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is your advice any good at all?

There’s a difference between good and godly advice. Everyone is able to offer their two-cents’ worth but not everyone makes sense. Therefore, it is important to surround yourself with counsellors who are able to expand your perspectives as well as to offer you solutions (or at least show you the possible consequences of any decision made). We should be cautious in selecting who we hang out with for it usually determines who we become eventually – surround yourself with cynics and you may just become one.

The way of the fool always seem right to him – they will hardly admit that they are wrong; don’t spend too much energy trying to convince them otherwise, but learn to just pray for them and commit them to the Lord. When I see how the advice that I dispense fall on deaf ears, it gives me an idea of how foolish I was when I was younger, and how I have refused and rejected advice. If you want to counsel others, it is important that you are rooted in the Word of God. Wisdom is knowing how to apply biblical principles to everyday situations. Hence, wise counsel and sound advice always comes from the Word.

It is also important that you are a Spirit-filled individual if you want to offer advice to others. I always tell my leaders to pray (silently) in the Spirit (in their hearts) when they talk to youths, and to be sensitive to what the Spirit might possibly prompt them to say instead. It’s imperative that we do not make up advice; for the lack of a better way to phrase it – let’s not bullshit others. There are days that I do not have the answer and when that happens, I will be honest and tell whoever I’m speaking to that I will get back to them a few days later. Don’t trust anyone who’s always got the answer. We must stop whenever and however the Spirit leads and prompts us to, and seek God for an answer first. I remember BH’s advice regarding advice-giving – “If people run to you, you better run to God, otherwise they might think that you are God!”

I try to surround myself with people who know what people are like – basically older and more mature individuals who have seen more people than I have. They give great insight to people and how to deal with those who are more challenging to manage. They teach me how to discern and share their experiences with me. Hence, regardless of how high-up I may rise in a leadership role, it is important that I do not isolate myself, but to surround myself with people who are involved in the right kind of attitude, and those who are like-minded. Having RY and PL to share with me their journey on being a ministry-man and a family-man gives me great leverage to know what to do when I’m faced with similar situations. However, after I receive their advice, I will still consult the Lord first for obeying what the He has set upon my heart to do is of utmost importance.

And then of course, there are those whom you simply trust with your life because you know that they always have your interests at heart. These are people whom have gone through seasons with you and the ones who have proved their consistency and availability in your life – basically, those whom have stood the test of time. He or she could be a best friend, parent, sibling, mentor or partner. Always treasure the value of their opinions simply because they love you without agenda and want the best for you.

In conclusion, in the area of giving and receiving advice, here are the four categories of people whom you should seek and aspire to become:

  1. Word people
  2. Spirit people
  3. People people
  4. Trustworthy people

These are the people whom you know will dispense good advice and godly counsel.

no longer a worship leader and at peace with it.

I dug out an old notebook a few weeks ago and within the first couple pages I found a list of nine things I had wanted to accomplish that year. I recorded these things in 2003, when I was 20 years old, in the final semester of my polytechnic days.

  1. Get grounded in the Word.
  2. Learn piano and guitar intensively.
  3. Stay single until 21st Oct 2003.
  4. Transfer captaincy of TeamR-AGE.
  5. Record FhLY album.
  6. Record Castor & Pollux album.
  7. Attain driving licence.
  8. Cultivate a lifestyle of punctuality.
  9. Learn to be more pastoral.

It’s interesting to note that the items that I’ve made little progress on are #2, #5 and #6, which are incidentally all related to music! Well, seven years have passed and with each passing year the likelihood of accomplishing these three items diminishes. Perhaps I’m not all that passionate or serious a musician after all. What a sad thought.

All right, that silly introduction above has little to do with what I am about to share.

Music is a big part of my life; I’d like to believe that while I’m not musically trained, I am musically inclined because I pick things up pretty quickly – be it percussions, strings or even song-writing. I’m always attracted to worship teams and as I peered into the 3rd Level Hall tonight to check out the worship team in action, I reminisced my days of being a worship leader and how that I spent most (and the early) parts of my ministry in church in CAMY. I progressed from a 14-year-old backup vocalist to a worship leader in both the youth and adult services.

