I would have missed marking this milestone if the host had not mentioned it as she introduced me last Saturday. Credit to her, she did a little research and discovered that it was on 8 July 2000 that I received the Lord’s call to full-time ministry. “In two more days, that would make it 19 years!” she remarked. (Thanks, Tiffany, for the reminder!)
I then went up and preached from Matthew 16:13-19 (for both Saturday and Sunday services). The message was entitled “Who Do You Say That I Am?”, drawn from my book, Alignment Check, about Peter’s revelation and confession of Jesus as the Christ.
As if written specially for me, the passage for today’s Love Singapore 40.Day Devotional is Matthew 16:15-17!
“He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (emphasis mine)
I know that this may mean nothing to anyone, and that’s fine. Over the years, I have learnt that God speaks to each of us personally and intimately in ways that we understand. More than a few times, He has used these little divine ‘coincidences’ to encourage and affirm me.
These are His gentle whispers in my ear, telling me, “Keep going, Henson, you’re on the right track. I know it is not always easy, but you’re doing fine. Keep going.”
This is why I make it a point to reflect and write about the day He called me. As the years roll by, I cannot rely too much on my memory anymore. Thank God that He sends people (like Tiffany) to remind me, and that I have past posts to refer to:
Thank You, Jesus. You’re not just a saviour, redeemer, restorer, deliverer, coach, healer, counsellor, teacher or friend. You are the CHRIST, the Messiah, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Thank You for saving me and for inviting me to participate in the advancement of Your kingdom. May I always have a fresh revelation of who and all that You are. Please continue to enable and encourage me to keep keeping on for You! Amen.
As reported by Christian Post, Pastor Matt Chandler’s 12 May sermon challenged The Village Church’s congregation “to participate in the Body of Christ for the purposes of discipleship and community — not entertainment.”
You and I are so overstimulated, you and I are so overwhelmed with fast-paced, energized entertainment that we have developed a real idealized sense of life with a real low pain tolerance. The Church herself no longer is about discipleship, no longer is about being shaped, no longer is it about being formed. It’s about being entertained in the gathering.
Far too many people, Chandler warned, are interested in the more external elements of ministry — such as impressive light shows and worship bands — instead of actually growing the Kingdom of God.
Revelation? Not exactly. If you have been a Christian for a while, this should not surprise you at all. No, this is definitely not a new observation. We should just be thankful that someone is willing to stick his neck out to say it like it is.
That said, Chandler is not the first pastor to mention this and he most certainly will not be the last. As rightly noted by Leah MarieAnn Klett, the Christian Post reporter, “Pastors and church leaders have long warned of the dangers of the entertainment and amusement-driven church.” Consider these familiar statements from A.W. Tozer:
The church that can’t worship must be entertained. And men who can’t lead a church to worship must provide the entertainment.
Worship is no longer worship when it reflects the culture around us more than the Christ within us.
I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the church, the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the ‘program.’ This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the public service which now passes for worship among us.
Indeed, the Lord, by His grace, will always send His messengers to warn His people so that these might then be awakened, aligned and assigned for Him. I am very certain that more than a few pastors, leaders, preacher and teachers have been issuing this same warning over and over again. However, since these are not big names the likes of Chandler, they will never be quoted or featured. (This is another consequence of the entertainment-celebrity-influenced-church but that is for another post, another day.)
After receiving the assignment of Archippus Awakening to awaken the saints to know and fulfil their God-given kingdom assignments, I was drawn to learn more about the name, Archippus. Since many names in the Bible have prophetic significance, I wondered if there might be a message contained in this rather obscure name. As I discovered that Archippus is about horses (greek: hippos), the Lord revealed the condition of His Church. When I wrote my first book*, Say To Archippus, I devoted an entire chapter to this, aptly titled, “Enough Horsing Around”. I hope you will read the whole book. But for now, allow me to share a relevant section here:
Show Horses or War Horses
There is a very famous horse show that is staged by the Spanish Riding School of Vienna featuring a breed of horses known as Lipizzaners. These horses are so well trained that they can perform each move and execute each jump with precision, finesse and poise. The most challenging, and the most impressive, are the airs above the ground exercises where the horses can strike poses with both or all legs in the air. It is no wonder then that thousands would flock to watch these talented horses.
