“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:17
Sensed the burden to release this as an urgent reminder – a word and a warning – from the Lord. The days ahead will not necessarily be easy days for the people of God. It will require faith, genuine faith, to endure every challenge for the sake of Jesus. [Read 1 Peter 4:12-16 for context.]
The challenges we face are God’s instrument of judgment (not wrath); a test of sorts. Will we continue to walk in His ways? Or will we compromise? Note that this judgment will begin with God’s people. First. This judgment is not of condemnation, for there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Rather, it is one of separation; a sifting. This testing by fire reveals the genuineness of faith, that which counts at the revelation of Jesus, resulting in final salvation (1 Peter 1:6-8). Through this, the Lord will know those who are truly His.
This explains why Peter warned that “the righteous one is scarcely saved” (NIV: it is hard for the righteous to be saved; NASB: it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved). No place for presumption here. If this is so, can you imagine how it will be for the ungodly and sinner (1 Peter 4:18)? If you think judgment is tough for believers, you don’t want to be in the place of those “who do not obey the gospel of God.”
I believe this is a word of grace for every believer to check his or her own walk. We who have the gospel of God must live according to the ways of God. The Lord’s greatest indictments against Israel were idolatry and disobedience. God’s standards have not changed because our God is an unchanging God.
Every believer must honestly evaluate: Have I been idolatrous? Have I been disobedient? Have I worshipped and revered the Lord as He is to be honoured and feared? Have I obeyed the Lord, His ways, His will? The house of God – the ekklesia of Jesus Christ – must set the house in order.
At the revelation of Jesus my King, may the faith I profess in Him be found to be genuine faith.
One year ago, I decided to journey through the book of Psalms. One psalm a day. Over 150 days.
I can’t say it was an instruction from the Lord. Or a kingdom assignment (in Archippus Awakening lingo). It was just a very strong prompting to read and reflect. And then to post and share my thoughts and ramblings.
As with all things, starting was easy. Continuing was not quite as straightforward. This came as a surprise. After all, how difficult can it be to read one psalm a day, right? Which just goes to show that conviction alone is not enough. It must also be coupled with commitment and consistency.
By the Lord’s grace and enablement, I completed the task in just a little over 150 days. If I remember correctly, I missed a couple of days because of ministry engagements. Needless to say, I was richly blessed, provoked at times, but learnt so much.
A Psalm A Day has since been compiled into an e-book (PDF format). To celebrate one year of this project, I would like to share this resource with you.
If you’d like to go through your own A Psalm A Day exercise, drop me an email at email@example.com with the subject title “I want A Psalm A Day” and a short note as to why you’d like to do this – this will help you with your own commitment and consistency. I will then send you the e-book via return email (please ensure you check your spam/junk folder, just in case). Please acknowledge when you get it – thanks.
There is no charge for this e-book. All I ask is that you will value this free resource and do your part to walk through the psalms over the next 150 days. You are welcome to check-in with me at any point of your journey. Feel free to share in the comments below too. I am sure your reflections will cheer others on in their own A Psalm A Day journeys.
Most of all, I’d really appreciate a note from you after you complete this exercise. I’d love to hear of how the Lord has spoken to you or directed you through A Psalm A Day. That would greatly encourage me.
I’ve never been much of a runner. It was only in the past decade or so that I started running more regularly.
The motivation? It didn’t take me long to realise that ministry life can be quite sedentary. Read bible. Prepare message. Set up presentation. Repeat. Ok ok, very sedentary. And since the park was just one block away, I had no excuse not to get out for some fresh air and to work up some sweat. The runs were good for my own health and fitness. The fresh air out in the open also helped to clear my mind. More than once, I’ve received new ideas and prophetic insights.
The distance? Nothing impressive here. Since the objective was not to participate in marathons any time soon, I kept to the humble IPPT’s 2.4km. Once in a while, I’d push myself to 3km. If more ambitious (or just feeling masochistic), then 5km. Suffering for Jesus, y’know? Haha.
You’d think that my stamina would be really good. I wish. Another rude realisation is that stamina and pace do not necessarily correspond with age. Oh wait. There is a correlation. On the other side of 50, I could still push myself for a better timing. On this side of 50, whenever I try to do that, it will take me one week to recover before my next run. Sigh. Sadly, the correlation is a negative one. At least for me, as age goes up, pace comes down.
7km? Then this year, for some strange reason, I get added to a Facebook Group, called “Kingdom Runners”. As these run, they pray and then post to the group. The idea is much akin to prayer walking. Except that this is prayer running. (I know this sounds crazy, right? I’m just trying to survive, finish the run and get home alive.)
