Awl for Jesus

Awl: a small pointed tool used for piercing holes

I reached Deuteronomy 15 in my bible reading this morning. Once more, Deuteronomy 15:12-18 spoke to me. How timely, as I reflect and rejoice about 20 years of Following Jesus. We may think that this passage about bondservants is no longer relevant for New Testament Christians. However, we must be note that it was Paul’s preferred term whenever he introduced himself.

“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle,…” Romans 1:1

“Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ,…” Titus 1:1

In celebration of the honour and privilege of following and serving Jesus, allow me to share an extract from Say To Archippus, from Chapter Six: The Kingdom Keeps Advancing, pp74-77.

Awl for Jesus

When writing to the churches, Paul would introduce himself as a doulos first, before using the term, apostolos (apostle). Although different English translations have rendered the Greek word doulos as servant, slave or bondservant, it is clear that Paul considered himself as belonging to Jesus.

As a servant or slave of Jesus, he is firstly one who serves the Master before he is one who is sent by Him (an apostle literally means one who is sent). Unlike the other English versions, the translators of the NKJV and the NASB opted to render doulos as bondservant instead of servant or slave.

Appreciating the difference between the terms makes for an interesting observation as well as application.

Servitude and slavery may have been common and accepted in Bible times, but given the fallenness of humanity, there would have been the possibility of unjust and inhumane treatment of those in such categories and situations.

To address that, God, through the Mosaic Law (Exodus 21:1-6), made a provision for servants to be set free after serving six years, without having to pay anything. This was so that they could have a chance to start over.

“Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them: If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.”

Exodus 21:1-6

Although freedom is due to him in the seventh year, the servant still has an option available for him to exercise. If he had been well taken care of and well treated by his master (or ex-master, more accurately), he could choose to forego his freedom and voluntarily serve this master.

Forego his freedom? Yes! His master had provided adequately for him and his family and even protected them from any eventuality. He has benefitted from the master’s fair dealings as well as his wise and prudent decisions and direction. He trusts and loves his master.

Freedom notwithstanding, there is absolutely no reason why he would want to risk facing the challenges and uncertainties of the world on his own. It is far better to stay and to continue to serve this good and loving master! His relationship with his master is worth far more than his own freedom!

By saying, “I love my master…I will not go out free,” he voluntarily and willingly offers himself back to the master. When the master pierces his ear with an awl, this freed servant becomes a bondservant who will serve the master, not just for another six years, but for life!

This is a beautiful picture of our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ! Like the servant, we too have been set free from slavery without having to pay anything. Instead, we have received every blessing in Christ and every promise is a ‘yes’ and ‘amen’ for us to start anew!

And yet, the freedom we have accounts for nothing if we don’t have Christ, the best Master there is. With freedom, we could serve ourselves and do whatever we wished but how could that even be compared with the protection, the provision and the purposes of the Master?

Truly, nothing compares to being in the centre of the Master’s will and plans. The best thing to do is to offer ourselves back to the Master, voluntarily and willingly, and to be His bondservant for life.

Being slaves of God and servants of Jesus is not to be taken as drudgery or a chore. It is true that we have been bought with a price and are no longer our own but a relationship with Jesus is never akin to forced labour or life imprisonment.

Not at all! Otherwise, it is no longer a relationship of love, for love cannot be forced upon a person nor can a person be coerced to love.

Jesus has every right to enforce His ownership over us but that is simply not in His nature or character. He loves us and thus saves and sets us free from the tyranny of sin. And so, we are His and in this, there is no choice. But we do get to choose how we respond to His love. We could just say ‘thank you very much’ and go about our own devices, or respond in love to stay and serve Him.

If you ask me, it’s really quite straightforward. If I could have made it on my own, He didn’t have to come and save me in the first place. The truth is, I am and have nothing in and of myself. The moment I walk away from Jesus, I walk right back to where and what I was saved from! For sure, sin is a terrible master and I am a lousy master of my own destiny.

There is only one Master who is worthy of love, praise and service: JESUS!

It is when we come to a revelation of this that we, like Paul and the apostles, readily choose to be bondservants, or love slaves, of Jesus.

Voluntarily. Willingly. For life.

For more information about Henson’s books, visit archippusawakening.org/books. Both Say To Archippus and Alignment Check are available at archippusawakening.org/shop.

Beyond Resurrection: The Next 40 Days

The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

Acts 1:1-3 (emphasis mine)

Today is Resurrection Sunday.

