 5,000. His disciples were the ones who brought that miracle to pass. Jesus could have asked the Father to rain manna from heaven to feed the masses, but He chose to involve His disciples in this logistically astonishing mission. What a blessing it is for us to be used by God to bring Him glory!
If I can keep this up, I’ll try to consolidate my daily devotional reflections at the end of every week.
If I can…
// 1 Jan | Mark 1
In preaching the Gospel and doing God’s will, Jesus must be to me three things: the motivation, the means and the message. For without which, I’d have no purpose, no power and no point.
// 2 Jan | Mark 2
Continuous conversations with and a downright dependence on God remind us that salvation is for those who know they are sinners, not those who think they are righteous.
// 3 Jan | Mark 3
Discipleship 101 according to Jesus:
- Separate the serious from the curious.
- Invite those you want to go with you.
- Wait for willing ones to respond and come to you.
- Appoint them formally and call them your disciples.
- Allow them to follow and accompany you in ministry.
- Enable, empower and send them out to preach the Gospel.
- (Show them where your authority comes from and) provide opportunities for them to exercise their spiritual authority by faith to help others and set them free.
Strangely and stupidly enough, some of us desire to be accelerated to #7 before we accomplish #1 to #3.
For me, #3 is the most important step in discipleship because that’s the trigger point where a congregational believer grows into a committed one by being willing to die to himself and take up the Cross – the marks of a true disciple. #3 is also the only step where discipleship is not determined by the intentionality of the discipler but the initiative of the disciple.
Let us not be too hasty to do God’s work before we even surrender ourselves to His will and way.
// 4 Jan | 1 Peter 4
God-fearing Christians should EXPECT suffering, for God’s purpose in it is to help us IDENTIFY with Christ, and to enjoy the VICTORY that He has already won. Doing GOOD in the face of suffering, especially responding in LOVE to both friends and foes, creates a powerful OPPORTUNITY to share our faith. When we undergo fiery trials knowing that God is both SOVEREIGN and FAITHFUL, we will be RESTED not restless, for He is in CONTROL! God, I entrust my soul to You!!!
// 5 Jan | 1 Peter 4:1-9
On top of expecting suffering as a Christian, I want to EMBRACE suffering for it identifies me with Christ (since He suffered in the physical). But more than that, it allows me to experience the victory over the power of sin that He won on the cross. That is why my internal attitude towards suffering trumps my external ability to withstand it; an attitude of love displays my relationship with Christ, covers my own sin and causes my sins to be forgiven. Lord, help me to embrace suffering with an attitude of love!
// 6 Jan | 1 Peter 4:10-19
The Master has entrusted each of you with at least one spiritual gift (out of a minimum of 19 varieties) to use and manage well for two purposes: 1) serve each other and 2) bring glory to God. So the question isn’t whether you have a spiritual gift or not (because you do), but whether you are using it for its intended purposes, or to serve and bring glory to yourself. Serving with your God-given gift is a privilege; it isn’t something you have to do, but something you get to do.
I have decided to be as candid as I can because I want to capture the incredulity of the events that have unfolded in its rawest elements. This incident, to me, is a demonstration of God’s grace and divine timing, as well as His faithfulness in my life (especially ever since I stepped into full-time ministry). Some people may choose to express their joy in a different manner but this is how I will do it, so don’t judge me. Instead, rejoice with me for every word shared in this post comes from a heart of being humbly thankful for the favour that God has kindly bestowed upon me. I was actually reluctant to write about this because I was afraid of sounding pompous; however, this event has left such a mark in my memory that it would be travesty not to engrave it into my heart and mind. My sole intention is to give God the full glory for what has happened.
Ever since IDMC 2010 concluded, I’ve spent an abundance of time with the Lord and it’s been thoroughly enjoyable. It’s something I cannot describe with words; I’ve been waking up much earlier everyday just to have more time with God. If you want to get a glimpse of how I feel, just do what I do – spend time with the Lord. I have a newfound vigour and desire in wanting to cultivate a deeper journey with God and I absolutely revel in it! I remember telling the Lord how wonderful it would be if I could journey with someone who really knew how to grow deep with God… But I digress.
I had dinner with LK on Monday and (I’ll withhold the details of our conversation but) I encouraged him to email BL from CEFC. When I got home that night, I decided to give LK a head-start by googling for BL’s email. At the end of IDMC 2010, I had already wanted to drop EC an email and so when I searched for BL’s email, I also searched for the last correspondence I had with EC, which was dated back to 2009. He had agreed to meet me if his schedule allowed. Unfortunately, that meeting didn’t materialise.
