I am the eldest child of an Asian family, whose parents migrated from Hong Kong to pursue a more prosperous lifestyle. As an Asian kid heading into primary school, I wasn’t well received by my Caucasian classmates, often being bullied and the target of racist Chinese jokes; not only so but I was also the target of some racial prejudice by some of my primary school teachers. This made it quite difficult for me to fit into school and find a sense of belonging; it was quite hard to earn the trust and respect of my peers at the time, especially because I didn’t excel at anything they valued (eg: sports). Eventually I found acceptance through some friends because of my academic intellect, which at the same time attracted “nerd” jokes. But at the least, it gave me a sense of individuality, belonging and acceptance.
Our actions are influenced by a variety of things around us. If we try to trace back where our actions come from, we would first say that our “decisions” influence our actions – we choose to actively perform that particular action, and we also decide our action is “right” or “wrong”. But where do the decisions for our actions come from? I would like the investigate just two sources which loosely covers where all our decisions and actions come from – our minds and our hearts. When we think of our minds and our hearts together, some of us might instantly think of the notion that what we think and what we feel are opposed to one another; a battle of logic against emotions that rages within us. As Christians, though we already have been saved through Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, we still need to pay careful attention to the way we live. And if indeed we go by the classic idea that our convictions and our feelings are opposed to each other, then we need to figure out how we’re going choose the right thing to do.
It’s not over till it’s over and looks like even for this year, given my circumstances in ministry, my youth ministry isn’t over just yet. As most of you may know, this semester I have been given the chance to return to my old high school to help my pastor out with the ISCF group there. Back then I was a student leader (not a very good one, but was learning vital leadership skills those final two years of high school), and I consider myself very lucky to be given the chance to go back, see what things are like, and to put the last 4 years of my experience back into something I was a part of in the past. I suppose another way you could word is that I got a second chance to be a leader of the ISCF group and do better than I did the first time round.
This is my current take on what I think of the “Charismatic Christian” movement. Because it is such a sensitive topic, I have been trying to avoid the subject until I felt like I had gathered and researched enough of the underlying information out there before making a call. However, there seems to be more and more charismatic Christians out there, and due to my where I stand as a Christian (in terms of my statement of faith – which I haven’t really properly written up) I find it as something that desperately needs to be addressed. Let me say in short that I am very strongly opposed to “charismatics” because it seems to pervert what a relationship with Jesus is all about; but let me spend the rest of this post qualifying what I mean by “charismatics” and why it doesn’t exhibit what a Christian’s relationship with Jesus should be about.
And so here we are, pretty much at the end of the road, of four awesome years of having the privilege of spending five days absorbed into the Word of God and learning something that will definitely impact us for a lifetime and more. It’s not so much an emotional farewell to MYC because on one hand, there will be many more important events to follow so it’s not the most important thing in the world, and at the same time MYC truly did play a huge role in my Christian walk at this current time. I suppose then the fair attitude I should have at the moment is to respect the significance that Mid-Year Conference had for my university days but not be too attached to it.
Well it’s the second last day, and hence the second last chance to make this MYC a memorable one. I think I only had a mere 5 hours to sleep on Wednesday night, which resulted in me barely making it to breakfast before they stopped serving food. I always had contemplated the idea of sacrificing breakfast in favour of some extra sleep but I don’t think the trade is worth it still; probably get more energy from eating and drinking rather than sleeping an extra hour.
I preached at my church for the first time today; and by preach I mean give a sermon or talk. It wasn’t anything too serious, it was an evangelistic talk on the prodigal son; which most of us would’ve heard at some point. But just like in year 12 when we were the last grade to do “journeys”, I had to come up with a way to present the prodigal son parable in a different way (that of course was still Biblical).
Long story short, my talk will be uploaded below, as well as my powerpoint slides to aid the talk; so feel free to be the judge of what I say yourselves. Writing the talk was a bit difficult at the time because I kind of left it a bit too late, and before I knew it I found that today when the talk was due, was sandwiched between a class test I had on Thursday, and this huge assignment which was set to be due this coming Tuesday. So it wasn’t looking to be a pleasant weekend; and the distractions that kept me from thinking about my talk got to me.
Eventually I got quite stressed over last week and I suppose it all nearly overwhelmed me. But it’s strange how God works. Within the span of a few days and by the time Saturday (yesterday) came, several things turned my situation completely around for the better. On Thursday after my exam, the tutor went through the answers and miraculously I think I should get 100% since all my answers matched up (not sure about the working though). And come Saturday I found out that my assignment deadline was pushed back from this coming Tuesday, to the Monday after (6 day extension). And so even though I really only had that final Saturday free; God had somehow changed my circumstances so that I would be completely unburdened the whole day to work on the talk. And though I still struggled on Saturday I managed to get it done by midnight; and well, here I am sitting at home talking about it.
