Blog Archives

conversing with God // week one.

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:

  1. Separate the serious from the curious.
  2. Invite those you want to go with you.
  3. Wait for willing ones to respond and come to you.
  4. Appoint them formally and call them your disciples.
  5. Allow them to follow and accompany you in ministry.
  6. Enable, empower and send them out to preach the Gospel.
  7. (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.

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finally, the winner is…!

All right, this post comes 125 entries later, but as the cliché goes, better late than never!

Many moons ago, I set up a competition to give away a handsome, spanking new branded NKJV Bible (worth $40+) and there were a number of people who very kindly submitted their reflections. I took a million years to decide on the winner and when I finally decided on the winner, I never found the right opportunity to pass her the gift! But last Friday, we finally met and I was delighted to give her the Bible.

Basically, the task was to extract a quote or an entire article to reflect on, and the winner is… SERENE WEE!

Thank you for taking part in this little competition and thank you for your support! Please allow me to share with you her two-page winning essay; she has written her insights based on the article, “you plant seeds, not pluck fruits.” I sincerely hope you enjoy reading her thoughts as much as I have!

Please consider this my entry to your competition. Reason being, this post came at just the right time in my life, and my thoughts about them are particularly personal. As you know, I am not all that involved in the youth ministry, but as a children’s church teacher a lot of the things you mentioned I find applicable to children’s ministry as well.

Childhood is the soil which determines what sort of teenagers and adults these kids grow into. If that is any indicator, then I must admit that I am literally stunned sometimes. I think, “If they can be so selfish, so rude, so cynical even at such an age, what then?”

“let them be, let them fall and let them learn”

This struck me particularly because I realise there are times when “No! Don’t do that!” doesn’t cut it anymore. Not that setting boundaries is not important, but after one whole week of being restrained in a classroom of 40 children, constantly shouted at to keep quiet, I think church teachers should strike a better balance when we see them on Sundays. Honestly, this phrase of yours really got me thinking about the children’s perspective, and how they may react to my actions, more.

“I encourage you to manage your expectations”

I think sometimes we’re so caught up on helping the child to achieve the “best” and forsaking the process, just as in the secular world. I was doing a craft with my class the other day, when this boy asked me if he could colour his foam flower with a marker. I looked at the flower and the flower itself was coloured, so I thought, if he adds colour on it, it wouldn’t look nice. So I said, no. But later I wondered why I wanted to wrest artistic license from him just because I thought it would look nicer. The craft was for mother’s day, and is not the child’s own effort, creativity and sincerity more important than “niceness”? With my control, he had one less chance to learn. And this is of course applicable in so many things.

“Their encouragement is a bonus, not a necessity; I’d love to receive it, but I do not need it to do what I am called to do.”

Yes, yes and yes!

“For if a leader is motivated by recognition and appreciation, he is sure to be left disappointed and disillusioned at some point.”

It is through personal experience that I know this to be true as well. I am a person who is very motivated by appreciation. Give me one nice phrase and I could probably remember it for life. But this can really distract from the primary purpose of ministry. Not only in terms of wanting recognition more than serving God faithfully, but in terms of what KIND of recognition is craved for.

In children’s church there are weeks when we have to do master teaching, which is basically teaching the lesson. Teachers have the freedom to structure the lesson as they will, and they can add in whatever games, object lessons etc. that they think would help bring the point home better. After weeks of hearing other teachers say “oh you teach so well”, and “oh the background you use for your powerpoint slides are so nice!” I found myself one night before a particular master teaching session, trawling the internet for nice backgrounds. My dad looked at me and said, “Instead of spending so much time on this, why don’t you spend more time praying for the children?” Wake up call!

And sometimes when leading worship (yes we juggle multiple roles in CC haha), I find myself judging the success of the worship session based on how many children are singing, and how many are raising their hands. While I do believe an outward expression of praise is important, I’ve come to realise, that I cannot simply look at the surface. The last thing the world needs is to have children learn hypocrisy at a young age. And if the children DON’T sing, will I then stop praising God with all my heart?

A lot of times too, teachers tend to take some form of pride in their ability to handle the classroom. And again, while I view that to be important, how sad is it that I should be praised for being able to make a rowdy class keep quiet. This to me, is again, simply on the surface. To show love, I believe I ought to dig deeper.

“that it is our job is to plant seeds, not pluck fruits.”

The way I read this goes hand in hand with the idea of patience. Matthew (Tan) once encouraged CC teachers that though they may not see it now, the children they teach may one day grow up to really love and serve Christ – men and women of God. Perhaps it’s because I am not that old myself, but I will think, “Huh, must wait sooooo long lehhh.” And that is the thing about planting seeds. Because seeds take time to grow, it’ll need a lot of patience to see them grow to fruition, or, like you said, we may not have the privilege to see that at all.

