Madonna Concert in Singapore: A Heart Issue

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For the very first time, Madonna will perform in Singapore on 28 Feb 2016. Understandably, this is a big deal for her fans, and the music and arts industry. But not everyone is necessarily as excited.

Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour has been labelled as “demonic” and “satanic”, the most controversial piece being “Holy Water”, featuring scantily clad dancers dressed as nuns and Madonna herself pole-dancing on a cross. To meet Media Development Authority’s conditions of approval,  this song and segment will not be performed in Singapore, thankfully. However, the exclusion of one song does not change the heart of the matter or what Madonna stands for. And from the title of her album, Rebel Heart, there is no need for any second guessing here.

As in the case of having heard that Adam Lambert would perform at the SG50 New Year’s Countdown Show, Christians have been praying fervently for the authorities to change their minds, or that Madonna will somehow not make it to our sunny shores, that the show will not go on.

Yet, more than just pray and petition the authorities, I hope that church and ministry leaders will do their part to provide clear direction and guidance to their members. To this end, I am encouraged to see a very clear statement from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore, Madonna’s Concert: What about it? In this statement, Archbishop William Goh discouraged his members from going to the Madonna concert:

“There is no neutrality in faith; one is either for or against. Being present (at these events) in itself is a counter witness. Obedience to God and His commandments must come before the arts. As the people of God, we should subscribe to authentic Arts that lead us to God through the appreciation of beauty, harmony, goodness, truth and love, respect, unity and the transcendent; and not support the ‘pseudo arts’ that promote sensuality, rebellion, disrespect, pornography, contamination of the mind of the young, abusive freedom, individualism at the expense of the common good, vulgarity, lies and half-truths.” (emphasis mine)

Whilst this has been done for the Catholic community, it is not quite as straightforward for the Christian community, given the numerous denominations and diversities. A quick check of a few church websites revealed no such statement or position. I can only hope and pray that a stand has not only been taken by leaders but also clearly communicated to their members at worship services, right through to cell groups; and especially to the young adults and youths 18+. [Parents, please take note.]

If this has already been done at your church, that’s wonderful! But if not, and if you concur with what is written here, feel free to share this article to guide and direct others.

If it is agreed that this concert is blasphemous, satanic and demonic, then to be present is to participate in a satanic ritual. Why would any Christian want to have any fellowship in that at all? In plain English, “Don’t have anything to do with this. Don’t be there! Don’t go!” Even so, we cannot presume anything as some will still choose to see this as an expression of art, as some rationalise that yoga is merely a form of exercise. At the end of the day, it is a heart issue, is it not?

Together with fellow ministers who beseech and implore, we know too well that all we can do is present the Truth. That’s our responsibility and we must discharge that faithfully. The final decision, however, rests with the individual. And we must accept that there will be Christians who will consider this too old-fashioned, too narrow-minded, too judgemental, too legalistic. There will be some who will go because their friends are going and they don’t want to appear as prudish or conservative. There will be some who have already booked and paid, and are unwilling to forego their investment, preferring to help defray this S$14 million production by sowing into a satanic venture than to count their tickets as loss for the sake of their testimony.

Whatever the reason or justification, actions will reveal the position of the heart. After all, if after hearing and knowing the Truth, one still persists on rejecting it, there is only one word for such a response: rebellion. These will have absolutely no problem with worshipping in the sanctuary of God on Sunday morning and then worshipping (yes, worship) in a different sanctuary on Sunday night. Or more significantly, could there be some who rallied at Jubilee Day of Prayer now revel at the Madonna concert in the same National Stadium? In that case, Madonna has reached the right audience through her album and tour: Rebel Heart.

 

Reviewing The Year Through My Facebook Posts

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Jesus says that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth will speak (Matt 12:34). In our age of social media, we could say that out of the abundance of our hearts, we will tweet, or post.

As 2013 draws to a close, I thought it’d be an interesting exercise to review my posts through the year to see what resonated most in my heart. Unlike the Year In Review generated by Facebook based on posts which garnered the most likes, here are some of my personal favourites with a little commentary of what prompted each post.