So precious are these Lipizzaners that through more than a few wars, instructions were specifically given to ensure their safety and survival. On this point, it is interesting to note that although the principles taught are based on the same ones taught to calvary riders to prepare horses for warfare, these show horses were never deployed in war. It seems that they were worth more in a show than on the battlefield.
Could this be symbolic of the Church today?
We certainly know how to put on a good show week after week: the lights are just right, the band is technically competent, the worship leader looks cool, the speaker delivers an inspiring message, the congregation is stirred, and the service ends right on time! In terms of training, we have more material today than we can ever hope to cover in our lifetime. We are spoilt for choice as we feed on the best there is from the most experienced in virtually every field of ministry. From hearing God to knowing our identity in Christ; from inner healing to deliverance from demons; from spiritual disciplines to spiritual warfare; from the apostolic to the prophetic.
But the question must be asked, “Are we like the show horses of Vienna, so nice to watch and so entertaining? Or are we ready for battle?”
Chapter Four: Enough Horsing Around, Say To Archippus, pp45-46.
Since then, whenever I declare the message of Archippus Awakening, I will share this ‘parable’ of show horses. What is encouraging is that leaders have begun to realise that we have bought into the world’s narrative of entertainment and amusement. Most, if not all, confess a certain tiredness from having to “put up a show” week or week, month after month, year after year.
Although everyone means well, this is taking a toll and robbing us of the time and energy needed for deep and authentic discipling relationships. As I have said many times over: It is one thing to preach and teach about discipleship; it is totally another to really and truly disciple. More easily said than done. Why? Because discipleship requires time; and we just don’t have time. Discipleship also requires commitment, but most just prefer entertainment.
I am thankful that Pastor Matt Chandler has used his platform to warn the Church. I pray that more pastors, teachers and leaders will be willing to lovingly and graciously do the same. Even more, may it not remain just another good message from the pulpit with shares and likes on social media. I pray that church leadership will go one step further to honestly (and brutally) examine how they may have, consciously or unconsciously, propagated an entertainment church culture; and then take steps to realign with Jesus and the ways of His kingdom.
Finally, let us acknowledge that it is all too easy to point a finger at pastors and leaders. Please fight the urge and not yield to that temptation. Instead, we should reflect and honestly check ourselves if we have become consumer Christians expecting to be entertained by our leaders and ministry teams. If so, then we will be the ones who will complain the most and present the greatest resistance when kingdom changes are proposed and implemented. God forbid.
My prayer is that as these warnings are issued and heeded, Archippuses will be awakened to the real condition of their hearts and the condition of the Church, be willing to align with Jesus and all that He stands for and be ready to be assigned for the purposes of His kingdom.
“The horse is made ready for battle, but victory rests with the Lord.” Proverbs 21:31 NIV
The title of this post bears repeating. So, here goes …
“Focus on the aligning. Let God do the assigning.”
Sounds straightforward enough, doesn’t it? And yet, it is way too easy to miss it altogether. Especially in today’s culture of busyness, the natural default is to rush out to do something. And if you are reasonably occupied, all’s good (even better if it’s with Christian stuff). It doesn’t matter if you know what you are doing or not. No one’s complaining because attendance is impressive, numbers are up and participation rates are high … it sure looks like revival! Yes? Well, not quite.
After five years of declaring the message of Archippus Awakening, I cannot tell you how many I have met who have been-there-done-that and yet somehow know that there is something more to the Christian life. These would have been regarded as ‘committed’ Christians – on fire! However, in our coffee sessions, the same questions and concerns seem to surface over and over again … I am very involved, so why do I still experience this emptiness? After all the doing and serving, after all teachings, why do I still not know my kingdom assignment? Is this all there is to church? To Christianity?
