Sunday, May 05, 2019

Grace upon Grace

Two Sundays ago, we were on the way to my sister-in-law's place for dinner when Dinah asked how I felt about the upcoming commissioning. This triggered a flashback. Memories started flooding my mind. I was brought back to 1996 when we discovered that Dinah was pregnant – with twins. We were going to be first-time parents. Everything was going to change. Just 1 month later, I was asked to serve as Senior Pastor of our former church. I had just turned 28. And this invitation came out of the blue. Everything was going to change for our church. After much prayer, my pregnant wife and I stepped into this assignment with fear and trembling. Looking back, God’s grace was on us as parents and for the ministry assignment.

In recent years, I was led to pioneer sexual wholeness and then whole life discipleship. Working with different churches was new. Again, there was grace. It was serving here when Dinah and I got reconnected with RiverLife Church through Pastor Lionel. Eventually Pastor Lionel and Elder Aaron would invite Dinah and I to serve with them in RiverLife. You can read that story here Once again we were not expecting this – but it happened. Here is another perspective of the same story

After 5-10 seconds of flashbacks, I answered Dinah - "I feel God’s grace again being invited to serve as Senior Pastor the second time." (The difference this time: Dinah is not pregnant and I am no longer 28.) The moment I replied was when I realised the date of the commissioning was 05/05. Right then it struck me that the number five is associated with grace and redemption. There were two fives on the date so double grace. That's what I told Dinah - double grace. She replied, “grace upon grace”. And so we both came to this Scripture.

"For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace" John 1:16 (ESV)

Today is 05/05. This morning I was commissioned by our elders and senior leaders to serve as Senior Pastor. Our outgoing Senior Pastor Lionel Goh was smiling radiantly. He has been very happy for quite a few months. In his final message today as our Senior Pastor, he smilingly said that he and I are the happiest persons present. He was certainly very happy. The emotion I felt leading up to this morning and this morning was not quite happiness but a range actually.  
I do feel a sense of excitement for what's ahead that's mixed with the realisation of what's needed.This might have been how I also felt in 1996. I am sure there is happiness in there somewhere : ) Today I felt very encouraged. Our close friends were present, standing with us. Our twins could witness today's commissioning. They missed the first time because they were still in the womb during March 1996. Then the commissioning service today was very authentic and very honouring. Both services moved many hearts deeply. It felt like something shifted today.

In my message as incoming Senior Pastor, I encouraged our people that when everything seems to be changing, Deuteronomy 31:2-3 (from Pastor Lionel's message) reminds us that God remains the same. He never changes. He is faithful, and that:
“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” John 1:16 (ESV)

With this assurance - I called our church to join hearts and walk together to prepare the Bride of Christ for the imminent return of the Bridegroom.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Another Transition

It was May 2014 when I joined Focus on the Family. I started with pioneering sexual wholeness. This morphed into pioneering the Whole Life approach to discipleship together with Dinah who was also at Focus. This initiative was well received. Over 30 churches have taken or is about to take the Whole Life Inventory. Of these, 6 churches invited Dinah and I to coach them in the Whole Life approach.

With Whole Life taking off, Dinah and I began waiting on our heavenly Father for longer-term direction. Our prayer: Do we go deeper with Whole Life - including sexual wholeness?

As we prayed, several things became evident.  The first were two words. 

Go Deeper

Over the past 4 years at Focus we have gone wide with Whole Life as we worked with various churches and leadership teams. For our next season, we felt that we will continue with Whole Life but that we needed to go deeper. The question was: Is Focus the platform to go deeper?

Church partners could not see Whole Life fleshed out in a local church. We can probably go a bit further in a para-church. But going deep in a local church will enable us to pilot Whole Life and implement the full outworking -- going right into the cell groups and homes within a congregation. We became more convinced that we had to go deeper. There was another development.

Prophetic Words 

My year of Jubilee started March 2017. Over that February-March period, I received prophetic words from three persons in random situations. The words received combined "50" (meaning 2018) with both "Pastor" and "Senior Pastor". One went like this – “You will pastor a church that will lead people in the narrow and winding path that leads to salvation.” 