You can’t love Jesus and not move forward! This was the challenge I issued to the congregation based on our church’s theme and process. Too many declare their love for Jesus but never move from that at all. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey me.” And that means doing all He tells us to do.

I’m on cloud nine! My wife said that I preached a good message this morning *beam* Others may tell me that I preached well. But when Serene tells me that, it makes all the difference!

This morning’s message convicted a sister to be baptized regardless being only believer in family. Love it when people respond to the Word! This is every preacher’s desire – when people are convicted by the message and are moved to act on it.

Biblical declarations may sound positive. But without Christ, it’s just another motivational chant and you’re still relying on yourself. This has become such a concern. Christians sure know how to talk Christian, but are they necessarily living a life in Christ? Unfortunately, a trial or crisis usually reveals otherwise.

You can learn from others’ experiences. But what you need to experience personally, only you can experience. No one can experience it for you. At the end of the day, it’s a walk that only you can walk.

After the Transformers ride… Me: “Deborah, you were so brave!!” Deborah: “Do you know why I am brave? Because God is with me. Love these chats with my 6 year old.

Don’t serve because pastor says so. Nor serve because it makes you feel better about yourself. Serve because you love Jesus. Always good to challenge ourselves to know why or whom we serve.

Singlish faith: Ok God, you say one ah! I really love this one! Only Singaporeans can identify with this phrase and how to say it correctly – haha! This is something I say to the Lord often, in Singlish, of course.

The question is not “Is God speaking?” but “Are we listening?I posted this after a series of instructions and affirmations from the Lord. Totally overwhelmed by how clearly He spoke!

It may seem insignificant but that little act of obedience, your response by faith, is what opens the door to all that God has already prepared for you. Believing this for myself. Now, to run through the opened door.

Before faith can be victorious, it must be courageous. Preached “Victorious Faith” and was reminded that at times, it is courageous faith that leads us to victorious faith! Amen!

In our relationship with God, we mustn’t have a contractual but a covenantal mindset. The former is based on terms whilst the latter, trust. Really love this revelation by the Spirit. Stop bargaining with God, presenting your terms or demanding your entitlements. Just trust Him and serve Him. He knows best.

Just dawned on me: God could raise any one of these to become the next Graham, Moody or Spurgeon; and I would have played a small part in speaking into their lives! Yes, Lord! After preaching at a youth camp, I realised my little contribution could be used by God to raise a new generation of preachers and leaders. Wow! Sure bowled me over.

A walk with Jesus not only helps you celebrate coincidences as divine but also to understand them as sovereign checkpoints towards all He has planned for you. Looking back, it is truly amazing how the Lord has led me thus far. Everything falls in place when seen from His perspective. I’m so looking forward to the next leg of the journey in 2014.

Meaningful that the 9 of us spent tonight reviewing 2013 & committing our desires for 2014 to the Lord. Our family held a Thanksgiving & Consecration Service on 29 Dec as prompted by the Lord in the spirit of Joshua 1:11 that “within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess.”

Indeed, It’s been a very challenging but interesting year. Yet, all through, the Lord has been with me, sustaining and enabling me by His grace. I don’t really know what to expect in 2014. All I know is that I have a word from the Lord and I will be holding on to that for dear life. For, if the Lord has spoken, then surely He is faithful to bring it to pass. We may face uncertainties and challenges along the way, but we can rest assured that His presence goes with us. Nothing will rock our conviction nor distract us from the call. In the words of Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!”

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PS: As always, my prayer is that the Lord will use these posts to bless, encourage and even provoke you. For more of my rambling thoughts (revelations?), check out Quotable Quotes. Feel free to share these with others, but please remember to credit http://www.brohenson.org. Thanks!

Faithful

I wrote this song on 17 Sept 2008 for the musical presentation “I Will Sing Of His Goodness”. These were the words the Lord spoke into my heart as I prepared to step out by faith into fulltime ministry … “Have I not shown you I am faithful?” Reflecting upon these lyrics again, I am truly say, “Yes, my God is faithful!”

