Even in the Wrestling There is Rest

Almost out of the blue, as if an overnight occurrence, the most talked about topic is that of mental wellness.

The sad irony is that, just a while before this, the tone was a lot more accusatory and damning with many wondering why the younger generation is a lot less resilient and a lot more ‘strawberry’. Today, the narrative has been flipped on its head. If anyone as much as dare suggest that someone doesn’t have that mental mettle, he or she is promptly taken to task.

Here’s the scary thing. It’s not just a local problem. It’s a global one. Here’s a scarier fact. It’s not just experienced by non-believers. It’s also experienced by Christians. And judging from the sudden surge of articles, sermons and seminars in Christian circles, the percentage is not low.

Since I am no mental wellness expert, I will not attempt to write anything that may be misconstrued or challenged. All I offer is a simple word picture that popped into my mind as I pondered the place of wrestling and that of rest in the midst of challenges. The Lord opened my eyes to see ‘rest’ embedded in ‘wrestle’. Wow.

It’s all too easy to think that it is one and not the other. Clearly, we have swung to one extreme. But in trying to correct it, we must be careful not to swing to the other extreme. The key really is in knowing how to wrestle well and still be rested in that endeavour.

In Archippus Awakening – where I challenge many to know and fulfil their God-given kingdom assignments – the phrase that is used is ‘knowing how to work from a posture of rest.’ Yes, perseverance and endurance are required that we may fulfil our assignments. Yet, rest and restedness are very much a part of the process; without which, we will break down, give in and give up.

There have been many times where, in striving to give my best to the Lord, I have succumbed to stress, negative anxiety and even experienced extremely low periods of depression. Understandably, the work, demands and pressure may have been very heavy but the real issue is that I have taken myself out of His rest.

Kingdom goals, however well-intentioned, had become my own agenda. My reliance, regardless of how well I spewed Christian cliches, had been more on my own strengths and abilities than it should have been upon the Lord and His empowerment. My pressing on (more Christian-talk) was really more about preserving my pride than it was about persevering in humility. No wonder I was stressed and anxious. I was not rested at all. (I often quip that ‘stress’ is simply messed-up ‘ressst’.) I readily declare that it is all about Jesus; when in reality, it became all about me. Remembering the rest that I have in Him has helped me bounce back to continue to wrestle. And to wrestle well.

We have much to learn from Jesus, our King. He worked very hard but was always at rest. He knew when to engage and when to dis-engage. If anyone had to live up to expectations, Jesus did as Messiah and the Saviour of the world. #nopressure

Was Jesus ever mentally and emotionally stretched, anxious, stressed or perplexed? I believe so. Mark 14:33 records that our Lord was “troubled and deeply distressed” in the Garden of Gethsemane. To the point that it manifested physically through His sweating drops of blood, a condition known as hematidrosis (Luke 22:44).

Yet, through it all, because Jesus knew His assignment, He never once gave up. That He may fulfil what the Father sent Him to do, the only thing He gave up was His own will in submission to His Father’s will.

Jesus wrestled. Big time. Yet, in and through that wrestling, there was rest. It didn’t feel ok but He knew it would be ok. I believe this promise is available to us too – if we would learn how to appropriate it in Christ.

Today, more than ever, there is a battle for our minds. The pace of this digital world and the influences of social media are not helping one bit. What we set our minds on matter. A lot! If we do not renew our minds and be transformed, we will conveniently conform to the default pattern of the world (Rom 12:2). If we do not hold every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, we will be held captive by the arguments and philosophies of this world (2 Cor 10:3-6). If we set our minds on the things of the flesh, it will lead to death. But if we would set our minds on the things of the Spirit, the promise is life and peace (Rom 8:5-6).

It is really encouraging that there is increased awareness of mental wellness today and more attention is being directed to help those who are struggling and suffering. In this area, I have lots more to learn and catch up on.

If you are wrestling with any issue, don’t let it escalate or wait until it’s too late. My prayer for you is that you will discover the rest that is found only in Jesus Christ. That said, being a Christian doesn’t mean that you will no longer wrestle with the challenges and issues of this life or your own faith. Trust me – I am still wrestling with God on so many fronts. The assurance is that if our focus is always on Him and His promises, it’s ok to keep wrestling. Because in and through that wrestling, there is the promise of rest.

Faith & Vaccination

Those familiar with this site will know that this is where I share my views and thoughts. At times, strong points are made and firm positions are taken. Then again, at other times, I may ramble a little as I process matters that are not quite as straightforward. This is one such case.