Writing to EC is different from responding to an email; busy men do not have the luxury of time to read long-winded emails, so I needed to be efficient with my words – and it takes time and effort to condense your thoughts. Nonetheless, I clicked on the “Reply” button and left that window open for me to compose my response later on. I was also trying to clear my backlog and was replying to many other emails. The clock struck midnight and I decided to retire to bed so that I could get up at 6am to read the Word.
I depend on my Nokia alarm to get me out of bed. At 5:55am, without the typical snoozing, I sprang out of bed because I was hungry for the Word. As I switched off the alarm on the E71, I also saw the emails that arrived in my mailbox in the last six hours. I saw an email from “Edmund Chan” and I swear the croutons in my eyes leaped out of its socket. Needless to say, I powered up my laptop immediately and zeroed in on that one email. I was sure it was some server screw-up and that it was an old, resent email.
But no, it was really EC – the man himself. (Okay, I know Christians cannot idolise other people but HELLO, THIS IS THE REVERED REVEREND EDMUND CHAN OF IDMC AND CEFC – PLEASE, EXCEPTIONS APPLY. Aiya, whatever. I’m just being frank here with my emotions, wearing my heart on my sleeve…) His reply was simple; he wanted my contact number so that he could call me to arrange to meet me before he went on his travels again. I saw the reply before that and apparently I sent him an email I had intended to send to one of my leaders to confirm our lunch meeting time and venue! I was so embarrassed by this boo-boo!
I composed myself quickly and replied his 5:45am email at around 6:00am. Three minutes later, my Nokia E71 rang.
“Hello, may I speak to Joey please?”
>>> HI PASTOR EDMUND. (INSERT MUTED EXCLAMATION MARKS HERE!!!) WOW. I AM HONOURED.
I was starstruck. Not that it mattered at all, but I apologised for the previous email that didn’t make sense. He chuckled and told me he believed in divine appointments. I was still starstruck. Then he told me that he was free that morning and asked if I was free. HELLO WHAT DO YOU THINK!??? So I audaciously asked if he was free to meet for breakfast at 7am at the Bukit Batok Central McDonald’s. He agreed and we put down the phone. And I literally SKIPPED to the basin, SMILED as I brushed my teeth, SKIPPED back to my room, SMILED as I changed into my clothes, SKIPPED out of home and SMILED all the way to the main road to flag a taxi.
I texted HY immediately and asked her to call me. Enthusiastically, I told her what had transpired and she was convinced there and then, that she was dating a little boy. I also updated my Facebook status, not to show off, but to use it as an outlet to release the adrenaline pumping in my bloodstream!
Both of us were going to be late so when I arrived I waited outside the McDonald’s, and anticipated the arrival of my V-V-VIP. There was still no sign of EC at 7:20am, so I decided to inspect the inside of McDonald’s. From the outside, through the glass panels, I caught sight of a middle-aged man writing something in EC’s latest book, “Growing Deep in God”, and this following was what really went through my head, in sequence:
“Woah God, divine confirmation ah? You send someone who just bought his book to assure me that I’m definitely meeting Pastor Edmund ah?”
“Cannot be right – don’t tell me someone has been stalking him… I’m not prepared to share Pastor Edmund with anyone else this morning ok! I waited one full year for this meeting!”
“Okay, maybe Pastor Edmund arranged to meet me together with someone else… Aiya, ok no choice, beggars aren’t choosers, I’ll just have to learn to share… What to do…? It’s already a privil-”
“EH HELLO YOU STUPID BOY THIS MAN IS EDMUND CHAN!!!”
So, I composed myself again because I didn’t want to appear too eager for fear that I would scare him away. THIS WAS IT. I AM ABOUT TO MEET THE MAN! I walked up to the table, caught his attention, gestured that I am he whom he is meant to meet (HAHA SORRY COULDN’T RESIST WRITING LIKE THAT!), shook his hand and stuttered through this sentence: “Hi Pastor Edmund, I’m Joey. I was waiting outside.” Of course, as soon as I said it, I felt like a dimwit trying to justify why I was late. I could only offer a quick riposte of, “Sorry, I couldn’t recognise you because of your missing moustache!” (Yeah, he shaved it off.)
Finally, there I was, seated in front of quite possibly my greatest inspiration of a man of God. I didn’t know where or how to begin, so I asked him if I could buy him breakfast. He simply said, “No, let me buy you breakfast instead.” I nodded my head, still starstruck of course, and (for the life of me I do not understand why I) took out my wallet and went to queue up with him. He asked me what I wanted and told me to return to my seat. “Let me serve you.” I was almost helplessly humbled beyond humility and inspired beyond inspiration by his role-model example of servant-leadership.
