3-2-1 Following Jesus in Threes (Tan Soo-Inn, 2013)

Summary:

  • Three friends meeting two hours one time a month over a meal.
  • Friends are important (Eccl 4:9-12, Jesus and disciples)

4 kinds of groupings:

  • Public
  • Social
  • Personal
  • Intimate (321)

Triad is a good number for discipleship, spiritual formation, mission

What spiritual friends do:

  • Loving (accept and forgive)
  • Supporting (empathise and encourage)
  • Challenging (teach, rebuke, cheer)

Disciplines of spiritual friendships:

  • Listening
  • Sharing (5 levels of communication – cliche, info, idea and opinion, feelings, self disclosure)
  • Discernment

Components of a 3-2-1 meeting:

  • Eat a Meal
  • Share Life by Conversations
  • Pray together (ACTS format)

Further components:

  • Confession
  • Decision making (help decide and be accountable)
  • Vocational discernment (General call, Specific call, Immediate responsibility)

What happens:

  • Eat in a quiet place
  • Connect by sharing a major life event that happened since they last met
  • Check in with one joy and one struggle (Life with God, Work, Family, Church) *main part*
  • Get help on any life area
  • Study together
  • Pray together
  • Set a date for next meeting

Life cycle of triad:

  • Conviction
  • Accountability (let church know)
  • Prayer (ask God who to join triad)
  • Invite (commit to 2 meetings first)
  • Run first meeting
  • Call for commitment (agree to a written covenant of commitment, edification, acceptance, biblical authority, confidentiality, transparency)
  • Periodic review (every 6 months, 1 year renew)
  • End well (last meeting recount highlight of group and thanksgiving)

FAQ

  • Prefer same gender
  • Not married couples together
  • No need to be same age range but same maturity
  • 321 can’t replace other groups like cell
  • Can be 432!

Singaporean Parable: Mr Toh and his two Sons

Image result for singapore homeless

Mr Toh had two sons and lived a comfortable life in a bungalow near the coast. His older son, Kou worked faithfully in the family business. But the younger son, Ming was another story. One day, Ming dropped out of university and wanted to go see the world. He told his father, “Give me my inheritance now. I need the money to travel and enjoy life.”

Thus, Mr Toh sold the bungalow and downgraded to a smaller HDB flat with Kou. Ming happily took the money and travelled all around Asia, spending it without any thought. He drank, took drugs and slept with prostitutes. But one day, he realised he couldn’t pay for a lavish hotel meal. His money was wiped out.

So the hotel staff kicked Ming out and all his friends abandoned him quickly. It happened to be an economic crisis and jobs were scarce. Ming went hungry for a few days, sleeping on street corners in the rain. He began digging up half eaten food from the trash bins but other homeless people forced him out of their territory.

Finally, Ming came to his senses. He realised he had messed up big time. Even all the domestic helpers at home had enough food to eat. Why should he starve out here like a tramp? But after all he had done, could he go back and still deserve to be a son? No, Ming decided that he wasn’t worthy to be called a son but rather a servant. So he made the long way home.

But while Ming was still a long way off, Mr Toh saw him from the window. He looked at the dirty and haggard boy and recognized it was Ming. No doubt about it! Mr Toh in his excitement ran down five flights of stairs in his singlet and boxers. His neighbours looked at him in shock, wondering what had happened to the prim and proper Mr Toh. Something must have happened.

Mr Toh ran up to Ming and hugged him tightly. Ming was so smelly but he didn’t care. His son was finally back home. Ming didn’t dare to look at his father but whispered, “I’m not worthy to be your son anymore. Treat me like…”

Mr Toh interrupted him. “Let’s celebrate! We got to party now that Ming is back.” He brought Ming home and gave him fresh clothes to wear. Within minutes, Ming was back to his usual self, glad that he was back home. The oldest wine from the cellar was out, his favourite sashimi buffet was ordered and his favourite music was playing in the background. Mr Toh called his neighbours to come and celebrate also.

Meanwhile, Ming’s older brother, Kou was in the company office working overtime again. He saw a flurry of messages on his phone from his father: “Come home and celebrate now! Ming is back!” Kou was confused then he became furious and refused to come home. He thought, “Why should this terrible ingrate brother deserve to have a party? He should be disciplined and locked out. He forced us to downgrade houses also.”