This year, because of the Covid-19 crisis, it is celebrated very differently – not in packed churches and auditoriums, but in homes. This morning, I enjoyed our church’s online service with my family in the comfort of our living room. I am sure it was the same for many others; not just in Singapore but around the world.

Although somewhat muted, its significance remains the same: Jesus is risen! He is alive! Death is defeated! We have victory in and through Him!

We know that now.

But for the disciples of Jesus then, it took some time for the reality of the resurrection to hit home. For this reason, Jesus “presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs”. Over the course of 40 days, He was seen by many of them.

40 days may seem a long time to us (think 28 days in circuit breaker mode and the possibility of an extension) but Jesus knew better. This window was all He had to convey what was important and critical – the essentials. Beyond the initial high-fives and hugs, Jesus spent every other moment “speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” Yes. Whether encountering the disciples in their homes or along the road to Emmaus, Jesus revealed the kingdom of God.

Similarly, beyond the celebration of the resurrection today, this is my prayer for the next 40 days – that there will be a fresh revelation of the kingdom of God to disciples of Jesus Christ.

Whether staying in our homes or jogging along exercise routes, I pray that King Jesus will break in to show us what we need to see and understand about “things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” When reading Scriptures, may the words of the King ring ever more clearly and powerfully, opening eyes, convicting hearts and renewing minds. More than just waiting to get back to church as usual, that we would wait – crave! – for the Spirit of the Christ to be outpoured again upon all believers. What a new normal that’d be!

40 days was all Jesus had and it was enough.

The disciples didn’t just celebrate Jesus’ resurrection but carried it in their hearts. It didn’t end with a stirring easter cantata or musical but resounded in and through their lives. As witnesses of His resurrection, Jesus wasn’t just alive for them; Jesus was alive in them! This revelation and reality enabled them to represent the King in all “things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” They knew full well that kingdom exploits may result in death for some. But because their King lives, even if they lost their lives, they too would live with Him.

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed more than a few things in the Church, causing us to consider and examine the essentials and the non-essentials.

After His resurrection, for 40 days, Jesus didn’t speak of anything else except the essentials, “things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” Over the next 40 days, in this divine pause, I believe the King will speak again to those who truly desire and are seeking His kingdom.

My prayer is that we will have ears to hear.

Good Friday Reflections: A Thorny Crown

Each year, dictionaries will select a Word of the Year to describe the main trending issue of the year. For 2020, I am predicting that it might well be coronavirus, for obvious reasons.

More accurately, it is the novel coronavirus; or a new strain of a virus whose thorny crown-like spikes earned it the label corona or crown. It was later upgraded to a disease status, Covid-19, the COronaVIrus Disease which originated in 2019.

After the initial finger pointing, there is now a greater call for nations to co-operate. It is becoming clearer that no one nation can fight this battle on her own. The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted and disrupted everyone and everything on a global scale.

As noble and needed as this sounds, this is where conspiracy theories abound. Who exactly is WHO (the World Health Organisation) representing? Whose interests are being promoted? Is the new normal going to take us one step closer to the New World Order? Will we see a One World Government established in our lifetime?

In whatever form, the general consensus is that we must stand united against this thorny crown. For humanity to be saved, this coronavirus must die.

Another Thorny Crown

Being Good Friday, I revisited the trial and crucifixion of Jesus through the gospel accounts this morning. This year, what stood out for me was the mocking and ridiculing of Jesus. Whilst this piece of information is not new to me, the identification of the groups of people who mocked Him caught my attention.

Facing the Sanhedrin, Jesus was spat at, beaten, slapped and struck by His own people, the Jews (Matt 26:67). At the trial by Pilate, Jesus was scourged, beaten and mocked by the Roman soldiers, the Gentiles (Matt 27:27-31). As if to cover all bases, Scripture records another mocking where Jesus was treated with utter contempt – by Herod and his men of war (Luke 23:6-12). Herod, as we know from his family line, was a mix of both Jew and Gentile.

To top it all off, adding insult to injury, mocking Jesus’ kingship claim, a crown of thorns was wedged onto His head (Matt 27:29). It seemed that since Jesus was disrupting everyone and everything, He must be decisively dealt with and promptly put away. To restore normalcy, to save humanity, this thorny issue of Jesus must die.

