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R-AGE goes cold turkey!

Over the weekend, I preached a sermon titled, “Shut Up and Get Out!”. In it, I challenged R-AGE to embark on a social media cold turkey experiment like I did. The purpose of this was to eliminate audio and visual noise and distractions from their lives, so that they can enjoy the benefits of the discipline of silence and solitude, with the ultimate objective of hearing from God.

I gave instructions on this absolute abstinence from all social media platforms including the obvious Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, WordPress, Blogspot, YouTube, as well as Instagram and FourSquare. They had to disable email notifications from all these platforms too so that they won’t know what’s going on when they’re not logged in.

I told them to tag or text me when they began so that I could cheer them on. The deadline that I gave was to accomplish this before 31 Dec 2011 and to journal their experience, as well as what they heard from God during those 72 hours. I was initially skeptical on the take-up rate, so I was pleased by surprising response.

Immediately after I closed in prayer, I received an SMS from a youth who declared her fast immediately. Later in the evening, I received an SMS from a youth leader who told me that his two younger brothers and himself have commenced too and instead of a 72-hour fast, they will abstain from social media until the end of the year.

On Facebook, an entire youth cell group decided to fast together – I reckon it must have been their leaders’ initiative. I know a couple of other cells have also decided to go cold turkey together. I’ve also received a few other messages from a few more youths who decided to rise up to the challenge… One dialogue that really tickled me (screenshot pictured below) was a conversation between two 14-year-old boys.

Above and beyond this experiment being an exercise of healthy conformism or making a cool statement, it is my sincere prayer that my young people will understand the power of solitude and how silence may help them to listen out for the still, small voice that Elijah heard in 1 Kings 19 amidst the chaos that surrounded him.

May this radical little experiment result in a greater spiritual depth in my youth group! I sincerely hope that in this period of voluntary extended silence, we will learn that:
  • God is always in control of situations where we think we must intervene in;
  • God can manage situations where we thought our input was necessary.
  • God can sharpen our observation and listening skills when we refrain from speaking.
  • God can bring freshness and depth to our words when we finally say something.

Oh, do remember to let me know if you plan to embark on a social media cold turkey experiment yourself after reading this… I’d love to cheer you on! I can almost guarantee success IF you stick to the abstinence absolutely!

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the social media cold turkey experiment.

Last month, an article I wrote was published on Eagles VantagePoint, a website and magazine which I highly recommend as it provides a fresh perspective on contemporary topics. (The first article I wrote for them was on Marketplace Evangelism.) For my second assignment, the editor of the magazine challenged me to fast from all social media platforms for 72 whole hours and to journal my experience along the way.

Of course, I took up the challenge. Come on, how could JAT pass up on something as fun as that!?

So here’s what I wrote… Click here or here to read the article in its source, or just read on…

***

August 15, 2011

Dear Journal,

Somehow, my exploitation of social media (SM) to maneuver among youths has become known; Sheryl Han, the Senior Executive Editor of Eagles VantagePoint (randomly and suddenly) invited me via email to take part in an experiment for their next publication.

She wanted to find out, through me, if SM has caused us to be, what I call, “altogether separate,” where people get closer yet drift further simultaneously through the rampant and seemingly irrepressible utilization of SM.

I’d be required to go “cold turkey” from all SM platforms. For me, that’d mean no Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram, WordPress, and all online chatting platforms for 72 hours. She even told me that her colleague, Daniel Xu (who obviously stalked me), declared me to be “quite the social media fanatic” and “the perfect person for which to conduct this.”

I feel like a lab rat.

Anyway, I asked her for a week to consider this challenge but secretly, I was always game for something radical.

***

August 22, 2011

Dear Journal,

Sheryl the scientist emailed me again. She took the one week quite literally and even bargained the cold turkey period down to 48 hours to secure me as her lab rat.

Being the kind youth pastor that I am (it’s true), I agreed and asked her for the perimeters of this experiment. I must have made her a happy editor…

And my goodness – she replied immediately. This time, with an intimidating laundry list of experimentation rules and regulations.

Read: lab rat.

***

August 30, 2011

Dear Journal,

My SM fast has begun.

I’ve turned off ALL email and application alerts on my laptop, mobile, and tablet. I’m connected to so many platforms I took 15 minutes just to disable notifications!

