Lighten Up. The Orchard Road Light-up Is Just That. A Light-up.

Artist’s impression of the centrepiece of this year’s light-up. (Image: Orchard Road Business Association)

I suppose the latest hoo-ha would be how Disneyland has hijacked Christmas in Singapore.

If you have been following the news, Disney characters will adorn this year’s Orchard Road light-up. Instead of the traditional Christmas symbols, the main icons will be Mickey Mouse and his gang.

But what are traditional Christmas symbols? Well, it all depends who you talk to, isn’t it?

As reported in Orchard Road Light-up: Is it Christmas or Disneyland?, a certain Ms D’Silva “feels it would be more appropriate if the decorations used motifs associated with Yuletide cheer, such as Santa Claus, reindeer, colours like red, green, gold, or beautifully wrapped presents.” In other words, to many, Christmas is identified by Santa Claus and the accompanying paraphernalia.

Commenting from a marketing perspective, NUS Business School Associate Professor Ang Swee Hoon feels that the Disney theme is perfectly fine – not an “overkill” – but “could be made tighter by associating each Disney character with a Christmas icon, say for example, a Disney princess with Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer or Mickey Mouse carrying Christmas gifts.” Once again, we see how closely Christmas is tied to Santa (Rudolph is Santa’s lead reindeer and Christmas gifts are all courtesy of Santa and his company of elves).

As Christmas has largely become a secular affair celebrated by everyone of all faith orientations, religious or otherwise, the above responses are not surprising at all.

That said, it was appropriate that the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) should have issued a statement to express its disappointment, “saying that its exclusive focus on Disney characters buries the original meaning of the festival.” To this end, it “has no meaningful connection to Christmas, which commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ.”

In response, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) explained that “the Orchard Road Christmas light-up was just ‘one of several components’ of the Christmas on a Great Street event, which also features pop-up booths along Orchard Road, including one run by Celebrate Christmas in Singapore, an associate member of NCCS.”

[Hmmm … reading between the lines, might the underlying message be, “Hey, you knew about this all along – that your Christian pop-up booth would be a part of the larger Disney-themed light-up. Why are you making a fuss now?” Taking it a little further … I can’t remember past light-ups in recent years but I believe there were no biblical symbols either. Why was that not an issue to be raised then?]

Whilst I appreciate that a statement has been made by the body that officially represents the Christian community in Singapore, my personal opinion is that Orchard Road is not the actual battleground for Christmas. If we want STB (and others) to regard and respect Christmas as Christian, I believe we must start by looking at how we Christians celebrate Christmas in our churches, events, families and homes.

Think about this: if we ourselves are sending mixed signals to the world, how can we expect others to protect the sanctity of the season for us?

Although we proclaim that Jesus is the reason for the season, we must also admit that many are all too ready to include Santa and other Christmas symbols in our celebrations. Like the responses above, these have become Christmas defaults. Like the stores and malls, the moment we get into the Christmas season (or Advent, in church-speak), churches somehow feel the need to create the Christmas spirit. Before we know it, Santa hats, snowflakes and candy canes begin to appear alongside nativity scenes. Hang on! If it’s about the birth of Jesus, why do we need Santa-ccesories? So, is it Jesus or Santa? Can we please make up our minds?

And we wonder why, of the more than 260 entries in the children’s art competition “What Christmas Means To Me” (recently organised by The Treasure Box), “only about 15% featured the birth of Jesus or something otherwise related to the story of Christmas (e.g. Wise Men, Angels, Shepherds etc). The rest were a cornucopia of everything and anything but – plenty of Santas, reindeer, Christmas trees, candy canes, presents, families eating Christmas food and so on.” It must be noted that many of these submissions were by children “from churches and faith-based kindergartens”  (Why we should care about the commercialisation of Christmas by Elvin Foong). Then again, should we even be surprised by the children’s authentic expressions when Christian adults have no problem having these symbols in their supposedly Christian Christmas celebrations?

My point is simply this: how can we expect others to take us seriously if we are all mixed up ourselves? As far as STB and the world are concerned, the Church seems to be okay with everything. If Jesus and Santa can co-exist, then why not Mickey Mouse, Woody or Elsa? Perhaps, next year, Christians would be appeased if Mickey donned a Santa hat. Or have Kristoff of Frozen as the main character since his name sounds closest to Kris-mas and his best friend is a reindeer. (Who knows? Sven and Rudolf may even be related!) Or better still, feature Toy Story characters gathered around the manger.

Personally, whilst I am not thrilled with the commercialisation of Christmas, I am not too concerned what they put up along Orchard Road, whether Disney characters or Marvel superheroes. And even if the entire retail stretch should be decked out with baby Jesus, choirs of angels, shepherds and wise men on camels, does it necessarily mean we would have scored a victory? I think not.

If Christians sincerely desire to recover Christmas, we don’t start with the lights and decorations along Orchard Road. We must begin with ourselves.

– Stop hoping and depending on the world to help us declare our King. The values of the world will always run counter to the things of the kingdom (have we not learnt that already?). Why are we so happy just to have a pop-up booth as only one of the many features of the Great Christmas Village when Jesus should be the main and only attraction? (Well, better to be represented than not at all, I guess.) Why do we need Orchard Road when we have more than 700 churches around the island to accurately proclaim the true meaning of Christmas?

– If it is truly about Jesus, then stop embracing Santa iconology and other commercial Christmas paraphernalia. You can still go carolling or have your cell group Christmas parties without Santa hats and reindeer hairbands. Really! Stop sending mixed signals, compromising and confusing ourselves and others. Maybe, just maybe, that’s why our children are drawing Santas and reindeer when asked what Christmas means to them. They are just following our example.

