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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.
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originality through imitation (part one) – the quest for originality.

Over the next few days I will post a series of my reflections (and study notes) from one of my morning devotions last week. I shared it with the GII Shepherds on Tuesday night and I was encouraged to hear their “check-out” (it’s something I get them to do at the end of my teaching sessions). In my preparation, I expanded my half-page handwritten reflections into a four-page lesson; hence I’ll take HY’s advice and separate this sharing into a four-part series instead of dumping the entire lesson into one entry, for better consumption and digestion.

On a side note, I remember telling HY and EL that I’m starting to think and write as if everything that I communicate or compose is a sermon. Is this an occupational hazard of a(n aspiring) preacher? I mean, it’s so weaved into my cognition process that I do that even in my devotional and prayer journaling! And the crazy thing is that I actually enjoy thinking, writing and speaking like that because this discipline forces me to streamline my thoughts and increase the efficiency in my choice of words. You may realise this if you’ve been reading my blog for a while.

But I digress. Here’s the first of four parts, which will bring us through to Sunday.

***

Originality Through Imitation
Quiet Time Reflections on Genesis 1-2
By Joey Asher Tan

Introduction – The Quest for Originality

This is my umpteenth attempt at re-reading the Bible from the beginning. However, unlike the earlier efforts, I have a new zeal for the Word of God and I’ve determined within myself to find a revelation of Jesus Christ in every sitting.

So, in an all-too-familiar restart, I read the first two chapters of Genesis a little differently; I read Genesis 1 telescopically and Genesis 2 microscopically and I urge you to do likewise. You will then realise that Genesis 2 is actually an in-depth look at the sixth day of God’s cosmic creation.

By God’s impeccable design, Man was created by God to bear His image and to be the master of all life on earth. The making of Man concluded God’s creation process and with that He declared everything to be excellent in every way; Man was the icing on His cake and the cherry on His pie!

It was truly a privilege for Man to be come alive by the breath of God (nothing else in creation has that invocation!) and to be given the free will to make his own decisions. That to me, along with Man’s purpose to be God’s image-bearer, was the grace of God.

Creation then reveals the centrality of Christ in this manner – Jesus came to redeem and restore us (more on redemption and restoration later) to the original requirements of intimate fellowship with God. At this point in time, I asked God two questions: “What has creation got to do with Me? How is creation even relevant to my daily living?”

There is only one point which I will attempt to prove through this sharing.

I humbly opine that the best creation is the original creation. And that is in the image of God. I think this is why we are constantly called to imitate Christ, for Christlikeness is the expressed image of God (or the closest you could get!). We must realise that when we are Christlike, we are actually being original in its truest form. That in effect is saying, the more we are like Jesus, the more original we are! No wonder Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

In a day and age where the clichés of being true to yourself and being original has become an over-emphasised and highly overrated aspiration, the Word of God interrupts us with a counter-culture challenge. Think about it – what’s so good about wanting to be who you’ve always wanted to be? According to what I have read, I see zero benefits; at this point of my life, I’d rather be more like Jesus than to be more like Joey. The older I get, the more I know my(wretched)self the more I conclude that there’s no glory in wanting to be myself.

So we arrive at a point of application. Throughout our lives, there’s always someone we look up to and desire to model after; he or she could be a parent, pastor, peer or even an onscreen personality. Everyone has heroes in their lives. I was instantly challenged to cultivate a solitary desire to mimic Jesus above and beyond any of my mentors. I’m not called to be Jesus, but to be like Jesus. And I think this universal truth applies to all serious believers who desire to showcase God’s glory through their lives.

Do me a favour, will you? Read Genesis 1-2 again and rediscover that, in light of our fallen nature, the best creation is truly the original creation.

***

Next post: The Grandeur of the Creation of Man

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.

sermon recap: attack and counterattack!

