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Writing Songs for the Nation
 

Zephaniah 3:17 tells us that the Lord quiets us with His love and rejoices over us with singing. When we lean into Him and listen closely, we can catch echoes and reverberations of His infinite love for us individually - do we believe that God’s heart beats in the same way for the Nations of the World, too?

Most of us appreciate that in some broad way, God is Omnipresent and Sovereign over all the nations. But does He really have anything to say about what happens daily on a national level? Does He really care?

The (National) Anthem in God’s Heart

In Deuteronomy 31, God tells Moses to write a song for the nation of Israel, and to teach it to them so that it may be passed down from generation to generation:

“…write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that… it may be a witness for me against the people of Israel.”

As the story goes, the people of Israel had already forgotten how the Lord had rescued them from slavery, provided for and protected them as they journeyed towards the Promised Land. God wanted a song written so that it would bear testimony against them of their unfaithfulness towards Him as He anticipated their going astray - “This song will be there with them as a witness as to who they are and what went wrong”.

It may initially seem harsh - the song functions like a witness testifying against them in God’s Court. It hardly seems like the kind of tune that any modern day songwriter would be ‘inspired’ to write. If we look closer, however, we will find that the song was merely a medium and a way for God to reveal His heart towards the entire Nation. He cared about what He was seeing. He perceived whatever was taking place daily in the Nation and He had something to say about it. In Deuteronomy, God chose Moses to listen and to write the song on His (God’s) heart. What if He’s choosing us to do the same today? Are we tuning in to listen?

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Co-writing Nation Songs with the Lord

The commission of Moses in Deuteronomy isn’t just for the songwriters – it is for all the children of God. As Jesus told us:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

As children and lovers of God, our commission is to make disciples of all Nations. Songs are a powerful tool for discipleship - taking place on an individual level, but also on a national scale as in Deuteronomy.

Songwriters have a special role in this endeavour because we are armed and equipped with a very specific skill-set: crafting lyrical and melodic hooks to retain attention, understanding the power of a song idea that will renew minds, appreciating the structure of songs and how best to order words with melody, so that we can truly take our songs to the paradigm that God is on. As we do so, our songs become a platform on which God reveals His heart to an entire Nation, even to disciple them.

In this process, we learn to become His faithful scribes (Psalm 45:1) - people who listen to Him, know His heart and express it faithfully. We become co-writers with God to pen the song on His heart. We listen in closely, asking Him as often as we perceive the happenings around us in the Nation: “Lord, what do You see? What do You think? How do You feel about this?” Imagine the impact we could bring to the communities around us and the Nations of the World if we care about what He truly cares about, and if we speak what He would say: “Lord, what are you thinking of when you look into our Churches, the marketplace and on the streets? Father, how Your heart cry out when we see the way we strive in this Nation for what doesn’t fully satisfy us? Lord, what is on Your heart right now for this Nation? How are You moving, and how do You desire to 'heal our land'?"

Make no mistake - God does have something to say. The question is: do we want to know? Will we seek His heart in prayer and keenly study His word to discern His voice and find out? When we do, we must come ready to scribe and pen down what we hear from Him. In that place, we will find that He always faithfully responds and reveals His heart if only we seek Him.

Every Nation has its own spiritual climate and journey - one which God Himself in continually writing. I am reminded of that powerful Singapore National Day Parade (NDP) song which goes:

“There was a time when people said
That Singapore won't make it, but we did
There was a time when troubles seemed too much
For us to take, but we did
We built a nation, strong and free, reaching out together
For peace and harmony

Singapore our homeland, it's here that we belong
All of us united, one people marching on
We've come so far together, our common destiny
Singapore forever, a nation strong and free”

Just think about the incredible influence that a song like this can have in mobilising an entire Nation into greater purpose, if only we were to re-imagine it for present times and begin to pen our God-song with intimacy and sensitivity to His Spirit.

Ultimately, writing songs for the Nation isn’t just about song-writing itself – it is about having such an intimate walk with the Lord that we begin to feel what He feels, think how He thinks, and have on our hearts whatever He has on His for the Nations of the World.

 
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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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The Greenhouse Effect: Building Healthy Team Culture
 
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Gossip, backstabbing, politics. Sound familiar? Many of us have experienced these things first-hand, or have even used them to get our way. Despite often being associated with the workplace, in reality they run deep even within our Christian communities.

What would be like if we didn’t have to deal with a negative team culture? Is it even possible, especially when your situation seems bleak? I believe it is.

Greenhouse: The 5 C’s

Recently, AG held a leadership elective about building a healthy team culture. Our Senior Leader Calvin presented to us the ‘greenhouse’ concept. Let’s think about that idea for a bit. Firstly, what is a greenhouse? What does it do? Well, a greenhouse is a structure in which plants are grown and nurtured, especially the ones that require specific conditions to thrive. The temperature, humidity, and many other parameters are controlled so that the plants within it can flourish.

Wouldn’t it be great if our community, ministry, or church had dials and switches with which we could alter its culture? The good news is that there are! However, as with most things in life, using them is not quite as straightforward as flicking a switch. Building anything takes time and effort. How then can you make your community, ministry, and church a greenhouse? Calvin shared about the five C’s that make up a healthy greenhouse: Character, Competency, Chemistry, Culture, and Calling.

