Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I was starting to feel a bit down again about my past failures at work, even though my boss, being very nice and understanding, assured me that she didn't hold anything against me for my mistakes, but wanted to help me learn. Yep, I've learnt from these things, and she even praised me for some good initiative that I took yesterday. :) (thanks Elvis for praying for me! :D)

I felt rather discouraged, because of the fact that the damage was already done in a sense, even though I could move on and learn from it.

So I was talking to God as I walked off for lunch. I shared with Him my fears and sadness... when He reminded me about the sermon on Sunday: Jesus restoring Peter.

And He said clearly, "That's why this sermon is for you too."

Wow. :D Touched. Because I was asking God on Sunday, how does the sermon apply to me in my current circumstances? I know that it would have been a great comfort to me 5 years ago, but now, with the blessings of being used by God to lead without a title, and also a very clear calling and experiencing God... I wonder how so does this sermon about restoration apply to me, or any believer who has moved on already?

I realised that we who are stronger by God's grace, and have even experienced restoration in the past personally and are experiencing a wonderful time of God's closeness and goodness - we need this sermon just as much as the brother who is struggling with regrets and remorse over his sins and failures.

Because... sooner or later, we who dance on the mountaintops will inevitably be reminded of our failures. And we being pattern-prone humans, are bound to make the same mistakes again and again, even if they get less and less severe. Like a series of nukes where the mushroom cloud gets downsized. But the fallout is always there, no matter how small you have managed to make your 'nuke'.

So Jesus' words speak to those on the mountaintop just as much as those in the valley. Restoration is meant to be an everyday thing, because we WILL fail again and again, and it's never a pleasant thing to fail, especially when it's a character issue e.g. slacking, anger, lust, and so on.

But He asks us again, "Do you love me?" And when we confess that, yes, we do love Him though we fail Him so many times, He sends us back into the playing field again, no matter how many goals we've let through - even those own goals.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hope, the Virtue

Hope is one of the Great Virtues in life. It is not a teddy bear nor a crutch - it is bedrock, a sure foundation to build & rebuild your life on. And we practice the virtue of hope not in dissipated, dead-end daydreaming, but by choosing to invest in what we know can be done - and is worth doing.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

And it's so touching. Right now, I don't have any official shepherd now during this transition period (but I am very blessed to be able to chat with Peter anytime when needed, and of course, my buddies too). But as Hong Teck quipped, "God is your new shepherd!" Haha. Funny lah. But in the meantime, HT reminded me that it's not the 'structure' that's so important. "We don't do organized religion. It's the relationship with God that counts. And people too. In this caregroup, we all will take care of you, and you too help to take care of us."

When I mulled over what he said, I realised that this is a new kind of discipleship level. You know that in our discipleship conference, we learnt about a spiritual newborn, to a spiritual child, to a disciple, and to a disciplemaker. 

Well, I met up with Yufen on Saturday night, and she shared with me that she learnt from one of Edmund Chan's books (a pastor from another church - CEFC? I'm not sure right now) about yet another level of discipleship: CO-LABOURERS with Christ.

It struck me that hey! in this HopeKids CG, this ministry caregroup, we're all co-labourers. :) Thought about it. We have a great structure for discipleship. But ultimately, like the stick for a grapevine, the scaffolding for a building, the gantries for a rocket, all these structures were meant to fall away when the time is right.

It shouldn't be the case that if we're not told to take care of someone, then we don't take care. That's one rather unfortunate side-effect that could happen if we're not intentional in our disciplemaking. We have the shepherding system, so that we can have the opportunity to catch the heart of a shepherd, and learn the skills needed. So that wherever we go later on, disciplemaking will be an integral part of our nature as disciples of Christ. Everywhere we go, we can't but help make disciples, in the same way that a physically mature adult can't help but make babies if the conditions are right. Hmm. That sounds rather... haha. But yeah! =)
Thank You Father. :) For such a sweet & blessed weekend, esp with Robert, Weizhu, Jon, Yufen and Spencer. And the time with the little ones again today, and the lunch with Hong Teck haha. But I think more important than all these was the quiet time with You in the evening.

You know, it's been such a long time since I really spent quality time with You. I realise that what my soul really needed during this time was not a "structure" in the sense of going through my daily Bible readings, or even praying... but just being still in Your presence, and just enjoying Your creation. To gaze upon what You have made and to know that You are God.

It's like what David wrote in Psalm 23. That You are my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. :) Yeah. And You know, I really felt so touched when I found myself just starting to talk with You like a man does with his friend. I remember Ps Jeff preaching last time in his 'Drawing Near to God' series, about having a 'Starbucks' moment with You - you know, the table of showbread that symbolised the communion of fellowship in Your presence? :) Yeah, that one. Haha.

But yes! I was talking with You... and then I just felt Your voice speaking to me. It's so strange. That I can't hear Your voice audibly in the normal sense, yet I sensed it strongly. A gentle whisper. I recognized it as Your voice, like how You spoke to me the other times. And of course, when You spoke to Elijah the prophet too, it was in a soft gentle whisper. :)

So we chatted... when You then asked me, "How are you, Yeu Ann?" It was that kind of gentle tone that means You really want to know how I've been and what I've been up to. I went, "Lord, surely You know, don't You? You know all things, after all!"

And You said, "Yes, I know how you are, and what you've been doing. But... I want to hear it straight from you. From your mouth. I want to hear you sharing it to me personally. :)" Wow. Felt so touched, that I teared. That You, O Sovereign Lord, even though You know all things, that You know the names of all the stars in all the galaxies of the universe... should actually want to know how I am? What is yeu ann, that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him?


Yeah. So I shared with You, and I realised that I had a hard time expressing how I felt. But You gently prompted me with a couple of questions (like how Peter would also ask me questions when I got stuck), so that I could answer more deeply. And yes, You assured me that You are with me, and reminded me of what You have promised in Your Word. And I was amazed when You told me that You not only put me in the workplace to learn and train me... You also put me in the office to be a comfort and a support to a couple of my colleagues. :) Wow. I didn't see it that way before. But yes, I am Your servant... to those who love You, You encourage and comfort. Blessed be Your name!

Hmm yeah. Then of course, You know what the next thing was on my mind. So haha, I found it very funny when You asked me some of the questions that You asked me. But thanks for listening, Father! It really encourages me. And yes, I shall be patient. :) I am so grateful that You really know what is dear to my heart, and You do see - You are the God Who Sees, after all. And thankful too that Yufen, when she listened to what I had shared in my prayer request, understood what I meant, and prayed. It really makes a difference. So I pray that You grant me the peace that surpasses all understanding. Peace! :)

So thank You Father. I just want to say it's been such a great time hearing from You personally... and wow, You are truly humble and gentle in heart, and I have found rest for my soul. You are my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. And thank You, Father, for being my dearest friend. Thank You for sending Your Son Jesus to save me from my sins. Thank You so much Father. :D In Jesus' most precious name I pray amen. :)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The End of Men

Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences.

A very heart-aching article (for me personally). :) You know, I have two female colleagues who are quite disrespectful towards me - maybe because I'm soft-spoken, but recently with the encouragement of my other colleagues, taken a stand to be gentle but assertive. But yes, food for thought - what are your thots abt it? To what extent is this valid in Singapore? And more importantly, how could the church respond to strengthen men in general?

Personally, I believe the natural order, as ordained by God, is that man was created to lead, provide for and to protect the woman, while the woman will nurture, support and give birth to more men. A beautiful partnership. Both were equal in their importance, though the man was to be the head... to feminists out there, just because the head is, well, the head, doesn't make the body any less important. I mean, if you remove the head from the body, both won't function very well after that. :P However, the Bible shows us that after Adam sinned and fell, he started pushing the blame onto the woman, and the woman would end up trying to please the man and having pains in childbirth.

I think the church should, against all protests of the world, be a healthy place where both men and women can be what God created them to be, yet having a blessed equality - we are all one in Christ, yet the wife submits to the husband as a model of the church's submission to Christ, and the husband loves the wife as Christ loves the church. So we need to guard against the worldly ideas of feminism, and be courageously counter-cultural, in setting an example for the world to show how gentlemanly the brothers can be to the sisters - being servant-leaders to them, while the sisters can take the lead in supporting. Such a beautiful interplay of mutual servanthood...

