Sunday, February 28, 2010

But yeah, I think maybe I should take stronger ownership. I guess one reason why I'm reluctant to push harder in my ministry is that I fear being obnoxious... I think I fear imposing on others by being proactive, because to be honest, I feel imposed upon when some people proactively offer feedback. But gee! All distorted.
Overslept for HopeKids again. -_-'''.Feel disappointed with myself. So many things. Looking forwards to the Ripple Conference, 'cos there'll be new changes. God knows I am not doing enough. That I can do far more than I am doing right now. *shakes head*

Was talking with Peter about my plans after completing my internship. Hmm. Again it feels like I'm sailing further away from the comforts of land, and deeper into the unknown ocean. "Alone! alone! all, all, alone, alone in a wide-open sea!" quoth Coleridge's Ancyent Mariner. And I feel like him too. Thank God for Peter's encouragements.

Yes, I have plans and visions. Just not sharing them yet. One step at a time.

Inadequacy in character, inadequacy in attitude, inadequacy in skill, inadequacy in knowledge... dear Lord, what in Your name am I doing here, actually? I just feel awed and so tiny at the vastness of life before me. And I know I'm nothing, less than nothing. But well, little me, BIG YOU. :)

Where You call me to go, I'll go
And where You call me to stay, I'll say
You will be my God
And I will be your son
May nothing, not even life or death, ever separate me from following You
To the ends of the earth - and beyond. Amen.
Had a lovely dinner at Weizhu and Huichun's place just now! KC, Robert and Joy were there too. Delicious pasta - al dente. :D Smashing. And German bratwursts too. And wine. And some exotically soggy fruit dessert that Robert concocted for us...

And we talked abt life and relationships and so on... may God use this fellowship to bring us closer to Him and to one another! Thank God for you all! :D Wonderful seeing such a vibrant and fun community.. and thanks WZ and HC for hosting us at ur place!

Heal The World, One Soul At A Time

On a happier note, I'm finally catching up with my two new friends - Daniele and Wanda, the couple from Europe, tomorrow! :D So glad God gave me the opportunity to connect with them and help them feel welcome. It was just a simple chat (though it took me courage to do so, because they are foreigners and I did feel inadequate due to my accent and my Singaporeanized English...), and the couple really enjoyed talking with me. Very blessed by them too!

Hee. It reminds me that as long as we're willing to step out and connect with people... to make friends with them so that we can share the love of Christ with them through word and deed, God WILL help us. He promised!

Because I remember that when I was in NS, I had to take 1.5 hours ride daily from my home to my workplace. My then-shepherd encouraged me to be more evangelistic, so every morning before I went to work, I would pray that God would use me to reach out to people on the bus. And God actually blessed my efforts! He gave me a very simple but ingenious and natural way to initiate conversations with strangers... ask them for the time! It was made much easier as I didn't wear a watch. I still don't to this day. And out of my outreach during my NS days... I have one bro who came to know Christ and is now in another church, and another bro, Raymond, who is in my church. (He was in WZ's CG before.)

So a lesson from my reflections is that God is able to make use even of my lacks (that is just how powerful and how good He is!), if I have the heart and willingness and the obedience to step out and take the initiative to connect with others to bless them. Not to convert them, for that role belongs to the Holy Spirit. But to make friends with them, because we see them as Jesus does - people who are made in the image of God and worth dying for. To, in Michael Jackson's beautiful song "Heal The World":
 There's a place in your heart 
And I know that it is love
And this place could be much
Brighter than tomorrow.
And if you really try
You'll find there's no need to cry

In this place you'll feel
There's no hurt or sorrow.
There are ways to get there
If you care enough for the living
Make a little space, make a better place. 
Yes, there are ways to get there, if we care enough for the living, if we really try. We can always improve, we can always grow, and we are not perfect definitely. But we have been commissioned already by the Lord Jesus himself in Matthew 28:18-20, so just start today and keep on growing... and going! So let's make a little space for our fellow neighbour (be they local or foreign - all got talent sia), so that we can make this world a better place. Heal the world, one soul at a time! :D
Just heard from Ps Jeff and Lixiong that our team in Chile is ok. Thank God. To be honest, when I first read the news abt the Chilean earthquake (8.8 on the Richter scale! OMG) this morning, I was too busy rushing around, even though I did think about our bros and sisters there. So didn't think of contacting them to see how they are, esp since I know one of them personally as a friend (Jiexian).

