Soldiers Don’t Get To Pick Their Battlefields

I chose to write this post on the Archippus Awakening website as the subject matter relates closely to all who identify as Archippuses, as soldiers of the Lord’s army. That said, this is also a good reminder for one and all as we consider our willingness to serve as the Lord assigns, whatever and wherever. Blessings!

Archippus Awakening

Who would have imagined that the Elected Presidency would become such a hot topic in Singapore? To date, not everyone is convinced if it is necessary to have a reserved election that the next President would be one from the Malay community. Whilst that is still being debated, the discussion has moved to who is a Malay?

And with Mdm Halimah Yacob’s decision to run for the Presidency, a side story emerged – that of Mr Tan Chuan-Jin’s appointment to be the next Speaker of Parliament – surprising many and prompting speculations that the full minister (ex, as of 10 September 2017) has been demoted.

As the House convened today (11 September 2017), Mr Tan was elected as its 10th Speaker. Amidst all the views, comments and criticisms, it is the response of Mr Tan that has not only caught my attention, but also earned my respect.

Please read…

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What has 38 Oxley Road got to do with the Church?

Our Little Red Dot has caught the world’s attention again.

However, this time, it is not for something Singaporeans can say we are proud of. Yes, I am referring to the recent family feud involving the Lee siblings concerning 38 Oxley Road.

As I considered the exchanges across the numerous platforms, this question popped into my heart: “What about the Church?”

The Church of Jesus Christ is both the family and the house of God. Everyone agrees that Church is not a building or a place we go to, but the people of God. But when it comes to executing the Father’s will, not everyone is in agreement how Church is to be.

There are the same accusations of power play, over reliance on an institution, over dependence on one prominent personality, and the pushing of personal agendas. Some say that we must demolish the establishment, others shout a vehement ‘No!’, whilst others are willing to consider options along the spectrum. And so, the siblings in Christ continue to squabble over what to do with the house, taking to social media to air our views with articles, videos, memes and hashtags.

Meanwhile, as the world watched the Lee saga unfold, the world is also watching the Church. As the Lee siblings risked tarnishing the name of their father and Singapore’s founding father, might we be doing the same to the Name of our Heavenly Father when we fight against one another?

I have had a heavy ministry schedule over the past two months. Four church camps in June. Launched Archippus Awakening’s pilot mentoring aligning process on 1 July. KINGDOM101 resumed last Wednesday 5 July. On Sunday, I preached at two churches. In between the services, I found myself missing Serene and children dearly. The family has been so supportive, never complaining whenever the work of the ministry takes me away from them. That afternoon, I had a deep yearning to be with them. Thankfully, no one had any appointment that night (can’t presume these days with teenagers) and the Lim Tribe went out for dinner.

Exhausted from teaching and preaching, I didn’t talk very much. Just being with Serene and the children was enough for me. Over dinner, around the table, the children engaged with each other. They talked, they teased one another, they laughed together. Half the time, in the noisy restaurant, I couldn’t make out what they were talking about. But it didn’t matter one bit. My heart was filled with joy just watching them interact with one another.I thought to myself, “This must be how our Heavenly Father feels when He sees His children loving one another and enjoying each other’s company.” I know I felt it that night, and it felt really good. My prayer is that the Lim siblings will continue in this love and friendship with one another, come what may. In John 17, Jesus prayed for believers, siblings in Christ, to be one. For sure, this would please our Father in heaven.

Thankfully, the Lee siblings have agreed to take things offline so that what is family can be kept within the family. This will benefit a far bigger cause, that the Prime Minister and his government will not be distracted to do what they have been elected to do – govern Singapore through these challenging times. After all, it’s not just 38 Oxley Road but the greater house of Singapore that Singaporeans must be concerned with.

Perhaps the Church – the elect of God – can learn from this episode. Would we, the family and house of God, be willing to set aside differences for the greater cause of the kingdom of God? Sure, the house must be set in order, and that we must do. But there is a much larger picture of the kingdom of God that will require brothers and sisters in Christ to stand together.

Personal, ministry and denominational agendas cannot be the order of the day. It has been, and it will always be, about the Father’s will, is it not?