Strangely, I anticipate a productive 72 hours. There’s an event to coordinate, a sermon to write, a cell lesson to teach and I’m halfway through my budgeting and ministry action plans for 2012; this is an appropriate time to fast from SM!

Here’s my final 140-character tweet:

“My 3-day cold turkey from ALL Social Media platforms has begun; I’ve turned off ALL notifications and I’ll be back in 72 hrs. Gonna be fun!”

All right, it’s 1:40am, barely twenty minutes into my cold turkey and I already feel the urge to…Sleep. This experiment would delight my fiancée most because she always urges me (out of love) to sleep earlier.

First benefit felt – more rest. Girlfriend and mother are instantly happier people.

***

August 31, 2011 (Day 1)

Dear Journal,

10:00 /// My overnight incoming emails halved! As I commuted to work, I caught up on world, national, and sports news instead of tweets and status updates. The temptation to (conveniently) click on one of my bookmarks or apps is real but bearable.

15:00 /// I find myself wanting to share my candid thoughts (via Twitter and Facebook) and visual observations (via Instagram and Tumblr) but this ban prohibits me. I believe that the need to speak and be heard drives people to be active on SM; to an extent, validation and acknowledgement can be good for the soul and self-esteem.

18:00 /// Several times through the day, I flirted with the idea of using Facebook to contact my youths for work purposes. Perhaps a dearth of SM could prove to be inconvenient if one works with youths? WhatsApp and SMS suddenly become significant again for regular communication.

22:30 /// I desperately want to get onto Facebook now. My fiancée told me that my cousin just posted new pictures of my one day old niece (yes, Jubilee Yim was born yesterday!). I guess SM makes the sharing of the precious moments of life accessible and convenient. This is all Sheryl’s fault!

23:30 /// Contrary to popular belief, the absence of SM didn’t lead me to accomplish exceptionally more work. Yes, I did redeem time by not drifting away in SM, but I didn’t save the world by stopping myself from updating my status, tweeting or posting a photo. So there, nothing mind-blowing, history-making or world-changing happened today.

***

September 1, 2011 (Day 2)

Dear Journal,

09:30 /// SM helps me to stalk my youths; I’m subscribed to nearly 150 blogs via Google Reader and frankly, it’s barely enough because I aim to track down every one of the 300 youths in my ministry. I tell them that I stalk them out of love (strange, but true!) so it’s a good thing that this ban lasts just 72 hours. I miss busybody-ing over their lives! When I view their blogs, I read about what’s happening in their lives (and heads) and this gives me an adequate enough preview of how they’re doing as a whole. Of course, nothing beats meeting up but I can’t meet everyone so I try to read about them instead. Either way, their blog content also provides good conversational currency during meet-ups. Furthermore, (I reckon) most youths think it’s cool that their youth pastor reads their blogs. So yes, SM can be immensely useful as a networking tool among youths.

11:30 /// I believe I’m neither addicted to nor in need of SM. The urge to check Facebook or Twitter wanes as the hours pass. I’m halfway through the cold turkey and (unsurprisingly) I haven’t had any withdrawal symptoms. Life goes on. SM, you are overrated!

15:00 /// Half the day has passed, and I must admit that this ban has helped me to be more effective and efficient at work because I’m more focused. It has also increased my concentration and productivity levels. The cause of distraction isn’t the voluntary checks on Facebook or Twitter but the notifications that come in to take your attention away from the task at hand.

17:00 /// Honestly, I think three days is too short a period to determine the effects of SM in our lives. You won’t be able to accomplish anything out-of-the-norm that’s worth a shout out. So what if I can’t share my life online? I’m not losing anything of worth.

23:45 /// It’s been a long day. My day begins at 7.00 am tomorrow and I still have today’s work to complete. The last thing on my mind now is SM. Tonight, I told my fiancée that I’m actually enjoying this cold turkey and I may continue it in some aspects.

***

September 2, 2011  (Day 3)

Dear Journal,

06:45 /// 48 hours have passed and it’s enough for my postmortem. For me, SM is a social utility, not a social necessity. You use it, not need it, to make life more convenient and work more effective. But SM will continue to alter the way we communicate with real people. Frankly, anyone who deals with youths (whether a pastor, social worker, parent, teacher or youth leader) should employ SM as a key weapon in their arsenal for reaching youths, but not deploy it diagnostically. It provides only a synopsis, at best.

