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see you at bare bones 2011!

When I was first told that I’d be leading Bare Bones 2011, I was filled with a sense of excitement but also of uncertainty. I pondered over how I was going take a conference with a well-established five-year history to a new level.

I had to take one step back to take two steps forward; I returned to the basics. I wanted the conference’s central focus to be on God and His presence. I wanted to zero-in on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I know that lasting change truly begins when you give Jesus Christ the Lordship in your life.

The Lord brought my attention to Ezekiel 37:4 during the final plenary session at last year’s conference. I read on the next couple of verses and it hit me clearly and surely – to prevent the hype and buzz of typical youth events from taking God’s rightful centre-stage. I believe that Christ doesn’t require fancy lights or impressive performances to move your heart because if Jesus is everything, then Jesus is enough. He alone must be the sole X-factor at this conference.

You just need to be still and silent; approach Him just as you are, and not hide behind responsibilities, accolades or experiences. He desires you to engage Him with your core and not your shell; after all, it was King David’s heart for God that caught His attention. You don’t need to impress Him for Him to take notice of you.

The adage goes, “The heart of the issue is the issue of the heart”. My sincere question to you: “Would you dare to let God address the issues of your heart?” I believe that unless our heart changes, nothing changes; our behaviour doesn’t change until our values do.

Therefore, I want to encourage you to enter this conference with nothing but your “bare bones”. Ask God to breathe life into you as you attend the morning plenaries and evening rallies with an open heart; ask God to put spiritual flesh and muscle back on you as you take part in the knowledge seminars and skills workshops. Let His Word refresh and recharge you as you get renewed in His presence.

It is my sincere prayer that in this conference you will find new hope in Him and know Him in a deep and personal way. Come before God without any pretense and let Him touch you in a riveting, life-changing manner. After all, what do you have to lose?

Allow me to close this foreword with Ezekiel 36:26 – “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

Sign up for Bare Bones 2011 if you haven’t… And if you have, see you there!
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I love my church… part 1.

Probably our favourite photograph together, taken at the inaugural Rhema in 2006.

I have arrived at the 18th month of my journey with Grace AG and it has been an eye-opening experience. A perfect church doesn’t exist and Grace AG is no different; there are cracks and weaknesses in my church, just like there are in yours. (I’m throwing the “This-is-not-your-church-this-is-His-church” cliche out of the window – I’m not here to quibble over semantics.) But not everyone, be it a salaried minister or a serving member, will dare to make this statement:

“I love my church.”

And I’ve been privileged enough to meet men and women whom I’m confident will dare to make that statement – Lionel, Joel and Suhui, just to name a few. As for my colleagues, I only have superficial knowledge of the majority of them but I do have intimate knowledge of one man – Ps Ronald. And I know he loves his church. His passion for Grace AG has rubbed off not just on me, but on many others who have crossed his path.

One reason why I look toward Ps Ronald as a role model is that he is a home-grown pastor. (Sidetrack, but I humbly think that we need more home-grown ministers!) This man was once a rebellious teenager; he once served as a Sunday School superintendent; and I believe that in his 12 years serving full-time in Grace AG as a youth pastor, he has stepped on many toes in the name of advancing the church. I believe that all good leaders have an insatiable appetite to improve their organisation with whatever influence they have. Their attitude is always exemplary and inspirational. After all, attitude reflect leadership (Julius Campbell).

I am a passionate person and I am not ashamed of the way I communicate. A couple of days ago, I enjoyed a heated phone conversation with Ps Ronald; it was almost cathartic to have these occasional dialogues. No, we didn’t quarrel. I doubt we’ve ever quarreled outrightly. I love and respect him too much to fight against him. He has over the years led me by example and proven that he is fighting alongside me. You must have heard me say this time and again – everyone has a hero of faith and Ps Ronald is in my hall of fame.

I brought to him a couple of issues that were tussling in my head in an open and honest manner. And I didn’t mince my words. There aren’t many people who can convincingly tell me, “I know where you are coming from”, and have me believe them. And there aren’t many people who can make me feel like they’ve really heard what I had to say and understood every word of it. Ps Ronald is one of the few who can cut it with me.

