Christians all over the world celebrate this glorious day, remembering and declaring the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
All good. But what about the rest of the year? The other 364 days? Do we live in light of the resurrection? What does it mean when we say that we believe in the resurrection?
Allow me to share at least four implications with you.
If we believe in the resurrection, we believe the Scriptures entirely, not part of it.
Paul tells us that Jesus was resurrected according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This means that everything that God says is true. He will fulfil every promise. We can stand upon His every word. The question is: “Do we believe it?” Because faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of God. Why do we believe in the resurrection, and still doubt everything else in His word? That is inconsistent and a misalignment. If we believe in the resurrection, we can believe the Scriptures and we will live our life according to every word that God says!
If we believe in the resurrection, we believe in the power of God, that God is able.
In Ephesians 1:19-20, Paul prayed that we may know “what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places”. Our God is able, more than able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we can ask or imagine, according to the power that works in us (Ephesians 3:20). This power is the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead and that seated Him in heavenly places. If we believe in the resurrection, then we believe in the exceeding greatness of this same power. Nothing is impossible for God. He is very powerful. The question is: “Do we believe it?” Why do we believe in the resurrection, and still doubt God’s power? That is inconsistent and a misalignment. If we believe in the resurrection, we believe that God is able. More than able.
If we believe in the resurrection, we will live our life in light of the resurrection with kingdom purpose.
If there is no resurrection, then we have no hope. When life ends, everything ends. If that is the case, then we have nothing to live for. We only live for ourselves. Paul says that “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” (1 Corinthians 15:19). If we believe in the resurrection, then there is great hope and purpose for us. If we believe in the resurrection, then we will prepare for the fullness of the kingdom. We have kingdom assignments to fulfil for the King and His everlasting kingdom. What we do now in this life, we are laying up heavenly treasures for the life to come. The question is: “Do we believe it?” Why do we believe in the resurrection, and live without purpose? That is inconsistent and a misalignment. If we believe in the resurrection, we will live our life with kingdom purpose.
If we believe in the resurrection, we can look to the rewards when we spend eternity with Jesus.
In Revelations 20:12, it says: “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” If we believe in the resurrection, then we also believe that we will stand before Jesus to give account. If we say that we believe in Jesus, then we will live our life entirely for Him for we are no longer our own, we belong to Him. Salvation is free. But rewards are earned. How we live for Jesus today will determine the prize & rewards we will receive when we stand before Him. If we believe in the resurrection, we will be obedient to the Lord. We will be faithful to fulfil the kingdom assignments Jesus assigns to us. The question is: “Do we believe it?” Why do we believe in the resurrection, and not press towards the goal of the prize in Christ Jesus? That is inconsistent and a misalignment. If we believe in the resurrection, we will do our best and go for the gold!
If we declare that we believe in the resurrection, these are important implications for us to consider. Here and now. Resurrection is not merely a future event to be looked forward to. Resurrection life and power are present realities for everyone in Christ. If we believe in the resurrection, it will determine how to live or die for Jesus and the sake of His kingdom.
If, however, you are not yet a believer of Jesus Christ, I have news for you. Resurrection and eternity apply to you too. When life ends, it will not be the end. Yes, you will also be resurrected to stand before Jesus. You will be judged according to everything you have done and said in this life. Without the blood of Jesus, without faith in Jesus, you will not stand a chance before a holy and righteous God. Eternity will not be good news for you; for Scriptures warn of eternal damnation and torment for those who do not believe in Jesus Christ. Do not wait until the end, until it is too late. Now is the time to believe in Jesus.
After issuing the mandate (that’s what Maundy means) for His disciples to love and serve one another, Jesus identifies the one who would betray Him. In Gethsemane, His closest disciples fall asleep as He grappled with the prospect of death by crucifixion. On trial, His star student denies Him three times.
Ouch. Ouch. And ouch. Painful. Super painful. And we are not even talking about the cross. Yet.
As one moving on kingdom assignment, I understand the feeling of aloneness. This is not to say I do not appreciate the many who have rallied around me and continue to serve alongside me. So very thankful for these brothers and sisters. Even so, there are many moments where you know it is your assignment and you are the one who has to fulfil it. No matter what. Even if no one is there for you. This, I know and accept.
