Kingdom 44

In Kingdom 31, I said I tried to do an overview of what I had covered up to that point but I found it too difficult to do it within a 10 – 15 minutes audio clip, so I decided against it. But I’ve had 2nd thoughts about that. A few days ago, just as I was waking up in the morning, I think the Lord reminded me of a time when I was a young lawyer arguing a case in court for a client.

In that hearing, the judge was really against me. No matter what I said and how hard I tried, arguing this way and that way, I could not convince the judge. His mind was closed. Finally he interrupted me and told me he didn’t want to hear me anymore. It was obvious he had already decided the case against my client. It was very disheartening because I was very sure the law and the facts were on our side but just as I was about to sit down, there was something in me that refused to give up and I asked the judge if he would give me another minute – just 1 more minute to summarise all my points of argument. He looked really impatient and totally switched off but surprisingly he said, “I have already made up my mind but OK, I am giving you just 1 more minute.”

So I quickly summarised all my arguments into 3 succinct points. But after I stated the 3rd point, the judge suddenly sat up and he had this puzzled look on his face. He said, “Hang on. What did you just say? Repeat your 3rd point to me.” So I repeated my 3rd point slowly and deliberately to make sure he did not miss anything. He wrote down word for word what I said. Then he was in deep thought for a while. Finally he looked up and he asked the lawyer for the other side for his reply to the point I just made. The guy fumbled for an answer but he really had no answer because the law and the facts were so clearly in my client’s favor. Then the judge wrote something in his file and looked up at us and he gave judgment in favour of my client. What a dramatic reversal at literally the last minute.

I did not say anything new in the summary actually, but for some reason, somehow the judge did not catch what I had said earlier. But when I reduced everything into 3 succinct points, he suddenly woke up to realize what I had been trying so hard to tell him for half an hour. I guess it might be same in this Kingdom series. We can miss some key points amongst the mass of material I’ve covered, right?  Another thing that might have been difficult to follow is the route, I took from Kingdom 1 to Kingdom 43. How did I get from Kingdom 1 where I started to talk about the good news as the good news of the Kingdom, to Kingdom 43 about being yoked to Jesus?

I don’t know who this is going to help, but I hope it will be helpful. So this is what I’m going to do. For the rest of this segment, I will do a very brief 5-6 minutes, no more than 7 minutes run through of how I got from Kingdom 1 to Kingdom 43. This is not an overview of key points but just a look back at how A led to B, and B led to C and C led to D and so on. And then after that, in Kingdom 45 and 46, I will do an overview of what I’ve covered from Kingdom 1 – 43. Then in Kingdom 47, I will start on the 3rd part of these series to talk about working with God for His Kingdom to advance.

OK, so how did I get from the good news as the good news of the Kingdom, to talking about being yoked to Jesus? I started with this – we must wake up to what the Bible tells us so clearly – that the good news is the Kingdom. Not salvation to go to heaven.  God created man and gave him dominion to rule the earth but man lost that dominion to the devil. But the good news is that Jesus came to drive the devil out to take back authority and dominion over the earth and we can be a part of His Kingdom on earth. From the time Jesus first came, God is in the process of establishing His Kingdom on earth. He is restoring everything to what it was meant to be in the beginning so that we would be under His rule.  Jesus came not to take us to heaven but to save and rescue us from the kingdom of darkness to be in His kingdom. So salvation is not escape but restoration.

How will Satan be driven out and how is God’s Kingdom going to come? Answer : We have to surrender our kingdoms to Jesus and let Him be King, and Jesus has called us to work with Him to disciple nations with the truth, culture and values of God’s kingdom. So all of art, science, business, education, government, family .. everything .. everything is to be brought under the Lordship of Christ.  But how is that going to happen if Christians and churches are trapped in a “salvation from this world” worldview and a church-centric worldview? If we think God no longer has any concern for this world, then we will see everything in a dualism – where things like church, Bible study, and prayer are considered spiritual, but everything else is considered not spiritual, and spirituality is understood only as an invisible private thing inside a person. This is evident from the terrible statistics of poverty in the world, and the pathetic response of Christians and churches. I shared several heart-breaking stories as examples.

How did we get it so wrong? How did we miss the Kingdom when Jesus called the good news the good news of the Kingdom, but we thought it was only about salvation to go to heaven? How did we become so focused on making sure we are saved and getting to heaven with no concern for poverty and injustice and everything else in the world? I think it all began when man became his own god. That not only separated us from God, it made us self-centered. We are so self-centered that we filter everything, including the gospel and salvation and spirituality through our self-centered worldview spectacles. When we do that even spirituality becomes an introverted self-centered focus.

Jesus came to restore us to God’s original purpose why He created us – to be like Him, and to be one with Him, so that we can love as He loves. To love is to be centred on others, not on ourselves. For that to happen we must of course return to God and yield and surrender ourselves .. our self-centred selves to Him. That is really what Jn.3:16 is about. Restoration, not escape. But most Christians have missed that completely. Instead of seeing the true meaning of Jn.3:16, we are so focused on heaven and making sure we don’t miss the boat. Just like the priest and Levite who passed by on the other side, we completely turn a blind eye to needs around us. And we are so focused on church, church, church and church, we cannot see the Kingdom, and we cannot see God’s plan to restore His Kingdom on earth. Instead of church growth which is also self-focus, we need to work with God for His Kingdom to advance.

True spirituality is not an invisible private self-focused thing inside a person, or inside the 4 walls of the church, true spirituality is love. But the sin nature in us makes us naturally and hopelessly self-centered. So how can we love? Apart from God, we cannot really love. In fact Jesus said it is impossible and it is only God who can make it possible. How? When we become one with God, which of course can only happen when we yield and surrender our kingdoms to Him. And then we need to learn to receive His love so that we can love as He loves.

But the problem is this. No one will by themselves, of their own accord, go to God to receive His love, or be changed to become like Him. Why? Because we are naturally very self-sufficient. That is why for God to change us to become like Him, He allows trouble and suffering to break us. It is only when we are broken that we will go to Him to be healed and we will learn to receive His love. In fact, God designed us such that only He can fulfill our need for unconditional love, identity, and purpose, or security, self-worth and significance. If we are not getting it from God, then we will strive on our own to get it and we will crave for it from man. But we will end up frustrated. But when God’s love fills us, we will be healed and delivered from the grip of self. So Jesus calls all who are weary and burdened to stop striving on their own but to be yoked to Him instead. As we do that, and keep in step with Him, we can work with Him and rest in Him at the same time.

OK that was just to connect things together in a logical sequence. I hope it has been helpful. In the next 2 segments I will do an overview of the key points from Kingdom 1 – 43.

These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL  . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it.

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Kingdom 43

We were born independent of God and we are by nature independent of God. This independence is not only with those who are unbelievers, but also in us who are trying to serve God and trying to do what is right and good and necessary. But Jesus calls us to be yoked to Him, meaning not to work on our own. When we are yoked to Him, then we have to keep pace with Him and walk in tandem with Him. There are tremendous needs in the world and we need to work with the Lord for His truth and life to undo and reverse what the devil has done, but only the Spirit can establish God’s Kingdom. Unless God directs, all our cleverness and ideas are flesh. The ways of the world cannot do the work of the Spirit in people. We are to learn from Jesus moment to moment dependence on God doing only what His Father did. No striving. Working with Him but resting in Him at the same time.

In the previous clip I said there are 5 points we can note from what Jesus said in Matt.11:28-30. I’ve mentioned 3 points already. Before I get on to the 4th point, I think should mention that as I am talking about being yoked to Jesus, I am already touching on the 3rd part of this series which is about working with God for His kingdom to advance. I haven’t actually started on the 3rd part yet, because when we really get into the subject of working with God for His kingdom to advance, I will get into specifics, like what is poverty and how are we to work with God for His Kingdom to come to the poor, or how are we to love people, or what does it mean to be a witness for the Lord and to be agents of Kingdom transformation in the world today, especially in our workplaces. Right now as I am talking about being yoked to Jesus, and working from a position of rest, I am only touching on general principles about working with God.

OK, now the fourth point that we must note from what Jesus said. Jesus calls us to be yoked to Him, meaning not to work on our own. This should already be obvious but let me say it anyway because we are so prone to running ahead of Him and doing what we are sure is God’s will, isn’t it? We were born independent of God and we are by nature independent of God. This independence is not only with those who are unbelievers who live their lives in disregard of God, but this independence is also in us. In us who are trying to serve God and trying to do what is right and good and necessary.

