Keep Preaching: You Never Know How Or When God Uses The Message To Encourage Others

I am sure preachers and teachers can identify with what I am about to share.

Before each speaking engagement, you pray and prepare. Most will never understand the effort that goes into this process. Even fewer will appreciate the experiences one is allowed to go through that a message is delivered with greater depth and significance.

The day arrives. After being introduced, you take the stand. And with all your heart, you deliver the message to the best of your ability, to the glory of God. After the service, some step forward to shake your hand, and others, to offer a word of thanks. All too soon, it is over.

But, is it?

Let me share this little testimony to encourage you.

At the end of a recently concluded church camp, a brother told me what he did with a message I preached at his church last year in December (six months earlier). Impacted by the message, he took it upon himself to translate it into Bengali so that he could forward it to others in the migrant workers community he had been ministering to. When these Bengali brothers received it in their own language, they were strengthened by the Word of God!

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As a speaker, I thought my engagement ended when the benediction was pronounced. Who would have imagined that someone would take the trouble to translate it that others may be edified? This is a reminder for us, preachers and teachers, to keep keeping on, even when it may seem dry or unfruitful. We never know how God can use what we have prepared, or when. In His time, in His own special ways, He can use it to bless and encourage someone. We may never get to hear of it but I believe it is all recorded for when we meet our Lord and Master.

So, preach on and teach on! The Word of God is alive, unfailing and endures forever. Our part is to declare it, believing that the Spirit of God will do with it as He pleases. For sure, His Word will never return to Him void!

To God be the glory!

 

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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.

What A Weekend of Expectation and Empowerment!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ways of the Kingdom

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I was assigned this sermon title and I pondered how best to share the aspects of the Kingdom within one session. Surely, I wouldn’t do justice to a topic as broad as this. Then, the thoughts began popping into my mind and I began to be overwhelmed by the various aspects of the Kingdom – what the Kingdom is about, what it means to be in the Kingdom and what is required of one who is a subject of the Kingdom!

I tried my best to put the points down and to organise them in as best a way as I possibly could. I know this list is certainly not exhaustive and I may well have missed a few (quite a few) here and there. But my prayer is that it will provide a good start to someone desiring to delve more into Kingdom understanding and matters, and that it would encourage and provoke us to live more purposefully for the King of kings and His Kingdom!

RESCUE First and foremost, we must never forget how we got delivered from the power of darkness and into the Kingdom of God (Col 1:13). Jesus literally went into enemy territory on a rescue mission and saved us. We were enslaved by sin and on the road to hell! That’s what the word ‘gospel’ means. It’s a message of hope announcing the arrival of a better king and His kingdom. It’s a call to repent, to turn and to follow this king! “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15 When we believe and accept this good news of Jesus Christ by faith, rebirth and regeneration by the Holy Spirit gains us entry into the Kingdom (John 3:5; Titus 3:5).

RULE Whilst Christians may readily accept Jesus as Saviour, not many acknowledge Him as King, Lord and Master. But He is! He paid a hefty price of redemption with His own blood and set us free from the power of sin. We belong to Him and are subjects of His Kingdom. We are under His rule and we do His bidding. “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done!” Sadly, many recognise His rescue but not His rule, preferring to live by their own dictates and desires. “But why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?“ Luke 6:46 For these, the phrase, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” is truly questionable.

REALM Kingdom literally means the King’s domain or realm. The extent of that domain determines the greatness of that King and Kingdom. The Kingdom of God transcends the natural and includes the spiritual! Don’t miss this awesome truth! Before there was the natural, it was the spiritual and that’s where the real action is (Heb 11:3). When we operate in the spiritual, we operate in the super-natural. Hence, Paul’s constant reminder for us to live a life in the Spirit, to set our minds on things above and not on things on the earth (Col 3:2).

