‘In God’s inside-out kingdom, the irony is that sacrifice will never be in vain, but will only end in gain’
These are the words that I ended my sermon with last week on the 8th of June. That Sunday marked the end of another month’s worth of ministry and study. Upon reflection, the most challenging part of the month of May was my university studies. If you were not aware, I am currently doing two subjects for my Master of Arts in Ancient History at Macquarie University. The subjects that I have taken this semester is ‘The Quest for the Historical Jesus’ convened by Dr Chris Forbes and ‘The Jews from the Maccabees to Bar-Kochba’ convened by Dr Kyle Keimer, and the workload has been a lot more than I had anticipated.
Because I managed to complete my undergraduate degrees while working at a part-time capacity, I thought the reverse (working full time and studying part time) would have been a breeze. However, I was quickly proven wrong after just a few weeks of study when I realized that I was way out of my depth in the subjects that I was taking. I’ve realized gaps in my knowledge that I never knew existed, and my professors have helped me identify some Ancient History-specific research skills that I haven’t fully developed as a result of not having ancient history as a major in my BA. Although there were moments where I felt like an absolute noob (for those unfamiliar with gaming language, a noob is synonymous to an amateur), I can barely complain because my academic abilities have been tested and stretched. The course by Dr Forbes has been particularly beneficial in helping me understand and read the gospels, especially in light of its historical context. It has helped me see that every word used by the evangelists are intentional and have some historical or theological meaning behind it. As a matter of fact, the skills that I’ve learnt in class have helped in my exegesis of my sermon on Matthew 19:13-30. However, as great as this semester has been, I’m grateful that I’ll be able to have a short break at the end of it.
As I’ve previously mentioned, one of the great benefits of an internship program like mine is that I get a variety of ministry experiences. Particularly for May, my ministry exposure ranged from Service Leading at ACTS11 to meeting up with guys to read the book of Revelation and from preaching to teaching basic martial art sensitivity drills to our ‘Young at Heart’ community group. Thank you all who have been praying specifically for these areas over the past month, and a special ‘thank you’ to those who have come up to me to encourage me and let me know you are backing me in prayer.
ACTS11 has a team of men who take turns service leading on Sunday and it has been an incredible privilege being able to be part of the team. We’ve had opportunities to get together to brainstorm and think theologically about how we can best weave the various aspects of our Sunday service to have a gospel centred approach so that everything ranging from announcements to the sermon will reflect parts of the gospel. It has been going well so far – every service leader brings their own ‘flavour’ when they lead, and it’s been great being able to observe how they do what they do. Additionally, what has been specifically helpful for me is the feedback that we receive after we service lead. Side note: when I was asked to join the service leading team last year, I thought ‘yeah sure, why not. Sounds easy enough’. Little did I know that being a service leader meant meetings, evaluations, and thinking theologically. As you can imagine, this was quite different to what I was used to, which is the usual ‘just rock up a little earlier on Sunday and chair the service’ type of leading. Anyway, after service leading in May, I received a 2-part email feedback from one our church elders, Kirby Wong, who helped me identify the strengths and areas for improvement in my ‘game’. It was incredibly helpful because 1) knowing that there will be a feedback really reminds me to take what I do seriously (because in my weaknesses, somethings knowing that God is always watching isn’t enough), 2) feedback just helps me get better at what I do. So I’m incredibly grateful for the team of men who work so hard each week to make our corporate gathering more accessible for everyone.
Just when I thought I’ve packed away my martial arts gi and gloves away for good, one of our church elder’s wife taps me on the shoulder one Sunday after church and asks me if I can lead their group in learning some gentle martial arts. And so, on the 24th of May I went along to their community group’s special gathering where there was good food, massage demonstrations, and a special testimony in addition to learning martial arts. Because I didn’t know what to expect with the group (I didn’t know their experience, what they were wearing, and what they were expecting), I decided to take them through a simple sensitivity drill that I learnt when I was doing hapkido. Turns out, they had a lot of fun – now I’m just hoping that the couples who attended don’t incorporate what they’ve learnt into their arguments.
To finish off the month of May (or more accurately, to begin the month of June), I had the privilege of expounding Matthew 19:13-30, and I titled the sermon ‘Exclusivity and Sacrifice’, revealing that salvation is exclusive in that it is only available to those who profess Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but inclusive in the sense that it is available to all, and showing that following Jesus will be a life of sacrifice (or in the words of David Platt, a life of discipleship will cost you). If you’re interested in listening to it, you can find it here in addition to a collection of our church’s Sunday sermons.
One of the more exciting things about June is that I will be able to spend it with my family. They arrived just last Thursday and these past few days have been fantastic already. Hopefully this will be a good time to spend time and reconnect with them. If you could, please pray that I would be able to balance ministry/study with family time – I suppose I will have a tendency to spending more time with them because that is quite precious. So please pray that I’ll be able to continue to be faithful in the tasks that I have been entrusted with and for the time that I have with family to be productive and fruitful.
Please pray as I finish off my university semester as I am about to hand in two essays, the first titled ‘How Revolutionary was Jesus of Nazareth’ and the other is on the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus. Engaging with the New Testament academically has been quite a steep learning curve, so prayfully these two essays will reflect my improve understanding and ability to handle historical sources. Also, please pray that I will be able to continue to thrive in the various ministry roles that I have to undertake as I complete these essays.
I will be celebrating my Bachelor degree graduation next Monday, the 16th of June. So please pray that the weather on the day will be good and that it would be a joyous occasion.
This coming Wednesday is our church’s monthly prayer meeting and I have been given the opportunity to lead the whole thing. It is a little intimidating given that it will be my first time. So please pray that I will be receptive to the Holy Spirit and be able to lead our church in praying for our church, our pastors, our ministries, and our community.