I don’t know about you, but as you have heard me mention before, I am a horse sort of person and for many years I was running on my own steam trying very hard to save the world as it were. It has taken many years of breaking but I think after lot of painful breaking .. I think I am finally learning to be yoked to Him. So what does it mean to be yoked to Jesus? Well, when we are yoked to Him, then we have to keep pace with Him. Not pulling ahead of Him or lagging behind. When He takes one step, we take one step together with Him. When He takes two steps, we take two steps in tandem with Him. When He stops, we stop. Easy. No striving. No stress and anxiety. No hurry, nor any unnecessary delay. Whatever He decides is fine. When we are yoked to Him and work with Him, He said we will find rest for our souls. Why? Because when He is in control, and He is leading, we can rest in the assurance that He knows best. So we just let Him lead. We just follow.

BTW, when I say “easy”, that does not mean easy work. The work can be hard. Very hard. The world has been operating on more than 5000 years of lies and deception. The devil has wrecked havoc on this world. Millions and millions and billions of people are in deception. People have wrong and distorted ideas about God and about life. Many are not even sure if there is a God or who He is and what He’s like. So many have wrong ideas what they are living for or why they even exist. So many lives are in ruin physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. So much brokenness and division between people, even between ethnic groups and between the rich and the poor. The devil has been very successful at dividing people.

But 1 Jn.3:8 tells us that Jesus came to destroy what the devil has done. There’s so much that needs to be undone. So much death and destruction. So much poverty, human trafficking, crime, injustice, corruption, political abuse, broken families, addictions, materialism, and false religions. Jesus said the devil has come to steal, kill and destroy, but He came to give abundant life. So there is so much we are to work with Him for His truth and His life to come to reverse the death and destruction. Even just distortions of the truth and wrong ideas of spirituality among Christians and churches alone, is a massive thing to deal with.

The needs are tremendous. So it is not easy work. We are called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, so it will require a lot of our physical, mental, and emotional energy. But if we are yoked to Jesus, though the work may be hard, Jesus tells us that inside us we would be at rest. When we depend on Him to lead and direct us, we don’t have to figure out on our own how to go about the work, or to work on our own strength. Indeed we can’t. Only He knows exactly what is needed for each problem and for each situation. And only He can direct us and tell us what to do and how to do it.

We need to be reminded of this from time to time – in Jn.3:6 Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, but that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” In Jn.6:63, Jesus said, “It is the spirit that gives life. The flesh profits nothing.” God’s Kingdom can only be established by His Spirit. All our ideas and cleverness are just flesh. From the time I was a young believer the Lord had impressed this deeply into my heart that His ways are not our ways, and the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. It is futile and indeed foolishness if we think that we need to follow the ways of the world to attract people to Jesus. So many leaders nowadays are thinking what we need is more attractive programs, more powerful music, better sound systems and the latest electronic gadgetry. If Jesus were here with us today, do you think that’s what He would do to try and attract and win people to Him? That which is born of the flesh is flesh.

Step back for a moment and think about this. What does it take for someone to be born again? Jesus said he or she needs to be born of the Spirit. Now everything we see around us is created, right? Even angels who are invisible to us are created. There is only one thing or only One being in the universe who is uncreated – that’s God Himself and His eternal Spirit. What does it take for someone to have a spiritual birth? That which is uncreated and eternal has to come into a finite being and do something inside the person so that he will have an uncreated eternal nature within him.

Jesus said, “The wind blows where it will. You can hear its sound but you do not know where it comes from and where it goes to. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Who can have any control or any handle over the wind, or make it go this way or that way? In other words, spiritual birth is not something that finite flesh and finite ideas can bring out. As Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world”. God’s Kingdom does not come about through the ways of this world.

This is not only in spiritual birth but for anything and everything in the Kingdom. So whether we are talking to someone about Jesus, or we are counselling someone, or we are dealing with some practical issues, God alone knows exactly what the problem is, and what exactly is in the heart and mind of each person. Everything about his past, all his prejudices and bias, and what exactly will open his eyes to bring about a change of heart. Only He can show us how we are to go about doing anything that will have eternal value and eternal results. Right? Think about it.

Fifth point, note that Jesus also said “Learn from Me”, so we are to learn from Jesus how He Himself functioned. In Jn.5:19 Jesus said, ‘The Son can do nothing of His own except what He sees His Father doing. For what the Father does, the Son does also.” This reinforces what I mentioned earlier. Jesus walked step by step with His Father, doing only what His Father did. He also said that what He speaks is not His own but they were given Him by His Father. Not just what to say but how to say it. Amazing. That’s in Jn.12:49-50. Then He told us in Jn.20:21, “As the Father has sent Me, I send you”. So we are to walk with Him in the same way. Moment to moment dependence upon God.

When Jesus said “Learn from Me”, I believe it is not just learning from the examples of what we can read in the gospel records of how He functioned. I believe it is also really learning from Him in each situation we are in. Right now I mean. Moment by moment. Listening to His voice, sensing His heart. If we do that, although everything may be wrong and even in chaos around us, we are connected to Him. Yoked to Him. Keeping pace with Him. No striving. Resting in His love.

Lord we come to You. Help us Lord to keep coming to You. To come to You so much that it becomes natural .. that we will find we cannot live for even a moment without You. We want to be so yoked to You all the time and to rest in Your love. Teach us Lord. Forgive us that we are so slow at learning this. Teach us and do it in us Lord. Amen.

These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found herehttps://goo.gl/KN4JYL  . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it.

Kingdom 42

When we are not getting our security, self-worth and significance from God, then we will strive on our own to get it. But it will be very exhausting and frustrating. Jesus calls us instead to go to Him and be yoked to Him. When we are yoked to Him, though we would be working on the outside, we will be at rest inside. This is the faith that we are called to return to – resting in complete trust and abandonment upon God. We are to be yoked to Him, not anyone or anything else. When we are yoked to Him and resting in His love, we don’t have to strive to be loved and accepted or to be somebody to have an identity, and we will not be fearful of the future. Neither will we need to strive to bear fruit. We just need to remain in Jesus and we will bear fruit. We would function only according to what He designed us to be.

In Kingdom 40 and 41, I talked about God having designed us such that only He can meet our need for security, self-worth and significance. When we don’t realize this, we will strive on our own to feel secure and loved and accepted and to have our sense of identity and self-worth. So we set goals that we think will fulfill these needs in us, but when we feel our goals are blocked, or we feel uncertain about achieving our goals, or we feel incapable of achieving them, then we become angry, or anxious or ashamed. All very exhausting and frustrating. If we think about it, we will realize that all problems in human relationships, in fact all problems in the world, arise actually out of these unfulfilled needs inside of us.

If we are not to strive on our own, how then are we to function? This is what I want to focus on in this segment. In Matt.11:28-30 Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

What is this yoke and what is this rest? A yoke is a wooden harness that farmers put on two horses or oxen to pull the plough for tilling the soil on their farm. So when Jesus talks about being yoked to Him, there is work to be done. But how can there be work and rest at the same time? Sounds like a contradiction in terms, isn’t it?

I’ll come to the yoke later, but first, what is this rest that Jesus talks about? This rest I believe, is the rest that we will experience when our faith is in God, not in people, or things, or systems, or ourselves. You remember in Kingdom 22, I talked about the word “believe” in Jn.3:16? In the original Greek “believe” is “pisteuo”. Pisteuo is a verb which means to surrender, to yield, to abandon oneself in complete trust, and to rest upon. The noun of pisteuo is pistis, and in English it is translated as “faith”, which actually means the same thing. It’s just that it’s a noun instead of being a verb. So what does it mean to have faith in God? It is to be surrendered, and yielded and resting .. resting in complete trust and abandonment upon God.

This is the rest I believe Jesus is calling us to. When our rest or our faith is in God, not in people or systems, or things, or ourselves, then we will find in Him the security and love and sense of self-worth we need. This is what God originally intended us for – a life of total dependence upon Him. Constantly drawing life from Him. The picture Jesus gave us is the Vine and branches in Jn.15. We don’t have to strive to bear fruit. We just need to remain in Jesus and as His life and His Spirit lives in us, we will bear fruit.

What happens if I really know God’s love and I rest in His love? 3 things :

First, if I really know God’s love and I rest in His love, then I don’t have to do anything, or be anything, to earn His love, or anyone else’s love. It will no longer be important how others see me; whether they love me or accept me; and it doesn’t matter whether others misunderstand me or reject me. I know I am loved, and accepted and valued by God.

