Last Saturday 22 Feb, I was invited to a small breakfast fellowship involving pastors and ministers. It was a very casual affair as we each arrived, took our seats, introduced ourselves and tucked into the breakfast buffet … with coffee, of course 🙂 After about an hour, we adjourned to a room to pray. We stood in a circle and each shared our heart’s request and/or burden. Soon after, getting on our knees, we started to pray.
It was a very meaningful time and I know the presence of the Lord was there with us. As each prayer was uttered, I could sense the passion and desperation. It was a cry for the Lord to move mightily and sovereignly.
Throughout that time of prayer, all that was on my mind was the Church – not any local church in particular – just the Church, the Body of Jesus Christ. As that thought captivated me, I found myself weeping and then sobbing. I couldn’t understand why but I sensed such a deep burden for the Church, brothers and sisters in Christ, supposedly the people of God.
Yesterday, Tuesday 25 Feb, the lead story in The Straits Times reportedly an unusually long dry spell that we are experiencing in Singapore and around the region. There is no telling when it would end. Almost instinctively, I thought, “We are experiencing the same dryness in the Church. Who knows for how long? Lord, send Your rain!”
Please don’t read this as a critical judgment on anyone or any local church. As always, I will begin with myself and evaluate my own spiritual state. But if you agree with me that there is generally a dry spell in the hearts of believers, please pray along with me and others who are crying for the Lord to revive His Church once more.
Interestingly, in prolonged dry spells, many bush fires begin to break out all over the place. Could these be the starting fires of revival that God is generating in the hearts of certain individuals? Might the Lord be getting our attention the way He got Moses’? May we discern and respond before we put these fires out all too quickly.
It was seven years ago when I was invited to speak at a church camp – my very first. The invitation came from Rev Stanley Chua, the pastor-in-charge of Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church. It was a really good experience and since then, I have made many new friends from this lovely community.
When Pastor Stanley approached me to be the Camp Speaker for the 2013 Camp, it wasn’t difficult for me to make a decision. It would be like a homecoming for me, seven years later. As I sought the Lord for the topic, the word “CHOICES” popped into my mind and this was conveyed to the Camp Committee. Given my ministry schedule over the next months, I didn’t have much time to think too much of it. It would be just three weeks to the camp before I could really sit down to seriously prepare! It was a time of pressing in, reviewing and then reviewing again.
All too soon, we were packing for AMKMC Church Camp 2013. On Thursday 13 June, our family hopped into two cabs and made our way to AMKMC. We were a little concerned as to how the children would take to the long ride up to Putrajaya, Selangor. Thankfully, the ride was very smooth and we all arrived at Hotel Equatorial safely and in good time.
That night, I preached the first session, PRESENTATION. The next day, the topics were PATTERN and PROCESS. And finally, on Saturday morning, I closed with PRESENCE. On Sunday morning, I was given the privilege to speak at the closing service to conclude the entire teaching series, challenging all campers with a very fundamental choice: “Would you choose to live a life dependent on God or one independent of Him?”
Besides teaching and ministry, it was also a time of fellowship and catching up with friends. I especially appreciated the short 1.5hrs I had with Pastor Stanley. I appreciate this dear brother in the Lord as he has been most supportive and encouraging ever since I stepped into fulltime ministry. We shared about ministry and family, and ended the session by praying for one another. We also enjoyed the warm hospitality by AMKMC members, looking after our entire tribe every step of the way and making us feel so at home. Special thanks to the youths who carried our luggage!
As always, God is so faithful to show up, to minister to His people. I stand in awe that I would be used of and by Him to speak His Word into the hearts of my dear brothers and sisters at AMKMC. This is a privilege I never ever take for granted. Another highlight for me was that this time, I was able to involve David (15yo) and Sarah (13yo) in the ministry as they provided musical and vocal support respectively. I am thankful that our family was a blessing to many, as they observed our tribe through meal times and the teaching sessions. Even little Anna Joy (4yo) was used by the Lord powerfully, as shared in a separate post, AMKMC 2013: Running into the Father’s Arms.
Thank you, Lord, for this opportunity to share and minister at AMKMC again. Thank you, too, for the leading and enablement in the preparation and delivery of the messages. Your Presence was so strong and tangible, especially at the final session! May You continue to move mightily in this church that more may be won to Jesus Christ through this wonderful congregation!
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!
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.
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.
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 peoplefrom 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 narrownessof 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!
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!
I was really blessed when I heard this preached at the recent LoveSingapore Pastors’ Summit 2011.
In Exodus 33, God told Moses to bring the Israelites into the land. As He has promised, He will drive the enemies out and give Israel the land. But God Himself will not be in their midst (v3).
This point hit me hard. I can seemingly have the breakthroughs and victories in my life and still not have God! I can have what appears to be a successful and active ministry and still not have God! I can have all the promises and blessings and still not have God!
