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What Does a Culture of Honour Look Like?
 
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“Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.”
- Romans 12:10

A Culture of Honour: The Atmosphere of the Greenhouse

Here at Awaken Generation, we often talk about the ‘Greenhouse’ - it is heaven’s ecosystem; the values of the Kingdom that we, as a community of believers, choose to live by that causes us to flourish.

The culture of honour to a person is what soil is to a seed. It is the cornerstone of kingdom culture and a foundational ingredient in the greenhouse that causes every living thing to flourish.  We hear this phrase a lot, but what does it mean?

Simply put, the culture of honour is being able to relate to people according to what God thinks about them.

When we as a Body live with a culture of honour, people will flourish in their God-given destinies and assignments. We are, in a sense, honouring God’s original intention when He created each of us.

A culture of honour sees David as a King and a man after God’s own heart, even though he was a mere shepherd boy, the ‘runt’ of the family, a murderer, and adulterer. A culture of honour sees Gideon as a mighty man of valour called to triumph over his enemies, even though he was hiding out in fear at the threshing floor. A culture of honour sees Joseph as a saviour and a blessing to his family, even though he was sold into slavery by his own brothers. A culture of honour sees Abraham and Sarah as the father and mother of nations, even though they were old in age and had not borne any children. 

These great men and women of God, just like us, have made many mistakes - but to honour God’s original idea was to see them for who they were created to be.

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Humility & Honour

You may be wondering, “What about the many who don’t deserve it? The ones who aren’t honourable at all?”

Honour isn’t based on a person’s character,  whether or not they deserve it. Honour is based on our character - whether we have the humility to give it. In other words, we don’t give honour because someone is honourable, we give honour because WE are honourable.

It is a choice we make to honour others because we understand that everyone was created in the image of God and that each was born with a beautiful purpose in the kingdom to fulfil.  

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How to start building a culture of honour practically

Building a culture of honour may sound daunting, depending on your existing culture, but it’s not complex. Start with the simple act of encouragement and affirmation. This prophetic gift is the framework that edifies the Church.

Encouragement is to a person what helium is to a balloon. Words of encouragement are needed constantly because our thoughts are bombarded with criticism and negativity. All of us need the constant flow of encouragement from the family of Christ to remind us of who we are in Him.

Let’s learn to be generous with our words. Words are powerful. Proverbs 18:21 says that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” The words we confess out loud express the beliefs with which we have chosen to partner; speaking it aloud is an expression of agreement with an idea - be it godly or evil. And where there is agreement, there is power and authority.

Let us always remember to champion people, not to remind others of their flaws and mistakes but to affirm & call out their God-given identity in Christ - as we do, we will see the people of God flourish into all God had destined for them since the beginning of time. 

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5 Ways to Value Your Pastor
 
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I have not been a Pastor for very long, just about 3 years. In my 30 years of being a Christian, I’ve been through Sunday School, I attended church as a congregation member and in 2004, I entered ministry to serve alongside my parents. In 2016, I answered God’s call to pastor. I was initially resistant because I saw my own parents minister and pastor for many years and saw the good, the bad and everything in between. Though I had seen God move in miraculous, supernatural ways throughout my life as a minister’s kid, I was also privy to the immense hard work and voluminous hours of pastoral ministry. It took me months of wrestling and questioning before I finally said yes and after almost 3 years, I can honestly say that I won’t trade pastoring for anything. The hard work, the pains of ministry, the tears… they exist; but nothing compares to getting up and serving God and His people every day.


Having said that, statistics show that Pastors aren’t doing very well. In a survey done by expastors.com* of more than 500 pastors in the US, 64% of pastors feel overworked, more than 60% of pastors fight depression and wrestle with anxiety, and a whopping 85% have considered leaving ministry. Although these are American statistics, I don’t think it’s vastly different in first world Singapore. Now that I understand the challenges of pastoral ministry, I would like to share a few things you can do to love and encourage your pastors and show them that you value them.

