I would have missed it … if not for Facebook’s prompter: “You have memories … to look back on today.”
How could I forget such a significant day!?
Well, to be fair, the past weeks have not exactly been easy. And this week has also been a packed series of meetings, teaching and preaching engagements too. As if that is not challenging enough, my mind has already raced ahead to next week’s commitments!
For all the bad press the social media giant has received recently, I am thankful to have been reminded by Facebook of this special day.
On the morning of 8 July 2000, two words would change the entire course of my life: Follow Me. In the weeks and months that followed, I responded to the Lord’s invitation to follow and serve Him. It has been 18 years! What a journey it has been, and continues to be.
Each year, I make it a point to pause that I may reflect and never forget the significance of that encounter, and the decisions that were made because of that encounter. But as mentioned above, I almost missed it this year!
This afternoon, as I worshipped with the Filipino congregation of Full Gospel Assembly, the presence and goodness of the Lord overwhelmed me. When the worship leader led the song, “I need You more“, tears filled my eyes as memories of God’s faithfulness over the past 18 years flooded my mind and heart.
These two lines were especially meaningful to me:
I need You more More than yesterday
Yes, it has been 18 years. That said, it has only been 18 years. If I needed Him yesterday, I need Him today and tomorrow too! If I needed His grace and enablement for the past 18 years, I sure need a lot more of that to fulfil all He has assigned to me.
Later, I brought the family out for a meal to mark this special day. Over dinner, I took the opportunity to tell the children what actually happened 18 years ago (when we had just two children then), how the Lord led, and how that has brought us to where we are now.
From just a young couple with two children, to leaving the family business, to living by faith, to bible college, to running a school of ministry, to becoming a family of nine, to pastoring a local church, to birthing a new ministry in Archippus Awakening – every step of the way, the Lord has shown Himself more than faithful!
Follow Me. Two words that pierced my heart that morning 18 years ago. The Lord invited, I accepted, and the rest, as they say, is history. These two words changed the entire course of my life! I’ve experienced and learnt so much, and I know there is so much more that the Lord has in store for me.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed and anxious? Have you ever felt upset and frustrated? Have you ever felt alone and lost?
Yes, yes, and yes! Guilty, as charged.
Oops! I hope I didn’t stumble anyone. After all, how can someone serving the Lord, living by faith, moving purposefully on kingdom assignment have such experiences?! Well, you just met that someone!
I’ve always maintained that the work of the ministry is no walk in the park. As much as I’d like to inspire and encourage others with nice, pick-me-up statements and Instagrammable posts, I also believe in being real and authentic. And that means admitting and acknowledging that it’s not about mountian-highs all the time. There are moments – and quite a few I might add – that valley-lows are encountered and experienced.
In the past weeks, I struggled with such a moment.
On the surface, everything seemed normal. In fact, things must have looked quite good (have you seen my Facebook feed?). My schedule has been packed and I was kept duly engaged in my kingdom assignment of Archippus Awakening. Looking ahead, the trajectory seemed to be pointing up and up. My schedule is packed and there are more than a few items on the to-do list to take care of.
In Christian-speak, we would say that the Lord is enlarging the place of my tent! And yet … that was why and when the pressure mounted and concerns began to overwhelm. Yes, I found myself in one of those moments. Anxiety, frustration, helplessness, aloneness … you name it … I experienced it all! And the enemy was more than happy to help me feed on my self-pity, that I may sink even further.
Day and night, I wrestled with many questions and issues. At times, I even took it out on those around me. (I am not proud about this, but I did say that I would be real and authentic.) Everything felt wrong. But faith is not based on feelings, I preached to myself. Ya right, more easily preached than lived out. And so, the tussle went on.
Last night, the Lord graciously intervened, reminding me of Philippians 4:4-7.
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7
There are many familiar words and phrases in this passage, but this was the line that hit me: “The Lord is at hand.”
Oh how I needed to be reminded of that!
My heart wanted dearly to please the Lord. However, amidst the many details to handle, I must admit that He did seem a little distant. In my bid to be responsible and faithful, I didn’t realise that my focus had shifted, ever so subtly. As the saying goes, “If you feel that God is far away, guess who moved?” Ouch. In Archippian parlance, I allowed myself to be knocked off alignment!
How that one little line ministered to me: “The Lord is at hand.”
Situationally, nothing has changed. There are still many things to take care of and to handle. But being assured of the Lord’s presence made all the difference!
