Category Archives: Reflections

Little Lessons and Little Graces


It has been a crazy few weeks. Sometimes, I become bogged down in the daily slog – and through the exhaustion and burnout, life can be fairly wearisome. But even then, God continues to work in my life and shapes me to love Him and trust Him more.

Even in the most hopeless of days, I’ve discovered a strange confidence and comfort in the words of David the psalmist (Psalm 27:13-14):

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

My God is a God who overflows with goodness. So, in the midst of hopelessness, let me wait for Him to do good.

Here are a few stories about the lessons I have learnt, each springing from a conversation that I’ve had over the past few weeks.


Little Graces – with Hong

Burnout sucks the joy out of everything. Even the things that you usually enjoy so much – they become a burden when you are worn out and tired from everything. I’ve seen this happen to not a few people in my life. Far from the innocent and bubbly keen days of first year uni, a grey wave of cynicism seems to have swept over many things. We notice many things to be broken, or at least, unsatisfying. Our souls are parched and longing for joy.

“If it’s like this now… it probably will be the same, or worse, for the rest of our lives.”

In my experience, suffering really sucks when you forget the taste of joy, and consign yourself to misery forever. When it will “always be like this”. When you doubt that things won’t really get better. Once you lose hope and can’t see past the horizon of your present sufferings, that’s when things really start to hurt.

At the beginning of the week, I was indeed feeling fairly out-of-joy. And I was reflecting about some of these things with Hong. But I was reminded about one of the best things that suffering teaches you – that is, how to hold on to the small graces and small joys in our lives. When everything is bleak, and things can’t get any worse, the smallest moments of joy suddenly become so sweet. When nothing brings you joy, the small things that do brighten your day are things you become deeply thankful for.

There is real joy and grace to be found in life, and often, our hearts are not attuned to seeing them.

I love this quote by Blaise Pascal: “Little things console us because little things afflict us”.

Hong said, sometimes it’s more difficult to know how to be faithful with small everyday things than big life decisions – like whether you decide to get irritated at something, or how you approach waiting for something with or without patience, or whether you are thankful for the small things, like being able to walk and enjoy the wind on your face.

I’ve learnt that these things are very true.

So, I resolved to seek goodness and grace, and relentlessly chase after joy, even in the face of drudgery. It’s easy to let myself dwell on the bleakness of things and become disheartened. But when I do so, it is indeed living in a lie – for there is real joy and grace to be found, even in the little things.


Stewardship – with Yuya

Sometimes, I have trouble trying to make sense of everything that I so abundantly have.

Last night, I was at a fancy dinner thing, where I had the chance to have a short chat with Yuya. Coming from Japan, he commented on the great richness of Sydney – both physically and spiritually.

Who can deny – we are so blessed here, especially at Sydney University. People are well-off and generally live fairly comfortable lives. And looking at our university, we are deeply blessed with the EU – so rich with faithful and godly men and women, so abundant in solid teaching of the truth, so well-equipped to encourage and build people up in spiritual maturity.

Yuya said, the richness of Sydney is actually God’s gift to the world. Our abundance here is actually a great blessing to the world – for it is here at Sydney where we can equip, train and send people back into the rest of the world.

Both Yuya and I went through a period where we realised the great privileged position we were in, and yet felt immensely guilty for it. We both came from fairly well-off families and lived relatively comfortable lives. We both went to great universities – him in Tokyo and me in Sydney. And in these universities, we both were a part of one of the most thriving campus Christian groups in our respective countries and had the chance to be built-up and equipped. When we looked at the rest of the world – whether it be the less reached, less resourced, less privileged parts of our countries or at the rest of the world, we were both struck with the thought – “who am I to have all of this!”

Yuya told me – “no, we actually do not need to feel guilty at all.”

The very fact that Yuya was here in blessed Sydney meant that he could be equipped as best as possible, and then sent back to Japan and serve the less reached and less resourced there. The abundance in Sydney was not something to be guilty over, but rather, a huge blessing to the people of Japan.

We can’t change the fact that the world has rich people and poor people. But God has given riches to some so that all may be blessed. Yuya said, “It’s about stewardship of the blessings you are given.”

From this, I resolved to strive to steward what I have well. I have been given much and blessed much –may it be an instrument of blessing to others too.



Sabbath Rest – with Moussa

I find rest a difficult thing to do. I like to pack lots of things into my life and do as much as possible, and this means, it is often a relentless thing-to-do after thing-to-do cycle.

I had realised the importance of resting – and taking care of myself is something I do try to work hard at. For instance, over the past year, I have developed a real vigilance with my sleep, aiming to get to sleep at the same time each night, wake up at the same time each morning, make sure I get enough hours of sleep, and to ensure this is a priority despite all the things that need to be done.

And yet, I still managed to end up burnt out and stressed this semester.

We were talking about burnout at a small group training a week or two ago, and so I asked Moussa – “so… how do we like… not burn out?”

He pointed our group towards an ancient command given to the nation of Israel, seen in the ten commandments – to keep the sabbath. A day of rest.

Interesting, because the idea of a ‘sabbath’ is one of those things which we know is no longer a directly binding law – that is, we aren’t obligated to cease all work one day a week. But it seems, there is great wisdom to this.

Moussa essentially said to take a day off once a week to do whatever you like.

It sounds too good right?

But it’s actually very difficult. When assignments and work and other things pile up, it’s easy to go into overdrive and find every spare moment to work. Not a few times, after a long and busy five-day uni week, I would find myself thinking – ‘Yes! The weekend! I finally have time to get this unfinished work done!’

