First post of the decade. Second one about crossing into a new one. Just a random “diary” kind of entry.
Was just lying in bed two nights ago and it kind of hit me. This past decade was the one that changed me the most as a person. It formed the transformative years of my life.
At the start of the 2010s, I was a totally different person and would have never imagined how I would be by the end of it.
In this decade, I tried out martial arts (for awhile). In this decade, I found my love for movies – especially the MCU. In this decade, I picked up the acoustic guitar. In this decade, I discovered my passion for writing. In this decade, I experienced four phases of life – secondary school, polytechnic, army, university.
There were so many other things that happened in this span of 10 years, but nothing transformed my life like the following: coming to Heart of God Church and knowing Jesus.
In 2011, I became a Christian and everything has been the greatest adventure since. It is hard to believe just 10 years ago, I did not know God.
More than the skills, experience and interests I adopted along the way, with Christ and church, I have found true joy, purpose and relationships for my life. I enter the new decade with faith, friends and family – more than I ever had before.
It’s crazy. In this next decade, I am going to enter my 30s (though not that soon). I am going to experience the next phases of life – love, career and family.
But no matter where life takes me, I set my eyes again, like I did in the 2010s, on the one Person that is always there for me.
If there is only one thing I can bring from my life in the 2010s to the 2020s, it is my relationship with Jesus Christ.
I may not know what the future holds, but I know Him who holds my future.
This is a question I started asking myself recently just for the fun of it. Just last week, the Frozen 2 trailer came out and last I checked, it has garnered more than 30 million views on YouTube. With the excitement seen here, as well as for the recent release of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, and numerous upcoming titles such as Toy Story 4, it seems that animated films strike a chord with most people. And no, it is not just kids.
I am talking about full-grown men and women, myself included. You don’t have to look far to find people who are still excited about such films even though they are way past their “early years”. Just look on the Internet or look at your friends.
And that honestly has got me wondering – why do animated films mean so much to us? It isn’t exactly erroneous to say that most animated films made by the likes of Disney and Illumination are targeted towards a younger crowd. But either way, we still see adults equally (if not, even more) hyped up about these movies, queuing up for tickets at the box office.
One reason I can think of is nostalgia. My mom makes joking remarks about me when I watch animated films. She always says these films are for kids, and teases a 23 year-old me for watching them. This applies not just exclusively to animated films though. She says the same for superhero films. And that could be because our parents didn’t grow up watching these characters come to life. Guess who they recall watching most of these movies? Their children – us.
When Woody and Buzz Lightyear embarked on their first adventures, most of our parents were already in their adulthood. They might not have been drawn to watch Toy Story because there were other more “mature” movies available to them.
But for me, once I began to have a basic understanding of the world around me, I was already seeing Toy Story frequently playing on TV. Animated films formed a significant part of my childhood. I presume this is also the case for many of you. Maybe that is why we get so thrilled finding out there was a sequel to Finding Nemo, 13 years after the movie came out.
Movies like Finding Dory, Incredibles 2 and Toy Story 4 throw us all into a frenzy because these stories were huge parts of our childhood. Watching these familiar characters return brings back loads of good memories and maybe even reminds us of the happiness we felt as a child.
But is nostalgia the only reason we get so easily attached or attracted to animated movies? I’d like to doubt so. If nostalgia was the only reason getting us to watch animated films, why do we also look forward to watching brand new ones?
Assuming you are a little closer to my age, when films like Despicable Me, How to Train Your Dragon and Frozen came around, we were not really young anymore. Want even more recent titles? Sure. Rise of the Guardians, Wreck-It Ralph, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, The Secret Life of Pets, Moana, Coco are all titles that come to mind when it comes to animated films released in recent years. Yet we love them all equally. One of my favorite animated films of all time is Inside Out, a film that was released in 2015 when I was 19. I find myself more interested in animated films the older I get!
Perhaps, the “magic” of animated films is not really found in their ability to bring us nostalgia, but in their ability to bring us back to a simpler time. When we were young, our knowledge of the world was little and our imagination of what was possible – limitless. Now that we are older, maybe that’s not the case anymore. When we were young, our view and belief of the world was purer; maybe now, not so.
Perhaps, animated films serve as a reminder to our inner selves that we should never stop imagining. These films have always fueled our imagination in our youth and continue to bring out the child on the inside. Deep down, though our minds have long matured (and rightly so), our inner child remains; and he/she believes in and yearns for a world that is beautiful, colorful, even a little magical like how it is in many animated films.
The “magic” of such films lies in their power to remind us what true friendship (e.g. Toy Story, How to Train Your Dragon), heroism (e.g. Big Hero 6, Wreck-It Ralph) and family (e.g. Incredibles, Frozen, Coco) are like. Though we should definitely grow out of our childish selves, I say we should remain child-like in our faith towards humanity and the world as a whole.
