Monday, September 28, 2020

Honeymoon 2.0 a.k.a. Empty Nest

With Eliza working in Georgia  and Eunice studying in Tennessee, the both of us now in North Carolina have officially started our season of Honeymoon 2.0 with mixed emotions - a sense of hopeful anticipation of the days ahead and yet feeling kind of empty-in-a-thankful-sort-of-way. This is so strange, we have always worked towards our daughters' independence and now, that it is here, it is kind of surreal. The saying - letting go and letting God - doesn't seem so cliché anymore.

Time flies - I started on my 2nd M.Div. year last month and am grateful to the Lord for sustaining me through the last academic year in RTS. "Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed Thy hand hath provided - Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me". Praise the Lord for providing a number of online coaching projects which gave some measure of financial relief and also kept me in touch with what's going on with my client base back home. I always find it refreshing to talk to people back home (feel so much more relaxed in my Malaysian English accent and jokes!).

Please pray for the outworking of what it means when Paul instructed Timothy to "fulfill your ministry" (1 Timothy 4:5) especially for both Debra and myself as a couple. We so need to be sensitive to the Lord's guidance so that we are mindful of His holy calling - "not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity" (2 Timothy 1:9). Please pray for the outworking of His purpose and for His glory in our lives. More than the honeymoon, we desire the better option - honey-from-the-Rock! (Psalm 81:16). Amen.

Do let us know how we can pray for you and your family.

Thanks for partnering with us in this journey of joy.

Joseph & Debra Tan.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Merdeka! End of Year 1 @RTS

Submitted my final paper yesterday evening, and finally...today I can spend a free and easy day without the "seminarian guilt" of not reading, writing, memorizing and making 3x5 cards 😅

As this is the conclusion of my first year in RTS Charlotte (one down and two more to go), it is an opportune time to reflect on God's faithfulness and providence (and what a season it has been!). Ever since we touched down in the US on July 12 last year, it has been a faith journey for my whole family - I still have times when I ask myself - "What am I doing here, thousand of miles away from familiar and stable environments at home, putting the business on hold while squeezing my brain cells as a student after all these years!?" It all seemed so adventurous when we were planning to come to RTS but reality has a way of setting in at various unexpected places.

With 13 subjects completed in RTS this year, I have picked up certain study skills and tips along the way (with significant help from my wife) - this old dog still need to learn new tricks lah! Yet, I am still working to be more efficient and strategic in my study time management so that my scheduled is more holistic and not just scholastic. On another note, it was interesting that all four of us are attending classes online this semester! (A family that studies together, stays together).

Grateful that both Eliza and Eunice are graduating this year - one from the Asbury University and the other from TPS High School = the graduating class of 2020 is certainly in a unique situation! While Eunice will be graduating virtually, Eliza's session has been postponed to October because the Uni President prefers a physical celebration. Eunice will be starting her freshman year at Union University this Fall in August. The Lord is faithful. Please do pray for Eliza as she seeks for a suitable job here in the US.

One transition for us this summer is that we will be moving to another apartment - located further away in Concord - for a much reduced rent. In return, we will be working with the apartment management to organize regular social events for the apartment complex to ensure higher lease renewals. This is a great chance for us to "formally" connect with others and practice the second greatest commandment. Do pray for our move and also for God to "move" in our hearts as we embark on this new "apartment ministry". Date of move is June 20.

This summer is a precious window God has afforded for us to spend time with Eliza and Eunice before one heads off to the working world and the other to college world. Never in my wildest imagining would I have thought that the four of us will be spending summer of 2020 here in North Carolina together under one roof! Do pray for me to play an active role in facilitating meaningful conversations and to "tie heart strings" so that we continue to be open in our communications.

Thank you for your prayers and support. If it was not for the Lord's presence and His promises, getting through the day (with all the craziness that is happening right now) will be such dry drudgery. "For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust." (2 Peter 1:4).