I suppose sometimes this needs to be done. But long term, this is very foolish.

And I have found that the relentless, non-stop work is what drove me into my recent run of weariness and joylessness.  Yet, the times when I am energised and ready and joyful and willing to do work – those are times immediately after I have given myself the time off to do whatever and chill out and not worry about anything.

So there seems to be great wisdom in structuring in time off – a difficult lesson for the workaholic in me. And it’s not that I have to be quiet and still and meditate do nothing in order to rest. No, rest is just doing whatever energises me and fills me up. And perhaps sometimes, the more stressed I am, the more I need to get out and do something active and completely unrelated which takes my mind off it.

Knowing that it is okay to do this… no, that I actually need to do this, is an important lesson for me.

So, having resolved to have good sleep patterns in order to physically rest well, I now move onto phase II of learning how to rest well – and resolve to try and structure in a day of doing whatever the heck I want because that is necessary mental rest for the rest of the week.


Reflections on Maitland Alive 2018


My heart is so full. Yes, I’m slightly exhausted, still bit a sick, and a tad afraid to go back and resume my normal daily life. But I can truly say that my heart is so, so full! This was my second time at Maitland Alive, and once again, God never ceases to amaze me with the way in which He works. It certainly wasn’t an easy week, but I would not have it any other way. Despite the stresses and frustrations and wanderings throughout the week, I am left with a deep sense of joy that God has done His good work, in both the people of Maitland and in our own lives as the Sydney team. And though it is my second time here, I have yet again learnt so much and have been challenged in so many ways. Would you allow me to share with you some of the stories, joys and struggles of this week?


Kids. Hearing. About. Our. Saviour.

khaos group

“Can I get a sir yes sir!”

This year in KHAOS, we turned ‘mission’ into ‘mission impossible’ and became Agents of KHAOS as we journeyed to uncover the truth each day with our brilliant spymaster Louis. Propelled by the quest to figure out each day’s secret code, we would discover truths about God’s good order, humanity’s brokenness, the redeeming work of Jesus and the hope we look forward to. It was insanely awesome being swept up into the world of KHAOS – I found it such an exciting, cohesive and compelling storyline that pointed towards the greater story of God’s story. I can certainly say that everyone had loads of fun, kids and leaders included! Sure, in the first day or two, the kids were surely possessed by the spirit of annoyingness as they yelled ‘POTATO!’ to every question we asked in discussion groups. Talk about frustrating! But, once we grew out of our potato phase, it just got better and better, and it was so awesome to see these kids come to grips with God’s truth. Here is one of my favourite stories from the week:

It was concert time on Wednesday.

Chewy was up the front, leading the kids. Of course, it was time for a quick review of the previous day.

“Alrighty boys and girls, yesterday, we learnt about how we put ourselves first instead of God first. Can anyone remember what the word for this is?”

These were keen and excitable kids. Many hands immediately shot into the air. Chewy looks around the room and asks one lucky little boy, in perhaps year three or four, for his answer.

What does he say? He says “Iniquity!”

* Wait, what? *

Everyone in the room paused for a second.

Iniquity? Iniquity. Seriously? See, we were all here expecting that simple three letter word, ‘sin’. But here was a primary school boy giving us ‘iniquity’. Give that kid a theological medal! It was thoroughly hilarious. I looked around the room and saw looks of utter bewilderment and shock on the face of many of the minis leaders. How on earth did this small child answer with such a big word as iniquity?

Of course, in KHAOS, we knew. It was only yesterday when we sang Colin Buchanon’s classic children song Isaiah 53:6, where we taught them this big and scary word. But little did we expect to see it to come back like this!

It was such a delight to see the things we taught being sown as seeds into the little hearts and minds of these children, in the most unexpected ways.


How to bait kids


Oranges at morning tea!

Dealing with kids can be difficult sometimes. So, we had lots of fun discovering ways with which we could work with the kids. We called this ‘baiting the kids’. One of my favourite baits was an ingenious one by Rachel. In this situation, a year five boy named Logan had a crush a girl called Lily. And so, when Logan was messing around and misbehaving a bit, Rachel popped this clever line: “Hey Logan, stop doing that. Lily isn’t doing it!” – Logan promptly stopped.

Other great baits:

The false dilemma:
“I don’t want to do the craft!”
“Well, we are either going to do the craft, or we will sit here and do nothing.”
“Okay fine I want to do the craft.”

The challenge:
“I need to go the toilet!”
“You know, I bet you can’t hold it until the end of the program.”
“Oh… I can hold it. Actually, I bet you I could hold it for the whole day!”

“We bait because we are fishers of men.” 

– Rachel



chris and jen

This is Chris and Jen – my shower family from last year!

This year, I was once again reminded of how important community was. I could see this both in our relationships with the people of Maitland, and our relationships with each other on team. Once again, the families of Maitland welcomed us with open, loving, hospitable arms – inviting us into their homes each night for showers. This year, I had the great privilege of showering at the home of Ken and Diana. These folks were one of the founding families of Maitland Evangelical Church, and were just the most awesome, faithful, and humble couple. It was an encouragement to see them serve all these years, and even now, to serve in whatever capacity they could – including the most mundane of tasks, such as washing all our team shirts. As a young guy who doesn’t meet many older people, it really warmed my heart to get to know such faithful and God-loving people from a completely different generation and culture. By the end of the week, coming to Ken and Diana’s to shower really felt like coming back to a second home.

