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!

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The Question I Thought I Had Answers To But Didn’t

Image Source: http://www.infusecgi.org/treasure-in-heaven-or-on-earth/
Image Source: http://www.infusecgi.org/treasure-in-heaven-or-on-earth/
One morning in 1999, I felt the Lord ask me this question: “What have you laid up in heaven?”

Without any hesitation, I found myself confidently answering, “I am very active in the church, Lord. I serve in the worship team. I’m in church by 6:30am most Sundays. I also attend cell group and am involved when called upon to contribute in various aspects…” And I rattled on and on with the ‘this’ and ‘that’ of what I had done or was doing then.

Silence. Then the Lord asked again: “That’s nice. So what have you laid up in heaven?”

I was quite taken aback by Him asking the same question a second time. And so, I thought harder and said, “Oh yes, I forgot. I wrote and produced an entire musical for the church last year. For at least six months, I was in church three or four times a week, each time for at least four hours, overseeing and directing rehearsals. The musical presentation was very well received and it played to full houses on both nights!”

Silence. And then once more the Lord asked: “What have you laid up in heaven?”

Honestly, I thought I had answered rather well. But that morning, I began to realise that it was not how much I did in church that mattered to the Lord. Whilst my credentials and contributions looked rather impressive to myself and others, for some strange reason, these didn’t seem to be the right answers to that one question the Lord kept asking. All along, I had been taught that it is good to serve in church and to give back your talents to the Lord. Not that these are necessarily bad or wrong, but why was the Lord not ‘satisfied’ with my answers? It was a question I thought I had answers to but apparently didn’t.

And so, I asked in return, “So Lord, how can I lay up treasures in heaven?”

That little ‘revelation’ back in 1999 started my search for the ‘right’ answer. It pushed me to seek the Lord rather fervently, desiring only to be engaged in what mattered to my Master. With my ears inclined to Him, I heard the call to full-time ministry one year later, on 8 July 2000. Today, 15 years later, on 8 July 2015, with more experience and exposure, my understanding has been fine-tuned even more.

Those who have been journeying with me would know that my present focus is that of Archippus Awakening, dedicated to the awakening of saints that these may know and fulfil their God-given kingdom assignments. Although the Lord used Colossians 4:17 to define this ministry, on reflection, I see this as an extension of my search for the ‘right’ answer which started way back in 1999. To be sure, being involved in church is indeed commendable. However, we must be careful to discern if it is merely Christian activity we are busy with, mistaking it for doing God’s will. That said, it is indeed a very fine line between Christian activity and kingdom assignment.

Back in 1999, I was not able to make the distinction. Had the Lord not provoked me that morning, I would have gone on ‘doing’ church and feeling really good about it, “veneered over with Christian sentiment” (Oswald Chambers). Later, even as one in full-time ministry, I started out well but slowly became activity-oriented again without even realising it at all! This explained the unsettledness in my heart that pushed me back to the Lord for a re-alignment all over again, resulting in His instruction in October 2013 for me to leave everything behind and to start Archippus Awakening.

Today, 8 July 2015, I remember clearly the voice of Jesus who called me to follow Him. That was 15 years ago. I am reminded that I left all that I may fulfil kingdom assignments and not be caught up merely in Christian activity. That is my focus and that is where I will channel my energies towards.

Today, if the Lord would pose the question once more, “What have you laid up in heaven?”, this is how I would answer…“Only you know, Lord. Thank you for the privilege to partner You in all You are doing. Teach me to discern what is needful and important. Enable me to fulfil all that you have assigned. Amen.”

Related Posts:
14 Years of Following Jesus
Remembering His Call
Follow Me: It’s Been 9 Years

When God Calls: Here I am. Who am I?

Silent Retreat Desk_Fotor

This Silent Retreat, 18-19 Nov 2013, I didn’t have to wait too long for God to speak.

After morning devotions, we entered silence and I made my way back to my room. Wanting to reflect on the passage a little bit more, I opened my bible to Exodus 3 again. I read of how God got Moses’ attention, called him and he answered, “Here I am.” Then God gave Moses his assignment, to which he responded with the words, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children out of Egypt?”

I thought to myself, “Hey! That just described me!”

