Awl for Jesus

Awl: a small pointed tool used for piercing holes

I reached Deuteronomy 15 in my bible reading this morning. Once more, Deuteronomy 15:12-18 spoke to me. How timely, as I reflect and rejoice about 20 years of Following Jesus. We may think that this passage about bondservants is no longer relevant for New Testament Christians. However, we must be note that it was Paul’s preferred term whenever he introduced himself.

“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle,…” Romans 1:1

“Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ,…” Titus 1:1

In celebration of the honour and privilege of following and serving Jesus, allow me to share an extract from Say To Archippus, from Chapter Six: The Kingdom Keeps Advancing, pp74-77.

Awl for Jesus

When writing to the churches, Paul would introduce himself as a doulos first, before using the term, apostolos (apostle). Although different English translations have rendered the Greek word doulos as servant, slave or bondservant, it is clear that Paul considered himself as belonging to Jesus.

As a servant or slave of Jesus, he is firstly one who serves the Master before he is one who is sent by Him (an apostle literally means one who is sent). Unlike the other English versions, the translators of the NKJV and the NASB opted to render doulos as bondservant instead of servant or slave.

Appreciating the difference between the terms makes for an interesting observation as well as application.

Servitude and slavery may have been common and accepted in Bible times, but given the fallenness of humanity, there would have been the possibility of unjust and inhumane treatment of those in such categories and situations.

To address that, God, through the Mosaic Law (Exodus 21:1-6), made a provision for servants to be set free after serving six years, without having to pay anything. This was so that they could have a chance to start over.

“Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them: If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.”

Exodus 21:1-6

Although freedom is due to him in the seventh year, the servant still has an option available for him to exercise. If he had been well taken care of and well treated by his master (or ex-master, more accurately), he could choose to forego his freedom and voluntarily serve this master.

Forego his freedom? Yes! His master had provided adequately for him and his family and even protected them from any eventuality. He has benefitted from the master’s fair dealings as well as his wise and prudent decisions and direction. He trusts and loves his master.

Freedom notwithstanding, there is absolutely no reason why he would want to risk facing the challenges and uncertainties of the world on his own. It is far better to stay and to continue to serve this good and loving master! His relationship with his master is worth far more than his own freedom!

By saying, “I love my master…I will not go out free,” he voluntarily and willingly offers himself back to the master. When the master pierces his ear with an awl, this freed servant becomes a bondservant who will serve the master, not just for another six years, but for life!

This is a beautiful picture of our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ! Like the servant, we too have been set free from slavery without having to pay anything. Instead, we have received every blessing in Christ and every promise is a ‘yes’ and ‘amen’ for us to start anew!

And yet, the freedom we have accounts for nothing if we don’t have Christ, the best Master there is. With freedom, we could serve ourselves and do whatever we wished but how could that even be compared with the protection, the provision and the purposes of the Master?

Truly, nothing compares to being in the centre of the Master’s will and plans. The best thing to do is to offer ourselves back to the Master, voluntarily and willingly, and to be His bondservant for life.

Being slaves of God and servants of Jesus is not to be taken as drudgery or a chore. It is true that we have been bought with a price and are no longer our own but a relationship with Jesus is never akin to forced labour or life imprisonment.

Not at all! Otherwise, it is no longer a relationship of love, for love cannot be forced upon a person nor can a person be coerced to love.

Jesus has every right to enforce His ownership over us but that is simply not in His nature or character. He loves us and thus saves and sets us free from the tyranny of sin. And so, we are His and in this, there is no choice. But we do get to choose how we respond to His love. We could just say ‘thank you very much’ and go about our own devices, or respond in love to stay and serve Him.

If you ask me, it’s really quite straightforward. If I could have made it on my own, He didn’t have to come and save me in the first place. The truth is, I am and have nothing in and of myself. The moment I walk away from Jesus, I walk right back to where and what I was saved from! For sure, sin is a terrible master and I am a lousy master of my own destiny.

There is only one Master who is worthy of love, praise and service: JESUS!

It is when we come to a revelation of this that we, like Paul and the apostles, readily choose to be bondservants, or love slaves, of Jesus.

Voluntarily. Willingly. For life.

For more information about Henson’s books, visit archippusawakening.org/books. Both Say To Archippus and Alignment Check are available at archippusawakening.org/shop.

20 Years of Following Jesus

Just like that. 20 years. At times, I still find it hard to believe. So much has happened. And yet, there is so much more to learn and experience.

In case you are wondering what this is about, on the morning of 8 July 2000, in my time of devotion, I heard the Lord invite me to follow Him wholeheartedly. No, it was not an audible voice but it came through loud and clear in my spirit.

Each year, I would take time to reflect and review so that I can remember and never forget that moment. This morning, I did the same. And since it is quite a milestone – 20 years! – I made a special effort to take out my old journal as well as the 40 Day booklet that the Lord spoke through.

Whilst I remember the passage more clearly (Mark 1:16-20), it was the commentary that caught my eye this year. Looking at my scribbles and notes, I realised once more how powerfully the words gripped me, causing me to respond the way I did:

Jesus’ mission takes precedence over the family business, and the family itself. In fact, over everything!

