The Experience & Joy of Being on Kingdom Assignment

IMG_5266I just returned last evening from Batam where I spoke at Bartley Christian Church’s Zone Camp. This was the second camp engagement in June, the first being Shekinah AG Church Camp. Next Monday, I will leave for Bintan to speak at Hakka Methodist Church’s Camp. To me, three camps in June is already quite a stretch to me (this is the first time I’ve ever committed to three camps!). Interestingly, I bumped into Pastor Benny Ho in Batam (he was the speaker for Jurong Christian Church Camp) and discovered he would be speaking at five camps this year! (No, I am not trying to compete with him at all – haha!)

Although the work of the ministry is demanding, as I move about my kingdom assignment through Archippus Awakening, I am discovering a very precious truth all over again. It’s not that this is new to me but I have come into a deeper appreciation of it. There are many Christian concepts and principles that sound good. When shared, many of us would very likely and readily nod and agree. But it is one thing to express intellectual assent with a particular truth and yet totally another to experience it first hand! And this is what I am experiencing afresh as I seek to faithfully fulfil this assignment which I have received in the Lord.

I have taught over and over about the grace of God, the favour and blessing of God, the power of God and the love of God. These are great truths! We would say AMEN and AMEN and AMEN! But in the past year of stepping out into the unknown, in the recent months of venturing into things that my little finite mind cannot grasp, I have experienced the depth of my heavenly Father’s love in new dimensions! In times of wrestling with weakness and even fatigue, I have experienced the sustaining power of His grace! In moments of doubt and anguish, I have experienced His presence, His comfort and His favour!

Not to appear facetious, but is it not accurate that many may declare a statement of truth and yet not perceive it to be true? That’s because for many it has remained largely cognitive and not experiential. How then can this be resolved? Quite simply, you can’t experience anything until you get to experience it! For this reason, the Lord invites us to participate in what He is doing. He knows that until we jump into something larger than ourselves, we will never come to an understanding or have a revelation of who our God is and what He is absolutely capable of!

Dear friends, I exhort and encourage you: Get aligned with the Lord and be on assignment for Him! It is when you take that first step of obedience that you begin to experience a deeper fullness of what it means to trust the Lord. Make no mistake! The assignments are not to show or prove how capable we are. On the contrary, God’s kingdom assignments will often expose how weak and how frail we are, yet at the same time reveal how good and how great our God is! This is the paradox of kingdom dynamics and living! Oh, how we love to think it is all about us when it is always about Him and Him alone! That said, kingdom purposes notwithstanding, the Lord in His sovereignty will use every kingdom endeavour to work a deeper work of transformation in each of us.

To this end, I’m beginning to understand, a little bit more, the words of Jesus, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt 16:25) If I only serve that I may derive a sense of achievement, importance or belonging, my Christian activity, however sacrificial, is largely self-serving. But if I am willing to lose myself to the purposes of the kingdom, dare I say in total abandonment, I begin to receive the greatest joy and satisfaction beyond what I can ask or imagine! This is because in relying wholly upon Him who has given the task that I may be enabled to complete the task, I get to discover that truly everything that I am and ought to be is found only in Him who is Life!

Truly, there is no greater joy than to be serving the Lord, to be on assignment with and for Him! I am just so thankful that He has made me worthy in Christ to participate in what He is doing in these final hours. May this humble reflection bring much encouragement!

Half-Boiled Eggs and Coffee Served With Love

It was a simple gesture this morning but one that meant so much. Although my wife was preparing to leave for some errands, Serene made the extra effort to fix me breakfast. Nothing elaborate, just my usual request for half-boiled eggs and coffee. But it meant a lot.

Not everyone may understand the amount of work Serene has, but I do. Managing a household of our size is really not easy. It is no wonder many impose the title of “supermom” onto Serene, one which she absolutely detests. If anyone has her hands full, it is Serene. Eggs and coffee may not seem like much to some, but to me, it means the world when served with love and sacrifice by my wife.