I see a beautiful example in my brother-in-law. Everytime my sister goes out, he will kneel down to tie her shoelaces. Obviously my sister is more than capable of tying her own shoelaces, yet she submits to my brother-in-law's initiative by allowing him to serve her, while of course my brother-in-law shows macho servanthood by kneeling down to tie her shoelaces. Such a beautiful model for me to see! :)

As for me, haha, with my disrespectful colleagues, God reminded me that He is a mighty warrior, and when there's a time to take a stand, He will help me stand firm and put them in their right places. =) But yeah, need wisdom and discernment for the right time... and meanwhile, praying.

So I also thought about God. I think He shows us how to be men - and how being a real man demonstrates to the world a certain aspect of God's Personness. And how being a real woman demonstrates the glory of a beautiful Church. Still, I find this a mystery far too deep to grasp fully, as Paul said. But well, just stand and admire the beauty of two genders.

(Why did God create TWO genders, anyway? Why not one or three or multiple?)

It gave me a good insight into God's patience too. We often demand that God work faster. But sometimes God is more patient than we deserve. He deliberately holds back and let us insult Him, even though He has every right to destroy us. (That's why I admire Kim Leong's heart so much - that he does respect and fear God as God.) He even let us crucify Him, because He knew that we did not know what we were doing.

But to those who know already, God doesn't mince His words nor His deeds. "It is mine to avenge; I will repay." The tender heart of a caring Father, with the wings of a mother hen gathering her chicks... but also the fearsome and awful wrath of a holy God, trampling sinners like grapes in the mashing-pit, full of blood. Because He will fight to the death (and He did) to defend those He loves, and those who hate Him and will fight against Him, He warns, warns and warns yet again - till the point of utter rebellion. A powerful and mighty Father God fighting for His flock with the fury and ferocity of a mother defending her children from slaughter. Wow. Again and again, I marvel at how a father and mother can, when combined, demonstrate so powerfully - though it be but a mere shadow - the perfect wholeness of a thrice-holy God. Blessed be the LORD God Almighty, King of Kings and Lord of Lord, and the Shepherd of our souls - blessed be the triune God - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, world without end! =) (Hee, sorry to get all so doxological here =D but yeah, true, true, isn't it?)

Friday, June 25, 2010

I met up with a dear bro over lunch today. Dehua and I had brought him to Christ in his first year, during our NUS days. He joined the Navigators, and then after that, joined Covenant Evangelical Free Church (the Bukit Panjang branch) with his wife.

So C (the bro) and I caught up over lunch. We shared about our lives and what'd been going on. Gosh. About three years since we really caught up! But as he shared, I was so encouraged by how God has grown his faith from strength to strength.

C: "I've been really very joyful. More joyful than the past two years."

me: "Wow! Really? Tell me more!"

So he shared. A couple of years ago, his father had died without coming to know Christ, despite C's best efforts and prayers. So C was shaken and dismayed and very affected. He took two years to get over his grief, but thank God his girlfriend (who is now his wife :D) encouraged and prayed together with him. And now he's more joyful and deeper in his walk with God than ever before.

He shared with me other testimonies, e.g. how God had provided for him at the right times in his studies (he started up his own software company), and how God even helped him get into the Masters programme even though he hadn't gotten honours (his NUS grades weren't good, I guess, in part due to his ministry involvement in the Navigators).

So encouraged again to see how God honoured this dear bro's faith.

And, he also shared with me about the situation for Christians in his home country. (He's from an Asian country that is unfriendly towards Christians.) About how the police can just kick the doors in and arrest you on the spot and break up your church meetings, without any warning.

I looked at him as he shared, and I marvelled at the grace and goodness of God in this dear bro's life. So grateful that he chose to accept Christ even though he knew that if he returned to his own country, he would be likely to face persecution. Wow. And we're so worried about scaring off the people we bring to Christ... but honestly... sometimes we are more scared of sharing Christ to our friends than our friends would be to receive the gospel!

But still, he was all ready to return to his homeland a few years back, but somehow God didn't let him go back. But his spirit was, even though he really enjoyed staying here and with all his friends and of course his wife... his spirit was so sweet and childlike: "If God wants me to go now, I'll pack my bags and go!"

Sometimes I think the threat of persecution, like a cold blast of freezing water, can really help to clarify our priorities, as to what really counts in this life.

Through this meetup, C taught me, through his joy and gladness, that really, to follow Christ without any hesitations, without any reservations, without any second thoughts, really means life. Even in the face of persecution and death, for Christ promised a crown of life to those who endured the first death.

And to do the opposite... to hem and haw... is to shortchange yourself, and your faith and ultimately your reward in heaven.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Warmth in the Storm

Thank God for Peter. He messaged me to see how I was. He came like a warm fire in a midnight blizzard.

Very grateful how God sends brothers along to encourage.

Something I realised over the years is that I'll keep on struggling with "blizzards". But in the words of Leo Tolstoy:
"If I know the way home and am walking along it drunkenly, is it any less the right way because I am staggering from side to side! If it is not the right way, then show me another way; but if I stagger and lose the way, you must help me, you must keep me on the true path, just as I am ready to support you. Do not mislead me, do not be glad that I have got lost, do not shout out joyfully:'Look at him! He said he was going home, but there he is crawling into a bog!' No, do not gloat, but give me your help and support." - Leo Tolstoy in a personal letter

I need people, man. I need the Body of Christ. And I'm thankful for this weakness that forces me to team together with others. Because it keeps me broken and humble, and in unity with Christ and his church. And... the Church allows me to experience God in a very deep, personal and human way too.
I guess this is a raw post. But I'm feeling another round of sadness again.

Psalm 142:4
"Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life."

Lord, remind me, what is the point of doing good to others if they don't care what happens to me?

If I died, would they notice? Would anyone care, actually?

Is it any use to do good to others?

*Deep breath*

Ah. I remember my CG shared about me during the farewell. And I know Elvis initiated the meetup. That means I'm not unappreciated.

It is hard for a man to voice out his fears I guess.

Oh God, hold me tight when I am insecure, and mock those who mock me, I pray. Vindicate me, O Lord, and help me live a blameless life before You. To those who would look down on me and think lesser of me... pay them back in full for whatever they do. Let me not put my trust in men, but put my trust in You alone. Defend me, Father!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Proverbs 20:22
Do not say, "I'll pay you back for this wrong!" Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.
Proverbs 14:10
Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sigh. Tried doing the long-overdue website for Hope Ecuador. But I feel pinned down by some worries. HopeKids script as well.

Oh. I remember Spencer wanted to try his hand at writing the skit. =)

And there's the Paypal issue to fix for my client's website. Sick of Paypal.

But ah. I need to be God's pray pal. =)

Hmm. Transition period. Not easy I guess. Starting to feel that period of lostness in a way. Not to say that I don't have ppl to meet up with. But... just don't want to bother them too much during this time, even tho I am so fortunate to have ppl to meet up with.

But yeah... just sitting here on my own. Ah well. Thank God for the blessing of having a job during this time. Lends a certain structure.

Hold me steady, Father, during this time. Please help me walk before You and be blameless I pray. So many things I want to do and can do. But just getting distracted I guess.

I was touched by a friend's card from my previous CG. That there's a mutual situation that we'd both experienced, and gone through. So it reminded me that I'm not alone.


But the journey ahead, as my CG reminded me, will not be easy. They know, along with me, that this will be a lonely road, with few to understand and share the joy.

Ah. But our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us a eternal glory that will outweigh them all. =) And I am encouraged again when reminded of what the Bible promises.

Ohhh... 2 Corinthians 4... the whole passage encourages my heart very much. A huge whisper from God during this transition time.

Grateful for the new company of heroes (both bros and sisters) whom I am serving together with. =) Amen.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Reflections from my old CG experiences

When I came into my previous CG for the first time in 2007, during service, God whispered to me very clearly this message: "This is the CG that I have placed you in."

Over the past three years, especially when I was so discouraged I wanted to change CGs halfway... this rhema message + my shepherd's care and a prophetic word of encouragement during an altar call all helped comfort and strengthen me to endure further.

Ironically, it was at my lowest point, when I confided to Peter that I couldn't stand it anymore and wanted out, that the next day, Huaqiang invited me to join him for coreteam meetings. I think I must have been the most dejected and reluctant coreteam member in all Hope. :) Haha...

But yup... over time, I see how God used all the time in my old CG to train me and mould me. I remember I still did try to "escape" from my old CG, by requesting for a transfer to HopeKids. But again, God looked at me, and said, "Hmm, no, my son, you aren't complete yet here. I need to do more work in your heart first." So, as more time passed by, I eventually grew in fondness for my caregroup, and found more kindred spirits in the caregroup. And I guess God is so romantic. He really saved the best for the last. Kim Leong (Kim Chun's bro) came in, and we hit it off well... and I'm really so humbled and grateful that God chose to use me to be a friend to this dear bro, and even be part of his discipleship process.

