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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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Our Identity & Inheritance As Worshippers
 
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“For the hour is coming, and now is,
when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth;
for the Father is 
seeking such to worship Him”

– John 4:23

The Father is seeking Worshippers – worshippers born of His Spirit who abide, meditate, and live upon the truth of His Word. It’s funny that the passage doesn’t say that He is firstly seeking evangelists, teachers, prophets, pastors, and apostles, instead the Father is searching the earth for worshippers. Perhaps it is because, in the act of worship of totally surrendering our lives, hearts, ambitions, dreams, and desires unto Him, that we find who we were truly meant to be.

God isn’t some tyrannical egotistical god who demands worship for His sake or because He needs it, He is seeking worship for OUR SAKE – because without it, we will not fully live out the destiny He had planned for us since the beginning of the foundations of the earth (Eph 1:4).  We only discover who we were truly meant to be when we worship – it is in intimately knowing our Creator that we discover His intent for us, His creation.

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“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters,
in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a LIVING sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.”

– Romans 12:1

If we want to grow as worshippers, we need to be discerning to whom or what is actually sitting on the ‘throne’ of our hearts. To worship is to ascribe worth to something, which means it usually comes at a cost to attain. An indication of what we truly worship is when we consider where our time, finances, and energy of our thoughts go to. Things like financial security, your career, your reputation, and the praises of man above the fear of the Lord can easily crawl their way up onto the throne of our hearts. In Romans 12:1, Paul urged us to be a LIVING sacrifice, meaning there is a daily surrendering or sacrifice of our own hearts and desires in exchange for a God who is worth infinitely more than anything the world could offer. What are we willing to lay down at the altar of worship to gain more of God?

“ But you are holy,
you who inhabit the praises of Israel.”

– Psalm 22:3

As worshippers, we have an amazing and rich inheritance that we as children of God can access by faith. The enemy wants nothing more than to disarm us as worshippers because he knows of the power we carry in releasing God’s kingdom on earth. When we worship and praise in faith, the presence of God inhabits our praises, and His Kingdom and dominion is established in our world. The Kingdom of Light is greater than the Kingdom of darkness, so when we praise we must expect that strongholds will be broken, darkness will flee, sicknesses are healed, dreams and visions are released, captives are set free, and that the lost will be saved!

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The Lord is calling His church back into intimacy of worship with Him. He is not looking for more programmes, nor is He looking for Sunday church-goers, nor seeking form without power.  He is instead searching the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him (1 Chronicles 16:9). Will you completely surrender your heart and devote your life completely unto Him who is worthy?

 
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Detours & Destiny
 
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By Caleb Kay

27 November 2017: I attended the graduation for Awaken Generation’s Class of 2017 alone as a guest. I was friends with a few members of the staff, had played the drums once or twice with them, but that was it.

I had just landed a new business development job, with hopes of saving up to head to Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry this year in August. It felt like God was opening all these doors; I had all these plans and dreams in my head.

I thought I was stepping into my destiny.

26 January 2018: everything derailed. Towards the end of my 3-month probation, I was unexpectedly let go, and given just three days’ notice of my termination. I was devastated. The entire weekend, I wrestled with my identity and self-worth: “was I really not good enough?”

I wrestled with God: "why did You open doors only to shut them in my face?"

Unbeknownst to me, God was setting things in motion. Just the week before my termination, I had arranged for a lunch with Ian and Calvin, just to catch up, and it was at that lunch that I was offered a short-term position at Awaken Generation.

One year on, as I witnessed our Class of 2018 graduating - now as a full-time staff in Awaken Generation - and thinking about where I was a year ago, I’m truly lost for words at God’s goodness.

Here are three things I’ve learnt on this journey:

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Detours Are For Growth

I remember how I felt when I got the news that I was going to be terminated. I remember my mind going into overdrive, planning how to update my resume and who to send it to.

In the midst of swinging between self-deprecating thoughts and psyching myself up to blast my CV to potential new employers, I suddenly felt a prompting upon my heart to stop and worship. It was so tough and I remember barely getting past a verse and a chorus before choking up.

But then there was a peace - in the midst of all that chaos and turmoil.

I’d like to think that I grew more in the heart of a worshiper in that moment. It was in that eye-of-the-storm moment that I realised what it was like to worship through the pain and to be given a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness.

Detours Are For His Glory

"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

For a way to appear in the wilderness, and rivers to flow in the desert, we must first take a detour into the wilderness and the desert.

An impossible circumstance is a prerequisite for a miracle to take place.

It was because of this sudden interruption to my life that I could see God’s providence, with a position in Awaken Generation offered to me just a day after my termination.

It’s in the detours that our faith is tested and strengthened; it’s in the detours that our character is refined and purified; it’s in the detours that we are brought to a place of complete, total reliance, so that God can come through for us, and so that we can get through only because of God.

Distraction & Deception

Oftentimes, with detours come distracting, deceptive, and destructive thoughts. I constantly found myself wondering if I could’ve done more to retain my job. I doubted the abilities God had given me and the fact that when God created me, He said, “this one is fearfully and wonderfully made!”

Even joining the AG staff team felt like a detour to my Bethel dream, and there were real doubt and fear: would God be able to provide? Was this the right path?