22:45 /// It’s been such a hectic day that I don’t even have the mental capacity to think about SM. Three days is more than enough to wean off SM and I’m living proof of it. The cold turkey ends in a couple of hours but there’s little or no anticipation. It merely marks the end of this experiment. No confetti necessary.

01:30 /// The hour cometh and proves to be an anticlimax as expected. This was how I signaled my return via Twitter:

“I am back. I have not missed you. Life is better without you. You are helpful to me. I shall control you. You shall not consume me. HELLO.”

***

September 3, 2011

Dear Journal,

I’ve counseled youths who are capable of spilling their hearts on their blogs and yet incapable of sharing anything beyond the superficial vis-à-vis; they’d rather tweet than talk to people about it.

Some of us may frown upon this undesirable behavior, but there is almost nothing we can do to stop this mentality from proliferating. So if we can’t halt SM, we must learn to manage it and ride along with those who have already been institutionalized by it.

Like it or loathe it, SM is here to stay and has become (an integral) part of our lives. We should neither shun nor slime it, but subsume it into our daily routine. However, due to its highly addictive nature (that may potentially consume us), we must learn to set perimeters for using it, otherwise it will distract us from and destroy our priorities.

I will be the first to admit that SM is important, not because I need to use it, but because it is important to the people I love and care for; hence, it is of value to me. I will use SM as a tool to reach and communicate with this generation of youths for it is their preferred platform of conversation.

Those who are one with SM will never understand my liberation until they embark on a cold turkey themselves. To celebrate the end of my SM fast, I have decided on two simple applications:

  • I’m not reactivating my email notifications. I know this will change my life.
  • I will only spend the excesses of my time on it, capped at thirty minutes per day.

Final word: You have nothing to lose except your time.

Joey Asher Tan is a 27-year-old stalker in his youth ministry of 300 young people (aka a youth pastor) in Grace Assembly of God Church, Singapore. He attempts to use (and sometimes abuse) social media to remain young. To see what he’s been up to (and how this cold turkey experience has changed him), follow him on Twitter @joeyashertan and check out his blog at joeyasher.com.

***

Now that I’ve led by example, I’m going to challenge my youth ministry to do likewise as I preach it over the pulpit this weekend!

Forgive the resolution - it's snapped on my iPhone 4!

social media is altogether separate, and 72 photos.

Micro-blogging has finally caught up with me. Or more like, I’ve finally caught up with micro-blogging. The combination of Tumblr and Instagram means that this blog has officially become a place for longer thoughts, deeper reflections and elaborated writing.

In this day and age where everything seems to be fast-paced and instant, you no longer find the news but news finds you. Social media is revolutionising the way we communicate faster than we think it is (and can react to it). It’s only after I’ve activated my Tumblr that I realised how it innately encourages you to update.

Micro-blogging is rampant because it allows you to re-blog, re-tweet and share what others have re-blogged, re-tweetted and shared. It feels as if fresh and original thoughts are sprouting all the time but the fact is that everything is just recycled and repackaged. There is nothing new under the sun indeed.

And just when I thought WhatsApp had replaced SMS, Twitter came along and replaced instant messaging altogether. And just when I had gotten used to the convenience of posting photos to Twitter and FaceBook, Instagram came along to instantly take the place of photo-blogging.

This affects the way we communicate to each other too and it’s happening at an alarming rate. I’m not a fan of how more and more (young) people say that they articulate their thoughts better over email and actually resort to it, but frankly, what can I do about it? Nothing. You and I have to learn to take it in our stride.

This is becoming the generation of virtual relationships and honestly, we must fight it, but it’d be a grave error to reject it. Young people, be aware of its alienating ramifications and learn to have real vis-à-vis relationships. And parents, you’re the only ones losing out if you choose to remain a stubborn laggard in not wanting to connect with this generation in the way that they know how to.

Online globalisation is pulling the world together but taking them apart at the same time. Isn’t it scary that we are becoming increasingly altogether separate? And isn’t it scarier that we are absolutely powerless to stop this from taking place? Sigh.