Oh dear. It's so easy to be lost in our own little daily lives and business, rushing here and there for my own aims and comfort zones, that I even start forgetting our bros and sisters who are in the frontlines serving the Lord as missionaries - to the point that even when a natural disaster occurs, I forget to ask or even pray for them. SAD.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Peace. :) Thank God for my friend who finally decided to obey Him and take the step to reconcile with me. =) took my friend a lot of humility and courage, but really very touched by this friend's obedience to God. =)

Just sitting here for the past 2 hours thinking about the past 2 years. Amazed at the goodness of God's grace. And His perfect timing. And His leading me through these 2 years. And well, just the fact that I'm really amazed... the sound of peace is wonderful indeed.

Understanding Media Types

Answering the question, "What do I use—and where?"

NOTE: This article appears in the resource The Pastor's Guide to Visual Media.

Sometimes it's strange to think about the church media landscape of the past—as I was growing up, it was a rare thing for the pastor to mention a film in a sermon, much less show a film clip or a video illustration. PowerPoint was for corporate gatherings only (aside from some awful high school speeches I took part in), and I'd never heard of anything called "MediaShout." Maybe my church was a late adopter, but I think it was probably more normal than we might remember.

Think about your own church's past—fifteen, ten, even five years ago. Would there have been a ripple of recognition if you'd talked about starting a media ministry? Would people have known what you were talking about when you discussed the resolution of the new projector you'd just asked for? Would you have gotten anything other than a blank stare if you started waxing eloquent on the merits of HD versus SD?

The point is not to criticize any church community for being "behind the times." Far from it—in fact, it would be remarkable for a church of any size to have kept up with the day-by-day changes to technology and media terminology. So if you're just starting to explore the possibility of a media ministry, how are you even supposed to know what kinds of videos exist, much less where to use them?

Fortunately, there are some fairly intuitive uses for the myriad of video genres out there. I'd like to look at five different video types and give some tips and suggestions for how you might incorporate these into your services, church functions, or programs.

Still Photos

Still images may be the most versatile pieces of media you can incorporate into your service. They can be used almost anywhere—as backgrounds for song lyrics, as still displays of art or graphics, as meditative backdrops for communion, or even as thoughtful and peaceful reflections during times of prayer and silent worship. Consider also using them as sermon illustrations—remember, still images connect to the audience in a more tangible way than an oral description of an image does. Our emotions are engaged when an image is shown to us; while sometimes it may be more appropriate to describe an image (especially if you're making an abstract point), showing an image is often a powerful complement to your sermon, lesson, or program.

Also think about using still images to evoke a mood. If you're presenting a drama taking place in a common household, display images common to a house in your context—this might vary wildly from community to community, but using an image in this way establishes an immediate emotional connection with the audience.

Above all, use still images when you want people to be drawn in emotionally but not overwhelmed by moving imagery. Static photos and artistic renderings are perfect for mood-setting and quiet reflection.

Worship Backgrounds 
These types of videos are backdrops that are meant to be used behind other types of media. So, they often contain a lot of negative space to put words, music, or other images on top of them. An important thing to remember about worship backgrounds is that many of them have a specific rhythm, so be careful to match them with whatever your purpose. You don't want to marry a deeply exegetical sermon or a time of meditative prayer to a frenetic motion backdrop. Instead, focus on finding something that moves in a way that establishes an emotional tone that will aid your purpose.


This is the media type that seems the most obvious at first—however, not all PowerPoints are made equal! The best kind of PowerPoint presentation is one that fades into the background and fits together so seamlessly that people don't think about the fact they're looking at a presentation. Therefore: Stay away from crazy transitions! And give as much thought to the fonts you put over the slide backgrounds as to the background themselves. Again, the goal is for it to look put together and polished—not ragged enough that people notice its flaws.