And because of all the experiences what I went through in the old caregroup, I am now doing my part to help another bro who is currently feeling alienated from his caregroup to start loving his CG more, and to also grow in learning how to build better relationships with others. I had a dear friend (a sister some more) who told me a month ago that I'm very mature and Christlike. Yeah, I was really encouraged. :)

Just to clarify, I'm elated, not because she said that I'm very mature or Christlike, but rather, that I'm glad that we brothers can set a good example for the sisters in church. (This is a burden that I have for the bros in church - that we can set an example for the sisters in church - no easy calling!)

But as I reflect on all these, I am so grateful to God. Because it wasn't me, but God's handiwork through the Body of Christ. He used my CG, especially the brothers like Huaqiang, Peter, Zhenzhong and Shawn, to show me how to be more mature as a man in every area. Gentleness, courage, integrity, consistency, honour, godliness, initiative, wisdom, situational awareness, care and consideration for others and so many more manly attributes... these four brothers have really influenced my life in such a macho way. =D

And the farewell that they had for me... really was so touching. Sharon cried when she shared, Kim Leong shared very sincerely from his heart (and the way things are, it looks like God has touched his heart to carry on the work that I initiated - praying weekly for my caregroup), Zhenzhong really blessed me with his sharing... and there's so much more. But I remember Huaqiang's macho words: "Today, I have lost a prayer warrior. Thank you for your comradeship." Man. Can't think of a finer phrase than that. Very manly... and very appropriate, I guess.

It occurred to me that this wasn't so much a farewell ceremony as it was a commissioning and sending-off. Shared with them about this, and told them that I hope that this CG will become like an aircraft carrier - that this CG will be sending off more and more ppl to go where God wants them to go. And one of the CG ppl replied, "And you are the first one to go!" AMEN! yes, i hope I am the 'first' (not as in 'top position', but rather there'll be second, third, fourth and so on.) The first plane off the flight deck... followed by you all, each better than the one before. Like how Jesus sent us... "As the Father has sent Me, so send I you."

Then when the time came for them to pray for me, I knelt down, feeling very humbled and grateful and just... blessed.

So now today, as I stand here today, and look back at all that I've been through, I'm so, so, so mega-amazed at the wisdom, power and patience of my macho Father in heaven. His ways are indeed higher than my ways, His thots than my thots. I'm so glad that He helped me through the valley, and now I stand on higher ground, more able to see the Promised Land in all its fullness, before I go on into the missions field that He's called me to.

Dear Father, thank You for being such an awesomely awesome Father. You are the One from whom all fatherhood in heaven and earth derives its name. And may NG4B1 be more than a "caregroup"... may the Lord God Almighty, the Commander of Commanders, make it a holy carrier battle group to carry forth the gospel and invade the dominion of darkness in the spiritual realms! Amen!

And may God use the children's ministry, as Yanjie quipped so funnily, disciple so well that they'll make the men's ministry obsolete! :D Haha...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Different CGs But Same Same =)

Joined my first caregroup with Hopekids today. Very blessed by Hannah and Deborah. Hannah, in her usual sanguine way, pumped my hand so cheerfully that I was still bouncing after her hand-pumping. And she gave me a detailed FAQ and intro and orientation to the HK CG in the space of just five minutes. Haha.

Deborah and Eugene, her fiancee, welcomed me over lunch. She asked me, "What's the biggest difference between your old CG and the new CG?" I thought about it and said, "The number of guys." Haha. But more seriously, I told her, I didn't really think so much about the differences as I did the similarities - that no matter which CG we are in or which ministry - we serve God in different ways, but the heart is still the same - whether NG4B1 or the HopeKids caregroup.

Very blessed by the HopeKids people. A really sumptuous Japanese dinner at Sakae Sushi with the CG people... haha... it's full of family people and working people, btw. So much opportunity to learn from their wisdom and experiences too. =D

And I think that's one of the most important things when making the transition: to see what is the same, not so much the difference. Because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. But we mustn't long for everything to be the same as before. All new growth requires a dying of the old. So we also have to look forward to what is different. Not just be different, but making a difference. :D

So now... moving over to the new CG, I went in with a different desire - not a desire to be welcomed, but a desire to go in and bless the CG. And I did do my best, as naturally as possible... and to my very pleasant surprise, my new CG really blessed me even more than I expected. Which made me think about how God really wants us to be towards one another: "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves."

So Burdened.

On the way back, just felt so burdened for a particular friend. I felt like I could cry, like how the prophet Samuel cried out to the LORD all night for King Saul. So I asked God why this burden - that it would not go from my heart - and asked Him to help me understand.

It's a difficult thing to have the gift of prophecy when you sense a heavy burden on your heart for a particular friend, but you can't give a clear reason why, even though your friend may say that everything is ok.

2 Kings 4 reminds me... I know that there are some friends whom I sensed spiritually that something was not well with the person's inner life, but when I asked the persons, they were convinced that they were fine. Unfortunately, a couple of them left church shortly after that, but another friend thanked me later on, and said that she indeed had been having some internal struggles.

Over the years, I've learnt to recognize this particular ache in the heart as a very clear impression from God that something is not well with the person. But I wish I could have a precise word of knowledge to accompany these prophetic impressions from the Holy Spirit. (By 'prophetic' I mean an accurate insight that something is well or not well with the person's soul.)

How, Lord, HOW?!!! I want to cry for this friend, but no tears will come. Help me intercede for this friend in prayer... just so burdened.

Suddenly reminded that perhaps this pressing burden I feel is not only my personal burden... it could be the grief and compassion of the Holy Spirit. This is just a tiny portion of how much the Holy Spirit really loves and cares for us.

Father, if this burden really is a prophetic burden from You, then may You reveal and stir my friend's heart... and may You guard and protect him/her from the evil one, and may You carry him/her safely through this time - and most of all, restore his/her first love for You, and for his/her fellow bros and sisters.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


My God. I just realised - the plans that I'd planned and committed into God's hands for the vision God has in store for me - they are coming to pass before my very eyes!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rub-A-Dub, Rub-A-Dub, Three Men And A Tub

A short story that I wrote for fun... any comments?

"The irony," he grumbled. "I'd watched all these Terminator movies about humans fighting machines and all that. But never in my whole life did I imagine we'd be fighting against machines controlled by humans."

"Ah. The sweet irony of iron ruled by frail flesh, to crush frail flesh."

"Exactly!" He waved his hands for emphasis. "I mean, where's the honour now? the death-and-glory charges? the humanity in all this warfare?"

"Humanity in warfare? Hah! But, yes, I know what you mean."

"Do you? Once our ancestors were men, who faced each other on the battlefield, and they faced each other as mortal enemies - but mortal, fresh-faced, full of humanity in all its fallenness, yet with fierce beauty - oh, the noble knight, the honourable samurai... when you could actually see your enemy face to face even as you shot and stabbed each other. To hear all the screams, the cries and the wailing of shattered bones and weeping wounds."

"And I guess, that somehow put a limit on what men could do to one another - for when the crunch comes, it all boils down to this, that it is one man versus another."

"But now with machines, it's... like we're becoming ants just to be crushed. We're just white little thermal dots on a black screen, running around helplessly before we're blown to kingdom come. Where's the honour, the glory, in all that?"

"Ignominious, I know."

"The thing is, these machines were meant to be used against other machines. Machines versus machines. And we humans would just sit back, and let our machines fight it out against theirs. And whoever had the most toys at the end would be the winner."

A wry smile. "He who dies with the most toys wins, eh?"

"I know. Until they turned their machines upon us humans. That wasn't supposed to be how it was to be! Can you imagine the irony? We're fighting tons and tons of hulking machines, just like those Terminator movies, 40-watts phased plasma bolts and all that nonsense, while all we have are Molotov cocktails and RPGs! And controlled not by some diabolical Skynet - but by an intelligence even more diabolical - a fellow human! Don't you see what's happening to us humans?"

"That we humans have become..."

"Machines. This is how humanity is erased - not by machines against men, but..."

"... by the fornication of men with machines."

They paused, a moment of silence.

"Do you hear that?"

"A drone!"

And they dove into the shallow trench.

