Holding On

I didn’t intend to write a song that afternoon.  It was just me with my guitar, strumming and worshipping on my own.  Then, without realising it, I began singing a line, “You see me, in a quiet place, crying out to You.”  Then I went on, “You see me, tears upon my face, crying out to You.”  Before I forgot the tune, I whipped out my phone and recorded these lines.  From that day on, the melody and the words haunted me.  Over the next weeks, in between extremely heavy and demanding family and ministry schedules, this song was written, with Isaiah 40:8 as the key verse, “The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”

Yesterday, on 11 Sept 2011, I had the opportunity to share it with our congregation at Covenant Vision Christian Church.  How apt to share it on a day when the world remembers the tragic bombing of the twin towers in New York 10 years ago.  Truly, especially when we don’t understand why things happen as they do, we can only hold on to Jesus.  Special thanks to the CVCC Worship Team who helped me bring the song to life.

No matter how dire a situation may be, how tough a challenge you are going through, how alone you may be feeling, remember to always hold on to Jesus and His Word, right to the very end.  May you be blessed and encouraged as you listen to this song.

You see me, in a quiet place
Crying out to You
You see me, tears upon my face
Crying out to You
Pain in a heart that is broken
Yet to the words You have spoken

Chorus:
I am holding on, I’ll cling;
I am never letting go
I will worship and I’ll sing;
Deep inside me this I know
The flowers will fade, the world pass away
Your Word, Your truth, Your love remains
I am holding on to You, Jesus
Right to the very end

You see me, when I’m on my own
Crying out to You
You see me, lost and all alone
Crying out to You
Still in my heart, I am certain
You’re always with me, I’m not forsaken

Bridge:
Yesterday, today, forever; Jesus, You’re the same
Send Your Word that brings salvation; Healing in Your Name

God Is Still Able

Remember the time when faith was brimming and overflowing from within you? It’s as if each time you read the Bible, each word would literally jump right out of the page and into your heart. You just lapped it all up. No questions asked. If God says it, you believed it. Prayer was simple. Decisions were easily made, standing on His promises.

Then the realities of life begin to hit you. One by one, as if to wear you down bit by bit; like a wave that beats persistently against a rock, determined to reduce it to a stone, a pebble, a grain of sand, to nothing. You still read the Word and you still pray. But somehow, it’s not like before. For some strange reason, the dynamics have changed. Don’t you still believe? Of course you do! Don’t you still have faith? Of course you do! And yet, the results are not as forthcoming. Instead, the pace and demands of life become even more overwhelming. You keep praying and you keep believing, but nothing seems to be happening.

To make it even more frustrating, you now know a lot more than when you first began. You have learnt so much more and have been exposed to so much more. You are more widely-read with deeper convictions. And yet, instead of helping, these have thrown up even more questions. What used to appear as black-and-white, today you realise some principles in certain situations are not quite as clear-cut. Through experience, you discover that God cannot be put in a box. His principles cannot simply be turned into formula statements. His Word cannot be thrown about or applied as you please.

To make it even more challenging, you now come into contact with younger Christians, who like you before, are having mountain-top faith experiences. They share with great joy and excitement. You wonder, “Am I missing something here? What did I do or not do to lose what I once had?” Ironically, these desire to be like you; but secretly, you wish you could be like them. How easily and quickly they believe. No questions asked.

Perhaps, that’s where the key lies. Think again. Was it not the same childlikeness that caused you to believe and move as you did? Did not that same boldness come from a simplicity of trust in the Lord and His Word? What happened then? Well, perhaps, the more you learned, the more you depended on yourself; the more you did for Him, the less you allowed Him to do through you; the more others looked up to you, the less you looked up to Him.