But since I’m at it, may I shamelessly invite you to:

  • Check out my Tumblr
  • Follow me on Twitter
  • Add me on FaceBook
  • And of course, subscribe to my blog via email

On a lighter note, while I attempt to keep this blog alive, allow me to indulge you with my gallery of Instagram photos. It helps to satisfy the photographer needs in me. After all, it was one of my final year majors in school. Enjoy 14 days of photo-blogging! (:

baring my soul after baring my sole.

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For our integrated marketing communications assignment, my schoolmates and I examined how TOMS Shoes employed cause marketing as their main vehicle of publicity, and how this eventually led to sales.

There was no better way than to actually practise what the company preaches as one of their key annual activities – to go one day without shoes. At least, that’s what it challenges all its existing and potential consumers. TOMS’ business strategy is simple – you buy a pair of shoes from them and they will give another away to an underprivileged child in a third-world country. A remarkable and novel idea, really.

In our detailed analysis of this tactic, we’ve discovered that there are brilliant brains behind TOMS, from its founder Blake Mycoskie, to its sales staff, and to its interns (better known as Agents of Change – ostentatious but unique no doubt). And we’ve observed that they’ve left no stone unturned – everything that can be used has been used and their marketing strategy is one of the best we’ve seen of any footwear company, by far. It’s almost fool-proof and fail-proof; it’s so comprehensive that we’ve struggled to make recommendations to improve it. We take our hats off to TOMS Shoes.

That was until two of us (Melodie Lee and I) actually decided to go barefoot in Singapore for a day. And so it was, our very own one day without shoes. It was then we discovered the few weaknesses of such a tactic. I will share bits of it as I record my thoughts of this radical experience.

Attempting an against-the-norm feat is always easier when you do it with someone else. Melodie and I felt somewhat comforted and empowered by each other’s participation; knowing that we weren’t going to do this alone provided an impetus for the actual deed. I left home excitedly and I was curious to see the different reactions I’d receive from strangers and bystanders alike.

Coincidentally, I left home with my sister and met my mother en-route to the bus terminal; both thought that I was crazy and had my safety at the forefront of their minds. And as expected, my sister wasn’t too keen on walking beside me simply because it was weird. “So paiseh”, she stated. Funnily enough, that actually affirmed my decision more than deterred it.

I tried to behave as normally as I could. Of course I would avoid tough, dirty or wet terrain but I did not walk awkwardly or in embarrassment. I like doing radical things once in a while anyway, as my youths and peers would know, so standing out from the crowd wasn’t something that was all together foreign to me.

I arrived at our meeting point in Forum, drank a small serving of Caramel Latte from Coffeebean and discussed how we were going to capture people’s responses on film. And on my own, I intentionally recorded as many of these steps as I could through Twitter. After all, it was through social media that this campaign spread like a virus. As expected, I received a flurry of responses almost immediately on both Facebook and Twitter, from both friends and acquaintances. And just as I had expected, the attention waned as dramatically as it had built up as the day progressed, despite my regular pictorial updates.

Hence it leaves me to conclude that a wholesale dependence on social media has its own limitations. Perhaps it’s because I’m not a celebrity with an enormous reputation, but isn’t viral marketing all about the word-of-mouth from the man on the ground? It’s short-lived at best; my network’s interest in my adventure sustained for a couple of hours and my own interest was roused for a day at most. My mini-campaign was as current and newsworthy as the next 160-character tweet by a teenager about where he was or what she was doing. How effective could this method be for the long-run then?

I hereby propose that social media is only good for initial awareness but not prolonged interest.

One talking point in my day without shoes was when I nearly lost my right big toe. I am so used to everyday-walking that it slipped my mind the importance of literally watching my next step. It was a near-death experience (haha pardon the drama-mama) and my odynophobia caused me to visualise a severed foot. I still cringe at the thought of that near-mishap and I understood why Crocs encountered a safety issue with their footwear – people are negligent because they take things for granted and when they think they can depend on what they are used to (can’t help but to think of Psalm 119:105).

There are only two retailers in Singapore that sell TOMS Shoes and we had to visit one of course. It was a disappointing experience to say the least. We all thought that this could be one of the greatest flaw in this otherwise great company. A retail shop is quite possibly the most appropriate touch point for a fashion product (to see and touch the actual shoe and try it for sizing) and interacting with the sales staff left a horrible taste in our mouths; they were apathetic, ignorant, uninvolved, not helpful and unnecessarily rude.