At first glance, loops seem almost the same thing as worship backgrounds. But there is a subtle difference: While loops can be worship backgrounds, they don't have to be. The uniqueness of loops is that they don't have to provide space for font or overlying images. Loops are videos that are literally moving pictures—essentially a camera recorded some kind of scene that can be repeated over and over again fairly seamlessly.

Use loops in the same way you would use a still image, but keep in mind that the effects of a still image are heightened by a loop because the picture is moving. So a still photo of a calm wheat field might not evoke as much serenity as a loop of the same field where the wheat moves and sways gently in the wind. Conversely, the image of a busy city street is heightened when the cars, buses, and people are actually rushing as much as they do in real life (or more, if you want to speed up the loop when you show it). As with still photos, remember that loops are best used to inspire emotion in your audience, and to set a tone that they—consciously or subconsciously—will respond to.

Video Clips

The most important thing to remember is that video clips are not the same thing as traditional, spoken sermon illustrations. These two sermon complements relate in that they both have a narrative, but they differ in that video clips show a story instead of telling it. This gives clips both drawbacks and huge opportunities. First, the primary difficulty: It's hard (but not impossible) to communicate any kind of significantly abstract point because it's much easier to lose your audience to a video clip than with an engrossing story.

However, video clips offer huge opportunities to connect with the audience on an emotional level. Video is naturally geared toward telling stories in a powerful visual medium, and these stories have emotional resonance beyond oral story-telling. If you're able to show a story about grace, with characters, a script, and video settings that seem natural, the narrative connects with the audience on an entirely different level than an intellectually rigorous exposition of grace might. It's a fine line to walk—it's very easy to let video clips slip into manipulation, because your audience will be engaged with the clips at a raw, emotional level. However, if you can identify that ahead of time and make sure you're using the media to create a mood that will serve your audience (instead of allowing your audience—and you!—to be controlled by the video), it's a powerful tool that you should use.

Hopefully this helps as you try to sort through the constantly-shifting and myriad options of church media. Be creative in your use of each media type—don't assume that just because something says "background" that you have to use it as a backdrop to lyrics, or because it says "loop" that you have to repeat it endlessly. Have fun with each type of visual and explore ways that each can shape and shift your sermon, program, or praise and worship time. Above all, be intentional with how you use them, and they will serve you well as you tell your story.

  1. Are we successfully using various types of visual media?
  2. What other type of media would work in our services?
  3. Focus on two or three of the media types. How can you use these to connect with your audience?

Creating an Inspiring Documentary

The right planning in each phase of production can make the perfect video. [article]

NOTE: This article appears in the resource Telling True Stories with Video.

Short documentary videos have become the replacement for Aunt Hilda's two-hour vacation slide show: Interesting for the first 30 seconds, but then nothing but pain. This is because these videos are often created for the people being filmed, not the viewing audience.

A typical example is a 12-minute summary from a mission trip that includes an audio track of indigenous peoples singing, with long quotes about how important this trip was with all sorts of images that give small glimpses into what the team actually did. This video may serve the participants in the trip, but please don't subject me to it—it's lazy communication and could be so much more.

This article will help walk you through the processes of pre-production, production, and post-production as you make a short documentary that will engage your audience and serve your church.


In most church settings, conflict is a negative word. We think of people arguing or churches splitting. But in film and video, it's what keeps a viewer's interest and it need not be defined so parochially. By giving some careful thought in pre-production to the topic of conflict, you can communicate much more about your chosen topic.

Let's use the mission trip example again. Filmable conflict can be found in the internal tension people feel as they leave their own culture and enter another one. Conflict can be found in the assumptions that team members had about the trip. Conflict can be found in the team's reaction to an unimaginable situation. Conflict can be found in the story of a young girl your team meets who was forced into bonded labor. Conflict is all around us and it is what keeps our interest as we watch any piece of visual communication.

When I begin a new project, I outline what I think are the potential conflicts that I want to communicate. At times this is very easy to translate to screen. One project involved documenting the reaction Americans had while visiting Kenyans who lived in a slum. This was fairly easy. I interviewed the Americans about what assumptions they had, I followed them as they traveled through the slum, and then I interviewed them afterward to get their responses. To make it complete, I should have also interviewed the Kenyans who hosted the Americans, but time did not allow for that.

