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.”?

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Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

I know, I know … what kind of title is this for a blog post? I was trying to think of a more creative title but finally settled with one that is direct and to-the-point. And yet, I am sure some of you will still be wondering what Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) is all about 🙂

It started some time earlier this year when I began experiencing tightness around my mouth, especially when teaching or preaching. I thought I was just tired and with rest, it would go away. That was not an inaccurate assessment, but rest was not what I did nor diligently pursued.

A few months later, I experienced difficulty eating. When I shared this with Serene, she was not thrilled, thinking I was being fussy and difficult, complaining about her cooking 😦 Well, over time, it got worse and I really couldn’t chew without my jaws aching.

Two weeks ago, in a visit to my dentist, I casually asked if it was a sign of ageing that I should be having problems eating and chewing. Based on what I shared, the dentist said it was not a dental problem but a muscular one. And so, I googled for some answers and came across this term, Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ). It sounded serious and I sure prayed and hoped it wouldn’t be what I am having. Unfortunately, a visit to the ENT Specialist confirmed it 😦

So yes, I have TMJ, but thankfully, it’s not at a serious stage – others experience severe headaches and locked jaws!!  That said, it’s quite uncomfortable and rather inconvenient. Mealtimes are especially tiring and I must be very careful what I eat. Anything too chewy and the aches will set in. Talking and smiling is also affected as the muscles are all strained and tight. This affects the times I have to teach or preach at long stretches. Maybe I have to stick to 15min sermons from now on – haha!

All said, I know the grace of God is upon me and He will see me through this. Since He has called me to preach and teach, this small impediment is not going to hold me back one bit! I have already repented of my irresponsibility in not resting and pushing myself too hard. I am visiting the physiotherapist for treatment but I must also do my part to slow down and to rest, both physically and in Him.

Last night, I felt led to read Jeremiah Chapter 1, to review the Lord’s call once again. How comforting it was when my eyes fell on verse 9: “Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth…” Yes, Lord, stretch forth Your hand and touch my mouth. Release the tightness in and around the mouth. Bring healing and restoration to the joints and to the muscles that I may not be hindered from preaching and declaring Your word!

Rising Costs. Rising Faith?

I remember the day in 2003 all too clearly. Prior to leaving my job and company for fulltime ministry, I did what most would consider a responsible thing to do – I reviewed our family’s finances. Taking our savings and dividing it by monthly expenses, the wave of emotion that overwhelmed me caught me totally by surprise. Fear flooded my heart, my knees went weak and all I could manage was a prayer that whimpered, “Oh God…” Quite immediately, I heard the Lord ask, “Have I not shown you I am faithful?” Although I struggled, I decided that day, that moment, to trust God completely with finances.

Fast forward a few years to 2007, to when Serene was pregnant with Deborah Hope, our 6th child. One afternoon, when I was just thinking about how we would manage with a growing family and one more on the way, fear gripped my heart … again. What followed was a series of questions in my mind, pondering and considering the financial needs of our larger-than-normal family way into the future! Amidst the voices in my head, the Spirit spoke, gently but so assuringly, “One day at a time. One day at a time.” I can’t explain the peace that ensued but it sure brought me back to the right perspective, putting my trust in the Lord again.

Well, it’s 2012, and today, we have seven children. Yes, in total, nine of us in the Lim Tribe. In terms of finances and provision, one would think that there would no longer be any shred of doubt in my heart, having heard so clearly from God and experienced His grace and provision all these years in full time ministry. Well, yes and no. Yes, because we are still trusting in God, holding on to His Word and standing on His unfailing faithfulness. We are so thankful for what we have and how He has blessed us by His grace. Does it mean that I am no longer affected by what goes on around me? I wish that would be so, but truth is, I am still learning and growing in Him. And until I get there eventually, I still struggle and waver every now and then in my journey of faith.

At times, I like to be that proverbial ostrich with my head in the sand. It’s easier that way, I rationalise, if I don’t take too much notice of news reports of inflation and rising costs. After all, I don’t want fear to affect my faith. Sounds nice and spiritual, but this is merely denial and totally unrealistic. The fact is costs have risen across the board and our family needs and expenses have all increased.

The same trolley full of groceries costs more this year than one year ago. Our special diet and health needs require less processed foods and more fresh foods – organic at times. I am also discovering that a growing teenager eats more than growing toddlers, and more often too! Eating out is a luxury so I am thankful that we eat home quite a lot – thanks to Serene’s labour of love in our furnace of a kitchen. Then again, the rates for utilities, like water, electricity and gas, are also climbing.

The younger ones may be more easily occupied by recycled toys and books but new hobbies and activities for the older ones all cost money. How I long for the good old days where kids catch fish in the longkangs and spiders in the bushes. Today, you must pay for artificial longkang fishing. Plus, don’t forget the cost of petrol to drive there.