Do let us know how we can also pray for you and your family.

Thank you for partnering with us in this journey of joy.

Joseph, Debra, Eliza & Eunice.




Sunday, April 5, 2020

Thankful for the CDPC Family


It was our first time joining the CDPC Puchong online worship service yesterday and it was a wonderful reunion as we see familiar faces, all united together despite the present pandemic. Absence do make the heart grow fonder as we have been away from Malaysia for about 8 months now and we desperately miss the three Fs .... Family, Fellowship and ...Food.. (Having Pastor Micah using the curry mee illustration during his sermon certainly reignited my taste buds!).

I am reminded of the group of pastors, elders and deacons in CDPC who were instrumental in our local church life and the eventual decision to come to RTS here in Charlotte. Thank you for your investment into our lives and the Sunday service yesterday was a precious recollection of our moments of fellowship and service together for the Kingdom. Truly, he who loves Christ will also love the Body of Christ. When individual talents come together for the common cause of the Kingdom (especially in the present trying season), the world will "see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). 

CDPC Puchong, you have been a blessing to us and we pray that our covenantal God will work through you all and "in you all the familes of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:3). 

Thank you for partnering with us in this journey of joy.

Joseph, Debra, Eliza & Eunice.


Friday, March 20, 2020

Living on-the-line and online


Greetings from Charlotte, North Carolina. As part of the seminary spring break, I was looking forward to coming back to KL last week for a client training assignment but my flight was cancelled due to the travel restrictions from the US authorities as the flight had to transit through Seoul, Korea. "Cancellation" is becoming a common byword in this trying season where events come to a standstill and people are forced to be still. In the case of my training session, it was reconverted to become an online one instead - spent the last three days staying up from 9.00pm to 5.00am in order to match the Malaysia time zone!

When spring break ends this Sunday, all my remaining classes for the semester will be conducted online. Being in the apartment together with my wife and daughter do make learning into a family project! Eliza's final semester in Asbury University has been converted into an online season as well and she is planning to come and stay with us next week, so our apartment here is being converted into the "Tan Family School" where everyone is a student (but who's paying the bills?, haha)! We are grateful that in this time of health crisis, while there is "social distancing", we have the opportunity to stick together as a family. The Lord is faithful.

Our families back home in Malaysia is safe and healthy - we are thankful. During winter, it was about checking the temperature every day but now it is about checking the number of Covid-19 cases and all of what is happening seem so surreal. The community here is taking the situation seriously - the church service in Uptown has gone online and we are now in day 3 of a 14-day national "shut-down" ordered by the government. This common enemy has certainly united the politicians here and it is encouraging to see how the private and public sectors are working together. Eunice recently wrote a blog post about the current Covid-19 situation and what Psalm 1 has to say about it:
http://toberadical.weebly.com/blog/dont-let-covid-19-take-over-your-life

Over the past two months we have been busy with Eunice's scholarship interview and competition preparations with 3 different universities and we praise the Lord for the positive results. We are in the midst of finalizing the application/acceptance and look forward to her "new life" starting this fall (August). Eliza, on the other hand is transiting to her "new life" in terms of looking for a job (she will be graduating in May). Debra and myself are looking forward to our "new life" as empty-nesters by then! Do pray for us as we go through these transition periods and be sensitive to the Lord's leading and direction. I can often be caught up with my own schemes that I do not seek the Lord as I ought (Proverbs 3:5-6). 

Do pray also for a strong finish to this semester despite the health crisis situation. I am taking six subjects - Classics of Personal Devotion, Evangelism, Greek Exegesis, History of Christianity II, Christian Thought & Philosophy, Christian Encounter with Islam.

Thank you for partnering with us in this journey of joy.

Joseph & Debra.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

First Sermon at Uptown Church

Thank you for praying concerning my sermon preparation last month at Uptown Church. It was the concluding part of our series on the Book of Jonah and it was a great learning experience. I am especially grateful to my wife for assisting me by providing insightful feedback during the preparation process (revised the sermon outline twice based on her input). She is such a special gift!