Henson & Serene Club Med Bintan

Meals aside, I am so thankful for Serene’s support in the ministry. If anyone would appreciate her husband to be around more, I believe my wife would like that. But given the nature of ministry, where engagements are usually at night or over the weekends, this is not always possible. And so, Serene adjusts and makes do with whatever she has, knowing that her sacrifice is really for our Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. Because of her absence from the ministry front lines, given our large family size and additional household demands, some have even remarked that my wife is not with me in ministry, That cannot be further from the truth! Serene is 100% with me, supporting and encouraging me in ways that many don’t see and few can understand.

What I am most thankful for is that Serene and I are able to come together to pray. I never take this for granted at all! Whenever I ask couples if they pray together, the answer is usually, “No.” Truly, it is wonderful that we can share our concerns and struggles with each other, and then proceed to pray with and for one another, as well as for our family and ministry. Through prayer, we openly acknowledge that Jesus is Lord of our lives, our family and our ministry. In that, we do not struggle alone regardless the challenges that come our way. The Lord is with us and will see us through. He has done that before and He will do it again!

Well, this simple post started with eggs and coffee. I didn’t intend to write so much but each time I think about how the Lord has blessed me with and through Serene, I am filled with joy and gratitude. What can I say? I love my wife! And I never cease to give thanks to the Lord for her!

Visit Serene’s weblog, Building Up Moms, for articles and posts to encourage moms and wives.

Related Post: Appreciating My Wife

10 Reminders for My Parenting Journey

9G7A6561Hands up, all who agree that parenting is not for the faint-hearted.

We’ve all been told that we have an awesome responsibility to train and raise our children in the ways of the Lord. We may start out with zest and enthusiasm, but it doesn’t take very long to realise the challenges and distractions that come against us every day; and sometimes, every moment! We determine to take these in our stride. And then we discover that the battles are not necessarily always against the external influences but some of the toughest ones are found right at home, in the hearts of our children and in the issues we each personally grapple with.

Like the winds and waves that come against a seemingly solid rocky cliff, our resolve to be great parents can be slowly eroded as fatigue and discouragement set in, slowly but surely. If you have been there, you know what I’m talking about. You know the feeling, and it’s not a nice one. All you have are questions but no answers. And worse still, the loudest questions are those that taunt, accuse and condemn your ability and credibility as a parent.

I’ve been there too — many times. God may have blessed and graced me to be a father to my seven children, and indeed, I know my roles and responsibilities as a steward of these blessings. That said, how I view parenting and what I expect of myself may not always be accurate, even though I strive to be as biblical as I possibly can. And that’s why I need to be reminded of the following over and over again.

1. I am not a perfect parent. This sounds like a no-brainer, but I desperately need to remember this and not beat myself over the head each time I fail. But my perfectionist streak gets the better of me, time and time again, and I feel really lousy when I mess up or am told that I have overlooked something again. But perfect I am not, and the truth is, I will make mistakes. I can be aware and learn from them, or I can wallow, be condemned, and give up.

2. I do not have perfect children. Another obvious point, but don’t we all wish that they are perfect? I know that my children all struggle with their sinful natures, and yet, my idealistic streak keeps hoping that I will wake up one day and suddenly discover children who are always cheerful, polite and obedient. (Interestingly, as I am writing this, there is a whining and crying child in the background.) Oh, how my countenance falls each time my expectations of them are not met! But they are not perfect, and it is utterly foolish and unreasonable of me to consider otherwise. Remembering this enables me to understand their struggles, as I do mine, that I may be patient and compassionate in my dealings with each of them.

3. I cannot monitor every activity my children engages in. I will be as involved in the lives and activities of my children as I possibly can. But to be present physically 24/7 and to know every detail is simply not practical. The biggest irony is that often, children break the rules right under the parents’ nose, right in the home where boundaries are clearest! What about when parents are not around? You can set up an entire tracking system but there will come a time when their own schedules will take them out of the house and they will have to make decisions on their own. Admittedly, this is toughest as we watch our children grow. We know there is a need to let go. We just don’t know if we are doing it too soon or too late. My prayer is for knowledge not just to be lodged in their heads, but that godly wisdom would rise and rule in their hearts.