I suppose that’s one of the things about coming up to Maitland. When you meet the people, when you see them in the flesh, you suddenly realise that it is a real community you are serving. There are real people here, with real needs, and that is who you are serving. Community is so central to the way we do mission here in Maitland. It’s a partnership, between Sydney and Maitland, built on relationships centred around the gospel. That’s what makes it so special.


Hard Lessons


No matter what we do, God will work through all things for the good of His people and for His glory. I’ve needed to cling onto this truth for dear life. Because whilst God was doing amazing work throughout the week, and whilst there were certainly many moments of great joy and delight and laughter, I found that my day-to-day experience was often fraught with difficulty and discouragement. I’ve struggled with many things personally this week, but I am glad, because God has taught me some hard, but very important, lessons at mission this year.

This year, I was section leading KHAOS alongside Rachel – and this brought with it a whole host of additional roles and responsibilities. One of the most important lessons I needed to learn was the humbling lesson of coming to terms with my own finitude. See, there was a sense of wanting to do everything. I wanted to be able to take care of my section and oversee the program as a section leader. I wanted to be servant-hearted and help out with the small tasks, like cutting out materials for craft. I also wanted to do the front-line work – to get to know the kids and invest in them, to build relationships, to have gospel conversations, to meet families. And there were many other things to deal with here and there. It wasn’t long before I realised I couldn’t do all these things. I was becoming stressed and exhausted. And my reaction to this reality was either that of guilt – ‘oh… am I not putting in enough effort?’ or FOMO – ‘oh dang… if only I could get to know that kid better, etc.’ What I really needed to realise was that I physically could not do all these things, and more importantly, that I did not need to do all these things. God has called us to our particular places and roles in the body of Christ, and it is OK to not do everything.

However, in my exhaustion, I was too prideful to rest. I was a fool – I knew the importance of rest, yet I ignored it. My sinful heart wanted to be that person who was competent, who was reliable and who had it together – the super saviour. Yet, these were all empty idols, and I was left with the realisation that I was broken and weak. There were times were I just broke down and felt completely powerless and confused. When the week was over, and we had our section debrief, I was able to get the chance to stand back and see how things had unfolded. It was funny. At the beginning of last year, when I started to section lead, excitable and filled with ideas, I set out to do two things: firstly, to have complete clarity and make sure everyone was on the same page, and secondly, to be so people-centred that we first and foremost cared for each other as brothers and sisters in everything we did. Over this mission week, it turned out that I had almost achieved zero out of these two things. Yeah, wow hey? At this point, a good dose of self-doubt started to kick in.

But, it was here where I learnt something really important. Despite my inadequacies and shortcomings, the week turned out to be a huge success. The gospel was preached. Relationships with the community were formed. People were encouraged. So much fun was had. God worked through all this, even with my broken efforts and poor decisions throughout the week. As I reflect now, I can safely say this: Even if I am the best section leader in the world, if God doesn’t work, no good can come out of it. Yet, I can be the worst section leader in the world, but if God works, He can use that produce a whole harvest of good fruit. It’s never me doing the work. It’s always God. This was a lesson that I needed to relearn and experience in a very real way. It was a deeply humbling lesson. And I am deeply grateful to KHAOS for being so gracious and loving despite my stress and exhaustion this week.

Lastly, I’ve learnt that it’s okay to have hard conversations – whether its bringing up some form of rebuke, or perhaps opening up with the struggles I am facing. I like to avoid confrontation, and I love to run away from saying things that may be hard to hear – perhaps because my sinful heart wants me to only say things that make me popular and easy-going and likeable. Or, perhaps I am scared of rebuking lest it reveals my own shortcomings – and if I want to maintain my blamelessness, perhaps it better to not say anything at all. Sometimes, I just want to hide and keep everything to myself. But no, this is not loving. Loving is not coddling. Loving is not shouldering the burden all by yourself. Loving is speaking the truth in love. And if we are brothers and sisters bought by the blood of Christ, we can be open and speak the truth in love. Let’s just get it out there. I am sinful. You are sinful. We are all sinful. So, let’s be open and talk about it. I remember coming out of our final section debrief – one of the hardest meetings I’ve ever had – and Jas says to me, ‘You can cry if you want, there are plenty of towels in this room’. There was so much comfort in knowing that it was OK to be feeling these things, to be struggling, and that I didn’t need to hide. That’s what I want to do from here – to keep on opening up, and to speak the truth in love:)


Beautiful moments in time


Golden hour at Maitland Park

On the Friday the program finished, we had our team afternoon off at Maitland Park. I just wanted to share this because it was just so beautiful. Such a happy place.


And I can’t really string together some coherent sentences, so I’ll just write some phrases instead.

What I think of this moment: Golden hour. Sunset rays on a vast green field. Warm. Gentle breeze. Surrounded by the people you love. Entering into rest after an exhausting week. Gospel preached. Sigh of relief. Taste of code gold?

The sun sure was gold.


Team Picnic with a screening of Moana!


The stories we hear and tell

One thing I’ve been thinking lots about lately, only to be reinforced by Sam’s talks at mission, was the idea that our lives are inevitably shaped by the story we hold onto. Being at mission has reminded me that we are all part of a bigger story – just as Tatooine farmboy Luke Skywalker found himself being called into the great story of the Jedi, so too are we called into the greater story of Jesus – the God who saves. We’ve told lots of stories over the week at mission, and we must continue to tell ourselves stories each day to remind ourselves of the truth of this world.

