Worship or Barter – Faith or Fear

A moment whereby something connected while I was in the kitchen tonight.

Worship by nature requires sacrifice from the worshipper to the object of worship, who is God. Sacrifice means there is no expectation to get back what was given. What was given, was given. In exchange for the pleasure and favour of God.

Many times when I check my heart, what I offer to God is often with condition. When I give up my time to get work done, I expect God to “return” me my time in the way that I can finish it or have a time extension. Even money wise, there are time when putting money into the offering bag expecting God to bless many folds. Sounds very much like investment to me but I do catch myself in this mode at times.

Some may say I am too hard on myself as God promises that He will bless us. In His Word He did talk about many fold blessings. Yet when I look into the heart of these barter I make with God, the root of it is faithlessness. It is driven by fear and not faith. If I am resting on the promises of God completely, I do not even need to consider and calculate the value in which I will get in return before putting it in. When I am in complete rest and total trust in God, I can give everything without the barter bargain.

Faith, faith, faith.

 

Ticketed Worship

An Offering of Worship

I suspect this will not be a very popular post but I think it is time for me to put in writing a trend I noticed in Singapore and even Asia – ticketed worship concerts where people buy tickets (with top priced tickets as much as over $100) to be in concert of international worship bands. I guess many will say what is wrong with paying for the tickets as there is cost in putting up something of this scale. I do understand there is cost, perhaps better than a regular consumer as I was a show promoter (event organiser who specialises in putting up concerts) of commercial music shows in Asia Pacific and I definitely understand the amount of financial investment involved in putting up a big show. I have never ventured into ticketing worship concerts even though I have been in worship ministry since I was 17 years old, not including years served in youth ministry as musician and worship leader. I could have “married” the commercial show promoter job with worship and put up worship concerts simply based on the skill sets I have. In an attitude of prayer and submission to the Holy Spirit, I present to you my conviction after years of struggle in prayer and studying of the Word.

UNDERSTANDING OF BIBLICAL WORSHIP

I will start from the basis that worship is not music, although music can be an expression of worship. I am not doing a word play here. Mark 7:6-7 quoted the Old Testament.

“And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’” – Mark 7:6-7

As you can see from this scripture passage, clearly worship has been offered through their mouth, which can be prayer or songs, but it is not acceptable worship to God. It is the heart that God is after, not the outward appearance or audible sound. Biblical worship is a heart attitude and not a genre of music. Not just in Christianity, but humanity understands worship as offering something of value to please a supreme being to gain favour.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” – Romans 12:1 (NASB)

The New Testament in Romans 12:1 gives an imagery of believers coming before God and presenting ourselves as sacrifices before God. The world’s understanding of worship is to offer God something to get something in return. Biblically it is the opposite. We offer God ourselves in worship because God first reached out to us and blessed us. Romans 11:33-36 gives the reason why Paul wrote 12:1. Biblical worship is a response to God when we catch a glimpse of His greatness and know in the depths of our hearts that He is worthy.

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” – Romans 11:33-36

Worship is sacred. Sacred not as in religious sacred that is bound by religiosity but sacred as in one that is set apart and precious. Our accessibility to enter God’s presence to worship cost Jesus everything by becoming the sacrifice. The price to worship is fully paid in Christ. The value and significance of worship founded in this act is more than sufficient to consider worship sacred. If someone gives you a gift that saved your life while costing his own, you will consider that gift sacred, of a completely different standing from your other gifts and things. This gift in your heart is set apart, precious and cannot be compared with anything else. Same for the work of Christ on the cross. Worship is something that money cannot buy as someone has paid the price that I can never afford.

So how does ticketed worship concerts align with Biblical worship?  I can see two major areas that provided sufficient conviction for me to not thread into this.

1. Heart Attitude

Ticketing worship is sale of worship. I understand that some Christian events, a nominal ticket fee is charged for commitment to attend to ease logistics and operations planning and is affordable to most, if not all. Here I am referring to ticket prices similar to a normal commercial concert ticket price, which then implies the decision of price is for profit as a commercial concert would. For ticket holders who paid commercial rates, it is no difference to a sale transaction as compared to a commercial concert. With the commercialisation of attending worship concerts, a mindset of consumerism is encouraged. Since I pay for it, I should get pleasure out of it. This heart attitude completely contradicts Biblical worship of coming to give to God rather than to receive. Of course there are individuals who attend worship concerts who genuinely wants to worship God and their heart attitude are to give to God. I am referring to a system that encourages and promotes a mindset of consumerism worship (if there is such a phrase as it is a complete oxymoron). Perhaps right now we do not see the effects, but 5-10 years down the road, Biblical worship will be further from the next generation than ever.

