When I set up One Day At A Time back in 2007, I felt it necessary to include a page where I shared “My Core Convictions“. For churches or para-church ministries, it would be a page detailing their Statements of Faith. But for a personal blog, it’s just a broad overview of what I believe in and what guides my spiritual walk.
Over the years, this list has not only served as good reminders, but also a great source of encouragement to me. It points me back to what I regarded as foundational (still do), and helps me in my own alignment check. And especially in trying and difficult seasons, these simple lines anchor and hold me steady through challenges.
Reviewing them again, I am thankful I made the effort to craft these ten statements then. I know that these pale in comparison with Jonathan Edwards’ 70 Resolutions. But then again, it was never meant to be too academic a piece or to sound overly theological. My Core Convictions simply detail what I believe about God, His Purpose, salvation, faith, obedience, the Word, provision, ministry, the Holy Spirit, God’s will and grace (supported by Scripture, of course).
What are your core convictions? Do you have core convictions? If not, I highly recommend that you take some time to ponder and to write them down. It is a worthy exercise as it will bring clarity to your walk with the Lord, strengthen your resolve as you serve Him, and also provide focus as you navigate through life’s many distractions and uncertainties.
Not too long ago, I wrote an article with this tongue-in-cheek title: “The Believer’s Conference Survival Guide”. In conference- & seminar-laden Singapore, Christians are constantly signed up and attending these events. As such, I thought it’d be good to share some pointers and reminders.
Well, I recently found myself at one of these offerings. I appreciated the topics, the speakers and what they had to offer. Nothing wrong with what was presented or shared. Everything was good, biblically sound. And yet, I came away with a feeling of frustration.
[At this point, please understand that what I am sharing is largely personal. It’s me and where I am at; so please, let not anyone be offended at all, least of all the ones who worked so hard to put everything together, or the ones who graciously made time to prepare their sessions. As a speaker and organiser myself, I greatly appreciate every effort and the desire to help others.]
As I sat there listening and processing, I became increasingly edgy. The points were not new at all. I am sure the participants (mostly ministry leaders) would have heard it all before, and possibly even preached it too. The questions posed were not new; nor were the responses ‘revelational’. I am sure those who asked were totally sincere in wanting to learn. And those who shared were happy to impart something of value and worth. Everyone was saying the right things, and yet, the Church (at large) continues to struggle with the same issues and challenges.
I kept hearing that it’s not about another programme or another activity. And yet, I wonder if each was secretly hoping to discover the programme that would fix it all?! I wonder if we have all become so clueless and helpless that we simply can’t figure out how to live life according to how the Lord would have us live. I mean … Singapore is a nation that prides itself in academic and intellectual excellence. With all our expertise and reputation in efficiency and problem-solving, why do we seem to be going around in circles?
Perhaps, that’s where the real problem lies. Are we trying too hard to fix the system that we have missed the big picture? Are we trouble-shooting in the wrong places? Have we only complicated the process even more? Have we unconsciously replaced obedience with organisation, sacrifice with seminars, discipline with dialogue, maturity with methods, purpose with programmes, assignment with activities?
Once again, I say: I am thankful for conferences and seminars, and deeply appreciative of how I have received good reminders, fresh perspectives and insights from the speakers and organisers. But at the end of the day, there are simply no shortcuts.
As leaders and ministers, we often ask, “How can we help them…”, “How can we get our members to…”, “How do we encourage more to…”, etc. Certainly, we can do our part and we must. But unless these are personally impacted and touched by the Lord, compelled and convicted to live for Him, willing to obey and to sacrifice, our efforts, well-intended no doubt, will not avail much. It will just be another conference, another seminar and another programme.
I 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!
“Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal. Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; for the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”” Joshua 4:19–24
In Joshua 4, God instructed Joshua to erect a monument of twelve stones after the crossing of the Jordan. This was to serve as a memorial for generations to come and also for the world to know the power and faithfulness of God in the lives of His people. Similarly, there have been many key dates and events in my journey with the Lord and I want to make a conscious and deliberate effort to never forget any of these. I have “erected” spiritual milestones for these, and this is what I am doing here again.
Last year, on 3 October 2013, when we were both in a season of fasting and praying, the Lord spoke clearly to me through my wife, Serene. That morning, Serene stepped in and said, “The Lord says to cross over; and where we are going, we have not gone this way before.” She was reading the Bible when Joshua 3:4 ‘jumped’ out of the page at her, specifically, “that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before.” When I heard those words, my heart stirred with affirmation and we knew the time had come for us to ‘cross over’ into a new season and assignment. Where and how? We had no clue at all! What followed was my stepping down as pastor of CVCC; and later on, as dean of CVSOM.
The funny thing is that when people ask me what the next steps are, I still find myself saying, “I don’t know and I’m not really sure.” To some, this may appear irresponsible or conclude that I have not spent enough time in God’s presence. That’s really fine by me because I remember His words to us. We have not gone this way before and He will lead us one day at a time, one step at a time.
