Seeing Jesus in Wonder Woman? Just Enjoy the Movie.

After reading quite a few rave reviews, I must admit that my curiosity was piqued, and my interest stirred, to watch the latest DC movie, Wonder Woman.

What’s more, I remember glancing the title of an article, “The New ‘Wonder Woman’ Is Really A Story About Jesus“, that made me want to watch the movie to see if it were really so. I deliberately skipped reading the article so that I would not have any preconceived notions when I went to the cinema.

In between ministering at church camps, and greatly in need of a break, to space out in front of a large screen, I decided it would be a good time for a movie night – yes, Wonder Woman!

As one used to a Lynda Carter Wonder Woman, it took a while to get used to a Gal Gadot one. Of course, everything is much sleeker, and the special effects much more impressive. I waited for the signature WW spin but the director decided to drop that move. And no invisible plane either! All said, the movie was enjoyable but that was about it – ok la.

Did I see Jesus in Woman Woman? Nope.

I suppose if I tried very hard to, I could force fit some theology into the show, and somehow make it look and sound Christian. Sure, I got the part about saving mankind. Yes, I heard the phrase about mankind being undeserving of redemption. And the final punchline: “Only love can save the world.” And yes, I did not miss the way Diana descended in the shape of the cross. But do these necessarily point to Jesus? Not necessarily.

Even so, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had missed the “Whoa Man!” moments of seeing the Jesus story. Back home, I searched for the article to read what it really said. And, oh man, was I even more disappointed. In my opinion, it is really a case of trying way too hard! Did the writer, M. Hudson, really see Jesus in Wonder Woman, or was she trying desperately to make Jesus into a wonder woman?!

On the point of love saving the world, let us be clear that this is no longer the exclusive chant of Christians. Almost everyone, religious or secular, is shouting this tagline of love! We cannot compare Wonder Woman with the love of Jesus just because she uttered this seemingly profound line. It may sound right and noble but let us not forget that the way she discovered and experienced ‘love’ with Captain Trevor was through a one-night stand after routing the Krauts in the village! Trust Hollywood to always associate and confuse love with sex. Perhaps Crosswalk.com missed or chose to ignore this little scene when commenting that Wonder Woman “should serve as an example of the love God has called us to show our neighbor” in their review “Wonder Woman and the Call for Christian Love“.

If you’re going to watch Wonder Woman, go enjoy it for what it is – a typical superhero story where the good guys triumph over the bad guys. Wonder Woman does not represent Jesus, and Jesus is not Wonder Woman. To this end, there is no need to try so hard to see Jesus in this movie, or to force it into a Christian message of love and salvation. Let’s not make it say what it didn’t mean to say. And for proper theology, read the Scriptures. You’ll find the real story of Jesus there too.

Maybe they will feature Wonder Woman in her invisible jet in the sequel, y’think?

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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

AMKMC Church Camp 2013: Running into the Father’s Arms

It was the final session of Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church Camp 2013 where I preached about PRESENCE, about how the journey of transformation is not to be made alone but with God and in His presence. An altar call was made and the people promptly responded, making their way to the front. What followed was a meaningful time of prayer and ministry.

After I prayed for the last person, the pastor asked me to wrap up the session with some closing remarks. And so, I made my way up the stage again, took the mic and proceeded to share a few final points.

My youngest, four year-old Anna Joy, heard my voice over the speakers from the back of the hall. Seeing me on stage, she started her run down the aisle towards the stage shouting —

“D-a-a-a-a-ddy-y-y-yyyyyyy!!!! I want to hug you-u-u-u!”

Oblivious to the attention she had drawn from the crowd, she headed straight for me. As she approached the steps of the stage, I knelt down to welcome her with outstretched arms. And in a few steps, Anna Joy threw herself onto her daddy and gave him a huge hug!

Anna Joy Hug AMKMC

After that surprising but spontaneous embrace, Anna Joy bounced off the stage and back to her seat. I stood up, looked at the people, and said, “How many of you know that that was totally arranged by the Lord?” It was such a beautiful picture of a child running into her father’s arms. In line with the topic and message, it is also an open invitation for us all to run into our Heavenly Father’s arms and presence. And He is all too ready to embrace us.