To demonstrate the agreement of this decision on a ‘global’ scale, each and every people group (nation) was represented through the above mocking and rejection accounts – the Jews, the Gentiles, and even those in between. All stood as one against Jesus.

The Real Thorny Issue

In much the same way, we suppose that once humanity works together, we will win the battle against Covid-19 and other similar ills. Through this crisis, a new humanity will emerge – or so we are being told.

To the unsuspecting, this humanistic narrative is not new and has been declared in both obvious and not-as-obvious ways across the decades. The underlying message is simply: We are all the same, regardless of race or religion. It doesn’t matter which god you worship or what you believe. Let’s not fight but unite. At the end of the day, no one can save humanity except humanity itself.

However, the battle is not simply against the coronavirus. Hey, I am all for curbing and eradicating Covid-19, and soon. Yet, even when that happens, it will only be a matter of time before another issue surfaces.

What the world regards as the main issue is only the manifestation of the real thorny issue – sin.

Through this crisis, humanity hopes to come together as one. Even if that should take place, in whatever form, if sin is not dealt with, that unity will still be a sinful one of global proportions (eeks!). And the last time I read the Bible, sin only results in death (Rom 6:23).

The One with the Thorny Crown

The mocking and rejection of Jesus was foretold by the prophet, Isaiah. In describing the Messiah, the coming King and Saviour, he wrote,

“He is despised and rejected by men;
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”

Isaiah 53:3

In the next verses, we learn that the Messiah’s rejection was for a specific purpose:

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:4-6

After the mocking came the crucifixion. On the Cross, Jesus took upon Himself “the iniquity of us all”; yes, all. The suffering and sacrifice of the Messiah (the Christ) were not just for the Jews. These were extended to the Gentiles and everyone else in between. Where the judgment for sin demanded death, Jesus died in place of everyone that whosoever would believe in Him will receive life.

Do not be deceived. Only Jesus can save from the devastation and destruction of sin and bring about a new humanity of eternal significance and promise. Any other attempt will fail. The world may seek to capitalise on the present crown-like virus for all to stand as one. But Christians know that it is only through faith in Jesus that we can all be truly one in Him.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

Conclusion

This Good Friday, though our hearts go out to the many who have suffered and are suffering in and through the Covid-19 pandemic, it is the vicarious suffering and death of Jesus Christ that we must not forget. As much as we are thankful for good government and practical measures in these times, our hope continues to be in God through the salvific work of Jesus upon the Cross.

Sure, read the news and be updated about the Covid-19 situation. But let us not allow this thorny crown-like virus to detract us from Jesus, the One who wore the thorny crown and bore the terrible Cross on our behalf.

Covid-19 Circuit Breaker: Staying Home & Passover Perspectives

Some have likened the stay home directive to that of God’s instructions to the Israelites to stay indoors on the night of the first Passover (Exodus 12). What makes the proposition even more attractive (and prophetic) is that Singapore’s “circuit breaker” measures kicked in on 7 April – yes,  you guessed it – so very close to Passover 2020 which starts sundown of 8 April.

I have absolutely no issue with staying home and staying alive at all. However, I do find it a little bit of a stretch to apply the Passover account to what we are going through at the moment.

I will share some observations and will then end with a perspective which I believe is even more critical than merely avoiding Covid-19 (don’t miss this at the end of this post).

But before that, a little caveat: This post is not meant to stir any deep theological debate so please don’t pick a prophetic fight with me. You are free to believe or claim whatever you want to believe and claim.

Ok. Here goes …

Firstly, the Christian passover is no longer just physical but spiritual. Faith in Jesus, our Passover (1 Cor 5:7), has given us eternal life. I am not advocating being reckless in these critical times – be responsible and stay at home. That said, even if we should be affected physically, we know that death has already passed over us because of who we are and what we have in Christ.

Secondly, the time frame is not consistent. For the Israelites, they had to stay home for only one night. Even if we consider the entire Passover observance, it would be 8-16 April. As at the time of this reflection, Singapore’s circuit breaker measures will be until 4 May – three cycles of Passover? – just kidding.

Thirdly, if the proximity of dates is to be considered, then this only applies to Singapore and not to the rest of the world. As favoured as I believe Singapore is, I don’t think this special Passover privilege is reserved only for us. As with all other spiritual principles, it must be applied universally and consistently.

Fourthly, unlike the first Passover, we are not in a lockdown situation (and we hope and pray that we never get to that). We can still go out and dabao (takeaway) our favourite hawker fare. Just wear a mask and practise social distancing.

