God’s “No Mercy” Policy

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I was hoping for “no pain”. Instead, I was told, “No mercy.”

Earlier this year, sometime in April, I began experiencing a tightness around my left shoulder. I have no idea how it came about. Just one day, it was difficult to remove my T-shirt after a run. Perhaps a pull or muscle strain, I thought. So, I left it for while, hoping it would go away on its own. But nope, the tightness persisted. I was just thankful it didn’t become worse.

Six months later, I find myself at the doctor’s, listening to the various possibilities of a tendon tear, an impingement or a bone spur. A common occurrence, I am told, for someone who has come of age. Yes, growing older.

This morning, with X-ray and ultrasound results in hand, I met my doctor friend again (same ACS cohort). Other than a slight bone spur causing mild adhesive capsulitis (fancy term for frozen shoulder), the tendon and muscles are all ok. As such, surgery is not required – for now. To help bring down the inflammation, the doctor administered two jabs (slight ouch). After this, it’s back to the physiotherapist for stretching exercises.

And that’s when he said, “No mercy.”

He added with a smile, “If she gently sayang sayang you, no point.” Ya right, thanks. Just what I needed to hear 🙂

As I drove home, I couldn’t help but think about the two words – no mercy – in the context of the Church and Christianity today. With the present focus on love and grace, “no mercy” sounds so incorrect. Too harsh. Surely, this has no place in the Body of Christ. After all, the God we know is full of mercy, is He not?

Of course, He is! And that will never change for His mercy, His lovingkindness endures forever! However, we must not forget that, at times, when needed, our God also administers a “no mercy” policy.

Like my shoulder, there could have been something that has caused irritation, stress and pain in our lives. As much as He is able to bring relief, He also desires that the tendon/muscle be stretched out and strengthened again. And for that to happen, pain may be experienced for a while more before the desired effect is achieved. Through that process, the Lord expects us to bear through the pain and discomfort, for our own good. In that, He says, “No mercy. You’ve got to push through until you get the breakthrough.” He knows that gently sayang sayang will not do the job at all. On the contrary, it is firmly sayang sayang (tough love) that our faith will likewise be stretched and strengthened.

In the Body of Christ, might there be an increasing proportion that seeks to grow without the pain? Are there questionable doctrines that have developed like bone spurs causing irritation and restricting mobility in the Body? Why can’t God just remove the discomfort instantly? If He is indeed good and merciful, surely pain and suffering cannot be from Him. With such thinking, no wonder there is such concern that the next generation of believers has grown soft, unable to take any pressure or pain. O, God forbid, that we should become a frozen (shoulder) generation!

At my first visit, the doctor took one look and observed that my left shoulder was a tad shrivelled owing to lack of use. Easing the inflammation was one thing. Getting me back in shape was another. And it’s the same with our spiritual walk and growth. As a miracle-working God, He could simply zap away all pain. But if that was all He did, we, and consequently, the Body of Christ, would remain shrivelled and weak. For sure, our God is more than able to do His part. But He also expects us, both personally and corporately, to do ours: to exercise, to stretch, to grow up in Christ.

Thankfully, we can rest assured that through it all, He watches over us, and will be with us, enabling us as we lean entirely on Him. For sure, His grace remains sufficient for us, even as He administers the “no mercy” policy.

With that, I fixed my appointment with the physiotherapist. Caution: Ouch Ahead!

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If it’s Good For God, it’s Good For Me

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It wasn’t a response I was used to. Honestly, I don’t remember being taught to pray or speak like that. Perhaps, that’s why the verse caught my attention as I was reading 1 Chronicles 19.

The Ammonites had engaged the help of the Syrians to fight against Israel on two fronts. When Joab realised that the enemy was both “before and behind”, he assigned Abishai to handle the Ammonites, and himself, the Syrians. After pledging to help each other out should either front proved too strong, Joab said:

“Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our God. And may the LORD do what is good in His sight.” 2 Chr 19:13

Wait a minute! That didn’t sound like a prayer of faith, did it? Shouldn’t Joab have declared boldly that God has delivered the enemies into their hands? Or if that was too presumptuous, then at least that God would deliver the enemies into their hands. Should he not have proclaimed victory in the name of YHWH?

