Even in the Wrestling There is Rest

Almost out of the blue, as if an overnight occurrence, the most talked about topic is that of mental wellness.

The sad irony is that, just a while before this, the tone was a lot more accusatory and damning with many wondering why the younger generation is a lot less resilient and a lot more ‘strawberry’. Today, the narrative has been flipped on its head. If anyone as much as dare suggest that someone doesn’t have that mental mettle, he or she is promptly taken to task.

Here’s the scary thing. It’s not just a local problem. It’s a global one. Here’s a scarier fact. It’s not just experienced by non-believers. It’s also experienced by Christians. And judging from the sudden surge of articles, sermons and seminars in Christian circles, the percentage is not low.

Since I am no mental wellness expert, I will not attempt to write anything that may be misconstrued or challenged. All I offer is a simple word picture that popped into my mind as I pondered the place of wrestling and that of rest in the midst of challenges. The Lord opened my eyes to see ‘rest’ embedded in ‘wrestle’. Wow.

It’s all too easy to think that it is one and not the other. Clearly, we have swung to one extreme. But in trying to correct it, we must be careful not to swing to the other extreme. The key really is in knowing how to wrestle well and still be rested in that endeavour.

In Archippus Awakening – where I challenge many to know and fulfil their God-given kingdom assignments – the phrase that is used is ‘knowing how to work from a posture of rest.’ Yes, perseverance and endurance are required that we may fulfil our assignments. Yet, rest and restedness are very much a part of the process; without which, we will break down, give in and give up.

There have been many times where, in striving to give my best to the Lord, I have succumbed to stress, negative anxiety and even experienced extremely low periods of depression. Understandably, the work, demands and pressure may have been very heavy but the real issue is that I have taken myself out of His rest.

Kingdom goals, however well-intentioned, had become my own agenda. My reliance, regardless of how well I spewed Christian cliches, had been more on my own strengths and abilities than it should have been upon the Lord and His empowerment. My pressing on (more Christian-talk) was really more about preserving my pride than it was about persevering in humility. No wonder I was stressed and anxious. I was not rested at all. (I often quip that ‘stress’ is simply messed-up ‘ressst’.) I readily declare that it is all about Jesus; when in reality, it became all about me. Remembering the rest that I have in Him has helped me bounce back to continue to wrestle. And to wrestle well.

We have much to learn from Jesus, our King. He worked very hard but was always at rest. He knew when to engage and when to dis-engage. If anyone had to live up to expectations, Jesus did as Messiah and the Saviour of the world. #nopressure

Was Jesus ever mentally and emotionally stretched, anxious, stressed or perplexed? I believe so. Mark 14:33 records that our Lord was “troubled and deeply distressed” in the Garden of Gethsemane. To the point that it manifested physically through His sweating drops of blood, a condition known as hematidrosis (Luke 22:44).

Yet, through it all, because Jesus knew His assignment, He never once gave up. That He may fulfil what the Father sent Him to do, the only thing He gave up was His own will in submission to His Father’s will.

Jesus wrestled. Big time. Yet, in and through that wrestling, there was rest. It didn’t feel ok but He knew it would be ok. I believe this promise is available to us too – if we would learn how to appropriate it in Christ.

Today, more than ever, there is a battle for our minds. The pace of this digital world and the influences of social media are not helping one bit. What we set our minds on matter. A lot! If we do not renew our minds and be transformed, we will conveniently conform to the default pattern of the world (Rom 12:2). If we do not hold every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, we will be held captive by the arguments and philosophies of this world (2 Cor 10:3-6). If we set our minds on the things of the flesh, it will lead to death. But if we would set our minds on the things of the Spirit, the promise is life and peace (Rom 8:5-6).

It is really encouraging that there is increased awareness of mental wellness today and more attention is being directed to help those who are struggling and suffering. In this area, I have lots more to learn and catch up on.

If you are wrestling with any issue, don’t let it escalate or wait until it’s too late. My prayer for you is that you will discover the rest that is found only in Jesus Christ. That said, being a Christian doesn’t mean that you will no longer wrestle with the challenges and issues of this life or your own faith. Trust me – I am still wrestling with God on so many fronts. The assurance is that if our focus is always on Him and His promises, it’s ok to keep wrestling. Because in and through that wrestling, there is the promise of rest.

21 Years: A Coming of Age

Turning 21 is a milestone. In many cultures, it marks the transition from childhood to adulthood.