 

1.     Extend Grace to your pastor

Just having the title of pastor is weighty. Expectations skyrocket the moment people know you are a pastor. Pastors are expected to behave a certain way, speak a certain way, and always always go the extra mile for others. The moment we fall short, the tendency is to judge and criticise. But pastors are humans too and we make mistakes. Like you, we are on our own journeys of becoming more and more like Jesus. So do extend us grace. As we purpose to do the best we can and model Jesus’ life and ministry for you, there will be times we need your good will and support, and times we will need your forgiveness.

 

2.     Trust your pastor

With the widespread use of the internet and stories coming out about errant pastors or ministers, it is easy to be suspicious of those who are hold positions of spiritual authority. But we shouldn’t allow such stories to undermine the trust that is required for the church to thrive. Trust that your pastors spend time seeking the Lord and that they hear from God directly, trust that your pastors are for you and your destiny in Christ, and trust that they are well aware that they are accountable to God for you.

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3.     Honour your pastor by being present

I am a Xennial… (micro-generation born between 1977 and 1985). Growing up, I did not to have a computer in the house and got my first mobile phone in my early 20s. Us Xennials have witnessed how, in just 2 decades, we have become so connected to the world through our devices and social media. The flip side is that we have also become distracted. With access to the world of information literally at our fingertips, it’s been increasingly difficult to be present in church, in meetings, at meals, etc. It can get discouraging to sit across someone who keeps looking at their phone, or see congregation members scroll through Facebook or Instagram while we preach. I believe that if you value someone, you will honour them by being present and hearing what they have to say. Now that I know how much it takes to craft messages and write material, I want to honour the one standing at the pulpit, sharing his/her heart out by being present.

 

4.     Encourage your pastor to rest

In the 2016 survey mentioned above, 70% of pastors indicate that they have experienced burnout. Perhaps this is something that Singaporeans, not just pastors, struggle with. We unconsciously fill our schedules and end up being perpetually busy. Let’s not be ignorant, we ALL need to rest. We need to take time out regularly and allow ourselves to recover, reflect and recalibrate. Pastors need that so that they can be alert and sensitive to the Holy Spirit, healthy and strong so they can do the work of the ministry, and more importantly, be able to last the long haul. So encourage them to rest.

 

5.     Pray for your pastor

Nothing comforts me more than knowing that the pastorate is supported by the prayers of the saints. I have on so many occasions felt the tangible power of prayer of those interceding while I minister. Even the Apostle Paul thanks those praying for him (1 Cor 1:11). So please pray for your pastors in your time of daily prayer. We certainly need it and appreciate it.

 

These can actually be applied to any relationship… marriages, friendships and work relationships. I personally believe that as we purpose to value those around us, we can all be effective for the Lord wherever He calls us.  


*http://www.expastors.com/2016-expastors-pastor-survey/

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Why Israel?
 

AG’s story of being grafted into God’s greater storyline

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“Did you know that Israel is one of the most unreached people groups of the earth?” We were having lunch with Samuel Whitefield (IHOPKC and OneKing Ministries) and I remember this question and fact confounding the predispositions in my mind and piercing my heart all at the same time. ‘But isn’t this the place where Jesus walked? Surely there should be many followers of Jesus? But aren’t there so many Christian pilgrims who go there every year? Do you mean Israel, God’s own people, do not have the gospel?’ The disparity between my assumptions and reality was much too confronting to simply forget. 


To be honest, Israel - or the Middle East - was not a location that had remotely crossed my mind as a region Awaken Generation would have a role to play in. But sometimes, God grafts us into a storyline much greater than what we could dream or imagine for ourselves. Being invited to understand the redemptive story of God reconciling His family in the nations (including Israel) back to Him has astounded and provoked me greatly in my worship of Him as King Jesus. 


The reason why as believers we should have an interest in Israel is simply because the Father does. He is a promise-keeper, and the promises that He made to Abraham and the Israelites still stands today and will be fulfilled according to His righteousness. It is absolutely stunning that as gentiles in the nations, we have a role in seeing Israel receive Jesus as her salvation. 

