Follow Me: An Invitation to the Next Level

Photo by Jeremy Ricketts on Unsplash

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 experience with 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.

Matthew 4:19-20

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.

2021: Year in Review

Preaching about Emmanuel (Matt 1:23; Isa 7:14) last week caused my heart to be overwhelmed all over again. Truly, no matter what we may be going through or experiencing, our God is with us. My prayer is that you will experience His Presence afresh in this and every season.

As another year draws to a close, join me to give thanks to the Lord for what He has done this year:

  1. The message of Archippus Awakening continues to be declared. AAA Webinar (Mar) & AWE2021 (May) were the ‘official’ awakening and aligning webinars over Zoom. Beyond these, whenever God opens the door, I will simply open my mouth – Metropolitan YMCA (Feb), Bedok Methodist Church Alignment Seminar (Apr), Chapel of Resurrection Church Camp (May), Bartley Christian Church Alignment Check Seminar (Nov), BBTC AAA Webinar (Dec), etc. Just one message. Yet still so very relevant and appropriate especially in these times.
  2. More marketplace opportunities are opening up too. I spoke and shared at quite a few marketplace platforms – DBS Fellowship, CBD Fellowship, C-Friendz; and just last week, at Harborlight Church’s INFLUENCE Conference on “The Marketplace Christian”. I am also involved in a marketplace initiative called FMMD (Fellowship for Mentoring & Ministry Development) that seeks to train and raise more kingdom practitioners – totally Archippian. Going forward, we are praying how the Lord wants to use Archippus Awakening to awaken, align and assign the saints in this critical Area of Operation.
  3. We are halfway through our six-month aligning initiative – Mentoring Aligning Process (MAP). This run of MAP has been really interesting and exciting for both MAPpers and Mentors, comprising Archippuses from Singapore and the nations (Hongkong, Malaysia, India, UAE, Uganda & Nepal). The Lord is truly expanding the Archippian community, stretching and preparing us for even more up ahead.
  4. Speaking of nations, OPS AAKORN (Operation Archippus Awakening Kingdom Outpost [AAKO] Relational Network) has commenced and is progressing steadily. AAKO Uganda and AAKO Philippines have completed the eight-week Awakening Context training and are now declaring the AA message. AAKO Sandakan (Malaysia) has assembled a team to go through this training in Chinese, starting January 2022. AA has also been introduced in Hong Kong; we are now praying for a core team to be formed for AAKO Hong Kong. India, Nepal & UAE are next to be trained.
  5. KINGDOM101, the expository kingdom teaching series, premiered its final teaching for the year on 15 December. This video platform has extended the reach to many more, in Singapore and beyond. This year also saw the revamp of the teaching website, featuring video, audio and teaching summaries. Share this resource with your friends. Since the first session in March 2015, we are now at Session #122, just crossing over into Matthew 20. Another 12 dates have already been set for 2022.
  6. As we give thanks to the Lord for all the above, we also acknowledge a very key initiative – KINGDOM PRAYER INITIATIVE (KPI). Unknown to many, this was the first initiative of Archippus Awakening before anything else was introduced or implemented. From a small group that rallied around me to pray, KPI has grown into a team of intercessors that provides a prayer covering for Archippus Awakening and every Archippian endeavour. In July-August, we hosted a #fromthegroundup weekly prayer initiative using the Love Singapore’s 40-Day Prayer Guide. Just three weeks ago, we gathered at Changi Cove for a prayer retreat. It was such a meaningful time of fellowship, ministry to one another and receiving fresh direction from the Lord.
  7. Last but not least, in spite of Covid19 measures, book sales of SAY TO ARCHIPPUS & ALIGNMENT CHECK continue to be encouraging. These publications are still awakening and impacting lives for the Lord. A fresh order has been placed for the 6th print of Say to Archippus. Translation work is being finalised for Alignment Check (Chinese) and will  go to print soon. For this season, apply this coupon code: “EMMANUEL to get a 10% storewide discount at archippusawakening.org/shop (valid until 31 Dec 2021). 