Other conflicts are not as easy to capture. Take the assignment of traveling to Bangalore, India, to create a short piece on globalization. Globalization is a word that elicits all sorts of conflict in people, but how do you capture that without just having people say, "I like globalization" or "I hate globalization?" I decided to try to embody the conflict in the stories of two women, both of whom lived just outside Bangalore in a rural community. One talked about how globalization has helped increase property values. Another woman took us around her farm and explained how the growth of the city meant less water for her farm and while she might be able to sell her land, that money would only go so far. I had my conflict.

As you begin to develop your documentary, your task is to identify the potential conflicts and figure out a way to communicate them.

If you get a group of filmmakers together, the conversation at some point will turn to equipment and technique. After arguing about 24p and 60i frame rates, one participant will boldly proclaim, as if it is an original idea, "It doesn't matter what equipment you use, just how you tell the story."

While there certainly is truth to this sentiment, sometimes this idea lets people off the hook. Technique matters. Audiences are too versed in visual communication to just "let things slide." Besides, if visual technique didn't matter, why not just write an article?

This does not mean that being a professional is a prerequisite for creating compelling documentaries. However, it does mean that we must treat carefully the images we put on tape or disk.

Here are some pointers to give your documentary more technical weight:
  • Use a tripod. Your hands are not as steady as you think they are.
  • Spend money on good audio. The difference between an $800 camcorder and a $1300 one is not as great as the difference between using the onboard mic and a nice wireless unit.
  • Think about lights. $40 spent at a hardware store to buy shop lights to bounce off the ceiling can go a long way.
  • Keep shooting. When you think you have enough footage, shoot more. Tape is cheap.
  • Learn to use your camera in manual mode. This might take some time, but by taking control of focus, iris, white balance, and shutter speed, you will find that you produce more consistently good images.
Production is not just about technical concerns. It also involves making creative decisions that will serve your message. Here are some pointers to help you make good creative decisions:
  • Try to avoid multi-tasking. If you are the director, audio mixer, and camera operator, your work will probably suffer. If at all possible, try to get people to help you so you can focus on developing the story of the documentary. Besides, filmmaking is most fun when it is collaborative.
  • Think about your interviews as you shoot. If the subject talks about the opening of 10 new Starbucks in town, make sure you get some footage of a new Starbucks.
  • Don't try to remember it: Write it down. I have been burned too many times by this. I always carry a pen and a small Moleskine notebook.
  • Mix up your interviews. Do some sit-down traditional style interviews, but also consider doing some on-the-fly interviews. As you leave an event, quickly ask someone, "What did you just experience?" or "How are you feeling about it?"
After you've identified your conflict and captured your images, you can begin to piece your story together. After transcribing all my interviews, I start to highlight useful quotes. I look for two things: quotes that are descriptive ("We walked 2 miles through the slum to our new friend's home") and quotes that are interpretive ("I couldn't believe that a family could live in such a small shack"). As I begin to piece together the timeline in my editing software, both types of quotes serve me well.

As I edit, I try to think musically. If you listen to a great melody, it's not all fast notes. There are pauses and rests, moments where notes are held and then moments where the music soars. That is my goal as I edit. Ultimately, editing is helping the story to rise to the surface. All editorial decisions about music, style, and graphics must first serve the story and the goal of the documentary.

So there you have it. By doing some careful planning in pre-production, committing yourself to technical development over time in production, and thinking creatively in post-production, you can begin to develop short documentary pieces that will inform, challenge, and maybe even inspire your congregation.

— Nathan Clarke is a filmmaker and consultant. He works for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's twentyonehundred productions. He also runs his own filmmaking outfit, Fourth Line Films, and is interested in creating films about what happens when faith and culture collide. He can be reached at—feel free to contact him with further questions or check out his blog on filmmaking at

  1. How do we meet the planning criteria Nathan lays out? How can we improve?
  2. How can we make sure our videos don't become "Aunt Hilda's vacation slide show"?
  3. Do we think "musically" during post-production? What lessons can we draw from Nathan's examples during post-production?