I’m back from a four-day planning getaway and for me, there’s nothing better than vision-casting and planning for the future. R-AGE @ GII, if you’re reading this, you ought to thank God for a team of dedicated shepherds who stayed up til 3am and spilled their dreams on an 18-month calendar. It’s gonna be a mind-blowing 2011 and we must certainly rise up to the challenge, to move from involvement to commitment. We’ve been working hard for you; we don’t ask for a lot, only that you can return the favour and pray hard along with us. Remember, revival will come not when we pursue programmes, but when our people pray.

I shall resume my writing by posting the key points of the sermon I preached last Sunday. (Do note that I omit illustrations and analogies in my sermon recaps.) A guest speaker will be speaking this weekend and I will return to the pulpit next weekend to tackle the next portion of James. Let’s continue to be conscientious in our own reading of the Word. (Anyway, I think my sermon recaps are getting longer and longer!)

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Don’t push the blame but take responsibility instead

  • You naturally know how to push the blame without actually being taught how to do it.
  • Trials are usually external situations that strengthen you while temptations are internal struggles that shatter you.
  • God tests you to bring out the best in you – He desires for you to grow spiritually; Satan tempts you to bring out the worst in you – to cause you to sin.
  • God wants you to grow up but Satan wants you to go down.
  • Temptation springs out of your own evil desires (v14). Hence, do not blame God (or Satan or Man) when you are tempted and when you sin; no one made you do it – you made you do it. Take responsibility for your own sin.
  • God doesn’t contradict His own character; if He is holy and hates sin, why would He tempt you?

The ATTACK – how temptations work

  • To deal with sin, understand how temptations work. Adam and Eve demonstrates this perfectly for they were, after all, the first perpetrators.
  • James 1:14a – It begins with a DESIRE. Satan knows your desire and what you are tempted by so he plants exactly that in your heart to entice you; temptations always begins on a small scale that is almost unnoticeable – that’s why it’s dangerous. Sin always begins with something as small and harmless as stealing $1.
  • Satan tempted Eve in Genesis 3:4-5 with, 1) “You will surely not die”, 2) “You will be like God” and 3) “You will know good and evil”.
  • James 1:14b – Desire spirals into DECEPTION. You probably have a tendency to convince yourself, rationalise your thoughts and justify your actions until it feels like whatever that you had intended to do is right. To be deceived, in Greek, literally means, “to be led down a wrong path”.
  • Eve convinced herself in Genesis 4:6a, that the tree was “good for food”, “a delight to the eyes” and could “make one wise”. God certainly didn’t describe the tree that way.
  • James 1:15a – Deception transits into a DECISION. This marks the beginning of sin; Eve lost the battle here as she decided to succumb to her desires.
  • In Genesis 3:6b, Eve saw the wrong thing, entertained the wrong thoughts and experienced the wrong desires. She went ahead to eat the fruit (and even gave it to Adam!).
  • James 1:15b – Decision leads to DEATH. The result of sin meant that Adam and Eve, as well as the rest of us before we knew Jesus, were eternally separated from God. That explains why the world is a messed-up place and needs a Saviour to redeem it from eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23).
  • Know how sin and temptation works if you want to overcome it – and the only way to overcome it is to depend on God to help you.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 – God’s real role in temptation is to help you get out of it. Temptation is a way you trap ourselves, but God provides us with a way out. Each time you are tempted, you are tempted within your ability. It is your job to find that way out of the temptation.