It was a really challenging week for me as a Christian but as always God pulled through for me. And as always when I publicly present something from the Bible (at youth group normally), I really felt the power of the Holy Spirit working through me and giving me the words. I know I didn’t really qualify that last sentence well, but it’s hard to describe the effect of the Holy Spirit and I’m more mesmerised by what I was able to accomplish through God. Anyway it’s time to work on the assignment. Thank you all who asked me about my talked, prayed for me, or attended on Sunday to see me speak.
One last thing, I didn’t publicize it at the time because I didn’t want people flocking over to my church just to hear me speak, and also to give up their own church service as well. As such I kept quiet about it, it’s not that I didn’t want to tell people about it; it just makes me feel bad if people are skipping their own church’s to hear me speak (not to mention that their leaders would probably get mad at me anyway). So hopefully people understand why all the *hush hush* about it.
Note that a bit of the beginning wasn’t recorded but it wasn’t anything too important.
Last night, about ten thousand people from all over Sydney (and maybe a bit further) gathered at Sydney Entertainment Centre to hear from John Piper and John Lennox, two renowned speakers from America who have written quite a number of good books. This was a completely new event that has never been run before in Sydney but the reputation of the speakers certainly attracted a lot of people to come; seating capacity was completely maxed out and both speakers preached a very powerful message to a full house, such would be deemed the success of the event.
For a few of us, the topic of event seemed quite ambiguous and we didn’t really know what to expect from the speakers. I think we’ve all heard about “not wasting our lives” (particularly in the Christian context) and I also wondered what more could be said about the idea. Last night was a night to re-ignite the spirits of those who attended, that they may burn with a strong passion for Jesus and indeed not waste their lives but live it all to their max, for the glory of God.
The night was filled with worship and was MCed by Al Stewart. All in all, the night was quite simple and very heavily focused around the speakers; and they themselves focused heavily around the Bible, it was quite an intense event in terms of the amount of stuff we were hearing. They also gave us very cute little booklets with information and also space to write notes and all (photo above).
John Lennox came up to speak first and he began by addressing the concerns of investing our time, and even our lives, for Jesus. He explained both points of views, that indeed it would be quite a waste of a life if we invested into someone who wasn’t real and the promises of heaven and all were not real. However, if we did not invest into Jesus and he turned out to be real, then we would be in serious trouble. John talked about the transfiguration of Jesus and how that event was a truly remarkable change not only for Jesus but also for those who witnessed it. The eyewitnesses (and apostles) who saw all that Jesus did would be able to invest in Jesus because they actually saw what Jesus had in plan for those who believe. And as eyewitnesses they shared this news with the people around them because the way we live our lives would certainly have an eternal difference at the end. Lennox also talked about how the transfiguration demonstrated Jesus’ power, and it was not a power of this world and while we might not receive this same power, we are called to trust in the one who does have this power.
Lennox moved onto talking about death and leaving the world; because if indeed there is an eternal reward waiting for us at the end of time, how we live our lives up to the point of our death is important. The Bible shows us examples of how some people live their lives and went out with a “bang”: Moses died (but lived a very arduous life), Elijah left the world but did not taste death, Jesus was crucified, and Peter was crucified upside down, in order to not shame what happened to Jesus. If we are indeed convinced of the value of our investment in Christ and of the eternal difference that will show itself at the end of time, then indeed it makes perfect sense to live our lives as best as we can, to reflect the treasure we have in Christ.
Lennox’s talk was a good opener to the evening and explaining why it made sense to invest our time and our whole lives into Jesus.
After a short intermission, John Piper came up to speak. For a 65-year old man, he demonstrated quite a lot of energy in his preaching and I was glad I was able to hear him and the ideas he presented last night. Piper introduced a lot of radical concepts that I hadn’t really thought about before but I was deeply moved by what he said. He started off by reminding us of some of the world events that resulted in various numbers of deaths, namely the famous incidents, starting at 9/11. These, and many more, are incidents where the goodness of God is questioned and a lot of people hear the question: “Where was God in all of this?” Funnily enough Jesus himself was not as sentimental about life and death as we would expect. Piper read out Luke 13:1-5 and showed that amidst suffering, Jesus did not comfort those who lost loved ones but instead called everyone to repent. And of course many people would dare to say that Jesus was unloving because he didn’t show a care for those who died.