Maitland Alive isn’t the main thing. Mission isn’t the main thing. There will be one day where mission ceases to exist. It is only part of a bigger story – the story of God’s glory. And so, whilst Maitland Alive may be over for yet another year, the story of God’s glory sure isn’t.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32


Aleph, Daleth, Lamedh, Mem 

no idea

A conversation I had with Karis, my fellow youth leader ^__^”

It was 10 o’clock on a Saturday night. Youth group was tomorrow morning, and I was on to lead a bible study on Psalm 119.

Now, Psalm 119 is a bit of a monster. It’s an acrostic poem with a stanza for every letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Clocking in at 176 verses, it is the longest of all the psalms, and indeed, the longest of all chapters in the bible – a behemoth meditation on the law of the Lord.

And so, I was a bit stuck. I had a long week, and a long day – yeah, doing assignments, preparing other bible studies for uni, rehearsing, and so forth. I was a bit pooped at this point, and didn’t really know what to do. I read through bits of the passage, and didn’t know what to make of it. It was almost the same thing written over and over… how was I to understand it, and furthermore, teach it faithfully, clearly and edifyingly? I wanted to encourage and challenge the senior high schoolers I was leading, but I didn’t have the energy or mind space to do much prep.

I went to sleep. Of course.

Now, come Sunday morning. It was 11:10. I was due to leave at 11:20 to get to church. And in these measly ten minutes, I was flipping through the passage… wondering how on earth I would teach this. This psalm was so long – surely, I needed to pick selections out of it. But which ones? What kind of opening illustration would I use? How about applications? What’s the big take away?

So, I pretty much had no idea what I was doing.

Every time I lead a bible study, and especially so in a situation like this, I am reminded of a truth that my mate Sarah once said at an ISCF camp, which has stuck with me ever since:

“You can lead the best study in the world, and if God doesn’t work in their hearts, they’ll get nothing out of it. But you can lead the worst study in the world, and God can work through that to produce heaps of fruit.”

In a bible study, it’s never me doing the work. It’s always God. The strength and power of my teaching comes not from my own words, or eloquence, or great analogies or illustrations, or wisdom. Nope. None of that. It comes plainly from the word of God, and by the working of His mighty Spirit.

This is a comforting truth. It’s not as if we should do no preparation at all and be lackadaisical with our efforts. It’s not as if we should wing everything. Not at all. And in this case, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to prepare well, or that I was lazy. I just simply lacked the capacity and headspace to do it. Yet, the truth is that God can, and does, work through weakness. The power comes from Him.

And so, I asked Him for help. I prayed that God would speak through me, and help me to teach faithfully and clearly. I prayed that He would reveal to me the riches of His word. I prayed that He would work in the hearts of each and every youth to reveal to them His truth and glory.

Great. It is now 11:20ish, and I’m on the car ride up to church. I’m still flipping through my bible, trying to piece together a structured study. And then an idea came to me – why don’t I just pick out a few different stanzas of this psalm, and teach one big message from each stanza. Hey, that’s not a bad idea! Some of these different stanzas are actually quite different, and insightful… and we can just let the word of God speak for itself. Yes, this sounds like a plan. Thanks Spirit.

So, the study happened, and it turned out to be really solid and encouraging! Only half an hour before I had no idea what I was doing. Yet, in the study, we immersed ourselves in God’s word, and got into the head of the psalmist and poet, we talked about parallelisms and how the Psalms gives us different images to piece together – we got stuck into God’s word and was richly blessed by it 😊

Here are the four things we took out of it:

א Aleph: God’s law is to be lived out, and brings blessing to those who obey it.

Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.
Psalm 119:1

ד Daleth: God’s law is life-giving in our brokenness

I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word.
Psalm 119:25

ל Lamedh: God’s law is eternal, enduring and timeless.

Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.
Psalm 119:89

מ Mem: God’s law is personal, lovely, sweet and brings us real joy.

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Psalm 119:103

And we saw how all of these are fulfilled by the true Word of God – the godman Jesus Christ.

Praise God that He works through weakness and uncertainty. Praise God that He reveals his truth to us whilst we are in darkness.

So, today, I was just really reminded that God is faithful. He works in those last-minute scrambles. The power of His word really doesn’t depend on human circumstances, or human efforts and powers. And He pulls through each time to richly bless His people. And sometimes, the best prep we can do is to pray – to depend on Him as our father, and abide in Him. Prayer is powerful, and necessary, especially when it comes to teaching and understanding His word.

Today’s events weren’t particularly big or significant. There was nothing overtly special. It was just another Sunday morning at youth group. It was so ordinary. Plain. Simple. Yet, God still faithfully worked in these little, ordinary events for the good of His people. He is both a God of the big things and the small things.

I’m encouraged to continue depending on Him in prayer through all things, especially in this busy upcoming week. Because He is faithful, life-giving, eternal and sweet. He is our God.

Is this it? Reflections on AnCon17


Golden hour at Merroo is absolutely phenomenal.

From around 4 to 5-ish in the afternoon, the warmth and light of our one and only sun decides to give us a great big hug. At that hour, it starts to shine spectacularly through the trees, onto the hills and meadows, and you can sit, or lie, or stand there with such an astounding sense of contentment – safe, warm and comforted by its majestic golden cloak as you breathe in the crisp winter air. It ain’t called golden hour for nothin. And you know that every single photo you take will look so, damn good; glowing, full HD, profile picture material. Yet, at Merroo, it is more than just the sunshine at golden hour. Here, I am surrounded by my dear and precious brothers and sisters, with God’s word written on our hearts and minds. More than just light or warmth in the air is faith, hope and love, which brings into sight the trueness and beauty God’s holy people. And more than just the sound of birdsong and gentle breeze is conversation seasoned with salt, the life-given and life-giving words of the saved – laughing, building one another up, enjoying relationship with their creator and one another.