I’ve since realised that fear is a tool of the enemy, and that fear is not our own; when we step out in obedience, the enemy projects his fear onto us. Our obedience makes the enemy afraid, because it advances God’s kingdom and His purpose in our lives.

In Joshua 1, God commands Joshua to be strong and courageous; it’s not merely an encouragement, but a command, to be obeyed.

Take detours in your stride! Step out with confidence and courage, eyes firmly on the Lord, our God, who is ever with us.

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Detours: The Route Towards Destiny

David was anointed to become king when he was merely a teenager. Little did he know that the path to his eventual destiny as king would be riddled with detours, discouragements, and even danger!

Psalm 27 is one of the most-quoted passages on worship; the entire psalm is penned by David as a declaration of courage, with his security rooted in his desire to seek God and God alone. David was unshakeable in his obedience because he kept an unwavering gaze upon an unchanging God.

Sometimes walking into our destiny may require us to take what might seem to us like a detour.

My season with my previous employer, along with the dramatic and sudden termination, felt like a huge detour (a derailing, even) but what gave me perspective was a realignment of my gaze to Christ.

Perhaps you may be considering taking a year to join Awaken Generation’s year-long programme. Perhaps you’re counting the cost and it may seem like a detour.

But I know that God wastes nothing. He is never too early or late; His timing is always perfect, and even when we think we are too far out on a detour, God still uses those detours to direct us towards our destiny. What keeps us walking steadily is a steady gaze on the Lord.

Whatever battles you are facing, step out with boldness and courage, for the Lord, your God, is with you!

 
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Meditating on the Word
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Interview with Josh Yeoh

What does it mean to meditate on God’s word?

It means to slow down the reading pace, to prayerfully contemplate every word and every phrase, looking for deeper and fuller meanings. Meditation is the art of digging out the most that we can from each and every word.

So often we read the Word as if we’re doing a workout – reading plans, checklists, and such. The art of meditation is what really unlocks the riches of the Word. It means to not take things at face value, but dialoguing with the Lord about it. Each verse or passage is a doorway into encounter with God; it’s an expression of Who God is.

Meditation on the Word is the key to the often-asked question: How do I hear God? The same way He has been speaking since we’ve had the Word of God! It causes us to know Him more and hear Him better. How far or deep should we go?

Why is meditating on and studying the word important in our spiritual walk? Does it practically benefit us?

Joshua 1:8 says, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For thenyou will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Every tool for succeeding in life is within His Word.

The Written Word of God is revealed by the Living Word of God through the power of the Holy Spirit of God. Proverbs 2:6 says, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” The source of illumination is the mouth of God. Meditation made me feel like Aladdin entering the cave of wonders; there’s so much more! There’s a difference between looking at a photo of Niagara Falls and actually standing before the roaring waterfall – that’s how it is to read a book that God wrote and commune with the Holy Spirit that inspired it.

There is a cry across the body for intimacy. There can be no intimacy without conversation and communion. If we truly love God, we will love who He is, not who we think He is. If we only love the idea of a God that we create in our minds, it’s at best, fantasy, and at worst, idolatry! Meditating and studying the Word is a way of conversing with God - with the ultimate goal of knowing God - is the doorway into such intimacy.

Luke 6:45 says, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Meditating on the Word is how we slowly transform our ‘inner well’, so that we are depositing ‘good treasure’; so that what comes out in our speech, thoughts, and behaviour is Christ-like.

Proverbs 16:26 says, “A worker's appetite works for him; his mouth urges him on.” We labour because of hunger. Similarly, as we meditate more and go deeper, we get addicted; hungry for more revelation!

How should we do it? Are there any action steps we can use?

Have a sheet of paper or journal where you write your meditations. Also, have a column or separate piece of paper. Your mind will likely wander to other things, such as to-do’s. This separate section is where you pen down all your stray thoughts, so that you can push it out of your mind for the moment without the additional thought-traffic. You can then proceed with a clear mind.

You may combine pray-reading the Word with meditating on the word. Theology must lead to doxology. The study of God must lead to the worship of God. Here are some practical handles you may find useful:

  • Write down one or two verses that you will be focusing on.

  • Slow the pace way down. As you read, meditate on each word or phrase. For example, in ‘How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!’ (Psalm 84:1), take time to meditate on ‘how lovely’. Why ‘lovely’, not ‘awesome’? God is intentional with His word choices. There are so many layers of what He wants to reveal. Where is His ‘dwelling place’? How do we get there? Think of it as sitting down with your favourite author over a coffee, and asking them about their inspiration for this or that character, or idea.

  • Study the word / phrase:

    • Context: verses that precede and follow. David Pawson said: “A text out of context is a pretext.” We sometimes apply a verse out of context and it becomes false or inaccurate. Look for what’s before and after, in that book.

    • Look up word meanings; translations; lexicons at BibleHub.com or apps such as Blue Letter Bible. There are sometimes layers we miss.

    • Cross-reference it with word studies online.

    • Where there’s repetition, ask: What is its meaning? Why is it there?

    • Symbolism: What do they represent? Any deeper spiritual meanings?

    • Speak, pray, and sing the scriptures back to the Lord.

    • Do it in the context of Worship.

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