In our family, our first-born turned 21 in 2019. A month and a half ago, it was his sister’s turn. Serene and I still find it a little odd but officially, they are both adults now. Our babies have grown up, come of age. Even so, at any age, they will always be our children.

This was the impression that came to mind – a coming of age – as I considered the significant date of 8 July. Each year, I will take time to reflect, remembering the day I heard the Lord’s invitation to follow Him at a much deeper level. This year, it would have been 21 years since I first said yes to Him in 2000.

What a journey it has been and continues to be. I have experienced God’s love, grace and faithfulness every step of the way. If you have not started following Jesus (and I mean, really follow Him), don’t waste another moment. Make this day the day you decide to follow Him and we can celebrate this anniversary together.

Here are my past reflections if you’d like to know the details:

In a blink of an eye, it’s been 21 years.

I can’t really explain this impression of ‘a coming of age’. Truth is, I don’t even know how to express it adequately. Notwithstanding, I will try my best because I want to have a reminder of this.

Back in my days, we didn’t have the concept of adulting nor the complications and complexities attached to it. We just reached a legal age of responsibility and were expected to conduct ourselves accordingly.

As I entered adulthood back then, as I came of age, I enjoyed a new level of freedom. I could come and go as I pleased. I decided for myself without having to explain or justify. It was a nice feeling. That said, I quickly learned that I would be responsible and accountable for all my decisions – both the right ones as well as the wrong ones. Not quite as fun. In fact, very serious and rather overwhelming. Yet, that was how I grew and matured. Experience is a great teacher.

In the same way, after 21 year of following Jesus, it is as if a new level of freedom has been unlocked for me. This is not to say that I was not free in Christ before this, for those whom the Son has set free is free indeed (cf John 8:36)! In Christ, I always had the freedom but perhaps I never knew how to enjoy that freedom to its fullest.

As I ‘turn’ 21, I am hearing the Father give me permission to enjoy this new level of freedom as I embrace new responsibilities ahead. To be sure, this coming of age is not so much about arriving than it is about arising.

As children, we would ask for our parents’ permission before being allowed to do anything. As adults, we no longer have to do that. With experience and wisdom (and a lot of hindsight), we are free to choose and decide.

It is with this freedom that I believe the Lord is challenging me to move forward with greater boldness and confidence.

With all I have learned in the past 21 years, led and guided by the Spirit, He is saying to me, “I trust you. Go ahead. You know your kingdom assignment. Do what you need to do. You don’t have to keep looking over your shoulder, wondering or worrying about what I will say.”

At the same time, the Lord reminds and encourages, “You may have come of age, but remember that you are and will always be My son. As an adult, it may feel scary and uncertain at times, as if you are out there on your own. But you are not alone, My son, I will always be with you.”

On this note, I am reminded of how my father trusted me enough to let me to run the advertising agency he founded and painstakingly built up. He gave me the freedom to do what needed to be done. Yet, freedom didn’t mean ‘anything goes’. On a regular basis, we met – for me to give account, to seek advice; for him to give input, to provide counsel. I may have appeared to be out there alone, but I was never left to struggle on my own. Mistakes, I made quite a few. But he continued to give me the freedom to learn and grow from those mistakes.

Please don’t read this as there is no longer a need for me to read the Bible or pray or seek the Lord for His will and direction. That would be a totally wrong takeaway. This is why I mentioned upfront that I don’t quite know how to express this ‘coming of age’ impression. I certainly do not wish to confuse or stumble anyone. Let me state it a little more clearly: There is a certain level of freedom that comes with maturity and yet the adult remains a son that desires to please the Father and fulfil His will. Makes better sense? I hope so.

21 years of following Jesus. And as the Son went about His Father’s business, I too am learning what it means to partner Him in the same business. In the purposes of the kingdom of God. With the same liberty and joy in the Spirit. With the same favour and authority as His son.

A coming of age. With this fresh understanding of freedom, I am looking forward to learning so much more in the days ahead.

I have no idea how that will be or what it would look like. For now, I will just celebrate turning 21.

Do You Struggle With Perfectionism?

Hands up, those of you who struggle with perfectionism.

I see your hand…I see your hand…I see your hand. Welcome to the club!

My name is Henson, and I am a perfectionist too. There you go. I’ve confessed. And that is good for the soul, right? Nice. The problem is I still struggle with this dreaded perfectionistic tendency each time I get down to work. I find it hard to settle down until I deliver the ‘perfect’ piece of work.