Have I not shown you I am faithful
And if you should lose your way
I’ll be there for you
And if you should falter, my hand will hold you
Shadows may turn but you will learn
That I am faithful

He has spoken I have heard
And now it’s left to me
If I’ll take Him at His word
Or trust in things I see
How is it my heart believes
My mind thinks otherwise?
Why the doubt if I’m to walk by faith?

Even when I’m faithless, He is faithful
And if I should lose my way
His love will find me
And if I should stumble, His hand upholds me
Seasons may change, He stays the same
For He is faithful

He has never let me down
Nor left me on my own
Mercies new each day I’ve found
His Faithfulness I’ve known
Yet I trip and I still fall
As if I’m slow to learn
Will His grace be there enough for me?

But my Abba Father, how He knows me
And each time I break His heart
Yet He forgives me
Even when I fail Him, still He believes in me
Though I run wild, I’m still His child
And He is faithful

Seasons may change, He still remains
Shadows may turn, this I have learnt
My God is faithful

Japan Tsunami & God’s Heart

The day Serene and I celebrated our 16th anniversary on 11 March, the world received news about a staggering 8.9 earthquake that sent a 10m-high tsunami crashing into the northern sectors of Japan.  Over the next days, images of the devastation and destruction have been displayed across all media.  There is no denying there this was a real biggie as far as earthquakes and tsunamis are concerned. Even as I write this post, fresh updates are streaming in, highlighting new struggles and challenges as Japan copes with the aftermath.

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From a biblical and prophetic perspective, this is clearly an endtime event.  And views may range from one of the wrath of God being poured out, to others that may suggest the judgment of God on a nation steeped in idol worship.  I chanced upon a post that even provided a geological basis to the biblical and prophetic bases of this tsunami and others that will follow!  Also, I am sure there are many with questions like, “If God is a God of love, why would He allow such a bad thing to happen?”

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As I spent some time in the Scriptures this morning, I was led to read the creation account again.  Genesis 1:31 in particularly spoke to me: “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” (NKJV)  At that very moment, I sensed a “broken-ness” in the heart of the Creator as images of the tsunami-affected areas and people flashed across my mind.  I sincerely believe that what has happened and is happening in Japan breaks the heart of God.  His creation, and that includes the people of Japan, is being ravaged by the effects and consequences of sin.  When Man fell (as recorded in Genesis 3) and was separated from God, all of creation fell too.

The good news is that God did not simply sit back to see creation self-destruct.  In His redemptive plan, God sent Jesus as the Saviour … not only for Mankind but also for all creation!  Not only will those who believe in Jesus be saved and restored; but one day, all creation will too be restored.  That time is not yet, but without doubt, that day of hope is coming very soon!  Rom 8:19-21 declares, “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.  For creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

God’s heart is crying for His creation, for those who still do not know Him as the one true God.  The global happenings that are taking place are all signs that seek to point the world back to the Creator.  God’s heart is crying for all who are lost for He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4)  That truth is found in Jesus Christ.  The way back to Him is through faith in Jesus Christ.  Make no mistake – there is salvation in one name only, and that name is none other than Jesus Christ.

Dress Code for Churches

Reading the Sunday Times (6 Feb 2011) article, “Church is no place for flip-flops or shorts”, I applaud the few Catholic churches that have recently issued dress codes to their parishioners.  And if some refuse to adhere, they are not permitted to enter the church or refused Communion!  Wow, standing ovation, even!  One may challenge the guidelines but it is the boldness and courage of the leadership of these Catholic churches to take a firm stand that I admire.

One mustn’t miss the point here and think that churches are positioning themselves as high-brow clubs where only the best dressed are allowed in.  God forbid.  I believe that is not the intent of these churches at all.  In fact, should someone in flip-flops or bermudas turn up in need of Jesus, this person will not be turned away.  More than just an attempt to be elitist, or a move against fashion trends or tastes, two key issues are addressed here.