As much as Archippus Awakening is about awakening the saints (a.k.a. Archippuses) to know and fulfil their God-given kingdom assignments (c.f. Colossians 4:17), the Lord clarified the strategic process early on through these three words: Awakened. Aligned. Assigned. He made it very clear that whilst awakening may take a moment, alignment is a process. And it is through the checking of alignment that assignments are discovered or received.
To those who may be struggling with similar questions or issues as those mentioned above, I only have this simple line to offer: yes, you guessed it … Focus on the aligning. Let God do the assigning.
Sadly, to many, it sounds way too simplistic or too passive. These think: I’ve been a Christian for so many years; I know quite a lot; I am already aligned. Well, good for you! However, if you are really rightly aligned with the King and His kingdom, why then are you still clueless about your kingdom assignment? It just doesn’t line up. In Archippian lingo, that’s misalignment.
Whilst I do not question the good intentions of believers, I have come to observe that more than a few are not aware of their own misalignments. Without realising it, the alignment is more with traditional practices, religious rituals, organisational agendas, churchy activities, worldly mindsets camouflaged in Christian-speak; than it is with Jesus and His kingdom. Hence, the need for an awakening first; then the proper checking of alignment that one may be rightly postured for kingdom assignments.
For this reason, I laboured to write Alignment Check as a practical hands-on volume to serve those who have been awakened with the desire to be aligned and to discover kingdom assignments. If you are serious about wanting to be rightly aligned with Jesus and His kingdom, prayerfully consider this kingdom resource**. But be warned: the Alignment Check points will challenge the status quo and provoke you to examine the very core of what you claim to believe.
This is also why Archippus Awakening organises and hosts our very own Awakening Events (AWEs). We’ve been doing this since 2015 and the response has always been very encouraging to the glory of God! As you will notice from the comments below, beyond just an awakening, a key takeaway is the importance of the Alignment Check:
“I have personally learnt that the alignment is more crucial and that if we are aligned, then whatever assignment will follow.” Jeann Woo, Living Waters Methodist Church
“Hence I know from AWE2018 I need to work on my own aligning and allow God to do the assigning. …From today onwards, I put down in my daily task this: “Review and Do my Alignment Check”.” Adrian Chan, International Baptist Church
“Now it has become clearer to us that as we desire to fulfil our God-given assignment, we need to regularly check our alignment with the Lord, His Word and the Holy Spirit.” Pastor Rey Sanico, New Life in Christ Fellowship, Philippines
“‘Focus on the Aligning, Let God do the Assigning!’ That put a name to the problem I had been facing! I didn’t realise that I had fallen into the common trap of feeling a false sense of fulfilment from being busy for God, doing many Christian activities, yet still feeling a sense of spiritual dryness inside. The crucial step I had bypassed was the Alignment.” Choo Li Min, All Saints Presbyterian Church
“In order to stay on track of my Kingdom assignment, I need to constantly review my alignment check. My key takeaway point: Focus on the aligning, let God do the assigning. To God be the Glory!” Mrs Dolly Chia, Agape Methodist Church
“When I joined this event I was low in awakening, not well aligned, and I was not totally assigned. But after I participated in this AWE, Holy Spirit has convicted me and changed my way of thinking and attitude completely.” Pastor Philip Yeluri, Hallelujah Ministries, India
“Personally, I was greatly blessed by the reminder of the need to be first aligned to and stay aligned with my Master, in order to know and stay faithful to His assignment for me.” Cyndrill Hon, Good News Baptist Church
At this 3-day-2-night weekend*, you will meet Archippuses who assemble from different local communities with one common desire to be awakened, aligned and assigned. There will be worship, teaching, prayer, fellowship, food and fun, as well as great opportunities for kingdom connections and partnerships. But most importantly, the various aspects of the Alignment Check will be presented in detail, allowing participants time to discuss and process the contents with like-minded kingdom saints. This overview and introduction will help you kickstart the Alignment Check on your own (or with others) when you return from the weekend.
In case my rambling has distracted you from the main point, here it is again:
“Focus on the aligning. Let God do the assigning.”