Regardless of how simple or complicated the issues may be, I strive to remain biblical, to the best of my own hermeneutical ability at that point in time. In no way and at no time do I wish to confuse, stumble or mislead anyone.

I am starting with this rather serious-sounding disclaimer because this post is about vaccination. Or more precisely, the place of faith for Christians where Covid-19 vaccines are concerned.

I am not supporting or recommending anything. Hence, there are no links or references to anyone or anything. I am merely making a personal observation. So don’t pick a fight with me here. Also, please do not spam this site with articles for or against vaccination. This is not the place for pro-vaxxers or anti-vaxxers to convince the other group of your stand. If you wish to comment, please do so cordially and politely. In any case, inappropriate comments will not be approved. Remember, once again, it’s more about faith than it is about vaccines. Thank you.

Here goes…

According to experts, the narrative is: Get vaccinated. It’s safe. Let’s label this as Position A.

However, the alternative narrative according to another group of experts is: the vaccines are experimental, not proven, and thus not safe. This will be Position B.

An over-simplification perhaps. But at the end of the day, it does boil down to two groups: those who are willing to be vaccinated; and those who prefer not be vaccinated.

At this point, I must emphasise again that this post is NOT about any particular vaccine. Instead, it is more about the faith of believers and how they respond to the above two broad positions that I find interesting.

For those who have accepted Position A, these have faith. In the authorities, experts and the system. Ultimately, they have faith in God since He is the One who has put these in place. Where spiritual leadership is concerned, pastors and elders have encouraged members to be vaccinated. Whilst not all have done this openly over the pulpit, many have led by example by being vaccinated (and proudly posting on their own personal social media accounts).

For those in Position B, these have faith in God to protect them whatever the outcome. For one, that they will never ever get Covid-19. For another, if they should be infected, that they will recover. And in the worst case scenario, it is still good news because they get to be with the Lord. Similarly, as for Position A, there are spiritual leaders who have opted not to be vaccinated. Or have adopted a wait-and-see approach.

Whether Position A or B, both groups have faith.

More recently, more information, discoveries and warnings have surfaced. Those who have already taken the vaccination are understandably concerned. But what’s the typical Christian response? Faith, of course. Vaxxed but not vexed (sorry, couldn’t resist that). For example, “I believe that even if the vaccine is harmful, God will protect me.” Or “If I pray in Jesus’ name, the negative effects will be reversed.” To these, those in Position B will ask, “If God can protect you from the ill effects of the vaccine, is He not also able to protect you from the virus? Why take the vaccine then?”

Again, both groups have faith.

But which is the correct faith? Or should such a question even be asked? After all, who are we to question a person’s faith, right?

If you have been vaccinated and are generally well, I am thankful for that. Yet, for those who have experienced less than favourable conditions and outcomes – although no one can or is willing to attribute any of these to vaccines – my heart goes out to these too. Sure, the percentage may be negligible but I sure do not relish that I or any of my loved ones be counted amongst those statistics, however small.

Does this mean that one has less faith if one opts not to be vaccinated then? Not necessarily. Does having faith automatically mean that one will never get Covid-19, vaccinated or not? Not at all. Faith, for the vaccinated as well as for the unvaccinated, means that no matter what happens, we are able to give thanks in all situations, continue to trust the Lord and to keep praising Him.

As at the time of this writing, where Singapore is concerned, vaccination is very strongly encouraged but remains voluntary. I am thankful for that and pray that it remains as such – voluntary. This is where decisions can be carefully and prayerfully considered and made according to one’s faith and conscience. This also means that whatever the decision, there should not be any reward or stigma attached. It would be totally inconsistent if the government says it is voluntary yet allow organisations and businesses to set their own rules and requirements, thereby making it mandatory. Yet, since vaccination is very strongly encouraged, a certain pressure to conform is only to be expected. Even so, for now, there is freedom to choose. Who knows what tomorrow holds?

At this point, you may be wondering where I am going with this post. You’re not alone. I am also wondering what I am trying to say, if anything at all. As mentioned, I am merely making an observation about the place of faith in this hot potato topic of vaccination.

Notwithstanding, please permit a small opinion here.

However faith is exercised, especially within the Body of Christ, this issue must not divide us. I am not here to tell anyone to vaccinate or not. At the same time, I will not judge anyone according to his or her vaccination status. Likewise, church communities should not discriminate between the vaccinated and the non-vaccinated. We must also be careful and responsible how we comment about the authorities and policies, whichever position we hold to. It would be totally ironic that we as people who profess and declare radical faith end up being viewed as those who respond as if gripped by irrational fear.