Yes, that’s where I am right now. I know what I am to do for the Lord has spoken very clearly — more than once. It sounds really exciting but more recently I’ve been getting the jitters, asking and asking again, “Are you sure, Lord? Did you really say that?” Like the call of Moses, I quickly moved from “Here I am.” to “Who am I?”, this overwhelming sense of inadequacy 😦

God, in His grace, assured Moses that He would most certainly be with him (Exodus 3:12). And when asked who is the sending authority, Moses was to reply that I AM THAT I AM had sent him (Exodus 3:14). And if that was not enough, there would be accompanying signs and wonders through the rod of God (Exodus 4:17). God told Moses not to worry about what to say for “I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” (Exodus 4:12) God even acceded to Moses’ request for another to take his place by bringing Aaron, his brother, to be his spokesman (Exodus 4:16)! From this, you really get the feeling that God was not going take “no” for an answer. It was as if God was telling Moses, “Hey, Moses, you want assurance? I’ll give you assurance! Now, stop giving excuses and get going!”

Well, I got what I asked for too. God knows exactly how I am feeling, how much I need His assurance and He sure gave it to me. The question I need to answer really isn’t “Who am I?” but “Who is my God?” To every concern and question Moses posed, the reply was always about God, who He is and how powerful He is. From the start, it would always be a God-thing. All God needed from Moses was his obedience and submission.

The Lord has called and I have answered, “Here I am.” He has promised to be with me and to enable me. My part is to respond in obedience and to rely on Him completely. In some sense, this feeling of inadequacy is good as it drives me to my knees to seek Him more. In that position, I acknowledge that it is not who I am but who He is that truly matters.

So, here goes … in the words of John Bradford, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

Ministry Is Like Swimming Laps

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Nothing beats serving Jesus and to be on mission for the Kingdom of God. However, as exciting as that sounds, the truth is, ministry does have its low and seemingly aimless seasons.

As I did my laps in the pool, it dawned upon me that ministry is rather similar to swimming laps. There is that hesitation before plunging in, wondering if the water might just be too cold. Overcoming that (by faith, of course), you make the leap and you are in! “Hey, this is fun, refreshing and invigorating! I could do this forever!” you declare to yourself. And then, the laps and the monotony kick in. And you wonder, “How many more laps?”

For those who have been in the ministry for a while, I’m sure you understand what I am talking about. It really is like swimming laps. You swim 50 metres forward and then another 50 metres backward, only to arrive at where you first began. By distance, it’s 100 metres; but by displacement, it’s zero! Going by what I learnt in physics, if work done is determined by force x displacement, then all the effort resulted in ZERO work done!

Of course, you know that is not entirely true. But it sure feels that way, doesn’t it? After a few more laps, when your limbs ache and the goggles fog up, you begin to really believe your “A” Level physics lecturer. Or more likely, in this case, the condemnation and accusation of the enemy. Am I getting any work done? Am I effective? Am I productive? Am I doing what I am supposed to be doing?

As I pondered this, the Lord encouraged me, “Yes, ministry is like swimming laps. At times, it feels like you’re going nowhere and getting no work done but you’re still making waves, keeping toned and even developing muscles. So keep going.” Wow! How’s that for perspective?

As Dory sang in the animated movie, Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.”, so I will keep serving in the ministry as the Lord will grant me that privilege and honour. Even when I don’t see things happening, and especially when it gets dry and weary, I will keep going on that I may be found faithful to fulfil the call.

Misconception #2: Believers must be called to be disciples

Misconception 2We have all been told that we must first be called before we can be considered for discipleship. After all, that was what Jesus did.

Everyone presumes that Jesus called the 12. However, the gospels only record seven – Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, Philip and Nathanael (Matt 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11; John 1:35-51). The Bible is silent on the other five. And technically, Jesus didn’t call Nathanael; Philip did (John 1:48).

Another presumption is that Jesus had 12 and only 12 disciples (just like we presume there were three kings in the nativity story. It’s not in the Bible, by the way.). Quite obviously, Jesus had more than 12 disciples. Otherwise, there would have been no need to pray the entire night to choose 12 to be apostles (Luke 6:12-16). Luke 10:1 mentions 70 (or 72 NIV) others. After Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to over 500 brethren at once. This means that there could have been a lot more before Jesus died but these stopped believing and following upon His death.

Numbers notwithstanding, Scriptures show us that Jesus invited (called) some and some invited themselves, as in Luke 9:57-62. When Jesus explained what it meant to follow Him, some stopped believing and thus did not follow. In Mark 10:17-22, Jesus told the rich young man that eternal life was found in Him. The call for him to follow was essentially an invitation for him to believe in that promise. The rich young man believed in his riches and good works and followed these instead of the One who could give him eternal life. Once again, discipleship is premised on faith in Jesus and what He promises. Discipleship is to put legs to our faith, to walk the talk.

From the above, we see that Jesus did not call each and every one of His disciples. As such, this notion of the call cannot be applied across the board. But that is what we have been taught! And this has resulted in too many waiting to be called, claiming they have not heard the call or rationalising that they are not called, that discipleship does not apply to them. Can this possibly be true? How can one say that they are followers of Jesus Christ yet be convinced that discipleship is not for them?