What I find difficult to stomach is the pain of betrayal and disappointment. As a leader, I wish I didn’t have to experience this at all. Wishful thinking, I know. Almost every leader I know has had his or her share of such experiences.
And yet, in a strange but sovereign way, it was Judas’ betrayal that kickstarted the fulfilment of Jesus’ kingdom assignment. I can’t imagine how our Lord felt that night, and that morning, on the way to the Cross.
This is a big lesson for me.
No one said that moving on kingdom assignments would be easy. Add people to the equation and everything becomes even more complicated. Some will run with you and others will leave. Just keep moving. Learn from every situation, every mistake and strive to be a better leader with the Lord’s help. Even so, not everything is your fault. Not everyone will understand you all the time. The key is to know what the Lord has asked you to do and be faithful to fulfil that by His grace and with His enablement. By His sovereignty, and if He allows you to discover on hindsight, not a single experience, however painful, will be wasted. It might, in fact, be the very impetus that pushes you towards the completion of your assignment.
I sure am glad that betrayal and disappointment didn’t stop Jesus from fulfilling His kingdom assignment. Otherwise, we will not be beneficiaries of His salvation through the work on the Cross.
Similarly, as I move to fulfil my kingdom assignment, Lord, help me brave the pain that others may also gain. May neither betrayal nor disappointment ever distract or deter me from what you have tasked me to do.
To mark 22 years since hearing the words “Follow Me” on 8 July 2000, I am sharing the message I recently preached at Wesley Methodist Church (24 April 2022). May many be convinced that when we believed in Jesus, we became His disciples. His invitation to follow Him is a continual invitation to the next level of commitment. I responded 22 years ago and have never looked back. My prayer is that you will do the same.
On the occasion of Wesley Methodist Church’s 137th Anniversary, TRAC President, Rev Stanley Chua said:
“The greatest failure of the church is not our poor evangelism but our poor discipleship. You see, when Christians fail to be true disciples of Christ, they become just like the world, behaving and living their lives that are no different from unbelievers. And in so doing, they become indistinguishable from unbelievers as they have lost their light and saltiness and become poor witnesses to those around them. And in the worst-case scenario, they stumble others and prevent them from knowing God.”
Methodist Message, April 2022
I am in full agreement with Rev Stanley. However, as I considered this predicament, I cannot help but wonder why this is so. After all, there is no lack of resources, teaching, programmes, seminars, conferences, where discipleship is concerned. In spite of the abundance of such offerings, in my interactions with different pastors and leaders, the issue of discipleship seems to be a very common challenge across our churches.
To make it more obvious, we add the word intentional; hoping that this will provide the needed emphasis and push. So, we intentionally preach and teach about discipleship, we intentionally offer more classes, seminars and conferences, etc. Sounds right, but is it?
Perhaps the issue is more fundamental than it is intentional?
What if we are missing a very basic point in the way we define and understand discipleship? … in the way we follow Jesus?
In our age of social media, the word follow has been totally re-defined.
For example, if you want to know what a person or company says, or has been up to, you follow them. Some celebrity and influencer accounts attract thousands and millions of followers! Very impressive.
We too are thrilled when we get a few more followers. But careful, a follower could also be a stalker! Or a gossip! Have you seen or heard the latest? Post. Share.
In today’s terms, not much is required of a follower. If we bring this understanding into the Church, what then does it mean to follow Jesus? We are happy to get the information, the updates, attend the meetings, maybe help out every once in a while. But that’s about it.
As such, a church could have thousands of members who consider themselves as followers of Jesus and still struggle with discipleship! Why? Because many believers/followers do not consider themselves disciples of Jesus. Like the celebrity accounts, Jesus has thousands, millions, of followers. But not quite as many disciples.
Let me state once more: the issue is more fundamental than it is intentional. We have missed a very basic point in the way we define and understand the word disciple.
In its simplest form, whether in Greek (matethes) or in Latin (discipulus), disciple just means ‘student, learner, pupil, follower’ In relation to Jesus, a disciple of Jesus is a student of Jesus; a learner of Jesus; a pupil of Jesus; and a follower of Jesus.
Here’s the truth: If you are a believer of Jesus, you are a follower of Jesus. And since a follower is a disciple, a believer of Jesus is thus a disciple of Jesus. If you are a believer of Jesus Christ, you are a disciple of Jesus Christ!
