What has 38 Oxley Road got to do with the Church?

Our Little Red Dot has caught the world’s attention again.

However, this time, it is not for something Singaporeans can say we are proud of. Yes, I am referring to the recent family feud involving the Lee siblings concerning 38 Oxley Road.

As I considered the exchanges across the numerous platforms, this question popped into my heart: “What about the Church?”

The Church of Jesus Christ is both the family and the house of God. Everyone agrees that Church is not a building or a place we go to, but the people of God. But when it comes to executing the Father’s will, not everyone is in agreement how Church is to be.

There are the same accusations of power play, over reliance on an institution, over dependence on one prominent personality, and the pushing of personal agendas. Some say that we must demolish the establishment, others shout a vehement ‘No!’, whilst others are willing to consider options along the spectrum. And so, the siblings in Christ continue to squabble over what to do with the house, taking to social media to air our views with articles, videos, memes and hashtags.

Meanwhile, as the world watched the Lee saga unfold, the world is also watching the Church. As the Lee siblings risked tarnishing the name of their father and Singapore’s founding father, might we be doing the same to the Name of our Heavenly Father when we fight against one another?

I have had a heavy ministry schedule over the past two months. Four church camps in June. Launched Archippus Awakening’s pilot mentoring aligning process on 1 July. KINGDOM101 resumed last Wednesday 5 July. On Sunday, I preached at two churches. In between the services, I found myself missing Serene and children dearly. The family has been so supportive, never complaining whenever the work of the ministry takes me away from them. That afternoon, I had a deep yearning to be with them. Thankfully, no one had any appointment that night (can’t presume these days with teenagers) and the Lim Tribe went out for dinner.

Exhausted from teaching and preaching, I didn’t talk very much. Just being with Serene and the children was enough for me. Over dinner, around the table, the children engaged with each other. They talked, they teased one another, they laughed together. Half the time, in the noisy restaurant, I couldn’t make out what they were talking about. But it didn’t matter one bit. My heart was filled with joy just watching them interact with one another.I thought to myself, “This must be how our Heavenly Father feels when He sees His children loving one another and enjoying each other’s company.” I know I felt it that night, and it felt really good. My prayer is that the Lim siblings will continue in this love and friendship with one another, come what may. In John 17, Jesus prayed for believers, siblings in Christ, to be one. For sure, this would please our Father in heaven.

Thankfully, the Lee siblings have agreed to take things offline so that what is family can be kept within the family. This will benefit a far bigger cause, that the Prime Minister and his government will not be distracted to do what they have been elected to do – govern Singapore through these challenging times. After all, it’s not just 38 Oxley Road but the greater house of Singapore that Singaporeans must be concerned with.

Perhaps the Church – the elect of God – can learn from this episode. Would we, the family and house of God, be willing to set aside differences for the greater cause of the kingdom of God? Sure, the house must be set in order, and that we must do. But there is a much larger picture of the kingdom of God that will require brothers and sisters in Christ to stand together.

Personal, ministry and denominational agendas cannot be the order of the day. It has been, and it will always be, about the Father’s will, is it not?

These thoughts were first shared in Henson’s July 2017 Newsletter. To receive One Day At A Time newsletter updates directly in your mailbox, subscribe here.
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General Election 2015: Observations for Life & Ministry

SIN-2015-Votes

Everyone agrees that this General Election was a little different. Perhaps it’s the SG50 factor, the first election without LKY, the first time without a single walkover, interesting personalities from the opposition parties, etc. Whatever the reason, there certainly was more excitement (and haze) in the air. I actually stayed up for as long as I could tahan (endure) before finally deciding at 2am that I would not wait for the Aljunied GRC recount. This is quite an achievement for one who is not particularly interested in politics.

Now that GE2015 is over, as the dust settles, I thought it’d be good to share some personal thoughts about the process and the psychology behind it. Interestingly, I noted some parallels that would prove helpful to myself as a minister, not in Cabinet, but of Jesus Christ and His Church.