This part is directed to events organizers and spiritual leaders who are doing or want to do worship concerts. I completely understand and empathise the enormous financial investment in putting an event together similar to commercial shows where there is tremendous stress throughout the promotion until box office announces “sold out”. Even then, cost management is a huge priority. Biblically we teach people to tithe and give offering. Nowadays I hear worship concert organisers say that we need to educate people to pay for the worship concerts for you do not muzzle the ox that works for you. I truly believe that the sound and lights guys, and all the staff who are professionally putting in their time, effort and skills need to be paid. Yet worship is based on sacrifice and not a charge. Here we have a dilemma. This is where the Kingdom of God works differently from the system of the world! When the Lord graces His manifested presence to touch and minister to His people in a worship gathering, He will move the hearts of people to give sufficiently, and even more than expected, than what is needed to put the event together. This is the part where faith comes in and only through faith do we please God. The heart of David is such that he will not offer God anything that cost him nothing. As event organizers and spiritual leaders, may I challenge you that in your heart’s desire to bring the body of Christ together in worship, be the first to put that worship offering in front of the altar of God by trusting in His provision to pay for the sacrifice of worship that he has put in your heart, knowing that Jesus did it already? With this posture, the decision to do an event will be based on seeking God for His will and not based on popularity or financial viability.

2. Focus

A ticketed worship blurs the focus. My first question is who is the focus here, God or the worship band? The worship band may not have the intention of being worshipped and have their eyes on God, but the system has put the worship band right in the forefront to attract people to come for the event. The motivation to gather is not Jesus Christ, but the band. I believe the motivation says a lot about who is the focus of worship in a situation as such.

I heard testimonies of salvations from the concerts, and people have been more opened to Christianity. This openness is to the Christianity that was presented on stage in the glitz and blitz, but when they find out about the hard teachings of Jesus, will they still be open? Same for the salvations. It is no difference from a misrepresentation of the Gospel’s call to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. I, on the other hand, believe that God can turn their hearts around to genuine conversions as He is God who can turn everything and anything around. I rejoice in these salvations and God encounters during these events. Once again, hear my heart, I am pointing to a system that in itself distracts people’s attention from God and by no means downplaying what God can do.

I am going to reiterate that I do not discount the testimonies from worship concerts and I praise God for touching the lives of people. I am referring to a system that is counter Biblical worship and subconsciously instilling values and mindset that are not aligned to God’s. We may not see the effects now but we will see it in the next generation which might take a generation or more to be realigned.

Writing this on my blog is also a constant reminder to myself that I will keep worship sacred in my life and pray that this will be a checker lest I slip or deviate.

Crowder – Lift Your Head Weary Sinner (Chains)

Lift Your Head Weary Sinner (Chains)
Lift your head weary sinner the river’s just ahead
Down the path of forgiveness salvation’s waiting there
You built a mighty fortress 10,000 burdens high
Love is here to lift you up, here to lift you high

If you’re lost and wandering
Come stumbling in like a prodigal child
See the walls start crumbling
Let the gates of glory open wide

All who’ve strayed and walked away, unspeakable things you’ve done
Fix your eyes on the mountain, let the past be dead and gone
Come all saints and sinners, you can’t outrun God
Whatever you’ve done can’t overcome the power of the blood

If you’re lost and wrecked again
Come stumbling in like a prodigal child
See the walls start crumbling
Let the gates of glory be open wide

This song hit me when I first listened to it. First drawn by the grungy banjo to a rhythm that lifts my spirit. So many times I feel so drained that I want to give up, not able to see when refreshment is going to come. Such an apt reminder of the river of God is just up ahead. I am so guilty of the 10,000 burdens high fortress that locks me in from outside aid. It is time for love to lift me up, up beyond this fortress and burdens.

The concept of outrunning God sounds absurd but in human’s foolishness, I do find myself trying to run away from God as I am not willing to submit to His ways. Like a cat chasing its own tail, our running is almost on the spot and never get far. Time to yield to God’s ways!

Love the fresh perception about overcoming. We always talk about overcoming evil and sin, but often times I am trapped due to my weaknesses. A shift in focus that the power of Jesus’ blood cannot be overcome definitely changes the power and authority of the blood during times of weakness.

So let us all stumble back into God’s presence like a prodigal child and let the gates of glory be open wide!!