Kou decided he would not go home and continued working. To his surprise, his father came to the office. Mr Toh pleaded with Kou to come home. But Kou said, “Look, how can you throw a party for this son of yours after all that he has done? I’ve been so faithful working for you all this year’s and you never even let me party with my friends at my favourite restaurant?”

His father sighed. “Kou, all that I have is yours. But this brother of yours is back. We have to celebrate because he’s not dead but alive, not lost but found.”


Think about it:

1. Have you ever messed up your life like Ming? If you were Ming, would you have gone home?

2. Would you react like Kou when his father called him to come home and celebrate Ming’s return? Why?

3. Which of the three characters do you most identify with? Mr Toh, Ming or Kou? Or a combination of character traits?

This is adapted from the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). See my earlier one on Mr Chen and the Lost Student.

Book Summary: The (unofficial) guide to starting school right

The (unofficial) guide to starting school right

Melvin Chew and Andrea Chan, 2017

This a good book I read that will help your kids as they transition to school life. There are many challenges in school and this book offers some ideas. As a Christian, I believe parents and kids can pray together. The church youth group will be an important community for teenagers in school.

1. Physical Preparation

– The balance or middle ground

– Always prepare early

– Impressions are important (just be who you are)

2. Mental preparation

– Paint positive picture and words in your mind

3. Emotional preparation

– Stop yourself from reacting at once to your thoughts and emotions. Think first.

4. Acceptance and Social Media

– We define acceptance by number of followers and likes.

– Learn to accept yourselves first through a good self-esteem

5. Friendship

– Good: Have your best interests, Reliable, Honest communication, Happy when you do well, Gives you personal space.

– Bad: Cares for themselves, unreliable in trouble, don’t listen or honest, feel jealous and betrayed, possessive.

6. How to Make Friends

– Categories: Hi/bye, Same Interests, 2nd tier, Old friends, True friends.

– Introduction: Be sincere, introduce name and smile, handshake, share common interest

  • How to be likeable:

– People like people who are like themselves

– Be genuine

– Ask people about themselves

– Say or do nice things for them

– Don’t be bossy, listen

– Love yourself first

– Know what the social norm is

  • 4 pitfalls:

– 1st impression vs impressing people

– friends are important but not everything. Take note who is real or not

– just because you treat them like your best friend,it doesn’t mean that you are theirs

– know your purpose, don’t do things just so people will like you.

7. Bullying

– A behaviour where someone intentionally and repeatedly causes harm, injury, discomfort or fear to another person.

– Types: physical,verbal, cyber, social

– Adult, Avoid, Assess

8. Handling expectations

  • Family

– align theirs with yours

– understand the reason behind their expectations

– keep them updated and involved in your plans

  • Friends

– have an open communication and learn to say NO

– balance your time with different groups

– do to others as you want them to do to you

  • Self

– set expectations that are realistic and achievable

– expectation vs acceptance levels

9. Handling relationships

  • Friends

– be sincere, open communication, be clear, give space, don’t demand, walk away from toxic friends, don’t dwell in negativity, never judge or assume

  • Teachers

– Follow rules, do the right thing, follow deadlines, understand them, know your objective to do well in school

  • Siblings

– Compromise, communicate, apologise, think of all the good moments, show love

  • Grandparents

– listen to their nagging as love, be patient, talk and spend time, understand their view, show love

  • Parents

– recall good times, understand their view and intentions, parents have feeling, stay calm, open communication, show love

10. Time management

– Do in order of Urgent and impt, Not urgent and impt, Urgent and Not impt, Not urgent not impt.

– Break down tasks into small manageable bits

– plan the right task at the right time, productive peak times vs nonproductive hours

– be realistic, don’t plan too much

– plan for interruptions

– plan breaks and rewards

– keep distractions away

– organise your things

11. Stress management

– Stress can be good or bad. Moderate amount is good.

– Destress: Music, talk, laugh, plan time, study earlier, games, say NO, exercise, rewards.

Book Summary: Love Like That (Dr Les Parrott)

Image result for love like that les parrott

Love Like That: Relationship Secrets from Jesus (Dr Les Parrott, 2018)

There are five concrete ways to help us love more like Jesus:

1. Be mindful – not indifferent – by seeing what others don’t.

2. Be approachable – not exclusive – by moving out of your comfort zone.

3. Be grace-full – not judgmental – by not limiting your love to people who deserve it.

4. Be bold – not fearful – by speaking truthfully and risking rejection.

5. Be self-giving – not self-serving – by emptying yourself for empathy.

We cannot love like Jesus without the Holy Spirit’s help. There are five ways to walk in the Spirit of Christ.

