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Posts in Identity
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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"Help! I did not expect ministry to look like this!"
 
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When I was asked by the team to write this blog, that was my exact thought: “Help! I did not expect ministry to look like this!”

But first...

Disclaimer: I don’t profess to know the whole works, and experiences definitely vary between individuals. I find it terribly challenging to pen these thoughts down as I still consider myself fairly young in ministry, compared to the many who have given their lives to serving God (who are way more qualified to write this), but I hope what I’m about to share from what I’ve learnt during my time in full-time ministry would bless some of you who are praying about or are in it.

Being Real

Full-time ministry was not something I considered going into while growing up. Having known family and friends in ministry, it never looked easy (or fun!). Audio was a growing passion and fast becoming something I could see myself doing for many many years. I’m not sure when it happened that I started desiring to use the things I’ve learnt to serve full-time in a church or ministry, but when I ORD-ed (left the army), I sent out my resume to various churches. I was eventually ‘picked up’ by “Oops!Asia” and that was my entry into full-time ministry.

June this year would mark my 9th year in ministry. Were these 9 years as I expected when I first stepped in? Definitely not.

I’ve heard people ‘glamourise’ full-time ministry:

“Wow! You get to serve God full-time! It must be fun.”

Great, and mostly true, but they only paint the side of the picture the public sees. The common reality is usually one that involves wearing multiple hats and handling multiple responsibilities, and no, not all of it is “glamorous”.

Not every organisation or church is able to hire extensively and fill every role and need. For example, here at Awaken Generation, all full-time staff do dual roles - one on the ministry front, and one on the organisational front. I handle all things Sound related, including teaching and running a stream, and I also manage the facility and logistics (making sure there is an adequate supply of drinking water and toilet paper).

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“Wow! You get to do music full-time! Such a good life.”

Other ‘realities’ and challenges I faced are with time and finances. There are busy periods and then there are waves-crashing-on-all-sides-thunder-lightning-hurricanes-perfect-storm seasons.

A friend once joked that in ministry, there is no full-time or part-time, only over-time. And we (have to) learn to ride the waves and the seasons.

Finances are challenging for me as well. This would almost always be challenging especially for those starting out, but it is also a journey of recognising God as the Provider. Is this the best-paying job? No, but it definitely is worth it. Our “yes” to God should not be laden with conditions and ideal situations. If He calls, He will enable.

“It must be easy working in a church, everyone’s a Christian.”

And yes, while everyone is (probably) a Christian, everyone is also a human being with flaws and weaknesses, on their own journeys, learning to manage their own struggles, occasionally celebrating victories, sometimes losing the plot a little, still having bad days amidst other good ones, and overall basically, still human. I hope you get my point?

 

The Reward is Better than the Sacrifice

A group of leaders visited Bethel Church in Redding and got to spend some time with the Bethel leadership team. During a Q&A session with Ps Bill Johnson, he was asked how they did it - travelling for long periods of time, long hours, late nights, and all while having kids and thriving families. Bill Johnson’s answer was that they would tell their children all the time that the reward is better than the sacrifice.

That statement stuck with me. Every one of us needs to remind ourselves that the reward is better than the sacrifice. And the reward can mean many things and come in many forms.

The reward of souls saved.
The reward of lives transformed.
The reward that awaits us in eternity.

And I believe very much as well, in the reward of God’s Presence and Hand on our lives. My pastor shared recently that the Levites (full-time temple workers) were not allocated a plot of land as their inheritance. Instead, God would be their inheritance; God Himself was their portion.

The Call of God

My last point is this, what is God’s call for you? Full-time ministry today doesn’t just mean working in a church or a Christian organisation, it doesn’t mean getting paid to do ‘Christian work’. I strongly believe that full-time ministry can and must look like each of us picking up the mantle to ‘go and make disciples’ wherever we are called to.

What is the posture of our hearts?

"Help, I did not expect ministry to look like this!"

‘Ministry’ here can refer to a whole array of activities, people groups, job scopes, and so on. When we say ‘yes’, let’s not enter each season with an expectation of the experience and outcome, but rather be expectant that wherever the Lord calls us to, there He will be, and where He is, He is enough.

June this year would mark my 9th year in ministry. Were these 9 years as expected when I first stepped in? Definitely not - they superseded any expectations I thought I had.

 
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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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Bold & Courageous - AG 2019
 
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By Alarice

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for theLord your God will be with you wherever you go.” - Joshua 1:9

I am not sure if many people would naturally describe themselves as a bold and courageous person - I feel facing fear is part of the human condition. There’s a reason why the Lord commanded Joshua and Caleb not to fear when they were tasked to take possession of the Promised Land; it’s so easy to fall into fear when we see ‘giants’ with our natural eyes. Did you know that when you fear, you actually have faith, but you’re putting your faith in the wrong thing? Having fear about your circumstance reflects that you have more confidence in a circumstance to rule over your life than your heavenly Father’s ability to take care of you!

