De Anno 2013

The time has come again for my annual affair of reviewing the year that just passed. In short, it has been an emotionally charged year with so much challenges that lie ahead of me. Once again, let me look at my year month by month:

January

January marked the beginning of my first semester with AGBC. The year started with an orientation programme with AGBC, attending the Spiritual Emphasis Chapel, preached by the new principal of AGBC - Ps Anthony Phua. The point of the message, on the Presence of God, coincided with what Ps Jeff preached during the Christmas service and the God's Church God's Way vision that Ps Jeff has been sharing with Hope in 2012. It almost served as a confirmation that I am in the right place to receive my theological education. Attending my first few lessons in AGBC also led me to realise that all these times, God has been preparing me for all the things I needed to do well in Bible College. Moreover, the spiritual formation class that I sat through helped me to think further where God is going to lead me in my own ministry. The more I thought about it that time, the more excited I became.

January also marked a major restructuring in my LG. Looking back at the experience, I must say that in sum, it was same same but different. From my LG, a new LG was born but I had to merge the remainder with another LG which was supposed to be formed. But yet, the changes provided new potentials and new directions for the LG, and allowed me to experiment with new ways of leading the LG. Some of the experiments failed but it becomes the first time in a year where I can bring through a theme that I felt God has spoken in my heart for the LG throughout the year.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, I had my last 20-something birthday celebration this month. Well...

February

This month, other than the fact that we had CNY celebration, was a quiet month for me. Work continued to remain at the usual pace despite the Budget period. But it became interesting as I worked on my research paper on Christian dating for women. At this point, I must say that the genesis for the research topic stemmed from a very interesting conversation I had with one of the sisters, who told me that she could not find a suitable life partner in her LG and hoped to change LG so that she can find one. Legitimate concern but it began to make me wonder how I, as a leader, can help sisters in church to find their life partners, on top of pushing guys to take action. This was interesting, because recently, I was counselling another sister on how to prepare herself to find one, and she commented my inexperience and remained unconvinced that I have probably given enough thoughts in this area to at least advise her what she should do from a man's perspective.

And yeah, looking back, I finally met back my JC classmates, after a very very long time. Very happy to see them, though I was pretty sure that people like me remain an extraordinary existence in their midst.

March

At this point, it seems that most of my time were spent doing research for my paper and preparing for my group presentation for my New Testament Foundation class. The most memorable part, however, was my pulpectomy with NDC, which means that I got my first root canal surgery. It was an emergency procedure when my badly decayed tooth began to act up despite the filling. It was one of the most painful experiences I have ever had after my first wisdom tooth extraction. It was also during this month or towards the end of it and early the next one that I had one of the most emotionally draining conversations that I ever had in my entire ministry life. I have to admit, I am not good with dealing with emotions and the experience that I was made to go through was not fun. What happened (not convenient to share all the details here) was that something that was simmering in my life blew up in my face in January (thus delaying certain decisions I had to make in my life). By the time I got down to settle it, it was already near end March.

April

The end of April marked the end of my first semester in AGBC. Looking back, I could look forward to many more semesters of learning and interactions with my classmates. Managed to get to know a lot of new friends in school during this period of time. It was also this month that I began to get involved with Hope Center more in their overseas community project. To me, this involvement marks the culmination of my own involvement with the ministry in Batam. Little did I know that I would once again get involved with Batam again after my leader left Hope and after I decided to sign up with AGBC. In short, God did not let me go when it comes to Batam and I thank God that I was able to get involved with some of the work there again.

May

May was the month of church conference. Perhaps the one thing that will forever stuck in my mind was the catch phrase: God >> me. This was also the month when I began to think seriously about my own vocational calling in my current marketplace. Perhaps it helps that my church invited a highly respected leader in the area to speak about her experience as a Christ follower in her sphere. It was also around this period that a prayer group in my workplace was in the formation and we began to meet up once per week to pray about issues at work and to pray for one another. I would never imagine it but meeting this group once per week became the highlight of my work week.

And I ran my second last marathon this month. It was the first time, and not the last, that God was going to rebuke me for my irresponsibility in my own decision making in my own life and this was going to lead to something. Nonetheless, it was another run which I enjoyed so much. A marathon is always gonna be a good run with Him.

June

June was dramatic due to the haze (but after reading about China, I felt that we got it easy). For the first time in Singapore's history, our PSI reached 400 and it was yellow outside. On top of that, I finally sat down in a proper Biblical Interpretation class to learn how to interpret the Bible. The process made me addicted to structural diagramming for a while but all the more, it made me more interested in interpreting the Bible for theological reasons.