Given the faith teachings I have been exposed to, that’s what I would have done. Yes, victory in Jesus’ Name!!! Or at the very least, a good outcome – in my favour of course. After all, I am more than a conqueror, an overcomer! Yeah! Lemme at ’em! Grrrrrrrrr!

Well, Joab didn’t do any of that at all. In effect, what he said was, “Hey bro, let’s just do our part and leave the result to God. Whatever the outcome, it’d be cool. If we win, praise the Lord. If God decides it’s best to sacrifice a few pieces for the sake of His larger plan, and we lose and die, that’d be ok too. May the LORD do what is good in His sight.” In other words, whatever was good for God would have been good for Joab.

By our understanding these days, Joab would have been considered a doubter, one who is unsure hence choosing to leave it open-ended, just in case. But as I read and re-read the verse, I don’t see doubt at all, but faith. Here was a man who was willing to trust God, no matter what. He would still do his part – his very best – for God, for his king, and for his people. Given a choice, a good outcome would be to defeat the enemy and to win the battle. But ‘good’ was not for Joab to define. ‘Good’ was for God to determine. And whatever was good for God would have been good for Joab.

In no way am I suggesting that it is wrong to ask for favourable outcomes. There are enough examples in the Bible of such prayers. In fact, no one needs to teach us how to pray for good outcomes because we do that automatically. Going on a picnic, we ask for sunshine (not too hot). Sitting for an exam, we ask for good grades (easy questions). Playing against another team, we pray to win (because asking for the other team to lose just doesn’t sound right). Seldom, if ever, would we pray, “May the Lord do what is good in His sight.”

Joab’s response has really caused me to ponder if I would be willing to adopt that same posture in all situations? If I truly believe God is sovereign and in total control of all things, would I trust Him completely for and in all outcomes? If I declare that God is good and His mercy endures forever, would I accept that a negative or bad occurrence can still work for good because a good God has allowed it. And if He deems it good enough to be allowed, would I allow Him to show me the good in and through what has been allowed, even if it didn’t seem very good to me?

Through this reflection, I am reminded that faith is not only the ability to ask and believe what I have asked for, that I may receive. Faith is also the willingness to leave God to be God, to do as He pleases, however that may turn out in the end. And if it’s good for God, it’s good for me.

What Are Your Core Convictions?

When I set up One Day At A Time back in 2007, I felt it necessary to include a page where I shared My Core Convictions. For churches or para-church ministries, it would be a page detailing their Statements of Faith. But for a personal blog, it’s just a broad overview of what I believe in and what guides my spiritual walk.

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Over the years, this list has not only served as good reminders, but also a great source of encouragement to me. It points me back to what I regarded as foundational (still do), and helps me in my own alignment check. And especially in trying and difficult seasons, these simple lines anchor and hold me steady through challenges.

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Reviewing them again, I am thankful I made the effort to craft these ten statements then. I know that these pale in comparison with Jonathan Edwards’ 70 Resolutions. But then again, it was never meant to be too academic a piece or to sound overly theological. My Core Convictions simply detail what I believe about God, His Purpose, salvation, faith, obedience, the Word, provision, ministry, the Holy Spirit, God’s will and grace (supported by Scripture, of course).

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What are your core convictions? Do you have core convictions? If not, I highly recommend that you take some time to ponder and to write them down. It is a worthy exercise as it will bring clarity to your walk with the Lord, strengthen your resolve as you serve Him, and also provide focus as you navigate through life’s many distractions and uncertainties.