While this reflects more badly on the reputation of the shop, it indirectly impacts a consumer’s attitude towards TOMS; you cannot help but think that TOMS did not conduct a meticulous screening of their franchisees or provide them with sufficient product training. Their unacceptable service became a fundamental failure in representing the goodwill that TOMS have existed to create all this while. After all, we’ve observed that intimate interaction with consumers is one of the keys to their outstanding business model.

We started our barefoot adventure at 3pm but by 6pm the novelty of this activity had already worn thin on us. We were no longer amused by people’s stares or consciously thought about what we were doing. I asked Melodie, “Are you even thinking about the children in Africa without shoes to wear?” Our answers to that question was synonymously negative. Perhaps we were inadequately prepared for this activity, throwing ourselves in without much fanfare (like posters or tee shirts) or perhaps we didn’t do it with an entourage. But honestly, the thought of doing this for the less-fortunate and under-privileged probably crossed our minds only once, and for a fleeting moment.

While those kids suffered from inevitable abrasions, we sampled invited attention; while those kids struggled to go to school, we savoured what it felt like to do something cool; while those kids survived on a single pair of shoes for years, we stepped into shops that sold enough shoes to last a village for years. How effective then, is this campaign to actually help those kids?

I began to question the integrity of this apparently fantastic movement and I couldn’t help but to conclude that cause marketing should only be employed for the short-term and not to be exploited for the long-term.

I’ve written these thoughts on my way to school and during lecture itself. Honestly, while going without shoes was fun while it lasted, I cannot be bothered anymore about how this makes me feel or what message it sends out because the only entity that benefits from this seemingly out-of-this-world initiative is the company itself. Based on my experience today, I scribbled down five recommendations that may make TOMS Shoes a tad bit more successful and perhaps, less suspect. We will propose them at our presentation next week.

As with many things in life that the world offers us as a tradeoff for satisfaction, it can feel good at the start but it is still hugely inadequate and empty eventually. “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity”, as King Solomon famously philosophised. The words of the Psalmist Asaph resonates in my head: “You’re all I want in heaven! You’re all I want on earth!” (Psalm 73:25, The Message Bible.)

Oh, the temporal happiness of earthly pursuits and the heavenly void that we all need God to help us fill!

sermon recap: must master my mouth man!

Please keep me in prayer as October will be a gruelling month. Above and beyond the commitments of a full-time job, I have a 30% assignment to submit on the 7th, a 30% written test to prepare for on the 19th, and a 40% group presentation to work towards on the 29th. (Yes, I can forget about having a decent birthday celebration this year.) Regardless, I desire to be excellent in all I do, nothing less, for the glory of God.

Oh Lord, I need Your grace more than ever. I need to put first things first. What matters most should never be at the mercy of what matters least; give me Your strength to sustain my walk with You and may I never fall into a performance trap! Help me to never compromise my time with You!

***

I’d like to post a recap of what I’ve shared over the pulpit last weekend. The most challenging (and exciting) part about preaching is to find the message in a passage. And this prophetic burden is best laid upon one’s heart through intercession. Yes, may the Lord reign, always, in all my sermons.

I titled my sermon “Must Master My Mouth Man!” and preached from James 3:1-12. I won’t be able to show my slides this time because I used Prezi; I’m thankful I tried something new because it halved my slides preparation time! I believe I will continue using Prezi.

It’s impossible to be perfect in speech

  • Every once in a while we will say the wrong things, say things wrongly, and also say unnecessary things.
  • A number of us would have hurt and been hurt by words; we tend to sin with our tongues so easily because we’re innately sinful.
  • James doesn’t provide a solution since it’s impossible to be perfect; instead, he gives three pictorial analogies to help us understand the power of our tongues.

Power to DIRECT – picture of a bit and rudder

  • Just as these relatively tiny objects actually determine the destinies of what they control, our speech has great influence over our lives.
  • A 500kg-heavy, 170cm-tall horse is directed by a 12cm by 8cm bit; a 330m-long, 18,000sqm-big aircraft carrier is directed by a 6.7m by 8.8m rudder.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of a bit, a rudder, or your tongue.
  • Illustration: scolding people in Huangshan. Lesson learnt: words are indeed infinitely influential.
  • Have you been a good testimony online or have you been careless with what you write on Facebook, Twitter or on your blogs?
  • Whether you choose to speak life or talk nonsense, your words have the power to influence the way other people look at Jesus Christ.
  • As long as it’s published for all to see, it’s no longer about you but about Him.