I don’t try to rejoice. I can rejoice because the Lord is near! I don’t try to think positive so that I don’t fret. I don’t have to be anxious because the Lord is at hand! And that also means that I can boldly bring my concerns to Him and make my requests. Because the Lord is not too far away that He cannot hear me. He is near and very present! I don’t try to have peace. I have the peace of God because the God of peace is at hand, near me, with me!
Are you overwhelmed and anxious? Are you upset and frustrated? Are you feeling alone and lost? Perhaps, like me, you have lost perspective of who God is and where He is.
Take heart, my friend. It’s ok. Really. Remember … the Lord is at hand.
Everyone loves new things. And the marketing industry knows it all too well. Just look at all the advertising headlines and see if this isn’t so … New! Fresh! Improved! The Latest!
Even in Christian circles, one of the most favourite verses must be Isaiah 43:19 – “Behold, I will do a new thing …” Indeed, our God is a God of new beginnings and of fresh encounters. However, when interpreted through today’s consumeristic lens, it is all too easy to miss the context of what this passage actually says. As a result, this verse is often used as a marketing ploy for the next Christian activity, as a seasoned marketeer would, to bait, to entice, to attract.
But is God really doing a new thing? Or are we simply of such short attention span and so quickly bored these days that we need to make it appear as if God is doing a new thing?
Take my kingdom assignment in Archippus Awakening as an example. It’s been the same message since Day One, and continues to be so. I don’t know how many times I have declared it (lost count). All I know is that it remains relevant and I am still to share it whenever the Lord opens the door and presents the opportunity.
Honestly, it is tiring. And, having shared it over and over again, I do get a little bored with myself. (How many times can I tell the same jokes?) In the past weeks, it’s been the same message of Archippus Awakening at Bukit Panjang Methodist Church’s Leadership Retreat (27-28 May 2018), All Saints Presbyterian Church Camp (8-10 June 2018) and Paya Lebar Chinese Methodist Church’s Contemporary Service Retreat (14-17 June 2018). And in the next weeks? … you guessed it! … Archippus Awakening!
That said, the Lord has not given any new instruction; and so, I plod on. By His grace, although it seems old to me, it is new to those who are hearing it for the first time and God moves powerfully in their hearts! And this, I have experienced, over and over again, to the glory of the Lord. Clearly, it is not about what I think or how I feel at all. My part is to remain obedient and faithful to what the Lord has assigned to me!
Too often, and for too many, believers are looking for the next new thing. We are easily distracted and quickly bored with what we have heard or already know. This is why it is important to know our kingdom assignments. If not, we will always need more and more Christian activities to keep us occupied. And even worse, we expect these to be highly creative that we may be constantly engaged, that Christianity would be fun and entertaining!
Make no mistake! God is not here to serve my soulish desires and satisfy my fleshly cravings. On the contrary, I have been redeemed with the precious blood of King Jesus that I may be set free from sin, to serve Him and the purposes of His kingdom. God forbid that I be so influenced by today’s consumeristic culture that I pick and choose what I’d like to do or not do, based on how I feel.
This is why knowing our kingdom assignments matters. True fulfilment is found, not in what is new or novel, but when we fulfil that which we have received from the Lord.
And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord that you may fulfil it.” Colossians 4:17
Aaron (16yo) was the first to respond. And then, to my pleasant surprise (since National Service leave is a limited and precious commodity), David (20yo) also asked to come along . Needless to say, I was very thankful to have them as a part of TEAM ARCHIPPUS.
Whilst Aaron assumed the role of team photographer, David’s role was not as clear. Very quickly, the Lord settled that for the young man.
At the first session of the seminar, I noticed that the worship team only comprised a keyboardist and a bassist. I asked Ptr Joel if David could help out on the drums. At the next session, and for the rest of the seminar, David was a part of the music team! It turned out that the musicians had earlier asked Ptr Joel if anyone from the Singapore team could play with them.
For the altar call, David requested not to pray for people but to support the ministry time through music. As TEAM ARCHIPPUS ministered through prayer, David ministered through music – playing the keyboards and singing over the people.
For the Saturday and Sunday services, David had the opportunity to share his song, “Worth Every Drop“, during Holy Communion. (Kidapawan City AG Church had been using this song for communion since last August.) We were all so blessed as the lyrics pointed us back to the Cross and how we, though unworthy, have all been made worthy by the Lord and His sacrifice.
With one son upfront, the other son worked quietly in the background. As photographer, Aaron moved about the hall unnoticed, capturing the happenings from different angles. If a picture speaks a thousand words, then Aaron declared the most and the loudest through his photos (view Facebook Album).