Well, two weeks ago, the leader of the group posted an invitation to participate in YOLO RUN’s first virtual race. I was all ready to swipe away but the distance of the race caught my eye. In most races, the categories are usually in multiples of 5 – 5km, 10km, 15km, etc. Oddly enough, the only category for this race is 7km. All I had to do was run 7km in a go, anytime within the window of 21-26 October 2020. I signed up.
Note: The race has been extended to 22 Nov 2020. Register with this code: KINGDOMRUNNER (all caps) and get 40% off. For the T-shirt, use the phrase “I run for JESUS”.
7 years ago, on 27 October 2013, the Lord gave me the Archippus Awakening message through the one verse of Colossians 4:17. Since then, I have been proclaiming this wake up call whenever the Lord provides the opportunity. The ministry has also grown and matured. More have come onboard and are now serving alongside me. God has been so faithful and gracious. As I thought of how to mark these 7 years, I sensed that a new season is just ahead. Then, the YOLORUN invitation popped up. It’s as if the Lord was challenging me: “Would you run 7km to mark 7yrs?”
And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord that you may fulfil it.”
What was I thinking? Signing up was the easy part. I still had to run the distance. Up until then, the farthest I’d ever pushed myself was 5km, usually ending with aches and pains for the next few days. You wouldn’t believe the kind of thoughts that flooded my mind: Are you sure or not? What if you injure yourself? Why is my knee suddenly hurting so much? Am I being responsible? Talk about spiritual attacks – haha!
Here we go! Well, the day of the run finally arrived. Coincidentally or not, the two days before were crazy days, tiring me out both mentally and physically. I am thankful that my daughter, Ruth, opted to register and run with me. That kept me accountable as I sought to honour her partnership and support.
This was how it went.
4:00pm Warm up and stretches.
4:10pm We prayed to dedicate the run to the glory of God, asking Him to keep us safe.
4:17pm Here we go! No prizes for guessing why I chose to start the run at this time. For those who are still clueless, here’s a hint: 7km to mark 7yrs since receiving the Archippus Awakening message through Colossians 4:17 (get it?).
The first half of the run went pretty well. Ruth took the lead and I trailed behind. I was very clear that I was not gunning for a great timing. I just wanted to run the whole distance without walking or stopping.
After the 3.5km mark, however, was the challenge. It seemed to take forever to get to the 5km mark. I was still pacing well. But somehow, the number on my tracking app didn’t move as quickly as the first few kilometres.
Thankfully, the 4.17km mark gave me the boost I needed. These words rang out in my mind, “This is what I am running for. I have to keep going for as long as the Lord wants this kingdom assignment to continue. I will keep preaching and proclaiming Colossians 4:17. Not only that, I am setting the pace for all Archippuses. To finish the race. To go for gold. This run is dedicated to all who desire to be awakened, aligned and assigned for Jesus. I cannot stop. I must keep going on.”
At 5km, the psychological battle kicked in. On one hand, it’s just 2km more. Yet, on the other hand, 5km was when I would stop in my previous runs. 2km more? You’re kidding me, right? Enough la. Surely, I can just walk the rest of the way and still register the 7km. Run, Henson, run!
Here again, I am thankful that Ruth ran with me. Or rather, that I ran with Ruth. By cheering her on – 2km more. 1km more. Last burst. C’mon! – I was actually cheering myself on. By running together, we were encouraging one another all the way. We were going to finish together and finish well.
5.01pm We made it! 7.02km in 44:31mins. Yay! Instagram poses and posts.
My running app congratulated me: “A New Personal Record! Longest Run.” Even better, the race app recorded me as the very first finisher of the virtual run (globally). This meant that I occupied the first spot on the leaderboard for a while (cheap thrill, I know).
Yes. Quite an achievement for this not-so-young athlete wannabe. It was fun. But more importantly, it was significant. 7km to mark 7yrs. If the Lord had not instructed me through Colossians 4:17, I would have no business awakening the saints toward their kingdom assignments. That I get to run this race of Archippus Awakening is entirely by His grace.
What keeps me running? It has not always been easy these 7yrs. Like the run, there have been many moments of doubts and discouragement. I am also ever ready to make excuses and give myself reasons why I shouldn’t, couldn’t or needn’t. Even so, I press on because ultimately I am running for Jesus on the purposes of His kingdom. At the same time, I am also running for Archippuses; that when these see me plodding on, they may be encouraged enough to do the same for the Lord.