This is where the problem is. Most believers have no issue declaring that they are followers of Jesus. But many believers struggle with identifying themselves as disciples of Jesus. Without acknowledging and accepting our positions as disciples, can you see why discipleship remains such an issue? Intentional or not?
As you wrestle with these thoughts, allow me to encourage you through Matthew 4:18-22 – an extremely familiar account about Jesus inviting the four young men to follow Him.
And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.
Matthew 4:18-22 NKJV
However, the problem with familiarity is that we already have certain ideas and pre-suppositions about this account. To address this, let us be good students of the Word and ask FIVE key questions that will help unlock the right perspectives and answers.
Question 1: Was this Jesus’ first encounter with Andrew, Peter, James & John?
It is easy to presume that this was a first or chance meeting: Jesus walks along the beach, spots Andrew, Peter, James & John and says, “Follow Me.” Due to His over-powering charisma, they drop everything and follow Him.
This is not the case. Thanks to the gospel of John 1:35-42, we see that Andrew had already met Jesus earlier through John the Baptist – on the day after Jesus’ baptism. In fact, Andrew (and another) left John the Baptist to follow Jesus. Andrew then brought Peter to Jesus. John was very likely the other “one of the two” who followed Jesus (since it’s typical of John not to mention himself in his gospel). Since James is always mentioned alongside John, it is highly probable that James would have also met Jesus by then.
This was not a first encounter with Jesus. They were already following Jesus. Keep this important point in mind as we consider the next questions.
Question 2: “Follow Me” Was this a call to discipleship?
The section header in our bibles suggests so – Four Fishermen Called as Disciples. But in my opinion, NO.
We have already noted that Andrew and John were disciples of John the Baptist who “switched” discipleship to Jesus. Two days later, in John 2:2, “Jesus and His disciples” turn up at the wedding in Cana. I believe we can include Peter and James too.
Since these were already disciples, “Follow Me” was an invitation to the next level of commitment. Up until this point, Jesus’ exposure was largely limited, in smaller settings.Jesus knew it was time for a greater public ministry. The invitation was for the disciples to follow Him at a deeper level, a higher level. It’s no longer as and when, but all the way, whatever it takes.
It is the same for us. Jesus is always inviting us to go deeper and higher with Him. This is consistent with what the Church is inviting you to do: to take the next step. The Lord is inviting you to follow Him, to the next level of commitment.
Let me state again: This is not a call for believers to become disciples. You are already disciples. It is an invitation to the next level of commitment, to follow Jesus in the next phase or season of the work of the kingdom.
Many still think (wrongly I might add) that we have to be called to be a disciple. As such, too many are still waiting for the call. Others are happy to ignore or miss the call. In the gospels, not all disciples were called. There were many who expressed the desire to be Jesus’ disciples. They believed in Jesus and thus wanted to follow Jesus.
Andrew, Peter, James & John believed in who Jesus was and what He promised so they readily followed. If we believe, we will follow. Whilst one can follow without believing, one cannot believe without following. Conviction will always produce action.
You don’t have to wait to be called to be a disciple. If you are a believer and a follower of Jesus Christ, you are already a disciple. When Jesus says “Follow Me”, He is inviting you to get to the next level of commitment as His disciple. Take the Next Step.
I know some of you may still be struggling with this. It sounds right BUT I don’t feel very qualified to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. So let’s tackle another very fundamental question:
Question 3: What qualifies one to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?
Let’s consider the four young men.
Andrew, Peter, James and John were all Galileans. Galileans were not exactly well-regarded. They were not considered as spiritual people. If you want to find spiritual and holy candidates, you go to Jerusalem, where the temple is and where all the religious types are found. But Galileans? #cannotmakeitla
They were fishermen. These were considered tradesmen like carpenters, brick layers, blacksmiths. This meant that after turning 13 years old, after Bar Mitzvah, they didn’t make it to continue learning under a rabbi (basic Torah training). They were Rabbi Rejects! Hence, their involvement in a trade or returning to help out in family business.
In Acts 4:13, they were described by the religious leaders as “uneducated & untrained”. They were not theologically trained, didn’t go bible school, or DISCIPLE programme.
Yet, Jesus invited these to follow Him! It doesn’t take very much to be a disciple: Just believe and follow. However, because of how we have defined, taught and understood discipleship, many believers still feel unqualified to be termed a disciple. We think of all the requirements of discipleship and promptly disqualify ourselves, justifying it is a higher call for a special select of the elect; but not for me.