July

July was the first time I followed AGBC for their annual camp and one camp which allowed me to get to know more people in the college. It was strange but I got to know the other sides of my lecturers and my friends in college. By now, AGBC life was more or less part and parcel of my life. It was during this camp that I learned that the presence of God is just right here with us and we have to learn to experience His presence by going to Him everyday and be disciplined in our devotional times with Him and to learn to worship Him privately. It was not as if I did not know all these but it's just that I never pulled all these together and link them with the presence of God so directly.

Of course, what more can I say about July? I finally met my hero in faith - Ravi Zacharias - and took a photo with him and got him to sign one of the books I bought. And I attended literally all his engagements in Singapore and I felt that I continue to learn so much from him. He was to me a spiritual mentor, simply by reading his books, he imparted so much of the spirit of serving God in my life, that I wanted so much to model his faith and perseverance in spreading the gospel and wanting to bridge the gap between the mind and the heart. It was my honour to be able to hear him speak personally.

And yes, it was also the month of the Eagles Leadership Conference, which I signed up with - the real reason was to hear Ravi Zacharias speak.

And yes, the main highlight of this month will always be my one minute of photo taking with Ravi Zacharias.

August

My first time in so many months travelling alone out of Singapore to an unfamiliar place at Xi'an. The trip to Xi'an during the national day period was for me to get away from the noises of Singapore and to find somewhere unfamiliar to think through some decision that I was going to make. By this time, whatever blew up in January was about to settle down and it was about time to properly move on in my own personal life. In some sense, I meant to go over to Xi'an to encourage a brother also. I was glad that I went, cos I was also blessed by his hospitality as well. This trip would prove to be a turning point in my decision making in my own life, as it concretised what I had already decided this time in 2013.

September

From here on, things moved pretty fast in a lot of areas. For one, my preparation for my short mission trip began to pick up. Transitions happened at work, which nobody actually likes (and I doubt people still like the way things transited). A lot of what happened this month has to do with that transition, which I don't think I like to talk to about in any case in this blog. But it was also around this time that the prayer group began to grow and more people began to join us and we were seeing people praying together with us.

October

October, I witnessed the marriage of two good friends in church. I served together with them during my NUS days as leaders together and I was truly glad that they could come together in a union before God to live life together as one till death do them part. The only reason why I remember this event in the month of October was because someone asked me a very stupid question about my relationship with them which caused me to '...' but I shall not embarrass the person by revealing the name and the question asked. By this time, I am also gaining an appreciation of what counselling can add to spiritual mentorship. I began to think that in our own discipleship ministry, we missed out too much on the potential of counselling to help our disciples make sense of their experience in their past.

November

November was the end of my second semester in AGBC, but what more happening was my trip to the land where Facebook is not permitted. As I need to protect the people whom I served with there, I could not release any photo which we have taken but suffice to say that it was the first trip where I learned what it really means to allow the Holy Spirit one side of the paper to write His plan while we write our own plan on the other side. The trip itself was documented in this blog and I think it left a mark in my heart, in the sense that I am beginning to gain a better sense of my own longer term calling in God.

And the last day of November 2013... was the day before I ran my last marathon. Memorable.

December

December was simply happening with good news.

Looking back in 2013, I think God, first and foremost, is still continuing to teach me about how His grace and mercy will sustain me, that I will constantly need to go back to Him. It was so poignantly demonstrated when I was doing my mission trip and I had to constantly pray for wisdom and guidance in preparing my materials over there. But the most important lesson for me, that God taught me this year, was to trust in Him. This lesson is not a new one. In fact, my first memory verse in church was Proverbs 3:5-6. Hence, I learned very early in my Christian life to trust in God. In fact, at the beginning of this year, this was the exact verse that God spoke in my heart.

Yet, this was to become the most important lesson because of what He brought me through this entire year, which at this point, I am able to see clearly why He has chosen to bring me through this path. He really made my path straight as I waited on Him in the major decisions in my life. It was not easy, and I struggled at times to jump the gun on decisions. The waiting part allowed things to fit into place so nicely that I am still admiring the picture that He has painted in my life right now. This made me more excited over 2014, to see how He can continue to use my life and the lives of the people around me to bless His people. I am seeing a snippet of this happening as I enter into the end of 2013.

And as I pray for 2014, I already know the word that He has placed in my heart - 1 Thess 5:17-18 - to pray continually, be joyful always and to give thanks to God in all circumstances for this is God's will for us in Christ Jesus. That's the reason why I don't know what is going to come next in 2014. But then, I normally don't know what will come in the following year and the kind of adventure that God will bring me.

I am posting this before 31 Dec as I know I may not have the time to type out all these and trace back the memories of the year as tonight. But all in all, I believe that for 2013, all credits have to be due to God for bringing me through this year.

And I think this stanza from O Sacred Head, Now Wounded, written by Bernard of Clairvaux, will do justice in expressing my gratitude to Him for 2013:
What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

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