Signs seemed to point back to the local church in 2018. Dinah and I intensified praying towards the fact we would deep dive -- into one local church. Our sensing was to move on in March 2018, with or without jobs. However, 1st March 2018 would be the annual luncheon that Focus hosts for Lead Pastors and Senior Leaders. We both felt that that we needed to stay on until 1st March help at this gathering. Then we received another piece of guidance. 

Just Wait Upon Me   

As we continued to pray, we felt the Lord asking us not to apply for any positions. After all, we desired a calling and we already have jobs. At the same time, we sensed that the next assignment would involve both Dinah and I. This meant that the eventual church, where we would deep dive, would make the approach and invite both of us. We noted that the approaches since 2010 were for me rather than for both. Finally, we also sensed it needed to be a Whole Life church. 

Accordingly, I turned down approaches for me only. Several churches approached both of us. And some were Whole Life churches. These senior leaders shared their hearts with us. We shared our heart for holistic lifespan discipleship. Then we committed all this to prayer and fasting, keeping close friends and our children in the loop. We finally shortlisted after rounds of discussions. The best fit was RiverLife Church. It was end-Oct 2017 when Dinah and I said yes to RiverLife, just as Dinah entered her Jubilee. 

RiverLife Church has invited Dinah and I to be part of their Senior Leadership Team.  The church is part of a family of Singapore churches known as the Bartley Family of Churches (BFOC). There are 4 local churches who are part of this extended spiritual family.

Dinah and I approached our bosses at Focus to share all this. We gave over 4 months’ notice. Our last day was yesterday (sob). Focus was gracious and invited us to share our Whole Life journey with the 260 church leaders present at the event yesterday. The pastors and leaders present prayed for our transition led by the Singapore Anglican Bishop Rennis Ponniah. 

My jubilee will end today. Today will also be the start of Dinah and my mini-sabbatical. We will enjoy a breather before we join up with RiverLife in end-March. Another adventure awaits... 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Jul 2015

Our highlight in July is the North America annual conference. There was much work and multiple night-time meetings before the trip. There was the farewell for Paul. And JDOP was amazing. 

Dinah and I did not sleep on the night before our early morning flight. It was a blessing to be on oversold flight and to be upgraded - on one of the three flights. Then the Vegas airport with its slot machines was a bit of a shock. The dry 38C temperature was not fun. We checked in to the hotel room in Henderson and then caught up with the leaders over dinner. The sleep afterwards was :)

The next day was one full day of pastors with the pastors. The following day saw meetings and  evening time was our first session. I felt the Lord tugging my heart to switch messages during worship. It went well. Meal times were spent with different leaders. After conference, our friends took us to the strip for dinner. Then we flew home. We thanked God for the positive atmosphere of unity. Upon arriving, we rested and took care of errands. There was time with the twins.  

But there was one night where jet lag hit and sleep was disrupted. So my throat went funny. I tried out drinking freshly squeezed lemon juice. It was very sour but also very effective.

We resumed family prayer. Our car COE expired and we got a replacement. There was one day of heavy rain  when we went jogging. Then the Focus staff retreat was fun. Our family enjoyed VSION at the Esplanade. We watched 7 Letters with Li Chuang at the new Capitol. Later Inn Siew joined us. Elvira’s birthday party was a blast and I reunited with aunt Mui Lan. There was time with Lionel and Han Hui. There was dinner with Jan's family.

Ministry wise, there was global polity work and the NA follow-up matters. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

All the above

June was slightly less packed. There were more fun moments. Dinah and the twins took me out on Fathers Day. Jan invited us over for a meal. Our family also had dinner with the Luns.

Dinah and I could catch up with Hock Lin and Dora, and with Shih Fen. We also caught up with Chiew Bong and Dora, and with Simon. Vincent hosted our pastors gathering. And I got to know Richard.

It was a privilege to speak at the Glad Tidings Church camp in Johor. It was a great opportunity to serve this church that helped us when we first pioneered our church. We were blessed to know the church leaders and members too.

There was a weekend when Dinah spoke at Bartley Christian Church as I spoke at Yio Chu Kang Chapel. And there was marriage mentoring. Then I spoke for Focus at Grace Methodist Church. Ministry wise, there was also CATALYSE, NA camp prep and Global Polity drafting.