These thoughts were first shared in Henson’s July 2017 Newsletter. To receive One Day At A Time newsletter updates directly in your mailbox, subscribe here.

Why Don’t We Quote Jesus More?

There’s not a day when my social media Newsfeed is not filled with quotations from well-known Christian authors and speakers. This becomes even more pronounced when a conference is ongoing, and for a few days after. Almost everyone, it seems, is wowing at the revelation of these one-liners. There seems to be so much wisdom and depth in these sayings that these must be shared with the rest of the world.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with sharing these ‘ah-ha’ moments. That’s what social media is all about, isn’t it? You come upon something good and you want everyone to know. Post. Share. Like. Repost. Comment: “Word! Truth!”

Sounds edifying enough. But of late, my concern is if we Christians may just be revering the words of these men and women of the hour so much that we altogether miss the words of Jesus, our Master and King. I began to notice that more and more preferred to quote anyone and everyone, except Jesus. Where congregations are concerned, it is not uncommon to hear the phrase, “My pastor says…” Again, it is not wrong to listen to pastors, the under-shepherds. But what about Jesus, the Good Shepherd?

Applying this to myself, I made a conscious effort to read through the gospels again, to see what Jesus said in those accounts, and to hear what He would say to me, and to us as His church. Each day, I would post a saying of Jesus (or two).

The exercise has been an interesting one. Perhaps, I do not possess a big enough ‘friend’ or ‘follower’ base, but unlike the clever and witty sayings of the big names, the sayings of Jesus, the Name above all names, usually do not attract too many ‘likes’ or ‘comments’. Once in a while, you get a few ‘amens’, but that’s about it. (Maybe, if I take the trouble to use a fancy font and insert a breath-taking background image, that might help.)

Personally, it’s been enriching to read and re-read the gospels, to hear my Master and King speak directly and precisely. Naturally, I prefer the verses that remind me of His love, grace and blessings. That said, I cannot skip the parts that appeal less to me, and Jesus, at times, says some rather hard stuff pointedly and without compromise! Whilst I like to hear (over and over again) of how special I am to Him, how highly favoured and richly blessed I am in Him, the truth is that it is really not about me at all! And if I am to be totally honest, the sayings of Jesus promptly reveal how I have missed Him and His kingdom in the way I understand Christianity and do church today! Have you heard what Jesus says about following Him, obedience, faithfulness and readiness?

Ouch! No wonder the writer of Hebrews says, “For the word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him, to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:12-13

I do not mean to dishonour, discount or discredit any teacher and preacher. As one myself, I am greatly encouraged when someone shares how he or she has been helped by the uncovering of a little nugget of truth through my teachings or messages. Yet, no matter how good, inspirational or motivational a communicator is, his or her words are never to supersede or replace that of Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, read the Word of God for yourself. Listen to His voice for yourself. Hear what Jesus says to you, and then obey Him. It is not just what apostle so-and-so says, or what prophet so-and-so says. It is what Jesus says that truly matter. If you need to quote anyone, quote Him who has both the first word, and also the final say.

God’s “No Mercy” Policy

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I was hoping for “no pain”. Instead, I was told, “No mercy.”

Earlier this year, sometime in April, I began experiencing a tightness around my left shoulder. I have no idea how it came about. Just one day, it was difficult to remove my T-shirt after a run. Perhaps a pull or muscle strain, I thought. So, I left it for while, hoping it would go away on its own. But nope, the tightness persisted. I was just thankful it didn’t become worse.

Six months later, I find myself at the doctor’s, listening to the various possibilities of a tendon tear, an impingement or a bone spur. A common occurrence, I am told, for someone who has come of age. Yes, growing older.

This morning, with X-ray and ultrasound results in hand, I met my doctor friend again (same ACS cohort). Other than a slight bone spur causing mild adhesive capsulitis (fancy term for frozen shoulder), the tendon and muscles are all ok. As such, surgery is not required – for now. To help bring down the inflammation, the doctor administered two jabs (slight ouch). After this, it’s back to the physiotherapist for stretching exercises.

And that’s when he said, “No mercy.”

