Taking Another Step Forward: Releasing My Isaac In CVSOM

On 1 January 2014, I officially stepped down as a pastor, in obedience to the Lord’s instruction. In the days that followed, and more specifically in March, I felt the Lord challenge me to give up my Isaac. I knew in my spirit that He was referring to Covenant Vision School of Ministry (CVSOM).

When I graduated from Theological Centre for Asia in 2006, I was given the opportunity to formalise CVSOM. From adhoc courses, I had a hand in designing the curriculum and naming the baby. In March 2007, the Certificate in Practical Christian Ministry was launched, drawing just 23 students for its first equipping course. After the first graduation of Certificate students, the Diploma in Practical Christian Ministry was introduced in 2009. To date, I have had the privilege and honour to see through six Certificate and five Diploma cohorts, and am presently journeying with the 7th and 6th batches respectively. The joy and satisfaction of seeing the students grow and flourish cannot be adequately expressed in words. Ministry is always about lives and there is no greater reward than to see the lives of brothers and sisters in Christ touched, impacted and transformed for God’s kingdom and glory.

Yes, CVSOM was my Isaac and the Lord showed me that it was time to release Isaac, to take a step forward, to move into a new season. I shared this with Rev Francis in early April and together we processed the transition and determined the right timing. Today, 1 July, the start of Term 2, I officially step down as Dean of CVSOM, handing the operational reins of CVSOM back to Rev Francis. [See CVSOM Announcement]

I am very thankful to Rev Francis for having given me the opportunity and guidance to develop and direct the School to where it is today. I am also very appreciative of each and every instructor who has stood and co-laboured with me, to pour into the lives of students. I must not forget the administrative support through a very capable and efficient team of which Sis Marianne stands out as one who deserves mention and credit. To the alumni, past graduates and students, many of you have become good friends and fellow workers in the kingdom of God. Your many words of encouragement and affirmation have been a constant source of strength and support for me and my family. Thank you to one and all! I have learnt so much and you have each been a part of this wonderful CVSOM experience and journey!

So what’s next? Truth is, I haven’t the slightest clue! All I know is that my God is still in the business of resurrection and He is One who “gives life to the dead” (Rom 4:17). When God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, it was simply to test the patriarch’s faith and obedience. We learn from Hebrews 11:17-19 that, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” What God had asked Abraham for, He promptly gave back in even greater measure! This is the God we serve!

Similarly, the Lord has asked me to give up my Isaac and this I have done by faith and in obedience. Of all my roles and responsibilities, CVSOM has been closest to my heart. Admittedly, it has not been the easiest of decisions. Yet, as sentimental and as precious as CVSOM has been to me, it cannot and must not replace my devotion to my Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. I firmly believe that the Isaac I have released can never be compared to the glory of the resurrected Isaac I shall receive in time to come. I don’t know when or in what form. My part is simply to direct all energy and attention to the development of Archippus Awakening and to leave every other detail to the Lord for He alone knows best!

I praise and thank God for CVSOM for it is entirely by His grace that the School has been such a blessing to so many. May CVSOM continue to raise even more who will minister in the name of Jesus, mature into the image of Jesus and manifest the glory of Jesus. To Him be all honour, power and glory!!!

What A Weekend of Expectation and Empowerment!

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When we closed our Encounter Weekend last year, I declared the number, “120!” Then, I didn’t know that that would be the theme for this year’s Encounter Weekend. As I sought the Lord, it became very clear to me that it would be “120: EXPECTATION & EMPOWERMENT”. In my heart, I asked the Lord for one hundred and twenty participants. Over this weekend of 29-30 March, with registrants and guests, we numbered 106. Thankfully, Acts 1:15 records that it was “about a hundred and twenty”. For sure, God is specific but it is not about specifics but the significance of what He would do when His people gather with expectation.

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The moment we started on Saturday morning, God began to move. After making some introductory comments, the Spirit led me on a different track and we broke out into song and into praying in tongues. After that, the Lord said that what we had just experienced was only a foretaste! And indeed, it was. Across the next sessions of praise, worship and teaching, His manifest presence was so strong. We’ve had great singing before but this time, it was very different. The voices rose up to the heavens as every person hungered and thirsted for more of God! And He readily obliged!

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DSC05949It was my turn to bring the Word on Saturday night. After another tremendous time of worship led by Ps Jun, I felt that we should continue singing and that’s what we did. I stayed on the keyboards and we sang love songs to Jesus! This really surprised me because I have never done anything like this before. It would another 20mins of spontaneous worship before I got up to share the Word. I taught about BIBLICAL HOPE and how that should encourage believers to grow towards perfection and to remain faithful in ministry regardless the pressures and challenges of this age. Our expectation is not based on wishful thinking but a Hope that is certain and fully assured according to God’s unchanging Word.

