What has 38 Oxley Road got to do with the Church?

Our Little Red Dot has caught the world’s attention again.

However, this time, it is not for something Singaporeans can say we are proud of. Yes, I am referring to the recent family feud involving the Lee siblings concerning 38 Oxley Road.

As I considered the exchanges across the numerous platforms, this question popped into my heart: “What about the Church?”

The Church of Jesus Christ is both the family and the house of God. Everyone agrees that Church is not a building or a place we go to, but the people of God. But when it comes to executing the Father’s will, not everyone is in agreement how Church is to be.

There are the same accusations of power play, over reliance on an institution, over dependence on one prominent personality, and the pushing of personal agendas. Some say that we must demolish the establishment, others shout a vehement ‘No!’, whilst others are willing to consider options along the spectrum. And so, the siblings in Christ continue to squabble over what to do with the house, taking to social media to air our views with articles, videos, memes and hashtags.

Meanwhile, as the world watched the Lee saga unfold, the world is also watching the Church. As the Lee siblings risked tarnishing the name of their father and Singapore’s founding father, might we be doing the same to the Name of our Heavenly Father when we fight against one another?

I have had a heavy ministry schedule over the past two months. Four church camps in June. Launched Archippus Awakening’s pilot mentoring aligning process on 1 July. KINGDOM101 resumed last Wednesday 5 July. On Sunday, I preached at two churches. In between the services, I found myself missing Serene and children dearly. The family has been so supportive, never complaining whenever the work of the ministry takes me away from them. That afternoon, I had a deep yearning to be with them. Thankfully, no one had any appointment that night (can’t presume these days with teenagers) and the Lim Tribe went out for dinner.

Exhausted from teaching and preaching, I didn’t talk very much. Just being with Serene and the children was enough for me. Over dinner, around the table, the children engaged with each other. They talked, they teased one another, they laughed together. Half the time, in the noisy restaurant, I couldn’t make out what they were talking about. But it didn’t matter one bit. My heart was filled with joy just watching them interact with one another.I thought to myself, “This must be how our Heavenly Father feels when He sees His children loving one another and enjoying each other’s company.” I know I felt it that night, and it felt really good. My prayer is that the Lim siblings will continue in this love and friendship with one another, come what may. In John 17, Jesus prayed for believers, siblings in Christ, to be one. For sure, this would please our Father in heaven.

Thankfully, the Lee siblings have agreed to take things offline so that what is family can be kept within the family. This will benefit a far bigger cause, that the Prime Minister and his government will not be distracted to do what they have been elected to do – govern Singapore through these challenging times. After all, it’s not just 38 Oxley Road but the greater house of Singapore that Singaporeans must be concerned with.

Perhaps the Church – the elect of God – can learn from this episode. Would we, the family and house of God, be willing to set aside differences for the greater cause of the kingdom of God? Sure, the house must be set in order, and that we must do. But there is a much larger picture of the kingdom of God that will require brothers and sisters in Christ to stand together.

Personal, ministry and denominational agendas cannot be the order of the day. It has been, and it will always be, about the Father’s will, is it not?

These thoughts were first shared in Henson’s July 2017 Newsletter. To receive One Day At A Time newsletter updates directly in your mailbox, subscribe here.

Awakening Event: Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church Family Camp 8-10 June 2017

Sentimentally, TACMC was my very first church. My maternal grandmother was a familiar and active member. My parents were married there. I was infant baptised there. And I still have vivid memories of gathering at my Ah Ma’s place in China Street, piling into the trishaw (fighting not to sit but to squat in front), and making our way to church. That was more than 45 years ago.

Archippus Awakening

When I first read the email in April 2016, I couldn’t believe my eyes: I had been invited to be the Camp Speaker for Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church’s (TACMC) Family Camp.

Sentimentally,TACMC was my very first church. My maternal grandmother was a familiar and active member. My parents were married there. I was infant baptised there. And I still have vivid memories of gathering at my Ah Ma’s place in China Street, piling into the trishaw (fighting not to sit but to squat in front), and making our way to church. That was more than 45 years ago.