Here's is the audio link to the sermon:
https://www.uptownchurch.org/sermons/the-mission-and-the-missionary/

Thank you for partnering with us in this journey of joy.

Joseph and Debra.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

The Already and The Not Yet

With the dawn of each new year, we get a step closer to the "not yet" - this world is not our home, but one day it will be. We live out our days in this sad world eagerly awaiting the new heaven and new earth - although Christmas is a reminder that the Kingdom of God is already inaugurated with the coming of Jesus Christ, the start of the new year is a yearning for the eventual consummation (the not yet).

What should our attitude be in this inter-advent period between the first coming of Jesus and the soon second coming? The apostle Paul in Romans 12:12 (ESV) has three precise exhortation:

"Rejoice in hope"
During the holiday season, joy and merry-making marks the atmosphere (and with Chinese New Year around the corner, it will also exude the same feelings too!). Yet, what is the source of our joy? Joy must be fueled with a source that is external to ourselves, a source that causes us to yearn for an eventual delightful outcome. In other words, repeated experiences of joy is rooted in a hope that is secure. That is the reason why Paul could trumpet confidently, "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice! (Philippians 4:4) - this despite the fact, he was writing from a prison cell.

When there is a lack of joy, do not ask - "Why am I sad?"- instead, reflect - "Where is my hope?". With each passing year, we who are Christ followers, have hope in that eventual reunion of all reunions in that blessed marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9). My hope is in Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) This gives me reason to rejoice indeed!

"Be patient in tribulation"
One thing is for sure - there will be trouble in 2020. Despite all the well-intention wishes, difficulty and stress will come your way, for sure. The challenge of living in this "already and not yet" period of history is that God does not act according to my timetable and my milestones on how things should work out the way I expect it to work out! In fact, my period of testing and suffering seem to lengthen with each passing year. How can I be patient if I cannot see the light at the end of my tunnel?

When you are impatient, do not ask - "When is God going to fix this?" - instead, reflect - "What is God saying through all this?". It is not figuring out what God is doing but what is He saying. In every tribulation, we exercise patience not by gritting our teeth in a stoic posture but by removing all distractions that clogs up our spiritual ears. "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains" - C.S. Lewis. Do not underestimate the Lord's personal message to you in times of personal pain. He is patiently working out His will in your life (Philippians 2:13) - be patient and allow Him to continue constructing your character to the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29).

"Be constant in prayer"
Prayer is one of those subjects that we talk so much about and yet act so little upon. I find it instructive that Paul here talks about consistency in praying rather than intensity in praying. Personally, I find it easier to attend an all-night prayer meeting (hoping to stock up my spiritual reserves for the year) compared to consistently praying and interceding for 30 minutes each day. Think about it - why does our new year joy fizzle out quickly and we become impatient at the first sign of impending tribulation? - could it be that we have neglected the devotion of prayer?

When the apostles were faced with increased leadership workload of the new church, their leadership decision was not to attend a time management course so that they can do more! On the contrary, they re-committed themselves to the basics and refuse to be distracted (even by worthwhile tasks). Instead of attempting to do more, the apostles wisely appointed seven deacons to take care of the pressing needs of the congregation while "we devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4).

In your area of responsibilities, do not ask - "What can I do more of?" - instead, reflect - "How and who can I pray more for?" Your public life of ministry is only as strong as the private life of your prayers.

Trust that the exhortation from Paul to "rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation and be constant in prayer" will be a set of helpful watchwords for you as it has been for me.

Thanks for partnering with us in this journey of joy.

Joseph, Debra, Eliza & Eunice.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Fall Semester is Done and Dusted!