Second, when I know God loves me and I rest in His love, then I don’t have to try to be somebody to feel a sense of worth. God values me for who He created me to be, not in how well I can perform, right?

Third, when I know God loves me and I rest in His love, then I need not fear anything. I will not be fearful of my future. Nor will I need to strive to make things work in my favor. When God is my security, I know He will provide for all my needs and the needs of my family.

Actually I have more than 23 years of stories of how God has provided. Many years ago a dear sister who is like a spiritual mother to me said this to me. She said, “Eng Hoe, you know the miracle of finances you have been experiencing so many years is I think even more amazing than people being healed of cancer, because the problem of money, of how it grips us, is common to everyone. So you need to share your stories so that people can be set free of this fear.” Perhaps I might share my stories another time, but then again I might not because you know talking about money can so easily be misunderstood as prosperity teaching, ya?

The main thing I want to say is this. Knowing the Father’s love is everything. If we are to be in His Kingdom, I believe this is the first and most fundamental thing God wants us to know deep in our hearts.

And another thing, when we rest in His love, we will also get from Him our sense of worth and identity. Before Jesus started doing any preaching or teaching or healing, His Father said, “This is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased”. That’s the same way I believe we are to be in relation to Him. Resting in His love. Not a sense of duty like what the Jews had where they thought they had to do things to please God. Remember what Jesus said in Jn.15, “I no longer call you my servants. I call you My friends.”

But there’s one thing I must clarify. Rest does not mean no work. There is work to be done. Lots of work. While each of us need to rest in His love, it must be remembered that we were created to be fruitful and to multiply. In today’s contemporary language, I believe that means we were created to be productive. Although it is not how productive we can be that should give us a sense of significance or worth, nevertheless God is going to call us to account for the gifts and purpose and potential He created us for.

Acts 13:36 talks about David having served God’s purpose in his generation. So if we love God, we would also want to serve God’s purpose for us before our life is over, right? But we don’t have to figure out on our own what that is or try and achieve anything on our own. This is where we come back to the yoke that Jesus talked about.

There are five things I think we can note from what Jesus said. First, Jesus said, “Come to Me”. That means no formula. No technique. Not going to some prophet and asking him to lay hands on us. Or going to some meeting to catch the anointing there .. as some people put it. We have to go to Him.

Second, Jesus said, Take My yoke upon you”. He calls us to be yoked to Him. Not to be yoked to anyone or anything else. Over the years I have come across cases of people in burnout serving some very ambitious and hard driving leaders. That’s not only in the world but also in church and Christian ministry. Leaders lay unnecessary burdens on their people and put them on a guilt trip to reach out to more people, to save more souls, or to give more money to the church. Some actually shamelessly say it – they tell their people they need to work harder at improving the image of their church. They are putting their people under a yoke of slavery and playing god in the lives of their people. What they are doing is they are actually commanding worship from their people. The word “worship” comes from the word “worth”. To worship is to deeply value and give our worth to something. So what these leaders are doing is they are usurping God in the lives and in the hearts of their people. Let’s remember this – we are to be yoked to Jesus, not to anyone or anything else.

Third, when we are yoked to Him, He promises us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. That tells us that what He calls us to and lays on us is just what He made us for. Not something that is beyond us. Not what people or the world expects of us. Not things that are actually for others to be responsible for. So using the metaphor that Paul used in 1 Corinthians 12, the eye or the ear must function according to what they were made to be. It would not do for the eye or ear to try to do the work of the hand. And the hand must of course not try to do the work of the eye or the ear.

If we are really yoked to Him, He will reveal to us what He has designed us to be, and what part He has for each of us in His plans and purposes. We don’t have to try and figure it out on our own as to what we are to do, or where we are going to end up.

My time is up. I’ll continue with points 4, 5 and 6 in Kingdom 43.

These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found herehttps://goo.gl/KN4JYL  . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it.

Kingdom 41

Man has been operating on a lie from Satan that we can be more fulfilled by being independent of God. So we are trying to make life work without God. We want to be in control and we don’t want anyone to control us, not even God. But the more independent we want to be, the more we are moving away from God’s design and destroying ourselves. To the extent the basic needs of people are not met by God, they will experience emptiness, frustration, anxiety, fear, anger, shame and pain. When God is not at the center of our lives, and we are not experiencing His love, we get into self-preservation, self protection and self-defence. We become selfish, egotistic, proud and defensive, stubborn, dissatisfied, fearful, and we crave for the love, acceptance, approval and esteem of others. The only solution to man’s problem is to know God’s love. Then we will be delivered from the grip of self.

This is a continuation from Kingdom 40. In Jer.2:13, God told Jeremiah, “My people have committed two sins : They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Instead of looking to God and going to Him to fill their deepest needs, people are trying by self-effort to make their lives work. All their energies are channelled to preserve and protect themselves and serve their own interests. This really is the whole problem of man. Self-centeredness, self-sufficiency, self-determination, self-justification, self-righteousness, self-effort, and self-love.

Watchman Nee, another one of my favourite authors said that the most basic question in the universe is, “Who’s in charge?” The question of control is not only the central issue in every situation in this world, it is also the central issue in every person. Satan’s lie to Adam was that he could be a more fulfilled person by being independent of God. Ever since then, everyone has operated on the same belief. Satan told Adam, “You can be like God; you can be in control.” Man became his own god and that sin nature has passed down to all of us. So people are kings of their own kingdoms. And we guard our kingdoms jealously don’t we? We fear losing control of our lives. We don’t want anyone to control our lives; not even God.

What we don’t realise is, we were never meant to function like this. God told Adam that if he became independent, he would die. The more we want to be independent, the more we are getting away from God’s design and destroying ourselves.

What happens when we don’t realize that God is the one and only one who can meet our most basic needs? What happens when we look for something else to satisfy us but nothing we find actually satisfies us? Well to the extent that these needs are not met, people will experience emptiness, frustration, anxiety, fear, anger, shame and pain. Let’s examine 3 things : anger, anxiety and shame. Why do people get angry? They get angry when they have set some goal that they want to achieve, but they feel their goal is blocked by someone or something, right? Why do people feel anxious? They feel anxious when they feel their goal is unachievable. Why do people feel ashamed? They feel ashamed when they feel they are incapable of achieving their goal. So to avoid or overcome these feelings, people try to dominate or intimidate or manipulate others, or they just withdraw and hide in their emotional cave and wallow in self-pity.

But all that is really unnecessary. Why set yourself that goal or target in the first place? And then as we say in Malaysia “mati-mati” or as the Singaporeans say “die-die also” must achieve it? Yes we are to be people of vision and purpose, but not to be vision-oriented or purpose driven, independently of God. Instead of trying to deal with it just on a horizontal level as it were, why not address the root of the problem, which is not so much an external but an internal problem in our own heart and mind? Why not go to God and let Him determine every goal for our lives, and get the grace or the resources from Him to meet the goals that He sets, and in His time, and get His approval. Then it doesn’t matter what people think of us. Nor even what we think of ourselves. All that matters is what God thinks of us. No need to even try and prove ourselves to ourselves .. to create our own identity .. to prove to ourselves who we are. Then no anger, or anxiety, or shame. Simple.

Of course not many people are that driven to try and prove themselves to themselves, although I see this is increasingly the case with so much influence of modern media. But the more common problem is still how people feel about how others regard them. Very often when people try to be somebody, it is because they are actually feeling very small inside. So to try and overcome their feelings of inferiority, they will say things or do things to try to gain love and acceptance. There are several examples of this in the Bible. Saul, for instance, is a good example of someone who was insecure – someone who felt small inside – someone who did not know God’s love. When it was time for him to be made king, out of feelings of inferiority, what did he do? He hid himself among the baggage. On another occasion when Samuel was late in arriving for the sacrifice, he went ahead and did it himself. Why? When Samuel came, he told Samuel he was afraid of the people. He craved for acceptance.

Contrast between Saul and David. David knew God’s love. In the psalms we see how David knew how to go to God to have his deepest needs met. And when people loved David, Saul was jealous of David and threw spears at him. It still happens today. People in authority who are insecure, they persecute those under their authority who they see are more popular with people.

