Kingdom 47

I ended Kingdom 46 with how this present world we are living in with all its problems is really a test and an opportunity to learn to overcome and to learn to love. When we see this bigger picture we will no longer see trouble and suffering and challenges as a bad thing to be avoided. Every challenge, every trial would be seen as an opportunity to learn and be changed to become more like Christ.

Another thing, when salvation is seen as restoration, to be restored to being one with God and to love, then instead of hiding in our church buildings, or detaching ourselves from this world, like what some eastern religions teach, or seeing salvation as escape from this perishing world to go to heaven, instead of that, instead of hiding, detaching or running away, we would get out of the 4 walls of the church to work with God in what He is doing on earth, Amen? Like what Jesus said. He is not taking us out of the world but sending us into the world. We are to be in the world but not off the world. Working with God for His Kingdom to come into every place where the devil has been stealing, killing and destroying. I elaborated on all this from Kingdom 31-35.

This of course turns everything upside down, not just for our individual lives but also for church and ministry. But that’s exactly what Jesus came to do. Jesus came to turn everything upside down because man had turned everything upside down. So when Jesus turns everything upside down, what He’s really doing is He’s turning everything back upright – back to the way it was meant to be. One day when Jesus returns, the big shots, the rich, and the powerful will be cast out. The nobodies and rejects of society will rule with Him. I know I haven’t mentioned this earlier, but I’ll tell you more about this later. So the thing is this – instead of an introverted focus of having a big church, and big this and big that, we would, like Jesus, go to the nobodies, the unlovely, the outcasts, the downtrodden, the rejects, the lonely, and those who are forgotten. That’s what it means to be like Christ. That’s the main thing Jesus came to show us of what His Kingdom is – what I would call the heart and soul of the Kingdom. I’ll elaborate more on this in subsequent clips.

Another upside down thing or paradox is this – true joy and fulfilment comes from loving and giving because the more we give and love, the more we would become like God, which is what we were made to be. But the more we are immersed in ourselves, and accumulate, and hoard and serve ourselves and seek fulfilment for ourselves, the further we will be from finding it. Why? Because the further we will be from what we were created to be.

OK, so now we go back to the question, how can we truly love and be changed to be like God? We have to go to God to receive His love, and be changed to be like Him, so that we can love like He does. But this is the thing, no one will by themselves, of their own accord, go to God to receive His love, or be changed to become like Him. We are not only naturally self-centered, we are naturally very self-sufficient. That is why for God to change us to become like Him, He not only puts His Spirit in us, He allows trouble and suffering to break the self-centered self in 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. I talked about all this from Kingdom 36–39.

Then from Kingdom 40–43, I talked about how in fact God designed us such that only He can fulfill our need for unconditional love, for identity, and purpose, or security, self-worth and significance. When people don’t realize it is only God who can fulfill their need, they will strive on their own to get it, and they will crave for it from man. But they will end up frustrated. But when God’s love fills us, we will be healed and delivered from the grip of self. Jesus calls all who are weary and burdened to stop striving on their own but to be yoked to Him instead.

There is something I already mentioned in Kingdom 14 that I need to bring up again. I have been asked this question many times, “When you say that as we work with Jesus to disciple nations that is how Jesus is going to drive Satan out, are you saying that we will succeed in getting the whole world to gradually and eventually be transformed into the Kingdom of God?” Let me make it very clear that that is not what I am saying. The end of the story has already been written. That is not what will happen. The world, as a whole, will reject Jesus. But He still expects us to be salt and light to infiltrate and permeate the world with the truth, and culture, and values of His Kingdom.

Many Christians are looking at the terrible state of things in the world and they are thinking it is an impossible task to do that. I think they are right. As I watch the news every day, it’s like the whole world is getting more and more enveloped in darkness to the extent that whatever we might be doing is not making even a small dent on Satan’s kingdom. But we would be mistaken if we throw up our hands and say, “So why try? It’s impossible!” Or I have heard leaders say, “If Jesus is going to wipe everything out and start all over again when He returns, why work at trying to bring any change to this world?”

I’m sorry but I have to say that that is a wrong way of thinking. Imagine if William Wilberforce, have you heard of him? Imagine if he had sat back and thought it pointless to try and do anything about slavery, because Jesus would someday come and wipe everything out and start all over again anyway, would slavery have been eradicated? And what if Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and others throughout history that have worked hard and fought for civil liberties, respect for human dignity and clean government, and emancipation of the poor, what if they had all sat back and thought it pointless to try and do anything because God is going to come and destroy everything one day anyway? And what if countless others like Issac Newton and Edison who blessed us with modern inventions and changed life on earth, what if they had thought the same? Can you see how absurd that kind of thinking is?

