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.

Kingdom 34

This explains the scenario I gave in Kingdom 29. We cannot on our own, love like Jesus or change ourselves to be like Him. We have to first go to God to receive His love, and be changed to be like Him, so that we can love like He does. But no one will by themselves, of their own accord, go to God to receive His love, or be changed to become like Him. That is why for God to change us to become like Him, He first confronts us with His standard that we cannot meet. It is when we fail to meet His standard that we would go to Him for Him to enable us. It is also only when we are broken that we will go to Him for Him to heal us. Otherwise, we are naturally very self-sufficient. That is why God does 2 things in order to change us to become like Him. Internally He puts His Spirit in us, but externally He allows suffering to whittle away and burn up the self-nature in us.

  • I’m not sure what you are thinking after listening to Kingdom 33. Many who hear me teach about dying to self and loving the poor often feel in despair that they are not able to live up to the love that Jesus talks about. Our default mode is to look within ourselves but when we look within ourselves we will be in despair. So I need to remind us once again not to look at ourselves, but to go to God and get the love from Him. Please listen to Kingdom 24 again where I shared with you Joe Ozawa’s dream. To be able to love, we have to receive God’s love. In 1 Jn.4:19, John said, “We love because He first loved us.”
  • But what does it mean to receive God’s love? How does that happen? What’s involved in learning to receive His love? In Kingdom 26, I wanted to go on to talk about receiving God’s love, but before I could do that, I had to clarify some points first in Kingdom 26, 27 and 28. I had to explain how the once saved always saved doctrine, and how everything is predestined and we really have no choice in anything, cannot be right. I had to deal with that first because if what Calvin told us is true, then God is not really love, or we were not made to be like Him, and there is no responsibility on our part to choose to love, nor can we be in a love relationship with God, or anyone else for that matter, and this whole thing about receiving God’s love and changing to become like Him would be meaningless then.
  • So what I did in Kingdom 29 was to pull back the curtain as it were, to see what’s behind the scenes so that we can see what on earth we are doing here, and what God is actually up to. A completely different picture from the one that Calvin painted for us. Wherever and whenever I have shared what I did in Kingdom 29, many people have told me that it answered a lot of their questions about life and that it all makes sense now to them what they are going through. I hope it has been the same for you.
  • OK, so now I’m going to go a bit more into Scripture to give us a scriptural framework for the picture I painted in Kingdom 29, and I’m also going to talk about what’s actually involved in learning to receive His love.
  • But first, let us recall something. In Kingdom 25, I said there is a second aspect as to why we need to receive God’s love, and it has to do with our hearts. I believe we all need to be healed and made whole in our hearts, and the only thing that can really heal us and make us whole is the love of God.
  • Logically, I should talk about being healed first, right, before I go on to talk about loving others, because how can we love unless we first experience love? So why did I talk about loving others first? It appears that what I have done is to put the cart before the horse, isn’t it? As a matter of logic, it looks like I’ve got it the wrong way round. Why didn’t I talk about going to God to get His love, to get healed first? And why before that, I kept emphasizing that unless we love we don’t have eternal life? That really puts us in a predicament doesn’t it?
  • There is actually a good reason for that. Basically it is because of our human nature that resists change. You see unless there is something to compel us to change, we will not change. Now I am not a psychologist, ok, but I am 58 years old, and next month, in March I will be 59 years old. From what I have observed of human nature, and what I’ve observed of life, and what I understand from the Bible, you know we humans are not only very self-centred, we are also very self-sufficient. We are so self-sufficient that unless and until we are compelled by something to change, we will not see or feel the need change, or to go to God to receive His love. Our self-sufficiency not only prevents us from going to God, our self-sufficiency blinds us from realizing how bankrupt we are.