God called me into worship leading when I was 15 years old, at a “Bondage Breaker” conference in Trinity Christian Centre, and I’ve always pursued this area of service. I was confident that I had the anointing of a Spirit-led worship leader. And God is faithful; throughout the years of worship leading, God always sends at least one person to affirm and to encourage me in my calling, usually by someone who was in the congregation; God has never missed out affirming me on any session and I am most thankful for it.

When I went to Shanghai and saw the “state” of the worship atmosphere in my church, I immediately felt compelled to join the worship team to “rescue” and “value-add” it. The Holy Spirit rebuked my prideful self and I quickly dismissed this arrogant attitude of wanting to “fix things” and to “show them how it’s supposed to be done”. I could easily enter the ministry under the pretense of humility but what good would it do if I served with a wrong heart? For months, it was an internal struggle because I knew that I could contribute positively and to even make a significant difference!

I didn’t feel that God was calling me into worship leading for that season of my life in Shanghai so I avoided the music ministry completely and just waited for His prompting of where I should serve in church. I did continue to lead worship, but only in my cell group. (This sounds really haughty and I apologise for it but) word got around of my skill, effectiveness and experience “This worship leader is pretty anointed!” and a couple of months later, as if to perpetuate the already dire situation with my pride, I was approached twice by the worship pastor and one of the key worship leaders; they invited me to join the ministry. (It must have been painful to read such words dripping with arrogance but I’m just being honest with my struggles and being real with my journey.)

Yet I’ve never moved into the worship ministry ever again because I was convinced that my season of being a worship leader is over. I felt the peace when I rejected both invitations and I also found the non-entry necessary for the development of my own humility as I stepped away from this area of ministry. I wanted to be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading and I believe I did the right thing, even though becoming a worship leader again felt like the right thing to do by my own logical deduction! (This isn’t a good gauge but worship leading no longer gave me a kick – I didn’t find it a challenge anymore.)

Instead, I felt the Spirit calling me into mentoring and preaching; in fact, I find that mentoring, preaching and leading are my three primary domains of ministry at this point in my life. Just as how God has prospered me as I pursued His prompting in my worship leading days, I believe that God will also give me success as a mentor, preacher and leader, simply because I desire to be obedient to His will for my life. I humbly ask you to pray with me, please; I only want to be a vessel.

Why do I share these inner thoughts tonight? I believe that it is more important to recognise the divinely-designated season of your life directed by God than to do what the ministry demands or what you’re naturally good at or gifted in. It may not make much sense at first but the satisfaction you get when you review your step of faith is immense. I desire always to walk by faith (to do what God directs) and not by sight (to do what Man demands). And the only way to do so is to remain connected with God.

Oh Lord, thank You for reminding me about John 15:5. Indeed, apart from Jesus, I can do nothing and I am absolutely nothing without Christ! I desire to be near You so that I will do the things that You desire and become the man You have designed. I love You.

inside outside upside down.

On days that I’m tired and uninspired to write anything noteworthy, I shall succumb to previously-written articles. Somehow I look forward to the break at retreat. For that week away. I’m deciding between live updates or pre-scheduled posts. But for now, in the light of the coming youth camp, here’s an article I wrote after the Inside-Out youth camp in 2004, at Fairfield Methodist Secondary School, where I was camp Dean. I’ll reprise that role in the coming Retreat and I do look forward to it. Enjoy the read.

If a Chinese man decides to become an Indian man one day, speaking in Tamil alone will not change his race; his anatomy and his shade of melanin must be altered to achieve this biological change.

An overweight man cannot look slim just by putting on tight-fitting clothes; a change of clothes will not change his physique, he needs to be altered physically.

A timid teenager lacking in self-esteem cannot find his self-worth and security by hanging out with confident and assured peers; he does not become who he socialises with; his alteration must be mental.

Even a sex change will not make a man feel any more like a woman; unless he is altered psychologically, he will innately know he is still a man.

One cannot modify the external to change the internal. The change must take place from within.