Changsha 2015

This year our Changsha trip is just before summer holidays rather than the usual before school reopens in Spring. Three of us, Nic, Wilson and myself set off on 2 July (Thu) while Ps Ronald & Howard (translator) set off on 7 July. It was very heart warming to see familiar faces of brothers and sisters in Christ who have the same love for our Lord Jesus!

The key and primary focus was the 4.5 days Praise and Worship Summer camp in Hunan Bible Institute on Sat, Mon-Thu. This was the first trip that we ministered in a church, Cheng Bei Tang as we arrived slightly earlier due to flight schedule of the airlines. Cheng Bei Tang is is more than a century old church, with more than 1000 members. Their worship ministers, inclusive of worship leaders, musicians, vocalists and choir members are almost 100, but those who were able to attend amounted to around 60.

It has been less than a year since I have been back and there are so many significant changes. The church that worships in Hunan Bible School building now has youths involved in their praise and worship. The youngest participant in our camp is 9 years old! Besides training the students in the Bible School who will be pastors and leaders of churches, it warms my heart that even the teens in church is rising up too!

Another unexpected event was the salvation of six people at a praise and worship service on Sunday night. The praise and worship service was not evangelistic in nature. Little did we know that our Sunday afternoon worship and fun time at the river will reap the soul of one into the Kingdom and also others.

Teaching basic keyboard within 3 afternoons to a class of students who has never played before is a crazy challenge! On Sat afternoon, there were quite a number of senior ladies who had zero concept of music what more than play. I took a long while to help them find the note C on the keyboard. I went on to teach basic chords in C major even though some of them were not able to play. I focused on getting them to understand so that they can practise. To my amazement, on Monday afternoon, the ladies came back and were able to play the C progressions and even do simple accompaniment! They practised hard on Sunday, this I am sure! By the end of the third day, they were able to play a full song in C major in very simple accompaniment!

I am also very glad to be present for the year 3 students’ graduation. I got to see most of them before they leave the Bible school back to their respective home towns or placement. Only a small percentage remains in Changsha city. This graduating batch has a good number of talents in praise and worship. I pray that God will use them mightily in the places that He has placed them.

It was also unknown to us that the Sunday we were in Changsha is the first service of Xing Sha Tang. a church plant in the Xing Sha area of Changsha. The church’s building is right across this temporary meeting space and its hall can sit up to 2500 people, not including the overflow room capacity! The Hunan Bible School will also be moving to the same compound when it is ready. We led worship for the first service and witness the goodness of God in bringing double the expected number of 20 people!

All I can say is that God is soooo good and I believe He has more things under His sleeves to bless Changsha city, Hunan Province and the whole of China!

12-Hour CHIJMES Worship Reflections

12-Hour Worship Poster12-Hour Worship Flyers

It all started in mid-April when one of the worship leaders for CHIJMES Worship suggested to me that we should do a 12-Hour worship in CHIJMES Hall. Perhaps on Vesak Day 13 May 2013. Although my heart and spirit were excited about it, but my mind was uncertain as the CHIJMES Hall is usually fully booked on weekends and public holidays. The miracle of the 12-Hour CHIJMES Worship started.

  1. I went to check the bookings of CHIJMES Hall and realised it was actually available on Vesak Day. I knew the Lord has blocked it for His use.
  2. The management of CHIJMES approved and supported the 12-Hour CHIJMES Worship and provided the resources needed.
  3. The miracle of gathering 12 worship leaders (and teams) for each hour within a week was definitely a confirmation for me that is was of God! I was jittery whether we can get that many worship leaders in such a short time for something so new. Good worship leaders are often hard to gather as they are usually so busy with ministry in their church. In a week we had 12 amazing worship leaders with such passion for the Lord in place!
  4. With only two weeks to publicise the event, it blows my mind to see the hall filled with people. This was the greatest concern of CHIJMES management of how to get the news to the Christian community in such a short time. At about 8.30am there were small groups of people who were already waiting for the worship to start! This is something that I never expect at all! We started with only 100 chairs in the morning, we added 20 chairs in the afternoon, and another 40 chairs in the late afternoon! There were people standing at the sides where no chairs were placed as well. I am amazed. I believe many are thirsty and hungry for more in this city.