Ah Ma: Front row, fourth from the left.

Spiritually, TACMC was also the venue of John Sung’s revival meetings back in 1935 where he “conducted a series of evangelistic and revival meetings that was to have a lasting impact not only on the life of the church, but also…

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Church Camp Over. Now What?

June has been a whirlwind month – church camp season! Thanks to one and all for praying for me as I ministered across four camps. Trust you enjoyed your own church camp too. But now that church camp is over, do spend a moment considering the next steps before the routines and requirements of church douse the fires of awakening. Blessings!

Archippus Awakening

Let me begin by giving praise and thanks to the Lord.

This year, He opened the doors to four church camps. That means four opportunities to declare the word of the kingdom, to speak into lives. And for some, more specifically, the message of Archippus Awakening. Yay!

Yet, as exciting as it sounds, this church camp season has also been tremendously demanding and tiring. It was literally one camp per week with a couple of days of rest and recovery in between. If not for His grace and strength, I would never have made it through this entire month. (For the record, I am still recovering and have not exactly caught up on my sleep yet.)

Even so, with whatever energy and strength I have, I will shout and praise His Name! I never take any of these for granted, and I will always count it an honour and privilege…

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Seeing Jesus in Wonder Woman? Just Enjoy the Movie.

After reading quite a few rave reviews, I must admit that my curiosity was piqued, and my interest stirred, to watch the latest DC movie, Wonder Woman.

What’s more, I remember glancing the title of an article, “The New ‘Wonder Woman’ Is Really A Story About Jesus“, that made me want to watch the movie to see if it were really so. I deliberately skipped reading the article so that I would not have any preconceived notions when I went to the cinema.

In between ministering at church camps, and greatly in need of a break, to space out in front of a large screen, I decided it would be a good time for a movie night – yes, Wonder Woman!

As one used to a Lynda Carter Wonder Woman, it took a while to get used to a Gal Gadot one. Of course, everything is much sleeker, and the special effects much more impressive. I waited for the signature WW spin but the director decided to drop that move. And no invisible plane either! All said, the movie was enjoyable but that was about it – ok la.

Did I see Jesus in Woman Woman? Nope.

I suppose if I tried very hard to, I could force fit some theology into the show, and somehow make it look and sound Christian. Sure, I got the part about saving mankind. Yes, I heard the phrase about mankind being undeserving of redemption. And the final punchline: “Only love can save the world.” And yes, I did not miss the way Diana descended in the shape of the cross. But do these necessarily point to Jesus? Not necessarily.

Even so, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had missed the “Whoa Man!” moments of seeing the Jesus story. Back home, I searched for the article to read what it really said. And, oh man, was I even more disappointed. In my opinion, it is really a case of trying way too hard! Did the writer, M. Hudson, really see Jesus in Wonder Woman, or was she trying desperately to make Jesus into a wonder woman?!

On the point of love saving the world, let us be clear that this is no longer the exclusive chant of Christians. Almost everyone, religious or secular, is shouting this tagline of love! We cannot compare Wonder Woman with the love of Jesus just because she uttered this seemingly profound line. It may sound right and noble but let us not forget that the way she discovered and experienced ‘love’ with Captain Trevor was through a one-night stand after routing the Krauts in the village! Trust Hollywood to always associate and confuse love with sex. Perhaps Crosswalk.com missed or chose to ignore this little scene when commenting that Wonder Woman “should serve as an example of the love God has called us to show our neighbor” in their review “Wonder Woman and the Call for Christian Love“.

If you’re going to watch Wonder Woman, go enjoy it for what it is – a typical superhero story where the good guys triumph over the bad guys. Wonder Woman does not represent Jesus, and Jesus is not Wonder Woman. To this end, there is no need to try so hard to see Jesus in this movie, or to force it into a Christian message of love and salvation. Let’s not make it say what it didn’t mean to say. And for proper theology, read the Scriptures. You’ll find the real story of Jesus there too.

Maybe they will feature Wonder Woman in her invisible jet in the sequel, y’think?

