The Joys Of Parenting: Deborah’s Birthday Request

Today, we celebrated the seventh birthday in the Lim Tribe Birthday Series 2013 – Deborah Hope’s 6th Birthday.

Two nights ago, we asked Deborah what she would like for her birthday. She promptly replied: “A big hug and a big kiss from Daddy!” And her dinner request was simply, “Mama’s chicken wings! It’s delicious!”

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Thank you, dear Deborah Hope, for being so very sweet; and for reminding us that birthdays are special and meaningful, not because of lavish parties nor expensive presents, but when spent with people we love and care about.

The Joys of Parenthood: Our Two Little Rabbits

Just a quick post on how children light up our lives in their own special way. In the past couple of days, this has been what Deborah Hope and Anna Joy have been doing – posing as little rabbits. They are just so so so cute and it never fails to bring a smile to Serene’s and my face.

Two Rabbits

Honouring Two Mothers

It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday and the media sure makes it a point to remind us through the many offers and specials. Personally, I’m not really into these commercial stuff and it is so easy to throw the baby out with the bath water and forget mothers altogether. This year, obviously prompted by the Spirit, I want to make it a special point to honour two mothers.

The first is my mother, Helen, who turned 74 in February. By the grace of God, she is in extremely good health – must have got the good genes from her mother, who at 90+ could still out-walk anyone! I appreciate many things about Mom but I believe the best thing she did was to be a stay-at-home mother to my sister and myself. This became her labour of love as she made many sacrifices over the years. With Dad travelling a lot and spending much time at work, it was Mom who was always there, looking after us, cooking for us and managing the household. Often, we don’t realise how important a role stay-at-home mothers play in the lives of children. As such, we minimise it all too quickly and in today’s mindset, trivialise and even condemn it.

More than just catering to my physical, academic and material needs, Mom played an extremely key role in my backslidden years. In her simple way and faith, she would say to me, “Henson, you must go back to church.” That was all she said, and then left me to my own devices and to God to deal with me in His time. Even to today, my mother would faint if invited to pray publicly. Yet, I know she prayed for me. Little did she realise how powerful her prayers were that one day her son would not only return to God and also respond to His call to fulltime ministry.

I may be closing in to half a century and a parent to seven children. But I guess, to Mom, I am still her little boy and will always be. Each time we meet, she would ask, “Are you ok? Do you have enough for your family? Aiyoh, you’ve lost weight. Are you resting and eating properly or not?” Yes, that’s my mother. She will worry and fret about us in her heart, sometimes crying herself to sleep. And yet, in front of us, she will appear strong so that we will not be unduly worried about her. My mother never wants to be a burden, but is ever ready to serve us.

As I write about my mother, recounting her love and sacrifice, my heart is directed to a second mother. This mother, as you would have guessed, is Serene, my wife and mother to our seven children.

I often quip about Serene that she never wanted to get married, to have children, to be a Christian, nor to stay at home. Today, she loves Jesus, is married to a pastor, has seven children and is a stay-at-home mom … and homeschooling, no less!

If there is someone who lives and displays the word “sacrifice”, it is Serene. Over the years, Serene has given more and more, and she still keeps giving. As a mother of many children, every moment of her day is spent looking after and serving them. Before anyone is up, she is already in the kitchen preparing breakfast. More recently, she has been getting up early for her own morning walk before making a detour to the market to ta-pau (takeaway) breakfast for everyone. After that, she goes on to the next thing, and then the next thing, and then the next thing. And after everyone is packed off to bed, she continues with marking, planning and scheduling. And before plopping herself onto the bed, she makes one last round to check if the children are all ok.

As one who understands and fights against allergies herself, she is constantly on the lookout for healthier options for the children. Thankfully, she is a natural when it comes to understanding labels, supplements and even medical terms. She would have made a great pharmacist, a doctor, even; and she is putting that gifting to great use in the family. Sounds good, but all this means even more work for her, instead of the convenience of eating out, pre-packed meals or instant solutions. But for the sake of the health and well-being of the children, she makes that sacrifice, over and over again.

As if that is not challenging enough, add homeschooling to the equation; and seven different levels in a go! More than just “mother”, Serene dons the hats of “teacher”, “administrator”, “disciplinarian” and even “counselor”. How she is able to process and consider the different curricula, to plan and administer seven different schedules, to teach, supervise, mark and grade each child’s progress boggles me! Many marvel and ask the standard question of her, “How do you do it?” I see her plow through each day, each week, each month and I can tell you that there are no shortcuts at all. To make time, Serene has had to give up many of her own comforts and desires. There’s that word again – “sacrifice”.

The most amazing thing about Serene is that she never started out wanting to do any of these in the first place! She would also tell you that many of these she does not particularly enjoy doing. What changed her then? Well, more accurately, who changed her? It is her relationship with Jesus that changed her convictions about everything – about having children, about staying at home, about homeschooling. On not-so-good days, I know Serene wrestles with the Lord about many issues only to submit to His bidding and call all over again and willingly offers herself as a living sacrifice to the Lord through the serving of the children.