Worshippers @ 12-Hour Worship

I was reluctant to lead a slot with all the organising and coordination going on. Yet, in the end, the 8-9pm slot was left open and I knew I had to take it. The first person I had in mind was Chitrani, a cellist, whom I used to worship together. We haven’t played and worship for a while. Amazingly, she replied almost immediately. It was on the evening when she arrived that she told me she spent 10 years of her primary & secondary school years in this actual CHIJMES compound. It broke her heart that CHIJMES became commercial years back. To be able to worship in the Hall where she used to have chapel services brings back so much memories for her. This is one big miracle that only God can orchestrate!

Being led by different worship leaders with different styles and team, the Lord showed me how diverse yet unified His body is. The expression of worship, even in music, can be so varied, yet the Lord is among us in all the worship. In joyful jubilation, in quiet meditation, and in faith filled declarations, I felt God’s tangible presence. The morning (9am-1pm) was a desperate invitation for the glory of God and I felt the first wave of God’s glory fell. The afternoon (1pm-6pm), there was a peace and stillness that fell upon the people with an uplifting of hearts. The evening (6pm-9pm) was another wave of outpouring of shekinah glory and empowering. I know that God was tangibly present in the Hall as the atmosphere was charged.

I stand amazed at what God put together. There was no direct church support except thirsty and hungry hearts of individuals who want to worship and bless God in the city. This is only a small event and God is able to do greater and bigger things than this. I am a small conduit in which He chose to work through. Through this, my faith is greatly enlarged. To God be the glory!

Unless the Lord builds the houseThey labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain.” – Psalm 127:1


 

Changsha 长沙 2013 Part 2/2

Three of us, Nic, Manson & Pauline, set off the Changsha on 31 August 2013 to conduct a summer worship camp for the students of Hunan Bible Institute (HBI). An invitation to lead worship and share a message at Bei Zhen Jie Church in Changsha came on Wed (4 Sept) for Fri (6 Sept). We agreed to do it with very little preparation. Praise the Lord for the hour worship and a message that God used. Although our schedule is very packed, we did have our share of fun and sights in the city too! God is good!

Changsha 长沙 2013 – Part 1/2

Three of us, Nic, Manson & Pauline, set off the Changsha on 31 August 2013 to conduct a summer worship camp for the students of Hunan Bible Institute (HBI). It was such a blessed time to see how the students have grown over the last 3 years. I didn’t plan to do any videos but thank God for the few who diligently videoed and passed us the videos. Such fond memories. Praise the Lord!

Soaking Tour from Herrnhut to Jerusalem

I was in Herrnhut, Germany and then to Jerusalem in July 2013. The focus was to “dig” into the presence of God in these places. Herrnhut is where the Moravians kept prayer watch for 100 years after a revival under the leadership of Count Zinzendorf and Christian David. Jerusalem is a city that is most mentioned in the Biblical that pertains to the historical, present and prophetic understanding and destiny of believers of Jesus Christ.

Hope you enjoy the video!

Pushing Through Soaking

June is a time to complete things.

God is bringing healing to many people who have suffered from “hope deferred” (Proverbs 13:12) or what I call prophetic disappointments. July through the end of the year will be a time of “promises fulfilled”. Many things that God has promised you will begin to take shape. We will see lots of movement and relocation.

That being said, June is a time of closure for an old season that is coming to an end. Tie up loose ends, make preparations, and get ready to cross over to a new season starting in July.” – Doug Addison

This word hits me to the core as I can definitely identify with “hope deferred”. My life has been truncated by several significant sudden events that the automatic coping mechanism shuts down all hope. The promises of God are buried, dead.

A few months ago, the Lord puts in my heart the thought of going to Herrnhut, Germany and Jerusalem, Israel to spend time worshipping and praying in these significant places with rich spiritual heritage. It is to SOAK in the spiritual atmosphere where there are open heavens. It is to drink from the waters of these deep wells to be refreshed and renewed once again for the new season ahead. To shake off the dust, wash up and face the future with the confidence in God. It is amazing that this notion of almost impossibility is actually a reality with airtickets and schedule planned. God has been faithful to carry through the impossibles of this trip, for me and my prayer partner. We stand amazed by the power and grace of God through it all!

I am so excited about this trip. I have longed for a proper extended time-out with God. Setting off to the airport in less than 4 hours, my heart is bursting with restlessness in wanting to see what God has in store for me. Yet, another part of me is anxious about things I find it hard to let God at home. O God give me the faith and trust that I need to be fully at rest in You.

I will be spending time at YWAM Herrnhut (http://mission-live.com/) and Succat Hallel in Jerusalem (http://www.succathallel.com/). Just time with the God and His people to let Him speak and fill. I will write more as I learn from the Lord.

Keep well and God bless!