Whew! The final exams for the Fall semester ended 9.00pm, Dec 10th and it was a huge relief at the end of an arduous trek of reading assignments, theological papers, quizzes and written exams which started since August. Yet, this is only 1/6th of my journey here in RTS and there is more to come! However, I thank God for His daily sustenance and the opportunity to "be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15, NASB).

The day after the finals, we had a sumptuous Taiwanese lunch in the home of a couple who are our fellow RTS students. It was a delightful day of fellowship, playing games and sharing seminary studying tips. 

Yesterday, we drove to Atlanta and reunited with Eliza at Grace Church where she helped conduct a workshop on cultural diversity - it is wonderful to be complete as a family again (she also just completed her exams!) and we will be taking the next few weeks to travel, visit friends, chill and be touristy. We are thankful for the connections Eliza made during her internship in Atlanta last summer.

Over the weekend here in Atlanta, we are staying in the home of Tom and Marilyn Reese - our long time friends through AiG (Anwers in Genesis - www.answersingenesis.org). They hosted Eliza for her first Thanksgiving here in the US three years ago when she was a freshman - we are grateful for their heart of ministry and commitment to Kingdom building. 

Please pray for us
We will be on the road for the next week or so. Do pray for safety and favorable weather as we travel. In the midst of having fun, we are also seeking the Lord's direction for Eliza and Eunice as next year, one will graduate and the other entering college.

I have been given the opportunity to preach in Uptown Church on Dec 29th on Jonah 4:5-11. Please pray for my period of preparation that I may exegete true to the meaning of the text and be relevant in the application. 

Will be taking three classes during the Winter break starting Jan 6th.

Thanks for partnering with us in this journey of joy.

Joseph, Debra, Eliza & Eunice. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

When God Wants to Drill a Man

When God wants to drill a man
And thrill a man
And skill a man,
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His Heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses
And with every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendour out -
God knows what He's about!

(Author Unknown)

Saturday, November 30, 2019

A List of Thanksgiving

We had a wonderful time of Thanksgiving lunch fellowship yesterday with friends from Eunice's speech and debate club. Besides the sumptuous array of food (turkey, ham, chocolate turtle cheesecake, pumpkin pie, etc), we also enjoyed the conversation, the short hike around the neighborhood and opinions about American politics! We are truly the recipients of refreshing Christian hospitality, for this we are grateful (especially after a sustained period of studies and paper preparation!).

Since landing in Charlotte on July 12, we certainly have a lot to be thankful for:
  1. Friendship with Tommy Fuller who helped us to settle down in the first two weeks.
  2. The band of brothers from Uptown Church who helped us with the move (heavy duty lifting up to the apartment). Also, for the gifts of household items and furniture to get us started.
  3. The flexibility provided by RTS in allowing for my wife to audit the classes - it is such a wonderful blessing to have her as my classmate!
  4. Eunice was really diligent in her preparation for SAT exam here in the US. Praise God for her good scores.
  5. Opportunity to meet up with Eliza and connecting with her friends at Asbury University.
  6. We have a car on loan to us for use till March next year.
  7. Men/women mentoring groups at Uptown Church for my wife and I.
  8. Uptown Church women bible study group for my wife.
  9. A like-minded speech and debate student community for Eunice. 
  10. Opportunity for a corporate training program in KL. I now have one online coaching client.
  11. Learning community and culture in RTS - have helped deepen my love for Word of God and the God of the Word.
  12. Studying here in the US together with the family is fun! Can't imagine having to attend seminary on my own. The presence of my wife and daughter here is precious!
Please pray for us
I am now in the final two seeks of the Fall semester - that means paper submissions, reading assignments and exams! Feel like running in the last leg of the marathon, tired but looking forward to crossing the finishing line. Please pray for endurance, good health (lost my voice a week ago) and a sound mind.

We will be doing a few campus visits with Eunice next month. Do pray for wisdom in selecting the right university for her to attend next year. 

Thank you for partnering with us in this journey of joy.