Who Writes the Story of Your Life?

 

Who writes the story of your life?

In a world that tells us to take charge, to create our own destinies, it is easy to think that we are the ones in control of our own lives. After all, “No one owes you a living. Life is what you make of it.” So, get out there, fight for what you want, believe in yourself, and live life as you intend it! (Interestingly, these days, even Christian messages have a tendency to sound like that.)

If you’re like me, every now and then, I buy into these inspirational pick-me-ups. Yeah! Go, go, go! Vroom, vroom! It’s nice. It’s motivational. But truth be told, it’s only one side of the coin.

For sure, I have a part to play, to do what I need to do. No one is going to live my life for me, make decisions for me or traverse the challenging seasons that I often find myself in. However, I don’t get to write the plot or determine how things finally pan out. As much as I am free to choose how I will live, there is a much larger picture that I have absolutely no control over.

Yes, that is the other side of the coin that we must not miss or ignore. Whilst this may frustrate or anger some, it is in this tension – the free will of man and the sovereignty of God – that I find comfort, rest and peace.

In the past three years, this has become even more real to me. Pioneering a new ministry is not easy. However, as much as I desire to be responsible, diligent and hardworking (and these traits are all well and good), I have come to realise that I simply cannot make things happen. Leadership courses will have you believe that if you plan, lead and execute well, you will get the results. Once again, nothing wrong with these leadership principles, but we forget that it is not what we plan but where and how we feature in God’s Plan.

As I closed and opened a new journal this morning, I was overwhelmed by how the Lord has led me, and especially in the more recent three years. As I sought to listen to His voice and to follow His lead, I decided and implemented initiatives as best as I knew how (often with a degree of uncertainty). Yet, as free as I was to do as I deemed fit, looking back, His guidance is clearly noticed. All those times I worried or fretted now seem so trivial and silly. God was always in control and He remains so. When I pushed myself too hard, thinking time and urgency were of the essence, God was never in a rush at all. Everything moved according to His perfect timing!

I looked at the blank page of my new journal, and I found it staring back at me. The psalmist wrote, “And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Psalm 139:16). How beautiful. How comforting. The dance has already been choreographed and the Lord invites me onto the dance floor of life with Him. Two left feet notwithstanding, my part is only to take the steps as He takes the lead. “A man’s heart plans his way. But the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

More and more, may the journal entries be a record of the discoveries I make, the lessons I learn, and a testimony of His faithfulness, as I align to what the Author of Life has already written for me.

Who writes the story of your life?

Why Don’t We Quote Jesus More?

There’s not a day when my social media Newsfeed is not filled with quotations from well-known Christian authors and speakers. This becomes even more pronounced when a conference is ongoing, and for a few days after. Almost everyone, it seems, is wowing at the revelation of these one-liners. There seems to be so much wisdom and depth in these sayings that these must be shared with the rest of the world.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with sharing these ‘ah-ha’ moments. That’s what social media is all about, isn’t it? You come upon something good and you want everyone to know. Post. Share. Like. Repost. Comment: “Word! Truth!”

Sounds edifying enough. But of late, my concern is if we Christians may just be revering the words of these men and women of the hour so much that we altogether miss the words of Jesus, our Master and King. I began to notice that more and more preferred to quote anyone and everyone, except Jesus. Where congregations are concerned, it is not uncommon to hear the phrase, “My pastor says…” Again, it is not wrong to listen to pastors, the under-shepherds. But what about Jesus, the Good Shepherd?

Applying this to myself, I made a conscious effort to read through the gospels again, to see what Jesus said in those accounts, and to hear what He would say to me, and to us as His church. Each day, I would post a saying of Jesus (or two).

The exercise has been an interesting one. Perhaps, I do not possess a big enough ‘friend’ or ‘follower’ base, but unlike the clever and witty sayings of the big names, the sayings of Jesus, the Name above all names, usually do not attract too many ‘likes’ or ‘comments’. Once in a while, you get a few ‘amens’, but that’s about it. (Maybe, if I take the trouble to use a fancy font and insert a breath-taking background image, that might help.)