The COUNTERATTACK – how to overcome temptations

  • The problem isn’t in the temptation but in the desire that is within your heart; sin will always look good at the start for it appeals to pleasures but it always ends up as a disaster. Before yielding to temptation, count the cost of its destruction. Would you rather the blessings that God gives or the lies and hurt that Satan brings?
  • James 1:17a – TRUST GOD’S CHARACTER. When you trust the goodness of the Father, it will help you to remain unmoved by Satan’s temptations. You yield to Satan’s temptations because you cannot wait for God’s blessings; remember that it is God who blesses you with good things, not Satan.
  • Be wary of the microwave generation that demands immediacy and instant gratification. Sometimes, your impatience causes you to make your own miracles instead of waiting for the only Miracle Maker.
  • The battle with temptation boils down to a battle of faith. Who do you trust? God, Satan or ourselves? If you really submit to the Lord in all aspects of your life, then you will receive the ultimate protection against temptation; you can trust God because He is constant and never changes.
  • James describes God as one who doesn’t change like shifting shadows. God is like the sun – it doesn’t change, it doesn’t move. The “shifting shadows” don’t come from God but from you; you shift, but God doesn’t. This makes Him a trustworthy God and someone you can trust wholeheartedly.
  • James 1:18 – TAKE IN GOD’S WORD. Truth will set you free. Read the Word of God – understand, internalise and memorise it. Make it a part of you for you cannot be apart from it. Don’t just depend on pastors and leaders to teach you the Word – know the Word for yourself. To break out of the cycle of temptation, you need the truth to be recycled in you.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Corinthians 10:14 & 2 Timothy 2:22 – TAKE OFF AND FLEE. When you are tempted, don’t even try to deal with it – just run.
  • James 4:7b – TACKLE THE DEVIL. Don’t fight temptation and flee the devil, but flee temptation and fight the devil.
  • Remember biblical truths when you fight the devil. Do not be afraid of the devil for you are God’s dear child and that Christ, who is in you, is greater than the devil who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
  • The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war. Temptation is a battlefield and a war-zone in your head. During peace time, when you are not tempted, fill your head with truth, so that when the battle begins, you will emerge victorious and overcome the devil not by might or by power but by the spirit of God.
  • James 4:7a – TURN BACK TO GOD. Balance the pressure inside you and ensuring that it is equal and opposite to the pressure outside. Instead of just combating external pressure – which is to flee from temptation and fight the devil – you must also build internal pressure, which is to focus on God. Submit yourself to God first before you resist the devil – make that your goal.
  • Memorising the Word is biblical. Psalm 119:9-11 instructs young men to store God’s word and hide it in their hearts. The blood of Jesus cleans you from committed sin but the word of God keeps you from uncommitted sin. Hence, focus on God on the inside and fight the devil on the outside, while at the same time flee from temptations! So that when temptation comes, the Word of God will come. In order to overcome lies and deceit, be filled with truth. Scripture memory is not for impressing others but for insulating yourself.

Boast of your weakness and receive the power of Christ

  • While God is a holy God who doesn’t tolerate sin, He is also a loving God who wants to help you overcome sin. Only the grace of God can prevent the sin in your life from being “full-grown and gives birth to death”.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:9 – God gives you His grace, which is sufficient for you and through that, His power is made perfect by your weaknesses. Your response then, is to boast all the more gladly about your weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on you.
  • Hebrews 4:15-16 – Jesus understands what you go through because He has gone through it Himself; He sits on the throne of grace and He is able to give you undeserved favour; you know that you will fall and keep falling, week after week, so that’s why you need His grace again and again. You know that you will be unable to withstand the pressure of sin and temptation. You know that you cannot do this on your own.
  • Ask God for His strength to help you overcome temptations. Come before God and to confess your sins to Him. Confess it to a brother or sister whom you trust for James 5:6 encourages us to confess your sins to one another and to pray for each other.
  • Ask God for His grace to help you to trust His promises, memorise His word, run away from temptations, fight the devil and to fix your eyes on Him. Come to the point where you know that you can’t do it on your own and that you are sick of depending on yourself.

the 2003 (self-)prophecy came true.

I’m currently away with my beloved GII Shepherds, GI Community Leaders as well as with all the R-AGE full-time staff at Aloha Yatch Club, planning for R-AGE in 2011. I know I’m a visionary, but planning isn’t one of my main strengths (that’s why I’m always thankful to God for sending me HY, for she is my ideal complement); I guess I could still be excellent at planning (or just about anything I put my heart to, even administration *puke* – which I’m sure will not exist in heaven…), but I wouldn’t be as thrilled about planning as I am about vision-casting. I believe that visionary leaders must determine the destination while strategic leaders chart the journey.