At golden hour at Merroo, I catch a glimpse of what is truly beautiful. For at this hour, the glory of both the sun and the Son shine brightly into our lives.


Wow… another ancon has come to pass – this time, my second one. This year, we spent five days looking at the resurrection of Jesus Christ, exploring all its glorious truths, details and implications in a world where death casts a long, dark shadow over all things under the sun. And honestly, it has just been so joyous and refreshing being immersed in God’s word and amongst His people. I really enjoyed growing as a community with my ACES faculty family – it was just so much fun spending time with familiar faces and old friends, as well as the many chirpy and overly-energetic first years! Of course, the main sessions were fantastic, with phenomenal teaching from Rowan and on-fire music, as always. One night, we had question time, and the room became so packed to the point of overflowing. There were crowds at the door, at the windows, all hoping to catch words of wisdom as Rowan faithfully answered questions from the bible. I thought that maybe this is what it felt like when the crowds flocked to hear Jesus teach, haha! [1] But once again, at Ancon17’, I was reminded of how glorious and good God’s truth is; how refreshing his people are; how beautiful his creation is.

Unlike last year, which was my first time at ancon, my expectations weren’t driven by hype at all. This time, I was there for the feast of truth and community. Emotions and child-like excitement may have been ever so slightly subdued this time around, but nonetheless, the joy remained very real. I won’t lie, though – amidst all the joy, there were struggles and burdens over these five days. I had a lot on my mind and heart, and for much of ancon, I was trying to make sense of things emotionally. See, it wasn’t all rosy and happy, but rather, much of my experience reflected the realities of living in a still-broken world. But that’s the thing about ancon – its foundation isn’t emotion, but truth. And truth speaks into emotions, and every other aspect of our lived experience. The resurrection of Jesus, and indeed the entirety of the gospel, speaks to the things I was struggling over these five days. So, how about I tell you about some of the truths I learnt or were reminded of, and then let me tell you how these things speak into some of the things I was feeling during ancon. (Not that you could do anything about it anyway… cos this is my blog hehe C: )


// Nuggets of truth //

1) Jesus is not a concept, Jesus is alive! He lives, and he is Lord! Our king is not a theoretical figure nor a concept, but a person who is alive right now. It is often easy to forget this. In his resurrection, Jesus has conquered the tsunami of death. The inescapable blanket of death which covers all of creation has been lifted. The sting of death, the pain, the loss of relationship – it is all over. We all know that death is the end, right? Wrong. Death is not the end, and this is proclaimed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ in history. He is alive. And he is Lord.

2) For the Christian, resurrection is both a present and a future reality. In being united with Christ, we too are resurrected – that is, one resurrection in two instalments. So… the resurrection has already happened. Now. What!? Yes. He has already brought us from death to life by giving us an inner, spiritual resurrection now. Yet, we long for our bodily resurrection with him on that day – when we will be raised immortal, imperishable, in glory and power, and into a new creation devoid of suffering and brokenness. See, resurrection isn’t a far-off thing in the future. The reality of resurrection, for both Christ and us, overflows into our lives in the present. We are to live the resurrection life now. Yet, we also know that the best is still to come.

3) The glorious future reality that we look forward to… actually breaks into our present lives now. As God’s people, we live as an ‘eschatological outpost’. What on earth does that mean? It means that we are an ‘outpost’ from the future. We are a little pocket of heaven… right now. We usually think that we go to ‘heaven’ when we die. But that is not what the bible teaches. Rather, heaven begins right now as we live out the resurrected life – how amazing is that?! We live now as the people God is resurrecting us to be. We do this in the way we live and the way we speak truth. And the things that will last into the future reality are faith, hope and love. May we abound in these things as we live out our lives – they are critical, foundational, essential. May we clothe ourselves in faith, hope and love as we look towards the sure coming of a faithful God, as revealed in his word, in history.

4) There are three broad purposes of our embodied existence right now. Firstly, to live in relationship with God. Secondly, to live in relationship with one another. Thirdly, to live in relationship with the created world. We live an essentially relational existence. Are we living in a way that allows this? Do we sleep, eat and exercise well that we may fulfil these purposes? Furthermore, in this broken world, our lives are a gospel canvas – our sufferings reflect the death of Jesus, whilst our perseverance by his strength shows the power of the resurrection.

5) In Christ, we have absolute freedom. In his death, we die to our broken, sinful natures. In his resurrection, we are raised to new life and power. We are unchained from the havoc of this world, though its effects may still linger. Yet, we are essentially free. So, let us put to death to old sinful self and put on the new, resurrected self. In this freedom, all burdens are lifted. We don’t need to do anything. There is rest. Yet, by his grace, he has given us much that we may glorify him. How will we use our freedom?

6) God is patient in salvation. May we continue to proclaim his lordship and gospel, that many might come and join in the goodness of the resurrected reality.


One thing which I struggled with at ancon this year was a restless sense of FOMO – that is, fear of missing out. I suppose it’s what can easily happen at such a big conference like ancon, with 650+ people. There is so much going on… and everything can be very overstimulating. There are also so many people – people you see often, people you don’t get to see often, and also people who you’ve never met before. Consequently, I found myself restless… there was so much that I could do but wasn’t doing, so many people I could be having conversations with but weren’t spending time with. I felt like I couldn’t settle down, that I was everywhere yet nowhere at times. Appropriately though, FOMO was something that we talked about in our last Friday review group. The resurrection helps us manage, and indeed is the solution, to our FOMO. In Christ, we have all things, and we await an eternal new creation with an infinite capacity for good things. In the case of people, well, there’ll be plenty of time to get to know them in the new creation. So, let us remember the resurrected reality; to all the good things that our Lord has called to now, and will reveal to us in the days to come. There is no FOMO in Christ.