What happens when God is not at the center of our lives, and when we are not experiencing His love? Then we take center place and we get into self-preservation, self protection and self-defence. We become selfish – we think about our needs and our wants and seldom consider those of others. We become egotistic – we always think we are right and seldom consider that we may be wrong and others right. We become proud and defensive – we don’t like being corrected. We become stubborn – we resist change. We are dissatisfied – we are continually looking for, we know not what, to fill the void in our lives. We are fearful – we fear not having enough, we fear losing what we have, we fear being misunderstood, rejected, forgotten. We fear losing control, we fear the future. And we crave for the love, acceptance, approval and esteem of others.

So what is the solution to man’s problem? There is no other way, we need to get back to God, the eternal source of our lives. Without Him, we are incomplete. Friends, we really need to know His love, and to know from Him who He created us to be, and to go to Him for purpose and direction. Nothing else will satisfy our hearts. Actually more basic than the question of identity and purpose and direction is love. It is when we know His love that we will be delivered from the grip of self.

Let me share with you a prayer that I got from George Verwer’s book, ‘Hunger for Reality’. It is written by a Roman Catholic :

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me.
Deliver me Jesus,
from the desire of being loved,
from the desire of being extolled,
from the desire of being esteemed,
from the desire of being honored,
from the desire of being praised,
from the desire of being preferred to others,
from the desire of being consulted,
from the desire of being approved,
from the fear of being humiliated,
from the fear of being despised,
from the fear of being rebuked,
from the fear of being forgotten,
from the fear of being ridiculed,
from the fear of being wronged,
from the fear of being misunderstood, (that was a big issue in my life – the fear of being misunderstood)
from the fear of being suspected,
And Jesus, give me the grace to desire
that others might be loved more than I,
that others may be esteemed more than I,
that in the opinion of the world others may
increase and I may decrease,
that others may be chosen and I set aside,
that others may be praised and I unnoticed,
that others may be preferred to me in everything,
that others may become holier than I, provided
that I become as holy as I should

What a powerful prayer. I’ll continue in Kingdom 42.

These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found herehttps://goo.gl/KN4JYL  . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it.

Kingdom 40

God created us with 3 basic needs : unconditional love (a sense of security), identity (self-worth) and purpose and direction (significance). This is the “hole” in each person that God designed such that only He can fill. People don’t realize this and they try to fill it with things or people or even their career. But nothing can replace God. This is true also for those in Christian ministry. When we are not getting the love and acceptance we need from God, we will crave for it from man. Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God. This unmet need is also the source of all problems in human relationships. We need to return home to the “womb” from which we were formed – to the heart of God.

From Kingdom 34 – 39, I’ve been talking about God breaking us so that His character can be formed in us. I’ve also talked about how it is through brokenness that we are healed .. as we learn to receive His love. In this segment, I’m going to talk about how much we actually need God and His love.

Have you ever asked yourself : Who am I? What am I good for? Where am I going? What is the purpose of my life? Everyone needs to discover their own unique identity and purpose, because God made each of us unique. But there are some things that are common with all of us. We all share the same basic design deep inside of us – we were designed by God to be incomplete without Him.

You may have heard it said before that there is a God-shaped hole in each person that no one and nothing but only God can fill. We Christians like to tell unbelievers this, right? And we tell them on the assumption that we, as Christians, have already had our hole filled by God. But you know what, after more than 40 years as a believer, travelling and teaching and meeting believers around the world, I have found that most believers still have this hole inside of them that is waiting to be filled. And this includes most of the church and ministry leaders I have come across. Christians themselves have yet to know what that hole is, and what it means to be filled, and how it can be filled.

This is something that in my own journey I am learning more and more each day, and from time to time I am brought back to this point. It is about returning home – to God. It is about going back to where we came from. Returning as it were to the womb from which we were formed – not to our mother’s womb, but to the very heart of God. Peter said, “Silver and gold I have none but such as I have I give to you.” I think I can say the same. So what I am going to share here and for the next 2 segments will be one of the most important and valuable things that I can share with you. Truly something that money cannot buy.

So what is this “hole” inside of everyone? This “hole” I think can be described as a sense of emptiness inside of us that makes us long and crave for love and acceptance, and for identity and purpose. This “hole” I would say is made up of 3 basic needs : First, the need for unconditional love. Second, the need for identity. And third, the need for purpose and direction in life. These needs are even more basic than the physical need for food and shelter. It goes into the very reason for our existence. Without this, people have no reason to go on living.

I don’t know if you have heard of Selwyn Hughes. He passed away in 2006. He was a wonderful Bible teacher. He used 3 words starting with S to describe these 3 basic needs. First “Security” for unconditional love. Second, “Self-worth” for identity, and Third “Significance” for purpose and direction. Actually my understanding of this subject was not very clear until I heard him teach on this. So I must credit Selwyn Hughes for making it crystal clear to me. When he prayed for me, he prophesied over me that one day I will be teaching this to many people.

God made us and designed us to have these 3 fundamental needs and He designed it so that these needs can only be met by God Himself; not by anything or anyone else. But people don’t realize this and so they try to have these needs satisfied by things or people. But things or people will never be able to satisfy. We can have all the money we want and get anything we want. And we can even have a loving family and a great career and a wonderful work environment, and we can even be famous and popular or even idolised by others. But until and unless God fills this hole that He designed for Himself, there will always be that feeling that something is missing. We all know stories of famous actors, rock stars, or millionaires, dying of drug overdose or committing suicide. Why did they come to such a tragic end of their lives? Well Saint Augustine in his prayer said it so well. He said to God, “You made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.”

Instead of going to God to have their needs met, people spend their whole lives looking for someone or something else or even their career to fulfil these needs. Most men for example, and lately even women, they see their career or profession as the security for their lives. It is also from their career or profession that they gain acceptance, recognition, and they find their identity. Their career also determines the purpose and direction of their lives. It is also from what they can accomplish at work that they derive a sense of significance. But you know what, all that is a false belief which sooner or later will be discovered to be lacking, frustrating and unsatisfactory.

What I am saying here is also true of those who are in Christian ministry. You may be a pastor or a missionary, or a leader of a Christian organization and you may have been in the ministry for many years, but what is it really that is motivating you? Why do we see so many Christian leaders with an insatiable craving for the love and esteem of people? Why such a great need for control or to impress people? They say they are following Jesus, but can you imagine Jesus doing the things they do today? Sadly so many Christian leaders today are no different from leaders in the world. They are also craving for the same love and acceptance and esteem from man. This is the bottom line – If we are not getting it from God, then we will crave for it from man.

If we reflect on this for a while, I think we will realize that not only are all of us plagued by this same problem, all problems in human relationships also stem from this unmet craving for love, acceptance and understanding. Why do we get into misunderstanding with people? Why is there so much miscommunication between people? Is it not because we are so sensitive to how others regard us – whether they accept and appreciate us, or they misunderstand and reject us? Why do people try to control and manipulate and oppress others? Is it not because they are insecure and they are trying to fill their own need for identity, or a sense of importance or worth, and to fill their need for significance – that they are achieving something great?

The truth is, the only one who can fill our deepest longings is God. When God fills our hearts, then we will not crave it from man. We also need to know deep in our hearts that God loves us unconditionally. That means we don’t have to do anything to earn His love. We need to know that He values us – that we are precious to Him. And since He is the one who created us, He alone knows what each of us were created for. It is from Him, and only from Him, that we can find our purpose, direction and meaning in life. And we have to go to Him to know and experience this. It is not enough to know it only cognitively, meaning, just in our heads.

I’ll continue in Kingdom 41.

These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it.

Kingdom 39

It is not a natural thing in us to go to God to receive His love because we are very self-sufficient and self-centered. Left to ourselves we will feel no need to go to God to receive His love. God allows trouble and suffering into our lives so that our eyes may be opened to see how bankrupt we are. Each time we are tested, usually in those areas of our lives which are still holding us captive, we have a choice whether to justify and defend and try and save ourselves or let it break us. May we not harden our hearts but go to God to surrender ourselves to Him and get His love in exchange so as to be healed. That is what’s involved in learning to receive God’s love.  We cannot crucify ourselves but it is God who uses people and situations to crucify us. But we have the choice whether to submit ourselves to the crucifixion.

I made yet another mistake. In Kingdom 38, when I said Jn.12:31, it should actually be Jn.14:30-31. I won’t speak on those 4 passages of Scripture I mentioned, yet. That will come later. Meanwhile you can read them and see how they are linked and how they speak to us about the coming of God’s Kingdom.