I put down the phone and sent him a follow-up text:

Bro, sorry if I sounded rude or disrespectful. I do get carried away and am passionate in my arguments. Trust you know it’s nothing personal. I’m challenging the policy, not the person.

His candid response made me beam with pride – for who doesn’t want to be a reflection of their role model? This was what he replied verbatim:

Yes, miniature Ronald. Hahahaha. You brought up a good point…

And the rest I shall omit… Well, you may not make heads or tails of what Ps Ronald and I exchanged but that was a significant moment for me, even though he has affirmed me time and again that I remind him of himself when he first started out in ministry. I believe that there are many others on the staff team who are like Ps Ronald and I – people who love the church and want to see it grow and change for the better.

Are you an old-timer harping on the church’s distinguished history?
Let the young ones show you how much they will love the church!

Are you a young person discouraged by the church’s dismal destiny?
Let the older folks show you how much they still love the church!

My rhetoric to you tonight is – “Do you love your church?”
God knows the answer in your heart and Man will know the answer by your fruit.

No, Grace AG isn’t just my place of employment.
It is home – my home – and I will fiercely protect it.

december: a month to thank God for.

As my ears bleed from a terrible rendition of Nobody But You belted out by the Getai singer and annoying overenthusiastic emcees who try to rouse an apathetic audience, I can’t help but to smile at God’s sense of humour. So what if I’ve gotten everything ready for later – shoes, socks, tag, singlet, watch, shades, bread, banana, isotonic – and I’m ready to sleep at an unheard-of 9pm to wake up 7 hours later to run my second 42km. There was nothing that I could do to prevent a town council dinner from taking place right below my house. I can only chuckle at the unpredictability of life and thank God that He’s in it all.

This December is more intense than the previous years. However, there’s so much to thank God for:

  • 15 intense days of school (with accompanying assignments), from 29 Nov – 13 Dec; I thank God for committed group mates and good lecturers.
  • 4 days of Rhema conference (where I’m overseeing 7 vastly different services), from 12 – 15 Dec; I thank God for a thoroughly creative experience.
  • A sermon to deliver on the weekend of 18-19 Dec; I thank God for many preaching opportunities this year and for my growth in this area.
  • A REAL reunion with my beloved REAL champs on 20 Dec; I thank God for this bunch of youths who will always have a special place in my heart.
  • A good break in Bintan to look forward to on 21-23 Dec; I thank God that I’m celebrating 3 years of God’s grace with my beloved girlfriend, Huiyi.
  • A Christmas celebration at Jadene’s house on 24 Dec; I thank God for a wonderful group of colleagues who have been such blessings in my journey.
  • A maiden baptism experience to anticipate on 25 Dec; I thank God for the privilege to baptise the youths whom He has given me to pastor.
  • 4 days of REAL lock-in camp (where I’ll take on the role of Commandant), from 27-30 Dec; I thank God for sending me youths to disciple and train.
  • 2 days of Leaders’ Retreat (where I’ll share my heartbeat and vision with the R-AGE @ GII Leaders!), from 30-31 Dec; I thank God for new leaders.
  • And to conclude the month, I’ll be performing a song during Watchnight Service on 31 Dec; I thank God for 2010 and I look forward to 2011.
  • And REAL 2011 begins 3 days later on 3 Jan (thank God I’ve already prepared everything!); before I know it, I’ll be marching on to March already.

For now, I have a marathon to run at 5am and a leaders’ meeting to chair on the same evening; I can’t wait to meet some of my favouritest people in this world! I apologise for the lack of updates and infrequent writing; I wish I had more time to think and write too, for a thought ceases to exist until it has been penned down. Do cover me in your prayers, my friends. I’ll leave you with the back of my running singlet; I hope it spurs you on, my fellow runners in this marathon of life – may we all run to win an eternal prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)!

IDMC 2010: an intermission.

Probably the most annoying GIF in the world. (Source: Very Demotivational)

I’m halfway through my second IDMC and I’ve learned many new lessons as well as have been reminded of some old lessons. IDMC will always be a special conference for me because it was on the second night (that’s tonight!) that I made my decision to step into full-time ministry. What’s inspired me most so far though, isn’t what EC has been teaching but what he’s been living. Through EC’s example, I’m convinced that one of the top priorities of a preacher is to spend an abundance of time dwelling and delighting in the Word of God. I echo his sentiments in my heart for I think that’ll be one of the best things a pastor could do for his congregation. It’s time for me to dig even deeper into the Holy Bible!

