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Building a Prophetic Culture
 
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Have you ever received prayer and the person started to share about the very things on your mind or the dreams in your heart? Or have you ever received ‘impressions’ about someone’s emotional state or situation as you pray for them? Perhaps, you’ve also had dreams that ended up actually happening in real life. Well, these are some examples of the prophetic.


I believe that the prophetic is not complicated. It’s so simple that even children can move in it! I have activated children as young as 6 years old to do so. When I teach them about the prophetic, I love using the analogy of a postman. The job of a postman is to deliver the letter that he/she has received from the post office to the recipient. Prophecy works in the same way. Our role is to receive words or messages from God and deliver them to people.

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God’s heart for humanity is relationship, and relationship-building requires communication. God wants to communicate with us! One of the main elements in the prophetic is recognising God’s voice. Without hearing His voice first, we cannot receive any message. There’s a difference between learning to ‘hear’ His voice and ‘recognising’ His voice. The ability to hear His voice is already within us. Our job then is to recognise it, just as a newborn learns to recognise the different sounds they hear around them. 


“No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”
John 15:15

The prophetic is birthed from a place of intimacy with God. Growing in it is about cultivating this friendship. When we pursue His heart, we get to hear His heartbeat for humanity. It is through intimacy that the prophetic can be released with His love.

God does not want to just receive you as children into His kingdom and ignore you by not giving you the ability to hear His voice. God is a good and tender loving Father who loves to speak to His children. We have the privilege to hear His voice daily because of His love. 

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“But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.” 
1 Cor 14:3

The heart of prophecy is to reveal God’s heart to the person in front of you. It is not about calling down judgement, or a doom and gloom message. The essence of a prophetic word should be edifying, encouraging, and comforting for the people receiving it. The heart of the message must be filled with God’s love and hope. A prophetic word is an encouraging word that always has the element of God’s restoration and redemption in people‘s lives. Encouraging words build people up, while negative words tear people down. 

“He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.”
1 Cor 14:4

Paul said that when we release prophetic words, the church is being built up. A strong church is not defined by its physical size but rather, it is made up of strong people. When we prophesy over our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are building them up with God’s destiny for them. When a prophetic culture is established, the fruit is an encouraging atmosphere—one where people encounter God’s love through prophetic words. 

Learning to hear from God is a lifelong journey. The truth is that we do make mistakes and hear wrongly along the way. But the main thing is seeking to maintain a heart of purity as we grow in hearing His voice, admitting our mistakes, and moving on. We should not stop prophesying just because we have made some mistakes along the way. A toddler does not stop learning to walk just because he has fallen down a few times. 

The primary goal of the prophetic is not about operating in a gift as much as it is about knowing God’s heart. Growing in this gift is actually growing in hearing His voice on a daily basis. Before you can hear a message (for others), you have to first identify and discern the voice of God in your life. 

He speaks to us all differently. Sometimes, it could be a specific verse from the Bible. Other times, we may get an impression, a vision, or a voice in our spirit. He can also speak to us through dreams. If you can hear God’s voice for yourself, you can most certainly hear God’s voice for others. Don’t disqualify yourself from being used by God to release the message of love that He has for the people around you. Everyone can prophesy!

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Ps Clement Sim, one of AG’s guest writers, graduated from the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM, Bethel Church) in Redding, California, and is currently a pastor at Soakability Church, Singapore.

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4 KEYS to playing without scores
 
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“I grew up reading notes on the stave! How do you improvise? How do you know what chords to play?”

 

Sound familiar? Over the years, I’ve encountered many classical pianists and musicians who ask similar questions. I then realised that there often is a real question of how to make the jump between playing what you see on a score and being able to improvise freely.

 

I can relate to this struggle. I grew up taking formal piano lessons, working tirelessly through the grades of the formal examination systems.

 

I’ve always enjoyed music, having grown up in a musical family. However, it was only when I joined the worship ministry in my home church when I was 13 that I discovered this whole new facet of music and improvisation that brought me much freedom and growth.

 

It was when I experienced the power of music to express thoughts and emotions beyond words and when I experienced the Lord’s presence powerfully during times of worship that my love and passion for music grew.

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I began to experiment with chords and learned to play songs by ear, and soon grew to love improvisation! I could spend hours at the piano, playing, experimenting, and learning new songs, replaying the tracks in the CDs repeatedly and copy them exactly. As I grew in freedom to create and express what I could not in words and as I began to create new tunes to the Lord, my relationship with Him grew together with my musical abilities.

 

Some people think that you either improvise and play by ear OR sight read music very well – I would say that’s a myth! I know many brilliant classical players who are just as brilliant even in jazz improvisation!

 

Music is a language. This means that the ability to listen, speak, read, and write music are like that in any other language.