8 July 2000, 40 Day Fast

That morning, I resolved in my heart that nothing would stand in the way of loving and serving Jesus. Not the family business. Not the family (it was just Serene and two children then). In the same way that Jesus asked the young Galilean fishermen to follow Him, the invitation was extended to me too. And as immediately as the disciples responded, I too wanted to drop everything there and then.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Today, looking back, I stand amazed at how the Lord has led me, and still leading me. To say that it’s been quite an adventure would be a gross understatement. Reading my journal entries, I can’t help but smile at a much younger and less matured me, fumbling and struggling to make sense of my feelings and challenges as I sought to follow Jesus the best I knew how then.

This is not to say that I have got it all figured out 20 years later. Interestingly, the challenges are all still there, just in different forms and dimensions. I’d like to think that I have learned to navigate these a little better and with more wisdom.

To celebrate and mark this little milestone, I will host a Zoom meeting tonight (8 July 2020, Wednesday, 8pm) to share my journey of following Jesus over these 20 years. No preaching or teaching (if I can help it – haha!), just a casual chit chat, one disciple to another. I will try to answer questions with the hope of encouraging even more to follow Jesus. Join me if you. Sign up for Zoom link: TinyURL.com/followjesuswithhenson

“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry,”

1 Timothy 1:12 NKJV

20 years of following Jesus. Wow. Just wow.

And we’ve only just begun.

Beyond Resurrection: The Next 40 Days

The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

Acts 1:1-3 (emphasis mine)

Today is Resurrection Sunday.

This year, because of the Covid-19 crisis, it is celebrated very differently – not in packed churches and auditoriums, but in homes. This morning, I enjoyed our church’s online service with my family in the comfort of our living room. I am sure it was the same for many others; not just in Singapore but around the world.

Although somewhat muted, its significance remains the same: Jesus is risen! He is alive! Death is defeated! We have victory in and through Him!

We know that now.

But for the disciples of Jesus then, it took some time for the reality of the resurrection to hit home. For this reason, Jesus “presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs”. Over the course of 40 days, He was seen by many of them.

40 days may seem a long time to us (think 28 days in circuit breaker mode and the possibility of an extension) but Jesus knew better. This window was all He had to convey what was important and critical – the essentials. Beyond the initial high-fives and hugs, Jesus spent every other moment “speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” Yes. Whether encountering the disciples in their homes or along the road to Emmaus, Jesus revealed the kingdom of God.

Similarly, beyond the celebration of the resurrection today, this is my prayer for the next 40 days – that there will be a fresh revelation of the kingdom of God to disciples of Jesus Christ.

Whether staying in our homes or jogging along exercise routes, I pray that King Jesus will break in to show us what we need to see and understand about “things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” When reading Scriptures, may the words of the King ring ever more clearly and powerfully, opening eyes, convicting hearts and renewing minds. More than just waiting to get back to church as usual, that we would wait – crave! – for the Spirit of the Christ to be outpoured again upon all believers. What a new normal that’d be!

40 days was all Jesus had and it was enough.

The disciples didn’t just celebrate Jesus’ resurrection but carried it in their hearts. It didn’t end with a stirring easter cantata or musical but resounded in and through their lives. As witnesses of His resurrection, Jesus wasn’t just alive for them; Jesus was alive in them! This revelation and reality enabled them to represent the King in all “things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” They knew full well that kingdom exploits may result in death for some. But because their King lives, even if they lost their lives, they too would live with Him.

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed more than a few things in the Church, causing us to consider and examine the essentials and the non-essentials.

After His resurrection, for 40 days, Jesus didn’t speak of anything else except the essentials, “things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” Over the next 40 days, in this divine pause, I believe the King will speak again to those who truly desire and are seeking His kingdom.

My prayer is that we will have ears to hear.

Good Friday Reflections: A Thorny Crown

Each year, dictionaries will select a Word of the Year to describe the main trending issue of the year. For 2020, I am predicting that it might well be coronavirus, for obvious reasons.

More accurately, it is the novel coronavirus; or a new strain of a virus whose thorny crown-like spikes earned it the label corona or crown. It was later upgraded to a disease status, Covid-19, the COronaVIrus Disease which originated in 2019.

After the initial finger pointing, there is now a greater call for nations to co-operate. It is becoming clearer that no one nation can fight this battle on her own. The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted and disrupted everyone and everything on a global scale.

As noble and needed as this sounds, this is where conspiracy theories abound. Who exactly is WHO (the World Health Organisation) representing? Whose interests are being promoted? Is the new normal going to take us one step closer to the New World Order? Will we see a One World Government established in our lifetime?

In whatever form, the general consensus is that we must stand united against this thorny crown. For humanity to be saved, this coronavirus must die.

Another Thorny Crown

Being Good Friday, I revisited the trial and crucifixion of Jesus through the gospel accounts this morning. This year, what stood out for me was the mocking and ridiculing of Jesus. Whilst this piece of information is not new to me, the identification of the groups of people who mocked Him caught my attention.