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The Story of Obed-Edom 

Two days before the AG team made our way to Israel, we gathered for our usual Monday devotions. We did not expect the Lord to crash into our meeting the way He did. As His presence gripped our hearts, the word that was released was ‘Obed-Edom’ (2 Samuel 6). We began to study the story of a gentile who hosted the ark of the covenant at his home till his whole household prospered - it was this man’s profound revelation in hosting the presence of God that provoked King David to bring the ark of the covenant back to the heart of Jerusalem and ultimately set up a worship ministry that consisted of singers and musicians ministering to the presence of God. What was most interesting was the fact that Obed-Edom, as a gentile, was assigned and appointed to be a part of the worship ministry in Israel - what a privilege and honour! We believe this a beautiful prophetic picture of the role the gentile nations have in provoking Israel to yearn for its rightful inheritance in King Jesus.

One of the highlights of our trip was actually spending some time at Obed-Edom’s house! It is currently a church that is looked after by a company of nuns from the Philippines.

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Dor Haba Worship Camp 

It’s easy to feel removed from the conflict that is rife in the Middle East, especially when we are halfway around the world. So to be right in the land itself with young people of Jewish, Arab, and Palestinian backgrounds all in one camp, being able to teach on worship and help them unlock the song of the Lord in Hebrew and Arabic was such an eye-opener. I believe prayer and intercession is so powerful and needed over this nation, but there’s something so exceedingly special about being able to have real conversations and form real friendships with the people of the land. 

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We realise that there may never be a political solution for peace, but yet it is only through Jesus that reconciliation can happen and there can be true peace (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). We had the privilege of witnessing this on the last day of worship camp. The tension between the two people groups were very real, you could see it carried by the kids who have learnt hostility, hurt, and offense from the generations before them. But on the last day as we invited the kids from Bethlehem to be prayed over, the presence of Jesus filled the room, and great weeping, forgiveness, and reconciliation took place as the nations gathered to pray, prophesy, and call out destiny in them.

It was such a beautiful picture of God’s heart for the nations, that His heart is really for family - for every tribe and tongue to be adopted back into the family of God. I love that none of us miss out on this, not one; we are all welcome to the family of God. 

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Worship Night in Jerusalem 

The picture above is why I so believe in the power of worship in hosting the presence of God and bringing forth salvation. This is Kelly - she is Jewish and was born and grew up in Jerusalem. Kelly encountered the love and presence of Yeshua last year at the worship night in Jerusalem and subsequently went on a journey in discovering the Holy Spirit and giving her life to Him! At this year’s worship night, she testified of how the Holy Spirit completely changed and transformed her life and prayed in Hebrew over her nation. To see her dance and worship with lifted hands in adoration of Jesus filled my heart with immense praise and thanksgiving to a God who would use the gentiles of the earth to bless Israel with the gospel of salvation. 

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I leave you with words from Psalm 122, a chorus that we sang so often over Jerusalem. We pray that the Lord will grip your heart with the beautiful redemptive story our Father is writing over the nations and over Israel - will you respond to His invitation? 

“We pray for the peace of Jerusalem, 
Peace be in your walls and security in your towers, 
For my companion’s sake, 
We say peace be to you…”

(spontaneous chorus by Jaye Thomas) 

For more resources to understand God’s heart for Israel, click here to check out: ‘It Must Be Finished’ and ‘Israel and the Great Commission’ by Samuel Whitefield.

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Worshipping with Social Media
 
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In the 2018 United States House of Representatives primary elections in New York District 14, a 29-year-old woman from The Bronx left the world stunned when she challenged ten-term incumbent Congressman Joe Crowley for the seat – and won by an astounding 15 percentage points. At that point, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was being outspent by 18:1 and her political campaign was focused on door-to-door campaigning as well as a heavy presence on Facebook.