I preached a series of messages once, encouraging believers to see themselves as disciples. After the service, I asked a sister, “So how? Are you a disciple?” She hesitated and said, “I don’t know. I still feel I’m not good enough.” Guided by the Holy Spirit, I gently asked her, “What qualified us for salvation? To be children and people of God?” She replied, “Nothing. We just believe.” AMEN! We believe Jesus. He receives us! That’s just it. By grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).
It’s the same for New Testament discipleship. We are qualified by grace through faith. Rabbis of old may have selected and accepted the worthy ones. Jesus only invites us to believe in Him and to follow Him. He makes us worthy and qualifies us!
None of us qualify to be good enough for Jesus. Not to be saved. Not to be His disciples. That’s why the Cross was necessary. That’s why the Resurrection is revolutionary. When we believe, we die with Jesus; and are raised up to live for Jesus. In Christ, we qualify!
Question 4: What enabled the four to respond immediately to Jesus’ invitation?
Have there been those who have responded immediately to Jesus, without question, without hesitation? Of course. However, in my observation and learning, for many, it is usually a process that leads to this point of deep conviction and total abandonment.
I believe this was also the case for the four young men.
As we have already established, this was not their first encounter with Jesus. They had prior experience with Jesus. From the start, Jesus invited them to “Come and see.” John 1:38-40. They went with Him on short-term missions. They saw miracles and witnessed power encounters. They saw Jesus in action.
More importantly, they had personal experience with Jesus. More than just learning about and seeing the things of the kingdom, they had a relationship with the King. This experience was personal. What is your personal experience with Jesus? I am not asking about your church experience. Or how you have grown up in a Christian sub-culture. You can do church and talk Christian and still miss Jesus.
Even more, they were given a glimpse of a promised experiencewith Jesus: They would progress from fishermen to fishers of men. They would get to do greater works than Jesus. They would be given the keys to the kingdom of God. They would get to rule and reign with Jesus!
If you had all these and a promise of what’s to come, would you not follow Jesus? If not, what are you believing in?
Having grown up in a Christian environment, I knew how to behave as a church person. That was not enough to keep me from backsliding. In 1994, by the Lord’s grace, He drew me back into a real relationship with Him. As I believed, I followed. Slowly. Step by step.
Six years later, on 8 July 2000, the Lord said to me “Follow Me.” I had already been following Him. But this time, I knew it was an invitation to the next level. With prior experience, founded on personal experience, spurred on with promised experience, I said “yes”, quite immediately.
I know many of you have prior experience with Jesus – you have experienced His grace and faithfulness, you have seen His power at work. I also know that you are aware of the many promised experiences, for these are offered to all without exception. The challenge for many is that their relationship and experience with Jesus is not personal. My prayer is that you will receive a fresh revelation of your Saviour and King today. When that happens, I am certain you will immediately and wholeheartedly follow Him.
Our hearts may be willing but I am also well aware of the struggles and hindrances. As such, we must consider the final question:
Question 5: What holds us back from a deeper commitment following Jesus?
To follow Jesus, the disciples left their nets,boats and father.
Nets represent the entanglements & entrapments of life. In the Parable of the Sower and Soils, Jesus warns about the “cares of the world”, the trappings of this life, as well as the deceitfulness of riches (Matt 13:22). Paul reminds Timothy that a good soldier of Jesus will not be entangled with the “affairs of this life” 2 Tim 2:4. For some, they are held back by fear and doubts, hurts and bitterness, or unforgiveness. For others, when sin is not decisively dealt with, Hebrews 12:1 warns that these will ensnare and hold us back from following Jesus.
Boats represent assets & securities. James & John may have had a thriving family business that they would one day inherit. There is nothing wrong with having assets and securities. The question is: Are we trusting in these or in Jesus? When Elijah asked Elisha to follow him, Elisha promptly slaughtered his yoke of oxen and burnt the equipment – his assets and securities – and followed Elijah. Sadly, too many hold on to their bank accounts and assets and end up not following Jesus.
Father represents relationships & comfort zones. Leaving parents may sound odd or irresponsible to us. But in the days of Jesus, it was not a surprising idea. Parents are happy to have their children follow after a rabbi who requires full commitment. Today, our preference is for our children to study hard, get a good job, just serve a little in church, no need to be so radical. In church circles, many are happy to stay where they are because of friends and family – although they are not learning or growing at all. Church then becomes a social club with great fei-lo-ship.