  • In Rom.3, Paul says that there is no one who seeks God. Why? I believe it’s because as you heard me explain in Kingdom 27, man became his own god. Everyone is immersed in themselves. God says, “I am the Lord, I change not”. God also says, “I am that I am”, but you know what, man who has become his own god also says, “I am what I am, don’t try and change me ok?” Right? We are naturally resistant to change. Unless God comes to awaken us, unless God comes to disturb us as it were, we will continue living in a world of our own. So what does God do to get our attention, and get us to return to Him? What does God do to break that self-sufficiency in us and open our eyes so that we will go back to Him and receive His love? So that we can be changed to become like Him?
  • From what I understand of Scripture, there are 2 things He does to change us to become like Him. First, He lays down the law, or He sets the standard that we must meet. When we are confronted by the law, we try our best to obey it, but the more we try, the more we discover we can’t fulfill its demands. As Paul explained to us in Galatians 3 the law was not given so that we can be justified by obeying it, but the law was given to show us that we can’t obey it, and it is only when we realize how we can’t do it, that we will then realize how utterly incapable and hopeless we are, so that we will then go to God and fall back on His mercy.
  • So God sets the standard and confronts us with His standard, in the hope that we will realize we can’t do it so that we will go to Him, and depend on Him not only for His mercy but to empower us to meet His standard. Otherwise we won’t even realize how self-centred and sinful we are, and we won’t realize our need to go to Him. So that’s why I first put forth the challenge to us to love. When we know we can’t do it, then we will go to God to receive His love.
  • The second thing God does to get us to return to Him so that He can work His nature and character into us is, He allows suffering into our lives to break us. Because it is only when we are broken that we realize we are bankrupt, and it is only then that we will go to God and ask Him to heal us and change us. Otherwise we are very self-sufficient and we feel no need of God. We could be very wounded, and in very great need of healing, but we are so self-sufficient, so full of self, we will continue to remain resistant to God until we are totally and utterly broken. Then and only then will we learn to receive His love. Before we are broken, all our prayers are just giving God good advice .. as AW Tozer says. And by the way, this breaking does not happen just once. It has to happen again and again until we have come to an end of ourselves.
  • In Rom. 1 – 8, Paul gives a logical progression of how God redeems man from sin and changes him to become like Christ. I’ve talked about the blood of Christ as the remedy for our sins in Rom.3, and the cross as the remedy for our sin nature in Rom.6, but that is not enough to make us like God. Why? Because we are still unable to live up to the requirements of the law. Despite our best intentions, we are unable to do what we know we should do, and we keep doing what we know we should not do, right? Paul talks about this in Rom.7 and he calls this our body of death. What then is the remedy for our weakness or inability to live up to God’s expectations? The answer is in Rom.8.
  • In order for us to become like Christ, God has to do 2 things. First, God has to put His Holy Spirit in us, because it is only the Holy Spirit in us that makes us children of God, and it is only the Holy Spirit that will empower us to live the life of a child of God. So this is the first part of Rom.8 from verses 1-16. Pentecostals and Charismatics think that when they have the Holy Spirit, they already have the full gospel. That’s why they call themselves “full gospel” this and “full gospel” that. But guess what, even after we have the Holy Spirit, it still does not make us like Christ.
  • You see, the availability of the Holy Spirit is always there for us, but you know what, we are not going to draw on the power of the Holy Spirit, nor experience the enabling of the Holy Spirit to overcome ourselves or overcome external challenges, nor are we going to be changed by the Spirit working in us, unless we first find ourselves in a fix, or unless we are in some kind of trouble, right? So that is why God allows trouble and suffering. In fact He not only allows it He ordains it. This is the 2nd part of Rom.8 which begins from verse 17 until the end of the chapter. This is what God will do to complete the work and the process of shaping us into His likeness. Paul says God will use suffering to shape us into becoming like Christ. So internally, God gives us His Spirit, but externally God applies pain and pressure to whittle away and burn up our human nature.
  • I’ll continue in the next segment in Kingdom 35, but in the meantime, please read Rom.8. It is one of the key passages in the Bible if we want to know what God is doing in us to achieve His purpose of making us to be like Him.