Another thing which gripped my heart over ancon was the temporality and transience of everything… and how sad that is. It began with a reflection that ‘Oh… ancon is so great, but it’s going to be over soon.’ I realised that all good things would be over too. Soon, our carefree uni days would be over too. And then our lives. Nothing good lasts forever. Of course, I knew this truth. But over ancon, I felt this in a very emotional and visceral way; it gripped my guts, and I was deeply saddened by it. The shadow of death over all things, as we read in the opening chapters of Ecclesiastes in our first review group, became a real fear. And in this fear of losing things (and particularly, the fear that this bubble of joy called ancon would soon be over), I felt like I lost the capacity to fully enjoy what was in front of me. Again, the resurrection speaks to this. Temporality, perishability – these are the marks of our broken, sinful selves. Yet, Christ has crucified that self, and raised us to a glorious new reality, one that is imperishable and eternal. May this be our hope. And may it not come just in the future, but begin now, as we live out the resurrection life in faith, hope and love.

The last thing I want to talk about is just an overwhelming sense of tiredness and burden. I feel as if the holidays before ancon weren’t particularly restful, especially with the prep needed for ancon. Furthermore, just the tasks of serving at ancon – waking early for rehearsals, prepping for review groups, etc. – meant late nights and early mornings, and consequently, a fair deal of physical tiredness. I just really wanted rest. Further combined with the sense of FOMO, fed by the temporality of things, I grew restless. Now, ancon is a challenging place – we are convicted to live our lives for the Lord, to serve the LRLR (less-reached and less-resourced) and so forth. And I just felt so burdened… I didn’t want to do anything. But the truth of the gospel is this – we have absolute freedom in Christ. He doesn’t need us to do anything. He has done it all for us, and He continues to work in the world. This is the freedom and rest that comes from the gospel. So, we can take rest as we need it. Yet, by his grace and Spirit, he gives us what we need to live his way – nothing we do needs to be from our own strength. And this is why I could take a two-hour nap on the beautiful meadows of Merroo during golden hour – and that was really refreshing! I thank God for the rest He gives us.

These are some of the things I felt and experienced during ancon, amidst all the joy, laughter, learning and growth. And I don’t regret any of it… because I know that God works in all things for my good. [2] And I’m not sad that ancon is over. Because it’s not the end at all. It’s actually the beginning – the start of an exciting new semester of university, where we can go out and enjoy the work he has given us! Praise God for a fruitful and awesome ancon – may it have transformed us, and may its truths continue to shape our lives as we continue on from here, in all faith, hope and love.


Here’s a poem I wrote in faculty time.

The sun rises,
peeking out from behind that hill.
And when the morning comes,
we, too, rise with it.
The cold shiver no longer, for there is warmth.
The weak of sight stumble no longer, for there is light.
Yet, for that sickly piece of grass, that weakly rooted chaff,
the sun is a great fright,
blazing in glory, a consuming fire,
bringer of drought and plight.
Yet, it is the giver of life, light, sight and delight.

The Son rises,
peeking out from behind that empty tomb
And with the morning star,
we, too, will rise with him.
The broken cry no longer, for there is comfort.
The blind stumble no longer, there is the light.
Yet, for that sickly, false, unrepentant, weekly rooted chaff,
the son is a great fright,
blazing in glory, a consuming fire,
bringer of judgment and plight.
So, let us pay attention, let us be found in him;
Our giver of life, light, sight and delight.


Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
 You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:9-11

ancon review group yay

[1] Say, something like the story in Luke 5:17-26
[2] Romans 8:28

Spiritual High – what do I make of this?

Reflections on spiritual or ‘camp’ high

Spiritual high

I want to talk about a phenomenon known as a “spiritual high”.

Last weekend, I went away to a quiet, bushy place called Yarramundi, along with a hundred or so high schoolers from North Sydney Girls & Boys. This was the annual camp run by the Christian group, called ISCF. We spent a weekend hearing talks from the Bible, playing crazy high-energy games, chatting in discussion groups, learning from workshops, eating mediocre camp food, hanging and having late night chats, and just having a great time. Maybe you’ve been on some sort of Christian camp or conference before, or maybe, if you are reading this, you were even at camp with me last week.

Now, camp is one of the things in the ISCF calendar that everyone looks forward to. For many people, it is a highlight of their year. I know it was definitely a highlight for me back in high school. Around April each year, NSGB ISCF is “keen for camp”, and if you’re really super excited, a “keen bean”.

I think there is a trend here.

Christians (and non-Christians too) absolutely love their camps and conferences. It excites us. There is something about camp which thrills us, which stirs us – something that is so deeply enjoyable and satisfying about going on camp. You might know the feeling, friend. You spend a few days constantly talking about particular things, doing particular activities, around particular people. You are saturated with teaching which bears words of truth that have an eternal and infinite significance, which convict us and makes our hearts soar, and remind us of a good, great, cosmic reality. You are surrounded by your brothers and sisters, a community which so unconditionally loves, a community which shares its joys and burdens with such unity – and it is really a safe, and warm, and loving place to be. Camp is an awesome place to be.

And by the end of you camp, you feel like you are on fire. You have tasted the sweetness of God. You have experienced the reality of true and loving community. You want to love Jesus with all your heart, soul, strength and mind – you want to live for Him. You are so encouraged, and so warmed, and you are on fire for God.