Pause. Panicked breathing. Breathe in, breathe out. Did you put on your breath-absorber masks - those accursed machines can smell your breath from a kilometre away. Hush now. Breathe in, breathe out. All quiet now, all silent on the eastern front.

A hushed whisper.

- Wait. I know that sound.

- What sound?

- It's not the enemy's. It's ours.

- How do you know?

- The drone's going from east to west.

- Hush! I hear more.

- Those must be the new ones.

- Whoa. Hear them ripping up the enemy...

- You know, I wonder if the enemy on the other side is thinking the same thing as us.

- About those machines?

- Maybe.

- Let's take a look.

- Sure.

They carefully got out and looked at the land before them. A typical war-torn zone, that used to be some poor farmer's livelihood.

"Look! Hear that?"

"Someone's wounded."

"Careful now, it could be a booby trap. You know, those machines - those damned pilots of theirs like to hide in good places, play sound recordings of wounded people... and when we go over to help them, they open fire on us..."

"You keep watch. Kill him - or it - if you see anything funny."

"Ready when you are."

He half-ducked, half-ran. That cry was coming from a trench. For a moment, he contemplated throwing a grenade inside, just to play it safe.

Then he heard a wild, almost-infant like cry: "Mama... Mama..."

Seized with an unnatural compassion, he got up and ran quickly into the trench.

A short silence followed. His friend nervously knelt, looking all around at the desolate land. What was happening in there?

Suddenly a triumphant cry. "Help me carry him!" He was dragging out a tub with a wounded enemy.

"Ha! A prisoner!"

"I reckon so. But he looks torn-up. I don't think he'll live very long."

"Pity, that. But what's with the tub?"

"Just some debris that I found."

"Rub-a-dub, rub-a-dub, three men in a tub - "

"Cut it out! Now's not the time for lame jokes! Give him some water!"

They looked at the wounded enemy. His young wispy beard was matted with blood. And ... the intestines. A couple of flies smelled the bloody stench and buzzed around. The wounded enemy, pale and with laboured breath, suddenly looked up at them, and with a grateful smile, closed his eyes and, with a painful twitch, stopped moving.

"He's gone, Jip. He's gone."

"You seem all broken over him, Jub."

"I know. I shouldn't. He was the enemy. But... I heard him cry for his mama. It was... I don't know whether to laugh or to cry."

He stood up, tears glistening down his cheeks.

"Listen, Jip. For the first time in this whole war, in all these years, I've finally seen the enemy face to face. Felt his blood on my hands. Seen his life ebb out even as I held his guts in my hands. I never felt so close to a human being, as I've done just now. Felt his lifeblood spill, warm, living, dripping. I have never loved my enemy so much as I did now. Do you understand? Jip, do you understand what it feels like to embrace your enemy? Hand to hand, face to face, guts to guts? To fight a living, breathing, mortal enemy? One who is flesh and blood, just like us? In this war of lifeless, thoughtless, godless machines?"

Then he began to sing, from some distant memory: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man."

"Amen. I hear you, bro."

They looked at each other in silence. For what seemed like forever. The gentle breeze whistled softly around them, as though it was curiously looking at these two men standing in a field, with a dead body in-between them.

All of a sudden, they burst out into peals of boyish laughter. They yanked off their boots, and threw them into the air - up, up and down, plopping into the mud. They breathed deeply the chalky-sweet air, and let their wrinkled toes dig into the warm embracing clay. And they laughed and guffawed and chortled and hee-hawed and slapped their knees, at the whole silliness of everything, until all heaven could hear them. They laughed and laughed, as though they'd never laughed since the day they were born.

They laughed, even when the enemy drones detected their breaths, and silenced them once and for all.

And today, my friends, today, if you stand very carefully in that green overgrown field of red clay - oh very, very carefully and quietly - you might just hear the wind laughing like three crazy men upon that gentle plain.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'm currently editing some video stories done by primary school kids. Yesterday, I edited the ones done by the secondary school kids.

You might expect the ones done by the secondary school kids to be better than those by the primary school kids. I was expecting that too. But the surprise is that the primary school kids managed to turn in stories more relevant to the given theme (and therefore better in that sense), even though the sec students used more special effects and graphics and had better speech.

Made me think. Sometimes as we grow older and live out our life stories, we think we are living out the best stories that could be written - the 5 Cs, travelling to all the countries in the world, winning trophies and accolades and so on. Yet in the end, we find that our stories never qualified for the competition, simply because we did not follow the given theme of the competition.

And to our shame, we find that the people we least expected to win the prize, won, even though they were much less sophisticated and capable than us, simply because they followed God's theme for their lives. And they were simply being themselves, no fancy effects or special photos... but just simply telling a good story that fit the theme.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (New International Version)
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

How To Figure Out the Will of God without Hearing Voices From Heaven =)

The waiting response is often a wasting response. I've talked to too many young people on Christian college campuses and at summer Bible conferences who are doing little or nothing in the way of Christian service, because they are still waiting for the great revelation as to exactly what it is that the Lord wants them to do. (At least that's what they claim is the reason for their inactivity.) [...] Jesus has already told them, via Scripture, to go into all the world and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15). I don't know what further marching orders they need. It seems to me that if they would be faithful in the little opportunities that are everywhere at hand, then they would be led to the bigger things that God wills for them to do with their lives (Matthew 25:21). I find that those who are waiting for the great revelation from on high before they attempt to do anything for God seldom accomplish much for the kingdom. On the other hand, people who are into redeeming the time (Ephesians 5:16) by getting on with whatever good for God they can do in the present end up being persons in whom we see great evidence of God's guiding hand.

Eastern College, where I teach, offers a well-developed Christian service program. Every student is encouraged to get involved in some kind of outreach to the many needy people who live in the greater Philadelphia area. There are opportunities to tutor disadvantaged urban kids in a variety of afterschool programs, to get involved in prison ministries, or to work with youth groups doing everything from Bible studies to sports programs. Nevertheless, I regularly encounter Christian students at Eastern who are not involved in any kind of ministry whatsoever because they "just don't feel led" to do so.


[T]here is something wonderful about those people who know what needs to be done, figure that with God's help they can do it, and then just go for it. I tell young men and women quite simply that, if they see a need and realize that they can meet that need without taking anything aay from fulfilling godly obligations to which they are already committed, they should step up and go for it. "Unless there is something better at hand that you are already doing for God," I tell them, "do what you see that needs to be done for God."

Whenever I hear of a Christian copping out of some undertaking for God in order to wait to learn God's will for his or her life, I have to ask, "Where in the Bible does it tell you that God will reveal the divine plan for your whole life? It seems to me that it's just the opposite. The Bible lets us know that God leads us one step at a time." Then I go on to explain that this is the way God keeps us in a constructive and spiritually edifying state of dependency.


For those who maintain a close relationship with Christ through a daily surrender to the Holy Spirit, there comes a sense of oughtness. I know this may seem a bit subjective at first, but as I will try to explain, there are ways of overcoming pure subjectivity and having the assurance that what you feel really is "His Spirit bearing witness with your spirit" (Romans 8:14-16). Many who nurture a right relationship with God trhough a consistent devotional life give testimony to the fact that they feel a sense of oughtness and affirmation when they are doing the will of God. Contrariwise, they claim to have an inner awareness of when they are not in the will of God. There are a couple of safeguards in all of this to protect us from confusing God's actual will with wht we feel is God's will. These two safeguards are Scripture and Christian fellowship with close friends.

- Tony Campolo, Following Jesus without Embarrassing God

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friends From Every Era

It's going to be the last CG with my current CG in a couple of hours more. From next week onwards, I'll be moving over to HopeKids ministry CG, under the wonderful leadership of Hong Teck. I'm looking forward to it, yes, and it's such an honour to be part of this zingy and zany team, but oh, I ... I am going to miss my old CG.

To be honest, I even felt tearful a few times thinking about having to say goodbye. But I'm actually really happy that I'm a bit sad to move on - because it showed me that I've grown to love my caregroup brothers and sisters from the heart with affection and tenderness.

*pause* And I think that is how God would have me be - to leave with love.

Yet Peter reminded me about the show 'Highlander'. It's a serial drama about an immortal from medivael Scotland (hence the name) who lived through the ages, from the Middle Ages to the Enlightement, to WWI and WWII and all the way up to modern times. He made friends from every era, and as each generation grew old and died, he still lived on. But he made new friends from each new era as it came.

So I guess it's going to be a good goodbye here. At least I'll still be in the second service.