In between ministry sessions, both David and Aaron connected well with the youths of KCAG. They were readily welcomed and invited to join in the fellowship and games. As the older members of TEAM ARCHIPPUS returned to rest in the hotel, the two boys stayed on for lots more fun and food (balut!) with their new-found Filipino friends.
What are their own takeaways from the ministry trip?
David: “Every time I go to the Philippines and subsequently go home, I find myself wanting to go back, and this time was no different. I went on this trip wondering what I was going there for, and came back having had the most enjoyable weekend of my year so far. I’ve only known these people for three days, but it feels like I’ve known them my whole life. Singapore has so much to learn from the Philippines. And I have so much to learn from them as well.”
Aaron: “Knowing my Dad would be in need of a photographer for this trip to the Philippines, I decided to help out. When I arrived at the Philippines, I already had the assumption that this was going to be like any regular trip. It turns out that I was wrong. Unlike any other trip, I had the opportunity to interact with the Filipino youth in the church, and as we talked and played games, I was really blessed by them. And when I watched the whole church worship, I could see they were doing it with all their heart. I have really been blessed by them and I do not regret coming at all!”
What can I say? I am so proud of my two sons! And I am so thankful for the opportunity to be on kingdom assignment together with them. May the Lord use this experience to guide and direct them into all He has prepared for them.
In October 2013, Ashley Madison tried to enter the Singapore market. Even when Mr Chan Chun Sing, then Minister for Social and Family Development, spoke against it, the openly adulterous website pressed on with its intended launch. Finally, thankfully, Ashley Madison was blocked. But was that the end of it?
I believe we will see more of Ashley Madison, or the likes of it.
Four years later, the likes of Ashley Madison has surfaced … in TheSugarbook.
Unlike Ashley Madison, TheSugarBook does not openly promote extra-marital affairs, but “a safe and discreet networking environment online”* for rich men seeking young girls, and vice versa. But, like Ashley Madison, it encourages hooking up for all the wrong reasons with absolutely no regard for its consequences.
One would have expected the government to act as it did in the case of Ashley Madison. However, whilst Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee says that the government “collectively objects” to such sites that “commoditise and devalue” relationships, they are not moving to block it at all. Instead, he says that “[t]he police will ‘keep a close eye’ on money-for-love dating platform The SugarBook as well as the individuals using its services, and will take enforcement action should there be any procurement of sexual services for payment”. Police will keep ‘close eye’ on dating platforms like TheSugarBook: Desmond Lee
It seems that the concern is more about illegal prostitution than it is about fornication, adultery, the demeaning of women, the hurting of young women’s lives, and the destruction of marriages, families and relationships.
As Christians, we cannot and must not stay silent for we have been appointed to preserve society as salt and to shine the way of righteousness as light. We must take a stand, and at times, this calls for us to speak up and speak out against such decadent practices. This is not the time for apathy or nonchalance.
At the same time, we must protect our own marriages and families for these are under tremendous attack like never before. We must not presume that things are ok between husband and wife but instead work at strengthening and building the marital relationship. And lest you think children in Christian households are exempted from such negative influences, think again! By the time you realise that theirs is a totally different environment from what we grew up in, it might just be too late. The discipling of our children has taken on a new level of urgency. And as parents, that responsibility is squarely ours (and not the children or youth ministry’s)!
Whilst I understand the reason for not blocking TheSugarDaddy, I cannot say that I agree with it entirely. As far as I am concerned, Ashley Madison and TheSugarDaddy both fall into the same category. Presently, there are more than 20,000 Singapore users (out of 75,000 so far – the target is 200,000 by June 2018). In my opinion, there should not even have been a question at all whether to block it or not.
That said, it is far too easy to expect the government to think and act on our behalf. And should anything go wrong, we just point a finger to blame. To this end, let us must not miss Mr Desmond Lee’s extremely clear signal: “At the end of the day, while we recognise that these websites undermine families and society, our best defence is for society, communities and our families to reinforce values that anchor us so that we do not succumb to such influences.”
In other words, the responsibility is squarely ours. Don’t pass the buck. When all is said and done, we make our own decisions and choices. And we must be prepared to live with the consequences of how and what we have chosen.
Sugar daddies have been around for the longest time. This is not a new thing at all. With or without TheSugarBook, these transactional relationships will continue to exist. Yet, however sweet the deal may appear to be, we must be reminded that, more and more, sugar has been identified as a major cause of ill-health, cancers and death. Yes, sugar kills.
And so …
To the young women of Singapore: You are wonderfully made, precious and loved by God the Father. You never ever need to trade your dignity and bodies for romance, attention, fame or money.