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 33

How are we expressing the love of Christ? Are we instead blocking the eyes of people from seeing Jesus? What if our church buildings were turned into places of shelter for the homeless? Love is the final test because that is the main thing about God that we were created to be like. Everyone knows that selfishness is the ugliest thing of all, and love is the greatest thing of all. Everyone can instinctively recognize love or selfishness. People seek happiness, but happiness is selfish because it is about taking to satisfy oneself, with little or no thought for others. True joy and fulfillment comes from 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 seek self fulfillment, the further we will be from what we were created to be, and the more we will feel unfulfilled. But Jesus came to restore us to what it really means to be human according to God’s design – to love – to love Him, the One who made us, and to love each other.

  • This is a continuation from Kingdom 32. I ended Kingdom 32 with the question, what are our buildings and meetings for? Why are we doing what we are doing? Two weeks ago, when I was conducting a Kingdom workshop, one of the participants in the workshop told me that he had been wondering even before attending the Kingdom workshop, what would happen if church buildings were converted to hospitals or places where the homeless or people who are in trouble could seek shelter and food and for someone to listen to their struggles. He told me he’s from a minority sect and as far as he knew, there’s only 3 of them from his sect who have come to Christ out of a population of several million. He said it is so hard to try and share his faith with people. What he told me was, they cannot see Christ because what they see of Christians is blocking their eyes from seeing Christ. It’s like what Gandhi said, “I like your Christ, but I don’t like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Gandhi also said, “If it were not for the Christians in India, India would be Christian.” One Bengali Brahmin also said, “If only the Christians in India were more concerned for me than for my soul, India would be Christian.”
  • Paul told us in 1 Cor.13 that love is the greatest. He said we can have all knowledge and wisdom and faith, but if we don’t have love, we are nothing. In Eph.3, Paul said there is no greater goal than to know God’s love. In Matt.25, when Jesus told us about the sheep and goats, He made love, love for the poor, as the final test to determine whether someone is a sheep who is welcomed into His kingdom, or someone is a goat who goes into eternal punishment. Why does Paul say love is the greatest, and why does Jesus make love the final test? I believe it’s because that is the main thing about God that we were created to be like.
  • You will hear me in later clips talk about creativity and order and structure, and vision and planning, and work and productivity – which are other aspects of God’s character that I believe that we need to develop into. They are all very important, but there is nothing more important to God than that we love.
  • Actually, I believe that every person knows this – that nothing is greater than love. It has been embedded into us. Go and ask any person in the world, whatever his belief and religion might be, what is the greatest problem in this world? He or she will probably say that the greatest problem in the world is the self-centeredness of man. Now think of all the movies you’ve watched or stories you’ve read that have touched and moved you deeply. What was it that touched and moved you? Was it how smart and clever, or strong or skillful, or how brave the people were, in the story? Or was it how someone in the story loved or forgave or sacrificed themselves for others?
  • You know I travel a lot to different nations. Sometimes, almost every month I’m in a different nation. I’ve observed this again and again. People from different cultures and languages might not be able to understand each other because of language or cultural barriers, but all of us can instinctively recognize love or selfishness. The language of love, or the opposite, the language of selfishness, is something that cuts across all cultures. Love is the thing we humans recognize as the greatest, and what we humans yearn for the most, but it is also sadly what is most lacking in this world. The more the world so called develops and progresses, the more people are feeling more and more alienated from each other.
  • All over the world, people are seeking happiness. But I read this, that a group of psychologists doing research on human behavior have pointed out a distinct difference between the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of meaning. Happiness they said, is about feeling good. Happiness is about drive reduction. If you have a need or a desire — like hunger – and you satisfy it, that makes you happy. People become happy, in other words, when they get what they want. They pointed out that animals have needs and drives, too, and when those drives are satisfied, animals also feel happy. So what then sets human beings apart from animals? The conclusion they came to, is that it is not the pursuit of happiness, which occurs all across the natural world, but the pursuit of meaning, which is unique to humans.
  • The pursuit of happiness is essentially selfish and it is momentary. There is little or no thought about what is happening in the lives of others, or how our lives may be affecting others, right? The pursuit of happiness is about taking rather than giving. There is of course no end to trying to satisfy ourselves. And since happiness is only momentary, ironically, the pursuit of happiness is leaving people less happy. Moreover, what happens if everyone just focuses on taking? Sooner or later we will suffer the selfishness of some other person’s taking, right? No wonder the world is full of contention, strife and unhappiness.
  • Meaning, on the other hand, has to do with giving. People who live meaningful lives get a lot of joy from giving to others. In other words, meaning transcends the self while happiness is all about giving the self what it wants. So in their conclusion, the researchers said this : By putting aside our selfish interests to serve someone or something larger than ourselves — by devoting our lives to “giving” rather than “taking” — we are not only expressing our fundamental humanity, but we are also acknowledging that there is more to the good life than the pursuit of happiness.
  • You have probably heard this said before that the greatest joy is not to receive but to give. But why does loving others and giving to others bring joy? The researchers put it down to our fundamental humanity. That’s what they called it. But why is that our fundamental humanity? They didn’t say. Well, I believe it’s the Bible that provides us the answer and explains to us why.
  • Before I give you what I believe is the answer from the Bible, let me share with you a discussion I had with my son when he was still a teenager. We were talking about money. I wanted to explain to him why material wealth does not bring satisfaction and why many wealthy people are miserable. I asked him what would happen if I gave him an iphone and he dropped it and it was damaged beyond repair, or what if it was stolen. That would be a disaster right? But what if he was so wealthy he could give away 1 million iphones? Like Oprah Winfrey, did you know she gave away 100 Mercedes cars to her staff? If you were so wealthy that you could do that, and it doesn’t make even a small dent in your bank account, then breaking or losing an iphone wouldn’t be so painful, right? Or what if you could give away 1 million iphones, and someone came and gave you another iphone? What would the value of that iphone be to you then? In other words, the more wealthy you are, the less valuable or meaningful things become to you, right?
  • I read of a young lady in Singapore whose family was so wealthy that at any time, at her whim and fancy, she would fly to Perth in her own private jet to have lunch with her friends in Perth, and then fly to Hong Kong to have dinner with her friends in Hong Kong. Imagine that. If you are so wealthy, after a while of such a lifestyle, tell me, would eating in the most expensive restaurants mean much to you?
  • What then would make wealthy people feel fulfilled? And not just wealthy people, but any people? What is it that brings us fulfillment? I believe it is when we become what we were created to be. Like the story of the fish who discovered water. Have you heard of the story of the fish who was born out of the water? Scientists devised a method of keeping a fish alive by pumping oxygen-rich water through its gills. But one day they decided to put the fish in the water. Can you imagine how happy the fish was? OK I made that story up. But you get the idea.
  • This is what I wrote in my book ‘The Gospel of the Kingdom – Revealing the Heart of God’ : “If it can be said that there are certain core truths in the Bible, then one of the core truths in the Bible must be that God is love and that we were made to be like Him, meaning we were made to love. We become most like Him, most alive, and find our greatest joy and fulfillment when we love – when we feel for others, when we give, and when we bring joy to others and serve others. Not when we are immersed in ourselves, and accumulate, and hoard and serve ourselves. This is a paradox but the more we seek fulfillment for ourselves, the further we will be from finding it. Why? Because the further we will be from what we were created to be. But the more we turn our gaze away from ourselves, and we love and give and serve, the closer we will be to what we were created to be, right? And so the more we will experience fulfillment.”
  • Let me end by saying it again. We are actually a perversion, and a distortion of God’s original design. Sad but true. But Jesus came to restore us to what it really means to be human according to God’s design – to love – to love Him, the One who made us, and to love each other.