Grateful as I am to list ACS as my alma mater, my only regret is that I did not take Chinese more seriously, preferring instead to join the league of ACScians who proudly declare our deficiency in the 2nd Language. This simply means that I am unable to save on Chinese tuition fees since I do not have the capability of teaching my own kids – not that my schedule permits it in the first place. Thanks to Singapore’s education policy, we have another figure to consider. It has also just dawned on me that tuition fees for three children is different from that for six. Seven soon?

Still on education – homeschooling more precisely – the question, “Lord, we did hear you correctly to homeschool, did we not?”, pops up a lot more in today’s economic scenario. For one, we lose out on subsidised education and Edusave. Even public transportation is more expensive for our children because they are not issued Student Passes to enjoy student rates. For another, we have to purchase curricula and books on our own, often importing from USA.

Like I said earlier, it’s extremely tempting to just be in denial, to ignore the rising costs and the crazy economy. If I position it really well (ostrich butt sticking out and all), I might even be seen as extremely spiritual and full of faith! Well, I don’t think that’s the right response at all. As a steward of the finances God has blessed us with, we must do our part to be prudent, to spend wisely and to cut unnecessary expenditure. To do that, we should and must evaluate our family’s finances in the context of the economy and determine how to best manage with godly wisdom.

Invariably, the issues of contentment and covetousness will have to be addressed – not just once, but over and over again. When we can afford it, are our wants rationalized and justified as our needs? The line is just so fine and the heart so deceitful. Now that belts have to be tightened, would we remain satisfied or would we grumble and complain? Would we continue to give thanks for what we have and not gripe about what we don’t have or could have?

All said, one thing remains very clear to me. The Lord has called me into fulltime ministry, to serve Him and to serve others. As a servant of God, I am convinced that I have the best Master who loves me and truly knows how to look after me and my family. The Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out grain,” and, “The labourer is worthy of his wages.” (1 Tim 5:18)

In the words of Jesus, we are of more value than the sparrows and the flowers of the field. If God looks after them and provides for them, how much more will He take care of His children? For sure, there is no need to worry at all for my heavenly Father knows our every need. My part is to continue to faithfully serve Him, to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness”; His part is to ensure that “all things are added to me” (Matt 6:33).

The words of the Lord still resound in my heart: “Have I not shown you I am faithful?” and “One day at a time … one day at a time.” Yes, Lord, You have been more than faithful! Even when I have been faithless, You remain totally faithful for You are consistent and unchanging. I will take it one day at a time. As You have seen me through my yesterdays, You will walk with me today, and will also lead me into all my tomorrows.

Amidst rising costs, let faith arise! … “Hey, who left the fan on?”

I’m Surrounded!

Have you ever felt totally and utterly overwhelmed before? You try to keep your head above the water but your mind is just cramped full of details and questions. Try as you might to escape these thoughts, there just seems to be no way out. You are crying out for answers and all you experience is this oppressive sense of the entire room closing in on you! All too soon, you are surrounded and hemmed in by fear and anxiety.

That must have been how Gehazi, felt too when he went for a morning walk with Elisha, only to see the city entirely surrounded by the Syrian army! Immediately, he says to Elisha, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” It must have been a scary sight! They were totally surrounded by horses and chariots. And it would only be a matter of time before the army closed in on them. However, whilst Gehazi saw and reacted in the natural, Elisha saw something else in the spiritual, and coolly replied, Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 2 Kings 6:16

Gehazi must have wondered, “Hello?! It’s just the two of us. Who else is with us? If we don’t start running, we are dead ducks!” At the request of Elisha, the Lord opened Gehazi’s spiritual eyes and the young man couldn’t believe what he saw … he was still surrounded, but this time, by a far greater number of the Lord’s army, horses and chariots blazing with fire! (2 Kings 6:17)

Whether you are an executive braving the corporate jungle, or a homemaker trying your best to keep your house and children in order, you know what I am talking about. There are just those days when you feel totally surrounded and overwhelmed by the ridiculous demands and pressures of life. You look at the “Syrian army” around you and are so tempted to say, “It’s no use! I’m totally surrounded. I might as well give up!” DON’T!

The enemy wants to keep you in the natural, but you need to understand that the battle is in the spiritual. If your eyes are continually fixed on the problem, it will appear larger and larger until it consumes you! Do you not see that this is the ploy of the enemy? He wants to surround you, to besiege you, to starve you, to weaken you and finally, to kill you.

“‘For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has mercy on you.” Isaiah 54:10

Instead, ask the Lord to open your eyes that you may see! Ask Him to reveal the truth of His presence and protection over and around you. In Psalm 125:1&2, the psalmist declares, “Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.” (emphasis mine) In Zech 2:5, God Himself declares, “I will be a wall of fire all around [Jerusalem], and I will be the glory in her midst.” YES, people of God, YOU ARE SURROUNDED … not by the enemy … but by the power, by the presence, by the abundance, by the grace, by the love of God!