I don’t how else to say it, or to make it sound more profound. If your desire is to know and fulfil your kingdom assignment, make the Alignment Check your priority today. If you don’t know how to go about checking your alignment, give your pastors, leaders and teachers no rest until they show you. I am sure they’d be more than delighted and willing. To be fair, the issue is often not with the leaders but with the expectation of the believers. Truth be told, it is much easier to sign up for activities than it is to seek the Lord for assignments. Or we think that everything can be solved with yet another seminar or conference.
Dear Archippus, it is not more teaching you need. With all that you already know, focus on the aligning and leave God to do the assigning. The more aligned you are with the person, purposes and prophetic move of Jesus and His kingdom, the clearer you will see how you fit in, where you ought to be and what has been prepared for you to do.
Each time I speak at a church for the very first time, I make it a point to share a photo of my family, affectionately referred to as “The Lim Tribe”. Especially if it is a large screen, our already larger-than-normal family appears that much larger and will immediately draw oohs, aahs and wows from the crowd. It works really well as an ice-breaker as it distracts everyone and gives me time to warm up and get used to the new location and congregation – haha!
Since my wife is not always with me at speaking engagements, I will then proceed to identify and introduce Serene. To keep it fun and light, I share four things that Serene said she never ever wanted to be:
Well, we now know how that all turned out. Today, Serene loves and serves Jesus, is married to yours truly, is a mother of seven children, and also a stay-at-home homeschool mother.
Yup. Never say never!
More recently, Serene felt it would be good to write a series about each of these nevers to share on her website, Building Up Moms. I am so glad she did! More than just details about how these nevers became un-nevered, it is a testimony of how her entire life was impacted by God; and continues to be so.
I hope you will take some time to read about Serene’s 4 Nevers. In her casual and candid style, Serene shares openly and authentically with the hope that you will be likewise encouraged to acknowledge and trust in a great and faithful God.
Here are some snippets from each post to entice you:
No, there was no lightning and thunder à la Paul’s road to Damascus experience. But a very firm conviction that THIS IS THE TRUTH.
It has been a humbling yet enriching and rewarding journey. It is indeed a privilege and honour to be a stay-at-home-mother, a role that I had previously pooh-poohed at. A role not to be taken lightly.
Whenever we look back at these 4 nevers, our conclusion is that God has a great sense of humour. After all these years, it is hard to imagine how our lives would have been had God not intervened or if Serene had responded differently. All we know is that we have both learnt and grown so much.
Personal preferences, we all have. But to choose to let God take the lead is definitely the best way to go … even if it means letting Him un-never your nevers.
But what are traditional Christmas symbols? Well, it all depends who you talk to, isn’t it?
As reported in Orchard Road Light-up: Is it Christmas or Disneyland?, a certain Ms D’Silva “feels it would be more appropriate if the decorations used motifs associated with Yuletide cheer, such as Santa Claus, reindeer, colours like red, green, gold, or beautifully wrapped presents.” In other words, to many, Christmas is identified by Santa Claus and the accompanying paraphernalia.
Commenting from a marketing perspective, NUS Business School Associate Professor Ang Swee Hoon feels that the Disney theme is perfectly fine – not an “overkill” – but “could be made tighter by associating each Disney character with a Christmas icon, say for example, a Disney princess with Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer or Mickey Mouse carrying Christmas gifts.” Once again, we see how closely Christmas is tied to Santa (Rudolph is Santa’s lead reindeer and Christmas gifts are all courtesy of Santa and his company of elves).
As Christmas has largely become a secular affair celebrated by everyone of all faith orientations, religious or otherwise, the above responses are not surprising at all.
That said, it was appropriate that the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) should have issued a statement to express its disappointment, “saying that its exclusive focus on Disney characters buries the original meaning of the festival.” To this end, it “has no meaningful connection to Christmas, which commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ.”
In response, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) explained that “the Orchard Road Christmas light-up was just ‘one of several components’ of the Christmas on a Great Street event, which also features pop-up booths along Orchard Road, including one run by Celebrate Christmas in Singapore, an associate member of NCCS.”