Later on, some shared that they were so touched and moved to tears by Anna Joy’s spontaneous act. Truly, no one could have orchestrated that at all, except God. I am so thankful that He used the innocence of a four year-old to drive home such a powerful message of His love and grace.

Related Post: AMKMC 2013: Choices

Honouring Two Mothers

It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday and the media sure makes it a point to remind us through the many offers and specials. Personally, I’m not really into these commercial stuff and it is so easy to throw the baby out with the bath water and forget mothers altogether. This year, obviously prompted by the Spirit, I want to make it a special point to honour two mothers.

DSC02258The first is my mother, Helen, who turned 74 in February. By the grace of God, she is in extremely good health – must have got the good genes from her mother, who at 90+ could still out-walk anyone! I appreciate many things about Mom but I believe the best thing she did was to be a stay-at-home mother to my sister and myself. This became her labour of love as she made many sacrifices over the years. With Dad travelling a lot and spending much time at work, it was Mom who was always there, looking after us, cooking for us and managing the household. Often, we don’t realise how important a role stay-at-home mothers play in the lives of children. As such, we minimise it all too quickly and in today’s mindset, trivialise and even condemn it.

More than just catering to my physical, academic and material needs, Mom played an extremely key role in my backslidden years. In her simple way and faith, she would say to me, “Henson, you must go back to church.” That was all she said, and then left me to my own devices and to God to deal with me in His time. Even to today, my mother would faint if invited to pray publicly. Yet, I know she prayed for me. Little did she realise how powerful her prayers were that one day her son would not only return to God and also respond to His call to fulltime ministry.

I may be closing in to half a century and a parent to seven children. But I guess, to Mom, I am still her little boy and will always be. Each time we meet, she would ask, “Are you ok? Do you have enough for your family? Aiyoh, you’ve lost weight. Are you resting and eating properly or not?” Yes, that’s my mother. She will worry and fret about us in her heart, sometimes crying herself to sleep. And yet, in front of us, she will appear strong so that we will not be unduly worried about her. My mother never wants to be a burden, but is ever ready to serve us.

DSC02605As I write about my mother, recounting her love and sacrifice, my heart is directed to a second mother. This mother, as you would have guessed, is Serene, my wife and mother to our seven children.

I often quip about Serene that she never wanted to get married, to have children, to be a Christian, nor to stay at home. Today, she loves Jesus, is married to a pastor, has seven children and is a stay-at-home mom … and homeschooling, no less!

If there is someone who lives and displays the word “sacrifice”, it is Serene. Over the years, Serene has given more and more, and she still keeps giving. As a mother of many children, every moment of her day is spent looking after and serving them. Before anyone is up, she is already in the kitchen preparing breakfast. More recently, she has been getting up early for her own morning walk before making a detour to the market to ta-pau (takeaway) breakfast for everyone. After that, she goes on to the next thing, and then the next thing, and then the next thing. And after everyone is packed off to bed, she continues with marking, planning and scheduling. And before plopping herself onto the bed, she makes one last round to check if the children are all ok.

As one who understands and fights against allergies herself, she is constantly on the lookout for healthier options for the children. Thankfully, she is a natural when it comes to understanding labels, supplements and even medical terms. She would have made a great pharmacist, a doctor, even; and she is putting that gifting to great use in the family. Sounds good, but all this means even more work for her, instead of the convenience of eating out, pre-packed meals or instant solutions. But for the sake of the health and well-being of the children, she makes that sacrifice, over and over again.

DSC02388As if that is not challenging enough, add homeschooling to the equation; and seven different levels in a go! More than just “mother”, Serene dons the hats of “teacher”, “administrator”, “disciplinarian” and even “counselor”. How she is able to process and consider the different curricula, to plan and administer seven different schedules, to teach, supervise, mark and grade each child’s progress boggles me! Many marvel and ask the standard question of her, “How do you do it?” I see her plow through each day, each week, each month and I can tell you that there are no shortcuts at all. To make time, Serene has had to give up many of her own comforts and desires. There’s that word again – “sacrifice”. 