Then I felt unwell one Sunday evening. Afterwards I fell ill for four days. Was this due to the weather, the schedule, weekend ministry trips or all the above?

The low point happened on Friday, June 26 when the SCOTUS redefined marriage. No words could describe my feelings...

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Packed & Cold

The month of May was packed. Dinah and I helped a friend's church in Bangkok over a weekend. There was a one day workshop, a Sunday message and 2 talks on Sunday afternoon. But it was good to catch up with Kobchai, Nuey and many old friends.

It was also exciting to pioneer a new training on sexuality. Dinah and I also had marriage mentoring. We spoke for Focus at the Singapore Life Church. There was one Sunday when Dinah spoke at Living Waters Methodist church whist I spoke at Cherith Baptist church. Then I also ministered at the Glory Joy Christian Church. 
The low point in May happened after the trip. The first day after happened to be a long work day. Two days later, a sore throat arrived. Next I was thoroughly sick with a cold virus for four days. Sigh

In a full month, our family did enjoy one day out along with a movie. We also joined Momentum 2015. On Mother's Day, Dinah's extended family celebrated with her mom. Dinah and I got to know Daniel and Janice. And the COE for our car runs out in 2 months...

I was thankful for one particular hot day with much rain. There were several hot days with some rain. But the forecast is for more hotter days ahead - without rain. Sigh.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The heat is on

Easter weekend was memorable. Our family joined a Passover Meal on Good Friday. The long weekend was also nice. Then Deb started her internship. And there was Momentum 2015.

There was a catch up with my former CEO Hyong. There was Anthony and Hui Ling’s 20th anniversary celebration. It was good to have  time with Mabel, with Nic, with Richard and Yuet Mei, with Wenjiang and Claramae, and with Nam Seng and Sok Mian. There was also time with my pastor friends.

One forgettable moment was opening a pastor friend's email and getting phished. So there was damage control (sigh). There was also the late tax return submission but thankfully not too late. 

Dinah and I ran a focus group for singles ministry. We trained a new generation of marriage mentors. We also spoke at Bethesda Frankel Estate Church. There was an interview for HIM's anniversary publication. There was the CATALYSE report. And there was the global polity meeting and the follow-up.

There were many hot days with some rain on a few afternoons. The heat is on.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Intense Emotions

March was a month of intense emotions.

Days, nights and weekends were all building up to the the sexuality conference. There were multiple local partners, speakers and speaker books to manage on top of the conference proper. I had a plenary session as well. The conference saw many walk-in registrations. The night session was virtually full house. I felt exhausted but joy-filled. After 2 days, we said our good byes as Dinah and I took the twins who volunteered at the conference for a special treat. Straight after, we began preparations for the special pastors tea.   

Again days, nights and the weekend were spent on preparations. There was broken sleep. This special pastors' tea was also the first of its nature. Mr LKY passes 3 days before. Affected, we continued and launched the Whole-Life Discipleship framework to pastors. Afterwards, Dinah and I took the twins who volunteered at the conference for a special treat. 

The final week was very intense. We cried throughout as we watched Farewell to LKY on Mar 29. It’s been an emotional week for the nation. My batteries were flat but tried to wrap up matters from conference and pastors tea. Treated our team to a special meal. Dinah and I went to the movies one night.

The first half of the month was less emotional except for the first day of the new office IT system. This impacted online registrations. This drama spilled over to our family outing. Also, Dinah and I had an interesting dinner with Che Ahn, Larry Bolz, Vincent and Genevie, Simon and Ping, Daniel and Joy. We had an unexpected meal with Pear, Derek and Gideon and then with Glen. 

Our family celebrated my birthday. Leonard took me out to lunch. There was an extended birthday meal with Vincent and Jenny.The guys in the office and our team took me out. The support group celebrated too. The staff team celebration was special with a watermelon as cake. I took this to symbolise fruit from gardening in the Sacred Garden.

This first half afforded some ministry time. Dinah and I spoke at Elim Church. Dinah spoke at Zion Full Gospel church. I also spoke at the English Presbytery Co-Workers Fellowship, the Board of Children's Ministry TRAC and Grace AG church.

March started out hot and humid. Days were mainly warm with clouds in the afternoon. Grateful for some drizzle and even rain.