Many Christians are also thinking the Kingdom is somewhere up there in heaven and one day it will somehow explode into the world with a big bang at the return of Jesus, and He will come and clean up the mess and we will have a brand new earth then. Meanwhile we have nothing to do about the problems of this world. You know the Jews in the time of Jesus were thinking exactly the same thing? Read the parable of the servants in Lk.19. In Lk.19:11 it says, “While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.” See? But Jesus told them that was not how it is going to happen. There is a process involved before the Kingdom will be fully established on the earth. There’s work to be done. There is a task He has given to each of us to do. Woe to those who think .. “Well .. the Kingdom will come when it will come. There is nothing for us to do about that meanwhile.”

When Jesus returns, He is not going to appoint anyone to be in charge of anything unless they have first proven themselves to be productive in what has been entrusted to them. When we read this parable in Lk.19 together with the parable of the talents in Matt.25, we can see that those who neglect to use what God has given them, their natural gifts, their knowledge, skills, money and time for the work of the Kingdom, they will be regarded as having been in insubordination and they will be regarded as His enemies and they will be destroyed together with those who refuse to submit to Jesus as King.

Whether we will succeed in changing anything or anyone, or whatever is going to happen or not happen, is actually quite immaterial. We are called to be salt and light to be agents of change irrespective of whether we will succeed or otherwise. Just like, we are to love, irrespective of whether our love is received or rejected, right? We are simply to be children who reflect who our Father is.

Although this world as a whole will reject Jesus, there are many lives and communities and many areas of darkness that we are to work with God for His truth and life to undo and reverse what the devil has done. Paul told us God can do exceedingly far greater than what we can think or imagine, according to His power that works within us. Eph.3:20. And Jesus said it is God who can make what is impossible, possible. In Zech.4:6, God said, “It is not by might nor by power but by My Spirit”. 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 step by step and moment to moment dependence upon God. Working with Him but resting in Him at the same time.

OK this ends the second part of this series of talks on the Kingdom of God. In Kingdom 48, I will start on the 3rd part, which is, What is the Kingdom and how are we to work with God for His Kingdom to advance?

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 46

In Kingdom 45, I ended with this statement : 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. The opposite of love is not hatred. The opposite of love is self. To love is to be centred on others, not on ourselves. As with individuals, so also with church. Christians are so focused on church, church, church and church, and the church is so focused on itself that they cannot see the needs of people around them.

Another thing, so long as the church is focused on church, it will never see the Kingdom, and God’s plan to restore His Kingdom on earth. Instead of church growth, we need to look outside of the 4 walls of the church and step out to work with God for His Kingdom to advance. Here’s something I did not share earlier. There was once I asked some leaders at the end of a Kingdom workshop what they got out of the workshop. They said their eyes had been opened. But they asked, “How is it we have been leaders and pastors for so many years, and we’ve all been through seminary, and some of us even teach in seminary, but how is it that we have never seen all this before?” I told them there’s a Chinese proverb that says, “When you are on the mountain, you cannot see the mountain.” They laughed and one of them said, “So all of us were born on the mountain and we never came down that mountain.” The church not only cannot see the Kingdom, the church cannot see what it has become.

Why are we so self-focused and immersed in ourselves? Well as I’ve said in Kingdom 45 it is because of the sin nature in us that makes us naturally and hopelessly self-centered. Jesus confirmed to the legal expert that unless we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbour as ourselves, we would not have eternal life. If we are honest with ourselves, we know we can’t do that. And if we want to make sure that we do what it takes to qualify, like the legal expert, that’s not loving our neighbours. That’s loving ourselves. So we are in a predicament. We cannot love and yet we know what Jesus said. So what is the solution? How can we truly love? I addressed this question from Kingdom 24–28. The solution is not to try and argue ourselves out of what Jesus plainly told us and try and base our salvation on a wrong understanding of Jn.3:16, nor is it to go the other extreme of trying to force ourselves to love. That would really be going back to the law.

The answer is neither to remain in denial nor to try and save ourselves, but to go back to God. Apart from God, we cannot really love. In fact Jesus said it is impossible and it is only God who can make it possible. But that does not mean there is no responsibility at all on our part. In everything between God and man there are 2 parts – God’s part and man’s part. Man cannot do God’s part and God will not do man’s part. In order for us to be truly reconciled to God and be one with God, we have to do our part. We have to yield and surrender our kingdoms to Jesus. And we need to choose to love. Then we need to learn to receive God’s love. That’s where I shared with you Joe Ozawa’s dream.

Receiving God’s love first of all heals us of our own emptiness, frustration, and brokenness that comes from striving on our own. Second, it enables us to love as He loves. When we do that, when we yield and surrender and ask God to fill us with His love, then God will do His part. He will enable and empower us. In Jn.15 Jesus talked about the vine and branches. Branches cannot bear fruit unless they remain attached. Jesus said if we remain in Him, He will remain in us, and we will bear fruit. Jesus also said that we can ask the Father to do it in us, so that we can bear much fruit, and that will be evidence that we are His disciples.