Praise God for another full and fulfilling year! Thankful too for those He’s led to work alongside me, for the dedication and co-labour of TEAM ARCHIPPUS. I may have the honour and privilege of being the face and voice of Archippus Awakening. But God knows the sacrifice and effort of the many Archippuses who run with me, sharing the load and operationalising the vision. I give thanks to the Lord for each and every one of these fellow soldiers. In Singapore and the nations. #salute #buildthearc

Thank you for your partnership and support. Your prayers and cheers along the way greatly encourage me and are much appreciated. I apologise for not writing more regularly. To this end, if you ever need to get in touch with me, I am only an email away.

It leaves me to wish you once again – Blessed Christmas and an exciting new year to you and your loved ones! May the truth and reality of Emmanuel hold, sustain, enable and lead you through all He has prepared for you in 2022. And beyond.

In His love and for His glory!
Henson

21 Years: A Coming of Age

Turning 21 is a milestone. In many cultures, it marks the transition from childhood to adulthood.

In our family, our first-born turned 21 in 2019. A month and a half ago, it was his sister’s turn. Serene and I still find it a little odd but officially, they are both adults now. Our babies have grown up, come of age. Even so, at any age, they will always be our children.

This was the impression that came to mind – a coming of age – as I considered the significant date of 8 July. Each year, I will take time to reflect, remembering the day I heard the Lord’s invitation to follow Him at a much deeper level. This year, it would have been 21 years since I first said yes to Him in 2000.

What a journey it has been and continues to be. I have experienced God’s love, grace and faithfulness every step of the way. If you have not started following Jesus (and I mean, really follow Him), don’t waste another moment. Make this day the day you decide to follow Him and we can celebrate this anniversary together.

Here are my past reflections if you’d like to know the details:

In a blink of an eye, it’s been 21 years.

I can’t really explain this impression of ‘a coming of age’. Truth is, I don’t even know how to express it adequately. Notwithstanding, I will try my best because I want to have a reminder of this.

Back in my days, we didn’t have the concept of adulting nor the complications and complexities attached to it. We just reached a legal age of responsibility and were expected to conduct ourselves accordingly.

As I entered adulthood back then, as I came of age, I enjoyed a new level of freedom. I could come and go as I pleased. I decided for myself without having to explain or justify. It was a nice feeling. That said, I quickly learned that I would be responsible and accountable for all my decisions – both the right ones as well as the wrong ones. Not quite as fun. In fact, very serious and rather overwhelming. Yet, that was how I grew and matured. Experience is a great teacher.

In the same way, after 21 year of following Jesus, it is as if a new level of freedom has been unlocked for me. This is not to say that I was not free in Christ before this, for those whom the Son has set free is free indeed (cf John 8:36)! In Christ, I always had the freedom but perhaps I never knew how to enjoy that freedom to its fullest.

As I ‘turn’ 21, I am hearing the Father give me permission to enjoy this new level of freedom as I embrace new responsibilities ahead. To be sure, this coming of age is not so much about arriving than it is about arising.

As children, we would ask for our parents’ permission before being allowed to do anything. As adults, we no longer have to do that. With experience and wisdom (and a lot of hindsight), we are free to choose and decide.

It is with this freedom that I believe the Lord is challenging me to move forward with greater boldness and confidence.

With all I have learned in the past 21 years, led and guided by the Spirit, He is saying to me, “I trust you. Go ahead. You know your kingdom assignment. Do what you need to do. You don’t have to keep looking over your shoulder, wondering or worrying about what I will say.”

At the same time, the Lord reminds and encourages, “You may have come of age, but remember that you are and will always be My son. As an adult, it may feel scary and uncertain at times, as if you are out there on your own. But you are not alone, My son, I will always be with you.”