He added with a smile, “If she gently sayang sayang you, no point.” Ya right, thanks. Just what I needed to hear 🙂

As I drove home, I couldn’t help but think about the two words – no mercy – in the context of the Church and Christianity today. With the present focus on love and grace, “no mercy” sounds so incorrect. Too harsh. Surely, this has no place in the Body of Christ. After all, the God we know is full of mercy, is He not?

Of course, He is! And that will never change for His mercy, His lovingkindness endures forever! However, we must not forget that, at times, when needed, our God also administers a “no mercy” policy.

Like my shoulder, there could have been something that has caused irritation, stress and pain in our lives. As much as He is able to bring relief, He also desires that the tendon/muscle be stretched out and strengthened again. And for that to happen, pain may be experienced for a while more before the desired effect is achieved. Through that process, the Lord expects us to bear through the pain and discomfort, for our own good. In that, He says, “No mercy. You’ve got to push through until you get the breakthrough.” He knows that gently sayang sayang will not do the job at all. On the contrary, it is firmly sayang sayang (tough love) that our faith will likewise be stretched and strengthened.

In the Body of Christ, might there be an increasing proportion that seeks to grow without the pain? Are there questionable doctrines that have developed like bone spurs causing irritation and restricting mobility in the Body? Why can’t God just remove the discomfort instantly? If He is indeed good and merciful, surely pain and suffering cannot be from Him. With such thinking, no wonder there is such concern that the next generation of believers has grown soft, unable to take any pressure or pain. O, God forbid, that we should become a frozen (shoulder) generation!

At my first visit, the doctor took one look and observed that my left shoulder was a tad shrivelled owing to lack of use. Easing the inflammation was one thing. Getting me back in shape was another. And it’s the same with our spiritual walk and growth. As a miracle-working God, He could simply zap away all pain. But if that was all He did, we, and consequently, the Body of Christ, would remain shrivelled and weak. For sure, our God is more than able to do His part. But He also expects us, both personally and corporately, to do ours: to exercise, to stretch, to grow up in Christ.

Thankfully, we can rest assured that through it all, He watches over us, and will be with us, enabling us as we lean entirely on Him. For sure, His grace remains sufficient for us, even as He administers the “no mercy” policy.

With that, I fixed my appointment with the physiotherapist. Caution: Ouch Ahead!

Word of the Year 2016: Post-Truth Christians Too?

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The Straits Times, 17 Nov 2016.
Each year, Oxford Dictionaries will pick a word to describe the trend or sentiments of that year. And it has just been announced that the Word of the Year 2016 is post-truthan adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.

The prefix post- used to refer to a time after a specified situation or era. However, in recent years, it has been modified to mean ‘unimportant’ or ‘irrelevant’. In other words, post-truth literally means that truth is no longer important; or worse yet, no longer relevant.

Although mostly associated with Brexit and the recently concluded American elections, one cannot help but wonder if this sentiment is applicable beyond the arena of politics? In community? In relationships?

What about the Church?

Noticeably, in the past decade, there has been a steady departure from the Word of God. This is not to say that preachers do not refer to the Bible for their messages. They still do. However, the focus and emphasis on sound doctrine is considerably much less. Theology is regarded as boring and too complicated, so let’s not waste too much time on such academic stuff. And so, messages today tend to major on addressing issues of self-esteem, positive thinking and personal pursuits of health, wealth and happiness. Simply, as long as it makes you feel good, then that’s fine. After all, God is a good God and He loves you very much. And since the truth hurts (and it does), let’s not dwell too much on that.

This type of thinking is so pervasive in the Church today that many are willing to disregard truth and discard doctrine. Feelings and emotions, although subjective, are considered more important and better indicators of a relationship with God, than that which is objective and true. Have we not heard this before: “I know it contradicts the Bible, but I have been so blessed by that person’s teaching and ministry.” Even if some of these fringe on being heretical, believers are willing to accept it on the basis of it-feels-right-so-it-must-be-right reasoning. Besides, if it’s wrong, the Holy Spirit will prompt me accordingly. True?