The first is modesty (or more accurately, immodesty).  Dressing standards have become more and more relaxed in today’s society, leading to more “revelation” – forgive the pun.  And sadly, we are seeing the same trend in churches and amongst Christians.  That the Catholic churches are willing to address this issue head-on is indeed commendable.  A parish priest said that being dressed appropriately was important because “when others look at us in church, they learn something about us as Catholics.”  Well said.  The real test would be if they continued to dress appropriately even when they are not in church.

The second issue is the attitude of the heart.  When we dress as we please without regard to God, we have not dealt with self-centredness.  And if anyone dares even to comment, these are quickly labelled as ungracious, unaccepting and judgmental.  Typical, is it not?  Self-centred people expect everyone to submit to them and their imperfections, but refuse to submit to others in the church regardless how offensive their own behaviour or dressing might be.  In the article, a 26-year old parishioner only revealed how shallow her faith and understanding of a relationship with God is when she remarked, “We are taught that God loves us no matter what we are, so why should the church discriminate against our attire?”  Ah yes, the much used God-sees-my-heart-and-not-my spaghetti-strap-top justification.  Stretch this faulty theology to the extreme and one can get away with murder.  Looks like the popular ‘grace’ message made it to the Catholic churches too.  This young lady’s comment also shows what is primarily in her heart … self-centredness.

So, well done, Catholic churches.  I think you have reminded us Protestants what godly reverence is.  Perhaps, it’s time we also address the same issues in our congregations?  Get ready for more membership transfers … 🙂

The Purposed-Driven Heart

Yes, you read it right – not the Purpose-Driven Life, but the Purposed-Driven Heart.

Let me first clarify that I am not in any way disputing the truths contained in Rick Warren’s bestselling work.  Indeed, it is wonderful to know the purpose for which God created us and placed us here on earth.  When appropriately discovered and lived out, what we have is a life of meaning and significance as God intended.  Now that due credit has been given to Pastor Rick, let’s move on to what this article is really about.

First, the verse that provoked me this morning: “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.”

Daniel had been exiled to Babylon but received rather good treatment from the King.  He was to be given the king’s delicacies and wine.  Not bad for a young Hebrew man in an unknown environment.  And yet, Daniel refused this preferential treatment “that he would not defile himself”.  I wondered what the big deal was.  After all, it was merely food and drink.  It may have mattered to Daniel then, but what would it mean for redeemed, under grace Christians today?  It’s tough to discern whether one is being in or of the world, isn’t it?  As I pondered deeper, the significance of this verse hit me!

I began to see that “the king’s delicacies” referred to the comforts, trappings and blessings of this world.  These do not build us up but soften us as the people of God.  Commenting about John the Baptist, Jesus contrasted his odd and radical clothing with those dressed in soft garments (Matt 11:7-12).  Look around the church today and what do you see?  Strong, mighty and uncompromising men and women of God?  Or people chasing after Babylon’s delicacies?

Also, the king’s “wine” refers to a different wine, a different spirit that we might be filled with, as opposed to that of the Holy Spirit.  Paul warned in Eph 5:18, “And do not be drunk with wine … but be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  We need to understand that “to be filled by” simply means “to yield control to”.  Are we sons and daughters of God led and controlled by the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:14)?  Or have we unwittingly subjected ourselves to the Babylonian system of debt and deception, mistaking it for the biblical promise of blessing and prosperity?

For sure, the pull of the world is strong.  The offerings are very attractive, providing more than a few opportunities to compromise.  But as Daniel purposed in his heart not to be defiled by the things of Babylon, so too are we to purpose in our hearts to live holy before the Lord and the world.  This resolution and conviction to live for Jesus must be so strong and so decided that nothing will rock or shake us in the days to come.

I don’t think Daniel lived a purpose-driven life.  Instead, he had a purposed-driven heart, one resolutely purposed to bring God all glory and honour, regardless the outcome.  With such a heart sold out for God, the Lord used Daniel powerfully and honoured him with full meaning and great significance in all he did.