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 32

If we are to be like God, what is God like? To be like God is to be like Jesus. Jesus showed us Who His Father is. The one thing that Jesus kept emphasizing again and again was love. This is the main thing He came to show us of what His kingdom is. This is the heart and soul of the Kingdom – to love. To love especially the unlovely, the outcasts, the downtrodden, the rejects, the lonely, and those who are forgotten. People who will never step into our churches because our church buildings are not made for them, nor are our meetings and programs designed for them.

  • In Kingdom 31, I talked about how the Kingdom is like a jigsaw puzzle with many pieces. Within the picture of the Kingdom, there are as it were, some key pieces that other pieces fit into. What I talked about in Kingdom 25, for example, is one of the key pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. By the way, Kingdom 29 is also one of the key pieces, or perhaps I might even say, it’s the central piece of the jigsaw puzzle. But now in this audio clip, I’m going to go back to Kingdom 25, to elaborate on it.
  • In Kingdom 25, you heard me say that if ever there is such a thing as the most important verse in the Bible, I don’t think it will be Jn.3:16, but Gen.1:26. The reason why we have Jn.3:16, is so that we can get back to Gen.1:26. In other words, Jesus came so that we can be restored to God’s original plan and design – that we would become like God, so that we can be truly reconciled to God, and become one with Him.
  • So now let’s ask the question, what does it mean to be like God? There are of course some things about God that we cannot be like. Only God is omnipotent, omniscient, and self-existent. So we are not talking about those attributes of God. The question what does it mean to be like God, is only in terms of His character.
  • How do we know what God is like? Jn.1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” Jesus told His disciples, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (Jn.14:9). Heb.1:1-3 says : In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son .. who is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being”. Jesus called Himself both the Son of God as well as the Son of Man. What that tells me is that He came to show us what it really means to be human according to God’s original design – what it is to be like God – someone who really reflects who God is.
  • So, if we want to know what God is like, we can look at Jesus. When we look at Jesus, what do we see? When you read the gospels, what is it that most impresses you or captivates you about Jesus? For me, 3 things stand out most of all. First, His upset and anger against religious hypocrisy and religious bigotry. Fake religion or fake spirituality. Second, the penetrating truth that He spoke. And third, for me, most of all, is His love. Throughout the gospels He was against the religious leaders, but He was always for the nobodies and the outcasts of society – the woman caught in adultery, the Samaritan woman, the lepers whom everyone shunned, Zaccheus whom everyone despised, and Peter who was a failure.
  • By the way, why was Jesus so angry with the Pharisees but showed love and generosity towards people who were regarded as the rejects of society? What was it about the Pharisees that made Him angry? I think it was not just their religious hypocrisy, but it was how they were cold, unkind, and judgmental towards people who they thought did not measure up to them. To love I believe is to emphatise, to seek to understand, to feel what it’s like to be in the shoes of those who don’t measure up to our expectations, or who have failed, or who are wrong in some way. The nobodies, the misfits, outcasts and rejects of society. And in today’s fast paced world, I think it includes those who are slow, not very attractive, not very good looking, can’t speak properly, and not very smart or polished, right?
  • What was the thing Jesus emphasized the most? You know Jesus could have moved some mountains and raised a few thousand people from the dead, or He could have changed the sky to purple and then to green and then to red and back to blue, right? But He didn’t. I mean yes He did do some miracles but clearly He was not out to emphasize His power, nor to impress us with His knowledge. This is what I see – the one thing that Jesus kept emphasizing again and again was love. I believe this is the main thing He came to show us of what His kingdom is. This is the heart and soul of the Kingdom. And He not only taught it, He showed it to us by His life and by His death.
  • So what does it mean to be like God? It means to be like Jesus. It means to love like He did .. and to love especially the unlovely, the outcasts, the downtrodden, the rejects, the lonely, and those who are forgotten. People who will never step into our churches. Why? Because our church buildings are not made for them. Nor are our meetings and programs designed for them. So who are our buildings and meetings designed for? And why are we doing what we are doing?
  • I’ll continue in Kingdom 33.

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 31

The Kingdom is like a big jigsaw puzzle with many pieces, so it cannot be presented in a systematic logical sequence. And when the pieces are put together, we will see that it is upside down to this world, including church as we know it .. which is probably why we have a hard time trying to picture it. Jesus came to turn everything upside down because man turned everything upside down. So when Jesus turns everything upside down, what He’s really doing is He’s turning everything back upright. When Jesus finally completes His work of destroying all power and authority and He establishes His kingdom on earth, it will not at all be like anything we have ever known. If we are beginning to understand what the Kingdom means, we can no longer sit comfortably in church. We can no longer become part of church as we know it. Our whole understanding of life and of church changes. We will start looking outside of the church to see what God is doing and we will want to engage with Him in what He is doing.