There’s another word that doesn’t sound so bad – excellence. Yes, I want to be excellent in all I do because I desire to give no less than my best to the Lord. Isn’t that what Colossians 3:17 means when Paul wrote, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”? Amen!

And yet, time and again, I fail to discern between excellence and perfectionism. As a result, I end up striving and stressing, relying on my own expectations of how things should or could be, instead of resting in the Lord and trusting Him for the final outcome.

This morning, I made a conscious effort to cast every care and concern over to Him. (That’s biblical too.) After my long list of petitions and requests, this thought popped into my head:

“God does not require a perfect work to work perfectly.”

Boom! No, there was no thunder or lightning, but BOOM! That silent thought reverberated so loudly that I knew it had to be the still, small voice of the Lord. It was firm, yet gentle. This was not a rebuke, but a reminder.

God is not upset when we strive to give our best to Him. However, it is not His desire that we end up fretting and worrying, taking it out on ourselves and others. In spite of our imperfections, God is still able to bring about His perfect work!

Mind you, this is not permission for us to cut corners or be shoddy in our work. The way we work must still be an extension and expression of our worship of God. That said, no matter how hard we try, or how well we do, it still falls far short of what He truly deserves. Yet, our less-than-perfect sacrifices are accepted because of His grace, because of the perfect work of Jesus Christ.

Without a doubt, I will continue to be excellent for Jesus. Thank God that His perfect work is not dependent on how perfectly I do mine. May I always be reminded to just do my best, and leave God to do the rest.

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!

It’s ok. Really. The Lord is at hand.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed and anxious? Have you ever felt upset and frustrated? Have you ever felt alone and lost?

Yes, yes, and yes! Guilty, as charged.

Oops! I hope I didn’t stumble anyone. After all, how can someone serving the Lord, living by faith, moving purposefully on kingdom assignment have such experiences?! Well, you just met that someone!

I’ve always maintained that the work of the ministry is no walk in the park. As much as I’d like to inspire and encourage others with nice, pick-me-up statements and Instagrammable posts, I also believe in being real and authentic. And that means admitting and acknowledging that it’s not about mountian-highs all the time. There are moments – and quite a few I might add – that valley-lows are encountered and experienced.

In the past weeks, I struggled with such a moment.

On the surface, everything seemed normal. In fact, things must have looked quite good (have you seen my Facebook feed?). My schedule has been packed and I was kept duly engaged in my kingdom assignment of Archippus Awakening. Looking ahead, the trajectory seemed to be pointing up and up. My schedule is packed and there are more than a few items on the to-do list to take care of.

In Christian-speak, we would say that the Lord is enlarging the place of my tent! And yet … that was why and when the pressure mounted and concerns began to overwhelm. Yes, I found myself in one of those moments. Anxiety, frustration, helplessness, aloneness … you name it … I experienced it all! And the enemy was more than happy to help me feed on my self-pity, that I may sink even further.

Day and night, I wrestled with many questions and issues. At times, I even took it out on those around me. (I am not proud about this, but I did say that I would be real and authentic.) Everything felt wrong. But faith is not based on feelings, I preached to myself. Ya right, more easily preached than lived out. And so, the tussle went on.

Last night, the Lord graciously intervened, reminding me of Philippians 4:4-7.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

There are many familiar words and phrases in this passage, but this was the line that hit me: “The Lord is at hand.”

Oh how I needed to be reminded of that!

My heart wanted dearly to please the Lord. However, amidst the many details to handle, I must admit that He did seem a little distant. In my bid to be responsible and faithful, I didn’t realise that my focus had shifted, ever so subtly. As the saying goes, “If you feel that God is far away, guess who moved?” Ouch. In Archippian parlance, I allowed myself to be knocked off alignment!

How that one little line ministered to me: “The Lord is at hand.”

Situationally, nothing has changed. There are still many things to take care of and to handle. But being assured of the Lord’s presence made all the difference!

I don’t try to rejoice. I can rejoice because the Lord is near! I don’t try to think positive so that I don’t fret. I don’t have to be anxious because the Lord is at hand! And that also means that I can boldly bring my concerns to Him and make my requests. Because the Lord is not too far away that He cannot hear me. He is near and very present! I don’t try to have peace. I have the peace of God because the God of peace is at hand, near me, with me!