Thursday, February 25, 2010



Thank God so much. Heard a great testimony from Joyce just now! It encourages me very much for two reasons: (i) our prayers for others, even those whispered ones that don't seem very powerful even though you've prayed as sincerely as you could, can and do make a big difference, and (ii) God really is able to work far beyond our normal human logic and practical sense.

As long as He promised it, it's practical enough for us to claim it!

"Is anything too hard for the LORD?"

"Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"

=D Am so wowed by the powerful grace and love of God. Even if we struggle to have faith... and our faith is so small, like a mustard seed... well, that's good enough for Jesus to bless.

Hallelujah! For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!

Show and Tell In The Workplace

Haven't really blogged about my workplace, and what it's like. But honestly, it's really a very nice place, because of the people there. My boss is very nice, and quite philosophical in a way. She even met the Dalai Lama to do a personal interview with him! So cool, right? :)

Anyway, we just found out that one of our colleagues has received a new job offer. But our dear colleague was actually quite sad, even though she got her new job. In fact, she was getting teary-eyed when telling the news to our boss, because she knows that she will miss us all. So our boss assured her that it's ok, life's a journey. In fact you should be happy that you get to explore new fields. And our colleague said that she really wished in a way that she didn't have to move on. But my boss replied that she's really glad that my colleague can move on to better fields... my boss sees her company as a field for whoever comes under her care as a place for them to learn new things, be equipped and move on.

Inspired by my boss. Because she sees a higher calling to her work than just profitability. She sees it as a people-development field. :) She even lent me a book about discovering and developing your passions.

So I thought about it. Whether it's ministry or marketplace, ultimately, how do we see our work? As duties, as obligations? Or as opportunities... not only opportunities to tell the good news to others, but also to help others discover and develop their talents, for example? So that people can see that Christians are walking harbingers not of doom, but of bloom, by infusing the aroma of Christ in the workplace? :) And also in ministry, as team leaders, do our ministries focus only on getting tasks done, or are they done with a higher vision in mind - to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up? To help train and develop them in Christlikeness, so that they may desire to bring glory to God and be able to do so?

We're all walking movie trailers of the Greatest Story Ever Told. Will people want to know more about the Greatest Story after watching us? Oooh. Awesome calling... God, help me live up to what You want for my life!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Just as I am, though tossed about
with many a conflict, many a doubt,
fighting within and fears without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
What I can do, do. What I can be, be. What I cannot do, let God do. And what I cannot be - God, help me.
No power in sky's above or in earth's below
Shall ever stop the rolling away of Christ's tombstone
Nor ever clot the cleansing blood that flows
From God's greatest expression of love - Christ alone.

Monday, February 22, 2010

just got to know this life coach in starbucks. v interesting..."Growing is a process." just like wat my shep said. =)
Romans 8
26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.

28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
2 Cor 1:3-11
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

8We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

How Deep The Father's Love...

hello God it's me again. yup.

just feeling burnt-out i guess. yup.

stress of struggling against my perfectionism. and my fears. and trying to get productive work done, and the internal frustration when you just can't seem to translate your creative conceptualization to fruition.

i think it's bcos i feel a lot of pressure on a lot of sides - whether it's from work or ministry. and i NEED time to plan and strategise... but gee, i also have to be with my team to do the actual scriptwriting and groundwork... and then there's the freelance websites to be done...

and oh, DMM. discipleship training. just feel so inadequate in understanding. while everyone else is talking about planning structures and so on... i don't know why, these things just go over my head. i mean... i just feel redundant honestly. it's a good opportunity to learn, i know... but gee... i have the fear that when i put up suggestions... they'll get critiqued from every angle, and i'll have to explain every side to cover their concerns. it's very draining. so i'd rather keep quiet.

i feel stressed, also bcos i know i ought to have a greater heart for ppl... to observe them more... i mean... i do... but ... honestly... what can i do?