Power to DESTROY – picture of a forest fire and untamed animals

  • If you leave your tongue on its own, it has the natural ability to destroy and injure people.
  • Left on its own, a forest fire will destroy everything in its path; similarly, an untamed animal left on its own will attack anything in its path.
  • Our words have the potential for construction or destruction; our speech can single-handedly destroy us and other people.
  • Illustration: angry boy who hammered nails into the fence. Lesson learnt: let’s not leave scars and holes in people’s lives with the words that we use.
  • Damaging words rob people of their potential and destroys their self-esteem. See Proverbs 11:9 and Proverbs 12:18.
  • Do we pierce people with our word or with the Word of God?
  • Destructive rumours are detrimental to the church; gossip is the number one killer of the church and Christians have a tendency to talk too much.
  • When we participate in gossip, we become Satan’s instrument to destroy another person. Gossip kills but prayer heals. Let’s prevent Satan from getting access to our church.
  • See Proverbs 26:20. If you are not happy with someone, resolve it with him face to face. When you agree to gossip, you add wood to the fire. Small things become big and big things become fatal.
  • If all of us are sinners saved by grace then what gives us the right to speak ill of one another?
  • It takes a good character not to gossip but it takes a great character not to listen to gossip.
  • When gossipers have no audience, they will stop. Let’s make R-AGE a safe place where gossip or gossipers are not allowed to surface.
  • Discontinue gossip. Choose to be a peacemaker instead and offer to help resolve the conflict between the parties involved.
  • If you know someone who gossips all the time, avoid him, for you become who you hang out with. See Proverbs 20:19.
  • Similarly, if you hang out with people who have control over their tongues, you will also be like them; choose your friends carefully.
  • Learn to hold your tongue. See Proverbs 10:19. If what you say doesn’t build up someone, then learn not to say it; let’s be careful of passing unnecessary remarks on matters that do not concern us.
  • If someone tells you to stop gossiping, don’t judge him; at the same time, don’t be afraid of being judged for doing what is right. No one can fault you if you keep doing what’s right.

Power to DISCOVER – picture of water and fruit

  • The tongue has an uncovering quality; it investigates your character and inspects who you really are inside.
  • Don’t expect seawater to be fresh and don’t expect freshwater to be salty; and if you plant an apple tree, don’t expect durians, and vice-versa.
  • It just doesn’t make sense – it is ridiculous that we use our tongues for such different purposes – to praise God and curse men.
  • The problem doesn’t lie with the control of the tongue but with the condition of the heart. See Matthew 12:34.
  • Illustration: “I love sex!” declaration in an all boys’ school. Lesson learnt: let’s get real with each other – what you say is who you are.
  • Your speech exposes who you are on the inside. Don’t bluff yourself. You are what you say. You can’t hide it.
  • Your speech shows us what is brewing within you; the words you use, the jokes you laugh at, and the things you talk about reveal what’s in your heart.
  • Whatever spills out of your heart comes out from your mouth.

Heart surgery and hurt surrender

  • The Word of God is a mirror and judges the thoughts and intentions of our hearts; judgment is a good thing, for it brings us back to God.
  • But do not despair, God doesn’t leave us in our wretchedness. See 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.”
  • If your speech reveals that you need a heart change on top of a change of heart, know that Lord has already done that through your salvation.
  • God’s grace is bigger than the condition of our hearts.
  • The challenge isn’t just to choose our words carefully but to change our hearts completely.
  • There’s no shame in wanting a heart that’s changed and renewed, and there’s no shame in surrendering your hurts to God and trusting Him to heal you completely.

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. (:

sermon recap: time for spiritual puberty!

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First and foremost, I think it was amazing that R-AGE spammed Facebook over the weekend with testimonies of how God impacted our lives. I shared about purchasing Skyville with HY. Click here for the Facebook note and here for the original testimony. This activity was part of the Evangelism Pillar that RL, KY and I produced. It’s a simple idea that turned out to be brilliant beyond our imagination; we designed a lesson to help our youths share how God changed their lives and to tag at least five Christians and five non-Christians, then invite them to R-AGE services this weekend. It went better than we had expected and I’d like to believe that it’s an activity worth repeating a few times every year.