1. We need to open our eyes to become mindful of the Spirit in our lives. We need to pray: “Help me recognise you and learn your voice. I want to see you, moment by moment, in my life.”

2. We need to open our arms and invite the Spirit to live within us. We need to pray: “I welcome you into my life, even when I feel weary, and into this moment right now to show me how to love as you do.”

3. We need to open our hearts to accept how the Spirit is counseling us. We need to pray: “Guide me even when I don’t know what to say or do in this moment. I want to hear your truthful teaching even if it’s tough to hear.”

4. We need to open our mouths to boldly ask for the Spirit’s power within and through us. We need to pray: “Work wonders through me in this moment for this person I’m trying to love. Give me the power I don’t have to love this person the way you do.”

5. We need to open our selves by giving our lives over to the Spirit each day. We need to pray: “I want to surrender to my will to yours and depend on you to fill me with your desires and your motivations in loving others. I am dependent on you for loving others at the highest levels. I can’t do it without you.”

Connect with the Spirit daily through reading the Bible daily and praying. It gradually changes our lives and slowly shapes our heart. God is everywhere, even in the most common of places, when we quiet our minds enough to notice.

So Close and Yet So Far Away

Image result for pharisee and jesus“So close, so close and yet so far…”

Thus goes Frankie Valli’s hit song, “My Eyes Adored You”. I think God also sang that song about the Pharisees in Jesus’ days. They seemed to be doing all the right stuff, praying the right words, but their hearts were far away from God. Jesus said about them:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’”

Matt 15:8-9

The Pharisees’ problem is just as fresh today. One of the greatest dangers of pastoral ministry is to believe that serving God means you’re right with God. Just because you’re leading the worship or preaching sermons doesn’t mean that your heart is right with God. Christianity is not a performance-based religion. It’s a relationship with God.

Jesus quoted from Isaiah the Prophet (Isaiah 29:13). It was not a new problem. It was centuries old. Priests were serving God, offering right sacrifices but hearts were not right with God. God wasn’t pleased. Their worship was “vain”. What does “vain” mean? Useless. Futile. Pointless. Worthless.

This really scares me. I can be so zealous to lead Bible studies, to sing worship songs, to tithe faithfully but totally missing the mark. No wonder  Joel said:

“Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”

Joel 2:13

God is not merely interested in outward actions. He’s looking at your heart. Our actions must flow from inside-out. If our heart is not right with God, Joel says: Return to the Lord your God. I love that. God is compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. He wants you more than anything else in the world. He doesn’t want your words, your money. He wants your heart. Whole-hearted devotion.

Let’s not get caught up with the same issue that the Pharisees had. They focused on the outside rather than the inside. If you’re serving God yet feel so far away spiritually, it’s time to reflect. It’s time to return to Him.

He’s waiting.

He’s close and not so far away.

Jesus: “Do you love me more than these?”

Image result for john 21 peter and jesus

In my previous post “Jesus doesn’t need your fish!“, I explored the idea of co-labouring with Christ in ministry. Though we can do nothing without Jesus, he still partners with us to do the work. Now, we arrive to the passage that is often called the Restoration of Peter. Just as Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him thrice. I shall not go into the Greek verbs for love as many have done so.  I would look at Jesus’ question to Peter – “Do you love me?”

This question is of utmost importance especially for those in pastoral ministry whether you’re serving as a youth pastor, a theological lecturer, a cell group leader or a Sunday School teacher.

Jesus’ question “Do you love me?” forms the criteria for ministry. It is the one question we must answer first before we do any form of ministry.

Do you love Jesus? 

If you do love Jesus, feed his sheep (John 21:15-17).

Do you realise that the first criteria for entering pastoral ministry is whether you truly love Jesus?

Do you love Jesus?

Jesus did not ask:

  • Do you love people?
  • Do you love preaching?
  • Do you love your church?
  • Do you love to share the gospel?

I realised I can love preaching without loving the people I preach to. I can love people without loving Jesus. I can love the church and expanding it without loving Jesus. I can share the gospel to increase church attendance and not because I love Jesus.

It’s a really insidious thing when our focus is diverted from loving Jesus. We turn doing church into a task or a management system. We begin to neglect the sheep instead of feeding them. We begin comparing ourselves to others (John 21:20-21). It all goes downhill when our love for Jesus is gone.

