It’s ok. Really. The Lord is at hand.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed and anxious? Have you ever felt upset and frustrated? Have you ever felt alone and lost?

Yes, yes, and yes! Guilty, as charged.

Oops! I hope I didn’t stumble anyone. After all, how can someone serving the Lord, living by faith, moving purposefully on kingdom assignment have such experiences?! Well, you just met that someone!

I’ve always maintained that the work of the ministry is no walk in the park. As much as I’d like to inspire and encourage others with nice, pick-me-up statements and Instagrammable posts, I also believe in being real and authentic. And that means admitting and acknowledging that it’s not about mountian-highs all the time. There are moments – and quite a few I might add – that valley-lows are encountered and experienced.

In the past weeks, I struggled with such a moment.

On the surface, everything seemed normal. In fact, things must have looked quite good (have you seen my Facebook feed?). My schedule has been packed and I was kept duly engaged in my kingdom assignment of Archippus Awakening. Looking ahead, the trajectory seemed to be pointing up and up. My schedule is packed and there are more than a few items on the to-do list to take care of.

In Christian-speak, we would say that the Lord is enlarging the place of my tent! And yet … that was why and when the pressure mounted and concerns began to overwhelm. Yes, I found myself in one of those moments. Anxiety, frustration, helplessness, aloneness … you name it … I experienced it all! And the enemy was more than happy to help me feed on my self-pity, that I may sink even further.

Day and night, I wrestled with many questions and issues. At times, I even took it out on those around me. (I am not proud about this, but I did say that I would be real and authentic.) Everything felt wrong. But faith is not based on feelings, I preached to myself. Ya right, more easily preached than lived out. And so, the tussle went on.

Last night, the Lord graciously intervened, reminding me of Philippians 4:4-7.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

There are many familiar words and phrases in this passage, but this was the line that hit me: “The Lord is at hand.”

Oh how I needed to be reminded of that!

My heart wanted dearly to please the Lord. However, amidst the many details to handle, I must admit that He did seem a little distant. In my bid to be responsible and faithful, I didn’t realise that my focus had shifted, ever so subtly. As the saying goes, “If you feel that God is far away, guess who moved?” Ouch. In Archippian parlance, I allowed myself to be knocked off alignment!

How that one little line ministered to me: “The Lord is at hand.”

Situationally, nothing has changed. There are still many things to take care of and to handle. But being assured of the Lord’s presence made all the difference!

I don’t try to rejoice. I can rejoice because the Lord is near! I don’t try to think positive so that I don’t fret. I don’t have to be anxious because the Lord is at hand! And that also means that I can boldly bring my concerns to Him and make my requests. Because the Lord is not too far away that He cannot hear me. He is near and very present! I don’t try to have peace. I have the peace of God because the God of peace is at hand, near me, with me!

Are you overwhelmed and anxious? Are you upset and frustrated? Are you feeling alone and lost? Perhaps, like me, you have lost perspective of who God is and where He is.

Take heart, my friend. It’s ok. Really. Remember … the Lord is at hand.

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When You P.R.A.Y.

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Many things have been said and written about prayer. But this morning, as I laid in my bed, the following points popped into my heart and I thought it’d be good to pen it down as a reminder to myself and as an encouragement to others. Not surprisingly, it comes in the form of the acronym, P.R.A.Y.

PRESENT Yourself Before prayer is petition, it is really a posture of presentation. Admit it. Have you not struggled with finding time or energy to pray? There is always something else that appears more important where you feel your presence or attention is critically needed. That is why the very first aspect of prayer is presentation, the conscious act of disengaging ourselves from the 1,001 things that distract us that we may present ourselves before God. This could mean physically walking to the side of the bed and kneeling down, or simply closing our eyes and tuning out the cares of the world. This posture of presentation enables us to focus on God, acknowledging our great and desperate need for Him.

REST in Him Before you rattle off your prayer list (or your version of God’s to-do list), take a moment to rest in His presence. I guarantee you that this will make a world of difference. Pause for a moment, even if those two or three seconds of quiet might seem like eternity to you. But it’s important as it allows perspective to move from yours to His. Strangely, amidst the anxiety and flurry of your thoughts and concerns, you will experience a peace that surpasses your comprehension. Enjoy the rest. You need it. You may not have said anything yet, but your time of prayer has already begun.

ASK Boldly I hear you say, “Finally.” Yes, go ahead. Ask, petition, question, complain, weep, cry. Table your needs, present your case, ask the toughest of questions. Why don’t we do this first? Once again, posture and perspective. It is one thing to ask and demand like a spoilt brat, fussing and kicking his legs all over the place; and yet totally another to come as a son and a servant who trusts and rests in his Father and Master. The former’s boldness is misplaced whilst the latter’s, rightly positioned and presented.