This feeling, my friends, we sometimes call a “spiritual high”. Some of you might call it a “camp high”. And it feels really great.

It’s funny – I was hearing from my sister that on the first week back to school, the entire population of year 10 girls who came to camp (an astounding 20-30 people) all came to lunchtime ISCF that week! The group has never been that big at lunch, and wow – the leaders needed to quickly reshuffle things so that they could fit everyone into a group. This really shows that camp does set us “on fire”. We are excited and so moved.


No matter how great it feels, the spiritual high inevitably comes to an end sooner or later. You might have experienced this yourself before. The daily rhythm and hustle-bustle kicks back in – things get busy, perhaps you have exams and assignments, friendships to enjoy and deal with, things to do and think about… and the spiritual rush you had from camp slowly wears off. God isn’t on your mind anymore. He doesn’t excite you… or at least, you don’t think too much about it. Maybe you stop going to church, ISCF, youth, or whatever it might be. There are other things to do now. You’ve lost that “rush” that you felt at camp.

What do we make of this?

Am I less of a Christian now? Why aren’t I feeling excited? Why is God so distant now?

I often thought about this, particularly when I first started growing as a Christian. I would ask the question “how do I keep this spiritual high up?”. Maybe you are asking this question too. I tried and fought really hard to keep this passion, to keep being “on fire”, to keep up the passion and excitement I had for God.

But… there would always come a point where it died down.

And this is perfectly OK.

I would like to share with you a really nice illustration, inspired by C. S. Lewis, which helps me think through this issue. [1]

Picture in your head a newly married couple. Can you imagine the story behind this? The two people meet, they fall in love, start dating, and then they get engaged, and then bam, they get married. And now they are on their honeymoon, maybe somewhere fancy on some tropical island or somewhere cool like Europe or America. Imagine what they are feeling. They are completely in love – the emotions overflow, and they are so, so excited, and very ready to spend the rest of their lives together. Maybe you can relate – at least, with the feeling of “being in love”. Can you imagine that rush of emotions? Of affection? Of love and adoration for the other person?

But we all know that no marriage stays in the honeymoon stage forever. Maybe in a few months, or a few years down the track, life completely settles and it becomes… “normal”. There’s no rush of emotions, or any of that “being in love” feeling anymore. But here’s the question – does this mean that they no longer love one another?

Absolutely not! Whilst “being in love” is what might start a marriage, it isn’t what a marriage is built on. Marriage is built on a promise (that’s what they do at a wedding, hey) – to love and cherish one another, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, til death do us part. This first thrill of “being in love” is replaced by a more steadfast, lasting kind of love. The husband and wife love each other, no matter what happens, even if they don’t feel it. And there’s something really genuine and real about this kind of love – it’s more than just an emotional feeling. Rather, their love is an unwavering, joyful commitment to one another.

I think our spiritual lives are often like this. Our spiritual high is a bit like being spiritually in love. It’s a rush of feelings and emotions. It’s not a bad thing – no, enjoy it! It’s a good gift to be enjoyed. But we know that this first thrill won’t last. Rather, it transforms and becomes a more steadfast and lasting kind of love. It becomes an unwavering, joyful commitment. This is what we call faithful Christian living. So, friend, know that it is OK that your spiritual high will eventually wear off.

My encouragement to you is this: in your spiritual high, make the “promises” needed to give you that steadfast and lasting kind of love. In the good times, make habits that will last through the bad times. Right now, when you are pumped up and on fire for God, make a commitment to keep seeking God.

What does that look like?

Keep going to ISCF, or church, or youth – and commit to this. There’s nothing better than getting a steady diet of God’s truth along with your brothers and sisters. Go even when you are busy and have heaps of exams and assignments. Go even when you don’t feel like it. It’s easy to go when you are pumped up right now. But what about later? Make it a commitment, and a habit right now, so that it will last when aren’t on fire. This is what faithful Christian living is like.

Keep reading God’s word – and commit to this. Find a time and a place that works for you each day. Maybe it’s in the morning when you wake up. Maybe it’s on the train to school. Before you sleep. When you get home from school. Wherever. And let yourself keep it up even when you aren’t on fire. This is what faithful Christian is like.

Surround yourself with Christian brothers and sisters – and commit to them. Encourage them, and let them encourage you. Continue to love them, and continue to encourage one another to seek God, even when you aren’t on fire. This is what faithful Christian living is like.

When the spiritual high fades away, you will still have God’s truth and promises, and you will still have your brothers and sisters. These are the things that will not fade. And it is beautiful, steadfast, lasting. =)

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:23-25

[1] Check out C.S. Lewis’ book “Mere Christianity” – in particular, the chapter on “Christian Marriage” (Book 3, Ch. 6).

Heaven, Hearts, Home | ISCF CAMP 2017

Reflections on ISCF Camp 2017


There really is nothing like being home again – sleeping in the stillness of your own room and your own bed. Funny, because the topic for NSGB ISCF camp was “Heaven – the Home for our Hearts”. And yes, whilst I didn’t get a whole lot of good sleep during camp this year, camp was a reminder of where our home and hearts should truly lie. It was my fifth ISCF camp, going back for the second time as an ex-leader now, and still, it never ceases to warm my heart and stir my spirit. ISCF has always had a special place in my heart – yet somehow, being back this year was especially heart-warming. Coming to camp as a weary uni-student, I was shocked, absolutely astounded, and refreshed by how God so faithfully works.