By now, I think you get the point. As attractive as the Passover proposition is, the only common factor is that of staying at home – that’s all.

This, however, does not mean that there is nothing we can learn from the Passover account in Exodus 12. I will close with this perspective for your personal prayer and processing:

Notwithstanding these observations, as already briefly alluded to above, I have no issue with the Passover principle when viewed and processed through Jesus, our Passover and Christ, through Whom we have been saved by His blood. This is indeed a glorious promise!

However, to simply stop there would be to totally miss the point of our salvation (or survival through this Covid-19 crisis). If you want to read and claim Exodus 12, then do so in its entirety. To this end, allow me to bring Exodus 12:17 & 41 to your attention:

“So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the last of Egypt. … – it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.”

Exodus 12:17 & 41 (emphasis mine)

Make no mistake. The preservation of lives in Egypt was for the purposes of the kingdom of God in the land, through His own kingdom people, the armies of the LORD. Likewise, in and through this crisis and staying home, there will be a time when God’s people will be raised and released. May we be ready for that.

Let’s pray that the significance of Passover doesn’t only apply to the staying at home to avoid death. Pray for Exodus 12:17 & 41 to be equally significant, if not more.

In this pause, may we not waste the space but be postured rightly that we may consciously prepare for the coming play.

Blessed Pesach!

Anna Joy’s Baptism

As much as we would like our children to be baptised, we are also keenly mindful that baptism is not to be treated lightly or ritualistically.

As one who was infant baptised as part of the Methodist system and tradition, I later discovered that I could not opt for baptism as an adult. The next step was ‘confirmation’. And so, after Serene’s baptism (as an adult new believer), we were both ‘confirmed’ and received into church membership together in November 1994.

Over the next years, learning more about the faith and gaining deeper understanding about baptism, I began to desire the experience of baptism – not just some water trickling down my head, but the full impact of being totally submerged in water and then to be raised up out of the depth again. However, that desire would remain a desire, for where I was at that point in time, there was no possibility of it ever becoming a reality. Simply, re-baptism was not allowed.

Thankfully, we serve a God who knows our deepest desires.

In 2003, the Lord led us from Wesley Methodist Church to Full Gospel Assembly Singapore. I had all but forgotten about this little desire in my heart until an announcement was made about baptism. I approached the senior pastor to check if I could be re-baptised and the answer was ‘yes’!

You may be wondering what the big deal is. I assure you, it is a big deal and we should make a big deal of every baptismal experience. I am so convinced that it is such an important milestone of our faith that I listed it as the first point of alignment check to rightly appropriate the work of Jesus on the Cross, reproduced in full hereunder:

Remember Your Baptism
Your baptism is not merely a rite of passage to secure membership in a local church. Through baptism, you identify with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-6; Colossians 2:12-13). Through the Cross, the ‘old you’ died. And as Christ was raised, the ‘new you’ was raised with Him. We can say, as Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

When you remember your baptism, you remember all that has been transacted at the Cross, and all that has secured for you at the Cross. Go back to the Cross that you may move forward from the Cross. Remember this truth as you move on kingdom assignment. Don’t ever forget whose you are in Christ, who you are in Christ, and what you have in Christ!

Alignment Check, “Appropriate the Cross”, p102.

Whilst I appreciate the notion of infant baptism, I do not subscribe to it today. Sure, the individual can ‘confirm’ his/her faith later. But to personally understand ‘death’, ‘burial’ and ‘resurrection’ with Jesus Christ through baptism is something I believe every believer should experience and remember.

Where our children are concerned, we have been careful not to put any pressure on their decision to be baptised. In each and every case, they have been the ones who have approached us, telling us that they are ready for baptism. Our part is to determine that they are indeed ready.

Each year, FGA Children’s Ministry conducts Blast Off! – a baptism class for 10-12 year olds, involving parents. After this series, we left it to Anna Joy, our youngest, to consider (no pressure, remember?). It took a while (for which we are thankful) before she finally said ‘yes’. In the days leading up to her baptism, we could see and sense the excitement in her. To the 10 year-old, it was “the big day” and “the special day”.

On 1 December 2019, Anna Joy was baptised, to the glory of God!