Facing the Sanhedrin, Jesus was spat at, beaten, slapped and struck by His own people, the Jews (Matt 26:67). At the trial by Pilate, Jesus was scourged, beaten and mocked by the Roman soldiers, the Gentiles (Matt 27:27-31). As if to cover all bases, Scripture records another mocking where Jesus was treated with utter contempt – by Herod and his men of war (Luke 23:6-12). Herod, as we know from his family line, was a mix of both Jew and Gentile.

To top it all off, adding insult to injury, mocking Jesus’ kingship claim, a crown of thorns was wedged onto His head (Matt 27:29). It seemed that since Jesus was disrupting everyone and everything, He must be decisively dealt with and promptly put away. To restore normalcy, to save humanity, this thorny issue of Jesus must die.

To demonstrate the agreement of this decision on a ‘global’ scale, each and every people group (nation) was represented through the above mocking and rejection accounts – the Jews, the Gentiles, and even those in between. All stood as one against Jesus.

The Real Thorny Issue

In much the same way, we suppose that once humanity works together, we will win the battle against Covid-19 and other similar ills. Through this crisis, a new humanity will emerge – or so we are being told.

To the unsuspecting, this humanistic narrative is not new and has been declared in both obvious and not-as-obvious ways across the decades. The underlying message is simply: We are all the same, regardless of race or religion. It doesn’t matter which god you worship or what you believe. Let’s not fight but unite. At the end of the day, no one can save humanity except humanity itself.

However, the battle is not simply against the coronavirus. Hey, I am all for curbing and eradicating Covid-19, and soon. Yet, even when that happens, it will only be a matter of time before another issue surfaces.

What the world regards as the main issue is only the manifestation of the real thorny issue – sin.

Through this crisis, humanity hopes to come together as one. Even if that should take place, in whatever form, if sin is not dealt with, that unity will still be a sinful one of global proportions (eeks!). And the last time I read the Bible, sin only results in death (Rom 6:23).

The One with the Thorny Crown

The mocking and rejection of Jesus was foretold by the prophet, Isaiah. In describing the Messiah, the coming King and Saviour, he wrote,

“He is despised and rejected by men;
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”

Isaiah 53:3

In the next verses, we learn that the Messiah’s rejection was for a specific purpose:

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:4-6

After the mocking came the crucifixion. On the Cross, Jesus took upon Himself “the iniquity of us all”; yes, all. The suffering and sacrifice of the Messiah (the Christ) were not just for the Jews. These were extended to the Gentiles and everyone else in between. Where the judgment for sin demanded death, Jesus died in place of everyone that whosoever would believe in Him will receive life.

Do not be deceived. Only Jesus can save from the devastation and destruction of sin and bring about a new humanity of eternal significance and promise. Any other attempt will fail. The world may seek to capitalise on the present crown-like virus for all to stand as one. But Christians know that it is only through faith in Jesus that we can all be truly one in Him.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

Conclusion

This Good Friday, though our hearts go out to the many who have suffered and are suffering in and through the Covid-19 pandemic, it is the vicarious suffering and death of Jesus Christ that we must not forget. As much as we are thankful for good government and practical measures in these times, our hope continues to be in God through the salvific work of Jesus upon the Cross.

Sure, read the news and be updated about the Covid-19 situation. But let us not allow this thorny crown-like virus to detract us from Jesus, the One who wore the thorny crown and bore the terrible Cross on our behalf.

Nevertheless

Being Maundy Thursday, I took time to read about Jesus at Gethsemane.

Each time I reflect on this account, I am particularly encouraged by how Jesus was described as being sorrowful, troubled, deeply distressed, in agony and in anguish (Matt 26:37; Mark 14:33; Luke 22:44).

Don’t get me wrong. I am not a sadist, delighting in Jesus’ pain and suffering in the garden. No. I am encouraged because His experience gives me permission to acknowledge these emotions without feeling that I am of little faith, or that these are simply not allowed since Christians are only supposed to be strong, courageous and victorious. As such, we must always be happy and clappy, shouting hallelujahs and amens.

Thank God for Jesus. Although He was fully God, He was also fully human. On the night before His crucifixion, the Son of Man wrestled big time (Hebrews 5:7). Jesus was distressed and anxious. In fact, the agony or anguish that He experienced is likened to the fear or jitters an athlete feels before a major competition or fight.

Dear friends, it’s ok to express your God-given emotions authentically. To be sorrowful, anxious and distressed in a difficult situation is perfectly in order. That said, the story doesn’t end here.

Here’s a key we must not miss: Emotions are fine so long as we are not ruled by them or allow them to distract and detract us from the purposes of God and our kingdom assignments.

I know it may be difficult to accept this but Jesus experienced fear in Gethsemane. Jesus feared? Yes. But the good news is that He didn’t allow His emotions to keep Him from His kingdom assignment. Thank God for Jesus!

Read on to see what enabled Him to keep moving forward.

Even as Jesus wrestled and petitioned, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me;” He said, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matt 26:39).