Are you overwhelmed and anxious? Are you upset and frustrated? Are you feeling alone and lost? Perhaps, like me, you have lost perspective of who God is and where He is.

Take heart, my friend. It’s ok. Really. Remember … the Lord is at hand.

What’s the Word of the Year? Or the Word for the Year to Come?

The Sunday Times, 17 December 2017.

Each year, dictionaries will monitor the different political and socio-economic trends of the past year to determine the word of the year. For 2016, the words were post-truth (Oxford), Brexit (Collins), surreal (Merriam Webster) and xenophobia (dictionary.com). The words for 2017 have just been announced and they are youthquake (Oxford), fake news (Collins), feminism (Merriam Webster) and complicit (dictionary.com).

What is the word of the year for you? Would the word be a result of what you have gone through? Or how you hope the next year will be? Or would the word be that which holds you steady no matter what you have to go through?

If you asked the Apostle John for his input, he would tell you that there is only one Word for him: Jesus. And that would remain the same. Not just for one year. But for every year to come.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” John 1:1-3 ESV

In introducing Jesus as the Word, John opens his gospel with “In the beginning was the Word…”, paralleling Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God…”. He deliberately replaces ‘God’ with ‘the Word’. John cannot make it any clearer: the Word is God, Jesus is God.

The Jews would not be unfamiliar with the phrase the word of the Lord in the Hebrew Scriptures. In Genesis 15:1, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision. In 1 Samuel 3:21, God revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord. I used to read these verses and imagined a bunch of words flashing and appearing before these men in cool, animated computer graphics, no less. How wrong I was. It is only many years later that I would learn that the Word of the Lord is God Himself. More than just spoken oracles, prophecies or the recorded Law (or the Bible as we know it), the Word is the very Person of God, revealed in the person of Jesus.

But what about the Gentiles who had no idea of the Hebrew Scriptures? Here comes the ingenuity of John, as led by the Holy Spirit.

To the Hellenistic mind, the Word – logos – is a power that created the entire world, the cosmos. More than just a linguistic device to illustrate something, or a string of descriptives to communicate a thought, the Greeks understood logos as a reasoning, a principle, a wisdom. It is this logos that created the world and holds all things together. John was declaring to the Greeks that this Word is not just a power or a force, not just a concept or a good idea, but a person, the very Person of God Himself, Jesus. Everything can be explained because creation is the result of the logos, of divine logic.

But that is not all …

“In him (the Word) was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4-5 ESV

There is life in the Word. If He created the world which we live in, then He also created humanity that lives in this world. That’s us! We exist because of the Word. But we were not created merely to exist in our short span of life on earth. The Apostle will reveal in John 10:10 that the Word came not just to give us existential life but that in Him, we might also have abundant life! And in believing, receiving and knowing the Word who is eternal (John 17:3), we also enter into the promise of eternal life.

Consequently, it is in appropriating this life that is in the Word that results in a light that shines, that overcomes darkness! Put another way, you can’t hope to shine any light of truth, righteousness or revelation without first experiencing the life that is found only in the Word and the True Light, Jesus. The world operates by a flawed logic and by fake lights. Don’t be fooled or distracted by these that appear bright and attractive. The logic of the kingdom of God often runs contrary to the logic and ways of the world. The ways of the kingdom will almost always seem illogical to one who does not know the Word for himself.

This should not be a surprise at all for the kingdom of God is upside-down and counter-cultural. And yet, it is the King of this everlasting kingdom who will have both the first and the final word. And rightly so, for Jesus is, after all, the Word, who is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last ,  ((Rev 1:8,11,17; 21:6; 22:13). Long after all the words of the years have come and gone, the Word remains. There is no other Word, because there is no other God.

At the end of 2018, another set of words will be announced as the words of the year. As descriptive as these may be, they only record the plight of a world that is lost in darkness, in need of the True Light. These only paint a picture of humanity trying desperately to make sense of its own logic, as if the coining of new words and expressions will help us gain a better understanding of ourselves. Truly, apart from the Word, apart from Jesus, our attempts of reasonings and wisdom all fall apart, for it is only He who holds all things together.

What is your word of the year? More accurately, Who is your word of the year, and the years to come? Don’t wait for another year to go by before deciding. At the same time, there is no need to chase for yet another prophetic word for the year to come.