RESPONSIBILITY I love the terms, “child of God” and “friend of God”. But I mustn’t disregard those of “ambassador”, “soldier”, “steward” and “servant”. I represent the Kingdom of God and I have responsibilities. The Kingdom parables make this extremely clear (Matt 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27). “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.” Matt 24:45-46

RIGHTEOUSNESS The Kingdom is about the rule of God and the establishment of His righteousness (Matt 6:33a). Search the Scriptures and you will find that righteousness is always mentioned alongside salvation. That said, Jesus clarifies that this is not merely an outward show of piety but a heart that beats for the righteousness of the Kingdom. Our message is not for people to do the right things and be righteous, but for all to receive righteousness from Jesus and then be enabled to live righteous by the power of the Holy Spirit. This life of righteousness in the Spirit is the narrow way that leads to life and peace! Matt 7:13-14; Rom 8:6; Gal 6:7-8

RELATIONSHIP & RECONCILIATION From the beginning, it was about relationship between God and Man, out of which God’s rule and reign would be established on earth. And when that was affected by sin, the focus moved to reconciliation that relationship might be restored. God demonstrated that through the constant wooing of His people, through the sending of Jesus that the world might be reconciled to Him. And so it must be with our relationships too where grace is exercised, mercy shown and forgiveness extended. Freely we have received, freely we must give. Yet often, in our zest for righteousness, we become pharisaical, condemning and killing relationships instead of bringing life to them.

RESOURCE When the King sends, He also provides. In sending the disciples, Jesus told them not to worry about their needs. As long as we are on mission for the Kingdom, all these will be taken of (cf Matt 6:33). At the same time, every spiritual resource of heaven is available to us too through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit! The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in us! We have all power and authority over principalities and powers because we sit with Christ in heavenly places.

REJECTION Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matt 5:11-12 Live the ways of the Kingdom and get ready to be rejected and persecuted. Not everyone welcomes the message of the Kingdom. Not everyone desires Jesus to be King. It’s just too bad that they take it out on the messengers of the Kingdom. Jesus warned His disciples, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20) So brace yourself.

RESILIENCE The Christian walk is no walk in the park at all! Remember that we are still in a spiritual battle. There will be opposition and distraction. At times, life seems extremely unfair and God can appear extremely unjust when He allows certain situations to take place. Hence, the need for a sound and renewed mind that knows the person of God and also the good, acceptable and perfect will of God (1 Peter 1:13; Rom 12:2). Hence, the need for persistence in prayer and faith that we might not lose heart (Luke 18:1-8) in the face of difficult and challenging times and people.

REST Make no mistake, Kingdom work is hard work but it need not be burdensome work (1 John 5:3). But it would be extremely tiring and draining if we only relied on our own strength and abilities. Although we might appear to start out strong, it is only a matter of time when we fail and our flesh condemns us. It is in acknowledging our weakness that we begin to trust in His strength, to rest in His completed work, to work from this position of rested-ness in Christ alone!

READINESS & RETURN This is definitely not the time to rest on our laurels, to hang up our boots. If there is any time in the history of humanity to be alert and watchful, this is the time “for our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” (Rom 13:11) As we work, let us watch, that the watching may in turn provide the impetus and urgency for our working. The signs of the time are all around us. Jesus is returning soon.

REWARDS These are the words of Jesus: “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” Rev 22:12 Salvation is not of works but it is for works (Eph 2:8-10). And it is the works that would position us for Kingdom rewards! James reminds us that our works provide the evidence that our faith is real and alive, and by our works, our faith is perfect. I’ve always wondered what “dead faith” (James 2:26) means or results in? Point to ponder for those who might too glibly proclaim, “I’m not after the rewards for I’m content with salvation by faith.”?

The Baptism of Mdm Goh: When Simple Faith in Jesus is More Than Enough!