Anyone who has not experienced the same experience is deemed to be less spiritual, or spiritually dead. To not go with their flow is seen as not being led by the Spirit. What is worse is that any attempt to question is seen as legalistic, judgmental and Pharisaical! And soon, we’d have to add Bereanic to the list too because the searching of Scriptures is no longer relevant (Acts 17:11).

This does not mean that the Bible is no longer needed. Not at all. For sure, Bible apps are cool and will continue to be used. It’s easy to find verses and really good for creating image posts on Facebook and Instagram. Bible studies will continue to be well attended too. After all, that’s what Christians do – gather in groups, read a passage, and then give personal opinions of what it means to them. But to consider it absolute Truth, to live out the Word and be totally submitted to its authority? Does God require that at all? Surely not, since we are no longer under the law, right?

You may think I’m being a bit extreme here, over-reacting perhaps. I assure you, I am not. Truth be told, the Church is struggling to understand what it means to remain relevant in a society that is post-modern, post-Christian, and now, post-truth. To the post-modernist, truth was relativised and each decided what was true or not. In a post-Christian climate, Christian fundamentals were challenged and done away with. Alternative worldviews slowly but surely replaced the Christian worldview, both in the society and in the Church. In a post-truth world, anything goes. It no longer matters what is true or not, because truth is neither important nor relevant. Whatever works and produces the results, that’s cool. Yes, the end justifies the means.

As in the case of the recent elections, Christians were divided as Christianity became more politicised. It mattered not if the candidates told the truth or lied. Moral conduct was of no consequence. Truthiness, “the quality of seeming or being felt to be true, even if not necessarily true”, instead, was the order of the day. Why? Because truth is totally irrelevant in a post-truth era … as long as we get what we want and are allowed to continue to have church as usual.

But is it really church as usual? We have already seen denominations split over doctrinal disagreements. Some have embraced LGBT in the clergy and in key ministry positions. Others have endorsed same-sex marriages. In the name of grace and love, sins are glossed over. One day, a prominent minister confesses sexual misconduct, the very next day he is re-instated and no one bats an eyelid. Oh, I am sorry. Who am I to judge? And on what basis? Truth? What’s that?

But seriously. Church as usual? Let us not be so naive.

I suppose the Apostle Paul saw this day coming when he wrote to Timothy: “These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living, the pillar and ground of the truth.” 1 Tim 3:14-15 NKJV (emphasis mine)

Yes. The Church is to be the pillar and ground of the truth. Whatever the world says, whichever era we may be found to be in, we are people of the truth. However, more and more, we can expect that truth will be resisted and even rejected (2 Tim 3:8-9). There will even be those who regard themselves as Christians, who talk and sound Christian, but never come to a knowledge of what truth really is (2 Tim 3:7)!

As the pillar and the foundation of the truth, the Church is not there to just talk about truth, teach about truth, or have lofty philosophical discourses about what truth is or is not. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy was that the truth would be clearly demonstrated and seen through their conduct. Along the way, false apostles, prophets and teachers will appear. But the Church is never to compromise, holding steadily to the Word of Truth (2 Tim 3:16-17), paying careful attention to doctrine (1 Tim 4:16), led by the Spirit of truth, who guides us into all truth (John 16:13).

I am fully aware that come 2017, there will be another Word of the Year. But this does not mean that truth will necessarily be returned to its rightful place of importance or relevance. Our Lord Jesus Christ has already warned about the increase of deception in the last days, that many will be deceived. The post-truth era merely opened the door of deception even wider.

May all who profess to know Jesus – the Way, the Truth and the Life – continue to hold fast to Him and His Truth. And may we, His Church, also be found to “be diligent to present [ourselves] approved to God, [workers] who [do] not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Tim 2:15

If it’s Good For God, it’s Good For Me

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It wasn’t a response I was used to. Honestly, I don’t remember being taught to pray or speak like that. Perhaps, that’s why the verse caught my attention as I was reading 1 Chronicles 19.