  • In this segment, I want to go back to Kingdom 34 about learning to receive God’s love. I thought that what I said in Kingdom 34 was sufficient but apparently not. Some people have asked me again, how do we learn to receive God’s love? Please explain what’s involved in this learning? And please give an example. And why is there a learning involved?
  • Ok, I’ll try to make it more down to earth here. And I’ll try to give an example of how it works. First, I believe there is a learning involved because, despite how much we need His love, it is not a natural thing for us to go to God and receive His love. There is in fact an inbuilt resistance in us to going to God to receive His love. Why? Because deep inside us, we are all by nature our own gods. I’ve talked about how we became our own gods in Kingdom 23. We are naturally immersed in ourselves. We are self-focused, self-righteous, self-centered and self-sufficient.
  • Left to ourselves, we will feel no need to go to God and get His love. Left to ourselves, chances are we will never change from being self-centered to being other-centered. We will not even realize that we are self-centered in the first place, and in need of change. To admit that we are woefully lacking and inadequate, is not a natural thing.
  • So what does God do to break this inbuilt resistance in us? Answer : He allows trouble and suffering into our lives. That’s what I’ve been talking about from Kingdom 34-37. It is through repeated trouble that we are taken through a process of discovering how self-centered we are. Why is repeated trouble necessary? Because the self has been ruling so long in us and the self is so entrenched in us that it requires a long process to break its hold on us.
  • “What sort of trouble?” people have asked me. Well, that depends. Different people need different kinds of trouble. It could be the loss of a loved one, it could be an accident, it could be a crippling sickness, it could be financial ruin, it could be the loss of a job, or it could be a betrayal, or you were wrongly accused, or you were cheated, or it could even be that you thought you were so compassionate and loving, but then you were faced with a situation which called for you to die to yourself and serve those who are lesser than you, but you couldn’t do it. Or if you are in Asia, especially if you are a traditional Japanese or Indonesian, that might be the loss of face.
  • OK, let me use this as an example. Shame is a big thing in Japan and in Indonesia. In Indonesia they tell me that shame is such a terrible thing that it is better to die or to kill than to be ashamed. So if shame is what is holding you, and you need to be set free from it, guess what God will do? He will somehow arrange for you to be tested by that very thing so that when you have been shamed, and you are feeling really rotten and you want to defend yourself and get back your sense of dignity, or pride or whatever reputation you think you had, or you might even feel like murdering someone or you might feel like going the other extreme – you might feel like going into a hole to hide yourself .. well, that’s the time when you have a choice. Will you fight back and argue and try and prove you are actually much better, far more superior than what people think of you, or will you withdraw with your tail between your legs and wallow in self-pity?
  • When the Holy Spirit speaks to you, will you harden your heart and justify yourself, or will you give up and you don’t want anything more to do with people or even with God, or will you allow what has happened to you, to break that stubborn self in you, and instead of either fighting back or burying yourself, you go to God and say, “Lord, forgive me for trying to defend myself and attacking the people who hurt me. Forgive me for trying to save myself and trying to regain my pride. It was so foolish of me to do that. I am actually nothing without You. Please kill this pride in me. Take it away from me and fill this hole in me with your love. I really need Your love. I cannot live without You.” If you would do that, each time, each time you are at the place of testing, you will experience waves and waves of His love coming over you and into you.
  • Whatever it might be, whether it is this or that, or it could be something in which the devil has a foothold or stronghold in you, whether it’s the lust of money, sex or power, John calls it the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, and God has allowed you to be tested so that what is hidden might be exposed, well at that moment you have a choice. Will you let it break the self in you and reduce you down to the point where you realize you are bankrupt, and you are nothing, or will you justify yourself and try and save yourself? Jesus said, “He who saves himself will lose himself, but he who loses himself will save himself.”
  • For some people, instead of going to God to be healed, unfortunately they harden their hearts. Like what the Israelites did. That’s what Psalm 95 and Heb.2 tells us. In Heb.2:18 it says, Because he himself suffered when he was tested, he is able to help those who are tested.” And then in Heb.3:7-9 it says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts”. You may have heard of the saying, “The same sun that softens the wax, hardens the clay.” Sadly for some people, instead of adversity changing them, and mellowing them, they harden their hearts and they get angry and bitter against people and against God. They blame everyone else for their problems except themselves.
  • You may have also heard this before, some people are like Saul and some are like David. When David was confronted by Nathan for his sins, David immediately confessed and repented. But when Saul was confronted for his disobedience, he went into denial. Not many are like David. Most of us actually are like Saul. The natural thing is to go into denial and try and defend ourselves and save ourselves. But hopefully we learn, as the writer of Hebrews encourages us, we learn from the example of scripture.
  • So this is what’s involved in learning to receive His love. It is only when our eyes are opened to realize how bankrupt we are, that we are driven to the feet of Jesus. Like the woman who came to Jesus and broke the alabaster box and poured it over Him and wiped her tears off the feet of Jesus with her hair. I’ll talk about her in a subsequent clip because I believe she is actually the picture of the bride that Jesus is looking for. Back to the point about brokenness. So long as we are full of ourselves, we won’t feel the desperation and the need for God, and we won’t experience what it means to go to God and receive His love, and be healed by His love. One of my favourite authors, AW Tozer, called it “the divine exchange”. Every time we give more of ourselves to Him, He gives us a bit more of Himself to us.
  • “A bit more? Don’t we get all of God?” you might ask. No we don’t. We get only as much of God as we allow into our hearts and into our lives. I’m sure some of you have already heard this before – being filled with the Holy Spirit is not so much a question of how much we have of God but how much He has of us. It’s a question of how much we surrender.
  • It is interesting to note, by the way, that Paul used the metaphor of crucifixion when he talked about dying to self. Crucifixion as we know is a long slow death. It doesn’t happen instantly. And another thing about crucifixion. No one can crucify themselves. Someone has to crucify us! I mean, imagine someone trying to crucify himself. Imagine this. With his right hand he holds the hammer and somehow he manages to whack the nail into his left hand. OK then what? His left hand is already pinned down, right? What hand will he then use to hammer the nail into his right hand? Sounds hilarious, isn’t it? But really .. think about it. When the Bible talks about crucifixion of the self, we cannot crucify ourselves. It’s about God using difficult people and difficult situations to crucify us. But we need to submit ourselves to be crucified. And I’ll leave that with you to think about it.

These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it.

Kingdom 38

The good news of the Kingdom comes with the bad news. For God’s kingdom to come, our kingdoms have to go. Like how God broke Jacob and he was changed, God is looking for those who seek His face like Jacob did, who are zealous for His Kingdom to come. It is only through pain and agony, and through lots of breaking and trials and suffering that God will purify and refine for Himself those who will have clean hands and a pure heart, who are free of idolatry, who’s tongues have been brought under control so that they will look like Him, walk like Him, think like Him, feel like Him and even smell like Him. That is what God is after. And they are also the ones through whom doors of communities and nations which have been shut to the King of glory since ancient times, will be opened for Him to enter, and for His Kingdom to come.