He asked me to say grace and instantly I wanted to recite the grace I composed, but I was nowhere near being composed enough to utter it without making a fool of myself. So I prayed simply and sincerely – thanking God for this wonderful opportunity to sit at the feet (well, almost) of a man who is completely devoted to Him. I have never felt so happy in a fast food restaurant before, eating Sausage McGriddles; every mouthful tasted divine.
He broke the ice with some getting-to-know-you questions and there I was, happily over-answering every single question like it was the last question he’d ever ask. When ice-breakers were over, he asked me three extraordinarily simple questions, point-blank.
“How old are you?”
>>> I turn 27 next month.
“When did you accept Christ?”
>>> 15 years ago, when I was in primary six.
-a short pause-
“Would you like me to mentor you?”
-MY MOUTH OPENED BIGGER THAN A HUMPBACK WHALE’S-
>>> W-W-WOW! Y-Y-YES! It’d be my honour, privilege and absolute delight to be mentored by you!
Do me a favour here and fill in all the blanks for me, okay? EVERY EXTREME EMOTION OF ELATION AND DELIRIUM – YOU IMAGINE IT – BECAUSE I PROBABLY EXPERIENCED IT. Thank you, very much. (:
He proceeded to spell out for me what he expected of me as his mentoree and laid the ground rules for our mentoring relationship. Then he explained why he asked those questions, and everything suddenly made sense to me. But what was more astonishing was how God was involved in this truly divine appointment. He told me that God had spoken to him about me already. To keep the account brief (because I’m unsure how much I’m permitted to say), he told me that he shaved off his signature moustache because he was mourning for a mentoree who suddenly passed away over the weekend. However, God comforted him by telling him that He would send him a new spiritual son.
And that was when my email was accidentally sent to his mailbox.
The adventure didn’t stop there.
We ended our inaugural mentoring session at 9am and he asked me where I was headed to. I told him that I was heading to GII to lead devotion for a group of youths. He offered to send me there. As we approached the destination, I asked him to alight me outside GII because it was troublesome to turn in and out of the narrow basement car park. Nevertheless, he made a right turn into the compound and said,
“How could I pass up on the opportunity of watching you teach?”
I’d be a millionaire if I got a dollar for every time he stunned me that morning.
So I guided him to the car park, got out of the car, entered the lift with him, and walked to the classroom where the youths were waiting. I opened the door, exchanged morning greetings with everyone, held the door for EC to enter, then as calmly as I could, said, “This is Pastor Edmund”. The only person who knew who he was, was EL. EC was EL’s hero; you should have seen the look on her face when EC appeared after me. She immediately contributed to my a-dollar-for-every-stunning-moment-morning.
I have never taught with so much nerve before. When I asked the class to share their reflection on Proverbs 1:1-7 (the passage I’ve selected for the morning devotion), guess who also answered with a bag of nerves? No prizes. At the end of my 30-minute session, he sat me down by the vending machine and conducted one of the most enlightening debrief sessions I’ve ever attended. Throughout those three precious hours, he shifted a number of my paradigms and challenged an equal of my perspectives; I was tremendously sharpened that morning.
At 10:15am, I escorted him to his car and bid him farewell. That morning, I caught a glimpse of the remarkable leader and mentor that he is reputed to be. This is a morning that I will forever remember because it was a grand display of God’s faithfulness and goodness in my life.
If I didn’t send him an email a year ago;
If I allowed myself to be discouraged by those who sniggered at me when I boldly declared (by faith) that one day he’d mentor me;
If I gave up after failing to make an appointment;
If I weren’t discussing about BL with LK over dinner on Monday;
If I didn’t help LK search for BL’s email and remembered about that email from 2009;
If I didn’t click “Reply”;
If I wasn’t clearing my email backlog;
If I didn’t casually tell the Lord about my desire to find someone to teach me how to grow deeper in Him;
If I didn’t wake up to spend time with the Lord at 6am;
And this is just my part of the story… After this incident, I have become a firm believer of a God of divine appointments, a God who rewards beyond my imagination, and of a God who answers prayers – no matter how simple or casual they may be. My God knows my needs and He supplies them accordingly for His glory. I am also convinced that if you want really want something, and have the faith to receive it, you have to take action and go on to pursue it. After all, if you never ask, you never know. Oh God, I’m glad I asked!
I love You, Lord and I can’t wait to grow with and glean from your servant EC. I still cannot believe that You would send a man of his calibre to be my spiritual father and mentor. Truly, truly, it is my honour, privilege and absolute delight to call You my Lord, my God and my Father who knows my heart’s desire. I’m madly in love with You. Thank You for Your grace and favour that I definitely do not deserve. May I glorify You wholeheartedly through this newly established relationship.