Thanks to FGA, I got to do the honours of baptising my own daughter. Whilst I enjoyed this privilege and my time in the baptismal tank with Anna Joy, this joy and honour must be shared with my wife. It is Serene who has spent much more time with Anna Joy, teaching and guiding her in the Word of God through the homeschooling journey. Serene and I are also very thankful to Uncle Sam and all the teachers of Spark Kids, for their love and attention showered upon every child.

Our hearts are full, now that each of our seven children has been baptised. That said, this does not mean that our job is done. It’s been 10 years since our oldest two were baptised; and we can all agree that whilst baptism is a major milestone, it is still only a milestone. It is the spiritual journey that is ongoing, where the rubber meets the road. Our part as parents is still to guide our children on this journey, and then to release them to walk with God on their own. We cannot walk the journey for them, but we pray that we will be worthy examples of what it means to love and serve Jesus.

We are so excited for Anna Joy as she begins a new phase of her relationship with Jesus. It was heartwarming too to see her older siblings stand with her and excited for her. (That’s the bonus of being the youngest, and being so cute.)

We love you, Anna Joy, and we are praying God’s best for you as you grow into all He has in store for you! You’ve been such a blessing and joy to us in the Lim Tribe. By His grace, and with His enablement, you will likewise be a blessing and joy to many, many others. Remember your baptism.

Kanye Is Simply Kanye. Jesus Is King.

Judging from the number of articles across as many websites and platforms, it seems that Kanye West is quite well known.

Forgive me. Although the name does ring a bell, I have no idea who Kanye is. I only just discovered that his wife is Kim Kardashian. And I was promptly informed by my teenager when I pronounced his name wrongly (Kanye believe it?). Well, in case you are still in the dark (where have you been?), Mr West recently encountered Jesus and has been making waves all over.

But, no, this is not a post about Kanye West; whether his conversion is real or not. (For an objective commentary and response, I’d recommend Bill Muehlenberg‘s article: Kanye and Christ.) Instead, this post is about how normal Christians like us should respond when superstars and celebrities like Kanye confess and profess faith in Jesus Christ.

Rejoice
For starters, we rejoice when anyone – yes, anyone – repents and believes in the good news of Jesus Christ and His kingdom. However improbable it may seem to you, nothing is impossible for God. That said, salvation is just the beginning; next comes the walk of faith and of sanctification. To this end, I appreciate Pastor Greg Laurie’s open letter to Kanye as a new believer.

Numbers Mean Something but Not Everything
It is heartening to note the massive spike in faith-based Google searches after Kanye’s “Jesus Is King” album launch. It was also reported that more than 1,000 people gave their lives to Jesus when Kanye gave an impromptu altar call at his concert in Louisiana. In terms of exposure and numbers, this is indeed impressive! I pray that these knew the difference between gettin’ up to the stage at a typical Kanye West concert and givin’ up their lives to Jesus at this Kanye West concert. On this note and at this point, it is not easy to tell if one has truly chosen to follow Jesus or is simply following a popular figure. Only time will reveal how many will stay on the straight and narrow way as disciples of Jesus Christ.

I make this comment in light of what we have observed from church history. When Emperor Constantine legalised Christianity in 313AD, it was seen as a step forward for the persecuted church. Thousands, millions, became Christians – or at least they considered themselves as such. Today, we understand that filled churches may look good; but in reality, Christendom or Churchdom is not the same as kingdom. Numbers mean something but not everything.

As much as we are thankful for Kanye’s reach and influence, our hope is not in some prominent person but in Jesus: He is still the only One who saves.

Revival Is Not Dependent on the Rich and Famous
I think it’s great that Kanye is using his mega platform to declare “Jesus is King”. However, we should not for a moment think that God needs big name influencers to reach the masses. Don’t get me wrong. Can God use superstars to bring about His purposes? Of course, He can. But does He need superstars to do that? Not at all. Revival is not dependent on the rich and famous; or the attractive and influential. In fact, God’s preferred agents and vehicles have more often been the weak, the foolish and the poor (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

Jesus Is the Only Name That Deserves Worship
Reading the various reports about Kanye West, I can’t help but remember the Lord’s prompting when He first gave me the assignment of Archippus Awakening in October 2013. I later recorded this conviction in my first book, Say To Archippus:

“I believe the days of spiritual celebrities and superstars are over. And in these last days, God will raise up the common man and woman to do great and extraordinary things in and through them. These are the Archippuses of our day who will know their assignments and be obedient to fulfil them!”

Say To Archippus, p26.

