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.

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If The Apostles Had Posted Their Writings On Facebook

St Paul Writing Epistles

Over breakfast, I quipped, “If you want more visits to your website, just blog about hyper grace or simply point out an erroneous interpretation of the Word of God.” Really. Just try it. What have you got to lose? Just a few friends, perhaps (if these were even real friends in the first place).

That got me wondering a little: If the apostles had posted some of their writings on social media, what might be some of the responses they would receive from today’s postmodern, tolerant Christian?

Hmmm … (wavy daydream screen with harp arpeggio) …

Paul: For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.
@blessed2bits: How dare you touch the Lord’s anointed! No wonder you are cursed and have so many sufferings, trials and tribulations.

Peter: But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.
@sbjacktif: How can these be bad or wrong? I have learnt and grown so much from their teaching and ministry. I am not questioning your hermeneutical accuracy. So you shouldn’t question my experience.

Paul: For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
@lurveawww: All I know is that you are not very inclusive nor tolerant. Bigot!

James: Cleanse your hands, you sinners!
@saintifide: Who are you calling a sinner? My sins have all been forgiven – past, present and future!

John: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
@knowway: Way to go, John! Tell it to the gnostics! Small typo error you may like to correct … you wrote “we” but you actually meant “them”, right? And while you are at it, can you make it clearer which part of the letter is for “them” and which is for “us”?

Paul: Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
@peaceman: Aw, c’mon, Paul! Stop pitting one man’s opinion against another. You are dividing the body of Christ. Don’t be so hung up about the truth. It’s more important to have peace and unity.

… (wavy daydream screen with harp arpeggio) …

I am, of course, just having some fun. But on a more serious note, as much as I would like this to be purely imaginative and make-believe, these are not entirely original for such comments have been posted in response to well meaning articles that seek to present and point out the truth. I will also not be surprised that some will find this tongue-in-cheek article offensive and ungracious. I can only appeal to Paul, the one who declared the gospel of grace, who, when needed, also employed sanctified sarcasm that his point might be pointedly made with full effect (cf 1 Cor 4:6-13).

Like it or not, this is the postmodern environment we operate in these days. Still, we are to preach the Word and to declare the Truth, with boldness and without compromise. The apostles did that in times past and were ready for all opposition and any eventuality. For the sake of Jesus, many lost much, including their lives. It’s ok to lose a few friends on Facebook.

Note: If the above statements by Paul, Peter, James and John look or sound familiar, it’s because they are direct quotations from the Bible: 2 Cor 11:13; 2 Peter 2:1-2; Eph 5:5; James 4:8; 1 John 1:8-9; 2 Tim 2:15. #justsaying #cantpresumeanythingthesedays

How Dangerous is the Error of Hyper Grace?

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Although much has been said and written about Hyper Grace, I readily accepted an invitation to attend a talk by Dr Roland Chia on 2 May 2016, organised by the Chinese Annual Conference of the Methodist Church in Singapore.

Dr Roland Chia is the Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine of Trinity Theological College and the Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute of Public Christianity. Yet, credentials aside, it was the opportunity to hear a local critique and perspective of Hyper Grace that drew me to the talk. After all, Singapore is one of the main exporters of this doctrine through Joseph Prince of New Creation Church. It is only appropriate that one of our own presents a point of view.

In just over one hour, Dr Chia delivered his presentation very clearly and precisely. We were given a quick introduction, followed by a broad overview of what Hyper Grace Teachers understand about Scripture, God’s Moral Law, Sin & Repentance and the Cross of Christ, and how their interpretations are erroneous. Dr Chia quoted from Hyper Grace proponents like Clark Whitten, Paul Ellis, Steve McVey, and of course, Joseph Prince (Destined to Reign & Unmerited Favour).

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For the benefit of those who are still uncertain about the error of Hyper Grace, here are summary statements of the distortions of Hyper Grace Teachers, reproduced from Dr Chia’s notes:

  1. They have dismissed the whole of the OT. Narratives in the OT are merely used as examples or illustrations.
  2. They have dismissed the relevance of the Ten Commandments and God’s moral laws for Christians.
  3. Their theology (i.e. doctrine of God) is erroneous because they have emphasised only certain aspects of God’s character and only some of His attributes (like love) while neglecting others.
  4. Their Christology is defective. For them salvation is centred only on the death of Christ. In the NT, the whole incarnate life of the Son is salvific.
  5. Their understanding of the ministry and teachings of Jesus is erroneous because they consider the teachings of Jesus before Calvary as irrelevant for Christians (this includes the Sermon on the Mount, the parables and the Lord’s Prayer).
  6. Their pneumatology is erroneous because they teach that the Holy Spirit does not convict believers of sin. This is instead attributed to the work of the devil.
  7. Their understanding of the writings of Paul is erroneous. Paul always balances the indicative and the imperative (you are such and such, therefore, you should do such and such). But the new antinomians only emphasise the indicative and entirely omit the imperatives.
  8. Their soteriology is erroneous because they teach that it is impossible for Christians to lose their salvation.
  9. Their eschatology is erroneous because they present an over-realised eschatology when they insist that Christians are already perfect.
  10. Needless to say, their entire theology of the Christian life and discipleship is erroneous.
  11. The Hyper Grace Teachers are also promoters of the health and wealth Gospel. They incorporate this quite easily in their theology of grace.