Yes, your faith must remain childlike. That said, it must not remain childish, for we are all expected to grow from faith to faith. As a young Christian, your faith grew when you saw the desired results – and the Lord obliged graciously. But today, as a maturing Christian, your faith is to grow in another dimension … when your desired result may not appear to be forthcoming at all. You are in a different season and you are being stretched in different ways than when you were a baby Christian. Perhaps, the most difficult thing for Christians to accept – and then to remember – is that God is more interested in the result we become in Him than the result we hope to receive from Him. Easy? Not at all. That’s what the Christian walk of faith, of spiritual maturity and discipleship, is all about.

Do not be discouraged or downcast. Instead, know that you are in a good place. The wave that beats persistently is God’s instrument, not to break you down, but to shape you into what He wants you to be in Christ. Take heart for your God has not changed at all. He is still the same even as you undergo moulding and transformation.

Of course you know this. And that’s why you can confidently declare, “If God was able before, He is still able today.”

Keep Preaching: I Am With You

Since the beginning of this year, I have been preaching a series of rather tough messages, challenging and provoking the congregation to get serious with God.  From the responses I get, I know that God is stirring the hearts of His people.  Still, I can’t help but wonder if I should ease up a little on the tone and content of these messages.  Maybe I’m being a little too harsh, pushing them too hard?  Yet, the messages the Lord lays on my heart, the way He leads me as I prepare the points, the way His words burn as fire in my bones, that I can’t help but preach the way I do!

“But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.” Jer 20:9b

As we sang and worshipped this morning, this same thought came into mind … “Henson, you’ve already hit quite hard last week with those points.  Are you sure you want to share what you have prepared?  Don’t you think you will bring condemnation into the hearts of the people?  What if they can’t take anymore?  What if they are offended?”  Quite immediately, the Lord prompted me to open my Bible to Jer 1:17 …

“Therefore prepare yourself and arise, and speak to them all that I command you.  Do not be dismayed before their faces, lest I dismay you before them.  For behold, I have made you this day a fortified city and an iron pillar, and bronze walls against the whole land – against the kings of Judah, against its princes, against its priests, and against the people of the land.  They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you.  For I am with you, say the Lord, to deliver you.” Jer 1:17-19

What assurance from the Lord!  These words were spoken over me in 2006, giving meaning to another prophetic word released much earlier, “To destroy and to rebuild” (cf Jer 1:10).  These words defined for me, my ministry of teaching and preaching, to correct many ideas and doctrines that are wrong in the Church, and to speak the Truth without compromise.  Back then, I didn’t fully understand the significance, but today, I am seeing these prophetic words come to pass!  I don’t say or write this with arrogance for I know what an awesome responsibility this is, not to mention the opposition I might face.  But the Lord is with me, and that is comfort enough for me.

After I read those words, the Lord told me to declare His love to the church.  And it is because of His love for each individual and the church that He is wanting His word to stir and provoke them to respond accordingly; not to take things for granted, not to believe in lies, not to be deceived, but to rise up as His sons and daughters in these last days!

I was so overwhelmed by His presence and love that I just sat there crying and weeping.  When it came to Holy Communion, I reached out my hands to accept the elements.  As I heard the words, “the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ broken with you” and “the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ shed for you”, I broke down again.  It reminded me that the call was not about me, how well I could preach (or entertain the congregation), but it is entirely about the sacrifice of Jesus upon the Cross.  His death on the Cross secured life and purpose for me.  For that reason, I am not to compromise in declaring His Word as it should be rightly declared.  The Lord stopped at nothing for us, and we must stop at nothing for Him!

And so I preached my heart out this morning, as the Spirit led and enabled me.  I delivered the points with conviction, with urgency, and at certain points, even some anger 🙂  And indeed, the Lord was with me, through it all!  After the service, the people responded to the altar call.  Those who spoke with me afterwards affirmed the message as from the Lord.  Others thanked me for opening their eyes to see their own blind spots.