1. Numbers are not everything. However impressive, numbers remain largely deceptive. The opposition parties drew large crowds at their rallies. Many clamoured for Dr Chee Soon Juan’s autograph. Social media was abuzz with seemingly similar views and as many LIKES and SHARES. And yet, when the results were announced, these encouraging numbers amounted to little, if anything at all. Churches and ministries are quite the same, aren’t we? When we report, it’s numbers we present – and the larger, the better. We judge a church’s health by how big it is, and an activity’s success by how well attended it was. This lesson reminds us that numbers are not everything. There can be a lot of hype but very little support. Sadly, the herd mentality has prevailed through the centuries. Look at the multitudes that Jesus preached to. Where were they when it mattered? Jesus was not impressed with nor swayed by numbers, and we shouldn’t be either.

2. Numbers are important. Well, at least for the PAP. The 69.86% result was a “national swing”, a “landslide victory”, a “strong mandate”. To the ruling party, this signalled not just a clear and decisive win but also the support of the people. Although numbers are not everything, certain numbers are important. For the Christian community, we have to look beyond the crowds, registrations and attendances. What we should be really interested in is how many truly love and serve the Lord, translating attendance into action. No point reporting a large number of real-time decisions but finally only a small percentage of real-life disciples. The numbers of true significance may not always be impressive but these are what we must focus on.

3. Complaints don’t necessarily mean a desire for change. I think complaints are here to stay, no matter how wonderful a government is. Even the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew acknowledged the Singaporean as a complainer and grumbler. And the opposition parties found out the hard way when they were snooked into thinking complaints will turn into votes in their favour. Simply, complaints do not necessarily mean a desire for change. I call this the uncomfortable comfort zone. And sadly, this applies to Christians too. I’ve heard enough complaints about churches, pastors and leaders. But when push comes to shove, no one is prepared to do anything – too many years, too many friends, too much investment through tithes and offerings, too much to lose, too much inconvenience, too much trouble, too lazy, etc. Most are discontented with the situation but everyone seems totally content with the status quo. I know this sounds totally irrational but that’s just the way it is. So, by all means, pay attention to the ground but don’t be naive to expect that these would necessarily be there for or with you.

4. We are not desperate enough. Is this not true? Nothing is really at stake. Singapore is doing ok and our lives are rather comfortable. So, let’s make some noise but not too much. Let’s not risk anything. Don’t rock the boat. With affluence and freedom, Christians in Singapore can fall into the same trap. Since we get to worship freely and comfortably in air-conditioned auditoriums, let’s just be satisfied with that. After all, is that not an indication of God’s favour and blessing? But look at what’s happening in America now. That freedom is slowly but surely being taken away. It’s not enough just to complain about poor leadership or questionable doctrines. Believers are forced to take a stand, to put their faith where their mouth is. I am not saying that I desire that eventuality, ever. Armchair politicians are aplenty as are armchair church members. And it definitely takes a certain level of desperation to get these off their religious butts.

5. Be careful what you say about mothers and women. Look what happened to NSP’s Cheo Chai Chen after his poorly considered remark about PAP’s Tin Pei Ling? Enough said.

6. It’s hard to discern who is telling the truth. Many of the candidates spoke well, eloquently and rather convincingly. Of course, some should not even be there in the first place. Everyone had a case for action or for change. But who is presenting the whole truth, really? It’s hard to tell, isn’t it? We have our fair share of that in Christian circles. Today, we have so much information and a choice of the best speakers. But is what we are listening to accurate and in accordance with the Scriptures? Or are we merely hearing what we want hear? Just as statistics and data can be presented by politicians to convey the party’s agenda, we must be aware that in these days, the same is being done with and to the Word of God. It all sounds attractive and good but we must discern if it is truly God’s kingdom’s agenda or not.

7. We decided but God presided. Without doubt, every vote, Christian or non-Christian, mattered. Singaporeans decided who they wanted in their constituencies and in Parliament. The future of the nation rested in our hands, or so it may seem. The truth is, whatever the result, God is not surprised and remains totally in control. In the end, His purpose will stand. Such is the tension between the freewill of Man and the sovereignty of God. We think we have the power to direct and to will, as if everything depended on us. As moral agents, God allows us the freedom to decide; and that carries with it responsibility and accountability. Ultimately, through our decisions and actions, and in spite of, God appoints the authorities. We think we are serving our own purposes and that of our nation, but somehow, these all end up serving the purposes of God! My little finite mind still cannot quite figure out how it all works but it does. It would do us well if we remember and apply this in our lives and ministries. We would rest and trust more. He is God and we are not.