I know this phrase well but this morning, one word gripped my heart – nevertheless. Although it can be substituted with however or yet, the Holy Spirit caused me to read it in a different way:

Never the less. Always the more.

Simply, God’s will must always mean more to me than my own desires and preferences. When faced with a decision between what I’d prefer and what the Lord says, His words will always weigh more and have the greater priority. Put another way,

God’s purposes must always have precedence over my preferences.

These days, it is all too easy to buy into a “God understands” theology. After all, since it’s all about grace, why sweat it? Doesn’t God want us to have a good time and a nice life? And when it comes to kingdom assignments, if you don’t like it or enjoy it, surely, it cannot be of the Lord. Really?

In Gethsemane, Jesus sweat blood as He braced Himself for His kingdom assignment – the Cross. It was not because it would be fun or that He would operate from His talents and giftings. He accepted the assignment because He considered the Father’s will always the more, never the less, than His own will and preferences.

Nevertheless.

Considering this, I have much to repent of. There is still much that I regard more and higher than the purposes of God. If I truly desire to be like Jesus, to grow and mature into His image, then I too want to be able to say in each and every decision – nevertheless.

Covid-19 Circuit Breaker: Staying Home & Passover Perspectives

Some have likened the stay home directive to that of God’s instructions to the Israelites to stay indoors on the night of the first Passover (Exodus 12). What makes the proposition even more attractive (and prophetic) is that Singapore’s “circuit breaker” measures kicked in on 7 April – yes,  you guessed it – so very close to Passover 2020 which starts sundown of 8 April.

I have absolutely no issue with staying home and staying alive at all. However, I do find it a little bit of a stretch to apply the Passover account to what we are going through at the moment.

I will share some observations and will then end with a perspective which I believe is even more critical than merely avoiding Covid-19 (don’t miss this at the end of this post).

But before that, a little caveat: This post is not meant to stir any deep theological debate so please don’t pick a prophetic fight with me. You are free to believe or claim whatever you want to believe and claim.

Ok. Here goes …

Firstly, the Christian passover is no longer just physical but spiritual. Faith in Jesus, our Passover (1 Cor 5:7), has given us eternal life. I am not advocating being reckless in these critical times – be responsible and stay at home. That said, even if we should be affected physically, we know that death has already passed over us because of who we are and what we have in Christ.

Secondly, the time frame is not consistent. For the Israelites, they had to stay home for only one night. Even if we consider the entire Passover observance, it would be 8-16 April. As at the time of this reflection, Singapore’s circuit breaker measures will be until 4 May – three cycles of Passover? – just kidding.

Thirdly, if the proximity of dates is to be considered, then this only applies to Singapore and not to the rest of the world. As favoured as I believe Singapore is, I don’t think this special Passover privilege is reserved only for us. As with all other spiritual principles, it must be applied universally and consistently.

Fourthly, unlike the first Passover, we are not in a lockdown situation (and we hope and pray that we never get to that). We can still go out and dabao (takeaway) our favourite hawker fare. Just wear a mask and practise social distancing.

By now, I think you get the point. As attractive as the Passover proposition is, the only common factor is that of staying at home – that’s all.

This, however, does not mean that there is nothing we can learn from the Passover account in Exodus 12. I will close with this perspective for your personal prayer and processing:

Notwithstanding these observations, as already briefly alluded to above, I have no issue with the Passover principle when viewed and processed through Jesus, our Passover and Christ, through Whom we have been saved by His blood. This is indeed a glorious promise!

However, to simply stop there would be to totally miss the point of our salvation (or survival through this Covid-19 crisis). If you want to read and claim Exodus 12, then do so in its entirety. To this end, allow me to bring Exodus 12:17 & 41 to your attention:

“So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the last of Egypt. … – it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.”

Exodus 12:17 & 41 (emphasis mine)

Make no mistake. The preservation of lives in Egypt was for the purposes of the kingdom of God in the land, through His own kingdom people, the armies of the LORD. Likewise, in and through this crisis and staying home, there will be a time when God’s people will be raised and released. May we be ready for that.

Let’s pray that the significance of Passover doesn’t only apply to the staying at home to avoid death. Pray for Exodus 12:17 & 41 to be equally significant, if not more.

In this pause, may we not waste the space but be postured rightly that we may consciously prepare for the coming play.

Blessed Pesach!

Covid-19 Disruptions: Two Reminders for the Church

Disruption is not a new concept but Covid-19 has brought it to a totally new level.

In the past two weeks, there have been so many developments. And each day brings with it more change and fresh challenges.

Where ministry is concerned, I experienced it first-hand recently, in a short span of two weeks. My teaching engagement in Cebu was postponed. Next, the AAA Seminar in Kota Kinabalu was called off. Then, two church camps in June which I was scheduled to speak at … yes, cancelled or postponed.

As for our own Awakening Event, AWE2020, following a very strong impression on Sunday morning, we decided to bring it back to Singapore (originally Batam). That evening, the government announced even stricter health and travel advisories. Thankfully, the Lord had already warned and directed us accordingly.

No one is spared. Everyone and everything is being disrupted.