As I continue to teach and preach in such manner, I am also aware of the spiritual repercussions against me and my family – “they will fight against you”.  I am engaged in spiritual warfare, even entering enemy territory to tear down strongholds and mindsets in the lives of believers.  I am assured of the Lord’s continued presence and protection in our lives – “but they shall not prevail against you”.  As we face trials and challenges (like severe eczema in my daughter’s case), His word promises deliverance! – “to deliver you”.  My part is to remain faithful to fulfil my call, and I know my God is more than faithful to deliver us 🙂

If you are reading this and feel led to partner me and my family in this ministry, please uphold us in prayer.  We know that we are not on this journey or mission alone, and we appreciate the love, support and prayers of the saints.  Thank you for your partnership 🙂

The Raising of Sons

When Rev Francis Khoo released the Prophetic Word for 2010, one picture stayed in my mind …

“The first horse was splendid and radiant white in colour.  The rider was also dressed in white and on his head I saw a crown and in his hand was a bow.  But what struck me was that he had no arrows.  Yet as he rode, he seemed to be drawing and shooting invisible arrows. … I felt the Lord say that the rider on the white horse is symbolic of the Church of Jesus Christ as the Chosen Generation today with a call to be an overcomer by being ‘more than conquerors’.  Believers in Jesus have been called to be ambassadors for Jesus in this world.  They have been given the ability and empowered to establish God’s authority and righteousness on this earth.  However, the Church today has not understood its calling, nor risen up to what God has for them as the firstborn of God.  Deception, distraction, debt, dishonesty and delusion have robbed it of the arrows that it has been given.”

Over the past week, in my time with the Lord, I was led to Zech 9:13 …

“For I have bent Judah, My bow, fitted the bow with Ephraim, and raised up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and made you like the sword of a mighty man.”

Suddenly, the light went on in my spirit.  It all made sense!  Taken literally, the first part of Zech 9:13 will read, “For I have bent [praise], My bow, fitted the bow with [double fruitfulness], …”  This is absolutely consistent with the picture in the Prophetic Word.  The Church has been taught to praise and to worship – and there’s a lot of that – but we are not as fruitful as we are to be.  We have the bow, but not the arrows!  What’s the problem?

From Psalm 127:3-5, we see and understand that arrows refer to sons.  As such, if the Church has no arrows, it just means that there are no sons!  One may respond by asking, “But aren’t we all children of God?”  Yes, we are.  But that is where the real problem lies … too many are contented to remain as children, babes in Christ; and too few are being raised up as matured sons of God, hence “the Church today has not understood its calling, nor risen up to what God has for them as the firstborn of God.”

But God wants to raise up sons, O Zion!  These are matured sons after the image of Jesus Christ!  It is only with such maturity that these will withstand and endure the challenges (the 2nd, 3rd & 4th horses) in these final days.  The sons of Zion will oppose and expose the sons of Greece, those who are wise in the ways of the world but foolish in the things of God.

Indeed, “2010 will be year that we need to get our focus, our priorities and our perspectives right.”  Will we continue to be swept away by the distractions and cares of this world?  Do we watch world events unfolding with wisdom and discernment?  Are we still looking for financial gain and material accumulation, trusting in an economy that thrives on debt, dishonesty and deception?

May we respond to the Holy Spirit as He prompts us ever so gently, “for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Rom 8:14)  God is still looking for those who would be willing to be raised up as His sons who will be doubly fruitful for His purposes and His glory!

Singapore Christians: Like Foodies On A Food Trail

Everyone will agree that Singapore is extremely blessed where Christian teaching is concerned.  Whilst this is good and praiseworthy, this has also resulted in less than desirable attitudes in the Church.  Like a foodie on a food trail, we have Christians who hop from church to church, teaching to teaching, seminar to seminar, conference to conference.  And I haven’t even begun to mention the library of Christian books at home yet.

Reflecting on this one day, I am totally convinced and of the firm opinion that it is not more teaching we need.  Instead, it is time to apply what has been learnt and diligently put it into practice.