This is a long shot, but I think my gift for visions and prophecies started when I was 20 years old. In the final semester of my Mass Communication days in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, for this module called “Professional Preparation”, we was given the assignment of writing a cover letter to complement the resume which we had already put together. Most of my friends applied for positions like “Intern Reporter”, “Intern Public Relations Executive”, “Intern Advertising Executive”“Intern Radio Presenter” and the likes – basically jobs that we have been studying and training for in the last three years. No prizes for guessing what I applied for! Enjoy the read, and be careful what jobs you apply for. (:

***

3 March 2003

Pastor Ronald Yow
Youth Pastor

R-AGE Ministry
Grace Assembly of God
355 Tanglin Road
Singapore 247960

Dear Pastor Yow,

HERE I AM, TO SERVE – AS AN INTERN YOUTH PASTOR.

I have been actively involved in R-AGE Ministry ever since it inaugurated in July 1997. My sizeable contributions over the past six years are testimony to the commitment I give to this youth group.

My character temperament – a Sanguine-Choleric – is ideal for the role of an intern youth pastor. My ability to influence and inspire, as well as my outgoing personality underlines the charisma required of youth pastors. Furthermore, I am perceived as a natural leader amongst my peers and I am initiated to assume the role of a leader in most group settings.

I also believe I possess the three most imperative qualities that an intern youth pastor should have.

Being Faithful: I believe this characteristic is displayed through my perseverance in serving in the Creative Arts Ministry Youth (CAMY). I started out as a backup singer; I am now confirmed as a worship leader. I also believe that an effective youth pastor must be grounded in the Word of God. In addition to pursuing the Word of God on a daily basis, I also attend Precept Bible Study classes on a weekly basis and am also a part of the Diakonos (discipleship group).

Being Available: Currently, my two main commitments are the CAMY and TeamR-AGE (a youth soccer team that I have pioneered) and I hold key leadership roles in both ministries. I have also been engaged in various R-AGE events over the past years; my proudest effort would be coordinating the hugely successful programme for Dream-Makers (annual youth camp). The extra involvements indicate my availability, enthusiasm, initiative and my desire to serve outside of my fixed duties.

Being Teachable: My mentors and leaders, who know and understand me well, assert that I have the humility to be corrected and taught. I am an autodidact; on top of picking up things fast, I always endeavor to learn new things and explore new ways to do old things, making every effort to be more efficient and productive.

My involvement with TeamR-AGE and my experience of leading SoHelpUsGod (youth cell group) also reinforces my ability to manage a group of young people. Besides singing and songwriting, I can also play multiple instruments – essential skills that can be utilised for corporate and personal ministry purposes.

Moreover, with the youth congregation rapidly growing to beyond 250, an increase of more than 50 per cent in just two years, I believe that my appointment would make a timely significant contribution to R-AGE ministry.

I am driven by a spirit of excellence and strive to give only my best. And with a relevant mass communication background, I have been conditioned to work under tight deadlines and to deliver quality work under stress. I believe this attribute, accompanied by the others I have listed above, makes me an excellent consideration for the role of an intern youth pastor, ultimately leading to a full-time youth pastor position after I complete Bible College.

Yours sincerely,

Joey Tan
Enc. One copy of resume (3 pages)

***

Prophetic or whaaaaaaat? Hehe. I love my job; it’s like a dream come true to be doing what I’m doing, for a living. (:

my journey to Jesus Christ – a personal testimony.

I’ve always been grateful to God for His grace that has seen me through my growing-up years. For me to be serving Him full-time as a youth minister is a long shot from what was actually intended for me by default of my family’s heritage. Many of you would have heard this before so please bear with me as I share my conversion story again. After all, telling of God’s redemptive plan never gets old.

Caution: this is a long read – prepare the tidbits. (P/S: I’ve already kept it brief!)