  • Before I get on to anything else, I must say this. I made 2 mistakes in Kingdom 37. When I quoted from Malachi, about God refining us, I gave the reference as Matthew instead of Malachi. The correct reference is Mal.3:2-3, not Matt.3:2-3. The second mistake I made was I said mules are lazy. Actually mules are not lazy. They are stubborn. Which is worse – laziness or stubbornness? Hahaha. Now mules are going to be really upset with me for saying that. But no one listening to this is a mule, right? .. so I think I’m safe. Hahaha. I mean if you have been following this series right up to Kingdom 38, its quite unlikely you are a mule. Ha Ha Ha ..
  • Jokes aside, the stubbornness of the Israelites angered God again and again and they forfeited themselves of the privilege to enter the promised land. You can read about that in Numbers 14. Although Moses interceded for them, and God forgave them, yet they were not allowed to enter into the promised land. There are many today who are similarly forfeiting themselves of what God intends for them. I mentioned this before in Kingdom 27 : “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” (Jon.2:8).
  • In Kingdom 37, I talked about God breaking us, and I mentioned several examples of people who need breaking. There are actually worse things in us that need to be dealt with. Jesus said that within man are evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, arrogance and folly. We might think we are not that bad. We might think Jesus was talking about bad people, not about us, but you know what? God said the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it? Were we put in the same environment, situation or condition as those who have committed crimes, we could very well have done the same things or worse. If David whom God found to be a man after His own heart was capable of adultery, lying, betrayal and murder, anyone of us is capable of them too. We never know what the self-preservation in us can drive us to do.
  • Honestly I did not intend to talk about this when I started on this series on the Kingdom but I have a strong sense from the Lord that I need to say this and to say it again. He is preparing for Himself a perfect bride before He comes. Let me read Mal.3:2-3 again : But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” To Malachi, I must add Dan.11:32. This is what God showed Daniel what will happen before He returns : “Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.”
  • Jesus described the end times before He returns like birth pains before a baby is born. We are already in tough times in which the true values of people, or what’s really in their hearts are being tested. But like birth pains tough times will intensify and get worse. God will use all the crises in the end times described in Matt.24 to test and purify and refine His people.
  • Many years ago I asked the Lord what must happen before His Kingdom can fully be established on earth. In answer to my question, the Lord has been speaking to me from 4 passages of scripture. They did not come to me all at once but over a period of time, of more than 20 years actually. Each one has had a personal impact on my life .. I think .. in order for me to fully appreciate their meaning : The first is Heb.2:14-15. The second is Jn.12:31. The third is Rev.12:10-11. And the fourth is Ps.24.
  • BTW, I am not saying that these are the only 4 passages of scriptures that are relevant to the question of how His Kingdom will come. God may speak to others on the same question from other passages of scripture, and in the future God may speak to me from other passages too, but up to this point of time, these are the 4 passages of scripture that the Lord has given me as the answer to my question. I have more to say about them in subsequent clips, but for the time being, let me just read out the fourth one which is Ps.24 and I will then say just a little about it as to how it has to do with the coming of God’s kingdom on earth.
  • OK, here’s Psalm 24 : The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters. Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol or sworn by what is false. He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The LORD Almighty–he is the King of glory.
  • This psalm is I believe prophetic as to how Jesus will return as the King of glory. As the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle, He will come to conquer and take His rightful place on earth as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. What are these ancient doors and gates that need to be lifted up or opened, so that the King of glory may come in? Are they some invisible portals somewhere on this planet that open up into the spirit realm like some New Agers are claiming to have secret knowledge of? No that’s not what they are. I believe they are simply the doors that Jesus talked about when He said behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. They are doors that the kingdoms of this world, including His church, which is what we read in Rev.3:20, these are the doors that they have closed, and have shut God out since ancient times.
  • In order for God’s Kingdom to come, not only into individual lives but into communities and nations, first there must be people who seek Him like Jacob. Jacob as you know wrestled with God, and met God face to face, and in that encounter he was broken and changed. Changed from the devious, conniving, usurper that he was, into Israel, a prince with God. Through breaking they will be turned into those with clean hands and a pure heart, free of all idolatry and they would have even their tongues brought under control. They seek nothing for themselves. Like John the Baptist who prepared the way for the Lord to come the first time, John said he had to decrease so that Jesus would increase. These are the ones who will open doors for the Lord to come in, not only into their own lives, but into communities and nations.
  • There’s more I’ll share about this in subsequent audio clips. But for now all I need to say is this – if people are wondering what’s the next great move of God, and what are the signs and wonders we are going to see, or where’s the next sweeping revival that’s going to take place, yes that might happen in some of the most unlikely of places on this planet, but I believe God has an even more important and pressing agenda for us. He is looking for people who are zealous and passionate to see His Kingdom come, people who will seek His face like Jacob did. He will break the stubborn self in them so that the self will no longer rule but bow meekly at the feet of Jesus. They will learn to submit to the master like the donkey that Jesus rode into Jerusalem.
  • Some of you have heard me say this before – the good news of the Kingdom comes with the bad news. For God’s kingdom to come, our kingdoms have to go. It is only through pain and agony, and through lots of breaking and trials and suffering that God will purify and refine for Himself those who will look like Him, walk like Him, think like Him, feel like Him and even smell like Him. That is what God is after. And they are also the ones through whom doors which have been shut to the King of glory since ancient times, will be opened for Him to enter, and for His Kingdom to come.

These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it.

Kingdom 37

Unless we have learnt to die to self, we are not ready to work with Him for His Kingdom to advance. Unless we have surrendered our kingdoms, we will be advancing our own kingdoms while we are thinking we are working with God for His Kingdom to advance. Unless we have learnt to recognize how much of the self in us is still ruling, we might have our own ideas how to advance God’s kingdom and like Abraham we create an Ishmael. We are usually more focused on how to get things done, but God is more focused on what and why – He is more concerned about what we are inside and change us from within. There is so much in us that needs breaking. When God allows trouble to expose what’s inside, may we not be in denial but be quick to confess and go to God for the grace to change. God tells us not to be like the horse or the mule who are without understanding. Before He comes again, He will refine for Himself people who will be like Him.

  • Did you enjoy the story of Pastor Larry and his Sunday School kids I told in Kingdom 36? I once saw someone with a T-shirt that said, “Everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.” By the way, in case you are new to this series of talks on the Kingdom, do listen to the previous clips from Kingdom 1-36 first. Like what I mentioned in Kingdom 36, about context, a lot of misunderstanding occurs, whether between people, or even in hearing or reading something, when we do not know the background or context in which something is said. That’s true not only for understanding Jn.3:16 and salvation which I talked about in Kingdom 25 but also even in appreciating a joke.
  • If you have been listening from Kingdom 1-36, then you might appreciate why I shared the story of Pastor Larry and his Sunday School kids. There is of course a double meaning to what little Sheila said. Hopefully we would have learnt to die to ourselves first before we actually physically die and meet our Maker, Amen?
  • Actually I did not plan to spend so much time and so many clips on the subject of dying to self. I wanted to get on with the next point about working with God for His Kingdom to advance. But I sense the Lord telling me that I have to address this point adequately before I get on with the next point. Unless we have learnt to die to self, we are not ready to work with Him for His Kingdom to advance. Unless we have surrendered our kingdoms, we will be advancing our own kingdoms while we are thinking we are working with God for His Kingdom to advance. Like the case of Saul. We become a hindrance to God’s agenda.
  • Not only that, unless we have learnt to recognize how much of the self in us is still ruling, and unless we have learnt to die to ourselves, we might have our own ideas how to advance God’s kingdom. We might be like Abraham who tried to help God out and he created an Ishmael before it was time for him to have Issac. And we know the mess that has resulted down the history of the middle-east, until today, don’t we?
  • I used to give crisis response training and lead crisis response teams. I found that most people were more focused on the “how” to get things done. Not many were interested in the “what” and the “why”. But if we think in terms of how a building is built, the “how”, “when”, “where” and “who” are like that part of the building that is above the ground. That can be seen. “What” and “why” are the foundation below. The foundation of course cannot be seen. But we know this – unless we have a solid foundation in place, the building will collapse.
  • But not many want to invest time and attention in the foundation. Most people are more concerned with what a building looks like above the ground. Throughout Scripture however, I see God is more interested in the foundation than in the building that is above the ground, as it were. This is what I see in the OT, in Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels and in Paul’s teaching and in the rest of the NT. The Bible in fact has very little to say about “how” but it has a lot to say about “what” and “why”. God works on what we are inside. There is so much in us that He has to break to change us to be like Him.
  • Someone is very zealous, but he is also very impulsive, like Peter. His impulsiveness needs to be broken. Someone else is very compassionate, but she is also very fearful. Unless that fear is broken off her, her compassion will be held back. Someone has excellent leadership qualities, but his pride is getting in the way. He needs to be broken. Another person is gifted with creativity and she could be a real asset to her team, but she cannot trust people, and her distrust of people is a problem to her team. She needs to be broken. Otherwise her creativity is lost. Someone else is especially gifted in analyzing and finding solutions to problems, but there’s a lot of impatience, anger and bitterness in him and people find it very hard to work with him. He needs to be broken.
  • Someone is a gifted manager but she is always so affected by what people might be thinking of her. She needs to be broken. Someone has a very strong sense of justice and what’s right and what’s wrong, but he tends to be harsh, legalistic, critical and judgmental of others. He needs to be broken. Someone else is very good at getting people to work together as a team, but he is not good with self-discipline. He needs to be broken. If he cannot sort out the mess in his own life, he can’t be of much help to others. So I may be good at this and that. But I need to be broken .. again and again.
  • In Jn.12:24 Jesus said unless a seed falls to the ground and die, it will remain just as a seed. But if it dies, it will bear much fruit. He who loves himself and saves himself will lose his life. But he who loses himself will gain eternal life, and you know what eternal life really is, right? I talked about that in Kingdom 22. All of us have things in us that need to be dealt with. For most of us, not just one thing but multiple things – things which we often are not aware of, until trouble happens, and then what’s hidden comes to the surface. Now when trouble exposes us for what we are, let us not try and save ourselves, but let’s be quick to go to God and confess our problem and get the grace from Him to be changed.
  • For many people, they are so stubborn that even when trouble has exposed their problem they still don’t see it. Or they refuse to see it. They are in denial. Too painful to own up to what or who they really are. Have you heard of Johari’s window? Google it. Very enlightening. And nowadays, people have gotten so defensive and aggressive that they will attack others to deflect attention on themselves.
  • We have to be broken again and again because there is so much self in us that refuses to die. Someone said that the problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar! Irrespective of whether God will use us for His purposes, we have to be broken just so that we can be like Jesus. But if we are to be used by God, and if our lives will affect and influence many other lives, then all the more we need to be thoroughly broken.
  • Ps.32:9 says, Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle, or they will not come to you.” There are people who are like the mule and there are people who are like the horse. Mules are lazy and don’t want to move. The owner has to whack the mule hard with a bridle to get it moving. Very painful. Horses on the other hand are free-spirited and full of energy and they want to gallop off on their own. Never mind which direction the owner wants it to go, or at what pace, or when it should stop. The horse has its own ideas. So the owner has to use a bit on the mouth of the horse to rein in that free spirit and energy of the horse. Again very painful.
  • Someone has said that actually when it comes to working with God, horses are better than mules because it is much easier to steer a horse that is already moving than to get a mule to move. Like it is much easier to control a fire than to start one with cold and wet dead wood, isn’t it? You can’t get anything done with mules who refuse to move. I’m very much a horse sort of person, so from my perspective as a horse, the Kingdom cannot advance at all with mules. Horses of course do not like mules, and mules equally do not like horses. Horses always feel that mules are holding them back, while mules .. they always feel that horses are too impulsive and they are dragging everyone else into unnecessary trouble. But you know what, whether we are horses or mules, we both need some painful breaking, don’t we? Otherwise we are a problem and the master cannot use us, right?
  • Before He comes again, Paul tells us that He will prepare for Himself a bride without spot or wrinkle. Mal.3:2-3 says, But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.”  I think that has already begun.
  • How is God going to get what He is looking for? I mean how is He going to get people who will truly become like Him? Paul told us in Rom.8 that God will use all that has gone wrong in this world to break us and God will use the fire of trials and tribulations to forge us. So if we are living and working with some really difficult people and difficult situations, we ought to thank God for them. They are being used by God to change us.
  • Paul tells us in Rom.8:17, if we are to share in His glory, meaning to become like Him, then we have to share in His sufferings. We have to suffer losing things, losing people, losing friends, loved ones, being misunderstood, being rejected, ostracised, wrongly accused, betrayed, abandoned, forsaken, loneliness, taken advantage of, even physical violence and death if that is what God chooses for us, like the Christians in Rome.
  • Abraham had to be broken. Jacob had to be broken. Moses had to be broken. 40 years in the desert before God could use him. David had to be broken. He was anointed to be king to replace Saul but he first had to be broken. Some Bible scholars tell us that that took about 7 – 10 years of his life in the wilderness. Peter who was so sure of himself, had to be broken before he could become a leader of the early church. Paul also had to be broken. Otherwise all the revelation given him would not be good for him or for us. Who knows, it might have changed him to go back into being Saul again, if he was not broken. You and I .. we need to be broken, again and again .. until the time when we can truly say to God like the psalmist in Ps.119:71, “It was good that I was afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes.”