On this note, I am reminded of how my father trusted me enough to let me to run the advertising agency he founded and painstakingly built up. He gave me the freedom to do what needed to be done. Yet, freedom didn’t mean ‘anything goes’. On a regular basis, we met – for me to give account, to seek advice; for him to give input, to provide counsel. I may have appeared to be out there alone, but I was never left to struggle on my own. Mistakes, I made quite a few. But he continued to give me the freedom to learn and grow from those mistakes.

Please don’t read this as there is no longer a need for me to read the Bible or pray or seek the Lord for His will and direction. That would be a totally wrong takeaway. This is why I mentioned upfront that I don’t quite know how to express this ‘coming of age’ impression. I certainly do not wish to confuse or stumble anyone. Let me state it a little more clearly: There is a certain level of freedom that comes with maturity and yet the adult remains a son that desires to please the Father and fulfil His will. Makes better sense? I hope so.

21 years of following Jesus. And as the Son went about His Father’s business, I too am learning what it means to partner Him in the same business. In the purposes of the kingdom of God. With the same liberty and joy in the Spirit. With the same favour and authority as His son.

A coming of age. With this fresh understanding of freedom, I am looking forward to learning so much more in the days ahead.

I have no idea how that will be or what it would look like. For now, I will just celebrate turning 21.

7km to Mark 7yrs of Colossians 4:17

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”.

Here’s why.

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.”

Colossians 4:17

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”

Acts 20:24

8km to mark 8yrs? One day at a time. One step at a time.

#iamarchippus #7kmtomark7yrs

May My Work for Jesus Never Be in Vain

It doesn’t happen all the time. But this morning, it did.

I opened my Bible and the first verse my eyes fell on caught my attention, spoke to me:

For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain.

1 Thessalonians 2:1

Paul’s words echoed a deep desire in my heart – that my kingdom work will never, ever, be in vain. Like Paul, I want to be able to say this with confidence. I uttered a quick prayer under my breath. “Lord, may there always be fruit, even if I may not know it or see it.”

To encourage me, the Lord answered almost immediately – through an article in the Tung Ling Bible School Newsletter that just arrived in the mail.

It was an Open Letter to TLBS from a recent graduate who signed off simply as “Archippus W.” In case you are wondering … no, there was no student named Archippus in that cohort. Which makes this even more meaningful for me. From the module that I teach at TLBS, “Knowing & Fulfilling Kingdom Assignments”, the name and significance of the “almost anonymous” Archippus made a difference in this person’s journey.

I know that this may not mean anything to anyone. And that’s ok. This one’s specially for me. Courtesy of my King.

I know that all I need to do is my part and then leave the rest to God. But I wonder often if what I do or say is getting through at all. I know that I am not to be too results-oriented or performance-driven. I know, I know. Yet, who wants his or her work to be done in vain?

Paul was never ashamed of using these two words “in vain” and I guess we should not be apologetic either. After all, Scriptures clearly exhorts us towards fruitfulness. And Jesus says that we are to be known by our fruit.

There’s only one little problem. Sometimes, I may never know or see the fruit of my labour.

This is why I am so thankful for the Lord’s gracious encouragement this morning. Just one small article with a little sign-off of an obscure, little known name – Archippus. It is as if my King was whispering to me, “Keep doing what you are doing. It is not in vain.” Thank you, Jesus.

Dear Archippus – whoever you are – thank you for penning this open letter, sharing your journey to encourage so many others. That one phrase “to be like the almost anonymous Archippus in Colossians 4:17” and your identification with this biblical character have given me new strength to continue to proclaim the message of Archippus Awakening, knowing that it has not been and will not be in vain.

To God be the glory.

Awl for Jesus

Awl: a small pointed tool used for piercing holes

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

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

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

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

Awl for Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exodus 21:1-6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voluntarily. Willingly. For life.

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

20 Years of Following Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

8 July 2000, 40 Day Fast

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

The rest, as they say, is history.

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

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

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

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

1 Timothy 1:12 NKJV

20 years of following Jesus. Wow. Just wow.

And we’ve only just begun.

More Than Just Pray For Your Pastor, There Is One Thing That Will Really Help.