But yes, I'm excited about fulfilling God's call for my life - oh, the depths of God's grace and the wonder of His calling! In a way, it's just a very small taste of being a missionary a century or two ago - preparing to say goodbye to all your loved ones, knowing full well that you'd probably never see them again in your lifetime. But as you wiped the tears from your eyes and turned to face the new horizon and the rising sun, you saw new faces and new friends... a new generation of souls to love and disciple.

And it's so rewarding when you see those who you took care of in children's ministry move on to youth ministry. As they mature, and become the next leaders in church, they remember you as one of those who blessed them and took care of them. Honestly, I can't really think of very many rewards that are sweeter than this.

The best days of my life are just about to begin. And the best will yet become even better, because we will go from glory to glory, strength to strength, till we meet again in the Golden City, the New Jerusalem, the City of the Living God.

"Those who love God never meet for the last time." - Eric Liddell's mum
Was discussing with a fellow CG bro about how to promote more CG bonding...

He said tt we're already starting it... by playing more board games and so on. Great for creating common ground.

That made me think.I thought abt it... while board games are great for creating shared experiences and memories... perhaps we shouldn't rely on it for creating common ground, as in a reason, a foundation, for building strong friendships on.

One bro from the PolyDINS side - Zhiwei - said, when we were talking about the problem of different life-stations and cultural differences btwn Youth, Adults, Uni, and Poly ppl...

He pointed out that frankly, it's not reasonable to say that we cannot bond because of 'cultural differences'. If we are Christians, then we have one ultimate culture: the 'God-culture'. Those were very wise words from a bro who's almost ten years younger than me... and I was so glad to hear these words from his mouth. :D The Poly people are doing a great work discipling mature believers!

Which makes me think about us in the Adults ministry. While we do our best to have fun activities... how much time are we devoting to discipling people and feeding them the Word? And... teaching them what the Christian life really means? Living out dynamic, purposeful and intentional lives? Lives bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit so that we may have great endurance and patience - and joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has saved us from the dominion of darkness, and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves... in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins?

Or are we subtly telling them that working life damn tough lah, damn sian, everyday this and that, till we create a culture of complaining instead of thanksgiving? No wonder our younger ones will take a look at us in working life and conclude that if this is what being in the Adults ministry is like, oh man, I want to go back to the good ol' days where everyone was doing exciting, meaningful and purposeful things for the kingdom of God.

Firestarters are great for starting a BBQ... but you can't rely on firestarters alone to make a BBQ! No, you use firestarters to warm up and then ignite the big charcoal chunks, and when they have caught fire, you put them closer together, so that they create a self-sustaining fire that will burn the whole night long, giving light and warmth and a fragrant roasty aroma that attracts people from everywhere. And where there's a BBQ, there's fun and a party!
From Christianity Today: The Lord Who Acts Like It: Where did we get the idea that the church should be a place that makes people feel comfortable?
Days before the Enfield court case was decided, the Chicago Tribune ran a piece titled "Graduations at church cause unease." It described how many schools hold their graduation ceremonies in one particular megachurch in the metro area because, as one participant put it, it doesn't feel like a church. The absence of any visible sign of the church's Lord is apparently a point of honor for this congregation. According to the article, one of its staff said the lack of crosses and other Christian iconography "makes the space more welcoming for newcomers and more conducive for secular events."
"We don't want people to get hung up on that kind of thing," he said.
During its weekly services, he said, the church preaches the Word ("We want people to hear the word (of God)"), but all in all, "We try to make it an environment where people would be comfortable to sit and listen."
Making people comfortable is a good thing, part of Christian hospitality. But does it strike anyone else as odd how reticent many churches are to make it plain to visitors that when they enter the church, they are entering a sovereign state where someone besides the State is Lord?
In my younger years, I was an associate pastor of an English speaking church in Mexico City. The church ministers to missionaries, business people, and diplomats and their families. I once made a pastoral call on the economic attaché to the U.S. Embassy in his office. When I stepped into his office, there was no mistaking who was sovereign there. A large American flag hung off to the side of his massive desk, and a picture of the President of the United States hung behind. The embassy official was very cordial to me, and did indeed make me feel comfortable as we sat for coffee in a little receiving area at the front of his office. But there was no mistaking whom my friend served, and who was lord of that office.
There was a time in the church's life when people were killed for stating or symbolizing their allegiance to another lord besides Caesar. One can understand why some would flinch and stick their cross necklace under their toga, or meet secretly in places (like catacombs) bereft of Christian symbols. Caesar had no patience with people whom he suspected served another. And yet most did not flinch, and most continued to affirm in word and symbol the church's earliest creed: Jesus is Lord.
Today, when there is no risk to symbolizing one's allegiance to another Lord besides Capitalism or Democracy or America, why are we so hesitant to do so? Why is it that in the one place where we have the right and opportunity to proclaim the Lord of the kingdom of heaven, so many of us want to make it a place that is "conducive to secular events"? 
And why is it that church staff, called by God to enable the proclamation of Jesus' lordship, cannot grasp what a high school agnostic and federal judge understand—that Christianity is ruled by a Lord who has a habit of making people feel uncomfortable and offended because, yes, he demands their unqualified allegiance?

Amen to that. You know, I remember feeling quite sheepish when I first became a Christian, because I was notorious in my school for telling dirty jokes and so on. I did worry about what people might saying if they saw me reading a Bible.

But a godly brother encouraged me to share my new faith more openly, because he reminded me from 2 Cor 5:17 "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

So I started reading my Bible in public and even praying more openly. And of course, a changed life. Even took the opportunity to offer to pray for my non-Christian friends whenever they had a need. Most of them appreciated it. Hee. :) And I had a non-Christian classmate who wrote me a note saying that she admired my wholeheartedness for life.

And even in the workplace, thank God for the opportunity to shine, even tho I struggled to adjust in my working style, my colleagues still appreciated me as a friend, and took time to confide in me. I deeply treasure their friendships too, and feel honoured to be included into their lives.

Come to think of it, Jesus was so right. (Yes, that's stating the obvious I know...) I guess we are indeed salt and light, no matter how small we may feel at times. All the more we shouldn't hide, but show forth our light.
Matthew 5:14-16
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
But showing forth our light doesn't mean singing hymns really loud in public (I know one Christian who did this in his workplace... his singing, erm, ... heheh. ) or praying in tongues in public, or other things... what it means is that we intentionally do good deeds that come naturally out of our new nature, so that they may see our good deeds and praise God. We're not perfect, but we work our best, have the sweetest spirit among all our colleagues and friends, have the gentlest attitude if we're being bullied or shouted at, the most considerate and sensitive, the most honest, the most hardworking... just do our best in God's eyes. And if we fall short, seek God for His forgiveness, ask Him to help us get up again and empower us to shine even brighter like the stars that shine.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Train-ing for Kindness

She shuffled onto the train, forty-ish, with languor in her steps and a slump in her shoulders. I glanced up from my Moleskine scribblings, and at once, I could tell from her eyes that she had a very long day. And she didn't quite stand so much as hang from the grab-ring that dangled from the train's roof. Leaning her chin on the same arm that she used for holding the grab-ring, she stared nowhere in particular - a weary and burdened soul.

Should I give her my seat? I felt embarrassed, 'cos I didn't know how she would respond. She seemed like she was in that awkward age group that was just a few years too young to qualify as "old enough" to give up your seat to. But she looked so tired... To give her my seat or not?

"Dhoby Ghaut!" Hmm. How?

"Somerset!" She looked at her watch, and lapsed back into a pensive half-closed gaze. I guessed she was probably rushing back home. Perhaps she had children to take care of, dinner to cook, clothes to wash...

Ok. Lord, give me courage to do the right thing. Why am I so afraid of what others might think? And even if she is surprised by the offer of a seat and perhaps even get offended by my gesture, thinking that I'm thinking that she's so old... ah, what does it matter ultimately?

Courage. To do what is good. No matter what others may think, in the final analysis, God sees the heart and the act.

Wisdom. It struck me that I could be discreet. To minimize my embarrassment, and also perhaps hers too. Yet to let her know that it's an act of kindness to her, that she might know that there still exists kindness in this tired world.

"Orchard!" I got my bag ready. She saw, and also got her bag ready. Ah. She needs the seat, after all. Thank God my "sacrifice" is not in vain then. And I got off, and faced the exit. She sat down. I carefully moved to the centre grab-pole.

And those who got off, got off. But I stayed back, because, well, I was on my way to Ang Mo Kio.

So I casually stood there, when out of the corner of my eyes, I saw her eyes for the first time open - in surprise. She was looking at me standing there, not having gotten off.