I am the firstborn of my generation in a traditional Taoist family. When my parents divorced in 1991, I stayed with my grandmother and my father (for he had the legals rights to my custody). Our flat was a make-shift temple (but some of the devotees probably saw a temple in a make-shift flat, if you know what I mean). I vividly remember the day I counted with my index finger, statue by statue, the number of idols we worshipped – over 130. Yes, it’s a staggeringly scary number. Every August, my family would organise a festival to the celebrate the birthday of the main deity of our temple. Throngs of people would be in attendance and I was always actively involved. There were more people who came to my house to offer incense, ask for protection, consult mediums (yes, possessions took place at my home regularly) than to visit my grandmother, who is the custodian of the temple. Being the eldest grandchild, I was supposed to take over the temple from my uncle, who played the role of a general manager, of sorts. I was exposed to a lot of the operations; I knew and could recognise all the deities by their dialect salutations, chanted during rituals, played the “worship” music (of drums and cymbals) and of course, mixed with tattoo-clad gangster three times my age. They said I had so much “spiritual potential” that I was made the godson of two prominent deities and I was the youngest “layman” to be involved in all the activities. I certainly enjoyed the attention and favour everyone bestowed to me and I reveled in it.

Despite being in a missionary institution (Anglo-Chinese School), I only heard about Jesus Christ when I was in Primary Four, at an external Scripture Union Primary Age camp that my science teacher invited me to go along with her. It was then that my discovery of Christianity begun. I remember talking to my grandmother about the camp and how I may want to follow this “Jesus”. Needless to say, I received a huge dressing-down. A year later, after a school excursion to Haw Par Villa, where we took a boat into the “18 Levels of Hell”, I became tremendously afraid of dying – more specially of ending up in hell. I remember the night that I couldn’t sleep because I was mentally disturbed by all the different punishments I saw in “Hell”; liars had their tongues cut off, murderers were cruelly decapitated and thieves were violently amputated – I was guilty of all these sins and I didn’t want to end up as a mere lump of flesh forever. In tears, I walked out to the living room and had a Papa-I-don’t-want-to-die-and-go-to-hell conversation with my father. Two years later, after the Primary Six Leaving Examination (PSLE), I attended a Christian Fellowship camp organised by my school. I have no recollection how I even signed up for it. Nonetheless, it was at that camp that I gave my life to Jesus. My motivation was simple – I didn’t want to go to hell and John 3:16 was the deciding factor for my conversion. I’m being honest here; I didn’t really embrace the idea of suffering something worse than death itself for all of eternity. The person who led me in the sinner’s prayer was Brother Alan Lim. Here’s the excerpt of what I remember about my conversion conversation:

Alan Lim“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Me: You mean, I just need to believe?

AL: Yes, it’s as simple as that.

Me: You mean, I won’t go to hell and be tortured after I die?

AL: You will have eternal life with Jesus.

Me: You mean, it’s free?

AL: Yes, it is free.

Me: Okay then, I want to be a Christian.

AL: All right, I will lead you in a “sinner’s prayer” but do you know that once you say this, there’s no turning back?

Me: Yes, I know.

AL: Good, let’s pray then. Repeat after me, “Dear Jesus…”

That was it – I didn’t want to go to hell and this “Jesus” person offered me a way out of it. It was free and I didn’t need to do anything except to confess with my mouth and believe in my heart. I mean, it’s a no-brainer deal! Who wouldn’t accept this offer? I certainly wanted this “eternal life” and as a simple-minded Primary Six boy, I was completely sold by this salvation idea. I had to keep this conversion a secret for a good four years before I finally decided to declare it to my grandmother. It was a Sunday and I remember telling it to her while we were together in a taxi (and I still remember that conversation taking place when the cab was travelling along Lower Delta Road, turning left into the slip road that connected to Tiong Bahru Road, towards Redhill MRT station). Strangely enough, I can’t remember how I started the conversation. But she was aware that I have missed the August festival for four years running now.

Me: Ah Ma,你知道我现在是信耶稣了,每个星期天都会去教堂的。(Grandma, do you know that I believe in Jesus now and attend church every Sunday?)

Grandma: 我当然知道啦,我不管你要信什么,你变乖就好。(Of course I know. But I don’t care what you believe in, so long as you become obedient.)