Across these 7yrs, I am ever thankful for the many ‘Ruths’ whom the Lord has led to run with me. Above all, I give all thanks and praise to the Lord for His goodness and faithfulness, “who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me in the ministry” (1 Tim 1:12). Through these 7yrs, I have personally experienced that “the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 1:14).
A new season? As 8 comes after 7, so I brace myself for the new beginnings that are just ahead. Colossians 4:17 remains relevant and I believe a fresh anointing will be given for a new season. My part is simply to keep running. Whatever it takes.
“But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God”
8km to mark 8yrs? One day at a time. One step at a time.
We’ve heard of using verses out of context. What about rainbows?
Recently, the frequency of rainbows seem to have increased. Some attribute it to the cleaner air and clearer skies in view of reduced human activity owing to circuit breaker measures. Possibly. But is there more to it?
The moment a rainbow appears, social media will be flooded with pictures of these lovely arcs, accompanied by enthusiastic posts and positive comments. The Christian ones usually associate the rainbow with God’s promises and His faithfulness, taken to mean that God will fulfil the promises made to the individual or to a country.
These all sound good and right – very encouraging and uplifting. But how accurate are such interpretations and applications?
To ascertain this, we cannot rely on impressions or how we personally feel about this beautiful phenomenon in the skies. We have to go back to the source, to Scriptures.
The first rainbow
I believe we are all familiar with the biblical account of the flood in Genesis 6-9. Mankind had become corrupt and God decided to start over. God told Noah to build an ark, by which he and his family would be saved when the floodwaters covered the face of the earth. Noah obeyed. The rains came. And all of humanity, except Noah and his family, was destroyed. When it was all over, God gave fresh instructions to Noah and made a covenant with creation – with the rainbow as the sign of the covenant.
13 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. 14 It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; 15 and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.” Genesis 9:13–17NKJV
This covenant made between God and creation is referred to as the Noahic Covenant. The sign of the covenant serves as a reminder to both parties of the covenant. In this case, whenever a rainbow appears, God, as the initiator of the covenant, will be reminded of what He had promised. As for creation, we can look at the rainbow and be thankful that a covenant keeping God will hold to His end of the deal. To this end, the rainbow is indeed associated with promise or covenant keeping and the faithfulness of God.
But what is the promise to be kept?
The answer is extremely straightforward and can be found in Genesis 9:15 – “the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.”
In recent years, there have been more and more floods that have caused much havoc around the world. We are told that this is largely due to rising sea levels as a result of climate change. As critical as the situation may be, we can be certain creation will never be wiped out by floodwaters. Nations and their leaders may make and break climate deals and accords but God will never break the Noahic Covenant.
Interestingly, rainbows are also mentioned with the glory of the Lord (Ezekiel 1:28) and around God’s throne (Revelation 4:3). This is not difficult to understand since we now know that rainbows are essentially the result of reflected, refracted and dispersed light. And since God Himself is full of light (and His angels too, Rev 10:1), it is not surprising that rainbows are found in His presence. How wonderful that God does not need to wait for a heavy downpour to be reminded of the Noahic Covenant. With a rainbow perpetually around His throne, He is constantly reminded of His promise not to destroy the world by flood.
Can we extend the sign of the rainbow to every other promise or wish?
I know it is tempting to do so and many have (as evidenced by social media posts). But honestly, that is a real s-t-r-e-t-c-h by all counts. The rainbow is only the sign of the Noahic Covenant and not of the other covenants in the bible. Sure, borrow it. Just don’t use it out of context.
Will earth never ever be destroyed again?
More critically, more than just be mesmerised by this beautiful sign, we must be mindful of what the covenant is about and what it is not. To be clear, God did not say that He will never ever destroy the earth again. What He promised was that the earth will never be destroyed by a flood again. That is a huge difference.
This is important because Scripture does speak of heaven and earth passing away (Matthew 5:18; Mark 13:31), that we can look forward to “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1). There will be another destruction, just not by water as in the days of Noah. This time, it will be by fire (2 Peter 3:10-13).
10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:10–13NKJV
A reminder and a warning
Whilst we can look back to the first rainbow and be assured of God’s faithfulness to keep His word, we must also look forward to what will happen when God keeps His word concerning the destruction to come.
Seen in this context, the rainbow serves as both a reminder as well as a warning. I fear that we have emphasised only the former and have all but missed the latter. 2 Peter 3:7 provides the right balance: “But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”
5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 2 Peter 3:5–7NKJV
Is destruction reserved only for non-believers?
Lest we think this warning is only for non-Christians, we must read on for 2 Peter 3:10-13 was written as a warning to believers – “what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness”. Paul addressed believers too when he spoke of the same fire that will finally test the works of believers (1 Corinthians 3:13).