That said, I do have broad strokes of where we are headed and I have given myself the next six months to be praying these through and developing these thoughts more concretely. Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” And that is how it has been so far since stepping out again! I pray, I plan and I proceed. But God’s purposes always take priority and I am ever ready to be corrected and re-directed by Him. After all, “There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless, the Lord’s counsel – that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21
And so, to my collection of spiritual milestones, I gladly add another one … 3 October 2013 … the day the Lord challenged Serene and myself to trust Him all over again; to follow Him where He will lead, to go where we have not gone before.
What are some of your spiritual milestones? Take time today to remember these, to recount the Lord’s blessings and faithfulness in your walk with Him. Receive new strength and hope for the way ahead, knowing that if He has come through for you in the past, He will most definitely see you through today and tomorrow.
Yesterday, I saw this post on Facebook: “FEAR AND FAITH CANNOT CO-EXIST.”
This FEAR-FAITH declaration is not a new one and I’ve heard it many times before. You probably have been taught the same thing … that FAITH and FEAR are diametrically opposite, never to be seen or mentioned together. Well, this is not altogether inaccurate but I’d like to share a different perspective to the relationship with faith and fear. Relationship?! Yes, I have found that these two words do and can co-exist. I discovered this when I re-read one of my favourite verses one day, Hebrews 11:7 …
“By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” Heb 11:7 NKJV
It never occurred to me before but that day, I read the verse again and realised that both faith and fear were mentioned together in the same verse! Because I had been taught that the two words don’t go together, I completely missed the significance of this verse. In my mind, each time faith is mentioned, fear cannot be present; and vice versa. As a result, I had conditioned myself to dislike the word ‘fear’ and developed an automatic blotting out of that word whenever it appeared; and especially when faith is mentioned. I didn’t realise that by adopting that posture, I also conveniently erased every understanding of fear, including that of godly fear or the fear of the Lord!
Noah was a man of faith. And it was his faith in the Lord – what he believed in and of God – that produced a holy, reverent or godly fear which in turn moved him to obey every instruction and warning that came from God. When God said that He would judge mankind, He meant it! When God said that He would bring a flood, He meant it! When God told Noah to build an ark, Noah readily obeyed because his faith brought about a holy fear that God meant what God said! And if Noah didn’t proceed to work on the vessel for the next 120 years, he too would have been swept away by the waters, whether or not he repeated his salvation prayer or not!
We see the same example in our Lord Jesus Christ “who, in the days of his flesh, when He offered prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” (Heb 5:7-8 NKJV) If anyone had 100% faith, Jesus did. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He had complete faith in the Father whether the cup was removed or not. And yet, filled and led by the Spirit of the Fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2), Jesus submitted to the Father’s will for “His delight [was] in the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:3). Like Noah, by faith, Jesus, moved with godly fear, obeyed and went all the way to the cross. Once again, the corresponding result of faith was fear, godly fear; and out of that, obedience.
My point? Simply this: Without realising it, our minds have been shaped by one-liners like “Fear and faith cannot co-exist.” or “Fear looks. Faith leaps.” As such, subconsciously, we have learnt to detest the word ‘fear’, even if it is godly or holy. Even when teaching about the fear of the Lord, we tend to qualify that as ‘reverence’ or ‘awe’, all too quickly and apologetically even. Clearly, we fear the word ‘fear’ and as far as possible, we’d rather not have it. Consequently, Christians today have little understanding of what it truly means to fear the Lord. We may say that we reverence Him or worship Him or hold Him in awe, but somehow, it just isn’t the same! We may lift our hands in darkened auditoriums and shed tears when we feel the tingles but as long as we don’t respond in obedience, we just do not fear the Lord! And that’s the problem with faith as we know it today. We have been told that faith and fear simply do not go together. And so, our faith in our God is just that. We talk so much about faith but few are ever moved, as Noah and Jesus were, by godly fear that results in sacrificial obedience.
So yesterday, when I saw this post on Facebook: “FEAR AND FAITH CANNOT CO-EXIST.”, I couldn’t help but respond with the comment: “Not unless it is godly fear.”
Just the other day, I heard another message about God’s love. Yes, another one. The speaker shared interesting points on how we should focus more on God’s love for us than on our love for Him. That if we know and understand God’s love, everything would be ok and we would be set for life. That because God loves us so much, He wants to keep giving to us and blessing us. Then, a few days later, a few friends attended a conference to hear more about God’s love. I am told that they were so encouraged to know that their heavenly Father loves them.
These are just two recent incidents. But it made me think, “What’s with this emphasis on God’s love in recent days?” Don’t we know that God loves us? Don’t we already know Him as Abba Father when we became children of God? Apparently not, sadly.
It suddenly dawned upon me – this generation is a very broken generation! Perhaps even more broken than the ones before. With all the advancements in the world, we have lost what is truly important. Through social media, we are all supposed to be more connected than ever before, but there is still a gaping emptiness in many hearts. There is an increased driven-ness and motivation to be the best, resulting in parents and children striving for excellence, resulting in less time spent knowing each other. Sex and physical expressions have become synonymous with relationships of love, producing even more disappointment and broken-ness.