Since then, painfully, we have seen so many big names – pastors, leaders, worship leaders, influencers – stumble and fall. Allow me to clarify: God is not against spiritual celebrities and superstars. God is, however, against His people making too big a deal of anyone. Somehow, we have this perpetual propensity to put people on pedestals. Can’t we see that this does no one any good? – neither the ones who are worshipped nor the ones who worship the ones who are worshipped! (By the way, the other extreme of tearing and putting people down is not right either.)

Responding to a recent spate of certain known Christian figures leaving and questioning the faith, John L. Cooper, the lead singer of Skillet, said:

My conclusion for the church (all of us Christians): We must STOP making worship leaders and thought leaders or influencers or cool people or “relevant” people the most influential people in Christendom.

John L. Cooper, Facebook Post

Well said, John. The truth is: Big name, small name or no name, Jesus is the only Name that deserves worship. You can be inspired or encouraged by Kanye, but it must still only be Jesus you worship.

Kanye Is Simply Kanye
If we are not careful, we will begin to accord Kanye special status, conferring upon him all kinds of spiritual titles. Even worse, we buy into the lie that only celebs like Kanye are able to reach the world for Jesus. Or we use it as a convenient excuse why we cannot do anything because we are not as talented or resourceful. We forget that to God, Kanye is simply Kanye, no different from anyone of us, a sinner saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

And Say to Kanye…
I believe what God said to Archippus through Paul, He would say the same to Kanye, and also to each of us:

And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord that you may fulfil it.”

Colossians 4:17

Whether known or unknown, we each have kingdom assignments to fulfil. You may or may not agree with what Kanye is doing or how he is doing it, but at least he is doing something. Granted that he is very talented and his Area of Operation is huge. But then again, to whom much is given, much is also expected (Luke 12:48). When Jesus comes, each believer will stand accountable before the King. Would it not be more productive to know and move on your kingdom assignment instead of commenting on Kanye’s or someone else’s?

Jesus Is King
I hope you can see why this post is not about Kanye West. I am not endorsing him. I am not promoting the album. I am also not criticising him. I have only used the opportunity to share some principles and to bring some reminders that ultimately, it is about Jesus; and how we each are to respond knowing that Jesus is King.

Kanye West is not the first celebrity to come to Jesus and he most definitely will not be the last. His declaration that Jesus is King has resulted in thousands listening to this Truth and singing along. Even so, let it be clearly stated that it is one thing to sing along with a song and its lyrics; but it’s totally another to live out the truth that the song declares. (Yes, it’s the same with Hillsong favourites.)

When all is said and done, it is not how many times the song or album is downloaded, streamed, played or sung; or if it even tops the Billboard charts. Finally, what matters is how many of those who declare “Jesus is King” will truly live for Him as their King.

Deborah Hope’s Baptism

 

Another milestone for the Lim Tribe!

Yesterday, Sunday 29 October 2017, our 6th child, Deborah Hope was baptised at Full Gospel Assembly. (And yours truly got to go the honours. *beam*)

After going through a series of teachings about baptism by FGA‘s children’s ministry, the 10 year old felt that she was ready to openly declare her faith in Jesus Christ. Needless to say, both Serene and I were very pleased, encouraged and thankful (praise the Lord!).

Being in full-time ministry, we have always tried our best not to put any pressure on the children where their own faith journey is concerned. Whilst we accept the responsibility as Christian parents to guide and lead them in the faith, we are also mindful not to over step our boundaries so that their relationship with Jesus is personal and real for themselves. As much as we’d love to see them baptised, we also do not want to rush them into this significant event prematurely.

As a pastor previously, I had the privilege of baptising David & Sarah in 2009, and Aaron & Esther in 2013. However, after I stepped down from my pastoral position, I did not get to baptise Ruth in 2014. No more a formal minister, I thought my baptising days were over (at least in a formal church setting). To my pleasant surprise, I found out that FGA encouraged parents to baptise their own children, and then to pray a blessing over them after they came out of the water. Yay!

In preparation for her baptism, we helped Deborah script her video testimony. Credit goes to Serene, who did a great job! I would have over-complicated the entire process whilst ensuring she was both biblically and theologically sound – haha!

On the day of baptism, Deborah Hope was so excited, beaming from ear to ear. She had such a glow on her face.

In the baptism pool (tank), Senior Pastor Rhordan Wicks asked her a few questions and Deborah confidently declared the certainty of her faith in Jesus Christ and her decision to be baptised. After that, I baptised my daughter and then proceeded to prophetically declare the Lord’s goodness and plans into her life.