So similarly, a mere believer of Christ cannot become a true disciple of Christ unless he is transformed from the inside out. In Romans 12:2, Paul urges us to not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Now, that is the theme of the annual R-AGE camp. This camp is aptly named “Inside-Out” and it is a fitting conclusion to a year embarked on discipleship.

In the short duration of four days and three nights, the youths participated in a host of activities that perpetuate the lessons of discipleship. They are put through unforgettable structured experiences; attend knowledge-enriching workshops and life-changing sermons; play large-scale and small-scale games that foster relationship-building; and not to mention living together with everyone else and learning from one another.

Along with the usual works of a youth camp, the committee aspires to impart a lifestyle of discipleship into the campers – the call, the cost and the commitment. Doors will be opened for mentorship to take place.

As the camp dean, my primary job is to look after the well-being of the campers, especially their spiritual condition. I believe it is crucial that the young people are changed from within if they are to live out their fullest potential. There is little significance in attempting to correct the facade if nothing is done to correct their attitudes and their cognition process.

Our church is blessed with intelligent teenagers who are acutely aware of the happenings of the world as they are well-educated and also because most of them come from affluent families. Teenagers are no strangers to the temptations that this world offers and are greatly exposed to the lures of the world.

Their scrutinising nature fuels their continual thirst for knowledge and the truth. And this either leaves them fulfilled by the Word of God or deceived by the lies of the devil.

Therefore, there is a great need to guard their vulnerable minds and correct all the wrong teachings they have received. This is made possible with tender care, proper guidance and assiduous re-education. Hopefully, by the conclusion of Inside-Out, our youths will learn to fix their eyes on Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of their faith; this conviction will empower them to worship God in spirit and in truth, befitting the theme of worship for 2005.

Everything around us is constantly changing – even you and I. But Hebrews 13:8 assures us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever! Who better then, shall we place our trust in?

why should I pray?

Two days ago, I embarked on a five-parter with my GII shepherds on the topic of prayer, (loosely) based on JP’s chapter on Prayer in Desiring God. I’ll expand his excellent teaching in order to ensure that the lesson remains relevant and applicable to our context. This was a natural follow-up from my previous lesson on Philippians 4:4-7. Each time we meet for cell, I make us memorise scripture. Although these verses are familiar, I’m fairly confident they have taken a paradigm shift as they store these powerful, dynamic verses in their hearts.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7 (English Standard Version)

Anxiety does nothing for you. On top of adding zero benefits to your situation, it also distracts your concentration and injures your soul. Paul dispenses such practical advice – anxiety is so useless and negative that it doesn’t even change or improve your situation. No wonder he warns you against it.

The remedy to being anxious about nothing is to be prayerful about everything. When we pray, we acknowledge a few things: (1) We openly admit that without Christ, we cannot accomplish anything; (2) We deliberately turn away from ourselves because we have the confidence that God will provide the help that we need – I call this, “Anti-self-sufficiency”; (3) We actively humble ourselves as needy and exalt God as wealthy. No wonder Paul instructed us to turn to prayer!

Allow me to rephrase “prayer and supplication”. Basically, it is to present the request for the first time and continue to present the request earnestly (until something happens, or until the Spirit changes the way you pray). And you do this in an attitude of “thanksgiving” because you recall the many times that God has answered your prayers in the past. This should give you the confidence to ask boldly – for God is a faithful God who would answer prayers (according to His will)!  Remember also, that you are actually making known your requests and not telling God about it like He doesn’t know; this gives you the confidence that God already knows what’s in your heart; So your role then, is to verbalise your request(s), and to do it ardently, both audibly or inaudibly.

An easier way to understand “guard” is to imagine our hearts (or affections, passions and emotions) safely protected in a castle that has bricks made of God’s peace. The peace of God supersedes all human understanding, garrisons our hearts and protects it in Christ Jesus – what a powerful imagery! It’s not any other peace that will be in our hearts but that which is subjected to the rule and reign of Jesus. This peace is a result of the Holy Spirt that is at work within us.

We pray because we need God’s direction and support in our often misguided and heavy-laden lives. And the result is God’s peace – which is all that we really need. No wonder Paul exhorts us to rejoice in (verse 4)! Finally, the question then, in light of this knowledge, isn’t “Why should we pray?” but “Why shouldn’t we pray?”

the best way to write song lyrics.