Recently, there has been an increased focus on mental health and emotional wellness. Not just in society, but also in the Church. Suicide rates are up as more and more are feeling down. Depression is the latest buzzword. Not just in society, but also in the Church. And it hits hardest when we discover that yet another pastor has taken his own life, the latest being that of Pastor Jarrid Wilson.

When that happens, it raises more questions than there are answers. How? Why? Is it even possible? Was he saved? Is he still saved? If you’re looking for a point of view, theological or otherwise, there are enough articles and contributions for you to consider.

Interestingly, most of the commentaries seem to focus on the person and his own self-care, or lack of. As a minister, I am fully aware of how easy it is to neglect this critical aspect whilst determining to give all to the Lord and His people. But there is more to it than just scheduling that personal retreat or chilling over a cappuccino every once in a while.

According to this Church Leaders article, Why Are Pastors Depressed?, a Canadian study by Rev Andrew Irvine of Knox College, University of Toronto, highlighted five key contributors to stress and mental illness in clergy:

  • Lack of Rest or Day Off
  • Lack of Support From Fellow Clergy and a Sense of Competition
  • Lack of Personal Community
  • Marital Strain
  • Signing Up for Ministry but Feeling More Like a CEO Than a Pastor

Please read the full article for a better appreciation of the points. Having served the Lord in a full-time capacity since 2004, I can relate to each and every one of these points. Allow me to add some of my comments so that no one misreads, misunderstands or misinterprets anything.

Lack of Rest or Day Off: It is not that I don’t want to rest, but that it is difficult to do so. Yes, I know the theology of rest and I have preached it more than a few times (to myself too). More easily said than done. I am thankful that presently, I have the flexibility to push hard or pull back. Many pastors do not have that luxury. The demands of ministry and our acute sense of responsibility are a potentially dangerous combination.

Lack of Support From Fellow Clergy and a Sense of Competition: This is really ironic, right? We preach family and teamwork from the pulpit. But when the rubber hits the road, it is often ‘every man for himself’. Sadly, this is still the case in many places. Although we would like collaboration, it is competition we experience. Real or perceived? Perhaps we still need to deal with our own insecurities. Sigh.

Lack of Personal Community: Ministry is all about people. And yet, ministry can be extremely lonely for pastors and leaders. It is not that we don’t want to get close to the people but as odd as it sounds, the people don’t always want the leader to get too close. We are good for vision, direction and instruction. But when it comes to interaction, building authentic relationships, there seems to be this barrier. And since all ministers are busy and stretched, it is difficult to form relationships there too.

Marital Strain: I thank God for Serene and all she has had to put up with. More than a few times, I have neglected her and her needs for the sake of the ministry. It has not been easy for her (seven children & homeschooling) but she has stood by me in every season. Few understand the dynamics and challenges of our family and ministry. Our pet phrases are: “If it’s not you, then it’s me. If it’s not me, then it’s you.” and “If don’t laugh, can go crazy.” Thank God that we are still able to laugh.

Signing Up for Ministry but Feeling More Like a CEO Than a Pastor: Oh man! I sure can relate to this! Back in 2012, it became so frustrating and unbearable: I left my job for the ministry, only to find myself back in a job! I am so thankful that I discovered my kingdom assignment in Archippus Awakening. Now, if only I can just go awaken the saints without having to worry about strategy, administration and management! Hmmmm …

Yes, I have good days and also bad days. There are times when I feel so low that it is scary (no joke). Thankfully, these moments are brief and few; and they go away after a good run around the park. (Of course, read bible, pray, worship, etc.) This does not mean they do not return every now and then. I am well aware that physical and mental exhaustion can trigger such negative feelings and emotions. At the same time, I am also mindful that the enemy is all too ready and willing to help me feel worse about myself, the ministry and others around me.

Thanks for reading and sharing in my struggles and that of many others who serve as pastors, ministers and leaders. We appreciate your words of appreciation, encouragement, support and prayers.