That said, whilst inconvenient and extremely uncertain, we must not forget what the Lord has already said to us, His people. Amidst the various disruptions, it is easy to be caught up with the adjustments and miss a greater significance of what the Lord desires for His church. Allow me to recap the two main points previously shared:

A COLLECTIVE PAUSE Through the Covid-19 situation, God has pressed the pause button. Note that this is not just for China, or for Singapore, but for the entire world. This also means that churches the world over are affected. It’s a collective pause … for the purpose of praying, to seek Him and to reflect. It is a pause-and-pray that we may be ready for the play that comes after the pause button is released. [Read: Pause & Pray: Play]

A CORRECT POSTURE Whilst all eyes are on news and updates of the Covid-19 situation, our focus must be on God. For the people of God, our starting point must be faith and hope in Him (not fear). To this end, we believe that God will see us through this crisis, trusting Him not only to protect but also to provide, no matter how adverse the global economy may be. With a correct posture, we will see that disruptions notwithstanding, the kingdom of God continues to advance; and we must move with Him. [Read: Covid-19: Faith First]

Pondering the above this morning, as well as recent developments and disruptions, the Lord then dropped these two reminders in my heart.

1. Don’t fill up what God has freed up

Don’t waste the space that you have now. This is the best time for an alignment check. Take stock. Especially for those in leadership, there are many decisions to be made. However, look beyond the firefighting and the adjustments. Don’t let these distract you from what is truly important. Stop trying to fill up what God has freed up. Use the space wisely. Get ready for what’s ahead. Check alignment – to discover assignment, or to be even more effective on assignment.

The Lord then reminded me of what I wrote in my book, Alignment Check. I pray that this will speak to many of you:

“Whilst this [framework] may provide a good overview of the Alignment Check, it is unlikely that any alignment would have taken place. It is like sending your car to the workshop, getting a computerised reading of how misaligned the tyres are, driving off immediately, and then wondering why there are still problems with the steering. Recognising misalignment is only the first step. Allowing the Mechanic to help you with the realignment makes all the difference! And for that, the vehicle needs to be still and stationery for a while longer than what most of us may be comfortable with.

Alignment Check, p29, emphasis mine.

With the lockdown in many countries, the roads are empty. Vehicles are all stuck at home, as are people. I say again, this is the best time to check alignment. Don’t waste the space, the additional time, you now have on your hands or at home. Stop trying to fill up what God has allowed to be freed up.

2. Don’t mistake church-onlined for church-aligned

Thank God for technology where services and teachings can be live-streamed. With church services disrupted, we now have even more online options (think Christian Netflix!). Over the past week, I have also been praying about Archippus Awakening’s digital strategy.

That said, is it just about getting everyone to attend services online? I don’t believe so. The prompting of the Lord came strongly this morning: The solution is not church-onlined; but church-aligned.

And where online articles are concerned, please be careful (yes, even this one – *grin*). There is so much information about Covid-19 … way too much! Staying updated is one thing; but to be inundated with an overload is not healthy at all. In case you are not aware, there is a lot of nonsense out there. If you don’t know how to posture and handle these well, you will either be distracted from what God is saying or be paralysed and not move with how God is directing. Once again: The solution is not church-onlined; but church-aligned.

I am not speaking against anyone, any church, or any practice here. Once again, we all agree that technology is a great tool, especially in these times. However, we must also be mindful that it is just a means to an end – that’s all it is. Just as we can attend service after service and not be aligned with Jesus and His kingdom, we can likewise view live-stream after live-stream and remain unchanged. We can be online, and still not align.

Praise God for leaders and teams working overtime to help you stay connected online. At the end of the day, it is not how many viewed the live-stream or clicked LIKE as the message was delivered. Once again, it’s not onlinement that God is after, but alignment. May the Lord grant you wisdom to discern and process what He is saying to you – personally.

Conclusion

I started out recognising the disruptions that the Covid-19 crisis has caused. Yet, through these, let us not miss what God has allowed. What if we changed our perspective from how Covid-19 has disrupted us to how God is disrupting His church?

Clearly, this disruption is an awakening where God is trying to get our attention. Don’t waste the space by trying to fill up what God has freed up. This is the best time for an alignment check. Whilst getting online seems to be the order of the day, getting aligned should be the focus. In Archippian-lingo, “Focus on the aligning. Let God do the assigning.” This then postures you for kingdom assignments, making you ready for when the Lord finally moves from pause to play.

This article was first published on Archippus Awakening‘s website on 20 March 2020.

Covid-19: Faith First

Last night, following WHO’s declaration of a global pandemic, our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong provided an update on the Covid-19 situation. In the concise 11:28″ live broadcast, he reassured Singaporeans by focussing on three aspects: medical, economic & psychological.

Coronavirus: Full text of speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong on the Covid-19 outbreak

This morning, as I spent some time praying and reflecting, I was led to consider these points backwards – psychological, economic, medical.

The natural response is always to see what is happening, consider its impact and then consider the appropriate response. Applying this to the Covid-19 outbreak, medically, we will first look at the facts and figures, study the clusters and see how best to contain the spread. Next, economic impact is ascertained and the appropriate measures rolled out. Finally, to weather this, psychologically, the people must stand together that we may get through this together.