In the same way I appreciate my mother for staying home for us, I appreciate Serene for being there for our children. In today’s context, where women are all too ready to return to the workforce, this is not something to be taken for granted at all. And yet, now more than ever before, children need their mothers (and fathers) in a world of declining morality and increasing perversion. Even so, Serene’s decision to stay at home, to channel her education and training into the lives of our children, is not always met with kind remarks. Then again, these do not see nor understand the good work that Serene is doing, investing into the lives of our children – the times of prayer, of bible teaching and reading, of devotionals, of spiritual guidance. But I do, and I am totally appreciative of what she is doing.

I could go on and there can be no end to my expressions of how much I love and appreciate these two mothers. They are both so different in their own personalities, giftings, generations and families. Yet, both have displayed the same selflessness and sacrifice in their own special way. In no way do I hold them out to be perfect and flawless. But through their weakness, I see a certain glory and power of God work in and through them, rendering every effort effective by His enabling grace. And so, this Mother’s Day, I salute and honour these two mothers!

Mom, thank you for all you have done for me and Helena. You have given so much and we have not said enough to express our love and gratitude to you. Each Mother’s Day when I hug and wish you Happy Mother’s Day, you will say the same thing to me, “Hiya, every day is Mother’s Day la!” I love you, Mom. Thanks for your love and your sacrifice.

Serene, I thank God for you! I know I don’t say it enough and at times, I am so absorbed in my own issues that I neglect the challenges you face as a mother to our children. As if seven is not enough, you sometimes have to mother me too – haha! Your life of sacrifice is one I look to, learn from and am encouraged to do the same as a husband, a father and in the ministry. Thank you for sowing and pouring into the lives of our children. Indeed, they shall “rise up and call [you] blessed!” Proverbs 31:28

Misconception #6: Discipleship is one aspect of the spiritual walk

Misconception 6This misconception extends from the previous one. Those ‘called’ to the prayer ministry will focus on prayer. Those ‘called ‘ to the worship ministry will elevate the worship experience. Those ‘called’ to teach will emphasise the discipline of study. And the more we specialise, the more we compartmentalise. To be sure, these are all different aspects that contribute to our spiritual walk. However, when we consider discipleship on the same level as these, we make a grave mistake. Discipleship is not just an aspect of the spiritual walk. It is the spiritual walk.

Discipleship is the Christian life as we learn how to handle people and situations as Jesus did when He walked on earth, empowered by the Holy Spirit! Everything we think, do and say as a Christian is discipleship because we desire to think, do and say as our Master, Jesus, would. Every aspect of our lives is open for the Master’s inspection! Every word we utter is subject to His approval. What this means is that discipleship is not something that happens only in church but how we walk as followers of Jesus Christ in life!

How does this look in real life? Simply, I am first and foremost a disciple of Jesus before I am husband to Serene, father to my children, pastor to my congregation and dean to my students. I want to learn from Jesus that I may be more and more like Him in my relationship with my wife, my children, my congregation and my students. Walking in His ways is what discipleship is all about! Discipleship is not merely one aspect of my spiritual walk; it is everything my spiritual walk is supposed to be.

The right perspective and understanding of discipleship will radically change the way we live our lives and how we relate to one another. Husbands, as a disciple of Jesus, love your wives! Wives, as a disciple of Jesus, love your husbands! Parents, as disciples of Jesus, raise your children in the ways of Jesus. Fathers & Mothers, as disciples of Jesus, love and serve your children. Children, as disciples of Jesus, honour and obey your parents. Bosses, as disciples of Jesus, run your companies well. Employees, as disciples of Jesus, do you work well. Citizens of Singapore, as disciples of Jesus, stop complaining!

Stop seeing discipleship as only one component of your spiritual walk. This narrow view will cause you to minimise the importance of discipleship and what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus.

Jesus be the Santa of My Life?

I guess it’s safe to assume that everyone is familiar with the hit worship song by Israel Houghton “Jesus At The Centre”, or the slightly older one, “Jesus Be the Centre” by Michael Frye.

We sing it with gusto, and at times, with tears too. But really, is Jesus the centre? Or do we just want Him to be a Santa to us? Hey, in this day of commercial and convenient Christianity, I can’t assume anything. Of anyone. And of myself.

Is Jesus the centre of your life? Don’t say “yes” too quickly if all you mean is that you desire Jesus to be the centre. That wasn’t the question at all. Once again, the question is, “Is Jesus the centre of your life?” In case this appears or sounds confusing, consider the following …

Take me, for example. I am one who serves in a full-time capacity. As a servant of God. I teach, preach and lead a ministry. By all counts, in the eyes of many, I have given my all to Jesus, so He must be the centre of my life. Accurate? Not necessarily. If I neglect the needs of my wife and not love her as Christ loved the church, if I do not parent my children in God’s ways, then Jesus is not the centre at all! Ouch!

How about the faithful volunteer each Sunday morning? He or she comes consistently to church and serves dutifully. Is Jesus the centre of his or her life? Well, we’d have to see more of his or her life to know, wouldn’t we? How does he conduct his business? How does she relate to her peers or relatives? What does he do in his private time when no one is watching? How does she respond in times of difficulties and challenges?