The Experience & Joy of Being on Kingdom Assignment

IMG_5266I just returned last evening from Batam where I spoke at Bartley Christian Church’s Zone Camp. This was the second camp engagement in June, the first being Shekinah AG Church Camp. Next Monday, I will leave for Bintan to speak at Hakka Methodist Church’s Camp. To me, three camps in June is already quite a stretch to me (this is the first time I’ve ever committed to three camps!). Interestingly, I bumped into Pastor Benny Ho in Batam (he was the speaker for Jurong Christian Church Camp) and discovered he would be speaking at five camps this year! (No, I am not trying to compete with him at all – haha!)

Although the work of the ministry is demanding, as I move about my kingdom assignment through Archippus Awakening, I am discovering a very precious truth all over again. It’s not that this is new to me but I have come into a deeper appreciation of it. There are many Christian concepts and principles that sound good. When shared, many of us would very likely and readily nod and agree. But it is one thing to express intellectual assent with a particular truth and yet totally another to experience it first hand! And this is what I am experiencing afresh as I seek to faithfully fulfil this assignment which I have received in the Lord.

I have taught over and over about the grace of God, the favour and blessing of God, the power of God and the love of God. These are great truths! We would say AMEN and AMEN and AMEN! But in the past year of stepping out into the unknown, in the recent months of venturing into things that my little finite mind cannot grasp, I have experienced the depth of my heavenly Father’s love in new dimensions! In times of wrestling with weakness and even fatigue, I have experienced the sustaining power of His grace! In moments of doubt and anguish, I have experienced His presence, His comfort and His favour!

Not to appear facetious, but is it not accurate that many may declare a statement of truth and yet not perceive it to be true? That’s because for many it has remained largely cognitive and not experiential. How then can this be resolved? Quite simply, you can’t experience anything until you get to experience it! For this reason, the Lord invites us to participate in what He is doing. He knows that until we jump into something larger than ourselves, we will never come to an understanding or have a revelation of who our God is and what He is absolutely capable of!

Dear friends, I exhort and encourage you: Get aligned with the Lord and be on assignment for Him! It is when you take that first step of obedience that you begin to experience a deeper fullness of what it means to trust the Lord. Make no mistake! The assignments are not to show or prove how capable we are. On the contrary, God’s kingdom assignments will often expose how weak and how frail we are, yet at the same time reveal how good and how great our God is! This is the paradox of kingdom dynamics and living! Oh, how we love to think it is all about us when it is always about Him and Him alone! That said, kingdom purposes notwithstanding, the Lord in His sovereignty will use every kingdom endeavour to work a deeper work of transformation in each of us.

To this end, I’m beginning to understand, a little bit more, the words of Jesus, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt 16:25) If I only serve that I may derive a sense of achievement, importance or belonging, my Christian activity, however sacrificial, is largely self-serving. But if I am willing to lose myself to the purposes of the kingdom, dare I say in total abandonment, I begin to receive the greatest joy and satisfaction beyond what I can ask or imagine! This is because in relying wholly upon Him who has given the task that I may be enabled to complete the task, I get to discover that truly everything that I am and ought to be is found only in Him who is Life!

Truly, there is no greater joy than to be serving the Lord, to be on assignment with and for Him! I am just so thankful that He has made me worthy in Christ to participate in what He is doing in these final hours. May this humble reflection bring much encouragement!

The Loss of Myles Munroe: How Do You Explain Such A Tragedy?

Dr Myles MunroeEvery once in a while, something happens that triggers a flood of questions. And quite possibly, there are little or no answers to any of these questions.

The tragic plane crash that caused the death of all its nine passengers, amongst which were Myles Munroe, his wife and daughter, is one such happening. I am certain much is being discussed both on- and off-line, and both inside and outside of the church.

How do you explain such a tragedy; and especially one that involves a faithful servant of God?

Please – just for a moment – refrain from spewing standard Christian answers, platitudes, clichés and slogans. I know these all too well and I might have used some of these too in times of simply not knowing what else to say, in hope that it might bring some comfort or encouragement. At the very least, it made me appear spiritual and matured.