I’d like to talk about one of them in more detail - Culture.

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Culture

Many have approached to share how the culture at AG had blessed them. They often share about how different it is to the cultures they had experienced before. Was it by chance? Did the AG culture organically evolve into what it is today? All of here would answer that with a resounding ‘no’!

We believe that core values, when communicated, demonstrated, and enforced, play a vital role in shaping any culture. These are the core values that AG fights to uphold - a passion for the Presence of God, a Culture of Honour, Mentorship & Discipleship, Relationship in Community, and Creativity & Excellence.

These are more than fancy-sounding buzzwords. These are truths that we believe are on God’s heart for the Body, and keys to crafting a new wineskin into which He will pour out more of Himself.

Let’s take a closer look at two of those core values.

A Passion for the Presence of God

Any organisation can plan events, create communities, and build a sense of belonging. But without the presence of God, it would ultimately amount to nothing.

We must be like the Israelites who encamped around His presence - in the form of a cloud - in the wilderness. When the cloud moved, they packed up and followed. When it stopped, they set up camp. We seek to be utterly and completely reliant on His voice to direct us, and His presence that renews and empowers us.

Like Moses, we, too, do not want to go anywhere without His presence. Are you dependent on God no matter where you go? Will you obey willingly as the Lord directs?

A Culture of Honour

To honour someone is to give value to them; to affirm them. It’s not about whether they deserve it or not; we are called to honour because we are people of honour.

We see each person as sacred, made in the image of God Himself, and therefore since Jesus has bestowed so much value to us by dying for us, who are we to do otherwise to our brothers and sisters?

Could we honour and celebrate them for who they are, instead of stumbling over who they’re not? How are we demonstrating love, affirmation, encouragement, and kindness to our brother?

In conclusion...

Calvin elaborated on the four other ‘C’s that would help develop a Kingdom culture within your community. To attain this may sound daunting to some of you, but be encouraged that our God cares about our communities more than even we do, and He always, always empowers those He calls!

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If you or your ministry would like to receive leadership training or find out more, contact us at info@awakengeneration.sg!

 
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My Call As A Worship Revivalist
 
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“Worship Revival”.

Those two words rang out in my spirit. My heart leapt, and my soul awoke. I propped up and inclined my ear toward the voice of Heaven, hoping to receive some form of elaboration. There was none. Nothing but the dull stillness and silence of the night that surrounded me. What was happening inside of me though, was the complete opposite. Because by now, the pounding within me was intensifying and everything internally was coming alive.

A few years ago, I stood at a crossroads that involved making a crucial decision in my life. I sought clarity and direction from God for my future. I thought I was asking about where my next job would be; instead, God responded with a vision for my life that gripped me even till today. When my concern was vocation, the Father brought me higher and revealed destiny and purpose. I have been marked ever since; by two words that were uttered in a moment. It was a divine download that flew past my head and straight to my heart. I wish I could say I knew exactly what God meant by “Worship Revival”, but I didn’t. My spirit, however, responded immediately with a resounding “YES”. It set me on a course of discovering what’s in the Father’s heart as He calls me to be a Worship Revivalist.

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At first, I thought God was calling me just to be a Worship Leader in big revival meetings, but I was wrong. While our corporate worship and meetings are great, He is looking beyond that. Our goal is not the worship we induce, but the worshippers we produce.

I believe the greatest revival that is coming, will be ushered in and marked by worshippers arising from every tribe and tongue – the kind that the Father seeks in John 4:23. It will be a nameless, faceless generation of worshippers who will carry His supernatural presence into every area of society, culture, and life. These are the ones who hunger and pursue the Presence like no other; who worship with the same vigour that David did. They will be sent as forerunners to release unparalleled manifestations of His Presence. The most powerful meetings will be those centred around the Presence of God. In authentic worship, there is no division. Racial, political, cultural, language, and denominational lines will be erased. Worship is the activity of Heaven, after all. His Kingdom is established where His Presence inhabits.

I see God redeeming music and intercession from every culture and restoring to the nations their rightful inheritance. Consider this: we are the most musical generation in history. We are surrounded by music constantly. Never before have we had access to music as we do today. Music affects and impacts us more so than any other generation in history. Most importantly, music has the unique ability to touch our hearts, and the Lord wants to use that to advance the Gospel. I believe worship will be the key activity through which people will be drawn to the Father and where hearts open up to the Gospel. At the same time, God is raising up prophetic songwriters who would bring articulation and language to the dreams in His heart for the present and the future. They will pull to today what was meant for tomorrow by giving the Bride of Christ the songs of Heaven to sing.

As I step back and comprehend the vastness of God’s heart and plan for His church, I know my part is small to play. My desire is to raise and equip not just musicians and songwriters, but worshippers who will prepare the way of the Lord in this hour. There is an invitation for you and me to be part of the narrative and storyline God is writing in the nations. If reading this has in any way resonated in your spirit, I pray you will indeed stand and have your life count for 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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