No wonder, messages about the love of God are so sought after these days. After all, there is no love like the love of God, for God is love and in Him is perfect love! People in this generation clamour to be loved. And what better way to understand that than to expose oneself to God’s love, over and over again. Indeed, I am so blessed to be a child of God, to be a recipient of the Father’s Love!
Sadly, not every Christian fully understands this, and there is still so much broken-ness, even in the Church. What is more disconcerting is that there seems to be an over-emphasis on this one aspect of God … His love … at the exclusion of all the other attributes of God. Please don’t get me wrong, as if I am saying we can ever get enough of God’s eternal and limitless love. That is not my point at all!
Bask in His love all you want. Receive all the healing and grace that you need. Frolic in His glory and in His presence for as long as you desire. But let us not forget what God, our King and Master, has commissioned us for as ambassadors of Christ and His Kingdom. According to Paul the apostle, that’s the result of knowing and encountering God’s love … it compels us to live for Him and to impact others who need to know His love!
However, that people need to keep looking for His love only confirms how broken this generation is, how fragmented hearts are. The focus continues to be self. The love of God becomes a pill to pop just to get by another day of living in a broken world, to feel good about oneself.
I fully agree that there is nothing we can do to warrant God’s love, for His loved us all while we were yet sinners. But my personal conviction is that there comes a point when we must move on and grow up, and not abuse the love of God to be an excuse not to be obedient and faithful to the One who loved us and gave His Son for us.
As a father to seven children, I will never withhold my love from each of them. They may not understand it fully, but I love them all dearly and desire the best for them. I am thrilled each time they choose to hug me, sit on my lap, or kiss me to express their love for me, and to receive my love for them. But if they display an unusual sense of unhealthy neediness, I’d be very, very concerned. Yet, love them I would for such is the father’s love. But after that, I would be looking for signs of growth and maturity, not to mention obedience and faithfulness. Does that mean I love them less? Not at all. It is because I love them that I wish to see them grow into the persons that God has called them to be!
That is more the point I am trying to get across in this short reflection. This generation is typified by broken-ness and that’s why we crave for messages of love. The truth is that wholeness has already been secured for us all by Jesus. By faith, we can immediately walk in that truth. That said, be willing to walk in accountability with others so that we can live and grow in that truth!
As I sat down to pray this morning (18 Nov 2011), I felt led to Ezekiel 36, and the following verse caught my attention …
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went.” Ezekiel 36:22 (emphasis mine)
This chapter contains the prophecy of how God would bring His people back to their land after years of being dispersed throughout the world. Today, in our time, we can look back and see how God has faithfully fulfilled this prophecy through the re-birth of Israel as a nation in 1948. Well, praise the Lord for that, but that wasn’t the message this morning in my time with the Lord.
Often, we look at Israel as God’s chosen people with all the covenant promises and how God goes through great lengths to save, deliver and prosper them. Applying it to ourselves, as new covenant people, we too stand on such covenant promises. But coupled with an over-emphasis on self, and a distorted view of God’s love and grace, we tend to think that there is nothing God would not do for us. How wrong we are?!
The Lord reminded me this morning … it was not because Israel was good nor deserving that they were brought back to the land, but that God is faithful to keep covenant and to His own great name! It was not about Israel, nor for their sakes at all – and they went through no small amount of discomfort and persecution as God’s chosen people – it was for God’s own name sake!
Through the centuries, people have laughed at God and Israel … these are the chosen of God, look at them now, persecuted and mistreated, and countryless, so much for the promised land, so much for the covenant! Because of Israel’s disobedience, God’s name was profaned amongst the nations. So, for the sake of His name, God will show His power and faithfulness through His people once again. Not because of Israel’s obedience but because God’s name must and will be exalted in the end!
There is an important lesson to be grasped … it is not about me at all! Sadly, in the church today, we have made it all about us. It is as if God exists just for us, to bless us and to make us great. It is as if God is so lonely and desperate for a people to love that He would do anything to protect that relationship. I know it sounds absurd but is this not the gospel we hear today? Worse still, we, the church, think we are doing much better than Israel, who previously messed up and deserved to be scattered. And that’s why we are the more privileged ones today. What arrogance! But is it not true that is what we are being taught? We have made ourselves the centre of attention when Jesus is to be the centre of everything!?! It is for His name’s sake, nor ours!
What a timely reminder for me even as I recount the activities and achievements of a year that has gone by all too quickly. I am tempted to pat myself on my back, to think that I did really good for God. That for my sake (after all I am giving up quite a bit to serve Him and His Kingdom), God will remain faithful to all I do. How wrong and selfish I am if I keep holding on to this view.
Everything is done for the sake of His glorious name! There is no one else who will share in that glory that belongs only to God, the Creator of heaven and earth. That I am given this opportunity to participate is in itself an honour and a privilege to serve my God and Master. And when I have done my part, I can only say, “I am an unprofitable servant. I have done what was my duty to do.” Luke 17:10