These are just my personal observations. All said, I am thankful and blessed to be a Singaporean. May we never forget the grace of God that has brought us to where we are today.

Say “No” to Ashley Madison in Singapore

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Source: http://mypaper.sg/news/it-shatters-marriages-its-business-its-coming-20131023

Related Articles:
Asia One: Business of Ruining Marriages
Ashley Madison: Why the Cheating Website is Successful
Ashley Madison in Singapore: When Even Negative Publicity Is Great Publicity

Was I surprised when told about the impending launch of Ashley Madison in Singapore? Well, yes and no.

Firstly, no, because recently, there has been more and more talk about affairs and extra-marital relationships, or just plainly — adultery. It seems that adultery today is fair game amongst consenting adults. So, no, I was not surprised by yet another report on adultery.

But, yes, I was caught a little off-guard to learn that the promotion of adultery has now become a full-fledged business around the world! This was also the first time I had heard of the name, Ashley Madison. And to my horror, and disgust, this company is blatantly open about adultery. Its slogan is simply, “Life is short. Have an affair.” This is outright in-your-face hedonism. To those in worldview circles, it’s referred to as sexual libertinism. And unfortunately, it is attempting to weave its smutty way into our neighbourhood 😦

Source: http://www.parable.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/ashleymadison.jpg
Source: http://www.parable.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/ashleymadison.jpg

All said, this is really quite expected as morality has been on a slide, and we know things aren’t going to get any better. And yet, one cannot but baulk at the way it is happening, through seemingly legitimate businesses where as long as there are willing customers, there will be a ready market for such businesses to thrive in. The question is, will or can our government regulate such businesses? Should these even be allowed to register and operate in the first place?

The Bible warns that in the last days, more and more people will be lovers of themselves and of pleasure (2 Tim 3:1-5). These would herald these as times of freedom and expression as humanity comes of age. Sadly, that would be totally inaccurate, for the Bible refers to these times as perilous times, as those before Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, as those before Noah entered the ark and the flood waters covered the earth. Yes, we are living in those days the Bible talks about.

As Christians, we cannot and must not stay silent for we have been appointed to preserve society as salt and to shine the way of righteousness as light. We must take a stand, and at times, this calls for us to speak up and speak out against such decadent practices. This is not the time for apathy or nonchalance.

At the same time, we must protect our own marriages and families for these are under tremendous attack like never before. We must not presume that things are ok between husband and wife but instead work at strengthening and building the marital relationship. And lest you think children in Christian households are exempted from such negative influences, think again! By the time you realise that theirs is a totally different environment from what we grew up in, it might just be too late. The discipling of our children has taken on a new level of urgency. And as parents, that responsibility is squarely ours (and not the children or youth ministry’s)!

Well, Ashley Madison may have made it their business to break and destroy marriages and families. Let’s make it entirely our business to ensure that doesn’t happen on our watch!

To join the petition against Ashley Madison in Singapore, LIKE the Facebook Page “BLOCK ASHLEY MADISON FROM CORRUPTING SINGAPORE“.

Haze in Singapore 2013: Responding Like Everyone Else?

IMG_5070Okay, there’s no denying it. It’s the worst haze our country has ever experienced and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.

Like everyone else, I do not enjoy the smell of smoke, the itchy eyes, the stuffy nose and the dryness in my throat. Like everyone else, I do not like being cooped up at home without being able to open my windows, wondering if my next electricity bill would look like the ever-rising PSI. Like everyone else, I also would like to slash-and-burn those who have slashed-and-burnt for commercial gains without much thought that their actions would cause much discomfort to others way beyond their own national boundaries. Like everyone else, I would very much like to post something on Facebook and Twitter, to have my share of voice online.