Against all odds, she went on to beat Republican nominee Anthony Pappas at the general elections with 78% of the vote and became the youngest woman to be elected to the United States Congress. In an interview with The Intercept, she was quoted as such: “You can’t really beat big money with more money. You have to beat them with a totally different game.” That game, as political commentators and analysts came to understand, is social media.

With 4.7 million Twitter followers and 3.7 million Instagram followers, it’s clear that “The Social Media Titan” of New York played the game well in both the personal and professional arena, engaging audiences through her vulnerable and relatable content, something that all other candidates failed to do. I could easily cite a dozen other examples of how great social media engagement leads to success, but I don’t think that anyone needs convincing that social media is the pre-eminent driver in today’s society in the way that it interacts with its members - democratising communication world-wide. This leads us to the more important question: How do Christians live a life of worship through social media?

Though its power is undeniable, the prospect of using it in a way that glorifies God and furthers His kingdom might be daunting. There’s no question that social media has a bad reputation for being cold, addictive, and for self-glorification. I relate to this because I always favour a one-to-one conversation over a cup of coffee compared to seemingly shallow exchanges on social media.

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But we must understand that social media is not the be all and end all, but the gateway that leads us to that one-to-one conversation over a cup of coffee.

This is your new outreach ministry. The thing is, you don’t have to be a superstar or influencer to make impact. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of making meaningful connections over social media that have led to genuine friendships and yes, opportunities to share the gospel and share lives. It’s about getting people through the door where they can then feel genuine warmth, isn’t it?

Like it or not, social media falls under the big branch of communications, and to communicate what the church stands for – the core message of the gospel, amongst others – while being theologically accurate at the same time is a torque that Christians will always have to wrestle with. Which leads me to the next point:

 

Don’t be slaves to social media. Be stewards.

Yes, stewards. The church needs gifted communicators who can relate biblical Christian faith to contemporary life. In Mark 16:15, Jesus calls his disciples to go into the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Isn’t it cool that we can now reach 'every creature' with an image, an Instagram story, a shared link?

 We all know that with great power comes great responsibility and of course, there is the tendency to fall into the trappings of social media addiction and get caught up in comparison. My advice is to understand how your social media usage affects you and to place healthy boundaries for yourself. Most importantly, lift it up to God and ask Him to help you communicate in a way that glorifies him.

 

Be wise about what you post on social media; some things are best left to face-to-face conversations.

In an age where everyone has an opinion on everything and are poised to pounce on anyone who disagrees, one must be vigilant on what to say and when. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at a comments section on a Facebook or Instagram post about politics, theology, or anything else and been disappointed by the response it has elicited from Christians – often rude, condescending, and holier-than-thou. 

Don’t be reduced to keyboard warriors that engage in a militant manner because it does not do justice to the Lord. You will not win the world over through combative communication. Instead, we should be discerning on the occasion and platform to speak – online or offline – and to trust that God will help us communicate with clarity and authority each time. And lastly:

 

Be authentic in the content you create.

Now more than ever, the world is responding to authenticity. It’s how Ocasio-Cortez unseated seemingly unmovable candidates and it’s how you’ll reach out to your family member, your friend, your community. Like moths to a flame, we can’t help but be drawn to authenticity because it’s something that our souls have yearned for since the beginning of time.

Put simply, your online personality should reflect your offline personality. My prayer is that every Christian would understand that there is no actual divide between the secular and the sacred, and that every piece of content you put out – whether it’s an image of nature, a poem, a dance video, or a 140-character statement – can glorify God if it carries the values that He holds dear: Beauty. Honour. Vulnerability.

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Isaiah’s Prediction of Singers from the East
 

By Samuel Whitefield

Isaiah 24 contains a stunning prediction: God is going to use singers to sustain His people and proclaim his glory in the most difficult hour of history. Furthermore, this prophecy gives significant insight into what God is doing in Southeast Asia.