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When the people responded to the altar call, the Holy Spirit moved so powerfully! Many experienced God’s love and grace; some were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues for the very first time. Healing and restoration also took place. Words of prophecy and knowledge were released. And even as I report this, I must make it very clear that it was all God’s doing by the power of the Holy Spirit. I went on and on and on, and at times was physically tired, but there was such a liberty and joy as I ministered under the anointing. I have learnt not to force or push anyone to fall. Yet, it is extremely exciting when God moves! You know it is the Spirit when you lay hands and pray but nothing happens; and the moment you walk away from the person, he/she falls under the power! Awesome!!! It’s all about Jesus!

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I give thanks for the co-labour of the other speakers in Rev Francis, Ps Linda and Bro Jacob. I have always been amazed and remain amazed at how God leads us all separately and yet every message is connected. The times of worship led by Ps Jun, Bro George, Sis Trisha and SIs Linda, together with Ps Andrew who led the Morning Prayer, were simply electrifying. I believe the angels sang with us too. Praise God too for the intercessors who prayed for this weekend. For sure, all our prayers have been answered by the Lord!

When we ended yesterday, some participants stepped forward to testify. It was so encouraging to hear of how God ministered to each of them personally! God knows every person and every need. And in His presence, He addressed everything for them. Our God is so good and faithful! As each participant left yesterday, they brought back a fresh encounter with the Lord. I am praying that they will learn to keep it fresh in their hearts and allow the Lord to take them to the next level. As with all encounters, it does not signal an end but only a beginning.

What would the next Encounter Weekend hold for CVSOM, I wonder? I don’t really know but it will be the 8th Encounter Weekend; and 8 is always about “new beginnings”.

The A-Zs of Our Diploma Journey

Last Saturday afternoon, at the end of our very last Student Tutorial Relationship & Accountability Platform (STRAP) Session, this year’s CVSOM Diploma students prepared a simple presentation chronicling their journey through the Diploma programme. Needless to say, I was touched and moved, not just by their efforts, but by how relationships and friendships have formed and grown through their going through this programme together. With their permission, the script is presented hereunder for your encouragement and enjoyment too.

Thanks, Diploma 2013! It has been such a joy, an honour and a privilege to walk with all of you through this leg of your spiritual journey!

CVSOM Diploma 2013

THE A-Z’S OF OUR DIPLOMA JOURNEY
By Class of 2013

A is for ASSIGNMENTS. There’s those dreaded, deceptively simple but really tricky multiple choice questions, and there was a tough four-in-one for Growing in the Word. Some students aim to score aces, some just want to complete the assignments so they can graduate, but all agree that doing the assignments has helped us to really grow. Kris actually said, the thing she will miss most about this programme, is the assignments. A is for “AHA”! The AHA moments are what Linda relishes, in Rev Francis’ classes.

B is for BABY BENJAMIN. First time in CVSOM history that STRAP was presented by 3 men and a BABY. Erwin says it was really stressful juggling work, studies and a baby. But you know what, Baby Benjamin actually motivates him to complete this course, so that he can join daddy in the graduation.

C is for CHALLENGING. Having to balance work, studies and family has been CHALLENGING, but we thank God for His abundant grace in seeing us through every week.

D is for DEAN. Thank you DEAN, for walking with us, teaching us, praying for us, and helping us to grow. We love and appreciate you! D is for DIVERSITY. Despite the DIVERSTY of views, ages and personalities, the bond of peace helped us overlook differences when we were working in our assigned teams, and kept us united in the Spirit.

E is for EXAMS. What a relief that there are no EXAMS in this program! E is also for END TIMES. The urgency of the times became more real to us as we became aware of the spiritual environment in Singapore through the GRAP research, and why we need to really pray and help raise consciousness among other Christians.

F is for FRIENDS. We have become close FRIENDS who share lives, pray together, help one another, serve one another. Someone said – parting will be painful! F is also for FUN and FELLOWSHIP. We will really miss the FUN and FELLOWSHIP after we graduate.

G is for GREEK words we’ll never forget – “Teknon” and “Huios”.

H is for HEART. We’ve learnt to engage our HEARTS and allow God to speak to us through each lesson.

I is for INSTRUCTORS. We thank God for our INSTRUCTORS, who have imparted spirit and life to us, and we are grateful to them – Dean, Rev Francis, Bro David Leong, Bro Isaac and Bro Jacob.