As for me, I’m going with the beloved apostle who beheld the glory of the Word that became flesh (John 1:14), who personally experienced the Word of life (1 John 1:1). Like John, Jesus is my Word of the year, and for every year He graces me with breath and abundance on earth. And even when my time is done, He remains the timeless Word for me, for all eternity.

Make Jesus your Word, your God, your Life, your True Light, your Wisdom.

Soldiers Don’t Get To Pick Their Battlefields

I chose to write this post on the Archippus Awakening website as the subject matter relates closely to all who identify as Archippuses, as soldiers of the Lord’s army. That said, this is also a good reminder for one and all as we consider our willingness to serve as the Lord assigns, whatever and wherever. Blessings!

Archippus Awakening

Who would have imagined that the Elected Presidency would become such a hot topic in Singapore? To date, not everyone is convinced if it is necessary to have a reserved election that the next President would be one from the Malay community. Whilst that is still being debated, the discussion has moved to who is a Malay?

And with Mdm Halimah Yacob’s decision to run for the Presidency, a side story emerged – that of Mr Tan Chuan-Jin’s appointment to be the next Speaker of Parliament – surprising many and prompting speculations that the full minister (ex, as of 10 September 2017) has been demoted.

As the House convened today (11 September 2017), Mr Tan was elected as its 10th Speaker. Amidst all the views, comments and criticisms, it is the response of Mr Tan that has not only caught my attention, but also earned my respect.

Please read…

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2016: A Year of Good Disruptions

2016 has been labelled the “Year of Disruption”. In almost every sphere of society, especially politics and economics – locally, regionally and globally – someone or something was either disrupting or being disrupted.

Sounds like another buzz-phrase that is being trended over social media. But really, when you look a little more closely, it is nothing new. All these ‘disruptions’ are simply good ol’ fashion ‘change’ – just that ‘change’ today is happening at a much faster rate than ever before. Where we were once able to react and adapt to such changes at a more comfortable pace, we don’t have that luxury anymore. Before an idea or a development can settle, another takes place, and another, and yet another! As such, many are finding themselves disrupted and displaced, just trying to keep up with all that is taking place.

As 2016 draws to a close, how have you been ‘disrupted’ with the various changes in your life? I took the opportunity to ponder the year that has zipped by, and here are some gleanings from my ‘disruptions’.

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My year actually started with a disruption. My MacBook began acting a little strange and I was forced to re-install twice. With so much to do, that disruption was totally frustrating! And yet, God spoke through that glitch, telling me not to bring any corrupted file into the new year, and also reminding me to make space for Him. If you read the 2016 Review for Archippus Awakening, you will see that it has been a full, full year. Looking back, I am so thankful that the Lord prepared me for 2016, warning and reminding me through this disruption. [Read: First the Natural Then the Spiritual: The Lord Prepares Me for the New Year]

This year, I found myself responding to certain issues, expressing my opinion a little more ‘vocally’ over cyberspace about Biblical Illiteracy, Biblical Interpretation, Madonna in Singapore, Hyper Grace, Prosperity Gospel, Bill Johnson and Hillsong. Stirring others to confront such key and controversial issues more deeply, I played the role of disruptor. Yet, at the same time, because not everyone agreed with me, I was also disrupted as the articles attracted quite a few opposing comments. To be sure, it wasn’t easy handling some of these ‘disruptions’. But looking on the bright side, these became good disruptions as it generated more traffic to One Day At A Time! 2016 is the year that we crossed the 300,000 mark, and now closing in to 380,000 hits. May this blog continue to positively disrupt people out of comfort zones to consider and ponder critical issues, causing the Body of Christ to be awakened to their roles and assignments in these challenging times!

Our family experienced a rather major disruption when our daughter’s eczema condition flared up sometime in March. It is not necessary to go into any detail of what she/we went through over the five- to six-month ordeal. We prayed. Sarah prayed. Our church family prayed. It was tough, and very painful. We are thankful that that episode is behind us now. What a disruption it was! And yet, so many lessons learnt, and His grace experienced. Not that anyone would want to go through it again, but in the end, we can look at it and see the ‘good’ in what the Lord had allowed. [Note: This is a testimony to the glory of God. Not a request for health products and recommendations. Thank you.]

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Then came another disruption to our family life – National Service! Enlistment came knocking at the doors of the Lim Tribe and David, our eldest, joined the ranks of Ah Boys to Men in October. Each weekend was spent ferrying him to and fro Pasir Ris Bus Interchange, and acceding to his food requests! Disruptive? Totally! And yet, it was heartwarming seeing him interact with his siblings, as he shared army stories with them. It was a proud moment for Serene and myself when we attended David’s BMTC Graduation Parade at the Marina Bay Floating Platform.