Yes, it would have been very easy to be like everyone else. And I must admit that I have grumbled and complained under my breath as I experienced the discomfort in my body and the environment. Each time I look out the window or drive through the hazy conditions, it is depressing and discouraging. An automatic response would be to join the fray and the chorus of complaints, to play the blame game, to look to the government for deliverance from this awful plight.

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That is why I struggled when prompted by the Holy Spirit this morning that I am not to be like everyone else. He told me that I did not have to gripe nor complain, that I could instead choose to keep my eyes on the Lord and to praise Him regardless. He reminded me that the skies may be hazy but I carry the brightness of His glory within. The situation might be gloomy but His joy is not dependent on that at all. He encouraged me to take comfort in His Word rather than be affected by the dismal posts and pictures on Facebook.

I don’t know how long this haze will last — even the governments do not know. If weather conditions remain the same, the haze could be around for weeks (months?!). What was made clear to me by the Spirit is that life goes on, and those who proclaim Jesus as Lord are to respond differently.

As Christians, we are not to be like everyone else. Stop blaming the governments. Stop pointing fingers. There is not even a need to respond to rude or offensive remarks, much less make the same and be found no better. Sure, have fun and have a good laugh at some of the better PSI jokes. But don’t stoop so low as to demean another.

As Christians, we can pray, trusting in the One who holds all things in His mighty hand. Pray for rain as Elijah did. And keep praying until the heavens open. In the meantime, hide in Him as our Protection, even as we do our part to stay indoors and to don those uncomfortable N95 masks. Be careful and responsible but there is no need to live in fear. Discern the various health advisories coming from every direction. Not everything you read is true nor accurate.

As Christians, look to God, for in Him alone is our salvation and deliverance. There is absolutely no point in tracking the PSI so religiously. As with everything else in the world, it will fluctuate from hour to hour, from place to place. Only God is unchanging and stable, and He is the One we must keep our eyes fixed on. Thank God that our government is taking active steps. Pray for them too and refrain from questioning or judging them. You are only concerned with irritated eyes and noses. They have to manage the sentiments of an irritated country and other irritable factors – both internal and external.

As Christians, let’s remember to bless. To this end, instead of becoming angry with our neighbors, let’s begin to bless them. Yes, bless them! I know this sounds ridiculous. For a start, stop posting all your hate remarks on Facebook. There is enough going around without Christians having to add to it. If you have to vent, cast it upon the Lord and let Him handle it. We are not to take things into our own hands. But we are called to forgive, and we are called to bless.

As Christians, rejoice! And again I say, rejoice! Have a good sense of humour and lift one another’s spirits. Don’t fuel each other’s discouragements and frustrations. Don’t commiserate in each other’s misery. Instead, rejoice in the Lord (not in the situation) and keep drawing strength and hope in Him. Choose to praise and to thank Him! It may not change the PSI but it will sure change the way you handle the situation. As I posted on Facebook, “Through the daze, maze or haze, He is still worthy of all praise!”

As Christians, the work of the Kingdom continues. Nothing, not even the haze, will stop God’s move in the hearts of people. Don’t allow the slight inconveniences to deter or distract us from a higher purpose. Let us not stand in the way by responding wrongly through unkind words and negative behaviour. Instead, this is an opportunity to be a testimony for Jesus!

As mentioned above, I struggled when the Spirit flooded my heart with these points. It is so much easier to be like everyone else. But I am glad He reminded me. Pastorally, I am concerned with how some may be responding to the haze situation. As I am inconvenienced and affected, so are many others. Yet, how I choose to respond will also set an example – whether good or bad – to others.

Holy Spirit, thank you for speaking to me so gently, reminding me that I bear the name of Jesus. Enable me to respond rightly, especially when it is tempting to react as others do. Lord, You are in total control of the situation. I look to You and You alone! Deliver us, O Lord!

Taking Things For Granted In Singapore

I am thankful for the freedom to worship in Singapore. Without having to worry too much about anything, even with today’s sensitive and tolerance issues, we can gather safely in churches, in offices, in homes as Christians to sing, to praise, to preach, to study the Bible, and even to share the good news of Jesus. In case we forget – and we tend to – this is an awesome privilege never to be taken for granted.