You see, when I stayed with Ah Ma for those four years in that four-room Jalan Besar flat, I was a terrible and horrible kid to look after. I have stolen from my own grandmother, the neighbourhood convenience store and even the departmental store in a shopping centre. Everyday, I hung out with hooligans until midnight, gambled, accompanied them to extort money, threatened people and participated in activities that terrorised the neighbourhood; many times my grandmother had to personally search for me at 11pm. I spewed vulgarities (in dialect) like it was second-nature to me. I’ve changed tutors 11 times in three years and I constantly escaped from tuition and even made a couple of (lady) tutors cry. I basically had no regard for authority. Mind you, I had “achieved” all these as a primary school kid; that’s right – I was on my way to becoming “yellow chinese trash”, as I would affectionately call myself. I had “boys’ home”, “juvenile delinquent” and “no future” written on my forehead. I wasn’t an unintelligent boy, but my ill-discipline nearly caused me to be thrown to EM3 (the weakest academic band) during the Primary Four Streaming Examinations.

My close shave with EM3 was the last straw for my mother. She acted quickly, just like how she “saved” my sister from this destructive environment a couple of years ago. She took this opportunity to gain complete custody of me, and my sister and I were reunited after being separated from one another for a few years. I moved to peaceful Ghim Moh from turbulent Jalan Besar; it has been the three of us ever since 1995. By God’s grace(!), I made it through the PSLE with 4 A’s and I remember doing it without any additional tuition (as my mother could not afford it). It was a miracle now that I think about it, no matter how I look at it. I am certain that God was massively involved in redeeming me and I am certain that there must have been people who were interceding for me. I was the first amongst my immediate family to be saved, then my sister (although she attended church before me), then my mother. Again, by God’s grace, the five eldest grandchildren of my paternal family are all Christians now and they serve God actively in their respective churches. I was no longer that repulsive primary school boy that my grandmother used to look after and my significant turnaround was certainly obvious to her. No wonder she said it doesn’t matter what or who I believed in, so long as I became obedient.

(Okay, that sharing was a little longer than I had imagined… And I’ve really enjoyed writing all that… But) I shall come to my main point now.

A lot of people have told me, “Wow, Joey, you have such a good testimony! My testimony is so boring…”

But I beg to differ, for I merely have a dramatic testimony.

To me, a good testimony is this:

“I am obedient to my parents; I study hard in school; I attend church with my family every Sunday; I go for cell group every week; I am well-behaved and even-tempered; I read the Bible and memorise the Word of God; I spend time with God daily; I treat everyone with respect; I love my brothers and sisters-in-Christ; I pray for my friends and constantly encourage them; I serve God actively in church; I take care of those who are in need; I heed the advice of my pastors, mentors and leaders; I am faithful, available and teachable; I love God, love His Word and His people.”

I don’t know about you, but I think that a person who has that kind of story to tell is a remarkable individual for that life demonstrates years of obedience and courage to be different from everyone else; I opine that you don’t need to fall away from grace to experience God’s grace. Everyone has a story to tell and it is the element of a changed life by a great God that makes the testimony powerful and effective.

I may have a captivating story to tell of God’s grace, redemption and goodness in my life, and God has certainly used it to glorify Himself in the last 15 years. But that’s just me! For every one drug addict or ex-convict who turns his life to Jesus, there will be nine others who fall to the wayside. In Revelation 12:11, we know that we will overcome the evil one by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony; the Word of God doesn’t indicate that this testimony needs to be dramatic or good – but that we simply do our part to testify, which means that we ought to tell others about what God has done in our lives. Never, ever, underestimate your testimony simply because it’s a simple one.

The key here isn’t to compare your story with mine but to tell you my story, and for you to tell me yours, so that at the end of the day, God gets all the glory. May I urge you to always testify no matter where you are, who you’re with, or what you do, for you never know how God will use your testimony to display His awesome glory and amazing redemption. Let’s save some, by all means possible!

imparting a passion to the next generation.

