Mount of Temptation – Jericho

I was leading a group in Israel and Jordan and one of the sites we visited was Mount of Temptation – Jericho. We entered into Jericho in the evening of 7 Dec, a day after Trumph’s announcement of acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Jericho is Palestine and not Israel. The streets in Jericho were quiet as there was an economic protest where all shops and restaurants were closed. I have been to Jericho many times and this silence was unusual.

Somehow the silence reminded me of the silent march of the Israelites around the ancient city of Jericho. We did not go to take over the city neither were we on the march. Yet the silence in the streets indicated that something was to come. In the Biblical story it was conquering the Promised Land. We were there to see the land. ūüėä On 8 Dec after we left Jericho early morning, protest and demonstrations broke out in Palestine, including Jericho. Thank God for His divine protection and timing for everything.

‚ÄúWhen Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord‚Äôs covenant followed them. The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. But Joshua had commanded the army, ‚ÄúDo not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!‚ÄĚ So he had the ark of the Lord carried around the city, circling it once. Then the army returned to camp and spent the night there. Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the Lord and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets kept sounding. So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days. On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, ‚ÄúShout! For the Lord has given you the city! The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.‚ÄĚ When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it‚ÄĒmen and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.‚ÄĚ Joshua‚Ĩ ‚Ä≠6:8-21‚Ĩ ‚Ä≠NIV‚Ĩ‚Ĩ (emphasis mine)

On 7 Dec, our Jericho guide waited for almost 2hrs as we were late. Our itinerary was to head straight to Elisha Spring, Seed of Hope and to the hotel. Instead, without asking for our consent, he brought us to the foot of Mount of Temptation. Yes, there is a big shop right at the foot of Mount of Temptation. I was not too concern since shops were supposed to be close. A quick stop to see the mount from the base should not be a problem even though we were tight for time. When approaching, I saw the shutters of the shop down so there shouldn’t be any distraction. Guess what? The shop assistants came out in the dimly lit road with samples of dates and half the group were more interested in the dates than the significance of the Mount of Temptation. A side note, Jericho does produce good dates!

Mount of Temptation - Jericho<

was reminded of Achan who were tempted by the spoils of Jericho and secretly kept some despite God’s command against it. I find it rather interesting that the temptation of Jericho is still at work now, even in small things like dates and shopping. ūüėÖ

‚ÄúBut the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord‚Äôs anger burned against Israel.‚ÄĚ Joshua‚Ĩ ‚Ä≠7:1‚Ĩ ‚Ä≠NIV‚Ĩ‚Ĩ

I believe it is a personal warning God has for me this season even as I have come out of the wilderness and the first battle of “Jericho” comes with temptation in the most unexpected manner. Temptation is waiting in the dark corner to spring a surprise offer that I might not be prepared to resist. The spoils of the first battle, just like the first fruit, belongs to the Lord. Don’t even think about touching them as the consequences will be dire, just like the battle of Ai.

I pray that myself or anyone of us will not fall prey to such temptations. Let us fix our eyes on our Lord Jesus lest we be distracted.

Spiritual Weight Issues

The reading of the Word is a very important discipline in our spiritual growth – often referred to as feeding. Let me first established why the Word, i.e. the Bible, is referred to as spiritual food. In John 6:48, Jesus declared the second time after v.35, “I am the¬†bread¬†of¬†life.” This life refers to the spiritual life. If we examine the context of the book of John, in John 1:14 the relationship between Jesus and the Word was established, “And¬†the Word¬†became flesh, and¬†dwelt among us, and¬†we saw His glory, glory as of¬†the only begotten from the Father, full of¬†grace and¬†truth.¬†So in summary:

Word –> Flesh (Jesus) –>¬†Bread of Life (spiritual food)

Measure of Maturity

The analogy of a new believer as an infant taking milk, a softer spiritual diet can be found in 1 Cor 3:2 and 1 Pet 2:2.¬†I find Heb 5:13-14 an interesting verse on the type of diet signifying the growth stage of the person, “For everyone who partakes only¬†of¬†milk¬†is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”¬†What is the word of righteousness? Just like how we have length and height measurements for babies & children to chart their growth, the answer to this question is key to knowing how to gauge spiritual maturity. Righteousness is lived out in relation to others around us as it deals with how we treat others – our speech and actions. It is a practice, i.e. doing, with a constant choice of good and evil. ¬†So the measure of maturity is the outworking of the Word. Just like a child, it is not the measure the quantity of milk and food it takes to gauge healthy growth but the¬†processing & assimilation of the intake to the body.