4. I am not responsible for my children’s sins. As parents, it grieves us when our children sin. When they are little, it may be lying or throwing a tantrum. But as they grow, they may read books, listen to songs, watch movies that are just not right. We tell them, they know and yet there is a curiosity in them that needs to be satisfied. We pray they wouldn’t sin, and yet they do. And we feel as if we have failed miserably in our instruction and training. I am reminding myself that my part is to teach and impart. But if they choose to disobey, to sin, it would totally break my heart, but the responsibility remains theirs — and the consequences too.

5. I am not the one to meet my children’s every need. Today, just being dad is not enough anymore. You must also be friend, coach, mentor and teacher (did I mention pastor and counsellor too?). And every parenting talk and sermon adds another descriptor to the already endless list of who you are to be and what you should be doing. In short, we are never doing enough and we are the one to blame for any dysfunction our child may display. Hey, I will watch out for my children’s needs. Yes, I will be dad, the best that I can be. But if they hope to have one that never fails them, man, will they be disappointed. My prayer is that they will quickly learn and find sufficiency only in Christ, and Christ alone.

6. I do not have all the answers. By now, this statement should not be a surprise at all. Yes, it’s ok to say “I don’t know.” I don’t know why things are happening this way. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know when the children will love the Lord passionately and serve Him wholeheartedly. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. What I do know is that God is faithful and His Word is true. That is who and what I will cling to, regardless how my children are behaving or responding, and especially when I don’t know what I know anymore!

7. I am not the one who provides for my children. At some point, every parent struggles with needs and wants of our children. With seven children, this is a very real point! Just this week alone, I have been advised (warned) that certain expenses have increased and that I should not faint when the next statement arrives. Sure, as dad and head of the household, it is my responsibility to provide for the family. That could be a huge burden for me if I do not first understand and then remember that it is the Lord who provides as we serve Him and Kingdom faithfully.

8. I do not have to worry nor be anxious. I am not joking. I know that you think this is totally impossible. After all, we love our children and that is why we will always worry for and about them. That said, let us be reminded that there is an extremely fine line between loving concern and anxious worry. I am concerned for my children, and rightly, I should be. However, when I dwell on that and all the unknowns, it begins to eat me up from the inside out! My focus on the Lord shifts to my own inability to comprehend nor resolve the issue. It turns to worry and before long, I am taking it out on myself and my children. This reminder is for me to always trust the Lord, regardless. He has great plans for each child and only He can bring it to pass in His time.

9. I do not have to journey alone. Sometimes, parenting can seem like a very lonely journey on a very long road. Allow this to stick in your mind and you will soon be having the biggest pity-party ever. Unless you are a single parent, always remember the partnership of your spouse. Discuss and pray with one another often. And don’t forget the extended family through the Body of Christ. At times, the same point I have been making, when made by another may bring conviction in the hearts of my children. Ouch! That just dented my pride. Precisely, for often, it is our pride that restricts us from sharing our challenges with others, or learning from them. This only leaves us stranded and alone.

10. I do not have to take everything so seriously. If I can remember the above, it would be much easier to remember this. Then again, this might be the first and most important reminder to heed. Serene and I say this often, “If we don’t laugh about it, we will go crazy!” Most definitely, we could do with a lot more of that when we parent. In most cases, it is not the end of the world. Don’t let our uptightness, our pride, our need for control, our worry, our ‘face’ rob us of the joy of loving and walking with the children God has so graciously blessed us with. I know this is more easily said than done, hence, the need to be reminded over and over again. Not only will this be good for the parents, but also for the children. After all, who wants to live in an environment where there is only stress, anger and anxiety? Stop frowning. Smile more. Laugh.

Oh, how I need to revisit these points often in my parenting journey. You may have more to add but I would be happy if I can remember these for starters, consistently. And most importantly, that the Lord is enabling me by His Holy Spirit to achieve what He has called me to do as a father. May He enable you too!

Comfort Food

When you are down, discouraged, disappointed or disillusioned, what do you tend to eat? Interestingly, the moment we hit a bad patch or feel we need something to lift us up, we crave for “comfort foods” like ice cream, chocolates, cakes, fries and burgers. And so, in search of comfort, we binge on stuff like these. Well, it may make us feel better and help distract us from the main issue, but really, the situation remains pretty much the same after the sugar- or protein-high wears off. What’s worse, the calories stay.