The radical idea that Piper presented was that we should not presume even one more breath of our life but be somewhat expecting of the bad. For those who suffered accidents, some of which led to death, we should be surprised not that it happened to other people, but that it didn’t happen to us. Too often we play the “where were you God when ‘this’ happened?” card and replace ‘this’ with something bad that happened. But we don’t seem to ask “where were you God when ‘that’ happened?”, replace ‘that’ with something good. The perspective shift Piper asked us to take on was that bad things are the “default” and anything good, even the next second of your life, is a blessing which we must make good use of, clearly because those who are dead do not have such a gift.
I didn’t find it too hard to take on this perspective, I imagine people who don’t have their trust in Jesus would find it harder to accept such a view. But adopting such a view really turns your world upside down. While it does make you seem pessimistic (because you’re always anticipating something bad), it makes you much more joyful and motivated when good things happen. Not only does it put our perspective on life right, but it also corrects our perspective on God. God has all the right to end our lives and pour His judgement our on us, but He chooses to have mercy on us instead and when we begin to contrast His blessings against His judgement, we begin to value what He’s given us.
Lastly, Piper talked about us learning to give up everything we have in favour of Christ. That is, we don’t literally go around selling everything we own, but in whatever we own or have, we should be prepared to make Jesus more important than that. And I think it works to say that having as much as we want isn’t a bad thing, as long as we are able to value Christ even more, which will end up in a willingness to give us everything else we own (hence you really only become rich to just give it all away out of generosity). How we our lives then should be to magnify Christ in everything that we have and everything that we do. By “magnify” we think of how a telescope magnifies the vast vast universe so that those looking through a telescope can see the magnificence of the universe; same with our lives and God.
Well, they asked us to make a response as to how we intend to live our lives from this point on; how we plan to not waste it. There was a small section in our book for us to jot something down. Here was what I felt at the time:
I’ve never felt like each day in my life was truly a waste because it always felt like there was something to be learned, and something to be gained, not matter how big or small, and no matter whether it was a good or bad day. But I suppose the call for me is to sharpen my life and be more and more proactive with my time which would be the main challenge since I’ve packed it with so much stuff. But that can’t be right since I should always have time to slot people in when needed.
I hope I’ll continue to have time to blog. I have so many pending things to type up that I’ve kind of just left it all to one side. Frankly, it took a while to even finish this post up (probably partly due to my laziness and my wanting to do other things at the same time). But all in all this was a night for us to think about out long term investments for Christ. And while Lennox and Piper didn’t say specifically “how” we should spend our lives, the main focus indeed was to spread the glory of God to all around us, in whatever way we feel comfortable with. For some of us like me, the ministry field seems most applicable; and so I shall try to redouble my efforts at my church.
To end on a semi-dim note, sometimes all my years of leading youth group have felt like a waste, perhaps not a complete waste, but there are times where it seemed pointless or not as fruitful as doing something else. And that definitely discourages me when my passion and vision for youth group doesn’t turn out the way I had hoped it would. But through God’s grace I’ve seen more than enough change to conclude that all my efforts have not been in vain and indeed any amount of energy was worth it to see the fruits that were yielded, and the fruits that will be reaped if we persevere in our race. I believe that to be true of any other aspect of life we devote to our Saviour, Jesus Christ. He will see us through to the last day.
So for once on the last night of MYC, I managed to rack up 3-4 hours of sleep as opposed to 0 hours. Still, the dawn of the last day pretty much meant that camp was coming to an end, and we would soon no longer have all that time to sit together with other Christians, to have fellowship and to study God’s Word. Which is probably why over the years we’ve managed to see that the time spent at MYC is precious and needs to be used in a manner that reflects how rare the opportunity is. Just like all the speakers say, you really don’t get a daily chance to study God’s Word so in depth outside of MYC.
It’s funny how by the fourth day, you seem to not think about the rest of camp that lies ahead, but start to reflect on how much has gone by in the last three days. And to put things into perspective, the start of Thursday makes me think about how there’s only one more night left to enjoy the fellowship with everyone, one more night that have fun and to catch up people we weren’t able to chat with since the last three days; because Friday would pretty much be the end of MYC (and everyone goes *sadface* over that of course).
Come Wednesday, people had lost a lot of sleep:
But then again when you only get like 4-5 hours a sleep per night you are bound to start getting exhausted; this is a fundamental factor for any camp. I think Wednesday was the start where we all gradually slept closer and closer to breakfast time, such that we were facing the possibility of not having breakfast at all in the morning. Thirty minutes more sleep in exchange for breakfast probably wasn’t the best deal, but when you’re tired, you’ll take all that you can.