My first-ever self-composed song is called “Neighbour” and I wrote it when I was 18, when I barely knew how to play the guitar and with the only four chords that my fingers could press – G, C, D, Em. This simple song was about the Good Samaritan. A couple of years later, I formed a band with present it to my band, and performed it soon after.

I’m not a prolific or an accomplished song writer like DH or SL but I’ve written a number of songs along the way. I’m a lot better with writing words than music and so I always pay greater attention to the lyrics than the melody. In my journey as composer, I’ve written songs themed on falling in and out of love, worship, about my history, current affairs, popular topics and of course, those inspired by scriptures. Over a decade, I realised that songs based on scripture always stand the test of time; these songs are timeless because they’re based on the everlasting Word of God! Hence, I’m inclined to write more spiritual and scriptural songs these days simply because I want my songs to last.

One of my personal favourite scriptural song is “Tears in a Bottle”, which is inspired by Psalm 56. I remember writing it at my place together with RL and we completed it in about an hour. Upon finalisation, we just knew this would be a good song. He was confident of the melody and I, of the lyrics; I had a listen to one of our live recordings recently and it’s strange to say this, but my own song inspired me to draw closer to God! I’d like to attribute it to the combination of these two components – its lyrics speak to your spirit and its melody speaks to your soul. Simply put, it’s a song that ministers!

There are many ways to write a song but in my humble opinion, there’s nothing better than to write a song based on scripture. If the Word of God has lasted all the ages and still continues to speak to people, then I’m confident that a song based on the Word will last for a long time and continue to speak to people after a long time!

TEARS IN A BOTTLE
Psalm 56

V1: Your love is a shelter over my head / In times of fear / The world can destroy my faith today / But I’m not afraid / Many tear me down to see me hurt / They stab me from the back / The ones who wage war against my soul / Oh Lord, please take them away from me

PC1: In Your love, a voice sheds light on me / In Your hope, I hang my portraits of faith on the walls of / My shattered hopes and broken dreams

C: I look at the stars, I gaze at the moon / And marvel at the wonderful You / When I am afraid, I won’t hide my head / I know it’s because You’ve carried me through / Sometimes I’m attacked, sometimes I get scared / But what can mere men do to me? / You watch my footsteps, You carve me a way / Tears in a bottle, You’ll save it for me

V2: My Lord has rescued me from death / When He died on that cross / My shame He bore so willingly / And now I am cured / Countless things I’ve done, I’ve hurt the One / Who sacrificed His Son / And now I realise, I recognise / What a true Friend He really is

PC2: In His love, I’m washed as white as snow / In His hope, I fight the fear of the endless battles / That fiercely rage within my soul

Guitar Solo / Repeat Chorus / Fin.

Words: Joey / Music: Ricky & Joey / 1st Feb 02 / © 2002 FhLY

P/S – I’m silently hoping that this song would make its debut in R-AGE sometime this year and also be featured in the next No One Else album, if we’re gonna produce another.

sermon recap: john the Jesus freak.

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

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

John’s first ministry – Repentance

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

John’s second ministry – Reflection

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

a courage under fire becomes a courage that inspires.

I can’t help but be inspired by the life of Stephen, or the one who is often referred to as the first martyr in of the Christian faith. Stephen’s life spanned across three mere chapters in Acts but the legacy that he left behind for all believers – especially for me – is cemented in history. I imagined the scene unfolding in my mind’s eye as I read the Word of God; at its climax, as my heart pounded at the unveiling of scenes, I somehow felt Stephen’s passion and unwavering belief in the Lord even unto his own innocent death – now that took my breath away! I can’t wait to share my findings with my beloved youths over the weekend. See you at the youth services for the third installment of our Facebook with the Newbies sermon series. Oh Lord, Stephen’s example was riveting, so please help me preach lessons from his life in a manner that’s just as riveting!

The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists in rage. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily upward into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”

Then they put their hands over their ears, and drowning out his voice with their shouts, they rushed at him. They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. The official witnesses took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.

And as they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And he fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.

(Acts 7:54-60, New Living Translation)

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