Salvation by grace we will discover is not just receiving God’s forgiveness but includes God fulfilling His own law by living in us and through us. The purpose of being reconciled and reunited with God is not just so that we can escape hell and be forever with God in heaven. The purpose of being reconciled and reunited with God is so that we can be one with God. When we are one with Him, we can be like Him and we can love as He loves. That was what Jesus prayed in Jn. 17. It is going back to original design. Not to become like God independently of God, which was what the devil suggested to Adam and Eve. But to become like Him through being one with Him.

From the beginning to the end, that is God’s one and only agenda. Christ in us the hope of glory. And that is also what glorifies God. Not big church buildings and big meetings, which is just self-aggrandisement, but people who reflect His character. Of all that God created, nothing glorifies Him more than when man who is made to be like Him, actually becomes like Him. Jesus said it is by this that people will know we are His disciples. Not fantastic preaching. Not even miracles. It is when we love each other as He has loved us.

God is love and He created us to be like Him so that we can love – to love Him and love others. But the full potential of becoming like Him and the ability to love cannot happen unless we are first given the power of choice. Love is not something that can be programmed into us. If God could press a button in us to love Him, that wouldn’t be love. Love is not love unless it comes out of a heart that is free to choose. So God gave us choice. That’s where I shared with you the story of my dog Betsy in Kingdom 28. Remember my dog Betsy? Betsy did not become my dog until I let her go and she came back to me. In the same way, God had to let us go to give us the choice whether to return to Him. But choice means little until it is tested. That is why God not only put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden, He put the devil there.

Contrary to what many Christians believe, the Bible is clear that the fall of man into sin, and Jesus’ coming to earth as saviour was not an afterthought rescue plan, but was pre-planned and ordained by God from the very beginning. Paul says that God Himself subjected the whole of creation to frustration in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. Adam and Eve and all of us would have to be tested. One day the perfect will come. Meanwhile the world would be put to the test, as well as given the opportunity to learn to overcome and to learn to love – what would each of us choose?

I did not say this earlier, but Paul told us in 1 Cor.13 that when the perfect comes, everything will be revealed. But before that happens, it is while we are living in the imperfect, and while our knowledge and understanding is partial, that we are tested, and we can also learn to love. When the perfect comes, there is no need any more for faith, or hope, or learning to love.

As you heard me say in Kingdom 35, if we remained in the garden of Eden where everything is perfect we would never grow and mature. We would never learn to love. It is only when we are put into a situation where we are challenged by the limitations of this 3 dimensional physical world we are in, and the limitations of time, and challenged by our own weaknesses and limitations, and challenged with the needs of others .. ha  .. that’s when we are repeatedly faced with a choice whether to love others or to love ourselves, right? Shall we die to self and put others first? Or shall we choose to love ourselves instead, to put ourselves first and save ourselves? I always give this simple illustration whenever I’m teaching in India. It’s lunch time and there’s 20 of us, but only 5 packets of Briyani. Who gets to eat the Briyani and who doesn’t?

That’s why in the present imperfect, there remains faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love. It is when we choose to reach out in love despite being wronged, or despite being falsely accused, or misunderstood, or despised, or when we are in want or suffering lack ourselves, that’s when we unite with God’s desire for us and by His Spirit we are changed to become more like Him.  That’s why God subjected the whole of creation to frustration so that through pain and agony, and through trials and suffering He would purify and refine for Himself those who will look like Him, and walk like Him, and think like Him, and feel like Him and even smell like Him.  They would have learnt to overcome self, and overcome the devil, and overcome the world.  Then they would be ready to reign and rule with Him. Paul says the angels and the whole of creation are waiting in eager expectation to see who in the end will be revealed as the children of God. That’s the “behind the scenes” story I told in Kingdom 29. But, we must remember this. Not trying to become like God apart from Him, but becoming like Him through being one with Him.

I’ll continue in Kingdom 47.

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 45

In the previous segment in Kingdom 44, I did a very brief run through from Kingdom 1-43. Just to connect things together in a logical sequence. But I left out many key points. In this segment and the next two segments, I will do an overview of the key points. In Kingdom 44, I said it will take 2 segments, but I found that if its just 2 segments, I would have to leave out some really important things. So it’s going to be three segments, not two. It will basically be the same framework but with more content added to it, plus one or two things I missed out earlier.

From Kingdom 1-10, I talked about how the good news that Jesus and His disciples preached was not salvation to go to heaven, but His Kingdom coming to earth. “Let Your Kingdom come, let Your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven”, tells us that God wants His Kingdom not only in heaven but also on earth. The earth and everything in it belongs to God. The good news is that from the first time Jesus came, God is in the process of restoring everything to what it was meant to be in the beginning.