Indeed, it was time well spent on the morning of a public holiday. I definitely appreciate Dr Chia’s ability and willingness to say what needs to be said. As far as he is concerned, the doctrine of Hyper Grace is heretical and as such, harmful to the Body of Christ.

Of the hundreds who attended the talk, I don’t think anyone would dispute this at all. However, as intellectually and theologically stimulating as the talk was, it would be a great waste if it remained just that. And yet, for it to have traction, for pastors to be willing to preach it, for leaders to teach it, for members to run with it, I feel we need to be even more precise with the consequences of one who embraces such teachings.

For this, we must be willing and daring to define ‘harmful’ and what that entails. Really, how dangerous is the heresy of Hyper Grace? More pointedly, we must ask, “What are the eternal consequences, if any?” Is it dangerous enough for church leaders to collectively issue a statement against Joseph Prince? Is it dangerous enough for pastors to be equipped and to boldly preach this over their pulpits? Is it dangerous enough for cell leaders to be trained to address this at ground level? Would this be a priority? Is there an urgency? Should evangelistic efforts be redirected to winning back the many souls who think they are secured by grace but are not?

If we are not willing to grapple with these, then perhaps, all we have is mental assent that Hyper Grace is erroneous but are not adequately convicted that it is dangerous or serious enough to warrant any action on our part. In other words, let’s just ignore the elephant in the room. Wait. What elephant?

Once again, it was a great talk and I learnt a lot from Dr Roland Chia. I am looking forward to another session with him where Dr Chia will answer questions about another controversial movement, the New Apostolic Reformation – that’s another can of worms.

Read more:
Got Questions: What is Hyper Grace?
Bill Muehlenberg: Antinomianism and the Hyper Grace Error
Michael Brown: Confronting the Error of Hyper Grace
Lim Poh Ann: Hyper-Grace: Jesus’ Pre-Calvary Teachings Irrelevant
Andrew Wilson: The “Grace Revolution”, Hyper-Grace, and the Humility of Orthodoxy

Author’s Note: This post drew quite a few comments and statements in defence of Joseph Prince and New Creation Church, and understandably so. The arguments are not new at all, mostly disputing Dr Chia’s summary statements as untrue or inaccurate. In fairness, these were not at the talk  to benefit from Dr Chia’s explanation, supported by proper quotations and citations. Even so, I suspect this would mean little as positive personal experience appears to be of greater value and importance. I have learnt much from this little exercise, and I am grateful to all who have contributed. Praying for all to have wisdom and discernment, and the Lord’s amazing grace, of course.

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!

When God Calls: Here I am. Who am I?

Silent Retreat Desk_Fotor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Age of Itching Ears

If you have not read Charisma Magazine’s article, Is Joseph Princes Radical Grace Teaching Biblical?, you should.

As I read it, the first thought that came into my mind was, “I really should learn how to write like this.” The author was gracious both in his agreement as well as his disagreement with certain points. To address the points he took issue with, I felt that he laid it out very clearly, and biblically, encouraging the reader to consider what may have been left out in Prince’s teaching, whether intentionally or not.

That said, you should also read the comments at the end of the article. I glanced it yesterday and was very surprised at how some had responded. This prompted me to post on my Facebook wall, “I am totally convinced that you can be as hermeneutically accurate and people will still hear and believe what they want to hear and believe.”

This is really unfortunate given the great honour we have as God’s people to have the Holy Scriptures as our guide and standard. It is appalling to note how many totally disregard the authority of Scriptures whilst claiming to live by it. Certain doctrines are just so way out and yet no one seems to be bothered by that as long as “it works for me” or “I have been blessed”. And don’t even try to mention the four-letter word … HELL (what were you thinking of?). Anyway, I should not be at all surprised for this condition has already been prophesied in 2 Tim 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”

Finally, as much as I appreciated the writer’s diplomacy, there is one point I am not in agreement with. Despite the challenges and inconsistencies pointed out, he suggests that “Destined to Reign” would be good for the new believer. I beg to differ. Simply, new believers are totally unable to discern what is right and what is not! They can’t tell what to take in and what to throw out. To this end, although it does contain certain foundational aspects, it can also contribute to a very weak foundation that will in turn affect the believer’s theological perspective and spiritual walk. And especially in the urgency of the times and the seasons, coupled with the environment and worldviews we have today, it would not be right to expose new believers to such teachings.