Do you love Jesus?

Have you lost your first love (Rev 2:4)? If so, tell Jesus how sorry you are. Ask him to renew the love you had at first and to keep it burning strong. Only when your love for Jesus is in place, are you ready to feed his sheep.

Jesus Doesn’t Need Your Fish!

Image result for john 21

When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”

John 21:9-10

The disciples were restless. Jesus had just died on the cross and reappeared alive in the flesh to them. Then he disappeared again like a magician. It was a visionless time for them. What were they to do now?

Peter went back to what he knew – fishing. He was supposed to be a Fisher of men not a fisherman. But in times of aimlessness, he went back to his old job. He went back into his comfort zone. So they laboured hard through the night but caught nothing. But in the early morning light, a stranger called out from the shore.

In the misty morning fog, they couldn’t recognise who it was at first. Just instructions to let down the net on the other side. We read:  

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

John 21:6

John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, recognised the stranger as Jesus. How did he know? Because it was a miracle déjà vu. Just when Jesus first called Peter and a few others with a miraculous catch of fish (Luke 5), he reminded them again of that original call. Sometimes we lose sight of our original call. We get tired of ministry because it’s so difficult. So unrewarding. So thankless. It isn’t worth the effort or heartache. We go back to our own ways. Maybe even considering calling it quits.

But Jesus gently renews our call. He shows Peter that he can do nothing without him. Toiling all night yielded nothing. Your experience in the past doesn’t guarantee success in the present. Till he gave a simple instruction to cast the net on the other side of the boat. Jesus reminded Peter that he could not achieve anything without his help. Similarly, we cannot achieve anything without God’s help. No matter how hard we may work. No matter how experienced we are (Peter was an experienced fisherman). Do you believe that without Jesus you cannot do anything? I mean, literally, anything with Jesus? That’s a humbling thought.

There’s Peter’s miraculous catch. But we may miss Jesus’s miraculous catch too. When they reach the shore, Jesus had already started grilling his own fishes. Where on earth did he get them from? It teaches us an important lesson in ministry: Jesus doesn’t need your fish. Let that sink in for a moment. He can do the work just as well with or without you. But as co-partners, co-labourers in this wonderful redemptive ministry, Jesus gives us the privilege to join in (1 Cor 3:9).

Jesus tells Peter, “Bring some of the fish you caught.” Though He can work without us, he wants to work with us. That’s the ultimate rest knowing that we don’t need to produce results. But when we obey Jesus and his methods, there will be fruit. Fishes will be caught. Nets will refuse to break even under immense weight. Miracles will appear. When we co-labour with Jesus, we rest in the fact that Jesus doesn’t need our fish but he wants it.

Summary: Reaching Millennials (Jason Dorsey)

 

Gen Z (aged 22/23 and below)

– Don’t remember 9/11 events.
– Gen Z process Great Recession – practical with money, saving etc.
– Parents are Gen X

Millennials (1977-1995)

– Older than you realise. Some are 40 now, not just 25 year olds.
– Delayed adulthood, historic markers are delayed (work, home, marriage)
– Not tech-savvy but tech-dependent

Gen X (1965-1976)

– Glue in the workforce
– Naturally skeptical, cos of divorce rates, AIDS epidemic etc.
– Parenting their kids and their parents
– Need Gen X retention for companies

Baby Boomers (1945-1964)

– Strong work ethic
– Don’t count them out! Very influential generation.

How can Boomers and Gen X work with younger gens?

– Every generation brings value to the workforce (and church!)
– First day and week at a job is very important. Gen Z decide from first day if they will stay long-term. So make first day good and welcoming for them.
– Give Mill, Gen Z specific instructions what to do and wear. Make short videos of what you want since they are used to learning things from YouTube.
– Provide more specific and frequent feedback. Not just an annual review!

Why?

– Millennials have more studies but less work experience
– Entering the workforce later leads to different expectations on how the industry works. They really don’t know and need guidance.

Distinction of Gen Z and Millennials

– Gen Z more frugal with money than Mill. They save money! Gen Z is looking for stability, benefits, ongoing tech-based training, more feedback from employers. Gen Z are fine with digital feedback, no need check-in feedback.

How can Gen Z work with older gens?