To the rich and wealthy men with lots to spare: If you really want to help younger women with financial needs, there are many other ways to do this without making use of their situation to fulfil your fantasies.
To marriages and families: Remain strong and resilient against the threats of the pressures and challenges of today’s world.
And especially to all hubbies and daddies (and that includes me too): Love your wives and daughters.
Each year, dictionaries will monitor the different political and socio-economic trends of the past year to determine the word of the year. For 2016, the words were post-truth (Oxford), Brexit (Collins), surreal (Merriam Webster) and xenophobia (dictionary.com). The words for 2017 have just been announced and they are youthquake (Oxford), fake news (Collins), feminism (Merriam Webster) and complicit (dictionary.com).
What is the word of the year for you? Would the word be a result of what you have gone through? Or how you hope the next year will be? Or would the word be that which holds you steady no matter what you have to go through?
If you asked the Apostle John for his input, he would tell you that there is only one Word for him: Jesus. And that would remain the same. Not just for one year. But for every year to come.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” John 1:1-3 ESV
In introducing Jesus as the Word, John opens his gospel with “In the beginning was the Word…”, paralleling Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God…”. He deliberately replaces ‘God’ with ‘the Word’. John cannot make it any clearer: the Word is God, Jesusis God.
The Jews would not be unfamiliar with the phrase the word of the Lord in the Hebrew Scriptures. In Genesis 15:1, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision. In 1 Samuel 3:21, God revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord. I used to read these verses and imagined a bunch of words flashing and appearing before these men in cool, animated computer graphics, no less. How wrong I was. It is only many years later that I would learn that the Word of the Lord is God Himself. More than just spoken oracles, prophecies or the recorded Law (or the Bible as we know it), the Word is the very Person of God, revealed in the person of Jesus.
But what about the Gentiles who had no idea of the Hebrew Scriptures? Here comes the ingenuity of John, as led by the Holy Spirit.
To the Hellenistic mind, the Word – logos – is a power that created the entire world, the cosmos. More than just a linguistic device to illustrate something, or a string of descriptives to communicate a thought, the Greeks understood logos as a reasoning, a principle, a wisdom. It is this logos that created the world and holds all things together. John was declaring to the Greeks that this Word is not just a power or a force, not just a concept or a good idea, but a person, the very Person of God Himself, Jesus. Everything can be explained because creation is the result of the logos, of divine logic.
But that is not all …
“In him (the Word) was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4-5 ESV
There is life in the Word. If He created the world which we live in, then He also created humanity that lives in this world. That’s us! We exist because of the Word. But we were not created merely to exist in our short span of life on earth. The Apostle will reveal in John 10:10 that the Word came not just to give us existential life but that in Him, we might also have abundant life! And in believing, receiving and knowing the Word who is eternal (John 17:3), we also enter into the promise of eternal life.
Consequently, it is in appropriating this life that is in the Word that results in a light that shines, that overcomes darkness! Put another way, you can’t hope to shine any light of truth, righteousness or revelation without first experiencing the life that is found only in the Word and the True Light, Jesus. The world operates by a flawed logic and by fake lights. Don’t be fooled or distracted by these that appear bright and attractive. The logic of the kingdom of God often runs contrary to the logic and ways of the world. The ways of the kingdom will almost always seem illogical to one who does not know the Word for himself.
This should not be a surprise at all for the kingdom of God is upside-down and counter-cultural. And yet, it is the King of this everlasting kingdom who will have both the first and the final word. And rightly so, for Jesus is, after all, the Word, who is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last , ((Rev 1:8,11,17; 21:6; 22:13). Long after all the words of the years have come and gone, the Word remains. There is no other Word, because there is no other God.
At the end of 2018, another set of words will be announced as the words of the year. As descriptive as these may be, they only record the plight of a world that is lost in darkness, in need of the True Light. These only paint a picture of humanity trying desperately to make sense of its own logic, as if the coining of new words and expressions will help us gain a better understanding of ourselves. Truly, apart from the Word, apart from Jesus, our attempts of reasonings and wisdom all fall apart, for it is only He who holds all things together.
What is your word of the year? More accurately, Who is your word of the year, and the years to come? Don’t wait for another year to go by before deciding. At the same time, there is no need to chase for yet another prophetic word for the year to come.
As for me, I’m going with the beloved apostle who beheld the glory of the Word that became flesh (John 1:14), who personally experienced the Word of life (1 John 1:1). Like John, Jesus is my Word of the year, and for every year He graces me with breath and abundance on earth. And even when my time is done, He remains the timeless Word for me, for all eternity.
Make Jesus your Word, your God, your Life, your True Light, your Wisdom.