Thankfully, if you are a believer of Jesus Christ, there’s a better way.

When tempted in the wilderness, after 40 days of fasting, Jesus declared, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” When Jesus was physically tired, hungry and weak, the enemy began to bombard Him with thoughts, suggestions and alternatives. Instead of seeking comfort from material things that satisfy only temporarily, Jesus held on to the eternal Word of God that satisfies completely!

The Word of God is a rich source of comfort and of hope for the child of God. Throughout the Old Testament, we see Man failing and falling over and over again. Yet, in and through it all, God is always present in their lives, offering hope and providing comfort through His Word. In the New Testament, through suffering and persecution, the apostles stood on the faithfulness of Scripture and boldly lived for Jesus. This same promise is available to us!

Situations may get you down. People may disappoint you. Life may seem totally unfair at times. Circumstances may appear confusing. Temptations are ever present to distract and derail you. Whatever it may be, don’t run to the fridge or the nearest fast-food outlet! Instead, pick up your Bible and devour the Word of God, the best comfort food there is! Feed on it and let the Word of God nourish you deeply. Through it, discover again the Person and the Power of the Living Word, Jesus Christ. Experience His love, receive His grace and know He will never leave you nor forsake you, but will be with you until the end of this age. No mountain is too high, nor valley too deep. No problem is too big, nor any detail too small. In Him, all things are possible to those who believe. In Him, we can do all things. In Him, we are more than conquerors and overcomers! And even if things don’t make any sense, Jesus is still in control and will come again to make all things right!

Now, that’s what I call real comfort food.

“Remember the word to Your servant, upon which you have caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life.” Psalm 119:49-50

Anna Joy Makes My Day

At the dining table over lunch:

Suddenly, 3 yr old Anna says, “Daddy is so and-term.”

Everyone around the table breaks into laughter.

Anna responds emphatically, “He is!”

More laughter

Anna then says, “Really… truly…”

Ah yes, my dear little Anna Joy, you sure made my birthday even more special than it already is 🙂

Water from the Wells of Salvation

My impression of the book of Isaiah is that it is one l-o-n-g book of 66 chapters.  It surprised me this morning when I “stumbled” upon Isaiah 12.  My eyes fell on Isaiah 11 first and I began reading it, moving on to Isaiah 12.  I found myself drawn to the beautiful words of this “hymn of praise” (NKJV).

To my surprise, I discovered that there are only six verses in this chapter – the shortest chapter in the entire book!  And yet, it is packed with such wonderful truths and promises.  In these six short verses, you will find themes of praise, mercy, grace, comfort, strength, trust, salvation, joy, worship and exaltation!  What wonderful material for meditation!  What truths that bring joy, comfort and strength!

And in that day you will say:

“O LORD, I will praise You;
Though you were angry with me,
Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.
Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
‘For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song;
He also has become my salvation.'”

Therefore with joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.

And in that day you will say:

“Praise the LORD, call upon His name;
Declare His deeds among the peoples,
Make mention that His name is exalted,
Sing to the LORD,
For He has done excellent things;
This is known in all the earth.
Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion,
For great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!”

My favourite line is found in verse 3 … “with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”  This is a promise for every child of God.  And yet, there are so many who are parched and dry.  These are either not aware of the wells, or have forgotten to draw daily from the rivers of living water.  I will be the first to admit that I often fall into the latter category.  In my busyness and hurriedness to do the work of the ministry, I find myself “dehydrated”.  My intentions may be good, desiring to serve the Lord and give my very best, but good intentions are not enough.  Over time, I dry up and burn out, even very possibly serving out of drudgery and not with joy and gladness.

Isaiah 12:3 is a reminder for me, as for many others I believe … “with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”  How refreshing!  How revitalising!  Verse 1 & 4 declare, “In that day you will say …”  That day can be today!  Lay hold of these six verses and the promises in them!

My brothers and sisters in Christ, and fellow ministers, may you be encouraged by this as you continue to serve the Holy One of Israel!