The most amazing thing about Serene is that she never started out wanting to do any of these in the first place! She would also tell you that many of these she does not particularly enjoy doing. What changed her then? Well, more accurately, who changed her? It is her relationship with Jesus that changed her convictions about everything – about having children, about staying at home, about homeschooling. On not-so-good days, I know Serene wrestles with the Lord about many issues only to submit to His bidding and call all over again and willingly offers herself as a living sacrifice to the Lord through the serving of the children.

In the same way I appreciate my mother for staying home for us, I appreciate Serene for being there for our children. In today’s context, where women are all too ready to return to the workforce, this is not something to be taken for granted at all. And yet, now more than ever before, children need their mothers (and fathers) in a world of declining morality and increasing perversion. Even so, Serene’s decision to stay at home, to channel her education and training into the lives of our children, is not always met with kind remarks. Then again, these do not see nor understand the good work that Serene is doing, investing into the lives of our children – the times of prayer, of bible teaching and reading, of devotionals, of spiritual guidance. But I do, and I am totally appreciative of what she is doing.

I could go on and there can be no end to my expressions of how much I love and appreciate these two mothers. They are both so different in their own personalities, giftings, generations and families. Yet, both have displayed the same selflessness and sacrifice in their own special way. In no way do I hold them out to be perfect and flawless. But through their weakness, I see a certain glory and power of God work in and through them, rendering every effort effective by His enabling grace. And so, this Mother’s Day, I salute and honour these two mothers!

Mom, thank you for all you have done for me and Helena. You have given so much and we have not said enough to express our love and gratitude to you. Each Mother’s Day when I hug and wish you Happy Mother’s Day, you will say the same thing to me, “Hiya, every day is Mother’s Day la!” I love you, Mom. Thanks for your love and your sacrifice.

Serene, I thank God for you! I know I don’t say it enough and at times, I am so absorbed in my own issues that I neglect the challenges you face as a mother to our children. As if seven is not enough, you sometimes have to mother me too – haha! Your life of sacrifice is one I look to, learn from and am encouraged to do the same as a husband, a father and in the ministry. Thank you for sowing and pouring into the lives of our children. Indeed, they shall “rise up and call [you] blessed!” Proverbs 31:28

The Good News of Salvation is still about Sin and Righteousness

The issue of salvation has been on my mind of late. What does the average Christian understand about salvation? What is the good news, really? What are we believing in? What have we been teaching?

Given post-modern thinking, there appears (more and more) to be a move towards universalism, in varying degrees and definitions. At the extreme, we have certain preachers declaring that ALL will be saved, regardless religion or means. This is because God is love and thus will never send anyone to hell. Then, there’s the milder variation. These proponents hold to the name of Jesus as the means by which one is saved. However, if a person has not had the chance to hear the good news of Jesus, God has a different benchmark for these. And since He is all gracious and loving, it is His prerogative to save these if He so chooses to, Jesus not withstanding. When the consistency of God is raised as a point of challenge to this position, the sovereignty of God is used as a blanket rebuttal. After all, He is God and He can do what He wants. Ultimately, “salvation belongs to the Lord.” Honestly, I wonder how anyone can trust a sovereign but inconsistent God like that?! He is no better than those of Greek mythologies where they either wake up happy or upset and then take it out on helpless earthlings.

Then, there’s our consumer culture of advertising and media that has affected the way we “sell” Jesus and “position” the good news. In marketing, we must understand that the consumer is not interested with too much as long as the product works. And this has been the strategy [or trick] of mass marketing. Marketing and advertising teams brainstorm for hours to determine a product’s unique selling proposition (USP), then design campaigns and pour dollars to promote this USP. Simply, give the consumer what he wants! Unfortunately, this strategy [trick] works and has been adopted by the church at large. We must be careful to notice how it has been applied to salvation. Depending on the type of “gospel” meeting, a USP is identified and heavily promoted. For example, at a healing service, the call is for one to believe in Jesus and be healed. At a faith meeting, the challenge is for one to believe in Jesus in order to receive – usually material gains and breakthroughs. When people respond to the altar call, a sinner’s prayer is conveniently tagged on for all to recite. And voila! they are saved! But are they, really? Remember, the consumer only wants what he wants. So, as long as he gets that, whether healing or provision, who cares about salvation?