I can’t wait for Saturday! The first PLUG & PLAY (!) since PIERCE will take place at 2:50pm bring your friends this Saturday and be early! With PUSH at 2pm, service at 3pm, Be Our Guest at 4:45pm and cell at 5pm, July looks set to close on a high! RY will also be preaching the third installment of the LIVE LOUD series. We’re doing a verse-by-verse study on the book of James and I had the privilege to open the series with the overview. CX preached last weekend and I’ll be preaching again next weekend. I know this sermon recap is two weeks late but better late than never!

  • James is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get and an in-your-face book that teach us not just to live normally, but to live it out loud for everyone to see. The author is straightforward, direct, practical and honest. He was writing to young Christians who were scattered and were facing trials.
  • These five chapters are like a synopsis of the issues that the church faced then, and even now; the things that caused disharmony in the fellowship. The one root problem in these issues? Spiritual immaturity. James exhorted his readers to mature spiritually.
  • People, unlike the all-knowing God who can see through your heart and know instantly if there is faith in there or not, cannot see the contents of our heart; the world knows the faith in our hearts by examining the works of our hands.
  • BH phrased it perfect: “We are not saved by works but we are saved to work… …Faith is the root of salvation but works are the fruits of salvation.” Works are indeed the consequences of salvation. “People will work because of their salvation for work comes forth from faith.” (Woohoo! I can’t wait to meet BH for our mentoring session on Wednesday morning!)
  • Maturity is not 1) how old you are, 2) how much you know, or 3) how much you have done, but to be “brought to its end; a finished state; at completion; perfect human integrity and virtue; and a full grown adult of full age”. It is a process that doesn’t stop until we meet Jesus Christ.
  • He offers us eight distinguishing marks of maturity. A maturing person:
    1. Is positive in the midst of problems (James 1:2)
    2. Keeps his or her desires under control (1:4)
    3. Is accepting of others (2:8-9)
    4. Has consistent beliefs and actions (2:17)
    5. Is careful with his or her words (3:2)
    6. Strives to be wise (3:17-18)
    7. Has a humble attitude (4:10)
    8. Is connected (5:16)
  • We have to love God and others actively (NT) and passively (OT). It’s extremely easy to fall short of God’s holy standard so it is only by God’s grace that we can make the cut. I always believe that the way we treat the least and the weakest of us show us how strong we truly are as a ministry.
  • The mark of a true Christian isn’t in a perfect lifestyle, but a lifestyle that is being perfected. Your friends will recognise the effort that you make to change. If you keep doing what’s right, no one can tell you that you’re wrong. Consistency is proved and achieved over a long period of time and reputations are built on consistency.
  • When there’s a breakthrough with our words, there will be a breakthrough with our lives. I issued the official R-AGE language challenge: to once and for all get rid of crude words on top of all known vulgar words – from real-life conversations, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and MSN. Let people notice the difference by noticing the absence.
  • People may admire a person if he or she has a righteous, faultless and sin-free life but people will respect a person who desires to change. Wisdom is necessary for maturity because it will govern the way you speak and behave; so always strive for wisdom.
  • I introduced IBM (In-Between-Meetings): I encouraged everyone to have at least one IBM in the week. Initiate and organise meet-ups beyond the weekends – be it to study, pray, eat, or even play together. Don’t give up meeting one another. A united youth group goes beyond meeting once a week!
  • I challenged all leaders: Having a mature individual around brings about steadiness to a group. Love it or hate it, leaders are being watched and mimicked. Hence, we should lead by example by setting and being the example for the younger ones who look up to us.
  • Everyone grows up at a different rate and time, and the maturation point is what we strive for – being completely mature. God alone will bring us to that point. The key to unlocking maturity has nothing to do with us, but with God, so boldly ask Him for wisdom today.
  • Selfishness and self-centredness is the greatest obstacle to maturity for it is instinctive to think about ourselves first. When we can’t look beyond ourselves, we can never look toward the needs of others. It does take effort to consider the needs of others’ better than our own.
  • A maturing church is a growing church. Just like physical puberty, when you spiritual puberty you will experience all kinds of spiritual growth – gradual, sudden and new growth. When we emerge out of our comfort zone to mature spiritually, we will grow as a church.

I look forward to preaching again next weekend!

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