[Hmmm … reading between the lines, might the underlying message be, “Hey, you knew about this all along – that your Christian pop-up booth would be a part of the larger Disney-themed light-up. Why are you making a fuss now?” Taking it a little further … I can’t remember past light-ups in recent years but I believe there were no biblical symbols either. Why was that not an issue to be raised then?]
Whilst I appreciate that a statement has been made by the body that officially represents the Christian community in Singapore, my personal opinion is that Orchard Road is not the actual battleground for Christmas. If we want STB (and others) to regard and respect Christmas as Christian, I believe we must start by looking at how we Christians celebrate Christmas in our churches, events, families and homes.
Think about this: if we ourselves are sending mixed signals to the world, how can we expect others to protect the sanctity of the season for us?
Although we proclaim that Jesus is the reason for the season, we must also admit that many are all too ready to include Santa and other Christmas symbols in our celebrations. Like the responses above, these have become Christmas defaults. Like the stores and malls, the moment we get into the Christmas season (or Advent, in church-speak), churches somehow feel the need to create the Christmas spirit. Before we know it, Santa hats, snowflakes and candy canes begin to appear alongside nativity scenes. Hang on! If it’s about the birth of Jesus, why do we need Santa-ccesories? So, is it Jesus or Santa? Can we please make up our minds?
And we wonder why, of the more than 260 entries in the children’s art competition “What Christmas Means To Me” (recently organised by The Treasure Box), “only about 15% featured the birth of Jesus or something otherwise related to the story of Christmas (e.g. Wise Men, Angels, Shepherds etc). The rest were a cornucopia of everything and anything but – plenty of Santas, reindeer, Christmas trees, candy canes, presents, families eating Christmas food and so on.” It must be noted that many of these submissions were by children “from churches and faith-based kindergartens” (Why we should care about the commercialisation of Christmas by Elvin Foong). Then again, should we even be surprised by the children’s authentic expressions when Christian adults have no problem having these symbols in their supposedly Christian Christmas celebrations?
My point is simply this: how can we expect others to take us seriously if we are all mixed up ourselves? As far as STB and the world are concerned, the Church seems to be okay with everything. If Jesus and Santa can co-exist, then why not Mickey Mouse, Woody or Elsa? Perhaps, next year, Christians would be appeased if Mickey donned a Santa hat. Or have Kristoff of Frozen as the main character since his name sounds closest to Kris-mas and his best friend is a reindeer. (Who knows? Sven and Rudolf may even be related!) Or better still, feature Toy Story characters gathered around the manger.
Personally, whilst I am not thrilled with the commercialisation of Christmas, I am not too concerned what they put up along Orchard Road, whether Disney characters or Marvel superheroes. And even if the entire retail stretch should be decked out with baby Jesus, choirs of angels, shepherds and wise men on camels, does it necessarily mean we would have scored a victory? I think not.
If Christians sincerely desire to recover Christmas, we don’t start with the lights and decorations along Orchard Road. We must begin with ourselves.
– Stop hoping and depending on the world to help us declare our King. The values of the world will always run counter to the things of the kingdom (have we not learnt that already?). Why are we so happy just to have a pop-up booth as only one of the many features of the Great Christmas Village when Jesus should be the main and only attraction? (Well, better to be represented than not at all, I guess.) Why do we need Orchard Road when we have more than 700 churches around the island to accurately proclaim the true meaning of Christmas?
– If it is truly about Jesus, then stop embracing Santa iconology and other commercial Christmas paraphernalia. You can still go carolling or have your cell group Christmas parties without Santa hats and reindeer hairbands. Really! Stop sending mixed signals, compromising and confusing ourselves and others. Maybe, just maybe, that’s why our children are drawing Santas and reindeer when asked what Christmas means to them. They are just following our example.
– Dispense with this Christmas spirit thingy; there is no need to compete with the retail malls (or other churches)! For all we know, the so-called Christmas ‘spirit’ is none other than the spirit of mammon in disguise. For sure, the only spirit we need is the Holy Spirit and we are to be led by Him not just in December but every day of our lives.