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Another disruption came in the form of an invitation to participate in our home church’s 30th Anniversary Service. Simply, I was asked if I would consider being a part of a song item. Sure, I thought. How difficult could it be, right? Well, this old man forgot how long it has been since he last performed on stage. And it wasn’t just a song item, but a rap! And so, major disruption amidst message preparations and ministry engagements. I couldn’t remember my part and my words. Then came choreography! Help! The last time I did anything like that was Beauty World, 1988. But, all said, it was fun and enjoyable. Yes, a good disruption that allowed me to stretch the vocal cords once more, and loosen some rusty limbs. And more importantly, it helped me ease in a little bit more at FGA, connecting more with the church family. Now, I’m known not only for my preaching, but also my rapping – hahahaha!

A nagging pain in my left shoulder presented the next disruption. After putting up with the discomfort for more than six months, I finally got the frozen shoulder treated. A good disruption? Well, for one, I received an interesting lesson about God’s No Mercy Policy. And, for good measure, I was once again reminded of the ageing process, that time is not on our side, and we must be faithful to do all that has been assigned to us. So, yes, another good disruption.

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On a lighter note, the Lim Tribe experiences a series of disruptions every year, from January to August. I am referring to all our birthdays – haha! Don’t get me wrong: We love birthdays! But when you have nine birthdays in eight months, it can be rather disruptive to keep thinking of what to do, how to schedule, where to go, and how to celebrate birthdays over and over again! Most definitely, these are good disruptions. And 2016 has seen each child grow up even more, ranging from the youngest entering P1 and the oldest enlisting in the army. Standby! The Lim Tribe Birthday Series 2017 starts in a week’s time!

Indeed, 2016 has been a year of ‘good’ disruptions. It hasn’t always been smooth or comfortable (that’s why they are called disruptions). But we can most definitely say that the good Lord never left us alone, no matter how bumpy the ride was. Truly, with God, all disruptions can be ‘good’ disruptions. (Yes, even Brexit. And yes, even Trump.)

Changes, there will always be. And we can expect the world to experience even more disruption and shaking in the days ahead. Whether Christian or otherwise, everyone will experience uncertainty and even confusion. Should we be surprised? Not at all, for the time is short.

Thankfully, for Christians, our hope is not found in the ways or things of the world, for these are all passing away. Most certainly, our hope is rested and founded upon the name, the person, and the completed work of Jesus Christ! The one who truly understands this, whose faith is grounded upon this truth, will also be one who does the will of God. And 1 John 2:17 declares that these are those who will abide forever.

However disruptive life may be, we have a God who promises to see us through all challenges, to walk with us every step of the way. Let’s continue to encourage one another to view disruptions with the right perspective, trusting that if God allowed it, He will most surely see us through it. May we be able to pray as Joab did, “If it’s good for God, it’s good for me.”

Thanks to one and all for journeying through 2016 with me, Serene and our children. Let’s cross into 2017 with even greater resolve to make every moment count, disruptions notwithstanding, for our King and the glory of His Kingdom!

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.

Make AWESOME AWESOME Again

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I’ve said it before, and most likely, you’ve said it too.

  • After a great time of singing: “Wow, worship was AWESOME!”
  • Someone delivers a near faultless performance: “She was AWESOME!”
  • A message that stirred your heart: “Oh, that message was SO AWESOME!”
  • After a retreat or camp: “We had such an AWESOME time!”
  • A child does well for his exam: “You are AWESOME!”
  • Sampling the latest culinary fare: “That was AWESOME!”
  • Seeing a breathtaking view: “Whoa, AWESOME!!!”

It seems that these days, anything good, beautiful, pleasant, satisfying, exciting, emotional qualifies to be AWESOME. As long as things are going well for you, and life appears to be good, we can boldly sing along with Emmet Brickowski of the LEGO Movie fame, “Everything is AWESOME!”

Yes, AWESOME is the new buzzword and the Church has had no problems Christianising it and claiming it as their own. After all, it does sound spiritual, so I suppose that makes it par for the course.

But is today’s AWESOME what AWESOME really is? Do we even understand what AWESOME means?