These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found herehttps://goo.gl/KN4JYL . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it.

Kingdom 36

God understands our struggles and weakness but He will not let us remain as we are. He has a relentless drive to change us to be like Him. If God can put His own Son through the ordeal of the cross in order to save us, there is no suffering He will not put us through to achieve His ultimate goal of changing us to become like Him. Contrary to what many think, in Rom.8:28 Paul tells us God will use suffering to do that. Paul explained to the Christians in Rome that if God could sacrifice His Son for us, there is nothing He would not give us or do for us. So what are they to make of the suffering they were going through? Since nothing can separate us from His love for us, then God has a higher purpose for their suffering – to change them into overcomers and conquerors.

  • There is a teaching going around the churches lately that keeps emphasizing how much God loves us and how God accepts us and loves us just as we are. It is true that we do not need to clean ourselves up first before we can approach God. But this statement “God accepts us and loves us just as we are”, on its own, is a half truth. Remember how I talked about Satan planting half truths in the minds of people, including Christians?
  • Why do I say that it is a half truth? Because the statement implies that God is quite happy to let us remain as we are. It conveys this idea that God loves us so much, everything will always be forgiven. In that case, we don’t really need to change. God will always understand our weakness and failures and accept us as we are.
  • I think many Christians have grown up with a wrong picture of God and of life that the church has been giving them. Many Christians see God as an absolutely loving Father, and because He loves us He will make sure we will have only the very best, and nothing wrong will happen to us. If ever something does go wrong, we just need to pray and trust God and somehow God will correct whatever is wrong and put everything right. It will all work out somehow.
  • It is true that like a father who has compassion on his children, Ps.103 tells us God pities us and remembers we are made of dust. But that’s only half the truth. The other half of the truth that needs to be remembered is that God created us to be like Him and throughout Scripture you will see that He has this relentless drive to change us and shape us to become like Him. He simply will not let us remain as we are. If God is quite happy to let us remain as we are, there would have been no need for Jesus to be the Lamb of God in the first place, right? He could have simply accepted us as we are. That is why Heb.12 tells us that if God loves us, He will discipline us so that we can share in His holiness. Why? Because we can only share in His holiness if we are of the same nature with Him. So God disciplines us to change us to become like Him. Heb.12:8 in fact tells us that if God does not discipline us, we are not really His children.
  • This is the question not many want to think about : If God can give His own Son and put His own Son through the torture and ordeal of the cross in order to save us, is there anything He would not do to achieve His ultimate goal – to get us to become what He created us to be – to be like Him? If God did not spare His own Son, will God spare us from suffering if that is what is necessary to break us and change us to become like Him? This is what Paul addresses in the second part of Rom.8.
  • Some of you have read an article I wrote that Jn.3:16 is probably the most misunderstood verse in the Bible, and I have also talked about that in Kingdom 22. But next to Jn.3:16, I think the second most misunderstood verse of the Bible is Rom.8:28. In Rom.8:28, Paul said, We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose”. This is the favourite verse of many Christians around the world. Why? Because they think Paul is saying that God will work everything out for our good, and everything will somehow be just fine.
  • Let me give you a typical scenario of how, a lot of Christians understand Rom.8:28. They attend Sunday service and after the service they see someone sitting by herself looking very sad. They see tears rolling down her cheeks. So they go and sit by her side and listen to her story and then they pray with her and after the prayer, they say to her, “It’s OK, sister, just trust God. Everything will be alright. All things will work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose”. Right? What they mean is that, no matter how bad things get, Daddy God will somehow make everything alright again. But is that what Paul said? No, that is not what Paul said. Paul in fact said the very opposite of what they think he said. Rom.8:28 will not be their favourite verse if they knew what Paul actually said.
  • If you have been a Christian for some time, you must have been told at some point that when we read the Bible, we must be careful not to read or take verses in the Bible out of their context, right? Well Rom.8:28 is probably the verse in the Bible that is most taken out of its context by Christians. The reason why many Christians have misunderstood Rom.8:28 is because they don’t read verse 28 within its context and they interpret the “good” in that verse from the human perspective, meaning what we as humans would regard as good for us. But that’s not what Paul was talking about. Paul was telling us what’s good from God’s perspective.
  • If we read Rom.8 carefully, we will find that verse 28 is right in the middle of what Paul is talking about from verses 17 all the way to 39, the last verse of the chapter, and it’s all about suffering. That’s what the “all things” in verse 28 is referring to. What Paul is actually telling us is that all the suffering is for our good, and that good is according to God’s purpose. What is God’s purpose? That’s explained in the next verse in verse 29. In verse 29 Paul begins with the word “for” meaning “because”, and he tells us the purpose or the reason for the suffering. “For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son”, meaning God has already planned in advance for us to be changed us to become like Christ. So contrary to what many Christians think, Paul is actually saying the very opposite of what they think Paul is saying. He is not telling us God will work everything out nice and good for us, but God will use suffering to work out His purpose for us, which is to change us to be like Christ.
  • Let’s take a step back and ask, who is Paul writing his letter to? He is writing to the Christians in Rome. What’s happening to the Christians in Rome? They are being thrown to the lions in the coliseum as sport and entertainment for the Romans and they are being killed in all sorts of cruel ways. Imagine if you were there with them. Imagine you just saw your friends being eaten up by the lions, and you and your family are the next meal for the lions. You know how God shut the mouths of the lions and delivered Daniel right? So you cry out to God for the same miracle, but does God show up? No He doesn’t. We know from history all of them were eaten up by the lions. They all died for their faith. Tell me, if you were a Christian in Rome at that time, what would you be thinking? You will probably be wondering if God has abandoned all of you, right? You will be wondering if God loves you guys anymore, right?
  • This is why from verses 31 – 35, Paul is asking the Christians in Rome, what do you think is happening to you guys? Why do you think God is not answering your prayers? Paul says, if God can give us His Son as a sacrifice, is there anything He will not do for us? Of course not. So if God will give us His Son, yet He is not answering your prayers and He is not delivering you, what does that mean? Does that mean God no longer loves you? In verse 35, Paul asks, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”
  • In verse 31, Paul asks, “What, then, shall we say in response to this? And he gives his answer in verses 37 – 39. He says, no, it is not because God no longer loves us, but “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So Paul is telling them that they are suffering not because God no longer loves them, but because He has a higher purpose for them, and His higher purpose is that they are changed to become overcomers and conquerors.
  • Let me end this part with something funny that someone sent me on whatsapp just 2 days ago. It’s meant to give us a good laugh, but you know what, it’s also so theologically profound at the same time. OK, this is pastor Larry talking to his Sunday School kids : “If I sold my house and my car, and I had a big garage sale, and gave all my money to the Church, would that get me into heaven?” Pastor Larry asked the children in the Sunday school class. “NO!” the children all answered. “OK, if I cleaned the Church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into heaven?” Once more they all answered, “NO!” “Ok, well, then, if I was kind to animals and gave candy to all the children and loved my wife, would that get me into heaven?” Pastor Larry asked them once again. Once more they all answered, “NO!” “OK, well,” Pastor Larry continued, thinking, you know, they were a good bit more theologically sophisticated than he had given them credit for, he asked, “Then how can I get into heaven?” A five-year-old Sheila shouted out, “YOU GOTTA DIE FIRST !!!” Ha Ha Ha .. That was good isn’t it? Think about it. We have to die first. Amen?