Underweight

Spiritual Weight IssuesAs the term underweight suggests, this condition means there is insufficient or no food intake. This describes the spiritual condition of a child of God who never or hardly feeds on the Word. I have friends who will take photos of mouth-watering food but never take a bite of it due to various reasons. The photo was for social media, i.e. to show others, and not for personal consumption. We can have food laid out before us, but if we do not put it into our mouths, chew and let it go into our body, the food has nothing to do with us. If I read the Bible out of obligation or sat through a church sermon glazed and dazed, without the Scriptures getting into my system, I am not feeding.  As you can imagine, in such a situation, my spiritual weight will be like a stick figure, frail and weak. Perhaps so malnutrition for some that the stick man cannot even stand.

Indigestion

stick-figure-pain-bad-43830486This is another extreme.¬†It is not difficult to overeat in Singapore, both in the physical and perhaps in the spiritual too. There is no shortage of teachings, preachings, and testimonies, be it through churches, online resources, and/or seminar/conferences. Most of us have more books, CDs, MP3s then we can keep up. We keep stuffing ourselves thinking that¬†this will help us grow. Yes, to a certain extent. Just like our physical bodies,¬†any amount over and above what our body needs, overfeeding will first lead to indigestion. Bloatedness with gas with discomfort and the food that is supposed to be good for us becomes a burden to our system. I am reminded of Paul’s wisdom¬†1 Cor 8:1b “Knowledge¬†makes arrogant, but love¬†edifies.” I love NKJV’s translation “Knowledge puffs up”. It gives the image of gas and air,¬†putting up a false image of being well-fed and perhaps to growth but the person is still as skinny as a stick figure.

Obesity

7936195

Continual stuffing eventually leads to a build up of excessive nutrients and fats causing obesity. You need a big quantity of food for each meal and will starve if the intake does not match up. Yet this hunger is not healthy. In fact, this is killing the body. Spiritually this can be true too. You are still feeding and having a larger appetite for the Word than ever before. Without an active lifestyle and workout, the excess food becomes fats weighing us down that we cannot even walk or run properly, as good as a dead person without the intended use of the body. While feeding can be a very fulfilling process, sweat and burn it off so that you can take more to keep a healthy spiritual weight, light enough to sprint and run a marathon but enough fuel to keep the body in good shape for the long haul. May we all develop good and strong spiritual muscles by doing the teachings of the Word!

I leave you with the wisdom from James.

James 2:14-26

14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, ‚ÄúGo in peace, be warmed and be filled,‚ÄĚ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

18 But someone may well say, ‚ÄúYou have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.‚ÄĚ 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‚ÄúAnd Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,‚ÄĚ and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

Make Friends through Worldly Wealth

Make Friends Through Worldly Wealth

‚ÄúAnd I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings. ‚ÄĚ – Luke‚Ĩ ‚Ä≠16:9 ‚Ä≠NASB‚Ĩ‚Ĩ

This verse¬†has always been a challenge in understanding the heart of what Jesus was trying to get at as it looks contradictory to many of His teachings. The image of the command to “make friends by means of wealth of unrighteousness is what the prodigal son did. It is only the last week that the Holy Spirit helped me to finally understand what Jesus was driving at.¬†I believe unrighteous wealth refers to worldly wealth rather than wealth that is gained by scrupulous means. Worldly wealth is unrighteous as¬†they are not of God and they will not exist in the eternal kingdom of God.

It is interesting to note that Jesus just before this command states one attribute that His followers do not match up to the world – shrewdness. “…for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.‚ÄĚ – Luke‚Ĩ ‚Ä≠16:8‚Ĩb NASB.‚Ĩ‚Ĩ These were teachings based on the parable of the Unjust Steward who used his shrewdness to safeguard his own future after he was caught mismanaging his master’s wealth. He safeguarded himself by giving favors to make friends through his position as the steward at the expense of his master.

I see a parallel that Jesus is drawing, the earth bound servant versus the sons of light, i.e. believers. A servant who is concerned about his worldly future makes use of his limited time to ensure a life he wanted ahead. We as sons of light have an eternal future to look forward to and there are ways to lay up treasures in heaven while here on earth. Eternity definitely is a stronger cause of action than the less than 100 years of earthly life. If it is so, it does not make sense that the sons of light are not making full use of their worldly wealth that are given to them to lay up heavenly treasures.

Jesus implies in verse 9 that the heavenly treasures in this context are the friends gained through worldly wealth. I have read many commentaries on this verse for the second part “they will receive you into the eternal dwellings” and somehow the understanding did not sit within me completely although I can see where they are coming from. In some Bible translations, a footnote is used to explain “they” means “you”, referring to the believer who will enter into heaven.