J is for JOEL. He is the terror of every STRAP team with his questions. J is also for JOY every Thursday as we look forward to class.

K is for KINGDOMS. We have been taught about the different KINGDOMS and about battlegrounds, strategies and weapons of spiritual warfare. We learnt so many new things, but most importantly, we learnt how to win battles in our individual lives, and also in the heavenlies and in the church.

L is for LIVE THE WORD! The school’s rule is that no instructor can preach or teach unless he LIVES THE WORD! And so we students have to LIVE THE WORD too!

M is for MOVING PEOPLE ONTO GOD’S AGENDA. We learnt that spiritual leadership is MOVING PEOPLE ONTO GOD’S AGENDA.

N is for NIGHTMARES of Dean telling us we can’t graduate because we didn’t pass up our PRAP!

O is for OBEDIENCE. We grew as we learnt to respond in OBEDIENCE when the Holy Spirit convicted us.

P is for PRAP. A scary ministry module for many of us, requiring us to gather so much information, yet in the end so rewarding because in the process, we discover God’s call.

Q is for a QUANTUM LEAP in our understanding of God’s Word through the two Growing in the Word modules.

R is for RECORD – every lesson also must RECORD!! R is also for RUN THE RACE.  We learnt to run not aimlessly, but in such a way as to win the prize – a crown that will last forever.

S is for STRAP – everyone’s favourite ministry module!! Provokes us to check our understanding of many Christian doctrines, and Dean makes difficult concepts easy to understand. We want STRAP in Alumni!

T is for TESTIMONIES. We won’t easily forget Bro Jacob’s amazing TESTIMONIES of how we can help others encounter God in a powerful way, when we make discipleship a lifestyle, and become people on assignment for God, who operate under the cloud in Jesus’ authority and power.

U is for UP AND DOWN MOMENTS. Our UP MOMENTS must surely be those moments when: the Holy Spirit gives new revelation on a lesson, or when we suddenly realize how much we have grown and been transformed, or when we are touched by our classmates’ love in praying for us. Our DOWN MOMENTS were mainly moments when our health failed or we were injured in an accident – slipped disc, dengue, shingles, knee problems, injured back. But these presented opportunities to pray for one another, to grow in faith and trust in God.

V is for VAPOUR. Erwin’s close call during his accident was a stark reminder to him that our lives are but a VAPOUR, and we can vanish from this earth in an instant. It has made him more appreciative of his family and pastors, and has stirred him to want to serve God more. Amen to that!

W is for WORSHIP. Being able to WORSHIP together as a class has drawn us closer together and reminds us who we serve, and why we are in this class.

X is for XPERIENCE. We have XPERIENCED the difference – different kind of school, different perspective to ministry, and we’ve become different people!

Y is for YES, we’re glad we signed up, and we’re definitely going to tell all our friends about this program!

Z is for ZZZZ – the one thing it was impossible to do in class!

Growing in Righteousness: “Lord, It’s Too Big!”

This afternoon’s topic was “The Righteousness of God”. As usual, the student team will present and then take questions from the class. Then, the session would be handed to me to summarise, drawing from the discussion that had taken place and then to provide some concluding remarks and key points pertaining to the topic.

In addressing to issue of growing in righteousness, I proceeded to share with the class what the Lord showed me back in 2007 when I was preparing for the School’s very first Encounter Weekend, “Hunger & Thirst for His Righteousness”.

In the vision (actually, it was more like an impression in my mind), the Lord placed a very beautiful robe over me. It was bright, radiant and glorious. Somehow, I knew it was the robe of righteousness, the Righteousness of Jesus Christ that was being placed upon me. Yet, as beautiful as it was, I found myself saying, “Lord, it’s too big!” I could feel the Lord smile as He responded and said the following words to me, “Grow into it.”

Indeed, we have received the Righteousness of Jesus as a gift when we placed our faith in Him and are presented righteous before God. But, so many have taken this to mean that there is nothing we need do anymore, that a life of sin is permitted and overlooked by God because of this imputed righteousness by grace. These cannot be more wrong or deceived! The Bible speaks of works of righteousness that are now required of us, that the fruit of righteousness might be borne in us, that we might thus qualify for the crown of righteousness to placed upon us.

I will never forget the picture the Lord showed me. I will treasure it for all time because it serves as a clear reminder and an inspiration to me as I serve Jesus, seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness.