– Dispense with this Christmas spirit thingy; there is no need to compete with the retail malls (or other churches)! For all we know, the so-called Christmas ‘spirit’ is none other than the spirit of mammon in disguise. For sure, the only spirit we need is the Holy Spirit and we are to be led by Him not just in December but every day of our lives.

– Be a generous and cheerful giver throughout the year, not just at Christmas. Fox News just reported that “this holiday season, $16B will be wasted on unwanted gifts“. I wonder if this includes the Christmas gift exchanges so many are forced (er, encouraged) to participate in, just for fun, in the spirit of giving? (There’s that ‘spirit’ again.) Not exactly good stewardship, is it?

– The birth of Jesus is most accurately declared and demonstrated when He is truly birthed in our hearts and through our lives. No point being Christmassy for a season only to be considered as hypocrites for the rest of the year. To this end, it is His death and resurrection that we must fully embrace on a daily basis; not just celebrate His birth once a year. (Did Jesus Ever Celebrate His Birthday?)

I assure you that I am no party-pooper, and I know how to have a great time celebrating Jesus. In fact, I do that all year around.

Lighten up. Go enjoy the Orchard Road light-up without reading too much into it. All said, that’s all it is – a light-up to draw tourists and rake in more retail dollars. In a few weeks, the lights will be all gone; but not your love, worship and testimony of the True Light, Jesus. The way your face lights up each time you mention and share Jesus will mean lots more than what Mickey and his friends can ever hope to achieve.

Here’s wishing one and all a very merry and blessed Christmas!

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Do You Remember the 23rd Night of September?

I know the first line of Earth Wind & Fire’s hit song very well – “Do you remember the twenty-first night of September?” – except, for me, it’s not the 21st but the night of the 23rd that I remember.

While waiting for the train that night, I snapped a picture of the arrow just for fun. As recorded in my first book, Say To Archippus:

The next day, as I reviewed the post, the Lord prompted me to look more closely. Although the arrow was the object of the photo, it was the red line about the arrow that came into focus. I remember remarking, “Something’s blocking the arrow from moving forward.” And as soon as I said that I realised, “Hey! I’m that arrow and something is blocking me from moving forward!”

Soon enough, the Lord removed that line, inviting and allowing me to move forward with the assignment of Archippus Awakening.

This brief post is to mark the significant date of 23 September 2013: that night, the Lord used a simple visual device on the floor of an MRT platform to direct me into my kingdom assignment.

It’s been five years. Archippus Awakening just celebrated her 4th Anniversary on 3 August 2018. The Lord has opened many doors for the message of awakening to be declared – in Singapore and abroad. Soon, over the weekend of 3-8 October 2018, Team Archippus will bring this message to Guam, USA.

Just a few days ago, I shared this little arrow episode at the commissioning of Archippus Awakening’s second publication, Alignment Check. When Sujuan (designer) proposed an arrow for the cover design, it reminded me of the MRT arrow. Unknown to her, I had also been using the same visual to demonstrate the advancement of the kingdom of God. In the same way, before anyone can move forward, every believer must also find his or own alignment with the Lord and the purposes of His kingdom.

I firmly believe that the kingdom of God continues to advance and He graciously invites His people to participate in all He is doing. Dear Archippus, you are included too. Get on board. Do not allow anything to block you from what God has already prepared for you (remove the red line).

Focus on the aligning. Let God do the assigning. Move forward for Jesus and His kingdom.

To order SAY TO ARCHIPPUS and ALIGNMENT CHECK,
email archippusawakening@gmail.com.

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.

Two Words that Changed the Entire Course of My Life

I would have missed it … if not for Facebook’s prompter: “You have memories … to look back on today.”

How could I forget such a significant day!?

Well, to be fair, the past weeks have not exactly been easy. And this week has also been a packed series of meetings, teaching and preaching engagements too. As if that is not challenging enough, my mind has already raced ahead to next week’s commitments!

For all the bad press the social media giant has received recently, I am thankful to have been reminded by Facebook of this special day.

On the morning of 8 July 2000, two words would change the entire course of my life: Follow Me. In the weeks and months that followed, I responded to the Lord’s invitation to follow and serve Him. It has been 18 years! What a journey it has been, and continues to be.

Each year, I make it a point to pause that I may reflect and never forget the significance of that encounter, and the decisions that were made because of that encounter. But as mentioned above, I almost missed it this year!

This afternoon, as I worshipped with the Filipino congregation of Full Gospel Assembly, the presence and goodness of the Lord overwhelmed me. When the worship leader led the song, “I need You more“, tears filled my eyes as memories of God’s faithfulness over the past 18 years flooded my mind and heart.

These two lines were especially meaningful to me:

I need You more
More than yesterday

Yes, it has been 18 years. That said, it has only been 18 years. If I needed Him yesterday, I need Him today and tomorrow too! If I needed His grace and enablement for the past 18 years, I sure need a lot more of that to fulfil all He has assigned to me.

Later, I brought the family out for a meal to mark this special day. Over dinner, I took the opportunity to tell the children what actually happened 18 years ago (when we had just two children then), how the Lord led, and how that has brought us to where we are now.

From just a young couple with two children, to leaving the family business, to living by faith, to bible college, to running a school of ministry, to becoming a family of nine, to pastoring a local church, to birthing a new ministry in Archippus Awakening – every step of the way, the Lord has shown Himself more than faithful!

Follow Me. Two words that pierced my heart that morning 18 years ago. The Lord invited, I accepted, and the rest, as they say, is history. These two words changed the entire course of my life! I’ve experienced and learnt so much, and I know there is so much more that the Lord has in store for me.

To God be all glory!

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.