Here’s my understanding of verse 9 after a whole lot of re-reading of the chapter, meditation and asking the Lord. “They” refers to the friends gained through worldly wealth. These friends are able to welcome the believer into heaven because they become believers themselves. The worldly wealth was a bait for a greater purpose – the Great Commission. The bait is used with genuine love for these friends and not selfish gains. The treasures in heaven is not worldly wealth but people whom we love in this world. This reminds me of Apostle Paul’s declaration that “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.‚ÄĚ ‚Ä≠‚Ä≠1 Corinthians‚Ĩ ‚Ä≠9:22b‚Ĩ ‚Ä≠NASB‚Ĩ‚Ĩ

A word of caution was given by Jesus after this statement ending with two distinct choices – God or mammon. World wealth is not our master but Lord Jesus Christ. Worldly wealth is a tool given by the Lord to further His kingdom through us. Jesus is not giving us a negative example or a model to learn shrewdness through the parable. Instead He wants us to see the poverty of our intentional living on earth as compared to one who has only earthly goals. A sobering thought to consider with a warning to have God as god and not the tool of worldly wealth.

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” – Luke 16:1-13

I pray that all of us have a company of friends in heaven waiting for us and we in turn wait for many more to join us!

Jacob – the Blessed Wrestling Schemer

JACOB-3For many years, I find it hard to reconcile Jacob’s¬†blessings and his scheming ways. I am a firm believer that the end does not justify the means and the life of Jacob seems to suggest otherwise. The recent weeks,¬†Jacob is once again brought into focus.

Jacob was grabbing hold of Esau’s¬†heel at birth¬†(Gen 25:26). This was why he was named Jacob, meaning “he catches by the heel, i.e. he supplants”. These twin brothers were already at war within the womb, causing their mother Rebekah much distress (Gen 25:22).¬†The first¬†round winner was Esau as he emerged firstborn of the womb, pushing himself out¬†before Jacob. This is not surprising¬†as Esau was possibly stronger physically,¬†who grew up to be a hunter.¬†The fight did not stopped there. Jacob still wanted to be¬†the firstborn. He¬†quickly bagged in the win for round two when he traded his bowl of red lentil soup for¬†the birthright of Esau. The final victory was with the aid of his mother Rebekah. Jacob deceived his own father, Isaac, and received the firstborn blessing. Very unorthodox means of getting to the ends which are hard to¬†accept as acts that lead to blessings.

God did not intervene in any of these sibling rivalry. Some people believed that it is already ordained for Jacob to be blessed so God chose not to intervene. If it is ordained, all the more there is no need for Jacob to do what he did as the prophecy will come to pass without him helping God in such manner. Surely there are consequences to sin, even King David lost a son because of his adultery and murder after his genuine repentance. Why is Jacob favoured despite his scrupulous actions?

“His heart.”

This was from a still, soft voice within that I wanted to brush off as ridiculous. Yet there was a solid and deep truth that I cannot dismiss flippantly. Surely God looks at the heart and how can it be that a scheming man has a good heart? It was almost like a court room within me and I was a prosecutor of Jacob whom I never met! It is of course a losing battle in this court room and out of it, I learnt a precious lesson.

Jacob’s heart was fixed on eternal blessings and never swayed by the present. He knew what was valuable and precious – the birthright and firstborn blessings of his father. It was out of the deep longings of his heart that¬†he took every opportunity to grab hold of them. ¬†This same longing of the heart¬†was seen in how he was willing to work another 7 years for Rachel after being cheated to marry Rachel’s sister. The final fight was at Bethel. His fight for eternal blessings which only the Lord can offer. It¬†left him with a limp¬†but with a new name and locked him into his eternal blessed destiny. This encounter¬†ended Jacob’s trail of scheming narratives as I believed his heart was finally filled to the brim by God. This was his destiny.

His trickery of both the birthright and firstborn blessings led to his exile from the house, a fugitive. He did not enjoy the blessings¬†he schemed for during those years. A man who was described as “a¬†peaceful man,¬†living in tents” (Gen 25:27 NASB)¬†now found himself cast into the “wild world” and in the open field to shepherd sheep even though he was still under the protection of his extended family. A modern day drastic career change will be from¬†a computer guy¬†to a construction worker overnight.¬†The birthright to his father’s¬†inheritance was with Esau since¬†he was on the run. This does not look like the blessed life he fought¬†for. Having to leave home is the consequence of his scheming ways.

Rather than seeing him as a cold-blooded man, Jacob was a hot-blooded man fixated on what his heart’s desires.¬†He pursued hard and even prevailed against God. It is interesting that the Bible described him as peaceful and some versions use the word “complete” for a schemer. Peaceful perhaps meaning that he does not shed blood as compared to Esau who is a hunter. The description of Jacob was not negative.¬†His name that describes him as a supplanter is not a negative word¬†in military terms but one of strategy. Comparing Jacob’s heart attitude¬†with how Esau despised his birthright, Jacob’s thirst made him¬†the man whom God used to bless the nations.