Once my thoughts are organised in the right places, I’d be better placed to write something worth reading. For now, I’m excited that a good number of youth leaders in Grace AG has signed up for IDMC 2011 – the numbers stand at 19 at last count but I’m expecting the final number to swell to 25 when I register everyone tomorrow morning. On a side note, I’ve been impressed by the Covenanters’ commitment to their own conference – it’s obvious that they own it and are tremendously proud of IDMC; you could see this pride hung on the faces of all the volunteers – well, if I was one of them, I’d be proud too. It’s been a thoroughly pleasing experience for me as a delegate to be treated to their genuine hospitality. Needless to say, this is something that I’d want R-AGE youths to pick up – be it during Rhema Conferences, events, services or cells. Covenanters make me want to return to their church because of how welcoming they are – can our guests say the same thing about us? I have confidence that we will attain an excellent standard of hosting with the right training.

In the meantime, I hope you haven’t spent too much time looking at this GIF. It’s been rolling ever since I started composing this post and it still hasn’t ended. Epic GIF, no less. I couldn’t help but to post it. For now, I look forward to the third installment of IDMC 2010.

teamwork is everything – would you rather go fast or go far?

So, what exactly is teamwork? Obviously, this buzzword describes work performed by a team; here are the other definitions that I’ve found on online dictionaries which will form the perimeters of my thoughts today:

  • the combined action of a group of people, esp. when effective and efficient.
  • cooperative or coordinated effort on the part of a group of persons acting together as a team or in the interests of a common cause; work done with a team.
  • the cooperative work done by a team; the ability to work efficiently as a team.
  • work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.
  • a joint action by a group of people, in which each person subordinates his or her individual interests and opinions to the unity and efficiency of the group.
  • when a group of people work well together.
  • the capability to comprehend and recognize the diverse strengths and abilities in a group setting and then applying them to one final solution.
  • when people work collaboratively towards a common goal as distinct from other ways that individuals can work within a group.
  • cooperative effort by the members of a group or team to achieve a common goal.

I don’t know what you have observed from the above definitions. For me, two words stick out – “people” (team) and “work” (work). I’m inclined to believe that the end result of teamwork (i.e. to achieve the objective) is actually secondary. I opine that teamwork is rooted in people involved in work, or if I may put it this way, teamwork is basically about being (people) and doing (work).

Teamwork gives the unique platform for both the task-oriented and people-oriented individuals to come together to achieve a common goal. Sometimes I wonder what carries greater significance – to achieve that goal or to come together. If a group of people accomplish something and yet kill one another in the process, then it defeats the purpose of working together. Similarly, unless it’s a machine or a computer accomplishing a task, it’s virtually impossible to get work done without involving people.

I led worship three times at the recently concluded retreat and while I celebrated at my accomplishment of playing the guitar for 90 minutes straight on the first night when I co-led it with JQ (and I’ve never played the guitar for such a long stretch of time), it was the second morning’s session which I will remember for a long time to come. I had already prepared a set of songs – complete with pre-retreat printed chords sheets for myself and lyrics sheets for everyone else. However, on that morning, just 15 minutes before the worship set, I randomly played “O Praise Him” (by David Crowder Band) and KY, who sat beside me, quickly caught the song and started to sing along with me.

SOAR247 (my youth group in Shanghai) instantly came to my mind at that point in time and with it came the triad of songs that the youth worship leaders there always led – “O Praise Him”, “Marvellous Light” (introduced at Rhema 2009) and “Prince of Peace” (an all-time favourite with the RLs). All three songs were in the key of G and I naturally medleyed from song to song. In an inspired moment (these moments do encapsulate the randomness and suddenness of youth ministry), I decided to lead these three songs for the morning session instead. Everyone around me immediately captured the idea; it was like they also wanted to be led into worship by these songs too.

