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
  • 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 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.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Responding to God's Will

"For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised" (Hebrews 10:36)

Often I have an image of blessed bliss when I think about being in the center of God's will. The author of Hebrews think otherwise - the will of God is not something that "happens to me", it requires my participation, it shapes my character, it molds my mindset. So, when I think about God's will for my life, I ought to consider in what areas are God wanting me to practice endurance, that which I should persist in doing and not give up? Sometimes, people may use the "will of God" to try something new or as an excuse to get out of something which is very troublesome. But the need for endurance could be the very thing the Doctor ordered!

"And let endurance have its perfect result, that you many be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:4)

We visited the Billy Graham Library about two weeks ago and written on Ruth Bell Graham's gravestone are these words - End of Construction - Thanks for your patience".

Ruth saw this notice when she drove past an actual construction site and thought that this is such a precious reminder that God is still working in us while we are on this side of eternity. His will to shape us never stops - so, she immediately wanted this "signage" to be posted on her gravestone to mark the completion of God's work in her life (and His patience in shaping her)!

So, what do we do when the going gets tough - pray that God will give the wisdom to discern between the need for endurance and our inclination to look for excuses! Discover the Hand of the Great Constructor who is at work and you will be surprised at the long-term results He desires for you.

Please pray for us
Debra and myself need to be practicing endurance as we go through the rudiments of classes, assignments, research papers, etc. Although we are "soaking in" all the good learning stuff of seminary but we need to continuously be on guard to have the mindset of a "excellent completer", not just an "enthusiastic starter".

Also, this week I plan to put a diligent effort to kick-start (and maintain) my online coaching services. This is a needed effort as this will help to offset our living expenses here in the US. Please pray for God's wisdom and guidance so that I will rightly divide my time between studies, internship and also this online coaching service.

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

Joseph, Debra & Eunice.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

To Thrust and Trust

Well, the day finally came! - the final day of my grueling three week long Greek summer class. The above is the picture of how the class looked like before the final test paper was handed out. Reading the New Testament in its original language has heightened my appreciation of what it means to "rightly divide" the Word of God - not according to my own preference, but in the context by which it was first written.

On another note, we are so, so happy to meet up with Eliza, our eldest who came to visit us after her summer internship - indeed the joy of reunion is quite indescribable! This is an amazing season in our lives where the four of us are all students at the same time (Debra will be attending a few classes as well)! This is such a God-given opportunity - especially for my wife and I - to deepen our roots in Scripture which is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:17). We took a drive from Charlotte to Wilmore, Kentucky on Friday to send Eliza back to Asbury University where she will begin her fourth and final year. Praise God for His faithfulness!

Please pray for us
We are now quite settled down in our apartment here in Strawberry Hill, Charlotte and am starting to get used to the US-life routine. Thanks for praying for us.

Do pray for us in the area of regular financial support - we have a tenant who will be moving out end of this month and thereafter, the rental income will stop. Also, my online coaching project is not kicking off as expected. Hence, the cash flow visibility is not as clear as we planned initially. As we thrust ahead with fulfilling God's calling for us, we also aim to trust Him with all our hearts, leaning not on our own understanding but to acknowledge Him in all of our ways (Proverbs 3:5,6). 

Classes will begin 21 August and there are many more subjects to look forward to!

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

Joseph, Debra & Eunice.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Pressing the "Reset"

We have just completed 3 weeks here in Charlotte, North Carolina and it feels like 3 months! Starting life from scratch - things which we take for granted back home like home furnishings, utilities, stationeries, vehicle, business income, driver's license, etc - are now basically reset to start all over again. In fact, my wife and I feel like a newly married couple :-)

We are thankful for the many helps received from brothers and sisters at Uptown Church, we have now lived one week in our rented apartment which is about 6-7 minutes drive away from the seminary. Here is our address and contact:

5142 Strawberry Hill Drive, Apartment B
Charlotte NC 28211
Mobile : 980.337.0058 (Joseph) 
Mobile : 980.365.1615 (Debra)
We are still contactable via our usual WhatsApp numbers in Malaysia.

Major accomplishment this week - completed my GREEK 1 class!! This is an intense summer class which kicks off my 3-year M.Div program and I have never felt so helpless before in a class - learning all the basics of a new language (a huge "reset" for me!) - nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, grammar, transliteration, translation, etc...To keep us on our toes, there are the daily quizzes, weekly exams and research assignment - everyday of the week from July 29 to August 15. The official Fall term starts August 21.

On another note, we are extremely proud of Eunice who is making personal effort to settle into a new place, new environment, new friends ... and also with a new song which she wrote to capture here "feelings of transition" and "memories" as she moves from Kota Kemuning to Charlotte. Click her YouTube video below for an "open-mic" event that she herself signed up for and perform live in a public food market place.