I must confess that I too have been blinded by the numbers game. When people respond to an altar call, when tears flow freely, I presume these are genuinely moved by the Holy Spirit. And if that is the case, then who am I to begrudge anyone salvation? And especially if I am the one making the altar call, why would I want to question anything? Hey, it looks good for my track record and newsletters.

So, why the concern and burden suddenly?

In the past months, I believe the Lord has been causing me to ponder the real issue behind salvation, or the need for salvation. Thinking more deeply as I considered the various Scriptures brought to mind, I began to see [again] that the key issue is that of righteousness, or the lack of. It’s that simple and straightforward. It has always been and it will always be about God’s righteousness and His holiness! The problem of humanity is sin and the death sentence that hangs over each and every person born in sin. If not addressed, the result is eternal separation from God in a place of eternal torment. That’s really bad news! In His mercy, God can forgive. But in His righteousness, the penalty must still be paid. Knowing that man can never achieve righteousness on his own, God sent Jesus to pay for our sins and to die in our place. When one believes in Jesus (and His salvific work), he is made righteous, reconciled with God and saved from eternal damnation. We give Him our sin and death, and He gives us His righteousness and lifeThat’s why it’s called good news.

I know this may sound like sunday school stuff to some of you. But today, I can no longer assume that Christians understand this. Or if they know this, that they fully believe in it. As mentioned above, there are those who can quote John 14:6 that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life” but still contend that He is not the only way to the Father! Quite clearly, these overly focus on God’s love and grace, but downplay His righteousness. As for the USP proponents, these tend to equate healing, prosperity and blessing with salvation. Now, salvation [sozo] may include physical healing and material provision; but the reverse is not always true! One may be healed from an ailment and still die in his sin. Allow me to challenge your thinking a bit more: Jesus may have healed many but we really don’t know if these finally believed in Him for salvation. But we do presume that, don’t we? As we understand today, the healing miracles were merely signs that pointed to Jesus as the Messiah, the King of Righteousness, that they may believe and be found righteous in Him. Make no mistake! Believing in Jesus for physical healing or your dream house is not the same as believing in Him for salvation from the penalty and power of sin.

Let me conclude with Rom 1:16-17 in which Paul declared, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes … For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” In case you missed it, Paul said that God’s righteousness is revealed in the gospel of Christ. In other words, the good news (gospel) is not the revelation of healing, prosperity, love, grace, nor universal salvation. Not at all! It is God’s righteousness that is revealed, against which one acknowledges his sinfulness and responds through faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross! There we have it again – the good news of salvation is all about sin and righteousness! It is such faith in such a gospel that invokes the power of God that brings one towards true salvation! My deep concern is that there might be too many who have believed in a gospel that reveals anything and everything BUT the righteousness of God. Is there then the power of God to salvation? From the text, plainly, NO. If not, then are these saved in the first place? Could this explain why there are still so many in the church who struggle with sin and have no desire to bear fruits worthy of repentance much less that of righteousness?

Indeed, such a short post cannot possibly address everything about soteriology, the doctrine of salvation. Through the centuries, this has been debated by accomplished scholars and theologians. It is not my intention to present anything new nor complicate this subject further. Much the opposite, I am proposing we re-visit the gospel of salvation again, grounded upon Scriptures and not some fancy humanistic desire for all to hold hands and live happily ever after. In today’s age of sound-bites and slogans, I fear we may have diluted the understanding of the gospel and of salvation a little too much to our own detriment and that of others in dire need of God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ. For an issue of eternal significance and consequence, surely we are treating it too lightly and way too flippantly.