The truth is, such tragedies are still rather unfathomable and causes one to grapple with its seeming meaninglessness … and unfairness.

I don’t struggle of the fact that all must one day die and that salvation in Jesus Christ is to be received by His grace while we are still alive. What I struggle with, I guess, is the way one dies. I remember listening to quite a few stories and testimonies of faithful men and women of God who passed into eternity in their sleep peacefully. These quickly evolved into teaching principles and promises that those who walked closely with the Lord will never face a tragic death. As a much younger Christian then, I lapped it all up. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have a peaceful uneventful departure? Note also that although it is not openly stated, the opposite is often implied … that those who do not walk closely with the Lord will encounter death more dramatically. Based on such thinking, we would have to conclude that the apostles, persecuted and martyred with tragic deaths, were all unfaithful and did not have a close walk with God. How absolutely absurd!

Today, having seen and experienced more, I will be very careful how I share such stories. We cannot presume that such “principles” apply across the board. Think about it: One day, the Christian community celebrates the 96th birthday of Billy Graham; and almost immediately after that, we mourn the loss of 60 year old Myles Munroe. How do you explain it? Is one more faithful than the other? Don’t even go there.

I really don’t have any plausible explanation. And any attempt will simply prove feeble and futile. I simply don’t know and it’s very hard to make sense of these tragedies on this side of eternity.

Please do not think that I have lost my faith or hope in God. Not at all. Let it be said that it is because of our faith in God and the hope we have in Him that we can find strength to live with and through such tensions. In the meantime, I will be honest to admit that I don’t have all the answers, and I’d be very careful that I do not unconsciously portray myself as one who thinks I do.

3 October: Another Spiritual Milestone To Remember

Photo Source: http://www.philanthropyfashion.com/memorial-stones/
Photo Source: http://www.philanthropyfashion.com/memorial-stones/

“Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal. Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; for the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”” Joshua 4:19–24

In Joshua 4, God instructed Joshua to erect a monument of twelve stones after the crossing of the Jordan. This was to serve as a memorial for generations to come and also for the world to know the power and faithfulness of God in the lives of His people. Similarly, there have been many key dates and events in my journey with the Lord and I want to make a conscious and deliberate effort to never forget any of these. I have “erected” spiritual milestones for these, and this is what I am doing here again.

Last year, on 3 October 2013, when we were both in a season of fasting and praying, the Lord spoke clearly to me through my wife, Serene. That morning, Serene stepped in and said, “The Lord says to cross over; and where we are going, we have not gone this way before.” She was reading the Bible when Joshua 3:4 ‘jumped’ out of the page at her, specifically, “that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before.” When I heard those words, my heart stirred with affirmation and we knew the time had come for us to ‘cross over’ into a new season and assignment. Where and how? We had no clue at all! What followed was my stepping down as pastor of CVCC; and later on, as dean of CVSOM.

I can’t believe that was one year ago. Time has gone by so quickly and so much has taken place. And as I have shared in other posts, I have since received fresh instructions for the ministry of Archippus Awakening. In my cave time of three months Jan-Mar 2014, I rested and worked on the manifesto. In April, the Lord gave me permission to publicly declare Archippus Awakening. On 3 August 2014, we held a prophetic event to birth this ministry in the presence of witnesses. Immediately after that, the Lord provided an opportunity for us to host our very first Awakening Event (A.W.E.), “The Beginning of the End” with Amir Tsarfati on 1 October, just two days ago Praise the Lord!

The funny thing is that when people ask me what the next steps are, I still find myself saying, “I don’t know and I’m not really sure.” To some, this may appear irresponsible or conclude that I have not spent enough time in God’s presence. That’s really fine by me because I remember His words to us. We have not gone this way before and He will lead us one day at a time, one step at a time.