As I closed the session in prayer, I couldn’t find the words to express my thanks and gratitude at all. I was simply too overwhelmed and awed by God’s love and grace, bestowing upon us His righteousness that we may be able to enjoy relationship and communion with Him in Christ.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name

CVSOM Alumni Cambodia Ministry Trip 22-26 April 2013

Ministry TeamIt all began as a simple request to Sis Jenny Sutanto, one of our CVSOM Alumni. This sister has been involved in missions and I thought it’d be a good idea for her to initiate a ministry trip for the alumni. So at the Silent Retreat last May, I issued her the challenge. Almost immediately after that, the Lord began to work.

Sis Jenny and Sis Lydia went for a trip to Cambodia (Siem Riep and Phnom Penh) organised by Pastor Richard Toh, Executive Director of International Christian Mission (ICM). Upon their return, they excitedly shared it with me and we started to make plans for the very first CVSOM Alumni Ministry Trip 22-26 April 2013. We shared details at the Alumni Gathering in Dec 2012 and response was encouraging. For those who were not able to make the trip, they signed up to pray whilst others contributed finances to enable 50 village pastors to attend the training sessions over three days.

Time went by and soon it was time for the team to make the trip. Co-ordinated by Ps Richard Toh, the CVSOM Alumni Ministry Team comprised Sis Jenny Sutanto, Sis Lydia Wong, Sis Linda Yong, Sis Michelle Lim, Sis Cecilia Kong and myself. Arriving via JetStar, we spent the first afternoon in Kampong Speu visiting the church and school, a joint-project between ICM and Glad Tidings Church Singapore. This was a very warm afternoon, later cooled by a heavy passing shower. That night, we took a drive around the city just to have a feel of Phnom Penh.

Training began the next day on Tuesday 23 April. A quick breakfast and then we set off to Fellowship Word of Life Church. This church was founded by Ps Sinai Phouek, a man with a big heart for the children of Cambodia. When we arrived, the pastors were all there, ready and eager to receive teaching. Ps Richard gave a short welcome and introduction and the floor was handed to me to teach the first session on “The Word of God”. The interpreter assigned was Ps Vanna Srun. Rescued off the streets by Ps Sinai as an orphan, this young man is today married with four children and doing great work for the Lord Jesus in the lives of children and youths. Our partnership hit off immediately as he interpreted dynamically and effortlessly, helping me communicate each point so well in the Khmer language!

On Wednesday 24 April, the moment we entered the room, we knew the atmosphere was different. When the worship began, I couldn’t hold back my tears. There was such a strong presence of the Lord in the room, and this was readily confirmed by the other members of the team. Sis Michelle taught on “The Cross” and made an altar call. The pastors responded and we prayed for all of them. After that, I built on that teaching and shared on “The Blood of Christ”. I felt that the Lord wanted to minister to the pastors’ needs and struggles and invited them to cast every care upon Jesus, knowing that everything is now under the blood. Once again, they responded and what followed was a tremendous time of soaking in the love and grace of the Lord!

Across the three days, it really warmed my heart to see the CVSOM Alumni Ministry Team in action. Each gave their best and preached their hearts out for Jesus. Each was different and yet through that diversity there was such a unity in the Spirit. There was only one desire – and that was to sow and pour into the lives of the pastors. These pastors have travelled from different provinces and villages just to learn and receive. They were all so hungry and eager, with bibles opened, taking down every point! At the same time, we could sense the challenges each faced back in their congregations and situations. And yet, the love of Jesus keeps them going and serving. We were all so blessed to learn from them, even as they came to learn from us.

Sis Lydia and Sis Linda took two side sessions to minister to the youths and children. And on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, Sis Michelle and I took turns to share at the youth rally. The message was direct and simple – that these will know and experience the love of Father God. It was a meaningful time of speaking into these young lives that would one day grow up to take Cambodia for Jesus!

The response and feedback across the three days was very encouraging. The pastors found the teaching and sharing very refreshing and useful. Many came forward to request the Powerpoint presentations so that they can review and in turn use it to teach their own congregations. We have been invited to go back to continue with other topics. This is something we will prayerfully consider and God-willing, we may be able to involve other CVSOM Alumni members for the next trips.

We thank and praise God for watching over us in Phnom Penh. The weather was hot and it affected us physically. Yet, the Lord’s hand sustained us, enabling us to do what needed to be done to the glory of His name! We went in our weakness and experienced the strength of the Lord through lives yielded to Him. Our eyes were opened to see what God is doing in the land of Cambodia and we are just so thankful for the opportunity and privilege to partner Him in the work of His glorious Kingdom!