Related Post: David Pawson: The True God and the True Gospel

18th Wedding Anniversary: Music & Dance Wedding Video

Serene and I met in December 1989 on the set of My Country My Singapore at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Four years later, in December 1993, on Christmas eve, I proposed to her and she said ‘yes’. Once we settled on the date of 11 March 1995 for our wedding, we began preparations.

I was a backslidden Christian in those days and had not attended church for about 11 years. Going back to the church I grew up and served in as a teenager, I found that it was scheduled for a major building project in the same period we were to have our wedding. To have my bride walk down the aisle of a school hall was not an option for me at all. And so, we went church hunting.

Interestingly, Serene was bridesmaid to her ballet friend who held the wedding at Wesley Methodist Church. The sanctuary was nice and the “Methodist” label provided some assurance for me. The only hurdle was that it was only open to church members. That problem was easily solved. Quite quickly, we signed up for the Membership Class as well as the mandatory Pre-Marital Counselling Course. Mind you, at that time, Serene was not a Christian but simply played along for the sake of securing a venue.

When we arrived for the very first session, we discovered that it was not just a membership class but a membership and baptism class. The facilitator announced that at the end of the 12 weeks (or was it 13?), there would be baptism. That didn’t go well with Serene at all! I assured her that she was under no obligation to be a Christian, much less be baptised. To her credit, she didn’t back out but continued to attend the sessions with me. Somewhere in the middle of the course, the Holy Spirit convicted her and she accepted Jesus as her Lord and Saviour! At about the same time, the Lord kindled a fresh fire in me and drew me back to Himself! In November 1994, Serene was baptised and we were both confirmed together one week later.

By the Lord’s grace, although we went to church for all the wrong reasons, He turned everything around for His glory. We were married on 11 March 1995 as true believers of Jesus Christ. From that point forward, a deep hunger for God stirred in our hearts. The rest, as they say, is history. So much has taken place in our lives and we continue to experience the Lord’s faithfulness and guidance. Today, we celebrate our 18th Anniversary and my heart brims with love and gratitude for the one whom God has led into my life. 18 years later, Serene is not just my wife but also mother to the seven children God has blessed us with.

Words cannot express how much I love Serene. I am just so thankful and I praise the Lord for my wife! We share so many things in common and yet we acknowledge how different we are in many aspects too. Perhaps, the theme song of our wedding album, Music & Dance, illustrates this best. Although different expressions of art, when put together, music and dance complement each other, bringing both audio and visual experiences to a different dimension! I believe that’s how our relationship has been and our prayer is that God will continue to use us in ways that we will always be a blessing to all around us.

Thank you, Lord, for blessing me with Serene and 18 wonderful years! Thank you, Serene, for your love, support and patience all these years! I love you so very much! Blessed 18th Anniversary!!!

What has Valentine’s Day got to do with John 3:16?

Can we, should we, equate God's love with Valentine's Day?
Can we, should we, equate God’s love with Valentine’s Day?

You may have received this on your mobile phone or seen it on Facebook. All I can say is that it’s cute and creative – nothing more. Not that I do not believe in John 3:16, or the promise it contains. I just don’t feel right about linking it with Valentine’s, that’s all.

Before anyone rushes to defend anything, let me say that I am all for being relevant and creative [hey, I was from the advertising industry!]. However, that does not mean that I need to try too hard in my bid to speak the culture’s language. And in today’s society where love is totally misunderstood and defined in our own terms and fancies, the last thing we should do is equate God’s love with that of Valentine’s in its present commercial romanticised context. Nor should we even begin to suggest that John 3:16 encapsulates what Valentine’s is all about! I shudder to imagine the day when we have cuddly Jesus-on-the-Cross soft toys, when pressed, a recorded message plays, “Will you be my Valentine?”

Anyway, these are just my personal ramblings. I do not mean to offend anyone, least of all those who sent this image to me. I know you meant well and I thank you for including me in your Valentine’s mailing and WhatsApp list.

For a better understanding of the origins of Valentine’s Day, read Pastor Mark Driscoll’s post.