The Believer’s Conference Survival Guide

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All Christians in Singapore know this statement to be true:

“There is no shortage of conferences and seminars in our sunny island state!”

Hardly a day goes by without us receiving an email, announcement or invitation to hear the most anointed speakers, to tap into the prophetic realm, to have the most powerful encounter, to experience the biggest breakthrough, to see the most unusual miracles, or to receive the latest download from heaven!

Truth be told, as interesting and promising as these may sound, many of us are experiencing conference fatigue. After a while, we realise that much of this is marketing and advertising language (take it from an ex-adman). This is not to say that such offerings are not good or needful. However, regardless how fantastic a meeting is touted to be or reported to have been, one must question its effectiveness beyond the registration numbers and post-publicity campaigns. Yes, intellects were provoked and emotions were stirred. Then what?

For sure, it cannot be the presentation. After all, these are the world’s best, the most sought after, supported by platinum album worship leaders with extremely impressive lights and sound. Perhaps, then, it is the posture of our hearts we must examine. Hence, as one who has also attended (and organised) more than a few of such events, this is how I personally navigate and survive the conference jungle out there:

RESIST For starters, don’t go running all over the place, attending every meeting however attractive these may sound to you. I am certain every conference that is organised and offered is good. But the truth is, you don’t have to attend each and every one. Simply, you don’t have all the time and money in the world. And even if you do, you want to be a good steward of these resources. Check your heart if you are simply going to get the next high or that you won’t feel left out when your friends tell you how good it was and what you have missed. Don’t laugh, but this actually requires prayer, discernment, focus and commitment; and for some, sheer strength and will power.

REST & RECEIVE Serial conference participants will find this difficult to achieve as these thrive on the spiritual buzz and highs that conferences offer. Yet, as much as these meetings set out to revive or reignite, don’t be overly concerned with man’s good intentions or at times, soulish methods. Don’t get too caught up with the outward but determine inwardly to rest and to receive. It is ok not to go with an expectation of “I must get something out of this!” Don’t get me wrong for there is still an expectation in your heart – to rest and receive; whenever, whatever, however. When you are truly rested in the Lord, that is when you become sensitive to His still small voice, regardless of the level of the sound system or the hype, ready to receive all He has in store for you.

REMINDERS & RHETORICS Let’s be honest. If you are a regular on the conference circuit, you would have realised that most, if not all, of the principles mentioned are the same – intimacy with God, obedience is better than sacrifice, how much God loves you, His amazing grace, God has a plan for you, etc. Even prophetic utterances are not very much different, seriously. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun. Depending on the posture of your heart, these could easily become rhetoric or they could be great reminders. You could come away thinking you have heard them all and be disappointed for having wasted time and money, or you could be duly prompted by the Holy Spirit to address a certain aspect of your walk. For sure, it is not more teaching we need but we must carefully examine what we are doing with all the information we have acquired.

RHEMA & REVELATION Thankfully, there are times when a gem of an idea or concept shines through. These would be different for different people depending on the situation or season you are in. Some refer to this as a rhema word whilst others may consider it a revelation of sorts. Regardless, it is something that caught your attention enough to make you sit up. Hold on to this nugget. Write it down. Don’t let it flit in and then out too easily. Transfer your notes to your prayer journal so that it can be referred to over and over again, along with other revelations you have received in the past. God never speaks in isolation but consistently through various means and times. The rhema you received at a conference may be significant. But the greater revelation of seeing God at work in your life in totality is by far even more amazing!

REVIEW & REFLECT How easy it is to enjoy the experience and then promptly forget it the moment the conference is over. This explains why people flock from meeting to meeting, hoping to recapture that moment or feeling. After all, it is so much easier to have someone else do the hard work for you. However, the way, the truth and the life is not the conference itself; it is the Living Word of God, Jesus. As the speakers are declaring the Word, use that time to reflect. After the event is over, review and reflect. If you have received a rhema or a revelation, then even more so, review and reflect. Keep reviewing and revisiting the points by meditating upon these and praying through. What did God say? What does it really mean? What does He want you to do with it?