Do I desire God’s blessings enough to contend with Him throughout the night, knowing that I would never prevail? I wish I can give a loud yes but in full honesty, my prayer would be¬†“God give me the portion you have for me”. The thought of¬†putting up a fight with the Lord for blessings would never crossed my mind. This sounds like a very submissive and obedient prayer¬†but is this a true reflection of my heart? Maybe it is a coverup. Perhaps I dare not believe that God will give me the desires of my heart or that He has my interests covered. If it is so, then I am not¬†honest with Him with my heart. Or I know that the desires of my heart are not aligned to his? Whichever is the case, the hypocrisy of my heart is revealed. Jacob, despite his immature and unorthodox ways, was true to his heart and to God, believed in it and walked it.

This is a repentance call for me.¬†It is so easy for my heart to be¬†distracted and won out, hiding behind the word “resignation to God’s will” when the tough gets going or I am swimming against the tide. The fear of¬†failure holds me back from engaging the Lord in a wrestle¬†for blessings. It is not about winning, but it is a matter of how desperate¬†do I want it. Jacob set his heart on¬†the blessings of God and this gave God the opening to correct his ways, repent and change. So the key is to set my heart towards God and with that, He can do His work within me so that His¬†promised destiny for me can be fulfilled as He moulds and shapes me along the way.

Defining The Tabernacle of David ‚Äď Word Study

Defining The Tabernacle of David ‚Äď Word Study
Born and bred in an urban city, tent is not a common sight for me. Since the topic is about the Tabernacle of David, I feel the need to understand tabernacle better. I am no Hebrew and Greek scholar but the lexicon is usually a good starting point.

I will start from the New Testament since there is only one verse with the mention of Tabernacle of David. The Greek word for Tabernacle in Acts 15:16 is Skene (ŌÉőļő∑őĹő∑, Strong‚Äôs Number: 4633). Skene is defined as a ‚Äútent, tabernacle (made of green boughs, or skins or other materials)‚ÄĚ, and also ‚Äúthe movable temple of God after the pattern of which the temple at Jerusalem was built‚ÄĚ. In Acts 7:43-44, skene was the Tabernacle of Moses. In Rev 13:6; 15:5 and 21:3, skene is used in the context of after the judgments. There is no difference in words used for the Tabernacle of Moses and Tabernacle of David.

The Old Testament Hebrew has more vocabulary for tabernacle than Greek and English.

The word ‘ohel (◊ź◊Ē◊ú, Strong’s Number: 0168) is frequently used for the Tabernacle of Moses in Exodus. ‘ohel means a nomad‚Äôs tent, a dwelling, home and habitation. Even though it is nomadic and mobile, it functions as a long-term dwelling, a home. The Tabernacle of Moses withstood 40 years of wilderness wandering and entered the Promised Land! It was definitely highly durable and permanent.

A different Hebrew word is used for Tabernacle of David in Amos 9:11, which is the key Old Testament verse. The Hebrew word for tabernacle in Amos 9:11 is Cukkah (◊ô◊õ◊õ◊Ē Strong‚Äôs No: 05521). Cukkah is a booth, ‚Äúa rude or temporary shelter‚ÄĚ. The Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths (Lev 23:33-43) uses the same Hebrew word, Cukkah. The people of Israel are commended to build temporary booths or tabernacles and live under the Cukkah during the seven days of the feast. The Feast of Tabernacles is mentioned in Zec 14, which wrote about The Day of the Lord, which is commonly interpreted as the final Judgment Day. The passage of Zec 14:16-21 prophesied that the Feast of Tabernacles will be celebrated after the Day of the Lord. Even though Cukkah is temporary in its physical nature, God has a long-term purpose¬†for Cukkah.

Here lies the paradox. The extremely durable Tabernacle of Moses was not required after Jesus established the New Covenant¬†but the rude temporary Cukkah of David¬†has a purpose beyond its durability. Interestingly, ‘ohel is used in Isa 16:5 for the Tabernacle of David in the context of final judgment by the One, referring to the Messiah.

Physically, the Cukkah being a temporary tent requires restoration over time, especially for the Day of the Lord. Yet, is the restoration just the physical tent? Since it is meant to be temporary, restoration of the physical tent will be challenging and replacing it might be a better solution. If the restoration work is not only referring to the physical tent, what does it then refer to? We can only restore what we know. The definition of the Tabernacle of David that is to be restored is not found in a word study. So a Biblical study is needed to understand this.

A side note: The Tabernacle built by Moses was not called the Tabernacle of Moses in the Bible but the Tabernacle of the Lord. I will use the Tabernacle of Moses as most of us understand this phrase but thought I will point out that only the Tabernacle of David was named after the builder in the Bible.

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, ‚ÄúRightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:¬†‚ÄėThis 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.‚Äô” – 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!