Joseph, Debra & Eunice.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Dr. Bill Mounce - Teacher & Translator

We had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Bill Mounce today who is a teacher and translator extraordinaire:
  • He is the author of my Greek textbook in RTS.
  • He is the founder and president of biblicaltraining.org
  • He is on the committee of Bible translation (NIV)
  • He was the New Testament chair of the ESV translation.
Yet, he spoke with the humility, like the heart of a shepherd who cares for his flock to be grazing on the words of truth and life. He challenged us - "why are you in seminary?" - your goal should be that when you leave seminary, you have a deeper love for Jesus Christ. I like how he summed up the outcome of seminary studies - it should lead me to have an informed love - growing to love the Lord with all of my heart, soul, strength and mind. (By the way, be sure to check out the FREE biblicaltraining.org website - it is a fantastic teaching resource!)

After speaking at the RTS Chapel, Dr. Mounce went on to share deeper insights on his role as a Bible translator. That left me with a greater appreciation for the various English translations out there and the different philosophy of translation (formal, function or natural). It is an amazing demonstration of how God inspires His Word through the means of using real people with real language and cultural context. Managed to be "thick-skinned" enough to raise my hand for a free copy of a personal sized Bible for my wife!

Please pray for us
Thank you for praying for Eunice - we are pleased and thankful for her results. She just submitted her university applications and we plan to go on a campus visit road trip soon. Do continue to pray for wisdom in selecting the right university with the right environment for her to grow not only intellectually but more importantly in her faith and worldview.

The month of November is the last lap of this semester for me with a pile of research papers to write and exams to prepare for. Please pray for this 51-year-old-long-time-no-study-type-brain to be able to rise up to the occasion and do my best not to compete but to complete it for God's glory and because I want to love Him with all of my mind!

Do pray for all three of us to be in good health as the cooler season approaches. We miss the warm fellowship with you guys at home!

Thank you for partnering with us in this journey of joy.

Joseph, Debra & Eunice.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Grateful for Window of Providence

We are grateful to God for His providence in supplying a three-day corporate training opportunity for me to return to Malaysia last week during the seminary fall break. The only setback was that I came home alone and had to leave my wife and daughter behind in Charlotte. On the other hand, it was also a wonderful journey for me to "cari makan" (find food) and stock up memories of mesmerizing meals before heading back to the books here in the US!

It was good to connect with people in the marketplace and although it was not direct Gospel preaching, I thoroughly enjoyed communicating truth principles in matters of communication, engagement and relationship. Ephesians 2:10 - "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them". God's sovereignty is such a reassuring truth that as I come to Him in my present moment, I can worship Him in perfect confidence that He knows what He is doing and has a plan at work. God is more actively involved in your life than you know! May we walk holding the Hand of Him who is already prepared beforehand.

Please pray for us
Thanks for praying for Eunice's SAT - she was happy with her US-experience. The next milestone is visiting several prospective universities and deciding the "good work" which the Lord had prepared for her. May we be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's guidance for Eunice.

This second part of the Fall Semester is filled with exams and research papers submission! Please pray for my wife and I as we prepare towards it. Time management and the discipline to study in a systematic and focused way is certainly needful.

Thank you for partnering with us in this journey of joy.

Joseph, Debra & Eunice.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

From Theology to Doxology

In the midst of quizzes, exams and research papers, it is easy to focus on completion rather than contemplation, work rather than worship. Am I stretched with the academic load here in RTS? Of course! However, the deeper question is - Are my studies leading me to a closer relationship with what I am studying or with Who I am studying? There is the temptation that since what I am reading is largely theological in nature, then I should be in good spiritual shape, right? Wrong.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord .. (Psalm 1:2). In your presence, there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). Recently, I sense a real tug in my heart to begin delighting in the presence of my Creator, my Savior, my Comforter. Yes, there are the deadlines and assignments but am I operating from a position of rested joyfulness or restless juggling? When delight gives way to duty, then the books will feel heavy indeed. I am thankful that the professors here in RTS do make a conscientious effort to ask the "so what?" question and remind us about the WHO behind the what we are studying. Oh, how I need to regular remind myself about the state of my heart before the Lord and the temptation to run on empty, relying on my own strength and effort.