RESPOND This, to me, is the most important point. Whilst it does happen, it is not enough to just make your way to the front to receive a touch, to shed a tear, or to spend some time on the floor. To respond really means to put into action all that has been received at the conference after the conference is over. No point leaving only with another conference booklet with blanks filled in and another name tag to add to your collection. Don’t make the mistake of being a hearer of the Word and not become a doer, deceiving yourself. It is not the number of conferences you have been to, or how many great speakers you have heard. It is what you do with what you have received that truly matters.

As we have already established, there are just so many Christian conferences and seminars in Singapore. Add to these, Church-based training and programmes, and we Singaporean believers are, without doubt, spoilt for choice. I pray that the above points would be helpful for you as you consider what to do with that conference flyer you are holding in your hand, or those invitation emails that just arrived in your inbox. [Of course, if it’s from me, you should register immediately – haha!]

Let me close with this verse that describes the explosion of information in the end times, often taken to refer to global travel and the knowledge-based internet economy of our days:

“But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” Daniel 12:4

I can’t help but wonder if this might, in actuality, be describing the running to and fro of God’s people from meeting to meeting, seminar to seminar, conference to conference, and the knowledge that is ever increasing and abounding? If so, oh Lord, by Your grace, may we have the fruit to show for it.

Misconception #4: Discipleship is an optional add-on to salvation

Misconception 4Sadly, we have made discipleship an optional add-on when it’s part of the entire package! We pick and choose what we want and leave out parts we don’t want. We want the rewards of discipleship but not the requirements of discipleship! This is not the case at all. When you believed and were saved, discipleship was included and thus expected of you. In case you didn’t realise, the moment you belonged to Jesus, you began learning and will go on learning until you meet Him. How else would you grow as a believer if you didn’t learn more about Jesus? And what’s another word for learner? Disciple!

Discipleship is not an add-on to salvation. It came with it. That said, you do have an option, and that is to OPT OUT. Before you select this option, thinking that’s your way out of being a disciple, do consider what it means.

After teaching about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, many of Jesus’ disciples were offended and complained (John 6:60-71). John 6:64 reveals something very interesting. These were referred to as disciples and yet Jesus said that these were not ones who believed. These so-called “disciples” must have once believed in what Jesus preached, but perhaps only what they wanted to hear. In other words, their beliefs were faulty beliefs. And when it got tough to swallow (pun intended), they promptly opted out. “From that time, many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” John 6:66

It’s not enough to simply believe. We’d better be sure of what we are believing in. In the last days, many will have faulty beliefs. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” 2 Timothy 4:3–4

Once again, we see the relationship between believing and following. When you cease believing in Jesus and His ways, you cease following. Conversely, if you are not living as a disciple should, it’s best to check what you believe, or do not believe. Don’t opt out without even knowing it!

Misconception #1: Discipleship is a separate decision/event from believership [Part One]

PART ONE: Is there a difference between believers and disciples?

Discipleship Title PixFirstly, we need to know what a disciple is. The Greek word matethes comes from the root verb manthano, meaning “to learn”. The English word disciple is derived from the Latin discipulus, which carries the same meaning of “pupil, learner or follower”. From this, we see that a disciple is one who follows another with the purpose to learn as his pupil. As such, a follower of Jesus Christ is thus a disciple of Jesus Christ.

This may look and sound obvious but is it? Ask a believer if he is a follower of Jesus Christ and he would very likely say ‘yes’ without any hesitation. But when asked if he is thus a disciple of Jesus Christ, and you might get a pause, a shrug or a vehement ‘no’. Why is this so? That’s because we have been told that we believe first and then decide later if we’d like to be disciples. We’ve accepted that believership is a separate and distinct event from discipleship.

As I pondered this, the Lord gave me an illustration: Imagine a stranger walks up to my 3 year old and says, “Uncle has ice-cream for you. You want? Come with me.” If my little girl believed that man, what would she do? She’d follow him! Immediately, the relationship between believing and following became clear to me — the one we believe, we follow.

We’ve heard countless sermons about Andrew, Peter, James and John, of how they dropped everything and followed Jesus. But have you stopped to think why they did that? Surely, they didn’t just jump at the words of Jesus because they were tired of their jobs. I believe it’s because they believed in who Jesus was and what He promised that they readily followed as His disciples. This must have been the same for Matthew. Otherwise, why would a tax collector leave everything to follow a Galilean carpenter? And as long as these kept believing, they kept following Jesus.