I never saw this so clearly before. But Moses understood it perfectly. That’s why in Exod 33:15, he said to the Lord, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.” The key is found one verse before, in v14, when God said to Moses, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Read that again! And don’t miss the connection between God’s Presence and His Rest! Think about this … Moses was willing to forego the Promised Land if God did not go with him. He knew that blessings without God would be meaningless. He’d rather remain in the wilderness where he had the presence of God, than receive the promises apart from God! In today’s terms, it would be like saying, “Lord, don’t heal me … don’t give me that raise … don’t grant me the job I’ve been asking for … don’t bless me with a bigger house … if it means my relationship with You will be affected.” Can you imagine saying that at all?!
The scenario changes in the New Testament but the principle remains the same. Through the person of Jesus Christ, we have God with us, Immanuel (Matt 1:23). God’s Presence is there for us if we would choose to run boldly into His arms through the living way made possible by Jesus. In His Presence, we find love, peace, assurance, comfort, joy, hope. That’s the rest that the Lord promises; the rest that so many desire to have, but so few experience. It’s found in relationship and communion with Him, in His Presence.
But sadly, and I am often guilty of this too, many prefer the presence of His promises more than the promise of His Presence. Or even worse, to think we are in His Presence just because we are blessed materially or successful in ministry. Oh, may I have the heart of Moses, the one who spoke to God face-to-face, the one who was willing to give up everything just to be in His Presence. Oh, may I be like Mary, the one who chose the better part of sitting at the feet of Jesus, the one who was willing to tarry than be caught up in the hurry and flurry.
The promise of His Presence is there for me, as it is for you. By God’s grace, we no longer have to ask for it as Moses did. But perhaps we have taken all that for granted and totally missed the significance, Jesus said in Matt 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Will we run into His Presence? Will we enter His rest?
There I was, teaching about how God has gifted each of us with natural talents and abilities. Then, I proceeded to make a point about how these gifts can all be empowered by the Holy Spirit and enabled supernaturally as we yield and submit to Him. “For example,” I asked, “is there anyone here who can cook really well?” In their humility, none of my students raised their hands. “Well,” I said, “have you ever realised that you can cook in the Spirit?” The moment I said that, the entire class burst into laughter.
I must admit that it sounds rather funny. But I was dead serious. I sincerely believe that it is possible and even expected of all believers. Paul exhorts Christians to walk and live in the Spirit. What does that mean? Surely, it cannot just refer to people babbling and shaking under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. But that’s what we automatically presume whenever the words “in the Spirit” are mentioned. If that was true, then we cannot possibly be in the Spirit all the time.
In Rom 8:5, Paul says that those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on things of the Spirit. In Col 3:2, the apostle tells the Church to “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Simply put, to live and walk in the Spirit, our minds must be focussed on the things of God and not on the things of man. It is a Godward orientation that we must have in our hearts and minds, a looking to Him, a focus which, in essence, translates into God-conscious speech and actions!
So how does one cook in the Spirit? No, she is not one who speaks in tongues whilst frying the vegetables, nor does she shake uncontrollably whilst mixing the spaghetti sauce. That would result in quite a messy kitchen! Rather, she is one whose heart is praising and worshipping the Lord as she prepares the meals with joy and gratitude. We are familiar with the phrase “she baked this pie with love”. I believe it captures what I’m trying to say here. When one cooks in the Spirit, there can be an anointing that will bless those who partake of the meal! We may not be aware of it, for certainly it is not obvious as what we are used to expect of manifestations in the Spirit. Yet surely, that will has been enabled by the Spirit will touch and bless lives. Interestingly, Brother Lawrence, the author of “Practising the Presence of God”, was also a humble cook! In a monastery, whether washing the dishes, scrubbing the floor or making stew for his brethren, he did it “in the Spirit”, to the glory of God. And how his fellow monks were blessed and edified by this brother’s seemingly mundane tasks, done “in the Spirit”.
But this principle is not limited to culinary exploits nor confined to the kitchen. Not at all! Each task we execute, when enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, carries His love and anointing, and that impacts and touches lives for Him! Paul says in Col 3:17, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” And how can we do that except fully enabled by the Spirit, in the Spirit?
Often, I feel we over-spiritualise too many things when God intends each biblical principle to be lived out practically for His name. Consequently, too many consider themselves incapable of attaining such lofty spiritual achievements. These are, after all, in their perception, reserved for those who are super-spiritual. I beg to differ. Have a change of mindset today! Begin setting your mind on the things that please and honour God, and discover how each and every word or deed is in fact one that bears great spiritual significance. Not only for yourself, but more importantly, for those you love and serve.
Go on … cook a meal, clean the cupboards, vacuum the floor, wash the toilet, change the diaper, plot a spreadsheet, file a tax return, mow the lawn, send an email … in the Spirit. Be a blessing to those aound you, through the Spirit’s enablement and empowerment, and bring God all glory and honour!