a great chasm

We were at a gathering with two wonderful pastor-leaders last week. It was so heartening for Bill Hybels and Wayne Cordeiro to pay their own way to Singapore to spend a day with us simply because they really want the church to rise up to her calling.

God is truly doing a work of affirming and strengthening His Bride to ready her for His return.

One of the things we shared was how wide a chasm exists between believers and full-hearted, all out disciples. When we scrub beneath the surface of church-going, tithing, serving, do we find a heart that has said ‘yes’ to Jesus completely?

An honest look within ourselves will reveal that the call to take up our cross daily, deny ourselves and follow Christ is no light walk in the park. Many during Jesus’ day did not make it. His disciples who worked, slept, played and prayed with Jesus Himself almost did not make it…

But God knows each heart – and how to deal with it.

What saddens us is how we measure each other and judge each other so that the glory of following Christ becomes even more cumbersome that God designed it to be.

How about we trust God’s work more and encourage each other while it is day by seeing beyond the hurts, the failures and the sinful struggles to the potential, the promise and the future God has planted in every person who has said ‘yes’ to Him?

We certainly need to hold the tension of our sinfulness and our glory in Christ. But we tend to do the latter a bit too much! If we understood that being totally devoted to Christ is an outcome and not a condition – that it’s knowing Christ’s incredible love and power that draws us – discipleship is a wonderful adventure and the best way to navigate life.

Yes it will have tough moments. But think for a while the sheer wonder, glory and amazing grace that can fill our lives if we follow Jesus 100% without holding back!

Let us help each other while it is day. Speak truth to each other in love.

We fail as a church when we want people to feel good. No, God wants us to feel great! Great because He is Great. Great because as we follow Christ through all his amazing trails, we find there is a power that is not of us. We experience supernatural living. We find soul friends. We explore new things. We discover strengths we did not know could flow through us. We receive plantings of the LORD. It’s great to follow Christ!

Yes, it’s tough too. We may not have a particular lifestyle. People may find us unusual in our interests and pursuits. We may have to expect miracles…

Every step of the way, it’s either ‘yes Jesus’ or ‘yes something else’. This is how the chasm is bridged.

“mediocrity is the enemy of the best”

jenni

plenty to do church!

I woke this morning to crying. we live in Bishan – a nice estate; but tears and brokenness are everywhere… this little boy cries often. i can hear a frustrated mother; and a very dismayed child and the words in Mandarin “I don’ want, I don’t want…” What an awful way to start the day. I lift up prayers for the family and stand at my window to trace the sound….hoping to locate where it comes from…

We live in world in pain. Romans tells us all creation groans. Even the mess we see – from crime to abhorrent acts – are like cries for help – cries for salvation. We the church know the way of salvation; for we know the Saviour.

Singapore is doing well; but she needs the Saviour. Indeed there are many pockets that may have gone largely untouched by us –

destitute elderly, delienquent and disenchanted youths, gays and lesbians, dysfunctional families, foreign workers…

This does not mean we necessarily need to organise and spend huge sums of money; indeed I applaud those individuals and families who live with a sense of mission and reach out to these needs in a sincere and gracious fashion. At last count, we have nearly fifteen percent of the population who claim to be Christian/Catholic. If everyone one and every home lived with a sense of mission to change the world; could we not reach some more?

Some of these needs require very specialised effort. So we do need organised, well planned efforts. Our churches are filled with well-educated, well-traveled, well-trained people (and in many churches, well-paid too). Surely we can get our act together to seriously address some of these needs?

There is plenty to do.

Yet God is not seeking do-ers in the end. Remember He wants our obedience and not our sacrifice? God is seeking those who will truly worship and love Him. He will transform us into the do-ers He needs for his world.

I confess that we are in this place – of learning to obey. But O how I long to make a difference in our world! How I want to be able to figure out where the crying in my neighbourhood is coming from so I can perhaps connect and get to know what needs lie behind all those tears….

So I daily learn to obey; and I daily ready myself for action.

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the eivl desires you had …(but) be holy…” 1 Peter 1v13f

So help us God.

a re-fresh start

Do you enjoy the morning air? If you get up and breathe the air before the cars gets started; it’s truly refreshing and uplifting!

The start of each day, with the gentle beginnings of life-giving sunlight, warmth and fresh air (and perhap singing birds) is like an invitation from God to draw near to Him and renew ourselves.

Soon the day will wear on with hustle bustle pollution and noise. But first, there is that quiet, the stillness, the first stirrings.

No wonder the earliest of saints (and the Psalmist) have taught us to rise to seek the LORD at the start of day. As the new day dawns, we can go to God to breathe in afresh His Spirit, ask for wisdom, and simply adore Him. Setting aside the cares of the day that will come later, here is a moment of sanctuary and absolute safety where we can come and draw upon all God’s gifts and resources to us as we breathe, read, reflect, pray and perhaps journal.