And so it hearkens back to what rewards we are looking for. The ones in heaven, or the earthly ones?

But my children do surprise me. Some surprise me with little bouts of maturity, way beyond what I expect from them. Some rough and tough ones surprise me with their gentleness. Some surprise me with their creativity. Some surprise me with their smiles and loving words.

top ten personal requests.

I’ve been wanting to publish an entry to highlight some housekeeping matters for some time now and so I finally shall do it today. I’m pleased to say that this is the 180th post since this blog incepted last October. I’m still adding value to it so that your navigation is a breeze and your precious time with me in the virtual world is well-spent. In time to come, besides writing new material, I will also be cleaning up categories and tags, adding more pages and updating links. Basically, I want to enhance and improve the user interactivity and experience of my blog.

To make this happen, I need you to get involved. I know, from my previous blogs and from observing other blogs which are miles cooler than mine, that there are definitely more phantom than active readers. I think I have a healthy following on my blog and so I’d love to hear more from more of you. Reading your thoughts and opinions really does make writing a lot more fun I desire to incite responses. So, help me along yeah?

Without further ado, please allow me to present the top ten things you can do on my blog to enhance your experience here – these are also my personal requests as a writer. Yes, I’m shamelessly asking you to walk an extra mile with me. Would you? (:

1. SUBSCRIBE! If you are already checking my blog regularly, why not conveniently receive my new posts in your mailbox at the time of publication? Simply drop your email at the side bar on the right and click on subscribe.

2. RSS! (Trivia: did you know that it stands for “Really Simple Syndication”?) Most mailboxes have this function and most blog readers use this function. You can do that by clicking on the RSS icon on the right, the RSS word on top, or simply just click here.

3. COMMENT! Have I ever mentioned that I love receiving comments? If you are already leaving comments on my Facebook links, could I trouble you to leave your great comments on the blog itself? I request for this because I want to remember the comments. Comments on Facebook disappear into cyber wilderness over time, but comments here are saved and archived accordingly for future recapitulations.

4. RATE! I’ve added the rating system (“Rate This”) at the top of every post for your convenient rating. Ratings are useful indicators; good ratings help me to recognise popular entries that people have enjoyed and poor ratings help me to improve on my writing or selection of topics. It doesn’t matter if it’s one star or five stars. So for my sake, please just rate! (You remain anonymous anyway.)

5. RE-BLOG! Maybe you need ideas for new entries, maybe you have done a little reflection after reading my posts, or maybe your comments are so long it could become a post itself. It’d be my honour if you, from time to time, used my blog as a base for your thoughts and entries. My only request is that you let me know, so that I can check it out and reciprocate the gesture.

6. EXPLORE! Check out my pages, links, categories, tags and archives and search my blog (using the search field on the right)! My desire is to, after a year or two, have written on enough topics that this blog becomes a comprehensive collection of matters which matter to me.

7. CONTACT! It’s always fun to hear from strangers and I’ve “met” a couple of them here already – where I’ve “heard” their voices before I’ve met them face to face. My contact details are virtually everywhere. You could also add me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. I really enjoy meeting new people!

9. SUGGEST! I’d love to write on a topic that people are more interested or inclined to read. So from time to time, I’ll try to share my thoughts on what’s current or frequently-asked. If you could suggest a topic for me, I’d love to take it up for these “challenges” serve to make me a better writer.

10. PUBLICISE! In layman terms, please spread the word for me! If you know someone who may be blessed by or benefit from what I share on this blog, please tell them about it. Also, do link me to your blog – I’ll return the gesture and link yours to mine.

Well, that brings me to the end of my 180th post. I hope you’ve enjoyed your time here for I’ve certainly enjoyed your virtual presence here. I look forward to spilling my brains out on a daily basis and also to seeing my top ten requests as a writer being fulfilled. Thank you for your continuous support; your encouragement really makes a difference and spurs me on to write some more. (:

if i can turn 100, then you can win a free gift!

Slow and steady wins the race and in the blink of an eye, ever since I kept up the habit of writing daily, I’ve arrived at a century of entries! And so to self-commemorate this unique achievement of consistency, I’m going to give away a handsome, spanking new branded NKJV Bible (pictured below)! This bible retails for $40+ in bookstores and it could be yours at no cost! Anyone and everyone is eligible to participate. (Even if you don’t want the bible for yourself, it’d make a good gift for someone else!)