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CVSOM 5th Graduation Ceremony: It’s Like Giving Birth

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This year’s graduation theme.

It happened again today. The graduates gathered for the rehearsal of Covenant Vision School of Ministry‘s 5th Graduation Ceremony and we bowed for the opening prayer. As I closed my eyes, I could feel the emotions rise within my heart. I had to pause for a moment before uttering the first words of prayer. You would think that after four graduation ceremonies, I would be used to it by now. Well, not quite. Each time a batch of Certificate and Diploma students graduate, I find myself overwhelmed all over again.

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Posing with some of the graduates of the Diploma in Practical Christian Ministry
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Some of the graduates of the Certificate in Practical Christian Ministry

My heart swelled as I watched the opening video. Through the time of praise and worship, I determined to give Jesus the loudest shout of praise! It is because of Him, entirely, that we have had this awesome privilege to train and impact lives. Then came the word of exhortation by Rev Francis Khoo, and after that, prayers for the Certificate and Diploma graduates by Ps Linda Ng and Bro David Leong respectively. I could sense the excitement and passion from the hearts of every graduate seated behind me! The time came for the presentation of certificates and I read out each name with great pride and joy. Announcing the awards, I wished we could have given everyone one – for they all did their best for Jesus. As Sis Poh Peng and Sis Josefin presented the Graduates’ Responses, I listened and beamed like a proud father.

Amidst the laughter and well wishes after the ceremony, I remarked to some, “Each year, it’s like giving birth.”

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Sis Amara, an inspiration to the younger ones. Having completed the Certificate programme, she is continuing with the Diploma programme!

This is what ministry is all about – touching and changing lives for Jesus and His Kingdom. My prayer for each graduate is that they will take what they have learnt and use it productively and effectively wherever God would place them! I have seen them grow and change in the way they minister, and also in their hunger and passion for the Lord! I thank God for this wonderful privilege to have been a part of their spiritual walk and journey.

For now, it’s back to teaching and leading the present batch of Certificate and Diploma students. And when the time comes for their graduation, I guess I’d better be ready for another emotional experience 🙂

There Is More!

THERE IS MORE!

This was the theme for Covenant Vision School of Ministry’s Encounter Weekend this year. Over 24 & 25 March, Sat and Sun, more than 80 of us, comprising students and alumni, gathered at Fort Canning Lodge (YWCA) for our yearly corporate encounter with the Lord. With the theme clearly stated, many came with that one expectation – that the Lord would pour out so much more into our lives and ministry.

Everyone came with a heart of expectation and a readiness to receive, for there is MORE!

From the word “go”, the Holy Spirit took over. Whether it was praise and worship, teaching sessions, discussions, morning prayer or meal and fellowship times, the Lord was present with us. Through laughter and tears, God lavished more and more of His love and grace upon every participant.

Whilst hearts were prepared to receive more that weekend, the Lord led me to teach about “Barriers to More”. Not exactly an easy thing to do but the conviction was so strong that I could not shake it off. Drawing from 2 Sam 11 & 12, from the infamous account of David and Bathsheba, I shared TEN barriers that would keep one from receiving more from God. After the message, the participants responded to the altar call and streamed forward, one by one falling on their knees before the Lord.

Groups discussion time, led and facilitated by CVSOM Alumni.

Strangely, at that moment, I felt the need to wait and not pray for anyone yet. It was a lesson of obedience for me not to run ahead of the Holy Spirit in my own enthusiasm. After two songs, I sensed the leading to sing “More Love More Power” and promptly communicated that to the worship leader. Everyone joined in and cried out for more of the Lord, and in a while, I sensed the release from the Holy Spirit to begin praying. I motioned to the leaders to proceed and we moved forward to pray. Oh, how the Holy Spirit ministered to everyone! I believe the Lord set many of them free that night.

All on their knees with hearts ready to remove any barrier that stands in the way of MORE from the Lord.

This is our 5th Encounter Weekend. And yet, God never fails to surprise me year after year. The way He leads the speakers in the preparation of the messages is simply amazing. Without discussion, we find the message and points flowing seamlessly from one into another. Even in the logistics, rooming and groupings, we see the Lord’s hand arranging everything so perfectly and beautifully. At the close of the event, this is the first time we have participants running up so readily, one after another, to share their encounters and to give glory to Jesus! It was so wonderful to see lives impacted by God.

Truly, there is so much MORE that God has in store for every believer. If we would but position our hearts rightly before Him, to be aware of the barriers that so often stand in the way, He is more than ready and willing to give us MUCH MUCH MORE!