Well and good, naturally. But in the spiritual, from a kingdom perspective, I felt the Lord reminding me that it is often upside-down; hence the prompting to consider it backwards.

Psychological

Firstly, fear cannot be the primary motivator. It has to be faith and hope in God. This is and must be the starting point for the people of God.

Faith and hope in God does not mean that no Christian will ever get infected with the Covid-19 virus, or die from it. It does mean, however, that in any eventuality and whatever the outcome, our faith and hope continues to be in God and God alone.

We do not want to be infected but we are not afraid should we be infected. We do not want to die from such an infection but because of who we are in Christ and the eternal life we already have in and through Him, we are not afraid to die. If we truly believe that God is in control, then we must acknowledge that He is also sovereign over the measure of our days (Psalm 39:4).

Faith allows us to continue with what we have been tasked with that we may be faithful to fulfil our assignments, come what may. Fear, on the other hand, will paralyse and make things even worse than it already is. We will be responsible but we cannot be fearful. May we learn to discern the difference and have the right starting point of faith.

Economic

Once faith and hope are rightly placed in God, the promise of His provision follows. Jesus said it in this way, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Our part is not to worry but to be gainfully employed in the work of His kingdom. God’s part is to look after and provide for His kingdom people.

In a time when businesses are being hit left, right and centre, I know that this can be a cause of concern for many.

This statement by PM Lee caught my attention: “The situation is especially serious for some sectors – hotels, aviation, hospitality, and freelancers in the gig economy. But nobody has been spared. Everyone feels the impact, to different degrees” (emphasis mine). Hey, I thought to myself, that’s me he’s talking about. If churches continue to cancel services, camps and retreats, many of my speaking engagements will be affected … oops.

Well, that is if I depend on the way things have been. What if God is disrupting His people, forcing a shift in their paradigms? Could He be shaking our comfort zones that we will truly and fully trust in Him for provision and not the typical sources of financial support? I’ve always believed that God’s kingdom economy runs counter to that of the world. To see and experience that will require eyes of faith that look to Him and not the facts and figures circulating in the media.

Another statement by PM Lee stood out for me: “We will help our workers keep their jobs, and retrain during their downtime, so that when things return to normal, our workers will be the first out of the gate, and immediately productive” (emphasis mine).

This sounds really familiar. On 15 February, reflecting on a word that the Lord had pressed the pause button through Covid-19, I shared that it was not just a pause-and-pray scenario, but that we are to get ready for the play that comes after. In my #GoViralWithPrayer live broadcast that morning, I said:

“The pause is only a moment, because after the pause is a play. So, it is not just a pause and pray, it will be a pause and play. I believe that this whole situation will pass. God wants us to pause and listen to Him. For those who align or realign, those who are awakened, and we are inclining our ear, leaning in to listen to Him, heeding this word to pause and to pray, assignments will be there. Once this thing moves on, God is looking for men and women – Archippuses – who will be awakened, aligned and assigned.”

Pause and Pray: Pray

To be sure, this is not just a time to look for alternative ways to do church. This is an opportunity for every believer to pause and seek the Lord, to be realigned and retrained “so that when things return to normal, [believers] will be the first out of the gate, and immediately productive” for the work of the kingdom.

Medical

With numerous reports and articles coming from everywhere and anywhere, we need discernment to know which are true and which are not. Even experts and medical practitioners can’t agree on whether to wear masks or not! I am even finding it difficult to keep up with the rate of updates. So how?

Once again, we start with faith and hope in God, not fear. And then, we trust in His provision and leading. Medically, I’d like to suggest that we leave it to the professionals to figure out what they need to do. Unless you have a platform to do something about it, your opinion will remain just that – an opinion, however strong. (Please stop being a Facebook keyboard warrior – it’s not helping.)

In constituting a people for Himself, God required that the children of Israel first acknowledge Him as God, i.e. faith in Him. In that covenantal relationship, God promised to provide for their every need. For their well-being, He laid down communal and societal laws that included basic health and hygiene protocols. Can you see the same order here – psychological, economic, medical?

Whilst I may not fully understand how the virus infects or mutates, I can be socially responsible by practising personal hygiene, washing my hands and not attending functions/meetings if I am unwell. This is not fear but faith working through love, a kingdom value.

Even if religious gatherings are shortened or limited in size, these may inconvenience but should not concern us too much. Kingdom assignments will continue, regardless of size and frequency of church meetings. In fact, this may yield positive outcomes (as some have already experienced) as smaller groups are much better for relationships and authentic interactions. Large meetings, whilst impressive, have a tendency to encourage complacency and apathy, and even provide a false sense of success.

Where mega meetings have become normal for Christians, what if this is the new normal God desires us to embrace – a returning to “the old paths, where the good way is” (Jeremiah 6:16)?

Conclusion

It’s not about just avoiding or surviving Covid-19. For us as the people of God, we must see beyond the natural that we may discern the spiritual significance of the situation. For that, we need faith first.