But before anything else happened, a huge squeeze of bodies stood in-between her and me. And we were blocked from each other's views.

But I felt glad to have given up my seat for a fellow weary traveller on the daily commute of life. Unspoken, yes, but I think it was yet another step in growing in courage and wisdom - courage to do what is good in God's eyes, and wisdom to do it right in the eyes of men. Yesterday, it was Mr. Loud. Today, it was Mrs. Tired. And what would Tomorrow bring?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Monotheism Theorem?

I came across this very interesting paper (unpublished I think): Physical limits of inference by David H. Wolpert ( (Caution: Lots of discrete maths involved.)

Check out page 23 about the "monotheism theorem" using a variant of Godel's incompletness theorem: that there can be at most one omniscient god. If there were two, they're be able to read each others' minds and run into paradoxes of circularity. (Credits to Scientific American for its very helpful summary.)

(The author wrote somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but I think his reasoning and maths is very interesting. Whether sound or not... haha that's what peer reviews are for.)

But yeah! A maths proof that there's at most one God. (Whether there is a God in the first place, that one's for us to consider and chew on.)

PS: Of course I believe in a God. :)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

One McDonald's Burger, Please - And Seasoned With Grace Too

I was standing in line at Bras Basah McDonalds', when suddenly I saw a rather well-dressed guy. He looked quite young, about twenty-two or three. And his blue shirt was classic white-collar. Thing is, he looked like he was in a hurry, so I guessed he was some SMU student rushing for a night lecture.

Then, he went up to the counter, and panting, opened his mouth: "HELLO! I WANT A CHICKEN BURGER!"

Heads started turning at this voice. No, he wasn't one of those loud Chinese nationals (sorry for the stereotyping...), but your average Singaporean. Average in all aspects except for his voice. Come to think of it, even a loud Chinese national didn't speak in the kind of tone that he addressed the staff.

It wasn't an outrightly rude voice, but he seemed very caught up in his own hurry. A bit overly assertive. The counter staff chuckled in mild embarrassment, probably more for the customer.

"I'm sorry, Sir, that would take a few min - "


More heads turned. I half-amusedly watched the spectacle, while a couple of guys sitting nearby paused their munching, looking up in surprise at the loudspeaker of a person.

"Okay Sir. Please wait."


And that got my attention. I felt quite dismayed by his behaviour, and realised that I had to do something to 'neutralize' this dangerous situation. With that in mind, I ordered my burger, smiling and asking the staff, "Hi, could I order a Texas Chicken Burger please? Thank you!"

Then I moved aside to wait... and saw Mr. Loud at my left. I moved over to his left, and as we waited, I was wondering what to do next. After a few seconds, I prayed in my heart and decided to make small talk with him.

"Ah, so you go to church?"


Ah. That R.I.C.A programme. I know it's one of the Catholic churches that I pass by everyday to work.


I looked at his ear to see if he was wearing any hearing-aid. Nothing in his ear.

"Yup, I do."



"HOPE? I'VE HEARD OF IT." His eyes opened, and simultaneously, a few drops of saliva splattered onto my face. I grimaced and quietly wiped the saliva off. But he didn't notice. "I'VE BEEN THERE ONCE BEFORE. THE PASTOR THERE ALWAYS CONDEMN CATHOLICS, THIS CHURCH, THAT CHURCH. VERY CONDEMNING."

"Oh I see... hmm... I don't remember the pastor saying anything like that..." (I wanted to ask him whether he had the right church.)


Whoa. I quickly prayed for a wise answer, and carefully answered, "Hmm... my church preaches standard orthodox Christian doctrine. We obey the law because of -"


I wondered what to say next, 'cos I didn't want to get into any argument. So I just continued listening patiently, wondering what would Jesus do in this situation.

"Oh, you're from New Creation Church then?"


" - Sir, your burger is ready."

I looked at him walk off, and then looked at the staff. We both grinned embarrassedly at one another. I decided to thank the staff with a smile, with extra courtesy to soothe their nerves, and then paused in mid-stride as I went off.

What could I do to 'neutralize' the ugliness of the situation?

I turned around and asked the staff again for a cup of water. He quickly obliged... and as I took the cup, I thanked him again, and said, "Gee. That was ... quite an interesting guy." The staff grinned sympathetically. "I, uh... I'm from a different church, you see. Hee." And I think he kind of understood what I was trying to say. That not all Christians are that ugly.

As I walked out, Colossians 4:5-6 came to mind:
5Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6Let your conversation be always full of grace [gracious], seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Monday, June 7, 2010

"Engaging contemporary society". "Loving People?". "Why should I care?".

These entries from Ps Ben's blog resonated with me. It's such a joy to discover that you're thinking the same thing like what finer minds than mine have been thinking! And comforted, because I know I'm not alone in my concerns. Hee. Sweet to know that a pastor from your own church is speaking what is on your own mind.

But more importantly, Ps Ben wrote about HOW the Church can make a difference in today's society - to be relevant and "in the world" even though we are not of the world.

A much sounder idea, IMHO, than just aiming to be "culturally relevant" - which I believe is not balanced nor edifying when it comes to building strong and biblical people. Do read Ps Ben's entries yeah? Very much worth thinking about - especially now that we're in the year of intentional discipleship.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

ID2010: Disciplemaking: Men Without Seeds

Today's sermon on the character study of Elijah as a disciplemaker was very thought-provoking. What are we doing to make disciples?

Incidentally, I bumped again into Andrewer on the bus back after a midnight walk around Clarke Quay with Elvis. Haha. TWICE! At Pasir Ris last Friday, and now yesterday. Definitely for a God-purpose. So we chatted. About our WFLs and the spiritual gifts we have. As usual Andrew is a great bro who keeps on seeing the good in others and affirming - and this is not a natural function of his personality, but really of the Spirit BTW - thanked me, saying that God used me to help him develop his spiritual gift of intercession. Hee.

One thing that we talked about as well: the kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies.

Dying to self.

There's so many of us who are still remaining as seeds. We do not become many seeds. Because we do not want to fall to the ground in the first place. We want to remain comfortable. Refusing to deny ourselves and take up our crosses daily. Wanting God to work on our terms, not His.

Stretching. Discipleship. Stretching requires us to step out of our comfort zones.

Our lives are useful for the kingdom only to the extent we're willing to let ourselves get stretched.
23Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

27"Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name!"

It is God's will for us to become disciplemakers. But in order to do that, we must die to our own dear desires first. "... if it dies, it produces many seeds."

I think one reason I keep hearing about people not dreaming of anything beyond living a "normal Christian life" is that they say that they do not feel called to be this or that. But honestly, have they ever prayed and sought God to confirm their lack of a "calling"?

In fact, Jesus said that His heart was troubled. But what did He say? "Father, save me from this hour"? No. He desired the Father's name to be glorified. And interestingly, He said this when His fame had spread beyond Israel, that the Greeks came to seek Him out.

Could it be that, from what we have read in the book of Acts, that God's default calling for everyone is to GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS? That ... if we do not feel called to go out, we should be in fact praying to confirm our staying at home?

The most enthusiastic disciplemakers that I've seen in church - also happen to be some of the most missions-minded people I know. Is this a mere coincidence? And I don't need to state the converse case - there are too many examples unfortunately.

Responding to God's call doesn't mean that we die-die must go out right now. But... it does mean that we should cry out, "Here am I! Send me!" The harvest is plentiful, but THE WORKERS ARE FEW! And that was just for the lost sheep of Israel! Now it's also for the whole world - what the hell are we doing? It may be the case - and truly so - that God wants us to stay at home. It's fine! But... have we first asked Him to send us?

Otherwise we are being presumptuous, assuming that He's not sending us - when we have never even volunteered in the first place. Hello?

Thank God for Jon's willingness to respond to the call to be a disciplemaker. Yes, he knows that he's far from what God wants him to be. But he is willing. And I think God can do a lot with a willing heart, no matter how long it may take.

Yes, the title's a pun on a chapter from C.S. Lewis' "The Abolition of Man". And a double-entendre too. :P I needn't explain that, hee. ;)

Friday, June 4, 2010

ID Conference Reflections: Part 3 - The Bucket List

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

- Dylan Thomas

"What's your bucket list?" was the refrain that I heard when I came in after I'd finished my work. I found out it was about the movie "The Bucket List". And we asked each other what did we want to do before we "kicked the bucket" (i.e. died).

Have you done your Bucket List too?