  • In Kingdom 6, I said that when we realize that God wants His Kingdom on earth, then at least 3 things are needed : First, we must wake up to the Kingdom. Second, we must surrender our kingdoms to Jesus. Third, we must consider what it means for God’s Kingdom to be on earth and work with God for His Kingdom to advance. I’ve covered the first point about waking up to the Kingdom and I think I have almost completed the second point about surrendering our kingdoms to Jesus.
  • In Kingdom 11, I did an overview of what I had covered from Kingdom 1 – 10. Before going further, I thought perhaps it’s time for me to do an overview of what I’ve covered from Kingdom 12–30. But when I reviewed what I’ve covered so far to try to give a gist of the most important points, I found that there’s just too many important points I need to mention .. too many to put into an 8 minute or even 15 minute audio clip. So I’m not going to try.
  • Another thing that has been difficult to do is to try and put everything in a logical sequence. It would be nice if I could present the kingdom as I currently understand it in a systematic way but it’s actually quite impossible to do that. I’m also thinking, if Jesus did not give it to us systematically, then maybe it might not be a good idea to try and do it. I also find it interesting that Jesus never gave us a definition of the Kingdom. He always said, “The kingdom of God is like …” and He gave us different pictures of what it’s like.
  • When I first started seeking God to know His kingdom, I came to realize that the kingdom is like a jigsaw puzzle with many pieces. If you’ve tried putting a jig-saw puzzle together you know what that involves. You put some pieces together and you get one part of the picture and then you’re stuck. You can’t get further. Then you see some other pieces that can fit together and so you put those pieces together and you get another part of the picture. And again you find you are stuck. You can’t go further. So you keep putting pieces together for different parts of the picture wherever you can, and as you keep doing that, eventually you can see how the different parts that have already been assembled, will link up. Slowly but surely the already assembled parts will come together to give you the whole picture. I think when Jesus was telling us about the kingdom of God, it is something like that.
  • Have you ever heard of Rolf Harris? He was a brilliant artist and used to have his own TV show back in the 1970s. When I think of trying to picture what the Kingdom looks like, I am also reminded of how Rolf Harris used to paint a picture. He will have a huge wall sized canvas on the stage and he will paint on it in front of a live audience. You have no idea what he’s going to paint. He paints a bit on one part of the canvas. And then he leaves it, and he goes and paints on another part. Here a bit, there a bit. He goes all over the canvas. As you are watching him paint, you are wondering what on earth he is painting. Sometimes it is only at the very end when he finally finishes, that suddenly it all becomes very clear and we see the whole picture. There are times when he has finally finished painting and people are still wondering what it is. Then he turns the canvas 90 degrees or upside down and “voila!” there it is. It finally made sense. He used to be brilliant at doing that.
  • I think the Kingdom of God is something like that. It is upside down to the kingdoms of man. It is upside down to church as we know it. Because of that, we have a hard time trying to picture it. When Jesus finally completes His work of destroying all power and authority and He establishes His kingdom on earth, I am quite sure we will see it’s not at all like anything we have ever known.
  • So keeping in mind that it’s a big jig-saw puzzle, and that we probably will not be able to get to the whole picture until after Jesus returns, how am I to go further in this series on the Kingdom? I’ve been praying about it, and I think instead of trying to do an overview, I will try to get to the essence of what I’ve covered so far. So this is not an overview or a review but rather a distillation to get at the essence.
  • I think what I’ve done so far is I’ve taken you back to what the Bible actually says is the good news. Not what many think it says. What Jesus taught on the Kingdom, messes up the salvation and church worldview of many people. If God wants His kingdom on earth, then everything changes. What’s our mission or our purpose in life changes. Why God created us and put us on this planet becomes very important. In fact not only our purpose in life, our understanding of life, of this world, of money, business, art, science, education, government .. everything changes.
  • Our whole understanding of church changes. Instead of being introverted and having very little or nothing to do with what’s happening outside of the 4 walls of the church, we would look outside of the church to see what God is doing and we would want to get involved to work with God in what He’s doing. We simply cannot continue being part of church as we know it. Some people have told me after attending a Kingdom workshop that it’s both exciting as well as scary what the future holds after someone goes through this paradigm shift. If we truly understand the Kingdom, we can no longer sit comfortably in church and just be part of church as we know it.
  • When Jesus came, He turned everything upside down. He denounced the rich and powerful and He lifted up the poor and the nobodies. He said really hard things against the religious leaders but showed love and kindness and generosity towards criminals and prostitutes and adulterers. Many people in church today have a nice warm fuzzy romantic idea of Jesus. They sing lovely songs of beautiful worship to Jesus. But I wonder what would happen if Jesus were alive today. What would those who sing lovely songs to Jesus do if Jesus were to ask them to sell all to give to the poor? I wonder if we would also join the crowd to crucify Him.
  • There was once after a workshop ended, someone came up to me and introduced himself to me. He said, “Thank you very much for the teaching. God has really opened my eyes. I did not tell you this earlier but actually I am the senior pastor of my church. You know on the first day of the workshop I was actually very angry with you. I nearly took my bag and left. But I decided to stay back because I was thinking I should find out what rubbish you were teaching so that I can counter all this wrong teaching later with my church. I am very glad I stayed. My whole understanding of Christianity and church has been turned upside down. My eyes have really been opened. It is true. So many things we are doing in church are contrary to the Kingdom of God. But tell me, how am I to go back to my church? How are we to implement all this? Tell me .. practically .. down to earth .. what do you think is the first thing I should do when I go back to my church? Where do I start?”
  • I said I don’t think you’ll want to hear what I might tell you. He said, “No, no, please tell me. I really don’t know where to start.” I said, “Really? You really want me to tell you?” He said, “Yes, Yes, please tell me. Don’t hold anything back.” I said, “Ok, “If we really understand the Kingdom .. if we really follow Jesus .. the first thing you would do when you go back to your church is this .. you would exchange your salary with the guy who cleans the toilet in your church.” He nearly fell backwards.
  • I continued, “Tell me, if Jesus was the senior pastor of your church, do you think He would give Himself the highest salary? Do you think He would do that when He said that the good shepherd lays down His life for His sheep? Where did we get that idea from anyway – that the senior pastor should be paid the highest salary in the church? Did we get it from the Bible or did we get it from the world? And think about this .. how do you think God looks at the guy who cleans the toilet in your church? Don’t you think in God’s eyes he would be the greatest in the kingdom … because Jesus said the greatest in the kingdom is the servant of all? Afterall, if he is doing what no one else wants to do, should we not value him more than others? Should he not get the highest salary? And if we are to value him in the same way as God does, should he not get the highest salary?”
  • He started laughing, and then he said, “If I do that, my wife will kill me.”
  • Why did Jesus come and turn everything upside down? I believe it’s because man turned everything upside down so when Jesus came to turn everything upside down, what He’s really doing is He’s turning everything back upright.