One of the most encouraging things I witnessed was seeing my little brothers and sisters who I led in year 7 and 8 grow up – and oh how they’ve changed, grown and matured! It makes me so, so happy. I remember how the little rascals I led in year 7 scripture which would make me lose my voice every Tuesday afternoon, as I tried to contain them from running around the room to no avail. I remember the tiny kids who came to ISCF because their friends did and because it was the cool thing to do, and then shyly huddle in their little group during the bible study. And I remember getting little year 8 Geoffrey to do the bible reading every Friday lunch because it was so cute and entertaining HAHAHA.

But man… now I see them eagerly questioning and seeking God with all their hearts and minds. Now I see them thirsting for life-giving gospel truth. Now I see them bring their friends along because they really want them to know Jesus. Now, I even see some of my little brothers and sisters lead from the front. I am so moved, and I am so proud :’) But in actual fact, it is a testament to how God works so faithfully time after time. It has been several years since I’ve left high school, and yet God is still working in the hearts of ISCF, still growing his people, still leading his flock, still maturing the saints, still bringing his glorious and good kingdom. Coming back and seeing these guys in the flesh… it brings me so much joy to see how they’ve grown, and I really am excited to see how God will continue to work in them.  There is something so genuine and so beautiful about the way God’s word has changed these guys’ lives.

Another really awesome thing which warmed my heart was seeing all the ex-leaders again. These guys were my family back in high school, and now, I don’t really get to see them much at all. But being back together with them over this weekend, and more than that, serving together and building God’s kingdom – man, it’s a feeling that’s difficult to describe with words. It was almost like old times in high school, yes, but now there’s also the knowledge that we have all grown and matured since. There is just so much joy in the kingdom of God, an unquenchable blood-bought unity, knowing that we are working for something that will never fade nor perish. I loved how we could pray together and look out for one another as we went about the task of growing God’s kingdom here at ISCF camp.

Camp this year was also a humbling lesson in learning to rely on God. I won’t lie, or be subtle about it, but camp certainly was one of the most exhausting things I’ve done. Surviving the first day on three hours of very low quality sleep was a challenge (I’m blaming year 11 boiz HAHA). I think at times, I was bummed out that I couldn’t have as many conversations or catch up with as many kids as I wanted – I was just feeling sluggish and low-energy, and wasn’t able to do as much as I would have liked. At times, I looked at some of the other ex-leaders during free time and saw how hard they were working, and I remember thinking ‘dang I wish I could be as helpful and servant-hearted as these guys’. But it was indeed a humbling and reassuring reminder that the task of growing God’s kingdom wasn’t on my shoulders. God has this in His hands. And we can carry one another’s burdens as the body of Christ. I needed to remember that it was OK to not be able to do everything I wanted, and it was OK to receive God’s grace of rest. God is faithful, and He continues to grow his people regardless. 😊

ISCF camps were always a highlight back in my high school days, and hey, I think nothing has changed. I know I’ve said this ten million times, but again, it’s just such a powerful testament to how God is working faithfully in His children. Camp is a little glimpse into heaven. We long for heaven; for the eternal and good rule of God to be established. Yet, at the same time, heaven begins now. In the way we are transformed by the spirit, and in the way we live our lives centred around God – heaven is breaking into earth this very moment.

It is a good day.

Reflections on Good Friday.


On this day, two thousand and so years ago, our Lord was crucified. It was a good day. And today, it is still a good day.

It is a good day, because it is a restful day. Yes, restful, because it is a public holiday and we have a little more time to sleep and rest. But more than that, it is restful because on this day, eternal rest was secured. On the cross for which good Friday is so well known, it wasn’t just Jesus that was crucified. All our brokenness – everything inadequate and unsettling and disgusting about us was crucified there with him. The nagging debt which all of us owe was paid that day. And the blood which flowed and dripped off that cross washed us so that we were white as snow. No longer were we at unrest with the God of the universe. No longer did we need to work to be right with Him. We received the truest rest that we could ever receive – the rest from self-justification. With one last breath, Jesus said “It is finished.” His work was done. Our work was done. There is now rest. And the king, hanging broken on that cross, invites us to join in his rest. It is a good rest. It is a good day.

It is a good day, because Jesus is declared king. Pilate nailed an inscription onto the cross, declaring that Jesus was the King of the Jews. Yet, little did he know that this act of mockery proclaimed the most glorious and important truth, the identity of the man Jesus: King. The Jewish authorities asked Pilate to take the sign down – but he refused, for his word was final. On this day, the earthly authorities had declared the kingship of Jesus. Not just king of the Jews, nor the Roman Empire, but of the whole creation. Of the rocks which bore the metal for the nails, and the trees which bore the wood for the cross. Of the executioners who flogged and killed him, of the crowd – you and me – who wanted blood and shouted, “crucify him!” This is our king. Though we killed him, by his blood we are cleansed. He invites us to be a part of his kingdom. He is a good king. It is a good day.

It is a good day, because we are no longer thirsty. But at what cost? On the cross, Jesus knew that all things were now drawing to an end – and he said, “I thirst.” Jesus once said that he was the source of living water. Whoever drank this living water would never be thirsty again. Yet, Jesus was the one who thirsted. The second person of the triune God thirsted – so that we don’t have to thirst. He was needy, that we might be full. As his blood flows and washes us clean, so does his grace flow into our cups, overflowing and overflowing – whilst his body was broken, hanging dry on the cross. He gives us living water that our thirsts might be eternally quenched. It is a sorrowful day, yes – he is the man of sorrows. Are we to mourn? His sorrow secures for us joy. We are satisfied for good. It is a good day.