– Be a generous and cheerful giver throughout the year, not just at Christmas. Fox News just reported that “this holiday season, $16B will be wasted on unwanted gifts“. I wonder if this includes the Christmas gift exchanges so many are forced (er, encouraged) to participate in, just for fun, in the spirit of giving? (There’s that ‘spirit’ again.) Not exactly good stewardship, is it?
– The birth of Jesus is most accurately declared and demonstrated when He is truly birthed in our hearts and through our lives. No point being Christmassy for a season only to be considered as hypocrites for the rest of the year. To this end, it is His death and resurrection that we must fully embrace on a daily basis; not just celebrate His birth once a year. (Did Jesus Ever Celebrate His Birthday?)
I assure you that I am no party-pooper, and I know how to have a great time celebrating Jesus. In fact, I do that all year around.
Lighten up. Go enjoy the Orchard Road light-up without reading too much into it. All said, that’s all it is – a light-up to draw tourists and rake in more retail dollars. In a few weeks, the lights will be all gone; but not your love, worship and testimony of the True Light, Jesus. The way your face lights up each time you mention and share Jesus will mean lots more than what Mickey and his friends can ever hope to achieve.
Here’s wishing one and all a very merry and blessed Christmas!
I snapped this shot whilst on a short family break five years ago. As I looked over the horizon, the way forward extended into nothingness.
Having been instructed by the Lord to drop everything without even knowing the next assignment, this picture sure described my situation so accurately. And yet, I knew I had been told to cross over; and that cross over must begin with a very first step of obedience by faith.
It would be 10 days later, on 27 Oct 2013, that the Lord would reveal the next assignment to me – Archippus Awakening. Five years and many steps later, what a journey it has been! Even so, I still don’t know what lies ahead. All I know is that my King and Master, JESUS, is more than faithful and He will lead me forward as I determine to fulfil all He has assigned to me entirely by His grace.
Today, I face a new horizon and another crossing over. After five years, is it not odd that the next step still feels like a first step all over again? The principle remains: every step must be taken with obedience and faith. Truly, it is not where we have been, but where we will continue to go with the One who deserves all worship, praise, glory and honour.
And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord that you may fulfil it.” Col 4:17
I know the first line of Earth Wind & Fire’s hit song very well – “Do you remember the twenty-first night of September?” – except, for me, it’s not the 21st but the night of the 23rd that I remember.
While waiting for the train that night, I snapped a picture of the arrow just for fun. As recorded in my first book, Say To Archippus:
The next day, as I reviewed the post, the Lord prompted me to look more closely. Although the arrow was the object of the photo, it was the red line about the arrow that came into focus. I remember remarking, “Something’s blocking the arrow from moving forward.” And as soon as I said that I realised, “Hey! I’m that arrow and something is blocking me from moving forward!”
Soon enough, the Lord removed that line, inviting and allowing me to move forward with the assignment of Archippus Awakening.
This brief post is to mark the significant date of 23 September 2013: that night, the Lord used a simple visual device on the floor of an MRT platform to direct me into my kingdom assignment.
It’s been five years. Archippus Awakening just celebrated her 4th Anniversary on 3 August 2018. The Lord has opened many doors for the message of awakening to be declared – in Singapore and abroad. Soon, over the weekend of 3-8 October 2018, Team Archippus will bring this message to Guam, USA.
Just a few days ago, I shared this little arrow episode at the commissioning of Archippus Awakening’s second publication, Alignment Check. When Sujuan (designer) proposed an arrow for the cover design, it reminded me of the MRT arrow. Unknown to her, I had also been using the same visual to demonstrate the advancement of the kingdom of God. In the same way, before anyone can move forward, every believer must also find his or own alignment with the Lord and the purposes of His kingdom.
I firmly believe that the kingdom of God continues to advance and He graciously invites His people to participate in all He is doing. Dear Archippus, you are included too. Get on board. Do not allow anything to block you from what God has already prepared for you (remove the red line).
Focus on the aligning. Let God do the assigning. Move forward for Jesus and His kingdom.