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 30

How can millions of Christians around the world read how church is described in the Bible, but what they experience of church is altogether something else, but it doesn’t seem to trouble them? How is it they can accept that as normal? What has our understanding of Christianity and church been all this time? In the parable of the good Samaritan we learn that true spirituality is love – an outward focus on others, not an inward focus on ourselves, not some kind of inner spirituality. True spirituality was exemplified in the Samaritan who went out of his way to help the man in need, not the priest and levite who were more concerned for their spirituality. To follow Jesus is to love, to lay down our lives for others just as He did. But the idea that most Christians today seem to have of spirituality is an internal inward thing. The gospel of salvation as most Christians know it is focused on us. It’s all about us. Many Christians seem to see God as someone who exists to protect them and bless them and keep them happy. Then they make church what it is – also self-focused and self-absorbed, which in turn produces even more self-centered people who think their self-centered spirituality is very spiritual. Isn’t it time to get out of this vicious cycle?

  • I’m not sure if anyone is still following this series, but if you are, I wonder what your thoughts are after listening to Kingdom 29, the previous audio clip. In fact I wonder what you have been getting from this series so far. If you would like to share with me, it will be most welcome. You can email me. My email address is acts1322@gmail.com
  • I teach in many nations and each time I complete a workshop some people will tell me it had opened their eyes or turned their understanding of Christianity upside down. Someone said he felt like he had been through a washing machine. Someone else said he felt like he had been hit by a truck. At the end of a workshop, some pastors asked, “Why is it we have all been through seminary and we have been leaders in churches and various ministries for so many years but we have never seen this before?” All I am doing however is simply sharing some very well known passages of the Bible. Like what Jesus said in Jn.15 about the Vine and branches.
  • OK, what I shared about why God created us might be new to many people, but what Jesus said in Jn.15 and what He told the legal expert in Lk.10, and the rich young ruler in Lk.18, and what He said about the sheep and goats in Matt.25 are very well known passages of the Bible. The same with the most fundamental thing of all – that the good news is the good news of the kingdom. So why is it so revolutionary to many people? What has our understanding of church and of Christianity been all this time?
  • When John Wimber the founder of Vineyard first became a Christian, he couldn’t understand what was going on in church. One day he went up to the pastor and asked, “When are we going to start doing the book?” The pastor did not understand what he was saying. So John held out the Bible in his hand and repeated his question, “When are we going to start doing the book?” You see John was wondering when the church will start praying for the sick and casting out demons and raising the dead and when he will start seeing the miracles and the love and community that he read about in the gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles.
  • The pastor did not know what to say. To the pastor, Christianity and church was .. what it was .. as he had known it to be .. his entire life .. it had not occurred to him that it should be any different. So this is the question I want to ask : How is it that millions and millions and millions of Christians around the world can read the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles .. you know, how church is described in the Bible .. but what they experience of church is altogether something else, but it doesn’t seem to trouble them? How is it they can continue sitting happily in church week after week, year after year and accept that as normal? Amazing isn’t it?
  • In the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus said that the man who was robbed was going from Jerusalem to Jericho, but the priest and Levite passed by on the other side. I think Jesus was implying that they were going in the opposite direction – from Jericho to Jerusalem. I mean where else would a priest and Levite be heading anyway? To Jerusalem of course. And why were they going to Jerusalem? To worship at the temple of course. To the Jews, worshipping God in Jerusalem was more important than anything else .. more important than even stopping to help people in need, right? Why did Jesus tell this parable? Obviously Jesus told this parable to smash the legal expert’s understanding of what spirituality is. From the parable we learn that true spirituality is exemplified not in the priest and Levite who did not want to miss temple worship, but in the Samaritan who went out of his way to help the man.
  • When I was teaching this in China once, right in the middle of my teaching, someone in the meeting was so excited with this new revelation he stood up to speak right in the middle of my speaking. He said God had just opened his eyes to see the difference between the spirituality that Buddhism teaches and the spirituality that Jesus taught. He was right. He got it. One is an inner focus. The other is the very opposite. Focusing not on ourselves but on the needs of others. But here’s the question. What difference is there really between us and the Buddhists if to us spirituality is about prayer and Bible study and making sure we do not miss church, or miss this meeting or that speaker? Isn’t our spirituality also about an inner focus?