God knows i have done my best, and my best is not good enough for men.

so many emotions and stresses whirling around.

please don't get me wrong. i respect my teammates and my leaders. they're fantastic! so fantastic in fact, that it's just that i feel totally outclassed. i'm too slow to think in groups and discuss and so on. actually i'm just too slow for everyone. i am so majorly discouraged. what is the use of me?

the thing is, all these things are interlinked with one another. i don't have time to plan and think ahead bcos of my stress in trying to come up with a good piece of work. and as a result i don't have time or energy to plan things early for my drama team. and also, i don't have time or energy to plan for my sheep. or to think abt my CG and care for them.

and today i overslept and missed service. missed having breakfast with andrew as well. and the feeling of having missed so many things made me feel even more tired.

i'm just tired, Lord. I'm just tired. really want to talk with my shepherd about all these.

but even there upon my bed of melancholy, God was still there.
Psalm 139:7-8
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

He gently woke me up just in time for adults service - and that was after i had missed hopekids service. i prayed and apologised to God for missing the hopekids service even tho i had done my best to let my team know in advance beforehand. and He spoke these words to me: "Cast all your anxieties upon Me, because I care for you." So tuoched... and then i fell asleep again. and woke up and found that i was in danger of completely missing the service. still felt very tired and down, so knelt down to pray... and fell asleep again. when i woke up, it was lunchtime alr. so talked w God and remembered that He does understand. and He actually cares for me. He's not a performance-driven God who will be pleased with me only if I do things right. He's not even that kind of God who will just tolerate me if I fail... no, when i fail.

No lingering disapproval of me as a person... No, He's a Father. Yes, He'll challenge and exhort me to give my best. Yes, He'll make a man out of me. Yes, He'll discipline me if needed... and He'll push me... and then push me off - to help me fly. And upon eagles' wings will He bear me. and when i've done the best that i could do... and failed by human standards... He is still there by my bedside, tenderly watching over me even as i sleep in exhaustion. He gently wakes me up after each service that i've missed, encouraging me to get up and move on. Yet He didn't compel me with guilt... He is not a harsh martinet, a strictly-by-the-rules God. He is my Daddy, who cares for me.

Actually, I really don't know how I know all this or can be so confident. (Besides the fact that the Bible says so.) But I do know that God was caring for me today. Compassion. And ah! there's this verse that explains exactly why I know that God was watching over me the way a good father would care:
Romans 8:15-17
"15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. 17Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Amen. :) Hee. "Only when one has been hungry does he know how good bread truly tastes." (An old Romanian proverbs.)

Ok. Time to get up and clearing whatever I can clear tonight. *Sigh* Father, help me with the week ahead. Amen.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Of Planes and Plans

I need to write down a concrete 3-years plan soon for the drama/creative team ministry! Succession planning... what else... vision casting... gosh. I can't believe I'm actually starting to want to plan! And to think Hanhui kept leaning on me to start doing a 5-years plan, like... 5 years ago. Hohoho.

Nope, my 5-years plans 5 years ago is so not happening today. And thank God that these plans of mine didn't come to pass. Because God had planned something better for me (Heb 11:40a). And His plans are so way beyond what I or my leaders could even dare to dream of. (1 Cor 2:9). Too beautiful to imagine... but I have seen His too-beautiful-to-imagine plans actually come to pass in my life! So awed, and so grateful, and so humbled, even up to today. :D

So was it a waste of time to plan then?

No! In fact, that's precisely why I'm so glad I did my 5-years plan, even though almost everything in my 5-years plan 5 years ago failed to come to pass. Because... all my limited human plans served to amplify and magnify the even more amazing plans that God has in store for me.

Like how a man-made space shuttle looks really huge by human standards... but when put next to the Sun... man, oh man, only then can we humans begin to start understanding just how huge the God-made Sun really is.

BTW, to put this into perspective, remember that the shuttle was about 150 million kilometers (93 million miles) away from the sun when the photos were taken. Still not feeling small yet? :)

And yet...even the God-made Sun is but a mere shadow in the light of God's own Son:
The sun cannot compare
To the glory of Your love
There is no shadow in Your presence
No mortal man would dare
To stand before Your throne
Before the Holy One of heaven
It's only by your blood
And it's only by your mercy
Lord, I come...
Isn't this such a beautiful truth, freely available to all who would call upon the Father with child-like faith? Isn't this enough to bring tears to your eyes and your heart? That God would so love us, that He gave His one and only Son? That to believe in Him, we will not only not perish, but also have life everlasting?