In Luke 14:26, a difficult verse about hating father and mother, Jesus is not asking us to neglect our relationships. He is asking us to serve Him first, then our loved ones. As disciples of Jesus first, we become better husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons & daughters.
If you are struggling to surrender these, I understand. However, I am also here to tell you, that in my nearly 30 years of following Jesus, He has never let me down. Our needs have always been provided for. Our King and Master is more than faithful! Jesus is totally worth following and the leaving of our “nets, boats and father”.
Before we close, here’s a bonus point about following Jesus for those who are leaders or involved in discipleship initiatives. This is where I believe the intentionality of discipleship is directed at. Even if more are convinced to acknowledge themselves as disciples, what we do not need are more discipleship classes or programmes; we need more discipling.
Then He said to them, “Follow [deute opiso] Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed [akoloutheo] Him.
In Matthew 4:19-20, two different words are used for the English word “follow”:
The first ‘follow’ has the notion of “being behind”. Jesus’ invitation was for the disciples to come after Him. We are to follow the lead of Jesus as He goes before us. He is the leader who sets the example and provides the reference.
That’s what disciplers are to do too. Classes and bible studies are good. But leading, setting the example and showing the way is even better. Conducting a class is much easier, of course. But we miss the heart of discipleship if we do not provide the right reference for others to imitate us as we imitate Christ.
The second ‘follow’ has the notion of “accompaniment, to go with a teacher”. Here, the invitation is to come alongside. We are to follow by keeping in step with Jesus. The picture is that of relationship.
Discipleship is primarily about relationship. But relationship takes time; and our greatest struggle is time. That’s why we compromise the process of discipleship.
Reference & Relationship. Notice the progression. We start by observing and learning from behind, then grow to be walking beside, working alongside, in partnership with Jesus and one another. That’s what discipleship looks like.
In closing, let me share a quotation from Bill Hull, the author of “The Complete Book of Discipleship”.
“When the distinction between disciple and Christian disappears, so does the damaging belief in a two-tiered church. A disciple, then, is the normal Christian who follows Christ.”
Bill Hull, The Complete Book of Discipleship, p33
I hope you are convinced that there is no difference between a believer, a follower or a disciple. A believer of Jesus is a follower of Jesus, a disciple of Jesus.
The question to ask is not “Am I a disciple?” but “Am I a faithful or unfaithful disciple?”
I say again: The issue is more fundamental than it is intentional . If believers refuse to acknowledge that they are disciples, then no amount of persuasion will get these to respond. After all, discipleship initiatives are only for disciples and I am not one. I’ll just be a believer, thank you very much. [If that is what you hold to, then to be consistent, I regret to inform you that many of Jesus’ promises and words and assurance do not apply to you. Because these were all directed to disciples.]
Allow me one last attempt to press home the point.
In the New Testament, there are 274 mentions of the word ‘disciple’.
Surprisingly, these are found only in the four gospels and in Acts. Which begs the question: If Jesus’ command was to go and make disciples, and discipleship is so important to the church, why are disciples not mentioned in the epistles and in Revelation?
There are only two possible explanations. One: The apostles messed up big time and never taught anyone about being disciples. Or Two: There was no need to mention disciples because it was understood that all believers were disciples. I don’t believe the apostles messed up. I am convinced that the epistles to the churches were letters and instructions to disciples.
In Antioch, the disciples were called Christians for the very first time (Acts 11:26). They were disciples who were labelled as Christ-ians (those who belonged to the Christ). Today, we call everyone Christians first. Then hope and pray that some will become disciples.
The issue is more fundamental than it is intentional. If we would acknowledge that we are all disciples of Jesus, perhaps we would be more intentional to live as faithful disciples.
Jesus is still inviting all to follow Him. To the next level of commitment. Brothers and sisters in Christ, disciples of Jesus, would you take the next step?
Let us pray …
Lord Jesus, the invitation to disciples to follow You is clear. We are the ones who have complicated things, even rationalized and justified why discipleship is optional, or only for some. Forgive us. Wherever we may be in our walk and relationship with You, enable us by Your Holy Spirit, to take the next step, to move to the next level of commitment to follow You. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.