  • When God first opened my eyes to what the gospel really is, I realized that my understanding of spirituality was deeply flawed. My understanding of spirituality, which I think is also the understanding of spirituality of many Christians around the world was something personal, between God and I and I and God. But when I thought about the greatest commandment, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves, I realized that my understanding of spirituality had to change from just God and I, and I and God, to God and I and my neighbor.
  • In the Kingdom workshops I conduct, I often ask people what they think of when they look at the cross. Most people, when they look at a cross, they think of how much God loves them, right? Some may even weep when they think of how much Jesus suffered for them. That’s all fine and good. But you know what? I have yet to hear someone say, “When I look at the cross, I think of how Jesus laid down His life for others, and if I am to follow Him, then I need to do the same. I see Jesus calling me to follow Him – to lay down my life for others, just like He did.” This is what John told us in 1Jn.3:16 – This is how we know love. Since Jesus laid down His life for us, then we also ought to lay down our lives for others.
  • I’ve shared with you some sad stories and I’ve shared with you the statistics of how little Christians and churches have been engaged with the poor, and then I asked, “So what do you think is the problem : a wrong understanding of the gospel .. meaning a wrong understanding of God .. or a problem of the heart? Or both? Or they are really the same thing?”
  • I think by now, the answer should be quite obvious. I don’t know if you might have heard this before, but there is a saying that the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. John said those who do not love, do not know God. Since it is only from our heart that we can know God, if we have a problem with our hearts, then we’ll also have a wrong understanding of who God is, and what God is like. Like the Jews. They studied and memorized the OT and they thought they knew all about God, but when Jesus who is in the very image of His Father stood in front of them, they couldn’t recognize Him.
  • The Jews knew God as a legalistic and religious God. But Jesus was not at all legalistic or religious. He broke the law healing people on a Sabbath and he ate with sinners and he talked with prostitutes and adulterers. Now believers today may not know God as a legalistic and religious God but I think we have another kind of problem. Many today know God as someone who exists to protect them and bless them and make them happy. And the church today keeps reinforcing this idea. The church keeps telling people, “Come and be blessed”. And modern charismatic type of churches say the same thing but with more hip to it, “Don’t miss out on what God has for you.”
  • Most believers today know the gospel as the gospel of salvation. What’s the focus of the gospel of salvation? The focus is us. We think God loves us so much He cannot stand to see us in hell so He gave His Son to die for us. That is why Jesus came. That’s the understanding of most Christians. It’s all about us. We don’t see the gospel is about love and how it calls us to die to self for others.
  • We may not have the same idea of God as the Jews had, but the idea of spirituality today is not much different. It is also wrapped up in the self. Then we also make church what it is – self-centered and self-focused and self-absorbed. Don’t you find this amazing? All over the world, churches can be right next door to each other or just a 15 minute walk down the street from each other but they don’t even know each other. So don’t even talk about churches making the effort to find out if there are needy people around them. They don’t even bother to get to know the church right next door. And then the  church produces even more self-centered people, who think their self-centered spirituality is very spiritual. So A leads to B and B in turn reinforces A – a vicious cycle.
  • Isn’t it time we got out of this vicious cycle? If Paul were to return from the dead and if we were to take him to church, what do you think he might say? I think he might say, “What? You call this church? Is this what I died for? Is this what Jesus died for?”

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 29

Imagine with me for a moment .. at some point in eternity, after God had created the universe, one day God gathered all the angels together and announced to them, “We are going to make man.” What do you think the angels would have said?

I think they might have said, “Man? What is that? Is that another star or galaxy?” And what do you think God would have said in reply? We know what He would have said in reply : “Man is going to be like Us.” And what do you think the angels would have replied? I am quite sure they would have replied, “What?? Like You? That’s impossible!!! How can anything in the universe be like You?” What do you think God would have replied?

I can imagine God would have said something like this, “Yes, man will be like Us. Like Us, they will have a heart and a mind .. to think and reason, to imagine and create, to feel, to learn and work. To delight in their work and what they produce. To enjoy and appreciate all that is beautiful. To communicate and express themselves .. but most of all to love. Like Us, they are destined to rule. But first they must be given the ability to choose – to choose between good or evil, right or wrong, to love or to hate, to build or destroy, to overcome or be overcome.”