Of the 37 Old Testament verses* that AWESOME appears in, only 8 verses use words that may also mean ‘wonderful’, ‘powerful’ and ‘glorious’. But for the majority, in the other 29 verses, the original word used is ‘yare’, derived from ‘yirah’, meaning ‘fear’. In the New Testament, AWESOME appears only once, in Acts 2:20, where Peter quotes Joel 2:31 (addressed below). From these, we also note that AWESOME is always used to describe God, His word and His works; never man or the works of man.

In Psalm 33:8, “Let all the earth fear the Lord; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.”, fear and awe are mentioned together. In Psalm 119:161, “Princes persecute me without a cause, but my heart stands in awe of Your word.” can be literally translated as “my heart trembles in fear at Your word.” Persecution may have been unbearable but the psalmist would not compromise God’s word not only because it was beautiful and glorious (although it most certainly is), but for fear of the consequences of dishonouring God through disobedience.

When Jacob encountered God at Bethel, he declared, “How awesome (yare) is this place!” For sure, it wasn’t merely goosebumps Jacob experienced because of the angelic worship team and the latest LED widescreen; it was fear, for Genesis 28:17 clearly records that Jacob “was afraid (yare)”.**

This should not surprise us one bit for our God is an AWESOME God. Indeed, He is glorious, magnificent, wonderful and powerful, and most have no issue with that at all. However, may I suggest that we have not even begun to understand how very, very, very glorious, magnificent, wonderful and powerful He is, to a point of terror and fear!? We have all had our personal experiences of entering the presence of one of higher authority and greater power – principal, commanding officer, prime minister, president. To a certain degree, we experienced fear. How much more the God of heaven and earth?

In Psalm 111:9, the psalmist declares, “Holy and awesome (yare) is His Name!” The KJV translation reads, “Holy and reverend (yare) is His Name!” Keeping in context, the next verse proclaims, “The fear (yirah) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” God’s holiness and AWESOMENESS is not to be trifled with, but to be feared and revered. No wonder Isaiah fell flat on his face (Isaiah 6:5)! No wonder the Apostle John fell as dead when Jesus revealed Himself to him (Rev 1:17)!***

Real AWESOMENESS is when you haul in a miraculous catch of fish and are immediately convicted of your own sin! In Luke 5:8, Peter didn’t go, “Wow, cool! That was really AWESOME, Jesus! You, the Man!” Not at all! Instead, Peter fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” – yes, Peter responded in fear! Which explains why Jesus had to comfort him with the words, “Do not be afraid.” (Luke 5:10)

In Joel 2:31, the prophet Joel described the Day of the Lord as “great and awesome (yare)”. Just in case you think it will resemble something of the closing ceremony of the Olympics to take your breath away, note Joel’s earlier mention in Joel 2:11, “For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible (yare); Who can endure it?” In other words, AWESOME means ‘very terrible’ or ‘fearsome’.

How far we have departed from the true meaning of AWE and AWESOME. According to the Online Slang Dictionary, AWESOME means “very good, excellent, fun, or otherwise appealing”. Sadly, in Christian circles, that is also the definition we have accepted. Without realising it, we have conveniently taken this descriptor, meant only for God, and applied it to everyone and everything. What is even worse is that we have adopted this slang and applied it to God. With this narrow, shallow, cutesy understanding of AWESOME, we have turned a truly AWESOME God into a pop idol that is only fun, entertaining and appealing.

I don’t think this little article can do much to change the way we use our language. When I have a positive experience, the word AWESOME may still roll off my tongue automatically. Likewise, I won’t hold it against you for proclaiming AWESOMENESS on your favourite ice cream flavour.

But let’s make AWESOME AWESOME again in the way we view God and relate to Him. Let’s put the AWE back into AWESOME for He is a holy God to be revered, honoured and yes, feared! Because I know that God is good and that He loves me, I have absolutely no problems with the words ‘fear’ and ‘terror’. Redeemed by the blood of Jesus and clothed in His righteousness, the fear I have for the Lord does not involve torment at all (1 John 4:18), but love, obedience and submission to His will and ways. At the same time, I heed seriously the warning of Hebrews 10:31 where the writer exhorted believers to examine their lives and conduct, for “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

The next time we sing, “Our God is an AWESOME God!”, let us truly, rightly and fully ascribe the AWESOMENESS that is due to Him and Him alone!

* New King James Version.
** This was way before the law was given.
*** John was a New Testament believer under grace.

Related Post: Who Says Faith And Fear Cannot Co-Exist?