There are three main themes in Isaiah 24 we need to be familiar with:

  1. The prediction of end-time songs

  2. The subject of end-time songs

  3. The mission of end-time songs

The Prediction of End-Time Songs

Isaiah predicted the earth would pass through an incredibly difficult period of time before the return of Jesus:

"The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish… The mirth of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the jubilant has ceased, the mirth of the lyre is stilled. No more do they drink wine with singing; strong drink is bitter to those who drink it." (Isaiah 24:4, 8–9 ESV)

Isaiah’s prediction of this period of time was poetic but solemn. He said the earth would “languish.” The trouble will be so severe singing and celebration will stop. Even the “highest people”—the most powerful people—will be unable to escape this trouble. This period of time will feel like the crushing of olives during the olive harvest:

"For thus it shall be in the midst of the earth among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten, as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is done." (Isaiah 24:13 ESV)

The first thirteen verses of Isaiah’s prophecy are filled with trouble and despair. However, the prophecy makes a sudden and surprising shift in verse 14:

"They lift up their voices, they sing for joy; over the majesty of the Lord they shout from the west. Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord; in the coastlands of the sea, give glory to the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One…" (Isaiah 24:14-16 ESV)

Isaiah revealed there will be a company of singers releasing songs when all other songs have failed. This is not just a single worship ministry—this is the end-time church singing of the beauty of God in a time when all other songs have failed.

There will be a number of ways the end-time church gives a witness to the gospel but Isaiah specifically predicted songs.

The Subject of End-Time Songs

Isaiah also described the subject of these songs:

"They lift up their voices, they sing for joy…" (Isaiah 24:14 ESV)

The church is going to lift up their voices—which means sing loudly—because of joy. When the earth passes through the darkest hour of history there will be a people who will sing for joy in anticipation of God’s glorious deliverance.

They will be unable to restrain their songs about the majesty of the Lord:

"They lift up their voices, they sing for joy; over the majesty of the LORD they shout from the west." (Isaiah 24:14 ESV)

This is a profound promise. The end-time church is going to experience the majesty of the Lord to such a degree it cannot be silent even though circumstances will seem dark. This is also a profound instruction. It reveals the content of end-time songs which gives direction to our song writing. End-time songs will be about the majesty of the Lord.

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The Mission of End-Time Songs

When we think of missions we tend to think of many things, but Isaiah included songs as part of the mission of the church. When we compare verse 14, which we just looked at, to verse 15 we see a profound shift:

"They lift up their voices, they sing for joy; over the majesty of the Lord they shout from the west. Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord; in the coastlands of the sea, give glory to the name of the Lord, the God of Israel." (Isaiah 24:14–15 ESV)

Isaiah shifted his language from a prediction to a command. Isaiah not only predicted there would be end-time songs (verse 14) he commanded us to begin to sing those songs (verse 15). We are used to reading prophecy in a passive way as a record of predictions, but we should seek to obey Isaiah’s command just as we obey the Great Commission or any other biblical command.

Isaiah’s command means singers are a missional objective for the church. 

Because these songs are so important, Isaiah specifically commanded the east to sing which raises a question: where in the east was he speaking to?

"Therefore in the east give glory to the LORD…" (Isaiah 24:15 ESV)

The answer is found in verse 16: “From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One…" (Isaiah 24:15-16 ESV)

Isaiah heard the songs of the east coming from the “ends of the earth.” That phrase means as far away as you can imagine. Isaiah was a prophet of Israel which means east Asia was as far to the east as Isaiah could imagine. Not only did Isaiah predict these songs, he said he heard songs coming from the very ends of the earth. These end-time songs are so precious to the Lord He allowed Isaiah to hear them nearly 3,000 years ago. 

Imagine how Isaiah heard the songs of Singapore in Chinese, Malay, English, Tamil, and other languages.

Isaiah’s stunning prophecy helps us better grasp the significance of the assignment the Lord has given to us. We live in the most musical generation in history and for the first time in history singers are taking their place across Asia to release these songs.

The Lord is preparing the way for the prophecy to be fulfilled because it is time for the singers in the east to “lift up their voices” and “sing for joy.”

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