I know it’s not easy when you are in the midst of a trying time and everything seems to be closing in on you. In the narrowness of that moment, call on the LORD and ask Him to open your eyes that you may have the right perspective to be strong in Him. Learn from the psalmist who said, “I called on the LORD in distress; the LORD answered me and set me in a broad place. The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6&7, italics mine.)

Indeed, if God is for you, who can be against you (Rom 8:31)? Do you not know that the battle is not yours to fight, but the Lord’s? Do you not know that the heavens have been opened over you, that every spiritual resource has now been made available to you in Christ? Do you not know that whatever the enemy throws at you, absolutely nothing can separate you from the love of God? If not, then ask the Lord to open your eyes that you may see!

As God’s children, the safest and most secure place is in the Father’s arms, where we are constantly surrounded by His everlasting love.

My dear friend, no matter how tough a situation (or a person) may be, nothing is too difficult for the one who places his trust in God. Pray for the Lord to open your spiritual eyes to see Him for who He truly is and that you, being wrapped in Christ and His righteousness, are totally safe in His arms because He surrounds you completely. And then, walk in the freedom and victory He has already secured for you by the precious blood and through the completed work of Jesus Christ upon the cross!

Journey through the Old Testament with me

It’s going to be an exciting time for me, preparing to teach and preach through the Old Testament (OT) this year. Starting from 2 March, I will going through all 39 books of the OT in 20 sessions. That, as many will agree with me, is a very tall order. There is just so much to cover! How can I possibly manage everything in just 20 weeks?!

Well, for one, it’s not going to be an academic or theological discourse although I am praying it will stir many to think more deeply and even challenge one’s own theology. In one hour per session, I hope to provide a broad overview of the key themes contained within each book and move quickly and purposefully to how we are to learn from and apply these in our present-day Christian daily walk with the Lord.

Above all, I am praying that we will all see Jesus in the Old Testament and come to appreciate the awesomeness of our God, His power and sovereignty over all creation, over all nations, over all our lives!

So, make a date with me. The 20 sessions are not scheduled back to back, but deliberately packaged into four mini-series with breaks in between. To this end, we begin in March and will only end in November. Please share this with others so you can make a pact to come together.

  • Venue: Covenant Vision Centre, 154 Tyrwhitt Road, Singapore 207567
  • Fridays, 8:00pm
  • 2,9,16,23,30 March
  • 27 Apr, 4,11,18,25 May
  • 3,10,17,24,31 August
  • 2,9,16,23,30 November

For those who are just unable to make it – especially my friends around the world – don’t fret. These teachings will be uploaded onto our Covenant Vision Media Centre so you won’t have to miss a session.

Please pray for me as I go through the materials. It’s wonderful to read the stories and accounts all over again, to encounter the Lord through the Scriptures. Pray that the Holy Spirit will bring each word alive in me and that I will have His wisdom to convert these into power-packed points to stir and touch even the coldest heart for Jesus!

The Lord Is My Keeper

This is a song I wrote 4 years ago, on 5 Feb 2007.  The words of Psalm 121 encouraged and assured me.  Yesterday, in response to the post “Praying for Sarah:Letter to Prayer Partners“, a sister commented by quoting the same psalm.  Interestingly,  it was Sarah who sang this song when we shared it at Deborah Hope’s 1st birthday in 2008.

Last night, before we prayed together, Sarah and I read Psalm 121.  And then, I declared the words over her.  The Lord is Sarah’s keeper, her shade at her right hand.  The Lord shall preserve her from all evil.  And as she waits for the help that comes from the Lord, enduring the pain and itch, He will also not allow her foot to be moved.

The Lord is My Keeper

I lift up my eyes to the hills
From where does my help come?
From the Lord
Who made heaven and earth
Heaven and earth

I take my stand on solid ground
My feet will not be moved
For my God
Never slumbers or sleeps
Slumbers or sleeps

Chorus:
The Lord is my Keeper
My Shade at my right hand
By day and by night
I’m kept from all harm
The Lord is my Keeper
My Shield and my Shelter
No evil can hurt me
I’m safe and secure in His arms

Bridge:
The Lord shall preserve
My going out, my coming in
Today and tomorrow
For now and forever

Words & Music by Henson Lim
5 February 2007

Trust in God

This is my journal entry on Wednesday 11 Feb when the Lord led me to read Psalm 146.  May this serve as a clear reminder to me to always trust in God, regardless.

“Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help … Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose help is in the Lord his God.” Psalm 146:3-5

In these times of economic uncertainty, our trust must be in the Lord, for He is our help.

“Princes” are the “government”.  Regardless the bailout packages or the stimulus packages, there is no help.  Also, no use trusting in “a son of man”, because there is no help.  In tough times, it will be every man for himself.

My trust is to be in the Lord, and no one else.  My reliance is upon Him, not the church, or ministry or supporters.  These are but vessels/channels through which the Lord blesses me and provides for me.  These can change/shift as the Lord directs.  I am very thankful for these, and I praise God for each of them.  But my trust is still to be in the Lord.