"Only one life, and soon it will pass; only what's done for Christ will last."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thank God! Was praying for my CG just now, and _right_ after I prayed for the last member, a Bible passage appeared in my mind. It's exactly what I need to help me make sense of some discipleship issues and prayer directions.

I see from this experience that prayer really is a partnership, a 'tag-team' between God and us. When we pray, the hands of God move in ways we cannot imagine. But if we do not pray, we restrict His hands - such is the responsibility God has entrusted to us with the privilege of prayer.

Marrying Our Callings To His Word

It's important to serve in what is our God-given calling, that we feel His pleasure even as we, for example, arrange the chairs, help the poor, do creative arts, preach the Word, comfort the grieving, fight against injustice and so on.

But it's also essential that we also make use of our callings to intentionally share the gospel and bring pleasure to God.

Because we are not called just to enjoy life. We are called to enjoy Him and glorify Him. A calling does not exist for its own sake. It exists with a purpose in mind.

When we lower ourselves to serve others, we are imitating Christ, the Servant King, who did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many.

Eric Liddell was called to run. And he did run. But he did it with the full intention to honour God by totally surrendering his race timings to the point of refusing to compete in a race that fell on a Sunday. He, instead of settling for the mere human logic that winning an Olympic medal would bring glory to God, chose to compete in a race that he was not well-trained for. And the rest is history.

Three Barriers to Radical and Effective Discipleship Right Now

Caught up with Weizhu just now. We talked about discipleship. Three barriers to discipleship as it is right now:

1. Focusing on ministry participation as a marker of spiritual growth, when it should be love for God and love for people (character and holiness are by default covered by these two commandments).

2. Focusing on getting people to know the principles of God's Word more, but neglecting to help the younger ones know the Person of Jesus Christ, of whom the Word testifies.

3. Not challenging our younger ones to see the need for total surrender, to let Jesus be the absolute Lord over every area of our lives. Not challenging them to bring every area of their lives under the absolute authority of God's Word. But letting our younger ones settle for half-baked selective obedience that neither challenges nor inspires men. Contrast to Paul's declaration to the Ephesian elders: "For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Why Aren’t Games About Winning Anymore? | GeekDad |

Why Aren’t Games About Winning Anymore? | GeekDad |

A fun and very thought-provoking article about video games - and what they say about the way we live life.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Finding Your Calling-Part II: The Myths and Realities of Vocation

From The Art of Manliness:
Finding Your Calling-Part II: The Myths and Realities of Vocation

When I started this series on vocation last week, I thought it would be just a two part series. However, the more I pondered the topic and dug into the research, the more fascinating the subject became and the more insights I felt impressed to share with you. Finding one's calling encompasses so much of a man's life, and can be a large source of anxiety for men. Since this is such a vital topic, I've decided to expand it into a four part series. Here's what we'll be covering in the next few weeks:

Part II: The Myths and Realities of Vocation. One of the great stumbling blocks to finding one's calling is not understanding what one really is. Today, we'll hopefully give you a clearer picture of what a vocation means.
Part III: Why Pursue a Vocation? Not every man is convinced that finding one's true vocation is even an important pursuit, believing that simply doing a job and supporting your family is manly enough. Here we'll discuss why finding one's calling is so vital and why it's a worthy endeavor to undertake.
Part IV: How to Find Your Vocation. Knowing what your vocation is isn't that difficult, it's really a matter of recognizing and dispensing with the excuses we make not to follow it. In this article we'll talk about discerning your calling and what may be holding you back from embracing it.

Part II: The Myths and Realities of Vocation

When you're hunting for a wild animal, you need to know as much about it as possible-its habits, tracks, and patterns. You can't find something when you don't know what you're even looking for. Unfortunately, finding their calling is difficult for many men because of misunderstandings about what it really is. These are three common myths about vocations:

Myth #1: There is one specific occupation out there that you were meant to do-police officer, pilot, teacher, ect. This myth is similar to the idea that there is only one person in the world for you, your one true soul mate. Many men experience a great deal of anxiety when deciding on a job because they feel they must pick the one perfect career among hundreds of thousands and worry about making the wrong choice.

The reality: There are a wide variety of jobs that could become your vocation.

Myth #2: Vocations are limited to special or elite jobs. Doctor, writer, FBI agent, astronaut, minister, artist, actor, archeologist, musician and so on. These are the kinds of jobs kids dream of doing, and tend to be the only kind of jobs we can imagine being called to.

The reality: If this myth were true, where would that leave the world's insurance agents and cab drivers? Is office work and blue collar jobs just for the schmos who haven't figured out that they're wasting their lives away?

The answer is a definitive no. Almost any job can be a calling (conversely, any calling can become a job!). There are no higher or lower callings. It may come as some surprise, but the the delineation between jobs/careers/vocations that we discussed last week doesn't break down along professional lines. Instead, within every profession, 1/3 of the workers identify with each category. This means that 1/3 of doctors see their work as just a job, while 1/3 of garbagemen see their work as a vocation.

Myth #3: A vocation is synonymous with a job.

The reality: This myth really gets to the heart of all of our misunderstandings about vocation. A calling is not a job title or even a specific line of work. If that were true, once you were fired or retired or became disabled in a way in which you could no longer do your old job, you would cease to have a calling. This is decidedly not the case. Your calling is there when you're born and follows you into the grave; it precedes your job and outlives it.

So what then is a vocation?

A vocation consists of those unique birthright gifts you possess; they are the broad strengths that animate you. Your vocation is part and parcel with your life purpose. Or as authors Richard J. Leider and David A. Shapiro put it in Whistle While You Work: "Calling isn't our job, it's what we bring to our job." Let's repeat that: "Calling isn't our job, it's what we bring to our job."

Finding your vocation means finding the common thread in the things you love to do, the things that you're passionate about, the things you feel uniquely suited for.

Leider and Shapiro suggest what some of these threads, these gifts might be:

  • Building things
  • Fixing things
  • Investigating things
  • Making connections
  • Building relationships
  • Creating dialogue
  • Healing wounds
  • Adding humor
  • Persuading people
  • Organizing things
  • Selling things
  • Doing the numbers
  • Resolving disputes
  • Instructing others
  • Optimizing things
  • Making deals
  • Starting things
  • Designing things
  • Researching things
  • Seeing the big picture
  • Writing things
  • Solving problems
  • Awakening spirit

And there are many more. Which do you identify with? When you're exercising these gifts, you feel fulfilled, things click, you feel in-sync with the world and others, and you get the feeling that this is what you were meant to do.

On average, Baby Boomers changed jobs 11 times in their lifetime and that number will inevitably rise in this generation. In our rapidly changing world, you can't expect to have just one job your whole life. What you can count on is taking your unique gifts from one pursuit to another. And knowing what those gifts are can lead you to the opportunities that match your calling.

The Vocation Spectrum

Finding your vocation is very much like finding the person you want to marry.

I've been to quite a few weddings, and after the festivities, sometimes I feel like, "Well, good for them. That will hopefully work out." And sometimes I feel like, "Wow, it's amazing those two people found each other. They were clearly meant to be together. I just witnessed something powerful."

For any man, there are thousands of women with which he can probably make a very decent go of marriage. With general compatibility and a dedication to keep at it through thick and thin, a couple can have a fine marriage. For some, that is enough.

But marriage can be something more. My marriage is awesome; it's fun and and satisfying and joyful and easy. Every day and in everything we do, we have a good time together; I'm crazy about my wife.

Above I mentioned the myth that there is only one person out there with which you can find true love. But I actually don't discount the idea of soul mates. There isn't one soul mate for you on the whole planet, but there are a few people that are so special, so perfect for you, that they make you feel that way.

So it is with vocations. Because a calling isn't a specific job, it's your unique gifts and life purpose, this means that there are a wide variety of jobs that will be compatible with your call. It could even be the job you're in right now. Within a whole host of different jobs, you can choose to focus on the ways the job taps into your strengths and seek to maximize the opportunities you have to employ them. It may simply require a change in your perspective on things.

Those who see their work as a series of tasks and hoops they have to jump through feel they have a job; those who find greater meaning and purpose in their work beyond the mundane details see their work as a vocation.

A recent article about the closing of the last sardine factory in the United States illustrates the vocational attitude well:

"Ernie Beach, 55, who operates one of the plant's large pressure-cooker machines, which sterilize the sardines, said that few workers took advantage of company policy allowing them two free cans a day; he takes one home for his cat.