In conclusion, I am fully aware that no one person has the full revelation of Scriptures. This is why we must guard against spiritual pride and be humble and open to always learn from others. This does not mean we simply accept the parts the we like and discard those that do not sit well with us. Nor am I suggesting that we go all spiritual and irresponsibly use the highly-abused phrase “as the Spirit leads”. Instead, we must, as Paul exhorts young Timothy in 2 Tim 2:15, learn to rightly divide the word of truth that we may be found approved by God.

Am I A Pastor Or A Teacher?

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists,
and some pastors and teachers” Eph 4:11

Does Ephesians 4:11 describe a five-fold or a four-fold ministry? Without having to conduct a survey, we can safely assume that the five-fold ministry is the more popular and accepted notion. That was my understanding and position too — until more recently.

There is little argument concerning the separate offices of apostle, prophet and evangelist. However, it is not nearly as clear when it comes to the terms of pastor and teacher. Depending how you read it, it can very well go either way. To this end, I have no intention of getting into a hermeneutical discourse nor debate. That said, I would go as far as to point out that the structure does suggest the twinning of pastor and teacher, thereby making the four-fold ministry position a very plausible consideration.

Speaking FGAOver the years in ministry, it has become very apparent that my gift is teaching. This has been affirmed over and over again by different people from different churches. For me, the conclusion is very straightforward — in the context of the five-fold ministry, I am thus called to be a teacher. I may at times display certain apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic and pastoral traits (and anointing). But I am primarily a teacher.

I was very comfortable with this until I was commissioned as a pastor of a local church. Not only am I a teacher by giftingI am also now a pastor by appointment. It didn’t take very long for me to realise that these two roles are quite different. And the members made it a point to let me know that too 🙂 Over time, I started receiving feedback like “Rev Henson is a good teacher but not really a good pastor.” or “I agree that Rev Henson’s teaching is biblical, but his standards are so high that I feel I cannot attain it.” As a teacher, I am used to presenting concepts and principles clearly and precisely – in black & white, as it were. As a pastor, however, I quickly learned that there are so many shades of gray! And whilst the flock may agree with me in principle, they did not necessarily desire the same in practice! Trust me, I learned this – and am still learning – the hard way. 

Holding to the five-fold ministry position, I have the perfect answer (excuse?) to this conundrum: “I am called to be a teacher, not a pastor.” In other words, pastor is merely a title given to me to fulfil a function in the local church, since there is no such title as teacher. Unfortunately, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t allow me to get away with it so easily; hence His prompting for me to ponder more deeply the possibility of the four-fold ministry position.

As I did that, taking my own experience into consideration and that of others, I am personally coming to a conclusion that it is not pastor or teacher, but pastor and teacher; not two offices, but one that embraces the dual roles of pastoring and teaching. Simply, a pastor must teach, and a teacher must pastor. You just cannot divorce one from the other.

Speaking ASPCConsider this: How does one pastor [shepherd] if he does not first teach? What parameters or boundaries does one govern by or within? In the absence of proper teaching, pastoring becomes extremely subjective if left to merely broad-stroke Christian terms like love, grace and forgiveness. Things get even messier when a pastor hopes to shepherd according to another’s teaching!  If Paul had to teach and straighten out theology and doctrines for the churches then, this is even more critical today when so much teaching is available everywhere! Clearly, pastoring involves teaching.

Conversely, teaching involves pastoring too. I must admit that since becoming a pastor, it has broadened and deepened my perspectives and ministry as a teacher. Without the practical experience, dealing with church leadership, administration and people, much of what is taught can largely remain academic and theoretical. This can easily result in spiritual pride and self-righteousness, as in the case of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They prided themselves as the best teachers but Jesus labelled them as hirelings when they should have been shepherds [pastors], clearly demonstrating the need for these two critical roles to function together when ministering to people.

So, am I a pastor or a teacher? The answer is “yes” because I now see it is one office with two roles that are critical and inseparable. Admittedly, for me, the more dominant trait is still that of teaching at the moment. But embracing the four-fold ministry position helps me remain open to develop and grow in the pastoral aspects. This is not necessarily easy for me, nor does it come naturally to me given my personality and inclinations (besides, it’s easier to deal with books than with people – haha!)

Even so, I am reminded that God didn’t merely issue rules and regulations but also desired relationship with His people. For this reason, Jesus, the Word, became flesh and dwelt among us. As such, my eyes are fixed on Jesus, pastor-teacher par excellence, that in time, I too may grow to minister as He did, “full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

As with all aspects of transformation, this will not happen overnight nor by my own strength but only by His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. In the meantime, all prayers (and encouragements) are appreciated that I may be faithful to fulfil my ministry as pastor-teacher alongside apostles, prophets and evangelists —

“[to equip] the saints for the work of ministry, [and to edify] the body of Christ till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Eph 4:12-13

Related Post: Being a Pastor