That said, I do have broad strokes of where we are headed and I have given myself the next six months to be praying these through and developing these thoughts more concretely. Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” And that is how it has been so far since stepping out again! I pray, I plan and I proceed. But God’s purposes always take priority and I am ever ready to be corrected and re-directed by Him. After all, “There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless, the Lord’s counsel – that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21

And so, to my collection of spiritual milestones, I gladly add another one … 3 October 2013 … the day the Lord challenged Serene and myself to trust Him all over again; to follow Him where He will lead, to go where we have not gone before.

What are some of your spiritual milestones? Take time today to remember these, to recount the Lord’s blessings and faithfulness in your walk with Him. Receive new strength and hope for the way ahead, knowing that if He has come through for you in the past, He will most definitely see you through today and tomorrow.

Who Says Faith And Fear Cannot Co-Exist?

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Yesterday, I saw this post on Facebook: “FEAR AND FAITH CANNOT CO-EXIST.”

This FEAR-FAITH declaration is not a new one and I’ve heard it many times before. You probably have been taught the same thing … that FAITH and FEAR are diametrically opposite, never to be seen or mentioned together. Well, this is not altogether inaccurate but I’d like to share a different perspective to the relationship with faith and fear. Relationship?! Yes, I have found that these two words do and can co-exist. I discovered this when I re-read one of my favourite verses one day, Hebrews 11:7 …

“By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” Heb 11:7 NKJV

It never occurred to me before but that day, I read the verse again and realised that both faith and fear were mentioned together in the same verse! Because I had been taught that the two words don’t go together, I completely missed the significance of this verse. In my mind, each time faith is mentioned, fear cannot be present; and vice versa. As a result, I had conditioned myself to dislike the word ‘fear’ and developed an automatic blotting out of that word whenever it appeared; and especially when faith is mentioned. I didn’t realise that by adopting that posture, I also conveniently erased every understanding of fear, including that of godly fear or the fear of the Lord!

Noah was a man of faith. And it was his faith in the Lord – what he believed in and of God – that produced a holy, reverent or godly fear which in turn moved him to obey every instruction and warning that came from God. When God said that He would judge mankind, He meant it! When God said that He would bring a flood, He meant it! When God told Noah to build an ark, Noah readily obeyed because his faith brought about a holy fear that God meant what God said! And if Noah didn’t proceed to work on the vessel for the next 120 years, he too would have been swept away by the waters, whether or not he repeated his salvation prayer or not!

We see the same example in our Lord Jesus Christ “who, in the days of his flesh, when He offered prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” (Heb 5:7-8 NKJV) If anyone had 100% faith, Jesus did. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He had complete faith in the Father whether the cup was removed or not. And yet, filled and led by the Spirit of the Fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2), Jesus submitted to the Father’s will for “His delight [was] in the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:3). Like Noah, by faith, Jesus, moved with godly fear, obeyed and went all the way to the cross. Once again, the corresponding result of faith was fear, godly fear; and out of that, obedience.

My point? Simply this: Without realising it, our minds have been shaped by one-liners like “Fear and faith cannot co-exist.” or “Fear looks. Faith leaps.” As such, subconsciously, we have learnt to detest the word ‘fear’, even if it is godly or holy. Even when teaching about the fear of the Lord, we tend to qualify that as ‘reverence’ or ‘awe’, all too quickly and apologetically even. Clearly, we fear the word ‘fear’ and as far as possible, we’d rather not have it. Consequently, Christians today have little understanding of what it truly means to fear the Lord. We may say that we reverence Him or worship Him or hold Him in awe, but somehow, it just isn’t the same! We may lift our hands in darkened auditoriums and shed tears when we feel the tingles but as long as we don’t respond in obedience, we just do not fear the Lord! And that’s the problem with faith as we  know it today. We have been told that faith and fear simply do not go together. And so, our faith in our God is just that. We talk so much about faith but few are ever moved, as Noah and Jesus were, by godly fear that results in sacrificial obedience.

So yesterday, when I saw this post on Facebook: “FEAR AND FAITH CANNOT CO-EXIST.”, I couldn’t help but respond with the comment: “Not unless it is godly fear.”