It’s nice to receive good teaching.  But if we do not begin to work it out in our lives, we will become critical and judgmental Christians.  We compare and contrast one preacher with the next.  We pit one interpretation against another (usually settling for the one that sits better with our own theology and situation).  We decide our church attendance, involvement, membership (and tithe) based on whether we have received revelational teaching or not.  Like the professional foodie, we are quick to complain when the service is not up to mark, the aircon is too cold, the presentation of the dish too simple, the queue too long, the fish is not fresh, the steak too chewy, the calamari too rubbery, the water too watery!  And what is most absurd is that the foodie can’t even cook or serve himself.  Similarly, albeit sadly, many Christians know how to provide an impressive commentary but do not have a corresponding testimony.

Lest I be accused of missing the plank in my eye as I observe the specks around, allow me to plead guilty and promptly address this article to myself first.  I take this extremely seriously, being a teacher and preacher of the Word.  For what right do I have to speak it, if I first do not live it?  I love to teach and also to receive teaching.  But I need to keep reminding myself … what have I done with the Word of God.  If nothing, then what is the use of the most revelatory teaching or prophetic word?  Worse yet, these will be an indictment against me, for I would have heard and ignored a clear instruction from God!  That, in a clear and simple word is … disobedience 😦

Let me state it once again: The challenge in the Church today is not the lack of teaching, but the lack of application.  To borrow a phrase from sports brand, Nike, it is time to “just do it”.  May God prompt and stir our hearts accordingly.

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James 1:22

Being A Pastor

I was having dinner with a pastor-friend and he asked, “So how? Being a pastor?”

When I stepped out into fulltime ministry on 1 Jan 2004, being a pastor was not on my radar screen at all.  On my mind was only theological studies at TCA College, coupled with the excitement of serving God wherever He would send me.  In the days that followed, doors opened for me to preach and teach in various churches.  Without trying at all, relying wholly on God’s grace and favour, I found myself launched into an itinerant ministry.  In this capacity, I gained exposure and insight into different congregations and worship settings.

Then, on Saturday 18 October 2008, I was commissioned as a pastor of Covenant Vision Christian Church (a new community birthed out of Covenant Vision Ministry).  Sunday services began soon after on 1 Nov 2008.  Over the past 7 months, I discovered that the key difference between being an invited preacher and a pastor is that one can preach it and leave it whilst the other has to preach it and live it.

As a guest speaker, my job is done when the service or church camp is over.  I have preached it, and I now leave it to the pastors, leaders, elders and people of the church to decide what they want to do with the Word.  If I preached badly or they don’t like my style, I don’t get invited back.  If it’s theologically or doctrinally controversial (not that it shoud be … just ‘if’), the pastor gets to clean up the mess I make.  If it’s a tough word, they can choose to ignore the message.  If they have been blessed, I get complimented and encouraged … and possibly invited to speak again.  My task is to preach the Word of God accurately and without compromise and the rest is left to the church.

Ah, but as a pastor … it is not as straightforward.  My job is not done when the benediction is pronounced.  I wish it was, but it isn’t!  I may have preached it but I now have an added role to help my congregation live it even as I first strive to live it myself.  If I preach faith, then my desire is to see the congregation live faith.  If I preach obedience, then I must help my people live a life of obedience.  Jesus didn’t just teach His disciples and sent them away with a “go figure” attitude.  Not at all!  Instead, He walked with them, led them, corrected them and guided them.  He preached it and He lived it, that they too might live as He did.

And that’s where the challenge is … it’s a journey filled with ups and downs, laughter and tears, joys and disappointments.  How nice it is to be an external consultant, to point out the weak points and to list out the to-do’s.  And if the company accepts the report and diagnosis, but chooses not to do anything about it, the consultant still gets paid!  But as a pastor …?

“So how? Being a pastor?”  I looked at my pastor-friend, smiled, and said, “Like that, lor.”