Planning turns out to be like a small kid trying to make a toy plane one fine day. He achingly agonizes over each detail in the construction, fingers fumbling with each delicate component. He carefully glues each joint... and then after a few seconds of triumphant admiration, he takes his model plane, and tosses it into the air. Yes, it flies... for half a second. And it breaks up into more pieces than when it originally came in the box. The little boy groans in dismay.

Then, his dad, who is an aircraft engineer, sees the whole thing. He smiles, and takes his son's hand. "Come with me son. I just made a plane that is like yours!" The son is ecstatic. "Really, Daddy? How big is your plane?"

"Oh, bigger than you can ever imagine!"

"Can it fly?"

"You bet it does!"

"Oooh! Daddy! Show me now!"

So the father takes his son into the hangar... and the son's eyes open wide in awe. Right before his innocent eyes is the first real live plane that he's ever seen. Dad asks his son: "Want to fly in my plane?"


And to the son's utter delight... his dad taxis the plane down the runway... and then turns on the jet engines. Whoooosh.... ROAR. The son is awe-struck. For him, this is no longer a plane... it is a majestic fiery phoenix, screaming with a voice shriller than anything he's ever heard. And it suddenly roars down the runway, screaming with exultant, flame-spitting glee. It spreads its wings, swiftly leaps off and then hurls itself forwards towards the sun-mottled clouds. Now the son is a Na'vi brave, riding a fiercely proud Toruk. He is no longer bound to earth's surly bonds - he is now a brave sky-warrior, touching the very face of God.

But before he can fully absorb everything, his dad lands the plane safely. And the son is disappointed, brought back to earth. But his disappointment melts away, as his dad grins and ruffles his son's hair.

"How was it, son?"

"Dad... YOU ARE AWESOME! Teach me, I want to make planes fly like you can do!"

Yup. :) Hope this little story helps you see the awe and wonder that I am feeling, when I see how even though my little scale models that barely pass off for a plan - this experience of struggling to plan actually helps me to appreciate all the more the Master's skill and wisdom in conceptualizing, designing and executing His amazing, life-sized plans.

Yup! So let's begin to plan today... that we may be able to see and appreciate what God has planned! Let's prepare to be totally awed and humbled by God's perfect wisdom... as we partner with Him in reaching out to the whole wide world! Amen!

Ephesians 3:14-21
For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ministry Dreams

"I have so much business, I can not get on without spending three hours daily in prayer." - Martin Luther
Thinking about ministry while I'm trying to finish some work. And listening to the Hallelujah chorus too. =)

But more seriously... I've been assessing how I'm doing ministry. One thing I realise about ministry, especially operations ministry, is how easy it is to just focus on the process of serving and forget the purpose of why we serve.

I remember there was this brother, Ward, who was one of William Carey's missions teammates in India in the 19th century. He was in charge of maintaining the printing presses so needed for printing gospel tracts and Bibles. Basically, he was the "new media geek" / the techie of his time... but he didn't just see himself as the guy who has to do the printing. No, he saw a higher glory in what he was doing:
"God has given me, a man less than the least of all the saints, the grace that I should print for the heathens the unsearchable riches of Christ!"
Imagine how this would transform operations ministries, if I started thinking more from God's viewpoint. To print nothing less than the unsearchable riches of Christ. To convey the unsearchable riches of Christ through new media. Through drama. Through sound. Through MM. Through ushering. Through video... anything and everything for His glory! "...all things were created by him and for him..." (Colossians 1:16b)

So I'm thinking about the directions and where we are going in terms of the drama/creative team ministry. God knows how far we have to go... what is the vision for the team? How does each team member see his purpose in this team? How can I be more intentional in discipling (not disciplining!) my fellow team-mates? How can we aim for excellence?