Anna Joy’s Baptism

As much as we would like our children to be baptised, we are also keenly mindful that baptism is not to be treated lightly or ritualistically.

As one who was infant baptised as part of the Methodist system and tradition, I later discovered that I could not opt for baptism as an adult. The next step was ‘confirmation’. And so, after Serene’s baptism (as an adult new believer), we were both ‘confirmed’ and received into church membership together in November 1994.

Over the next years, learning more about the faith and gaining deeper understanding about baptism, I began to desire the experience of baptism – not just some water trickling down my head, but the full impact of being totally submerged in water and then to be raised up out of the depth again. However, that desire would remain a desire, for where I was at that point in time, there was no possibility of it ever becoming a reality. Simply, re-baptism was not allowed.

Thankfully, we serve a God who knows our deepest desires.

In 2003, the Lord led us from Wesley Methodist Church to Full Gospel Assembly Singapore. I had all but forgotten about this little desire in my heart until an announcement was made about baptism. I approached the senior pastor to check if I could be re-baptised and the answer was ‘yes’!

You may be wondering what the big deal is. I assure you, it is a big deal and we should make a big deal of every baptismal experience. I am so convinced that it is such an important milestone of our faith that I listed it as the first point of alignment check to rightly appropriate the work of Jesus on the Cross, reproduced in full hereunder:

Remember Your Baptism
Your baptism is not merely a rite of passage to secure membership in a local church. Through baptism, you identify with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-6; Colossians 2:12-13). Through the Cross, the ‘old you’ died. And as Christ was raised, the ‘new you’ was raised with Him. We can say, as Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

When you remember your baptism, you remember all that has been transacted at the Cross, and all that has secured for you at the Cross. Go back to the Cross that you may move forward from the Cross. Remember this truth as you move on kingdom assignment. Don’t ever forget whose you are in Christ, who you are in Christ, and what you have in Christ!

Alignment Check, “Appropriate the Cross”, p102.

Whilst I appreciate the notion of infant baptism, I do not subscribe to it today. Sure, the individual can ‘confirm’ his/her faith later. But to personally understand ‘death’, ‘burial’ and ‘resurrection’ with Jesus Christ through baptism is something I believe every believer should experience and remember.

Where our children are concerned, we have been careful not to put any pressure on their decision to be baptised. In each and every case, they have been the ones who have approached us, telling us that they are ready for baptism. Our part is to determine that they are indeed ready.

Each year, FGA Children’s Ministry conducts Blast Off! – a baptism class for 10-12 year olds, involving parents. After this series, we left it to Anna Joy, our youngest, to consider (no pressure, remember?). It took a while (for which we are thankful) before she finally said ‘yes’. In the days leading up to her baptism, we could see and sense the excitement in her. To the 10 year-old, it was “the big day” and “the special day”.

On 1 December 2019, Anna Joy was baptised, to the glory of God!

Thanks to FGA, I got to do the honours of baptising my own daughter. Whilst I enjoyed this privilege and my time in the baptismal tank with Anna Joy, this joy and honour must be shared with my wife. It is Serene who has spent much more time with Anna Joy, teaching and guiding her in the Word of God through the homeschooling journey. Serene and I are also very thankful to Uncle Sam and all the teachers of Spark Kids, for their love and attention showered upon every child.

Our hearts are full, now that each of our seven children has been baptised. That said, this does not mean that our job is done. It’s been 10 years since our oldest two were baptised; and we can all agree that whilst baptism is a major milestone, it is still only a milestone. It is the spiritual journey that is ongoing, where the rubber meets the road. Our part as parents is still to guide our children on this journey, and then to release them to walk with God on their own. We cannot walk the journey for them, but we pray that we will be worthy examples of what it means to love and serve Jesus.

We are so excited for Anna Joy as she begins a new phase of her relationship with Jesus. It was heartwarming too to see her older siblings stand with her and excited for her. (That’s the bonus of being the youngest, and being so cute.)

We love you, Anna Joy, and we are praying God’s best for you as you grow into all He has in store for you! You’ve been such a blessing and joy to us in the Lim Tribe. By His grace, and with His enablement, you will likewise be a blessing and joy to many, many others. Remember your baptism.

Kanye Is Simply Kanye. Jesus Is King.

Judging from the number of articles across as many websites and platforms, it seems that Kanye West is quite well known.

Forgive me. Although the name does ring a bell, I have no idea who Kanye is. I only just discovered that his wife is Kim Kardashian. And I was promptly informed by my teenager when I pronounced his name wrongly (Kanye believe it?). Well, in case you are still in the dark (where have you been?), Mr West recently encountered Jesus and has been making waves all over.

But, no, this is not a post about Kanye West; whether his conversion is real or not. (For an objective commentary and response, I’d recommend Bill Muehlenberg‘s article: Kanye and Christ.) Instead, this post is about how normal Christians like us should respond when superstars and celebrities like Kanye confess and profess faith in Jesus Christ.

