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 (Rom 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). 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 with the 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.

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.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Going and Trusting

I remember when my parents saw me off to study in Singapore - they were worried about my welfare. Now, the roles are reversed - my wife and I now are concerned about our parents' welfare as we go overseas for studies the second time. We thank the Lord for caring for us through our parents and how the amazing grace of God works all things for the good of accomplishing His purpose in our lives.

While we "go", there will also be the tug in our hearts towards home and when that tug is strong, that is when the "trust" needs to come in. Trusting that the Lord will continue to protect and preserve our parents, to turn their hearts towards the Lord Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Please pray for our parents
My mom is a believer while Debra's parents have yet to know the Lord. Please pray first and foremost that the message of the Gospel will continue to be deposited in their heart of hearts, that the Holy Spirit will regenerate them towards repentance. We are thankful to God that there are no major health issues, yet we do not want to be presumptuous but continue to be vigilant in praying for God's preserving grace to be upon them.

We appreciate your partnership & support.

Joseph & Debra.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Relocation and Refreshment

This time of transition involves even the life of our dog of 9 years - Skipper - who has been with us every since he was a pup. Initially, we were skeptical whether if anyone would want to adopt an old dog but after my wife placed the online ad, two calls came on the same day and with seven more inquiry the next five days or so!

We had the joy of handing over Skipper to a family from Batu Pahat with four young children who recently lost their family dog and Skipper came in just at the right time to fill up the void. What is a relocation for us becomes a refreshing blessing for another!

Please pray for us
We are now about 30 days away from the 11th July departure to Charlotte, North Carolina. We sure do hope that our relocation will be a refreshing blessing to the people and families we meet! We are thankful that we have a place to stay (with a deacon from Uptown Church) for a month when we arrive. Do pray for the Lord's favor as we look for an apartment to rent near the seminary. Our budget is tight - so, every little bit counts!

Once again, we appreciate your partnership in our joyous journey ahead!

Joseph & Debra.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Grateful for Our Mentor

We are thankful for our journey in CDPC Puchong which started since 2014 and it has been a chapter in our lives where our calling is being clarified. When it comes to discovering God's calling on your life, we realize that the voice of the Lord often resonates through the counsel, encouragement and also the admonishment from His people.

Thank you Pastor Wong for being that shepherd who gently leads us along the path of what it means to be a follower of the Great Shepherd Himself. Calling is not possible without the cost of discipleship - it is the coupling of purpose and passion. We pray that Pastor Wong's sabbatical period this season will indeed draw him closer to the Lord's purpose and passion for his life and ministry.

Pastor Wong - Let's continue to exchange theological and exegetical notes ...

Please pray for us
With July 11 around the corner, we are definitely "feeling it"! Please pray for practical wisdom and administrative skills as we start to pack up and also re-order our present home for the new tenant. Also, there is a fair bit of paperwork to settle as well (bills, income tax, bank accounts, etc) - would also appreciate your prayer support in this area as well.

Joseph & Debra.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Double Three-Fold Commitment

In today's OT class with Dr Leong this morning, he highlighted the verse which was his watchword when venturing to the US for his studies - Ezra 7:10 - this shall be my watchword too.

"For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel".

Also he shared G Campbell Morgan's booklet "Preaching" on the three essentials of a sermon - truth, clarity and passion.

So, this will form the three-fold "double track" commitment as we venture to RTS for our season of study and seeking the Lord.
  1. Setting my heart to study-practice-teach.
  2. Sharpening my preaching for truth-clarity-passion.
Please pray for us
That the Lord will lead my wife and I to be certain in our areas of studies and how it will eventually apply to the ministry back in Malaysia. Pray that we will study not for the sake of academic achievement but to be living out God's specific calling for our lives and to be useful for the Kingdom.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Journey is Confirmed (20 Feb 2019)

Finally, our F1 & F2 visas are approved and we are good to head off to Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in Charlotte, North Carolina. Next to the decision to head home from Singapore in 1999, this is the biggest move ever - 20 years later! The countdown begins.

Looking back, ever since I started the application process in February last year, this journey has been frought with uncertainties, clarifying of God's calling, and managing family expectations. Fundamentally, is this a good thing or is this a God thing? In addition, how we approach the transition to this new season is ever so critical - this is not certainly something that you can just "wake up into" and expect things to go like clockwork. Much conversation, prayer and planning need to happen.

Please pray for us
  • We still have a shortfall in our financial support (US$2,500 monthly) to cover for rental, tuition fees and living expenses. I am attempting to offer my training and coaching services online to make up for it but it is still tentative presently. See http://www.goodmonday.com/seminary
  • We are grateful that there is a place for us to stay for one month (upon arrival 12 July) with one of the deacons at Uptown church. We are seeking for an apartment to rent near RTS - please pray that the Lord will guide us to the right place for us to call home in Charlotte.

Thank you for partnering with us for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.