As we are not morning people, these moments are not long; but we have learnt to cherish them and look forward to them!

Each of us have our own personal way of relating to God. Philip likes to use music, drink tea and read the Word, and be quiet. He often gets pictures in his mind and instructions from His Master and Friend. Jenni likes to journal, take a walk, sometimes dance…and when her heart is quiet, she hears God through the day. As a reader, Jenni often finds God saying ‘read this’ – and it will be a spot on word she needed to draw closer to Him. It is amazing how God loves us enough to speak in a love language we can get!

What about you? Share with us how you draw close to God.

Good Morning and have a re-freshing start to your day.

The Huans

don’t beat the air – 1 Cor 9v26

Paul in his defense of his apostolic ministry used this phrase to highlight how intentional and focused he was in reaching the unsaved: ‘not beating the air’ (NIV)

For Churchlife, this challenge comes in two ways. First, we must discern which doors and opportunities to take up. This can mean preaching, writing, as well as making time to visit a neighbour or befriending someone. Our ministry scope continues to revolve around 3 pillars: 1. encourage those in ministry 2. preach and teach and train the local church 3. extend God’s Kingdom values to those we befriend and influence.

Secondly, as we are not working in a local church context, we discipline ourselves to develop preaching-teaching resources we feel prompted to. This can feel like beating the air; after all, will anyone be interested in it or need it? With no church board to consult, we must develop spiritual antennae and trust God that if nothing else, what we prepare will have hearers: ourselves! We preach to ourselves first; and God’s Word will not return void!

Well, do check up our updated resources, and please pray for us. Also feel free to write to us and share what is stirring in your heart for the King and his Kingdom.

May we all discipline ourselves and not beat the air, but throw punches that pierce the darkness.

the nub of submission

Hands up if you feel edgy whenever you feel you are ‘following’?

Well, from pastors to members, men to women, young to old, we all wrestle with submission. Husbands and wives, pastors and members – we all accept the sad verdict that submission is not going to  come easy. So we cajole, persuade, bribe, threaten….

But perhaps if we knew what is really the nub of the pain? I Peter 3v6 gave me an important insight. Peter said the nub of our struggle to submit is not pride. It is fear.

We don’t want to submit because we don’t want to be let down, taken for a ride, be seen to be foolish and simple…..

But perhaps we should examine these reasons more carefully. Stephen Seamands’ book Ministry in the Image of the Trinity used the phrase ‘joyful submisson’ for Jesus’ attitude to God. It was Jesus’ joyful submission that enabled him to carry out his life mission.

Yes, I know, our spouses and church leaders are not God. They will make mistakes. We can end up on a detour. But perhaps, those things count less to God than a family and church that experiences joyful mutual submission which mirrors God Himself more? After all, we see repeatedly the sad scenarios of begrudging and cynical follower-ship — not unilke the world. How about a change of view?

For closing inspiration, read and meditate on Psalm 133.

jenni

a new year!

Wow. here we are at the doorway to more than 300 days of possibilities. Sounds like propaganda now that we have decided to call Singapore the isle of possibilities! ha. But the official word is not too far off the mark! When we consider that we trust and serve a God who works actively, acts lovingly, seeks longingly, and yes, even serve faithfully…we must live with a sense of expectation – of possibilities.

The possibility that relationships can be restored. The possibility that vision can be re-born. The possibility that complete healing may come. The possibility that God can bring together from the east and the west…forging alliance and partnerships that go beyond human networking.

What possibility do you yearn for?

The Psalmist had it right when he wrote: “in the morning i lay my requests before you and wait in expectation”

What an attitude. Start the day laying down concerns, hopes and fears – and then watch and see what God does in the course of the day. Living life with an open-ness to what life (God behind it) will offer; and when something is withheld, to know it is because something else is in store!

We are learning this psoture. May we invite you to join us and let us encourage each other to live free from the tryanny of the urgent, oppressive, what-ifs and if-onlys.

May your 2008 be bountiful – for it is written:

“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

Amen.

still not enough pastors?

From the smaller churches to the large mainstream denominations we encoutner a similar dilemma: not enough pastors.

As we move beyond the confines of our denomination, we meet with even more pastors and churches that struggle; they struggle to stay together, they struggle to stay alive, they struggle to make sense of why their good intentions and fervent desire to honour God does not quite cut it.

An American writer calls Christians idealists. We ought to be. We ought to hold tight to the ideals God gives us in Scripture: his promises of wonderful things, like the child and adder playing together given by prophet Isaiah. This kind of idealism keeps us dreaming and going. This kind of idealism calls us to remember that we are building a kingdom not of this world.