Please pray for us
I need to stay strong for week-2 of GREEK 1 (yes, there is also GREEK 2 and GREEK Exegesis coming up later on). Pray that while there are the vocabularies, grammar, declensions, etc to memorize, I will keep the big picture in mind as to why I am doing what I am doing. It is easy to get overwhelmed with the details and forgetting the direction.

"Resetting" life again requires the careful management of finances (we are thankful for the used things that we have received from friends and also the availability of thrift stores). Please pray that we will be wise in terms of stewarding our expenses. Have yet to purchase a used car - thankful that we currently have a vehicle on loan to us from an elder at Uptown Church. Oh yes, praise God that I now finally have my official North Carolina driver's license yesterday (after some immigration paperwork problem).

Please pray also that we will settle into a life-routine soon (everyday, there seem to be something missing in the house that we need to buy, etc) and moving from a business to a student mindset is not as straightforward as I thought :-)

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

Joseph, Debra & Eunice.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Going Growing..Glowing

After close to 3 hours delay at JFK (plus another 2 hours being questioned at immigration on details of our study programs), we arrived 10.30pm, Friday 12 July in Charlotte. Having Tommy Fuller and Daniel McNamee from Uptown to meet us at the airport was certainly a welcoming sight! As we go, we are thankful that we can also grow into relationships to be formed here, not only just in the seminary but also with the church community.

Thanks to those who came to send us off at KLIA, we are grateful for your encouragement, wishes and prayers.

Thank also to the CDPC community who gave us a hearty send-off last Sunday - a precious reminder that we are part of the Body of Christ and as we go and grow, we are to also glow in service unto Christ who is the Head of the Church. Amen.

Please pray for us
We visited a few apartments yesterday near the seminary and found one that we like. May make a decision to go for that one - please pray that we will have the insights to consider all relevant factors and take the right steps going forward.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Plurality of Leadership

Serving is fun when we serve together! One leadership culture in CDPC is the plurality of leadership where there is no one dominant voice that "superstars" the church but an active listening and deliberation that honors one another as a fellow members of the Body of Christ. That means we only have One Head - Jesus Christ Himself. I will certainly miss those "arm-wrestling" and "planking" moments when we were not only busy planning but also mindful to have fun as well!

It is true - you cannot love Jesus Christ without also loving His Bride, the Church - the Body of believers of whom He gave His life for. To the pastors, elders and deacons - you are indeed our glory and our joy!

Please pray for us
We are only days away from 11 July - all this seems so unreal, we are so busy packing and prepping that we don't even have much time to even feel what's going on! Please pray for my time of internship at Uptown Church (assigned to be part of the mercy ministry team) that the Lord will further clarify His calling for my wife and I as to how we can best fit to serve in the Body of Christ. Also we hope to be able to quickly locate a suitable apartment to rent (near the seminary) when we touch down on 12 July.

Joseph & Debra.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Internship at Uptown Church

We are blessed to be in fellowship with Pastor Micah and Blair who gave us helpful insights into life in Charlotte and more importantly, what it means to be part of the local church community. Specifically, I am looking forward being on staff at Uptown Church as an intern - serving in the mercy ministry. To me, studying in RTS is more than just sticking my nose into piles of books and lecture notes but getting involved in the lives of people - the members of the Body of Christ.

We thank you for Pastor Micah and Blair who has gone before us in that journey and we look to them as our guides even when we are in the US. We are grateful for our family-to-family fellowship and bonding!

Please pray for us
Pray for us to be intentional in connecting with the local church community in Uptown as we find our fit in the Body of Christ. We would certainly like to serve in our area of gifting and yet at the same time be open for exposure to learn from a wider perspective of ministry as well.

Oh yes, we are only about a week away from departure - 11 July, 8.50pm. Pray for energy and wisdom as we tie the "loose ends' and pack the boxes!

Monday, June 24, 2019

Grateful for Connection (and Tips)

We met up with Hann Yang and his wife Hazel on 19 June - a wonderful time of fellowship as Hann Yang is a RTS alumni who did his M.Div a few years ago. In addition, he went to RTS together with his wife and four children - so, they definitely had a lot of tips for us (which includes where to eat, how to order real Chinese food and satisfy our Asian cravings!). Also, we found out that there are "past year papers" to study in order to prepare for the driving test in North Carolina :-)

As we get closer to catching our flight to Charlotte (17 more days to go), we certainly appreciate the divine appointments and connections along the way. This brief meet-up is a wonderful reminder that to travel far, we must travel together as a community. 

Please pray for us
This is a crucial week for me as I focus on transiting some of the business that I do from off-line to on-line (since I will not be able to conduct my coaching and training sessions in person anymore). We are also sorting out what to pack and what not to pack, so plenty of deliberating (and also discovery of things we never though we had!) - certainly need to stay focus and make sure that the we bring along only what is essential.

Thanks for partnering with us in the work of the Gospel.

Joseph & Debra.