Whilst we enjoy this status in Singapore, the same cannot be said of Christians in other countries. Allow me to share a little about what a dear brother-in-Christ is presently going through:

Pastor John [not his real name] had planted a church in the city of Bekasi (about an hour from Jakarta) some years ago. The church grew and things were going well until they had to change their location of worship in July 2012. Just 1.5 months in the new place, they were confronted by a group of Muslims demanding for them to stop holding services in that shop house. When they continued to worship there, the group interrupted the service in November while Pastor John was preaching, shouting for them to close the church. A discussion followed but the group would not accept anything.

The next day, the Police contacted Pastor John and warned him of the group’s intention to use force to expel the church from the shop house. Considering the safety of his flock and family, Pastor John had no choice but to move out. Since that decision, they have been meeting in various places, but primarily in a member’s home. Over time, some have left the church out of fear and numbers have dwindled.

In their search for a more permanent place of worship, Pastor Paul has identified a meeting room that is presently rented to another church in the afternoon. The morning slot is still available but the church does not have the funds to commit to the rent of Rp1,000,000 (approx S$128) per week for a term of one year. But until they raise enough funds, they will have to meet in the home, constantly under the threat of being confronted and challenged by the opposition.

When I learned of this, it really challenged my perspectives and preoccupations in the ministry. In Singapore, we fret about the lack of worship venues and churches in industrial and commercial properties are concerned if they might evicted. Still, these number in the hundreds and worship services continue. In looking for viable locations, we complain about the lack of parking spaces and the distance from bus-stops, MRT stations and food courts(?!). We gripe about anything and everything that does not sit well with our preferences and demands. Perhaps, things would change if a group barged into our services shouting and wielding machetes, you think?

No, this is definitely not what I am praying for. Instead, I am praying that in our affluence and  comfort, we do not become complacent and take things for granted. I am praying that we learn to recognise and seize the tremendous opportunity we have to freely preach and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. For all we know, this might just be the God-given window we have before circumstances change.

For starters, I am praying for Pastor John and his church in Bekasi. And I am going to sow into his church fund.

NOTE: For reasons of sensitivity and security, I have deliberately not named the pastor and the church. If you feel led to contribute, it will have to be on the basis of trust via my account. Please note that I am doing this in my personal capacity because of my relationship with Pastor John. If you need more information or clarification, please email me at henson@covenantvision.org.

UPDATE [20 June 2013]: I am pleased to update that the moment this post was published, a dear sister contacted me about contributing funds amounting to six months rental! A while later, another sister messaged me to contribute — twice. Just yesterday, a couple gave enough to cover rental for another six months. I have already informed Pastor John of the good news, that he can commit to a full year’s rental. I am so thankful to these who gave as prompted and led by the Lord. Surely, they shall reap as they have sown. Indeed, our God is faithful and His arm is never too short! All glory to Him!

Here We Go Again

I guess it can’t be helped. As long as the problem remains, it will be headline news, over and over again. In case you’re wondering what I am referring to, I’m talking about babies. Or more accurately, the lack of babies in Singapore.

In his address at the Tanjong Pagar GRC National Day Dinner, our founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew urged Singaporeans to “get married and have babies.” Simply, our most senior statesman has raised the red flag. Of course, this triggers a whole new barrage of comments, opinions and suggestions in the media and online. I understand that this will also be the topic for Channel News Asia’s Singapore Talking next week. I wonder what will be discussed or raised? Would it not be the same points, reasons and excuses again? What new discoveries and revelations will there be? Truly, this baby talk is getting tiring.

Anyway, since this is the talk of the town (again), permit me my share of air-time …

Two days ago, I was approached by a friend if Serene and I would be keen to be interviewed by the press. I wonder why? – haha! This friend thought that it would be a good idea for our family to be featured that others would be inspired to have more children. Such optimism, but honestly, I think it will take more than an article with a family of nine to convince Singaporeans to have babies. With present mindsets, a picture of our family might just scare them off … for good 🙂 So, we declined the interview.