It was then I saw the most spontaneous display of teamwork. HY, KY and MS took out their phones to google for lyrics; and in an instant, MW, YX and AT took out the flip charts and started writing lyrics on them. I can’t remember who else got involved but it felt like everyone chipped in without hesitation. I was moving from chart to chart, scribbling down the chords. It almost felt like a rehearsed routine except that it was second-nature for the leaders to get cracking – to make this worship session a reality. 10 minutes later, we were up and running and ready to go. I took a snapshot of that moment of togetherness in my mind’s eye and I thanked the Lord for giving us this wonderful thing called teamwork. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed that worship session because WE led US into worship.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 10:20-27)

“Family” is one of the three DNAs of Grace Assembly of God Church (and R-AGE). I’d go one step further to say that a family isn’t effective and efficient unless they learn to work together and love one another. Teamwork is absolutely essential to the core value of a family church, and in a larger context, the body of Christ. May we always remember to be excel in both our being and our doing – and there’s no better way to achieve this than through teamwork.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” (Warren Buffet)

top ten wedding songs.

2010 seems to be the year for weddings. Last Saturday I knew of four couples who got married; I was invited to three but I could only attend one. Two of my closest brothers are getting married within the next three weeks. I attended a wedding earlier this year and there’s gonna be one at the year-end. Maybe even two, if the other one takes place.

I’ve been privileged enough to be involved in significant roles for quite a few weddings so far; I’m typically either the emcee, worship leader, wedding singer or one of the brothers. Last Saturday, I had the honour of singing the march-in as well as the end-of-evening songs for my closest friend from my Ngee Ann days, JC, and her husband HH. This Sunday, I will have the honour of playing the role of best man for my best friend, LK.

Weddings are lovely events to be a part of and there’s nothing more precious than to be invited to contribute to the couple’s matrimony. I thought it’d be nice to compile a list of songs which I’ve performed before, or think would work, for a wedding.

1. Flying Without Wings. I sang this for J+H’s march-in, at their request. It was beautiful and as I got acquainted with the meaningful song lyrics, I understood why this song was so special to the two of them. Check it out here.

2. I Could Not Ask For More. I didn’t sing this for X-C’s wedding but it remains, to this day, the most “epic” wedding song. But it’s a song already performed before and so I probably won’t sing it at my own wedding. Check it out here.

3. Maybe Tomorrow. I’ve always acclaimed the poetic masterclass of its lyrics as well as how catchy its music is, and if not for how the vocalist has such a crazy-high-pitch-Chris-Cabrera voice, I’d have performed it long ago. Check it out here.

4. What A Difference A Day Made. I got hooked to this classy jazz item when I performed it with JT at the R-AGE 10th Anniversary Dinner Gala. I also performed it with DH at X+C’s wedding and it really fit the occasion. Check it out here.

5. Because You Loved Me. All right, what’s a compilation without mentioning a diva? There’s a reason why this topped charts and won a Grammy. Check it out here.

6. When I’m 64. DH introduced this Beatles classic to me. I can’t remember when we performed it, but I remember how his mum danced to it! Check it out here.

7. Two Is Better Than One. This was the solemnisation song for X+C’s wedding and I saw how it unfolded. DH and I performed it at Rhema Conference last year. Indeed, it’s true, that two is indeed better than one. Check it out here.

8. 我又初恋了. With the permission of HY, I shared this song idea to X+C and it worked out great as a march-in – fun, energetic and happy. Check it out here.

9. Cinderella. I think that there isn’t a better song than this to capture the bond between a father and his daughter. What a moving scene! Check it out here.

10. 1, 2, 3, 4. DH and I performed it for the first time at the Blackmarket gig and it was because HY told me she liked it. I think it’d work pretty well during a wedding too. Sweet and cute – it’s got puppy love written all over it. Check it out here.

I refuse to include the cheesy titles and I don’t want to offend anyone who’s used them in their wedding, proposal or is intending to use them so I shall not list the titles. Of course I have more titles in my head, but I won’t release them because I’m saving it for my own wedding. So yes, this isn’t my real list, of course. I couldn’t possibly let everything out of the bag, could I? I’ve got to keep some tricks hidden up my sleeves, right? (:

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