The Ammonites had engaged the help of the Syrians to fight against Israel on two fronts. When Joab realised that the enemy was both “before and behind”, he assigned Abishai to handle the Ammonites, and himself, the Syrians. After pledging to help each other out should either front proved too strong, Joab said:

“Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our God. And may the LORD do what is good in His sight.” 2 Chr 19:13

Wait a minute! That didn’t sound like a prayer of faith, did it? Shouldn’t Joab have declared boldly that God has delivered the enemies into their hands? Or if that was too presumptuous, then at least that God would deliver the enemies into their hands. Should he not have proclaimed victory in the name of YHWH?

Given the faith teachings I have been exposed to, that’s what I would have done. Yes, victory in Jesus’ Name!!! Or at the very least, a good outcome – in my favour of course. After all, I am more than a conqueror, an overcomer! Yeah! Lemme at ’em! Grrrrrrrrr!

Well, Joab didn’t do any of that at all. In effect, what he said was, “Hey bro, let’s just do our part and leave the result to God. Whatever the outcome, it’d be cool. If we win, praise the Lord. If God decides it’s best to sacrifice a few pieces for the sake of His larger plan, and we lose and die, that’d be ok too. May the LORD do what is good in His sight.” In other words, whatever was good for God would have been good for Joab.

By our understanding these days, Joab would have been considered a doubter, one who is unsure hence choosing to leave it open-ended, just in case. But as I read and re-read the verse, I don’t see doubt at all, but faith. Here was a man who was willing to trust God, no matter what. He would still do his part – his very best – for God, for his king, and for his people. Given a choice, a good outcome would be to defeat the enemy and to win the battle. But ‘good’ was not for Joab to define. ‘Good’ was for God to determine. And whatever was good for God would have been good for Joab.

In no way am I suggesting that it is wrong to ask for favourable outcomes. There are enough examples in the Bible of such prayers. In fact, no one needs to teach us how to pray for good outcomes because we do that automatically. Going on a picnic, we ask for sunshine (not too hot). Sitting for an exam, we ask for good grades (easy questions). Playing against another team, we pray to win (because asking for the other team to lose just doesn’t sound right). Seldom, if ever, would we pray, “May the Lord do what is good in His sight.”

Joab’s response has really caused me to ponder if I would be willing to adopt that same posture in all situations? If I truly believe God is sovereign and in total control of all things, would I trust Him completely for and in all outcomes? If I declare that God is good and His mercy endures forever, would I accept that a negative or bad occurrence can still work for good because a good God has allowed it. And if He deems it good enough to be allowed, would I allow Him to show me the good in and through what has been allowed, even if it didn’t seem very good to me?

Through this reflection, I am reminded that faith is not only the ability to ask and believe what I have asked for, that I may receive. Faith is also the willingness to leave God to be God, to do as He pleases, however that may turn out in the end. And if it’s good for God, it’s good for me.

Make AWESOME AWESOME Again

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I’ve said it before, and most likely, you’ve said it too.

  • After a great time of singing: “Wow, worship was AWESOME!”
  • Someone delivers a near faultless performance: “She was AWESOME!”
  • A message that stirred your heart: “Oh, that message was SO AWESOME!”
  • After a retreat or camp: “We had such an AWESOME time!”
  • A child does well for his exam: “You are AWESOME!”
  • Sampling the latest culinary fare: “That was AWESOME!”
  • Seeing a breathtaking view: “Whoa, AWESOME!!!”

It seems that these days, anything good, beautiful, pleasant, satisfying, exciting, emotional qualifies to be AWESOME. As long as things are going well for you, and life appears to be good, we can boldly sing along with Emmet Brickowski of the LEGO Movie fame, “Everything is AWESOME!”

Yes, AWESOME is the new buzzword and the Church has had no problems Christianising it and claiming it as their own. After all, it does sound spiritual, so I suppose that makes it par for the course.

But is today’s AWESOME what AWESOME really is? Do we even understand what AWESOME means?

Of the 37 Old Testament verses* that AWESOME appears in, only 8 verses use words that may also mean ‘wonderful’, ‘powerful’ and ‘glorious’. But for the majority, in the other 29 verses, the original word used is ‘yare’, derived from ‘yirah’, meaning ‘fear’. In the New Testament, AWESOME appears only once, in Acts 2:20, where Peter quotes Joel 2:31 (addressed below). From these, we also note that AWESOME is always used to describe God, His word and His works; never man or the works of man.