 

Ideally, we want to be able to do equally well in all these aspects as musicians. You should not feel handicapped when attempting to improvise because of your strong classical background. Instead, you would be more equipped because of the strong understanding of music you already possess.

 

How do you begin creating freely when you’ve been taught from such a young age to simply follow what’s on the page? I can imagine the trepidation because trying to play something that isn’t on the page has been ingrained as “wrong”.

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May I suggest that the first place to begin? Dare to try.

 

The process of improvisation often challenges you to simply make a sound and create something first without prior judgement. It takes time and practice for one to get used to translating the God-given tunes and harmonies in your heart and mind to actual sound. If you are completely new, begin with playing a familiar tune that you have memorised with no written notes provided and slowly get used to doing so. Before you panic and think that this is all too abstract, here are some practical tips to help you on your journey.

 

1)     Play any piece of music with a greater harmonic and melodic understanding.

Gotcha! Most of us are guilty of taking a piece of written music and playing through it without really getting a composer’s ‘bird’s eye view’ of how the piece was written and structured, both harmonically and melodically.

 

Pick a piece you are already familiar with. Study the chords and the harmonies that support the melodies! Once you understand those, take it apart and attempt to play it in another key.

 

For example, take apart the simple “Fur Elise” by Beethoven – could you find the chords and then transpose it and play it in E minor instead of A minor simply by knowing the chord numbers? (e.g. i, V, iv) The more songs you analyse, the more you will see patterns and apply it to your own playing!

 

2)     Listen & Copy!

As a baby first encounters language by listening and then imitating, we can also learn the musical language by listening widely and attempting to recreate.

 

Listen to a piece of music, then attempt to replicate and play what you hear without the guidance of scores. Try to play it as closely and accurately as the original.

 

Begin with simpler pieces first - Pop songs or worship songs are a good start as they often have simpler chord structures!

 

Some quick tips:

  • Chart the bars with the relevant time signature

  • Identify the bass notes

  • Identify chord qualities, chords, and cadences

  • Identify melodies and riffs

  • Play back what you have learnt and compare it with the original

  • Attempt to play it in different keys, keeping true to the voicings, grooves, etc.

  • Learn to apply similar chord progressions, voicings, and styles to your playing

 

3)     Re-organise

You may be used to playing the melody with your right hand (RH), and arpeggiated and moving harmonies with your left (LH). Try placing majority of the chord on the RH instead while keeping the LH simple with mainly the bass note or with the 5th.

 

When playing as an accompanist, refrain from playing the melody line throughout. Practise forming chords with good voicing and voice-leading with the RH and LH while being aware of the melody.

 

4)     Dare to create

Take your instrument – (even your voice!) and create something new. Add chords to it. Or reharmonise a familiar hymn with different chords! It may not sound like the best composition at the start, but similarly, becoming eloquent in a language requires you to practice stringing phrases, then sentences, then an entire speech or poem together.

 

Ultimately, view music as a whole, while keeping in mind its ultimate goal of expressing things often intangible and communicating with others. I believe God created music for communication and for us to simply enjoy its beauty.  

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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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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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Cultivating the Heart of a Worshipper
 
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“I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He trims so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I will abide in you. The branch cannot itself produce fruit, unless it abides on the vine. Likewise, you cannot produce fruit unless you abide in Me.” – John 15

God is looking for a garden. One that is bursting with fruit of many kinds, one whose weeds have been tended to, and whose leaves do not wither throughout the seasons. God is looking at the garden of our hearts.  A garden in which He can take delight in and enjoy.

Fruit is a natural produce of a healthy tree. One that is firmly rooted in the soil sustained by minerals and nutrients of the earth, one that is exposed to the sustaining grace of sunlight, and one that has daily access to the life-giving properties of water. You see, in the kingdom, if our hearts are the garden, then the soil, water, and sunlight are the presence of God and His Word in our lives. Just as a tree does not have to strive to produce fruit, we simply need to ‘abide’ in the right conditions for us to flourish.

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 As worshippers, we flourish in our God-given destiny and in the gifts of the Holy Spirit when we learn to expose ourselves to the very source that will cause us to grow and become like Him. We do not ‘fast track’ fruit by our own efforts, we simply surrender our beings unto a very, very good God and the growth will naturally happen.

The key to the presence of God is to worship. To be able to worship God is His gift to His sons and daughters. It is this very act of worship - the laying down of our wants and rights, surrendering to His will and offering up a sacrifice of praise - that cultivates the garden of our hearts. It keeps us on the path to becoming more and more like Him – this is the reason why we live, breathe, and exist on this earth. We fulfill our purpose when we know the Father, become like Him, and represent Him to a world that so desperately needs Him.

 
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