Good people do exist. Good things can happen. Maybe it’s time to gather some good people around you and catch some good animated films again, don’t you think? See you at the cinema.
It’s Chinese New Year – the best time to connect with our family members and friends. No matter whether you are reading this while on the way to a relative’s house, in the midst of a conversation (I hope not), or while eating handful after handful of snacks, I am going to keep this post short so I will not hold you back and keep you on your devices for too long. After all, like I’ve just said, CNY is about spending time with people.
But more than that, public holidays like CNY are a good time for us to rest. I believe different images just showed up in your head when you read that. For some people, “rest” means having a weekend getaway, vacation or a gathering with family & friends. For others, it’s playing recreational sports, exercising, or going for a hike. Or maybe, it could be engaging in a hobby, painting, reading a book, eating, or just simply sleeping.
“Rest” is something we always associate with things or activities that makes us feel relaxed and recharged. We rest in things we find certain levels of fun or peace in doing. And it is no different for me.
Just last week, I went to the National Gallery with a couple of friends. I can’t even begin to describe the level of “tranquility” I was at after taking a short tour around the art museum. Then the next day, I went cycling from the East Coast to the city with another bunch of friends. It was a pretty quiet afternoon and we cycled & skated while appreciating the Marina Bay skyline on the horizon. Eventually, we came to our last stop – the 100th Starbucks outlet in Singapore, where the River and The Esplanade could be observed from within the cafe.
Fast forward to two days later, I was on a day trip to Johor Bahru, where I had tons of food, a massage and a Lazer Tag game with once again – the craziest group of friends. That was just three days ago.
Right now as I am writing this, I am in the comfort of my room, contemplating what movies to watch at the cinema the next few days after house visits, and which Netflix shows I need to catch up on. All these things I have described are what personally brings me a certain level of rest, fun, and sometimes even peace. If you were Marie Kondo, you would say these are things that “spark joy” in my life.
But as I am thinking about the concept of finding rest and peace this festive season, I can’t help but be reminded of a couple of verses I came across in the Bible a few days back. Because while there is nothing wrong with recreational activities and doing things that we enjoy, true lasting peace and rest are not found in those places. I have to remind myself that true rest is found in a Person.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28 (NKJV)
While I had a great time at the National Gallery, I no longer feel the “good vibes” I got from there six days later. However, if you ask me right now if I still feel rested and at peace, my answer would be a resounding “Yes”. Because my rest is not found in circumstances, but in Christ. Think about it – if circumstances can give you rest, then circumstances can also take away your rest.
But if our rest is found in the God of peace, who promises to never leave us, then we will have the peace of God that will be always present despite what kind of day we are having.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)
The peace of God is something that transcends situations and happenings in our lives. Even when it shouldn’t make sense to have peace in a certain moment, the peace of God can still be present. It surpasses understanding, and can guard our hearts and minds from negativity. It’s not just a peace that floats around, waiting to be dispelled. It is a strong peace – a shield that defends.
This week, apart from all the feasting and family bonding, let’s find time every day to be with God, shall we? He will give us a peace on the outside, but also peace from the inside out. And this peace will not just give us rest from work, but it will give us rest to work. We will have strength to run towards our goals again. Just like what my pastor has proclaimed, I believe this year, we will have rest from petty fights, battles with “enemies” and even personal struggles.
We will have peace with people and peace with ourselves. This will be a time when we will have a peace to build. A peace to build what? A peace to build relationships with our family & friends. A peace to build up our finances. A peace in our health to build up fitness. A peace to build up ourselves in faith and in our walk with God. Last but not least, a peace to build ourselves up for the future.
Alright, it’s time for me to go fill my belly with CNY goodies. I wish you peace & rest in 2019 and a Happy Chinese New Year.
This is the final part of An Open Letter to Heart of God Church. Read Parts 1, 2 and 3 first if you haven’t.
Clueless. I think that is how I would describe myself from 8 years ago. Other than being remotely skilled in playing computer games & the guitar, and knowing how to study, I don’t think I knew much about anything else. It never crossed my mind that I was gifted, even though God has blessed each and every single one of us with unique talents.
I was just an ordinary boy, but in Heart of God Church, I was given countless opportunities to discover my gifts and be trained in my abilities. When I was 17 years-old, I joined the Videos Ministry. I had 100% interest in making videos and 0% skills to properly do so. Yet instead of being placed somewhere else where I could serve immediately, I was trained from scratch by the leaders and more experienced crew in the ministry.