As with the other five, Serene and I experienced great joy at Deborah’s baptism. We continue to pray for the Lord to lead her forward as she grows and matures in the things of the kingdom!

To God be the glory!

Houses for the People of Tanauan Leyte: Ministry Trip 22-26 Jan 2015

We finally made it to Tacloban!

Our trip to Tanauan Leyte was planned for last September. But owing to the poor condition of the airport runway, we decided to postpone it to 22-26 Jan 2015. Little did we know that this would be directly after the papal visit one week earlier! As a result, the airport was spruced up and the entire town cleaned up. What a blessing for us!

This delay also allowed Ptr Joel Lerios to read more about my ministry in Kidapawan City in October 2014 where the message of Archippus Awakening was shared. I was then requested to bring the same message of awakening to Jesus Our Refuge Church through a one-day seminar on Saturday 24 Jan, aptly entitled “AWAKENED. ALIGNED. ASSIGNED.” [Read blogpost “Archippuses Awakened in Tanauan Leyte”]

At the Sunday service, the recipients of the BuildHope houses took turns to convey their thanks and appreciation. Other than my dad, Henry, and Christie who were present to receive their words of gratitude, I had to accept these on behalf of many others who did not make the trip but generously gave to this cause.

After that, the congregation had a surprise lined up for them. We had arranged with Ptr Joel in advance to bless the families of Jesus Our Refuge with gift packs of rice, sardines, corned beef, soap and biscuits. It was really wonderful to see the joy on the faces of the families as we distributed these packs to them.

We were not able to visit all 22 houses but I think we did quite well to cover as many as we could in the time allowable. With the light intermittent drizzle, the weather was extremely pleasant for us. My mother deserves a medal for gamely climbing in and out of the vehicle at every stop! At each house, we stood with the family to pray with and for them. To date, together with other contributors, a total of 48 houses has been built. The greater news is that many of the recipients have become cell leaders and groups meet in these houses every week. When Typhoon Hagupit hit last year, these houses passed the test and stood firm! There are also many testimonies of lives impacted and of friends and families being saved as they experienced the love and grace of Jesus Christ through this BuildHope Project of Jesus Our Refuge Church. We are so blessed and privileged to be able to participate in this!

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TEAM ARCHIPPUS (from left): Henson, Henry, Helen, Esther, Sarah, Linda, David, Christie.

In consultation with Ptr Joel, a couple sponsored a church van, now affectionately referred to as the “yellow car”. Members are encouraged to make their own way to church and after service, the church uses this van to send them home. Ptr Joel explained that this is to train discipline and commitment, which the church affirms and reciprocates by sending them home, making quite a few shuttle trips each week. Can you imagine such a system in Singapore? Haha! That said, the people had to make their own way back this weekend as the “yellow car” was used to ferry our Singaporean team around to visit the houses that weekend.

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We had a light moment as the five pedicabs we sponsored were lined up for a photo opportunity. After that, the riders gamely took us for a little spin around the block. Sure reminded me of our trishaw days in Singapore.

To all who have contributed to this cause, I want to say a HUGE THANK YOU to each and every one of you! I stand amazed at how the Lord has touched hearts to respond over the past year. It all began with a tug in my heart as I flipped the papers on the morning of 9 November, the day after Super Typhoon Haiyan ripped through Tacloban. After connecting with Ptr Joel, all I did was blog about it and the Lord did the rest! Truly, if we would be faithful and obedient to His prompting, He can do wonderful things to bring love and hope to lives!

To God be the glory!!!

Related Posts:
House for the People of Tanauan Leyte
Houses for the People of Tanauan Leyte: Building Starts Tomorrow
Houses for the People of Tanauan Leyte: Building in Progress
Houses for the People of Tanauan Leyte: Pray for My Trip 20-24 March 2014
Houses for the People of Tanauan: Ministry Trip Report
Houses for the People of Tanauan Leyte: Target Reached & Surpassed
Houses for the People of Tanauan Leyte: One Year On

If you’d like to partner me to contribute to this re-building initiative to bless the people of Tanauan Leyte, please email me at brohenson@gmail.comIf you know of others who might like to participate, please feel free to share this post with them via email, Facebook or Twitter. My request is that they let me know how and through whom they came to know of this so I have an idea of the source of referral.