I think it’s fair to say that I’m not just a passionate individual but also a person with many passions. And something that I’m exceptionately passionate about is the Word of God. This keenness was originally infused into my spiritual bloodstream by JH, when I was much younger; I saw the fire in his eyes whenever we discussed about the Word of God or when we pursued truth. I also have to thank Him for introducing me to JP, who is undoubtedly one of my greatest influences in this area, even though I’ve not met him yet. It was JH’s gift – Pierced by the Word – that got me into JP’s solid teaching.

And it’s not surprising, a decade on, that I discuss the Word of God with the same fire in my eyes. One of the most satisfying things in life has to be reading familiar scripture and to have the Holy Spirit breathing into you new perspectives. I revel in those kinda revelations – don’t you? And so I find myself asking myself, “What then have I done to impart this passion through my lifestyle and how can I continue to perpetuate that?” I scrutinised my actions and I am inclined to believe that I have done my part.

  • I am a keen student and an even keener teacher of the Word. I enjoy preparing lessons and thrive in teaching them – it rejuvenates me when I exercise my gift.
  • I prepare sermons with excellence and will never preach something I do not understand fully; the last thing I want to do is to undermine or shortchange the pulpit.
  • I memorise scripture in my own time and I encourage everyone within my sphere of influence to do likewise.
  • I attempt to give scripture-based advice whenever I have the opportunity to dispense counsel, instead of just depending on my wisdom and experience.
  • I base my ministry objectives and vision on the Word of God; the daily themes of PIERCE were lifted from Hebrews 4:12 and the three primary roles of my GII Shepherds were derived from John 21:15-17.
  • I invest money into purchasing knowledge and fill my mind with the right things, instead of overspending on things that have little eternal value.
  • I make time to attend additional teaching seminars and conferences instead of just depending on the Sunday pulpit for my Word input and whenever possible, I will encourage my leaders to sign up and go together with me.
  • I have progressively added audio sermons into my iPod and listen to sound preaching (pun intended) more than I listen to music. In fact, I’ve done this so much there’s nothing but sermons and teachings in my 8GB MP3 player.
  • I subscribe to snail-mailers and online feeds and whenever there is new material, I’ll feast my mind on them so that I am able to generate new thoughts.
  • I am actually more enthusiastic to shop in bookshops (or online book stores) than in shopping centres or departmental stores.
  • I attempt to pray scripturally so that my prayers are theologically accurate and always be aligned to/with God’s divine will.
  • Lastly, I try to spend some time each day to meditate on at least one portion of scripture (but I could really do with some improvement here!).

But why do I tell you all this? To boast? (Oh heaven forbid me from that!) I am deliberately detailed in proving my passion for the Word because it has been a journey for me and I wish to encourage you to ask God to expand your capacity to love His Word. You see, I was never so into it right from the beginning. I certainly did not expect myself to end up at this point and I most certainly do not expect myself to stagnate here too – it’s one reason why I am massively looking forward to my theological education in 2012. I concur with what EC said at last year’s IDMC, that while theological credentials are beneficial, theological competence is essential.

But this is the hardest of them all for it is a daily death of self-denial and an utter dependence on the Spirit to enable me to do so – while I make a sincere and genuine attempt to put into practice what I have learnt, more often than not, I fail at achieving this and for that I am the chief of sinners despite all the “accomplishments” listed above. They’re really just merely accomplishments and nothing else. I will never be able to attain godliness (and holiness) by my own doing; I’m constantly a long-shot away from being Christlike and how I long to fare better in this arena. The Word of God repeatedly reveals my carnal nature and humbles me greatly for it exposes my sin and shortcomings. I don’t know about you (actually I do, I’m just writing rhetorically), but no matter how much I profess to love the Word, the most crucial thing is that I live (and do) the Word. In fact, the more I love the Word, the more I discover my sinful desires and the more I realise my need for the grace of God, the counsel of the Spirit and the redemption of Jesus Christ to see me through each moment.

Amazing grace,
how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.

All right, I have no idea how I ended up there but I guess what I really want to say is that, if I could only choose one passion to impart to the next generation, it would be the passion to pursue the Word of God. I pray that it becomes your primary passion too, especially if you are an influential leader in youth ministry.

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