– Adapt to their communication style. Tell Gen Z to: Keep eye contact and take notes.
– Copy the communication preferences e.g. talking on the phone, adding fullstops in emails
– Communication depends on work type e.g. don’t send emojis for certain tasks
– Celebrating the differences means respecting them

How to reach Millennials

– Messaging. Want a unique experience, respected as individuals, not a one size fits all experience.
– Much more visual, very image-driven. Not photoshopped perfection but real. Make better videos. Authentic, raw, humanised videos.
– Outcome-driven. Don’t respond well to long linear process so show them the outcome first then work backwards then they’ll follow every single step.

How to reach Gen Z

– Purpose, having an impact on the world, give them a brand that they are willing to join and share about
– More diverse bunch

How to improve your organisation
– Create a generational snapshot. Break down organisation into a pie chart and track it by time. Need actual data not your perceptions.
– Understand what’s actually working.
– Understand what’s not working. Get multi-gen group to discuss, not just older gens. Each generation should share and suggest actions to take. Keep this multi-gen group dialogue going over the years.

God Loves to Work with Families

“It’s amazing how God called two brothers into ministry at the same time!” Many people have asked my brother and I that question. And it led me on a search in Scripture whether God called siblings at the same time? If you check out the Bible, it’s fascinating how God chose siblings for his work at the same time also.

  • Moses, Aaron and Miriam
  • Andrew and Peter
  • James and John
  • Jesus, Jude and James

God loves to work with families. Why? Maybe they have a common background to begin with. If they are raised by the same good parents, the children mostly will be good. I must attribute our entry into ministry to our parents too. They are really sold out for mission work overseas and have a passion for equipping pastors in third-world countries. That made a crazy huge impact on us. It showed us that God must be number one in our lives. It showed us the cost of discipleship. It showed us that we give our lives for things of eternal value.

Though it wasn’t an easy decision to enter church ministry, our parents were supportive. Because of their love for God, they released us to pursue where God led us. That’s how we entered at the same time. God loves to work with families. God the Father released his son Jesus to cross space-time boundaries to become a human being. He had parents, brothers and sisters. After his death and resurrection, his mother Mary and his siblings were part of the Upper Room group that met to prayer. James and Jude each wrote a book in the New Testament.

God loves to work with families. As parents, are you setting a godly example for your children? Are you willing to release your children to where God may be leading them (church work, missionary)? If God has called you, have you responded to God’s call for your life?

Love is a One-Way Street

Image result for hosea redeems gomerWould you love someone that keeps on cheating on you? Keeps on betraying you? It’s really tough even painful. Once bitten, twice shy as they say. But Hosea the prophet was asked by God to redeem his adulterous wife Gomer from sexual slavery. He was asked to love her again. Could you do that if you were Hosea? We read:

The Lord said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.’

So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, ‘You are to live with me for many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.’

Hosea 3:1-3

Hosea’s love for Gomer is a picture of God’s love for Israel though they have been unfaithful. Though they rejected God’s love. Though they ran after other gods. I’m not sure how Hosea would have felt. I would have asked God, “Are you serious? She’s hurt me too many times. I’m done with her.” But God asks him to love again. It’s a costly love too – Hosea had to pay to get his won wife back. That’s a beautiful picture of redemption.

On one level, it teaches us how to love others. Especially people that aren’t easy to love or grateful or willing to change. We don’t know how Gomer lived or if she changed her sinful ways. Hosea’s love teaches us how to truly love others.

There are so many aspects of this love. Love is risky. Love is a choice. Love is costly. Love takes courage. Love is long-suffering. Love is a one-way street. It doesn’t take but gives – again and again, in the hope that the other person changes. It opens you up to be hurt again. In spite of all that, Hosea still loves. You have the power to love someone else. No one can take that away.

God loves us with this kind of love when he sent Jesus to die for us.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Jesus didn’t redeem us with money or barley like Hosea did, but with his blood. He died on the cross to redeem us from slavery to sin. He didn’t wait for us to clean up our act before he would die for us. He died for us so that we could clean up our act. It was a great risk. We could reject his gift of salvation. But love gives first. It’s a one-way street. It’s a choice to make the first move.

How would you respond? Would you give up your sinful ways and accept Jesus as your Saviour? He loves you so much that he gave his life for you. No one is too far from God. No one is too bad for God to save. Would you show love to someone that doesn’t deserve it? Though that person has failed you time and time again? When we love, we are most like God.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

1 John 4:10-12