However, more than just a call and reminder to “Pray for Your Pastor” or observe “Pastors Appreciation Month” (coming up in October – in USA, not Singapore), there is one thing that would really, really, really help: that you know and fulfil your God-given kingdom assignments. (Did you see that coming?)

I believe every minister desires to serve God and His people well. That is why we do what we do, often at the expense of our own well-being and health. On our part, we must strive to achieve the right balance and seek help when needed; hopefully not when it is too late. That said, the people of God have a part to play too. If the majority largely remains consumeristic, then the load and stress will remain on the same small percentage of workers. If that is the case, just telling your pastor or leader, “I will pray for you, for God to enable you to do great and mighty things for Him!” sounds nice but is not going to help very much.

Please don’t get me wrong. I appreciate every prayer uttered for me and on my behalf. However, as sweet as these may sound, it is music to our ears when we hear faithful ones step up and say, “Pastor, I know what my kingdom assignment is. I am going to co-labour with you. It is not easy but together, we will share the load, so help us God.”

The above five points are indeed great reminders for me as I navigate the challenges and demands of ministry. Most definitely, by His grace, I will be careful to constantly check my own alignment where these are concerned. As I do my part, I pray that you will do yours too. More than just pray for your pastor, seek to know and fulfil your God-given kingdom assignments.

Trust me. That would really help.

Who Do You Say That I Am?: 19 Years of Following the Christ

19 years.

I would have missed marking this milestone if the host had not mentioned it as she introduced me last Saturday. Credit to her, she did a little research and discovered that it was on 8 July 2000 that I received the Lord’s call to full-time ministry. “In two more days, that would make it 19 years!” she remarked. (Thanks, Tiffany, for the reminder!)

I then went up and preached from Matthew 16:13-19 (for both Saturday and Sunday services). The message was entitled “Who Do You Say That I Am?”, drawn from my book, Alignment Check, about Peter’s revelation and confession of Jesus as the Christ.

As if written specially for me, the passage for today’s Love Singapore 40.Day Devotional is Matthew 16:15-17!

“He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (emphasis mine)

Matthew 16:15-17

I know that this may mean nothing to anyone, and that’s fine. Over the years, I have learnt that God speaks to each of us personally and intimately in ways that we understand. More than a few times, He has used these little divine ‘coincidences’ to encourage and affirm me.

These are His gentle whispers in my ear, telling me, “Keep going, Henson, you’re on the right track. I know it is not always easy, but you’re doing fine. Keep going.”

This is why I make it a point to reflect and write about the day He called me. As the years roll by, I cannot rely too much on my memory anymore. Thank God that He sends people (like Tiffany) to remind me, and that I have past posts to refer to:

19 years.

Thank You, Jesus. You’re not just a saviour, redeemer, restorer, deliverer, coach, healer, counsellor, teacher or friend. You are the CHRIST, the Messiah, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Thank You for saving me and for inviting me to participate in the advancement of Your kingdom. May I always have a fresh revelation of who and all that You are. Please continue to enable and encourage me to keep keeping on for You! Amen.

The Crossing Over to the Other Side Always Begins with a First Step

I snapped this shot whilst on a short family break five years ago. As I looked over the horizon, the way forward extended into nothingness.

Having been instructed by the Lord to drop everything without even knowing the next assignment, this picture sure described my situation so accurately. And yet, I knew I had been told to cross over; and that cross over must begin with a very first step of obedience by faith.

It would be 10 days later, on 27 Oct 2013, that the Lord would reveal the next assignment to me – Archippus Awakening. Five years and many steps later, what a journey it has been! Even so, I still don’t know what lies ahead. All I know is that my King and Master, JESUS, is more than faithful and He will lead me forward as I determine to fulfil all He has assigned to me entirely by His grace.

Today, I face a new horizon and another crossing over. After five years, is it not odd that the next step still feels like a first step all over again? The principle remains: every step must be taken with obedience and faith. Truly, it is not where we have been, but where we will continue to go with the One who deserves all worship, praise, glory and honour.

And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry
which you have received in the Lord that you may fulfil it.” Col 4:17