Mdm Goh BaptismI just returned from baptising an elderly lady, the mother of one of our members. From what I know, Mdm Goh Ah Lan was a very staunch Buddhist. At 82 years old, she was recently hospitalised for a weak heart and failing kidneys. Her condition was serious enough for her to be put into ICU twice! The Discipleship Group visited and prayed for her and I was told there was a presence of God in the room. Soon after, she gave her a life to Jesus. Don’t ask me what language she declared her faith in Jesus in; but she did. Don’t ask me how either. She just did! Two days ago, another pastor visited her and returned to share how sprightly and joyful she is. Chatting with her – she understands a little English – his conclusion was, “There is no doubt she is soundly saved!” Then came the request for baptism – that’s where I got involved.

Asked to perform the baptism in Changi General Hospital, I dutifully made my way there this afternoon. I really didn’t know what to expect, nor how I would communicate with her. I don’t speak Hainanese and she understands only a little English. That said, I had all my questions lined up in mind to ensure she understood what salvation and baptism meant. I was, as you would expect, in teacher mode 🙂

When I arrived, however, things didn’t go the way I expected. I found myself struggling with Hokkien and Mandarin, trying to communicate through her daughter, not a believer, as interpreter. All my well-crafted theological questions went out the door! I simplified everything to one question, “Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins?” And even that sounded too much of a mouthful! But the dear lady gamely nodded her head and said, “Yes!” That’s good enough for me, I thought to myself, and proceeded to baptise her in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit! I can’t explain it, but there was such joy and peace on her face. She was visibly excited and thrilled that she was getting baptised, that she was proclaiming her faith in Jesus for all to see.

Communion was next. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, I took my time to explain to her family members (non-believers) what the communion meal was all about. I made it a special point to share the gospel as I presented the significance of the elements. I believe it was especially meaningful to watch their mother partake of communion for the very first time. In the conversation that followed, the daughters commented how their mother had become more cheerful and energetic after turning to Jesus.

Sometimes I wonder if being too theological and doctrinal can be detrimental and unproductive when it comes to reaching the lost for Jesus? Quite clearly, Mdm Goh doesn’t understand everything about the Christian faith, much less theological and doctrinal positions of sin and righteousness. Yet, her simple declaration of faith in Jesus was enough. This shows that when the Holy Spirit draws a person to Jesus, there is no need for any argument or discourse at all. He does all the work and we get to participate in the joy of reaping the harvest!

In no way am I saying that there is no longer a need to present salvation accurately. What I am advocating is that we do not fall into a rigidity of a one-method mode of evangelism. Whether reaching out to someone like Mdm Goh or a college professor, we must always remain open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, that through a heart of love and compassion, we may rightly direct them towards reconciliation through Jesus Christ.

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 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

42 Parents Turned Up For “Raising Christian Families in Today’s World”

I want to give God all the glory for what took place at Wesley Methodist Church today.

At the invitation of the Family Life Ministry, I had the opportunity to share about raising families for Jesus in today’s challenging and ever-changing landscape. A total of 42 parents turned up to attend this talk (from Wesley MC and also other churches).

The morning started a little tentatively with me experiencing some technical and connection problems – interestingly, this tends to happen at Wesley MC … perhaps, it’s time for a new computer (MacBook?) – haha! Anyway, one of the parent-participants, Jonathan, helped me troubleshoot and got everything set up. Truly, God-sent!

With so many things to share, the three hours zipped by so quickly. As far as I could observe, the crowd was attentive and everyone was duly engaged with the SEVEN key points presented, drawn from Nehemiah 4:1-20.

Another high point was that for the first time, my wife Serene was able to join me (albeit a little later). I’ve always felt that we should be doing this together as husband and wife, father and mother. And today, with the children able to stay home themselves, Serene could be present. During Q&A time, the women had a chance to ask questions, which in my opinion, are better answered by my dear wife 🙂

Feedback and responses after were positive, indicating that the participants were provoked to think further and more deeply. Is it all about surviving the rat race, education and academic grades? Or are they raising Christian families centred upon Jesus that these would be purposefully used for God in the advancement of His Kingdom?

I am praying that the Holy Spirit would have convicted the parents who attended, and continue to lead them as their cast their vision for their families and make choices that would glorify Jesus!