Thomas Nelson’s Life & Style Compact Bible – Peppa’ Genius: Spring Line 2006

To stand a chance to win this bible, all you have to do is to write a short reflection (longer than one sentence) based on any of my 100 existing entries. You can choose to either extract a quote or an entire article to reflect on. I’ve been blessed through my daily reflections so now I want to bless my readers in a similar manner.

Samples:

1. Quote – “I could always be happier, but I am situationally contented.”

I’ve learnt to find blessing in counting what I have instead of what I do not have. This has brought me joy as I stop coveting what my peers possess.

or

2. Entry – “would you let go of me?” April 21, 2010

I had a troubled childhood myself; my parents didn’t have enough time for me. I’m determined to never let my children experience the same neglect!

Yes! It’s that simple! I’ll pick my favourite reflection amongst all the many entries (hopefully! I’m optimistic!) and the person who submitted it will bring home the bible!

This competition ends in two weeks on 14th May; I will announce the winner on 16th May. To increase your winning probability, you can submit as many reflections as you want. So go ahead, submit by leaving a comment and win a bible in the process!

You never know, you might just be the only one who submitted. All the best! (:

(In the sad and unfortunate event that no one bothers to submit anything, I will stubbornly attempt this method again at the 200th entry and give away the same bible. HAHA! I’m gonna keep trying until it exits my bookshelf!)

sermon recap: john the Jesus freak.

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The Facebook with the Newbies sermon series comes to a close today with John the Baptist the Jesus Freak. I have bittersweet feelings about it; while I may enjoy the mental (and physical) break of not having to think about and prepare the sermon, I will miss not being able to preach to a youth crowd. My next preaching assignment would be at the Pre-Teens service on 8-9 May and the next time I will preach at R-AGE services would only be in July. (Actually, I might just have to preach four times in June though…)

While there are many ways to approach the study of John, I’ve decided to streamline our focus to just two of John’s main ministries – Repentance and Reflection. Here’s a summary of my main points.

John’s first ministry – Repentance

  • In the Gospel of Matthew, the first recorded word of John (Matthew 3:2) and the first word in Jesus’ pulpit ministry (Matthew 4:17) was “Repent” – that’s “Metanoeo” in Greek. And it can simply be defined as a change of one’s mind or to change one’s ways with hatred of one’s past sins. Either way, it’s always for the better.
  • Observe then, the two steps involved in repentance – renewing our minds and renewing our methods. Phrased alternatively, it is to transform the way we think (Romans 12:2) with the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12) and to change the way we live so that we can show the fruit(s) of our repentance (Matthew 3:8).
  • Repentance is not just responding emotionally or intellectually – that’s remorse. The fruit of repentance must observable and obvious. Thorough repentance is naturally proven by action, and in more than just one area of our lives.
  • A great intention forever remains a great thought until it is followed-up with action; a repentance done in our heads and hearts must be followed-up with a repentance done with our hand and in our habits. Repentance should alter your direction, methods and perspective.
  • God wants us to come to Him in repentance, but He calls us to Him by His grace. We can only repent if we ask God to help us, not by our effort. God’s grace operates this way – you don’t sort yourself out before you go to God, but you go to God to get sorted out.
  • When we have a changed heart, a changed life will naturally follow. That is why God honors a changed heart and doesn’t despise a repentant heart (Psalm 51:17)!

John’s second ministry – Reflection

  • John constantly pointed others back to Jesus – that’s what we are also called to do. John knew his divine mandate and mission in life (John 1:6-8) and it was seen in his every response and answer. His mission in life was to witness about Jesus.
  • Imagine Jesus to be like the Sun and John to be like the moon. Without the sun as the source of light, we will never see the moon, because the moon can only be seen when it reflects the greater light of the sun.
  • Witnesses can only testify what they saw and heard. Usually they have nothing to do with the victim or the accused, or even the actual event. Yet they are crucial to solving the case.
  • Remember that we can do nothing to save our friends. The reason for evangelism should be birthed from a desire to want to tell others about the love of Christ that we have experienced. Turn up as a witness and bear the right witness for your case of Christianity.
  • Thank the Lord for your salvation, as well as that of your family and friends; take care of the new converts; tell everyone else about Jesus.
  • John knew the grand mission of his life – he was to be a mirror for Jesus Christ. Is Jesus in your reflection? As Christians, our mission is clearly stated (Matthew 28:19-20); Jesus gave us the The Great Commission, not the Great Suggestion.
  • The way to repent and reflect is to depend on the leading of the Holy Spirit. For when breakthrough comes, the glory belongs to God alone. We face the daily battle to deny ourselves and to take on the suffering of Christ, for true life follows as a result (Luke 9:23-24).
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