End of my one-cent opinion.

All said, I am thankful for the measures (vaccinations aside) that have kept Singapore’s Covid-19 numbers comparatively low. Admittedly, this has permitted me to ramble and reflect in a certain way. Would I offer the same perspectives if I were in a place where cases have spiralled out of control? Then again, should faith not be consistent wherever or however?

Hmmm… the processing continues 🙂 In the meantime, keep the faith.

I Am Still Here

I know. It’s been a while since I last posted anything here. So here’s a short post to let you know that I am still around 🙂

Like everyone else, this season has been a time of constant adjustment and adaptation. Disruptions notwithstanding, things picked up on the ministry front for Archippus Awakening. As such, much of my focus has been directed over there; which explains the silence on brohenson.org. (Honestly, it’s hard to maintain two websites.)

After consistently writing newsletters to update friends and partners (and anyone who is interested) – since 2004 – this exercise lapsed after September 2020 Newsletter. My apologies if you have been waiting for the next newsletter to land in your inbox.

From my own observations, other than the odd acknowledgement and encouragement, I wonder if these updates have become a blind spot, just another email in the inbox clutter these days. To this end, I decided to pause for a moment to consider and decide if I should continue writing these updates.

This does not mean that you don’t get to know how I am or what I am presently engaged with. I continue to be active over at Archippus Awakening website and social media accounts (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Soundcloud); as well as my own Henson Lim Page on Facebook. I also write regularly from Archippus Awakening’s platform through “From the Desktop of Henson”. If you’d like to hear from me as well as receive other AA updates, subscribe at tinyurl.com/aaupdates.

In case you are not already aware, I do all my teaching and preaching through Archippus Awakening, a ministry dedicated to awakening the saints to know and fulfil their God-given kingdom assignments. I share this because I still get queries as to where I preach or how can one hear my messages, etc. Understandably, most still expect to find a pastor preaching in a particular place or church. Not anymore.

Going forward, brohenson.org will continue to exist. God willing and schedule permitting, I hope to revamp this personal website to better cater to and serve the needs of subscribers, followers, readers and visitors. For this, I’d love to have your input as to how I can do this more efficiently.

Drop me an email at brohenson@gmail.com if you have a thought, suggestion or request. If nothing else, it’d be great just to hear from you so that I know at least someone has read this short post and has made the effort to keep in touch. Thank you!

That’s all from me. For now.

For Jesus and His kingdom
Henson

Christmas 2020

What a year it has been.

2020 may be drawing to an end. But we are still far from the end of the present crisis. I don’t know what new normals the new year will present. All I know is that we can expect more adjustments and adaptations ahead.

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel”, which is translated, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23

Although Christmas may be celebrated a little differently this year, the truth of Christmas remains the same. Jesus is still Immanuel. God is still with us. My prayer for you and yours is that you will experience this truth in the person of Jesus Christ even more powerfully and personally in and through these uncertain times.

The message of Christmas remains the same too. More than just a word of comfort, it is an offer of salvation.

“And she shall bring forth a Son and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

The salvation we need is not from an external crisis of Covid-19 but an internal condition of sin. Theories may abound as to the origin of this dreaded virus. The truth is that the virus is a consequence of sin and sinful humanity. Even if one does not die from the virus, without Jesus, one will still die in his or her sins and forever be separated from God. For this reason, God sends His Son to save mankind from sin, and be reconciled to Him. All that is required is faith in Jesus Christ.

Perhaps, it is good that Christmas is not as festive this year. It allows time and space for reflection and response. If you are not a believer yet, would you accept the Christmas gift of salvation through Jesus? If you are already a Christian, with church and Christian activities drastically disrupted, ponder the true essentials of the Christ life.

From our family to yours, here’s wishing you a very, blessed Christmas. And may the new year present you with new opportunities to live for Jesus and His kingdom.

Henson & Serene
with David, Sarah, Aaron, Esther, Ruth, Deborah Hope & Anna Joy

Taking a Rainbow Out of Context

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 9:13–17 NKJV

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 3:10–13 NKJV

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 3:5–7 NKJV

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).

Let’s summarise.

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?

Covid-19 Disruptions: Two Reminders for the Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alignment Check, p29, emphasis mine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Covid-19: Faith First

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

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

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

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

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

Psychological

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

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

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

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

Economic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pause and Pray: Pray

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

Medical

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Kanye Is Simply Kanye. Jesus Is King.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Say To Archippus, p26.