The rainbow is a sign of a covenant – specifically, the Noahic Covenant. For other covenants, there are other signs. In the Noahic Covenant, the promise that God will keep is that the earth will not be destroyed by water again. No, the rainbow is a not a promise fulfilment symbol for personal or national agendas.
Since the rainbow is closely associated with the issue of destruction, it then also serves as a reminder and warning of how God will eventually destroy both heaven and earth; not by water, but by fire. With hope, we look to new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells. With this knowledge, we are thus expected to respond by living godly, faithful and fruitful lives.
The next time you see a rainbow, go ahead – ooh and wow at it, snap photos of it, share it on your social media feed. Just remember not to take it out of context. Instead, remember the significance of this beautiful sign in the skies.
What about the increase of frequency of rainbows these days? With more sightings of double and triple rainbows? Honestly, I don’t think God needs more reminders. What if these are the Lord’s way of signalling to us that the time is short and the window is closing fast?
Especially in times of crisis, conspiracy theories abound. These are not new – they have always been around – but in uncertain times, the more certain these theories sound, somehow providing answers to why things are the way they are.
The most recent is that of QAnon, started by an anonymous post by ‘Q’ and has since taken on a life of its own. Of greater concern is how QAnon has attracted a very large Christian following, both in the USA and around the world. The narrative of good vs evil fits right into our kingdom psyche. So as people of righteousness, we must do our part to fight back and to warn others. Sounds right. But is it?
In the past weeks, more has been written about this movement. But hold on! Can we trust what is published in the mainstream media? More pastors have stepped up to warn their congregations about the dangers of QAnon. Oh wait. Maybe these pastors are part of the conspiracy, wolves in sheep’s clothing?! After all, anyone who speaks against QAnon speaks against Trump and hence cannot be trusted. In fact, anyone who votes against Trump contributes to the end of the Church. Really?
Chances are you have received one of such warnings or heard a few of such teachings from well meaning Christians. How are you processing these? Did you spam, er … share, these with your friends and pastors too?
I must confess that it is very enticing and tempting to feed on the QAnon offerings. It is like receiving some higher level information which normal people are not privy too. It makes one feel smarter, in the inner circle, and more spiritual. But is this how it is supposed to be? Is this what discernment looks like? Or is it quite the opposite?
Led by the Lord to read through Psalms and to post a verse each day with my own thoughts and reflections (#apsalmaday), today’s gleanings from Psalm 2 provide perspective as to how we should respond.
Reading this verse, I can’t help but think of the many conspiracy theories circulating these days. A new world order. A global government. A ruling elite. Population control. DNA-altering vaccine. Big Brother system. Whatever or however, these all go against the Lord and His Anointed.
Here’s the good news. God is not surprised or perturbed at all. In fact, He will have the last laugh (2:4). His Son, His Anointed, His Messiah – Jesus – will come to judge and to rule His kingdom in righteousness. How cool.
Don’t miss the hint in the final verses – be wise, be instructed.
No need to fear hidden agendas. Look instead to God’s plan that has been clearly made known to us.
No need to spread conspiracy theories or add to the rumours. Proclaim instead the gospel of the kingdom. Invite and remind all to “Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.” 2:11
And remember: “Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.” 2:12 (not in conspiracy theories or whoever the next president is).
9 September 2020 #apsalmaday
This may or may not be satisfactory to you. But as for me, it brought me comfort and helped me focus.
To be sure, where conspiracy theories are concerned, there are way more questions than there are answers. Depending on which way you go, it will lead to confusion, distraction and fear on one end, or a radical almost maniacal vigilante Christian resistance movement on the other. I believe that either extreme is not what the Lord expects of matured believers.
Whilst we may not be entirely clear of how things will pan out, or what is actually true or false, I hope we can at least agree on the following:
Yes, the world is in a mess in need of salvation. No, we don’t need more conspiracy theories to confirm that. Yes, the Church needs to wake up and fulfil her assignment. No, the Church is not ending anytime soon, nor can her existence be determined by the outcome of an election. Yes, we must be aware of deception in the final days. No, we should not add to the deception by spreading more lies and rumours we cannot verify. Yes, the days ahead may get more challenging for followers of the Christ. No, we are not surprised because these have been foretold and we have been forewarned.
There are still many more assignments to be fulfilled. The Church must not be distracted. There are enough fakes around. Let’s not add to that by being flakes.
We are people of Truth. Know the Truth. Live out of that Truth. Proclaim the Truth. Not theories.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.“
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.
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.