Rejoice
For starters, we rejoice when anyone – yes, anyone – repents and believes in the good news of Jesus Christ and His kingdom. However improbable it may seem to you, nothing is impossible for God. That said, salvation is just the beginning; next comes the walk of faith and of sanctification. To this end, I appreciate Pastor Greg Laurie’s open letter to Kanye as a new believer.

Numbers Mean Something but Not Everything
It is heartening to note the massive spike in faith-based Google searches after Kanye’s “Jesus Is King” album launch. It was also reported that more than 1,000 people gave their lives to Jesus when Kanye gave an impromptu altar call at his concert in Louisiana. In terms of exposure and numbers, this is indeed impressive! I pray that these knew the difference between gettin’ up to the stage at a typical Kanye West concert and givin’ up their lives to Jesus at this Kanye West concert. On this note and at this point, it is not easy to tell if one has truly chosen to follow Jesus or is simply following a popular figure. Only time will reveal how many will stay on the straight and narrow way as disciples of Jesus Christ.

I make this comment in light of what we have observed from church history. When Emperor Constantine legalised Christianity in 313AD, it was seen as a step forward for the persecuted church. Thousands, millions, became Christians – or at least they considered themselves as such. Today, we understand that filled churches may look good; but in reality, Christendom or Churchdom is not the same as kingdom. Numbers mean something but not everything.

As much as we are thankful for Kanye’s reach and influence, our hope is not in some prominent person but in Jesus: He is still the only One who saves.

Revival Is Not Dependent on the Rich and Famous
I think it’s great that Kanye is using his mega platform to declare “Jesus is King”. However, we should not for a moment think that God needs big name influencers to reach the masses. Don’t get me wrong. Can God use superstars to bring about His purposes? Of course, He can. But does He need superstars to do that? Not at all. Revival is not dependent on the rich and famous; or the attractive and influential. In fact, God’s preferred agents and vehicles have more often been the weak, the foolish and the poor (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

Jesus Is the Only Name That Deserves Worship
Reading the various reports about Kanye West, I can’t help but remember the Lord’s prompting when He first gave me the assignment of Archippus Awakening in October 2013. I later recorded this conviction in my first book, Say To Archippus:

“I believe the days of spiritual celebrities and superstars are over. And in these last days, God will raise up the common man and woman to do great and extraordinary things in and through them. These are the Archippuses of our day who will know their assignments and be obedient to fulfil them!”

Say To Archippus, p26.

Since then, painfully, we have seen so many big names – pastors, leaders, worship leaders, influencers – stumble and fall. Allow me to clarify: God is not against spiritual celebrities and superstars. God is, however, against His people making too big a deal of anyone. Somehow, we have this perpetual propensity to put people on pedestals. Can’t we see that this does no one any good? – neither the ones who are worshipped nor the ones who worship the ones who are worshipped! (By the way, the other extreme of tearing and putting people down is not right either.)

Responding to a recent spate of certain known Christian figures leaving and questioning the faith, John L. Cooper, the lead singer of Skillet, said:

My conclusion for the church (all of us Christians): We must STOP making worship leaders and thought leaders or influencers or cool people or “relevant” people the most influential people in Christendom.

John L. Cooper, Facebook Post

Well said, John. The truth is: Big name, small name or no name, Jesus is the only Name that deserves worship. You can be inspired or encouraged by Kanye, but it must still only be Jesus you worship.

Kanye Is Simply Kanye
If we are not careful, we will begin to accord Kanye special status, conferring upon him all kinds of spiritual titles. Even worse, we buy into the lie that only celebs like Kanye are able to reach the world for Jesus. Or we use it as a convenient excuse why we cannot do anything because we are not as talented or resourceful. We forget that to God, Kanye is simply Kanye, no different from anyone of us, a sinner saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

And Say to Kanye…
I believe what God said to Archippus through Paul, He would say the same to Kanye, and also to each of us:

And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord that you may fulfil it.”

Colossians 4:17

Whether known or unknown, we each have kingdom assignments to fulfil. You may or may not agree with what Kanye is doing or how he is doing it, but at least he is doing something. Granted that he is very talented and his Area of Operation is huge. But then again, to whom much is given, much is also expected (Luke 12:48). When Jesus comes, each believer will stand accountable before the King. Would it not be more productive to know and move on your kingdom assignment instead of commenting on Kanye’s or someone else’s?

Jesus Is King
I hope you can see why this post is not about Kanye West. I am not endorsing him. I am not promoting the album. I am also not criticising him. I have only used the opportunity to share some principles and to bring some reminders that ultimately, it is about Jesus; and how we each are to respond knowing that Jesus is King.

Kanye West is not the first celebrity to come to Jesus and he most definitely will not be the last. His declaration that Jesus is King has resulted in thousands listening to this Truth and singing along. Even so, let it be clearly stated that it is one thing to sing along with a song and its lyrics; but it’s totally another to live out the truth that the song declares. (Yes, it’s the same with Hillsong favourites.)

When all is said and done, it is not how many times the song or album is downloaded, streamed, played or sung; or if it even tops the Billboard charts. Finally, what matters is how many of those who declare “Jesus is King” will truly live for Him as their King.