The one we believe, we follow. We cannot believe and not follow. Faith without works is dead. Conviction will always produce action. If I believe, I will follow.

When Jesus issued the Great Commission, the command was simple: Make disciples. He didn’t say to identify those who are willing and available, then call these and make them disciples. In other words, when anyone believes the good news of the Kingdom, make disciples of them! Put another way, the moment someone believes and becomes a subject of the Kingdom, he also becomes a disciple. Make no mistake: Jesus is both Saviour and Master!

This challenges the way we have been leading people to salvation. The sinner’s prayer is a great device but so many don’t even what they have prayed (repeat after me), much less what they have believed! What does “receive Jesus into your heart” mean anyway? And if one is told to believe in Jesus to go to heaven, where is the place of discipleship then?

Salvation is when we repent (turn from sin), believe in Jesus’ work on the Cross (forgiveness), be set free from sin’s dominion (redemption), and we now belong to Jesus (serve and follow Him). It scares me to discover how few Christians are able to talk about their own salvation! I am not advocating printing out a 500-page theological document for the prospect to peruse and sign on the dotted line. I am, however, convinced that there is an even more critical need for proper follow-up so that a new believer knows that believing Jesus means following Jesus. He is, after all, no longer his own, but one who belongs to Jesus.

This misconception weakens the Church because it gives us an excuse not to be disciples, or that we need a passage of time before we qualify to be disciples. How many do you know who have sat in church for 20-30 years and not budged at all? On the other hand, imagine a congregation who is fully convicted that they are disciples the moment they declare their faith in Jesus. I believe that’s how the church was in Acts, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and they literally turned their world upside down.

Are all believers of Jesus automatically disciples of Jesus?

Dear friends

I am wondering what the general view is to the above question, “Are all believers of Jesus automatically disciples of Jesus?” Please participate in this simple poll so that there are adequate responses for some meaningful analysis 🙂 Please feel free too to add your comments and thoughts as the answers in the poll have been deliberately kept simple and may not fully address your position or conviction.

Thanks for your support!

Comfort Food

When you are down, discouraged, disappointed or disillusioned, what do you tend to eat? Interestingly, the moment we hit a bad patch or feel we need something to lift us up, we crave for “comfort foods” like ice cream, chocolates, cakes, fries and burgers. And so, in search of comfort, we binge on stuff like these. Well, it may make us feel better and help distract us from the main issue, but really, the situation remains pretty much the same after the sugar- or protein-high wears off. What’s worse, the calories stay.

Thankfully, if you are a believer of Jesus Christ, there’s a better way.

When tempted in the wilderness, after 40 days of fasting, Jesus declared, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” When Jesus was physically tired, hungry and weak, the enemy began to bombard Him with thoughts, suggestions and alternatives. Instead of seeking comfort from material things that satisfy only temporarily, Jesus held on to the eternal Word of God that satisfies completely!

The Word of God is a rich source of comfort and of hope for the child of God. Throughout the Old Testament, we see Man failing and falling over and over again. Yet, in and through it all, God is always present in their lives, offering hope and providing comfort through His Word. In the New Testament, through suffering and persecution, the apostles stood on the faithfulness of Scripture and boldly lived for Jesus. This same promise is available to us!

Situations may get you down. People may disappoint you. Life may seem totally unfair at times. Circumstances may appear confusing. Temptations are ever present to distract and derail you. Whatever it may be, don’t run to the fridge or the nearest fast-food outlet! Instead, pick up your Bible and devour the Word of God, the best comfort food there is! Feed on it and let the Word of God nourish you deeply. Through it, discover again the Person and the Power of the Living Word, Jesus Christ. Experience His love, receive His grace and know He will never leave you nor forsake you, but will be with you until the end of this age. No mountain is too high, nor valley too deep. No problem is too big, nor any detail too small. In Him, all things are possible to those who believe. In Him, we can do all things. In Him, we are more than conquerors and overcomers! And even if things don’t make any sense, Jesus is still in control and will come again to make all things right!

Now, that’s what I call real comfort food.

“Remember the word to Your servant, upon which you have caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life.” Psalm 119:49-50