During the weekend, we love to hunt for a place where we can brunch and then spend hours at the table catching up with our studies. We are in this amazing season in our lives where three of us are all students at the same time (and we enjoy the fellowship of this "suffering"). Of course, coffee, tea and regular snacks along the way helps too :-)

Please pray for us
Next week signals the start of the mid-term exams and also the start of research paper submission deadlines. Please pray that we will diligently steward the hours of the day and study systematically to cover the required essentials. Writing theological research papers is a new experience for me but I am looking forward to the challenge.

Eunice's SAT is next Saturday 5th Oct - please pray for her to be in good health and mental clarity. Please also pray for a new tenant for our house in Bandar Utama - we had an unreliable tenant who just moved out this month and we need a new one as soon as possible in order to lighten the load of our living expenses here in the US. Do let me know should you have anyone interested.

Thank you for partnering with us in this journey of joy.

Joseph, Debra & Eunice.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

My Student Prayer Script

Have started my internship duties at Uptown Church focusing in the area of mercy ministry. The picture above is the internship-lunch-teaching session led by Ps Tom Hawkes and Ps Dave Kulp. The rest of us are the interns (of which I am obviously the oldest one ...). The lesson for us that day was - "What is a theologically-driven ministry?".

On a personal note, I have crafted a prayer script for myself to keep the main thing the main thing as I study in seminary and not lose sight of the larger perspective. Hope it will be a blessing to you as well.

O Lord, thank You for calling me to a life of ministry to serve you with the special gift granted through Your manifold grace (1 Pet 4:10). I am a servant of my Lord before I am a student of the institution (Ro 1:1). Before duty, is devotion. Before work, is worship. 

Renew a steadfast spirit within me (Ps 51:10)  and grant me wisdom to complete (not compete) with endurance (Jam 1:4-5). Holy Spirit, use my assignments to create a thirst for the Presence of the Living God, a holy panting! (Ps 42:1-2). Unite my heart and guard me from distractions that I may fear Your Name (Ps 86:11). I cast my burden of anxious providence upon You (Ps 55:22) because You will grant me all things I need to abound in every good work (2 Cor 9:8). I rest in Your Faithfulness to bring to pass that which you have called me to (1 Thes 5:24). For our loved ones at home, we entrust them unto Your loving care.

While I am here, I make every effort to present myself before God as a proven worker who has no need to be ashamed, but keeps the message of truth on a straight path (2 Tim 2:15).

Fill me, O Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in excellence that I may fulfill the good work set aside for me in Jesus Christ (Ex 31:3, Eph 2:10).

I serve You with the strength You supply so that my Lord Jesus Christ gets the glory (1 Pet 4:11). May I study not with the weariness of duty but with the wisdom of fearing You and obeying Your commandments (Ecc 12:12-13). Bless me with a mind for truth, a heart for God and a life of ministry. Be exalted, Lord Jesus Christ, My Beloved, My First Love.

- Revised Nov 30, 2019

Please pray for us
Eunice will be sitting for her SAT next month - please pray for her preparations in the midst of her school work that she will be able to rightly divide her time. Also, we will be making the university decision very soon as she is in her senior year at high school. Please pray for wisdom and clarity of direction.

During the Fall Break (Oct 7-11), I will be coming home to Malaysia to conduct a corporate client training session. Thank God for this providential opportunity in terms of easing our financial need. Please pray for me to be diligent in completing my seminary assignments/exams ahead of this training so that I will be in the right state of mind (mentally and physically) to deliver the content.

Thank you for partnering with us in this journey of joy.

Joseph, Debra & Eunice.