These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it.

Kingdom 35

God designed life such that we must encounter challenges in order to grow and develop. We were not meant to remain in the garden of Eden. To overcome anything, we have to go through it and come out on top of it. In order to develop us into overcomers – to be overcomers of sin and so that we may be set free from bondage to the earthly and natural, God purposely allowed sin into the world and put us through the consequences of sin, pain and suffering. It is all part of God’s process of getting people to be like Him. God uses all that has gone wrong as a result of sin to break the self in us to change us to be like Him.

  • Have you ever heard of the saying, “No pain, no gain”? If you take up any kind of fitness training for any kind of sport, you will hear that saying again and again. Muscles grow only when they are exercised, when they encounter resistance. The more resistance, the more the muscle can grow. What happens if our muscles are not exercised? They will atrophy. In other words, they will lose their ability to function. They will die.
  • Same thing with our mind and our spirit. The more our mind is challenged, the more we develop the ability to think and reason and figure things out. The more our spirit is challenged, the more alive we become. We have all heard this before. When people retire, they had better quickly find something purposeful to do, because if they don’t and they just become a couch potato watching TV the whole day, what would happen? Their mind and their health will deteriorate very quickly and they will get all sorts of medical problems and they will have a faster journey to the grave.
  • It’s an irony and a paradox of life but in order to progress, in order to move forward, we must encounter resistance. The very water that acts as the resistance for a boat to move forward, is also the medium by which the oars or engine of a boat can propel itself forward. Take away the water and the boat cannot move at all. Same thing with the flight of a bird. The air that acts as a resistance to the flight of a bird, is also the medium by which the bird’s wings can push itself forward, and on which the wings of the bird can glide. Put a bird in a vacuum and it won’t be able to fly at all.
  • Have you ever wondered what would have happened if man did not sin and he remained in the garden of Eden where everything is perfect, where there are no problems, no challenges, no misunderstanding, no sickness, and everything is beautiful and food and everything is in abundance, and the weather is perfect all the time?
  • Heb 2:10 and Heb.5:8 tells us that even though Jesus is the Son of God, He had to learn obedience and He had to be perfected through suffering. Now I’m not going to expound on why Jesus as the Son of God had to learn anything or had to be made perfect, but the point I want to make is this. If Jesus as the Son had to go through it, how much more we.
  • In Kingdom 34, I started to talk about what God does in order to achieve His purpose of making us to be like Him. Paul talks about this in Rom.8. Rom.8 has 2 parts. In the first part, Paul tells us God gives us His Spirit in order that we can overcome sin and to enable us to live the life of the Spirit – in order that we may become the children of God. But having the Holy Spirit in us is not enough. Having the Holy Spirit alone does not change us to become like Christ. Something else has to happen to us. To shape us to become like Jesus, the self in us needs to be broken, and we need to go through a process to make us into overcomers.
  • This is what Paul talks about in the 2nd part of Rom.8 from verse 17 onwards. He said, Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
  • OK, let’s just stop there for a moment. What is Paul telling us? Basically Paul is telling us why God not only put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden, but He also put the devil there before He put man there. God Himself subjected the whole of creation to frustration, or as the NKJV says, to futility. Why did God do that? Why did God allow sin and suffering? In verse 21 Paul tells us why. He did it so that creation will be liberated from its bondage to decay, and it would at the same time bring about the glorious freedom of the children of God. What does that mean? I believe that means that God would use all that has gone wrong as a result of sin, all the pain and suffering, to purge and purify us, and so that we may be liberated from being tied down and bound to the earthly and the natural, so that we can become the children of God.
  • You remember the question I posed just now : what if man had remained in the garden of Eden where everything is perfect, where there are no problems, no challenges, no misunderstanding, no sickness, and everything is just beautiful and just perfect? What would happen if your mommy and daddy was so afraid you would fall down and hurt yourself and they never let you out to play? You know when I was a kid, I’m so glad my parents let me out to play and I would get into fights, and we would make wooden guns to shoot fire crackers at each other, and we would race against each other on our bicycles, and I fell and I fractured my arm and landed up in hospital and all that. When I was a kid, I got to experience it all. I got stung by bees, I stepped on rusty nails, I tumbled down cliffs, I nearly drowned once but that’s the best way to learn to swim, and not only did I learn to swim, I later actually saved 2 kids from drowning. I joined the scouts and became the troop leader and organized camps and treks through the jungle, and I learned and taught first aid and survival skills. The real stuff. You know I just cannot imagine what I would be if my parents kept me safe at home.
  • How do you make real soldiers? What if an army never had to go into a real war? What if they just played war games within the confines of their army camp? You know what Judges 3:1-2 tells us? It says this : “These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan 2 (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience)”. God purposely put the children of Israel through war so that they would learn to fight. It is quite clear God doesn’t want wimps. He wants overcomers. He wants conquerors.
  • How do you conquer a mountain? How does one team beat another team? How do you overcome fear, or how do you overcome a challenge, or how do you overcome anything? By avoiding it, or running away from it? No, of course not. We can never overcome anything by avoiding it or keeping ourselves safe from it, or running away from it. The only way to overcome anything is to go through it and come out on top of it. There are exceptions to this of course, and God knows the right time when we are ready for something, or if we are not ready for something yet. But you know what happens in the army when someone passes one test? He just qualified himself for the next one!
  • OK, jokes aside, I know this can be quite hilarious, but it is also a very serious and sober thing at the same time. I don’t know where these audio clips get to, and who gets to listen to it, and perhaps as you are listening to this you may be going through a very rough time, but I hope what I share here will be an encouragement to you. This may seem really terrible and if you are going through a really bad time you will probably reject this, but you know what, one of the best things that God can do for us is to send us suffering. You may not believe it, but that’s what Paul actually tells us in Rom.8. My time is up. I’ll explain this in the next audio clip in Kingdom 36.

These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it.