Personally, it’s been enriching to read and re-read the gospels, to hear my Master and King speak directly and precisely. Naturally, I prefer the verses that remind me of His love, grace and blessings. That said, I cannot skip the parts that appeal less to me, and Jesus, at times, says some rather hard stuff pointedly and without compromise! Whilst I like to hear (over and over again) of how special I am to Him, how highly favoured and richly blessed I am in Him, the truth is that it is really not about me at all! And if I am to be totally honest, the sayings of Jesus promptly reveal how I have missed Him and His kingdom in the way I understand Christianity and do church today! Have you heard what Jesus says about following Him, obedience, faithfulness and readiness?

Ouch! No wonder the writer of Hebrews says, “For the word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him, to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:12-13

I do not mean to dishonour, discount or discredit any teacher and preacher. As one myself, I am greatly encouraged when someone shares how he or she has been helped by the uncovering of a little nugget of truth through my teachings or messages. Yet, no matter how good, inspirational or motivational a communicator is, his or her words are never to supersede or replace that of Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, read the Word of God for yourself. Listen to His voice for yourself. Hear what Jesus says to you, and then obey Him. It is not just what apostle so-and-so says, or what prophet so-and-so says. It is what Jesus says that truly matter. If you need to quote anyone, quote Him who has both the first word, and also the final say.

22 Years of Music & Dance

Each time an anniversary is celebrated (or Mothers’ Day), this passage would readily come to mind:

“Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
‘Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.'” Proverbs 31:28-29

Of course, in the earlier years, this passage did not apply as fully as it does now. Our eldest will turn 19 in a month, and our youngest will be 8 tomorrow. As a wife and mother, Serene has given so much of herself to the marriage and the family.

This year, these verses came through a little differently.

Just a few days ago, we received news that a fellow homeschool mother had passed away. It was very sudden. One day Jenny was unwell, and the next day, she suffered a heart attack. She was only 62.

Last night, on the eve of our own wedding anniversary, Serene and I attended the wake service. The passage the family had picked was Proverbs 31:28-29. Jenny was a mother to eight children, all grown up now in their 20s and 30s. Jenny and her husband, Guo Nang, were homeschool pioneers.

At the wake service, they screened a video which the children had produced for their parents’ 38th Wedding Anniversary. It showed how they met and how their family grew, one child at a time. I can’t begin to imagine how her husband was feeling as he watched the video. The eldest son broke down as his wife put her arm around him to console him.

I fought to hold back tears. Yes, I felt much for Guo Nang and the children. But more than that, I couldn’t bear the thought of having the same predicament happen to me and our children. Yes, I know all the promises we have as Christians. But I would still be devastated if Serene were taken from me.

I don’t mean for this to be a morbid post as we celebrate our 22nd Wedding Anniversary today. Instead, it is a poignant reminder for us to never take each other for granted. And more specifically, for me to never take Serene for granted.

However and wherever the Lord has led me, Serene has fully supported me every step of the way. When I first received the call (2000) to go into full-time ministry, Serene was ready. When I finally stepped out (2004) to be a bible school student, Serene was with me. When I took on the challenge to lead a school of ministry (2007), Serene bore the load of looking after the little ones. When I accepted the role of being a pastor (2008), Serene accepted that there would be nights and weekends she had to soldier on without me. When I left everything to start Archippus Awakening (2014), Serene stood squarely behind me, recognising that pioneering work would be tough and demanding. Through it all, Serene continues to watch over the needs of the children and the task of homeschooling.

Thank you, Serene. I am sorry for the times I have neglected you and taken you for granted. I appreciate you and everything you have done and are doing for me and the children. I love you and I thank God for you. I declare Proverbs 31:28-29 over you. At the same time, I have also experienced the truth of Proverbs 19:14 in you:

“Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers,
But a prudent wife is from the Lord.” Proverbs 19:14

Thank you for 22 wonderful years! God willing, we will get to celebrate many, many, many more years of Music & Dance together as the Lord allows us, by His grace. Blessed 22nd Anniversary!