Thanks for your support and co-labour in the work of the ministry so that together we can do more to bring hope to the people of Tanauan Leyte in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

NOTE: This project is strictly undertaken on a personal basis and not affiliated to any church, ministry or organisation hence funds will be directed to my personal account. As such, if you are not comfortable with that, it is perfectly ok. I will do my best to provide information and details, and to remain accountable to those who are led to contribute to this cause. Thank you.

Christmas Reflections: Did Jesus Ever Celebrate His Birthday?

Source: http://pixgood.com/happy-birthday-jesus-cake.html
Source: http://pixgood.com/happy-birthday-jesus-cake.html

“Did Jesus ever celebrate His birthday?”

I know this is a rather odd question but I beg your indulgence. It’s Christmas Day and I was reminded (again) that Jesus was not born on 25 December; and if one would engage in some clever detective work through the Scriptures, the astute student of the Word would know that it was sometime in September.

Sounds nice and revelatory, impressive even. But then, I can’t help but wonder, “You mean to say that the early church fathers and leaders did not know this at all?” Who did the calculations, who made the assumptions, and who approved 25 December? Oh right, the Bible as we know it today was not compiled yet. But were not the gospels in circulation already? And if Jesus’ birth was really in September, surely oral tradition would have attested to that. What’s more, could not Jesus’ family and relatives provide verification? Would not His disciples know their Master’s birthday, having spent three years with him? Surely, they must have cut at least one birthday cake with Him.

That prompted me to google, “How do Jews celebrate birthdays?” Since Jesus was a Jew, this would be the most natural place to start that I may have an idea of how important birthdays are to Jews and how they are celebrated.

To my surprise, this is what I found on http://www.ritualwell.org…

The Encyclopedia Judaica could not be more blunt: “The celebration of birthdays is unknown in traditional Jewish ritual.”

The tradition also holds that your birth alone is not as significant as the way you live your life. After all, King Solomon is thought to have said, “The day of death is better than the day of one’s birth (Ecclesiastes 7:1).

As a midrash explains, ‘When a person is born, it is not known what he will be like when grown and what his deeds will be whether righteous or wicked, good, or evil. When he dies, however, if he departs with a good name and leaves the world in peace, people should rejoice.” With that in mind, traditional communities are more likely to mark the anniversary of a revered leader’s death than his birth.

I stand guided and corrected (for I am no Jewish scholar) but if this is indeed accurate, then would it not be safe to assume that Jesus never celebrated His birthday in the way we are accustomed to in Western and secular influence? As I have learnt from Dr Michael Brown (askdrbrown.org), we need to see Jesus through Jewish lenses because Jesus was a Jew. We cannot and must not impose our own cultural biases on Him or the Scriptures (which is primarily a Jewish document).

Now, if Jesus did not celebrate His birthday, why do we make such a big hooha over it? Don’t get me wrong! I am thankful that God sent His Son, that Jesus was born (whichever month or day that was). Yet, consistent with Eccl 7:1 and the explanation of the midrash, it is the death of Jesus that is more significant than His birth. For if Jesus had not been obedient until the point of death, His birth – and I write this with utmost reverence and respect – would have meant much less. A wise man, a great teacher, a compassionate friend, a miracle worker He still would have been. But we would still be in our sins in dire need of the perfect Sacrifice and Saviour.

Perhaps that explains why I have been not been feeling very “Christmassy” of late. It could be a sign of age, or I’m just plain tired of all the hype and commercialism of the season. And no, I am not one of those who refuse to celebrate Christmas because it’s the wrong date or a pagan festival disguised in Christian garb. I just don’t think we should go overboard with this Christmas thingy.

But the Cross and death of Jesus Christ is totally different. I have always declared that every believer must have a fresh revelation of the Cross over and over again. Without His death, where would we be? Without His shed blood, our sins would only be covered but not washed away. Without His broken body, there would not have been a new and living way into the presence of God! Paul never wrote about Jesus’ birth but always gloried in His Cross and determined to preach Jesus and Him crucified. Yes, I would gladly mark and celebrate the death of Jesus Christ … more than His birth.

Thanks for reading this little Christmas reflection. For sure, Christmas, with all its traditions and inaccuracies, is here to stay; as will the fat man in the red suit and Christians who still insist on wearing his signature hat (Santa? No Santa?). And yes, I am still open and available to preach at Christmas services and outreaches.

Blessed Christmas!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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