Two weeks ago, at the “Day of His Power” prayer concert organised by LoveSingapore, the time came for all to pray for families. The prayer leader led the way, praying with full conviction as his voice bellowed over the mega sound system of the Indoor Stadium, “LORD, OPEN THE WOMBS…” Indeed, for those who have been trying to conceive but can’t, this is the prayer for them. But I don’t think this addresses the right target audience. The more appropriate prayer, in my opinion, should be, “Lord, open the hearts and minds of those who refuse to have babies …” Unless and until they – Christians included – see that children are indeed blessings from the Lord, nothing is going to happen. I’ve always wondered if the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) for Christians is significantly higher than that of society?

So for the next few weeks, let us brace ourselves for more media coverage on this great Singapore conundrum. Already, articles and blogposts have been circulating on Facebook, with many sharing their views and perspectives. Yet, however well presented these socio-economic papers and propositions might be, they remain Man’s attempt at solving the problem, for God is never mentioned, understandably, in our secular setting. And yet, the institution of the family is entirely God’s idea. As such, it can never be solved apart from Him and according to His ways!

Read more closely and you will discover that it’s the same blame game, … blame the government, blame the economy, blame the housing, blame the high cost, blame the education system, etc. Then, in the end, it’s the same hopeful Singaporean suggestion: that the government will do something about it. Really, if the government could manufacture babies for the nation, they would. After all, we Singaporeans expect them to do everything for us, including raise our children on our behalf. And if we are not happy about how our children turn out, at least we can blame someone else again.

Enough said. Until we stop talking and start doing, it’s going to be a very different Singapore in the years ahead. Lord, help us.

Babies At Any Cost?

The Straits Times, Tuesday, 22 May 2012

My knees went weak when my eyes fell on the article “Tough ‘social choices’ ahead” in today’s papers. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. To address the dismal total fertility rate (TFR) of Singapore, Mr Chan Chun Seng, the Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, is suggesting that our society consider having children out of wedlock! It may have just been a statement intended to provoke but it was no less surprising, and worrying, that it is a ministerial comment, no less.

Others have suggested before that we consider polygamy to help our TFR. Absurd as this might sound, it is at least having children within the institution of marriage. But to suggest that we make babies outside of marriage is totally ridiculous! Whilst it may appear to solve one social issue of having more Singaporeans, it is in fact opening another huge door to future social problems.

For one, the institution of marriage is openly challenged. On the one hand, we are promoting MarriageWorks; yet on the other hand, we are sending a signal that when it comes to having babies, it still works outside of marriage. With more and more engaging in pre-marital sex, we just gave them to green light to get pregnant in the name of national service. Don’t worry where these babies will go after they are born. Just know that the women will not be frowned upon as single mothers. Add to that, these children out of wedlock will likely have no father figure in their lives. No problem – just devote more budget and attention to “Dads for Life!” … if we can get the fathers to own up that they fathered these out of wedlock in the first place. Looks like we may need to draft a pre-coitus agreeement for easy download via an app! Worse yet, gay couples may be allowed to adopt these children … shudder.

The Straits Times, Friday, 4 May 2012

It really saddens me that we should be talking like that at the ministerial level. What kind of a people have we become? And what will we become if we continue along this path? It is so clear that Singaporeans are not wanting to have babies because of selfish reasons. That’s a harsh statement but there really is no other way to put it. We have had enough forums and seminars on TFR and these have yielded largely the same answers … we are all too consumed with ourselves, with making money and wanting our own freedom to sacrifice it for the task (or burden) of parenting.

Perhaps, the minister’s statement is one made out of desperation. And quite understandably too. Values built up over many years of nation building and economic progress are not easy to address, much less change. But does this really justify having Singaporean babies at any cost, even out of wedlock? As with everything else in Singapore, children are seen and regarded in economic terms too. Did not the debate about casinos go the same way? Don’t worry about the social ills of gambling, just think of how many more jobs the casinos will generate. Just set up more counselling centres to help those with gambling and debt issues. So, don’t bother too much about the consequences, just make babies, get the TFR up, and we will set up additional services to deal with the problems up ahead.

Yes, Mr Chan is right in that these are tough ‘social choices’, and my heart goes out to him for having to handle such tough issues in his first ministerial portfolio. My concern is that when statements like these are made publicly, it has already signalled the beginnings of a change management process for the ground to accept these tough decisions ahead.