There is no need to wait for a call to be a disciple! Stop waiting to be called! If you truly know what you believe, you will follow!

Remembering His Call

11years ago, on 8 July, I heard the Lord call me to full-time ministry. That was in the year 2000! Wow! I was much younger then, with just two children 🙂

I had almost forgotten about this date until last night, when I took my diploma students through the Personal Reflection & Application Paper briefing. It’s a module I had designed to provoke students to seriously consider their place in ministry. This is the third batch and it just occurred to me that it is always around 8 July that I would teach this module. How significant, for at the briefing, I would share my own journey into ministry. I didn’t plan for it, but I get to revisit the wonderful ways the Lord called, prepared and enabled me each and every step of the way. Little wonder then that I would talk non-stop recounting and gushing about God’s goodness and faithfulness. My hope and prayer is that it encourages and spurs each student to serve the Lord with even deeper conviction.

This morning, I realized another key significance as I led my family through today’s 40Day2011 reading. 11 years ago, it was through 40Day2000 that the Lord spoke the words, “Follow Me!”. Although sentimental and meaningful, it is the odd ‘coincidence’ of this year’s theme that struck me … I am marking 11 years in the 11th hour!

Clearly, it’s not business or ministry as usual. I have changed and grown over the years. Similarly, the way I minister has also changed. The messages have also taken on a different edge with a more urgent and serious tone. Coincidence? I think not.

So today, as I look back, I look forward. I have done and learnt much, and still, there is much more to be done and learnt. The tendency is to rely on myself and my experience. But that would be disastrous! As before and even more, I must lean on Jesus and abide in Him. Apart from Him, I can do nothing … zilch! I serve Him and Him alone. He who has called me will enable me. For His Name and Glory!

My Bethel Experience

Friday, 3 Dec 2010.

It wasn’t planned.  I had sent the little Picanto in for servicing and was having my breakfast at the Upper Thomson Road Food Centre when the idea popped into my mind, “Hey, why don’t I walk to Lower Peirce Reservoir for a little quiet time?”  And that was what I did.

Returning to my “bethel” after 7 years.

As I sat down on one of the benches overlooking the reservoir, it occured to me that I was there 7 years ago!  If I remember correctly, it was also in December (2003) that I went there for a time of seeking the Lord just before stepping out and into fulltime ministry on 1 Jan 2004.  And now, 7 years later, the Lord led me back to the same place.  It reminded me of Jacob and how the Lord asked him to go back to Bethel where he encountered God, and there, the Lord met with him again.  So I promptly turned to Gen 35 and allowed the Lord to speak to me through that account.

The first thing that the Lord impressed upon my heart was that 2011, my 8th year in fulltime ministry, would be a year of new beginnings.  As a pastor of Covenant Vision Christian Church, as the Lord extends the boundaries of the church, so too will I be challenged in the same areas.  Many new initiatives will take place and I am to be prepared for these.

The following points encouraged and affirmed me as I read Gen 35:1-15:

1.  Instructions to the Household (v2):  As I serve the Lord, my household is also implicated.  The reminder is not only for me to stay set apart for the Lord, but also for my household to “put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves and change your garments.”

2.  The Faithfulness of God (v3):  Jacob returned to Bethel to worship God “who answered [him] … and has been with [him] in the way which I have gone.”  Similarly, the Lord has been so faithful to me all these years, and I know He will continue to walk with me in the days ahead.  Since the day He challenged with the question, “Have I not shown you I am faithful?”, I have been experiencing His faithfulness and grace each and every day.

3.  The Protection of God (v5):  As Jacob and his family journeyed, the terror of God was upon the cities and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.  This is such an assurance to me that the Lord will protect me and my household as we determine to walk and journey with Him regardless the challenges and situations.

4.  Confirmation of Ministry (v10):  Here, God confirmed for Jacob, the name, Israel, which was first mentioned at Penuel (Gen 32:28).  To me, it seemed to me that the Lord was confirming and affirming my ministry and call, giving me renewed confidence to keep speaking boldly for Him.  Like Jacob, I have wrestled with God on many issues, and also with men.  There will be new issues but like Israel, I will prevail.

5.  The Call to Worship & Consecration (v14):  Ministry may be tough and demanding at times, but I must never forget to worship the Lord and to stand on His Word and promises.  That said, worship is costly and always involves a sacrifice.

The Lord said, “See how the trees have grown these 7 years.”

After receiving and being encouraged by these points, I looked up and saw big trees.  The Lord then said, “See how the trees have grown these 7 years.”  I thought about the lives that my ministry had impacted and also how I have grown these past years.  And tears welled up in my eyes.