YIELD to His Will If you have noticed the prayers of the saints and psalmists in the Bible, they always leave room for God to have the last word. Well, the truth is, He has the last word, whether you acknowledge it or not. Prayer is not so much getting our way as it is aligning to His. This may not be what you want to hear, but it just is. However God chooses to answer — whether yes, no or wait — it requires a yielding to His sovereign will. A prayer that closes with this understanding positions the saint for a much deeper work in his life because he is ready to surrender and submit to a situation that may not result in the way he expected. And yet, because he knows that God is in control, he is able to keep on serving faithfully from a position of rested-ness, trusting wholly in the One who holds everything in His hands.

So, the next time you P.R.A.Y., keep these four simple points in mind. May this encourage and enable you to enjoy your times with the Lord. And all who agree say, “AMEN!”

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.”?

God Is Into New Things!

“Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18, 19

It was on one of my evening runs that I noticed this tree in Bishan Park. It looked a little odd with the leafless branches sticking out on one side; and on the other side, a small bunch of green leaves sprouting. Quite immediately, Isaiah 43:18-19 came to mind!

Yes, at times, we may go through dry and seemingly barren seasons. There may be no leaves, no flowers, no fruit for a while. Does it mean that nothing is happening? Not at all! This could just be a time of recuperating, of resting and of realigning. God may appear silent but He continues to work in the background of our lives.

It’s easy to see the branches but no one sees the roots. Yet, that’s where the action is. Our part is not to focus on the outward but to continue to draw from the Source. There may have been disappointments and discouragements, mistakes and mess ups. That’s ok. Keep drawing to keep growing. All these, like the old leaves, will soon fall off and the winds will carry it far away. If we hold on to the past, we will not allow these to make way for new leaves, for new things, to come.

God is always into new things and we are to move forward with Him. How tempting it is to remember the former things, and that’s why the prophet Isaiah declares, “Do not remember the former things!” Let it go! Stop looking back with regrets! Keep doing that and we will miss what’s ahead. God does not wait for us to stop looking back before He begins a new work in our lives. It’s already started, He says! Do you not see it? Shall you not know it?

This is so exciting as I sense this is a personal word to me! The new season has already begun! A new wave has emerged in my life and ministry, and God is inviting me to jump on and ride it with Him that I may experience the abundance He has for me, my family and ministry.

Perhaps He is saying the same to you?

I Will Give You Rest: The Promise of God’s Presence

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?

God Is Not In A Rush

Some weeks ago, I typed this in my iPhone notepad …

“The times are urgent but God is not in a rush. His timing is perfect. That’s good reason to slow down and not be overly stressed or impatient with things or people who don’t seem to move or respond at all.”

I’ve been reading this over and over again to remind myself of this simple truth … God is not in a rush at all.  Yes, things are happening all over the world and we know that the clock is ticking.  We are indeed living in the last of the last days and time seems to be running out.

As a result, I find myself preaching with greater urgency.  Now, that sounds really nice and spiritual.  But I must search my heart, be totally honest and ask if there is, perhaps, some impatience on my part.  The intentions may be good but perhaps, just perhaps again, I am trying to do things my way and in my own strength?  Sure, I would like to see more people catch the fire, be stirred up with the things of God, and making significant changes and sacrifices for the sake of the Lord Jesus!  But have I hoped that it would take place a little more quickly?  And when it doesn’t, I find myself doing more, trying harder and running faster, only to hit the wall of frustration and discouragement time and again … all in the name of the urgency of the times.

But I believe where God is concerned, from His divine perspective, everything is happening according to His plan and His timing. He’s in total control.  That’s right.  God is not in a rush at all, nor is He a tad stressed.  So why should I be? I need to carry this in my heart and remember this truth as I minister.

By no means am I giving myself licence to be shoddy or lazy.  I will still do my best for the Master and fulfil my call to the best of my ability by the power of the Holy Spirit.  But it helps me remember that I am not the one who can change or save the world (don’t laugh, but it is very easy to miss the point in ministry and think it’s all about yourself).  On the contrary, it has been and it will always be Jesus!  What He requires of me is to simply be faithful.  And as I do my part, He will more than do His!  Whilst this is easy to accept in times of breakthroughs and victories, it is not quite as apparent when things don’t seem to move nor people respond.  And yet, the truth does not change … God is not in a rush at all.  Didn’t He say that the vision shall come to pass even if it appears to tarry (Hab 2:2-3)? Yes, I am the impatient one … ouch!

So, slow down, Henson.  Haven’t you forgotten the title of your own website?  Take it “one day at a time”. Cease from your own works even as you are diligent to enter into His rest (Heb 4:10-11). Relax and enjoy the ride with the Master.