But there is another idealism that can be foolhardy. Such as these: it is enough to love someone (where love is to give strokes alone), or that pastors should all come in particular molds and walk even-paced and have radiant faces and perfect kids. Or that churches that are true and godly will not experience conflict. We may not admit to these ideals; but really, we cherish them and are scared our of our wits to realise they are not happening….

The latter kind of idealism and our glib use of important phrases like ‘by God’s grace’ sometimes just shuts down the critical thinking that is so needful to help us mature as a body. I suspect that this has some thing to do with our shortage of pastors. Pastors hold up ideals they cannot maintain (or stop trying altogether) while churches want the church as a spiritual entity to walk on cloud-nine. There is enough unsustainable idealsim between these two poles to crush many a tender soul and sabotage any godly process as we get impatient with each other (and dare I say, God?).

Since the church is made of each of us; we each have the rsponsibility to make it work and grow and accomplish her glorious mission – as we follow Christ and obey the Spirit. Some of us do this as members, some of us as leaders.  But we must accept and embrace our calling and place and do our part.

God is maturing His church and preparing for His Son a wondrous Bride. That is an ideal ! Do you believe it?

jenni

Certitude in Uncertainty

Certainty is what we all want.

If we know the outcomes for what we do, we would surely be more ready and happy to do it. If i knew i will save so many souls when i preach, i would preach more heartily. True? False.

God certainly does not think so.

Of course the Fall of humanity has made a huge mess and there are simply so many factors that can sabotage our good work. It is important to recognise and accept this reality of broken-ness.

But God offers us certitude, not certainty. Certitude is the old word that refers to a sense of assurance and confidence because of God’s promises.

This means two things. Firstly, we must get rid of our incessant longing for certainty. Right now, we are learning this lesson as we watch God provide for our daily needs. We cannot afford to plan too far ahead; but must live on a more day-by-day basis: not a great feeling for any Singaporean!

Secondly, we must mine the Word and wait on His Spirit for his great and precious promises. Promises that are rooted not in our ability, training or intentions; but in God’s heartbeat for the world, and for you and I as His.

What has God promised? What has He promised you? Cling to that. It won’t give you certainty – for God’s ways are higher than ours – but it will grant you certitude.

too many churches?

Have you ever heard people say that Singapore has too many churches already?

I guess those who say so must drive along our ‘bible belts’ very often. Well, it is true that in some parts of Singapore we have many physically visible churches, and we have many tucked away and not so visible. But too many? On what basis can we say that?

When my husband first told me about church-planting, I would never think Singapore (or for that matter other modern cities) needed new churches. But then we thought again.

The first thing we need to answer is: what is a church? God is not looking for buildings, traditions or even well-intentioned efforts.

Then we need to ask if we really do have churches that are effectively reaching out to the entire spectrum of the population. Today, God has brought as many as twenty diferent nationalities to our shore. My neighbour is a Chinese PR.

Finally, the men and women who are be-stirred by God – and every generation will have these men and women of renewal — shall we encourage them or too quickly reduce them to ambition, pride and worldly thinking?

Our years as pastors have shown us there is much for the church to discover, recover and uncover. We have to constantly watch that we do not slip into organisation, order or obsolesence. We have to grapple with God’s promises and those amazing visions of church given in Scripture and ask some heart and hard questions.

We are constantly exercised to create space in our daily lives to stop and talk with someone. (the other day Jenni stopped to talk with a muslim sweeper and prayed for her: wow! the joy of doing that lasted days!). Not easy at all. {you can read Jenni’s blog about foreigners: world without strangers} …

And then, we are learning to be open to God’s assignment. Surrounded by real daily needs, expectations, personal inclinations and limitations — pray for us to maintain a steady walk of surrendered-ness please!

To more churches of Jesus Christ!!

not so happy and gay & …

Is the church under assault? Is Singapore Christianity being tested? You bet. The big bad wolf continues to try to huff and puff and blow our houses down. But in case we think our times are so dire, we should recall that every generation grapples with social sins, injustice, and evil in its many gusies. We will be very mistaken to think that as we preach the gospel, evil will not re-invent itself and fight back. The enemy is serious. To use Bible imagery, we have a roaring lion seeking to devour us.

An old preacher used to tell us to remember that this lion is toothless. So it chews on the soft, mushy and weak ones it manages to overtake. In that case, if we are solid and have built houses of brick; we should not be shrieking in fear. The danger is real. The sense of dread is real. Waves of fear can wash over us. But we will not be drowned. Our houses of sound faith, sensible reason,and fervent witness need not collapse.

Instead we can cling to Jesus’ word to us that his intention is to build the church that gates’ hell cannot prevail against.

Upon that word, we shall stand.

As each Christian, and each family, and each local church respond in faith and obedience, we shall witness the power of this word – for we are taking Jesus seriously as the Christ. We mean business to carry His name upon ourselves as CHRISTians.

Let’s keep helping each other to be strong in His Might! (Eph 6v10)