Being bold and courageous starts from a position of quiet trust and steadfast faith. The fruit of obedience doesn’t start from a place of striving but actually starts from a place of surrender. You are surrendering your life and your future to a good good God who is more than capable of leading you and taking care of you – it is from this truth that gives you steadfastness to continually follow Jesus all the days of your life. As the Awaken Generation team have prayed and sought the Lord, we have felt the Lord impressing on our hearts that 2019 would be a year of boldness & courage. If we want to go deeper in the Lord, if we truly want to know Him, it’s less about simply having knowledge of Him, but actually applying what He says in His Word, and living that out in the face of fear and pressure.  

At Awaken Generation, we have always emphasised the theme of sons and daughters and securing our identity as children of God within our community. This is a significant and holy truth, yet I feel a further maturing coming upon us where there's a pull on us to delve deeper into our identity now as lovers of God - and to take our place as the bride of Christ, holy and pure and willing to lay down our lives because of our great love for our Bridegroom King. In a sense, the depth to which we grow in this maturity is up to us – the invitation from the Lord is there, but how much are we willing to trust and surrender?

The late theologian Eugene Peterson wrote a book called ‘A long obedience in the same direction’, I love this title as it beautifully describes the journey of our Christian pilgrimage, it is a daily choice of obedience and an unwavering faith that eventually leads to accomplishing things for the Kingdom that we thought we’d never be able to do. As you consecrate and seek the Lord leading up the new year, I’d like to leave you with an old story I heard once. There was once a mouse and elephant who crossed a rickety old bridge together after they had crossed, the mouse turns to the elephant and says ‘we sure shook that bridge didn’t we’?

May 2019 be filled with faith and wonder as you witness a great and magnificent God who can do exceedingly more than what you could dream or imagine.

 
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Spiritual Family: What Does It Look Like?

by Calvin Hong & Shawn Wong

From the beginning of humanity, God showed that His design of Family was something special. He thoroughly enjoyed the company of Adam and Eve and they enjoyed His presence. There was no shame, nothing to hide, and in fact, were without clothes! They were completely vulnerable.

But because of sin, a separation occurred. The natural instinct of Man since then has been to cover ourselves up; to protect and defend ourselves. However, in God’s original design of Family, there was no need to be ashamed of anything - because He is a God of covering.

When Adam and Eve sinned, it was because they chose not to trust God when He instructed them to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Instead, they chose to listen to another voice. They did not believe that God did not mean them harm, nor that He knows and wants the best for them. They didn’t have a Family mindset.

But God fights for Family.  He could have chosen to wash His hands off of humanity and restart creation. But ‘He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it.’ (Phil 1:6) In order for sin to not have a hold on mankind, the spilling of the blood of an animal was required as atonement. He then spilled the blood of His Son Jesus to permanently reconcile all of humanity to Himself. He is a God who covers. He calls us Family, and He values Family.

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We all need a spiritual family - a community of people who genuinely love and care for us, who point out the veggie leaves in our teeth (literally and figuratively), and who are unafraid to say what’s needed to see us step into our destinies. Here are 4 truths about building healthy relationships within a culture of family that I learnt from my friend, Victoria Jeffs from Day2 International. These points sum up how we can relate to each other in a healthy way and display God’s original idea of Family to our brothers and sisters in Christ:

  1. “I mean you no harm.” It means you only have good intentions for your family members – to see them prosper and succeed. It means wanting to bless them and to be a key part of a their lives. When they’re convinced of this, they become more honest and vulnerable, and more willing to allow you a place of influence in their lives.
  2. “What matters to you matters to me.” There are important things that we are all after. Ask yourself: How can I as a family member help guide and build you so you can fulfil your purposes and dreams? Each of us has different needs. However, though we try to do what’s humanly possible for them, we don’t try to become the Holy Spirit - for it is God who actually makes the change and transformation in their lives.

  3. “I only want what’s best for you.” It means seeing the gold in someone, instead of stumbling over their shortcomings. It’s about looking out for each other. There’s no competition within Family - it’s about helping each other climb our ladders, to be the best that we can be.

  4. “It must pass the test of seasons.” How can we build a relationship with someone unless we’re willing to spend time with them, be vulnerable, or willing to invest in them? Doing all that takes time, patience, understanding, and grace. Seasons involve ups and downs, and Family lasts regardless of them.

We all make mistakes. That’s why God in His grace covers our lack. Likewise, that’s the example we must follow. Let’s all ask: Do we cover each other despite our failings, or do we openly reprimand and shame? Do we pray for each other, or cast judgmental looks and express disgust in subtle ways? May we grow in love and be living testimonies who rightly display God’s original design of Family.

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Many thanks to Day2 International for the 4 Truths. Do visit their website at www.findyourday2.org!

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