But like the others, Mr. Beach is proud of his work. "I'm not just the operator, I'm the maintenance man, the mechanic, I make all the adjustments, the calibrations," he said. "I'm saving lives here."

Mr. Beach could have seen his work as operating machines, or sanitizing sardines, but instead saw it as saving lives. He found a higher purpose in his work beyond his routine.

This is an inspiring thought, and attitude can go a long way in increasing your satisfaction with your work, but the truth is that maximizing your opportunities to employ your gifts and changing your perspective has its limits. Each job falls somewhere on the vocational spectrum; one job may employ your gifts 10% of the time, another 30%, and another 70%. If you feel called to teach others, the moments at your corporate job where you get to make presentations and impart information are the moments where everything clicks for you. But that's only 20% of your job and 80% of the time you're attending meetings and writing reports. If you became a teacher in a high school, that percentage would flip flop.

A job that taps into your calling 40% of the time is like the decent marriage. For some, those moments where things are clicking make the unpleasant aspects of the job, or the relationship, worth it.

But some men want more. They want to do work that taps into their calling 75-100% of the time, work that they feel they were absolutely meant for, work that fires them up on all cylinders. And they should feel that way. Why? Well, we'll discuss that next time.

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ID Conference Reflections: Part 2 - Timeless Disciples of a Timeless God

Andrew told me that it's been 7 years since the whole church got together. And he was stunned when he said that. He said that he was only - how old? - fourteen years old then. 2003. I too was so surprised. Yes. Time flies by so fast. People I saw in primary school, and in secondary school during my UNIVERSITY days... are now young adults, loving God and serving Him, growing in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and men. Wow. Thank God for the youth and tertiary ministries.

Yet I don't feel old. Perhaps my body may be getting older, but my soul, even though by God's grace, it has matured, does not feel older. It feels... timeless. University life seems only a blink. Yet so much happened during these 7 years that have passed. A Sabbath rest, as it were. God is the Timeless One, the Ancient of Days, after all.

"Age to age He stands
And time is in His hand
Beginning and the end
Beginning and the end..."

Wonderful. I read in my notes about discipleship for different life-stations. The thing about discipleship is that it does not slacken nor weaken even at close of day, but it takes on different forms and expressions. Still, the fire within, the internal engine, must burn even brighter than when it did at the beginning.

We should find ourselves at the end of our lives younger than when we first started.

Perhaps for the disciple, we need not worry so much about growing older, as though it portended a decline, a slowing down in our spiritual walk with God. That's just a lie from the devil. I've seen brothers and sisters way older than me who are increasing with fire for God as they know Him more through the years. Come to think of it, shouldn't this be the case? Filled with the Holy Spirit, who is the immortal, invisible and invincible God, why not? Should not our souls never age? Should not our faith be timeless? Only those who have not eaten of the Bread of Life shall grow old and perish. Only those who have not tasted of the goodness of the fruit of the Spirit shall wither.

In Romans 12 it says, "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord." If this is a command from God, God will help us keep this command.

Personally, I think the main reason we grow sian of church camp / conference year after year is because we might have forgotten about the Person of Jesus. "Who do you say that I am?"

We do not follow a set of principles, but a PERSON. Because we want to follow Him, therefore we do what He says. That's the meaning of discipleship! "Christianity is not a religion but a relationship with God."


Thanks Father. I'm really so proud of the pastors and the bros/sisters who helped research and prepare the ID Conference teachings. As I read the notes, I was so encouraged to read about how great disciples in centuries ago wrote about the same thing - the need for discipleship in small groups, prayer, the spiritual disciplines and so on. That they contended for the faith entrusted once for all time to the saints (Jude 3). That what we are learning is not a new "contemporary and relevantized" theology, but the same basic truth that has been taught since the beginning of the church. That this is not a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning. (2 John 5)

That we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses...

Yes, Lord, we are part of a timeless church that is planted and spread out across space and time, across the ages. How my heart bursts with joy to see young men and women of God rising up from our own church... and how grateful (and humbled) I am to be able to be used by God to inspire the next generation... not by impressive speech or worldly wisdom... but simply by practising the Word of God literally. Simple but powerful. For the foolishness of God is far wiser than man's wisdom. Not with business buzzwords nor "ministry technologies", but unchanging truths applied to changing generations. Heaven and earth will pass away, but His Word will still remain.

Do I sound like a Luddite, a traditionalist, a neo-conventionalist? No, I don't think so. I'm simply a follower of Jesus Christ, the most radical person to ever walk on the face of the earth (and water too).

So timeless, this Jesus. So cool. So radical. So post-modern, so pre-modern - so timelessly modern. Rock of Ages, for every generation. God of all generations, God over all the nations!

No, not even old. Timeless. As a song by Lenka goes, "We will not grow old." We will become timeless. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

So dear brothers and sisters, let us not go gentle into that good night, but live and lust for the things of God - to embrace and be immolated by our God, an all-consuming fire. Never let our love for Jesus ever grow old and cold. Rage, rage against the dying of the light!

ID Conference Reflections: Part 1 - Community within the Conference

Still thinking about ID2010 Conference. Though I only managed to go for one out of the four sessions (video-editing galore), God really encouraged me both through the Spirit and through bro Kim Leong that it's ok about the little that we've received, as long as we faithfully put it to work.

Went in with expectant heart, and I was not disappointed. How could one be? For the very presence of the living God Almighty was there. "For where two or three..."

The Family Day today (it totally rocked big time) was great! Saw a lot of bros and sisters there. And I jousted with Kim Leong. He's a martial arts trainer, but haha, he was very merciful to me. I got exhausted after handling the "weapon", but glad, because we ended with a respectable draw. =D

Actually, this time of ID conference was a very heartwarming and meaningful time for me. I deeply enjoyed and treasured the time with my caregroup. Actually, this is a breakthrough for me, as the past camps, I'd struggled with feeling part of the caregroup. In part it was due to the CG's health, and also my own weaknesses, and also just the way that my natural personality is as compared to the rest. But as I took to praying for my CG on a regular basis, God softened my heart to love my CG more. I think it's a two-way thing - that God worked in the hearts of the people as I prayed for them, and He also worked in my heart. Because I am part of my caregroup too. (Logical, right? Haha.)

I do feel sad that I'll have to say goodbye to my caregroup in a couple of weeks. But praise God for the joy of the sorrow of having to say goodbye. "'Tis better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all."

So grew in friendship with Kim Leong, and whoa, I am so thankful to God for this dear brother. We clicked fast haha ever since he came to know Christ. And his earnest desire to learn the Word of God more, and his conviction to obey the Bible - this I do believe is the grace of God at work in his life. Some of the things that he shared with me encourage me deeply, and I feel refreshed spiritually by him, even though he's a new believer. Should I even say "even though"? After all, it is not our own knowledge of spiritual things, or how long we have been in church, that refreshes others, but rather, how fresh our daily walk with the Father is, thanks to the Holy Spirit who lives in us and works through us to refresh others with the word of our Lord Jesus Christ. "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly..."

So whenever we share of God's goodness, we are encouraging one another of God's goodness. As such, his earnestness encourages me to share more Bible verses with him, which revives and rouses the heart of a disciple-maker in me, and helps me see afresh the joy of God's word in my life too. A Berean-hearted bro with childlike faith! :) Age is no barrier to a childlike faith in Christ indeed.

And I'm so thankful too for Zhenzhong's encouragement (the one in my CG). It was a simple, but heartfelt one. It encouraged me a lot, that I am on the right path, by God's grace, and that what I'm doing right now is an encouragement to others as well.

Blessed too by Andrewer. =D He really helped me during the weekend when I had to rush out the K Conference videos by "courier"-ing the K Conference video files off to the service venue as I finished them on the fly. He told me, "I'm willing to be your DHL any time." Gosh. Deeply blessed by this dear brother's acts of service and kindness. Better a neighbour nearby than a relative far away. Blood may be thicker than water, but spirit is thicker than blood! He also got me beancurd for breakfast and fresh fruits for supper while I was doing my overnighters.

Very blessed too by some of my CG ppl. Though they couldn't help much practically, their prayers and SMSes more than made up for it. Perhaps sometimes the most practical thing one can do for someone is to pray for and encourage him/her.

Sweetly blessed too to see Uncle Lee and Elvis. And saw the ring on Melissa's finger too! Haha. Robert, must take good care of your wife-to-be ok... Wish I could have met up with more people... but it was good nevertheless.

Well, next part coming up. Scribbling these messy notes down so that I won't forget what little gold I have gleaned from the K Conference! "Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets..."