Then, there is the Sunday Christian who appears each week – 30mins into the service. He is perpetually tardy. But when a crisis hits, or a need arises, this dear brother is quick on the dial (smartphone keypad) to contact a pastor for prayer or counselling and – surprise! surprise! – comes perfectly on time for the appointment. Hmmmm … is Jesus really the centre?

Of course, what is the Christian walk without faith? So, there is the faith-filled believer who asks so he will receive – after all, that’s his entitlement. So, Lord, give me a job, give me a promotion, give me a baby, give me a husband, give me a house, car, an iPad, … How nice, when Jesus is the Santa of your life.

As with most blogposts, I have observed and so I write. But more than a post that gripes against what I have observed in others, it is one that provokes myself to evaluate if there might the presence of something larger in my eye than the speck I see in theirs.

Is Jesus really the centre of my life, my marriage, my family, my ministry as reflected through my thoughts, my words and my actions? Or have I too approached Him with a long list of gimmes based on a self-righteous view of myself having been good and faithful, and deserving of all I have asked for? If so, I have only made Jesus the Santa of my life. And however loud I sing and declare, Jesus is not the centre of my life at all … I am.

Related Post:
Santa? Or No Santa? Can We Please Make Up Our Minds?
Jesus be the Corner of My Life?

Christians & Halloween

Let me say from the onset that this article might offend some brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s about Halloween, or more precisely, Christians who see no problem celebrating or allowing their children to participate in such activities.

Halloween was never a big deal for us in Singapore. Not until recently, at least. I guess we are occupied enough with our own version of ghastly ghostlies in the Festival of Hungry Ghosts, or the traditional 7th Lunar Month, when disowned and disenchanted spirits are released from hell to roam the earth for food. In recent years, with the influx and influence of the West, Halloween is being celebrated in a much bigger way. Walk into any department store or supermarket and you will see pumpkins, scary masks and spider webs! Even nightspots and tourist venues are staging Halloween themed events.

Interestingly, local Christians are very clear that we are not to participate in the Festival of Hungry Ghosts. That’s a no-no. But Halloween? Sadly, we don’t have as clear a consensus on this. To my horror, I saw a Facebook photo post of a brother-in-Christ’s house being decorated for Halloween! Then, there’s another post of someone else’s child all dressed up for a Halloween party!

I simply cannot understand why Christians would want to be associated with demons, monsters, vampires, black cats, witches, blood, gore and death?! Rationalise any way you want, but it is all spiritually extremely dark and evil! How can Christian parents even think their children look cute and attractive in those costumes, simply in the name of fun and entertainment?

On the one hand, we war against principalities and powers, against rulers of darkness, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places (Eph 6:12). Yet, on the other hand, we dress up to look like them! 1 Thess 5:22 exhorts us to “abstain from every form of evil” and we are rushing out to be ambassadors of evil. Something just doesn’t add up! Have we become so de-sensitized by pop culture that we no longer see these as Satan’s agents and co-workers? Do we not realise that these would one day share the same fate with the devil in the lake of fire and brimstone?

I know not everyone will agree with my position, passing this off as legalistic or narrow-minded. That’s fine. I will agree with you that we may not necessarily interpret our freedom in Christ in the same way. To this end, if you sincerely feel that celebrating Halloween brings glory to our Lord Jesus, I won’t stand in your way. As for me, I remain convicted that we as children of light should have nothing to do with anything that manifests the kingdom of darkness.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light … and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” Eph 5:8-11

42 Parents Turned Up For “Raising Christian Families in Today’s World”

I want to give God all the glory for what took place at Wesley Methodist Church today.

At the invitation of the Family Life Ministry, I had the opportunity to share about raising families for Jesus in today’s challenging and ever-changing landscape. A total of 42 parents turned up to attend this talk (from Wesley MC and also other churches).

The morning started a little tentatively with me experiencing some technical and connection problems – interestingly, this tends to happen at Wesley MC … perhaps, it’s time for a new computer (MacBook?) – haha! Anyway, one of the parent-participants, Jonathan, helped me troubleshoot and got everything set up. Truly, God-sent!

With so many things to share, the three hours zipped by so quickly. As far as I could observe, the crowd was attentive and everyone was duly engaged with the SEVEN key points presented, drawn from Nehemiah 4:1-20.

Another high point was that for the first time, my wife Serene was able to join me (albeit a little later). I’ve always felt that we should be doing this together as husband and wife, father and mother. And today, with the children able to stay home themselves, Serene could be present. During Q&A time, the women had a chance to ask questions, which in my opinion, are better answered by my dear wife 🙂

Feedback and responses after were positive, indicating that the participants were provoked to think further and more deeply. Is it all about surviving the rat race, education and academic grades? Or are they raising Christian families centred upon Jesus that these would be purposefully used for God in the advancement of His Kingdom?

I am praying that the Holy Spirit would have convicted the parents who attended, and continue to lead them as their cast their vision for their families and make choices that would glorify Jesus!