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

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

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

John L. Cooper, Facebook Post

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

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

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

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

Colossians 4:17

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

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

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

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

Never Say Never

Each time I speak at a church for the very first time, I make it a point to share a photo of my family, affectionately referred to as “The Lim Tribe”. Especially if it is a large screen, our already larger-than-normal family appears that much larger and will immediately draw oohs, aahs and wows from the crowd. It works really well as an ice-breaker as it distracts everyone and gives me time to warm up and get used to the new location and congregation – haha!

Since my wife is not always with me at speaking engagements, I will then proceed to identify and introduce Serene. To keep it fun and light, I share four things that Serene said she never ever wanted to be:

  1. Never be a Christian
  2. Never get married
  3. Never have children
  4. Never stay at home

Well, we now know how that all turned out. Today, Serene loves and serves Jesus, is married to yours truly, is a mother of seven children, and also a stay-at-home homeschool mother.

Yup. Never say never!

More recently, Serene felt it would be good to write a series about each of these nevers to share on her website, Building Up Moms. I am so glad she did! More than just details about how these nevers became un-nevered, it is a testimony of how her entire life was impacted by God; and continues to be so.

I hope you will take some time to read about Serene’s 4 Nevers. In her casual and candid style, Serene shares openly and authentically with the hope that you will be likewise encouraged to acknowledge and trust in a great and faithful God.

Here are some snippets from each post to entice you:

No, there was no lightning and thunder à la Paul’s road to Damascus experience. But a very firm conviction that THIS IS THE TRUTH.

Never be a Christian

So I often wonder how did we end up together and have so many things to talk about? But talk we sure did. And we are still talking – thanks be to God!

Never Get Married

God did not just change my mind, but He changed my heart when He challenged me to walk my faith talk. Do I mean what I say when I say that I trust Him or not?

Never Have Children

It has been a humbling yet enriching and rewarding journey. It is indeed a privilege and honour to be a stay-at-home-mother, a role that I had previously pooh-poohed at. A role not to be taken lightly.

Never Be a Stay-At-Home Mother aka Housewife

Whenever we look back at these 4 nevers, our conclusion is that God has a great sense of humour. After all these years, it is hard to imagine how our lives would have been had God not intervened or if Serene had responded differently. All we know is that we have both learnt and grown so much.

Personal preferences, we all have. But to choose to let God take the lead is definitely the best way to go … even if it means letting Him un-never your nevers.

Do You Struggle With Perfectionism?

Hands up, those of you who struggle with perfectionism.

I see your hand…I see your hand…I see your hand. Welcome to the club!

My name is Henson, and I am a perfectionist too. There you go. I’ve confessed. And that is good for the soul, right? Nice. The problem is I still struggle with this dreaded perfectionistic tendency each time I get down to work. I find it hard to settle down until I deliver the ‘perfect’ piece of work.

There’s another word that doesn’t sound so bad – excellence. Yes, I want to be excellent in all I do because I desire to give no less than my best to the Lord. Isn’t that what Colossians 3:17 means when Paul wrote, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”? Amen!

And yet, time and again, I fail to discern between excellence and perfectionism. As a result, I end up striving and stressing, relying on my own expectations of how things should or could be, instead of resting in the Lord and trusting Him for the final outcome.

This morning, I made a conscious effort to cast every care and concern over to Him. (That’s biblical too.) After my long list of petitions and requests, this thought popped into my head:

“God does not require a perfect work to work perfectly.”

Boom! No, there was no thunder or lightning, but BOOM! That silent thought reverberated so loudly that I knew it had to be the still, small voice of the Lord. It was firm, yet gentle. This was not a rebuke, but a reminder.

God is not upset when we strive to give our best to Him. However, it is not His desire that we end up fretting and worrying, taking it out on ourselves and others. In spite of our imperfections, God is still able to bring about His perfect work!

Mind you, this is not permission for us to cut corners or be shoddy in our work. The way we work must still be an extension and expression of our worship of God. That said, no matter how hard we try, or how well we do, it still falls far short of what He truly deserves. Yet, our less-than-perfect sacrifices are accepted because of His grace, because of the perfect work of Jesus Christ.

Without a doubt, I will continue to be excellent for Jesus. Thank God that His perfect work is not dependent on how perfectly I do mine. May I always be reminded to just do my best, and leave God to do the rest.