From knowing nothing about Photoshop, After Effects & Premiere Pro, I went on to be part of big video productions in church. And that is only one example of how people invested their time, energy and heart in me. If I were to describe every little and big thing they did just to encourage me and build me, this open letter will never end.
I never saw myself as someone who can be creative and bold or even as someone who can make a difference in people’s lives. But my pastors and leaders saw beyond the young kid I was and believed in me. Even as I grew older (and am still ordinary), they continued believing in my dreams.
That is why today, I can do the things I do – making videos, writing, giving Bible study lessons, preaching in Connect Groups, and just leading people closer to God in general. If God had not led me to Heart of God Church, where Pastor How & Pastor Lia have built an entire culture around “making the dreams of others come true” and “using the church to build people”, I would never have known I could do all those things or make an impact in the lives of others.
I really believe that is why Christians should always worship God and honor their pastors and leaders. God deserves our worship, and He is the only one worthy of it; there is no being in this universe stronger, higher, greater than Him, yet He cares for us so much to engineer circumstances where we can meet and have a relationship with Him. We should also honor Him in all areas of our lives. As for our pastors – while we do not worship men, we certainly should give them honor.
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.
1 Timothy 5:17 (NKJV)
It is a biblical principle we ought to apply in our lives. More than just preaching to us on stage, my pastors have spent two decades building the church and people off stage. In fact, Pastor How & Pastor Lia did so for 21 years without a real, proper sabbatical. I think the least we can do is honor people like them, who are not just pastors but spiritual parents to us.
That is the main reason why I wrote this open letter. It is to honor the God, the church and the people who have changed my life so much. More than just being equipped with multiple skills, I am more grateful for having grown in my character and my heart. Because to me, that is what it means to become Christians. That is what following Christ and being His children means.
What it means to Become
Becoming a Christian is less about being skilled and multi-talented, and more about having great character. Of course, we can and should have both character and abilities so that we can serve God excellently. But being a part of Heart of God Church and seeing how my pastors lead people has taught me what it truly means to become. At the end of the day, if my pastors or leaders had to make an ultimate choice between building a person’s character or abilities – character will always come first. It is simply more important. When our character is at the right place, everything else (our abilities, skills, talents) will fall into place.
I love my friends at Heart of God Church so much because they are people of great talents, and people of even greater character. They have what I would describe as both “the hands & the heart of ministry.” People do not see Christ in us just by our charisma alone. They see Christ in our character. Who cares if we are awesome at dancing, singing, public speaking – but our hearts are inward-looking and far away from God?
So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.
Psalm 78:72 (NKJV)
As I was writing this letter, I just can’t help but thank God again & again. He did not just give me a purpose & meaning in life, He changed me for the better through His Word and His people.
Looking back, I think I’ve grown in a few ways. First of all, I have definitely become a little more patient and accepting of people’s imperfections, haha. Because Christ and my friends in church first accepted me for who I am, I now know to do the same for others. No one is perfect, and we all need Jesus!
On a similar note, another phrase you would hear often in our church is “Build bridges, not walls.” More than just being accepting of people who come to church, we also work towards the acceptance and understanding of other ethnic and religious groups in our local community. For me personally, I just think it’s a real privilege to live in racial & religious harmony in Singapore. We should continue to protect that and build bridges with our community.
What else? I think I have also become a person who is more joyful. Does that mean I don’t have problems? No! It just means my problems don’t have me. Even in the worst of days when I have nothing to praise, I can still praise Him. Jesus still loves me. He is still with me and for me. Now, the source of my joy is no longer my circumstances, but His presence! With Him, I can have true joy from the inside out.
You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11 (NKJV)
With God and my friends, I have also grown to become a person of faith and boldness. I never imagined I could speak confidently in front of a group of people, much less preach to them. Neither did I ever had dreams for my life and future. Thank God He came into my life.
Last but not least, I think I have grown to become a person who is a little more others-centered. Like I mentioned before, it is hard not to be challenged & inspired to love others when I am constantly in fellowship with God and my friends at Heart of God Church. The heart of God, after all, is always for people.
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:3-4
We are so passionate about reaching out to people and bringing them to church because God desires it and has a plan for them. And just as how God has loved us and changed our lives, we want to see the same impact in the people around us. We simply just can’t keep all the blessings to ourselves. Ultimately, we are blessed to be a blessing.
With that, I would like to conclude this open letter.
I hope to whoever is reading this, that it has been a blessing to you. Thank you once again for sticking with this post and reading all my thoughts.
And for the last time today – thank you, Heart of God Church. I have written a lot of things over the past week about you, but honestly, no words can fully encapsulate the impact you have made in my life. Even though this post has ended, your amazing stories don’t end here.
To Pastor How, Pastor Lia, and all my leaders & friends, I am eternally grateful for you. See you all soon.