In Psalm 33:8, “Let all the earth fear the Lord; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.”, fear and awe are mentioned together. In Psalm 119:161, “Princes persecute me without a cause, but my heart stands in awe of Your word.” can be literally translated as “my heart trembles in fear at Your word.” Persecution may have been unbearable but the psalmist would not compromise God’s word not only because it was beautiful and glorious (although it most certainly is), but for fear of the consequences of dishonouring God through disobedience.

When Jacob encountered God at Bethel, he declared, “How awesome (yare) is this place!” For sure, it wasn’t merely goosebumps Jacob experienced because of the angelic worship team and the latest LED widescreen; it was fear, for Genesis 28:17 clearly records that Jacob “was afraid (yare)”.**

This should not surprise us one bit for our God is an AWESOME God. Indeed, He is glorious, magnificent, wonderful and powerful, and most have no issue with that at all. However, may I suggest that we have not even begun to understand how very, very, very glorious, magnificent, wonderful and powerful He is, to a point of terror and fear!? We have all had our personal experiences of entering the presence of one of higher authority and greater power – principal, commanding officer, prime minister, president. To a certain degree, we experienced fear. How much more the God of heaven and earth?

In Psalm 111:9, the psalmist declares, “Holy and awesome (yare) is His Name!” The KJV translation reads, “Holy and reverend (yare) is His Name!” Keeping in context, the next verse proclaims, “The fear (yirah) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” God’s holiness and AWESOMENESS is not to be trifled with, but to be feared and revered. No wonder Isaiah fell flat on his face (Isaiah 6:5)! No wonder the Apostle John fell as dead when Jesus revealed Himself to him (Rev 1:17)!***

Real AWESOMENESS is when you haul in a miraculous catch of fish and are immediately convicted of your own sin! In Luke 5:8, Peter didn’t go, “Wow, cool! That was really AWESOME, Jesus! You, the Man!” Not at all! Instead, Peter fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” – yes, Peter responded in fear! Which explains why Jesus had to comfort him with the words, “Do not be afraid.” (Luke 5:10)

In Joel 2:31, the prophet Joel described the Day of the Lord as “great and awesome (yare)”. Just in case you think it will resemble something of the closing ceremony of the Olympics to take your breath away, note Joel’s earlier mention in Joel 2:11, “For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible (yare); Who can endure it?” In other words, AWESOME means ‘very terrible’ or ‘fearsome’.

How far we have departed from the true meaning of AWE and AWESOME. According to the Online Slang Dictionary, AWESOME means “very good, excellent, fun, or otherwise appealing”. Sadly, in Christian circles, that is also the definition we have accepted. Without realising it, we have conveniently taken this descriptor, meant only for God, and applied it to everyone and everything. What is even worse is that we have adopted this slang and applied it to God. With this narrow, shallow, cutesy understanding of AWESOME, we have turned a truly AWESOME God into a pop idol that is only fun, entertaining and appealing.

I don’t think this little article can do much to change the way we use our language. When I have a positive experience, the word AWESOME may still roll off my tongue automatically. Likewise, I won’t hold it against you for proclaiming AWESOMENESS on your favourite ice cream flavour.

But let’s make AWESOME AWESOME again in the way we view God and relate to Him. Let’s put the AWE back into AWESOME for He is a holy God to be revered, honoured and yes, feared! Because I know that God is good and that He loves me, I have absolutely no problems with the words ‘fear’ and ‘terror’. Redeemed by the blood of Jesus and clothed in His righteousness, the fear I have for the Lord does not involve torment at all (1 John 4:18), but love, obedience and submission to His will and ways. At the same time, I heed seriously the warning of Hebrews 10:31 where the writer exhorted believers to examine their lives and conduct, for “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

The next time we sing, “Our God is an AWESOME God!”, let us truly, rightly and fully ascribe the AWESOMENESS that is due to Him and Him alone!

* New King James Version.
** This was way before the law was given.
*** John was a New Testament believer under grace.

Related Post: Who Says Faith And Fear Cannot Co-Exist?