Man started off in the garden of Eden under God’s rule. He was entrusted with dominion over the earth, but that dominion was lost to the devil when he listened to the devil instead of listening to God. Satan’s lie to Adam was that he could be like God. He could have his own wisdom and be independent of God and rule himself. Satan’s deception worked. As a result, man became independent of God and became his own god. Everyone does what is right in his own eyes. Everyone is king of his own kingdom. And Satan became the prince or ruler of this world.

But here’s the good news. The good news is that God’s Kingdom has come to invade this world. Jesus came to defeat the devil so that we can be restored to being under God’s rule. The apostle Paul said that we have been rescued from the kingdom of darkness to be in God’s kingdom. So yes Jesus did come to save us, but not to save us to take us to heaven. He came to save us from Satan’s kingdom to restore us to be in His kingdom. Restoration, not escape.

If we are in God’s Kingdom which begins for us when we are born again, when we die we will be with the Lord. But the good news that Jesus preached was not heaven. The good news He preached is the Kingdom. God’s Kingdom will of course not be fully established on earth until Jesus returns, but Jesus made it very clear that the process of His Kingdom coming began when He first came because He had come as the King, and we can be a part of His Kingdom now.

If God wants His Kingdom on earth, then we need to do 3 things : 1) We need to wake up to the Kingdom 2) We need to surrender our kingdoms to God 3) We need to work with God for His Kingdom to advance on earth.

Waking up to the Kingdom involves a paradigm shift : from a “salvation from this world” worldview, to a “God’s Kingdom on earth” worldview. I talked about this from Kingdom 7-10. We need to re-orientate our entire understanding and focus. Since God wants His Kingdom on earth, then instead of trying to get more people to heaven, we need to focus on what God wants on earth. Not just church, and definitely not church as we know it, but Kingdom.

For that re-orientation to happen, Jesus told us that we must become like little children again. Back to zero. We need to have all our understanding, all our ideas about money, business, work, success, happiness, and everything else in life that we gained from this world, that were formed apart from God, we need to have all our ideas overhauled. We need to give God a clean slate. Only then can God begin to reveal the knowledge of the secrets of His Kingdom to us without it being mixed with our ideas.

But many Christians have distorted ideas of life and of the Kingdom. So from Kingdom 12–14, I addressed some frequently asked questions about the Kingdom : Didn’t Jesus say the Kingdom of God is within us? Isn’t “Let Your Kingdom come” actually about a future event when Jesus returns? And didn’t Jesus say His kingdom is not of this world? I explained how each of them were wrong ideas as a result of interpreting scripture out of context. And they are all based on a faulty worldview that ignores what Jesus plainly told us – that He had come to drive Satan out and establish His Kingdom on earth. Paul told us Jesus came to reconcile everything in heaven and on earth so that He would be Lord over all. Paul also said that He is in the process, already in the process, of bringing everything under His Lordship after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. In his dream Daniel saw God’s Kingdom as a rock that smashed and crushed all other kingdoms and it grew into a huge mountain that filled the whole earth.

So how is Jesus going to drive Satan out? How is He going to reconcile everything under His Lordship? In other words, how is His 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, and culture, and values of God’s kingdom. If Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, and therefore we are to go and disciple nations, then discipling nations cannot be just about the discipling of individuals of their private lives, right? And spirituality cannot be just an invisible private thing inside a person, right? All of art, science, business, education, government, family, everything .. everything is to be brought under the Lordship of Christ.

We also need to do what Israel failed to do – to live out the truth, and culture, and values of the Kingdom so that the world can see what it means to be a community of people under God’s Kingdom. Jesus said the Kingdom had been taken away from them and given to others who will bear fruit.

But what happens when Christians and churches are trapped in a “salvation from this world” worldview and a church-centric worldview and they think that God has no concern or plans for this world? Then they will see everything in a dualism – where things like church, Bible study, and prayer are considered spiritual but everything else is considered not spiritual. What happens when spirituality is understood only as an invisible private thing inside a person? The consequences are of course devastating and heart-breaking. From Kingdom 15–19, I shared with you the terrible statistics of poverty in the world and the pathetic response of Christians and churches. I also shared several stories and examples of that.

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 that is wrong in the world? I dealt with that from Kingdom 20–23.

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.

The reason why we have Jn.3:16 is so that we can get back to Gen.1:26. 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, which corresponds with the Lk.10 dialogue between Jesus and the legal expert, and Matt.25 on the sheep and goats, and what John told us – this is how we know we have passed from death to life – when we love.

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, that just like the priest and Levite who passed by on the other side, we completely turn a blind eye to needs around us. 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.

I’ll continue in Kingdom 46.

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 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.

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.