And honestly, I am so limited in terms of aiming for excellence. But I must remember to aim for God's standards, not men's standards when it comes to excellence. To please the Lord in all that I do. I know I struggle every day with punctuality. Man. Been struggling with punctuality even from the day I was born... literally. Born late, talked late (started talking only when I was 4 or 5 years old), grew up late, last to finish my work in class, last to hand in... teachers chasing me for late homework even since primary school... (Amazing. How did I ever make it into RI and RJC and NUS? I think God really loves me. :P Totally by grace alone...)

So God giving me strength, He'll help me also find a way to maximise my strengths in creativity and writing and seeing the big picture too. But yeah, I'm just His servant. So amazed to see how God can use even someone like me, less than the least of all God's people, to actually lead and inspire a team... totally Christ in me and not I, but Jesus Christ, the hope of glory. So God, so not me. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! and the Lord God omnipotenteth shall reign for-ever and ever...

Anyway, think one important step I need to take is to get my team to spend at least 15 minutes in prayer first before we start planning. And I need to start recruiting and canvassing for more scriptwriting volunteers too! Ha... not easy, not easy. And I begin to appreciate the other operations ministry leaders even more - their work in the Lord really is not easy at all! :)

Ah. Remember Hong Teck's advice. Aim for multiplication of strengths! Gotta refer to his advice again. :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Lot of Incoming Work

Isaiah 33:2
O LORD, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.

A Small-Group Leader's Most Important Job

The most important dimension of leading a group is your prayer life—your connection to God as a leader.

A Small-Group Leader's Most Important Job

You can benefit from the surprising results of extensive research on small groups.
  |  posted 2/15/2010
Topics:ApprenticeGroup leaderNew leaderPrayerPreparation
Filters:ApprenticeGroup LeaderNew leaderTrain
References:Mark 12:28-32John 15:5
Date Added:February 15, 2010
Note: This article has been excerpted from the The Small-Group Apprentice Orientation Guide.
A religious expert wanting to cut through the confusion of 613 Old Testament statutes came to Jesus and asked, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" Jesus gave his famous reply, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (Mark 12:28-32).
Like the scribe who came to Jesus, I was a confused small-groups expert just a few years back. I kept hearing advice from a plethora of small-group authors and speakers, each promoting different methods and models. All of them were confident and persuasive, but their contradictory theories couldn't all be right. Someone needed to do cut through the confusion by doing serious, scientific research on what really creates healthy, growing small groups. We needed to look past the models to discover the key underlying principles.
I wanted to get to the bottom of things. I wanted an answer to the question, "What's the most important part of leading a small group?" I completed a Ph.D. degree and did extensive statistical research involving over 3,000 small-group leaders in more than 200 churches to probe that question, and the answer I found was surprisingly simple.
The most important dimension of leading a group is your prayer life—your connection to God as a leader.
What You Do in Secret
Along with my research partner—Dwight Marable, director of Missions International—I probed hundreds of items, asking questions about group dynamics, leadership behaviors, and group meetings. But the highest correlations to small-group health and growth were to the unseen dimensions of a group leader's relationship with God. Out of the hundreds of questions we asked, the leaders' answers to the following questions yielded the most pivotal results:
  • How consistently do you take time for prayer and Bible reading?
  • Are you praying daily for your non-Christian friends to come to know Jesus?
  • How many days in the past week did you pray for your small-group members?
  • Do you pray for your group meetings in the days leading up to it?
  • How much time on average do you spend in daily prayer and Bible reading?
The leaders whose answers revealed a strong relationship with God had groups that were healthier and faster growing. These groups experienced a deeper level of care between members, had a clearer sense of mission beyond their group, and produced more leaders and new groups.
However, the research revealed that the biggest difference a strong prayer life makes comes in the evangelistic effectiveness of a small group. One question that we asked group leaders was how many people had come to Christ through the influence of their group or group members in the past nine months. The contrast between leaders with a strong prayer life and a weak prayer life was startling.
Eighty-three percent of leaders with a strong prayer life reported that at least one person had come to Jesus through the influence of their group, whereas only 19 percent of leaders with a weak prayer life could say the same. It didn't surprise us that leaders with a growing relationship with God had groups that were bringing more people to Christ, but it was shocking how much of a difference it makes. Leaders with a strong prayer life have groups that, on average, have more than four times the evangelistic impact as groups led by leaders with a weak prayer life.