I can imagine Gabriel might have been really puzzled and he would have voiced the question on the minds of all the angels. “How is that going to happen? We have never seen anything like this before.” Then I can imagine God replying, “We have a plan. It will take time, and it will involve many trials and obstacles. Many struggles, challenges and battles. Many will be lost, but in the end, We will get those who will be like Us. They will come to know Us and share Our heart. To them will be given dominion, to reign and rule with Us. You will all be witnesses of this. And many of you will be involved in the process, but behind the scenes.”

With that, I can imagine God flying through the universe and heading for planet earth to create man. As He does that, what do you think the angels might have thought? I can imagine the angels are utterly shocked. But why would God choose planet earth? I mean of the trillions and zillions of galaxies and planets in the universe, why earth? Isn’t the earth the very place He had banished Lucifer and one third of the angels who joined in the rebellion? Could God be making a mistake? How is man going to be like God? They might become more like the devil!

God lands on planet earth and proceeds to create light and sky, land and sea, plants and trees, sea life and animals, and He puts the two trees in the center of the garden of Eden. Then He takes some mud from the ground He creates Adam and then Eve and puts them there. I can imagine the angels are speechless. This is mind blowing, right? How can something from the ground become like God? God doesn’t answer them but it is all part of how they will learn to overcome.

So God walks with man in the garden and they commune and it is beautiful. God tells man that he can eat from any tree in the garden but not from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But one day, God goes away and as soon as He does, the serpent comes. The angels are horrified. This is a perfect recipe for a disaster! They can’t bear to watch. I can imagine them asking God, “God, what shall we do? Shall we warn them?”

What does God say? I can imagine God saying, “No, it is not necessary. I have already told them. Just watch. It is part of Our plan.” “But how can that be part of Your plan? How will that make them like You? We don’t understand”. Gabriel is confused. But all God says is, “Just watch. You’ll see.”

Well the inevitable happened. The cunning serpent tempted Adam and Eve with the very thing God desired of them – that they would become like Him .. but with a twist. They ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and as it is said, the rest is history. Into the creation there entered envy, pride, murder, hatred, selfishness, greed, wickedness, wars, hunger, poverty, rape, abuse, disease, corruption, lies, deception, blindness, prejudice, denial ..

How will God achieve His goal? A long time passes. It gets worse. Sin is multiplied. God sends His prophets. What does man do? Man kills them. Then He sends His Son. What does man do? Man kills Him too. But before He is killed, He shows them what it is to be a son who walks with His Father and reflects the glory of his Father. He heals. He loves. He forgives. He washes the feet of His disciples. He shows them what it means to die to self in His love for others. He gives Himself to be crucified and by that He overcomes death and He overcomes the devil. Then He goes back to His Father and the Holy Spirit is given. He is not only with them .. but in them.

More time passes. Through it all, I can imagine God is watching and waiting. His heart is repeatedly broken by what He sees. But He waits. He already knows who in the end will choose Him and choose His way. But like a father who watches over how his son or daughter learns to walk, He watches to see how they will falter, again and again, but they keep getting up and pressing on. They will learn to be like His Son – to love, to forgive, to heal, to die to self for others, to serve, to create, to build, to press on .. and overcome. I can imagine His Spirit and His love growing stronger and stronger within them. Through all the testing, conflict, challenges, and suffering, they are being shaped, and they are learning and growing more and more like Him.

Finally the day arrives. The exercise and test is over. God gathers all the angels again. They have been waiting for this day for a long time. He points them out one by one. “How about that one there, what do you think?” I can imagine the angels going “Oh no, not that one. He looks more like the devil.” “OK, how about that one over there? What do you think?” Again the angels are unanimous. “Definitely not that one. Very religious, but not at all like You.” Then God points to another. “How about that one over there? What do you think? Has he learnt to love? To die to self and to overcome? Doesn’t he look like Us?” I can imagine the angels saying, “Ahh .. that one, we have been watching him for a long time. He keeps falling down but he keeps getting up. Yes, he not only looks like You, he walks, and talks, and thinks, and feels .. and even smells like You!”

I can imagine God replying, “Amen! I told you it would work!” I can imagine God smiling in delight, beaming proudly as any father would, on the day of his son’s or daughter’s graduation. This one, and that one, and that one .. and now they are ready to reign and rule with Him.

This is how Paul puts it : “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. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, 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 .. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Rom.8:17-21, 28-30)

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 28

God created us to be like Him, to love, which has to come freely from our hearts. Love cannot be programmed into us. You can’t have a love relationship with a computer. You can have a love relationship only with someone who can love you or reject you. Despite all the consequences of giving man freedom of choice, that is why God put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden. The story of how Betsy became my dog illustrates that. In the same way I had to let Betsy go so that in time she would come back to me to really become my dog, God had to let man go in the hope and plan that man would one day return to Him. Otherwise we could not really have a love relationship with God nor can we experience love. Love has flow out of a heart that’s set free to choose. God wants our hearts. He wants people who seek to know His heart. That’s what God is waiting for.

  • In Kingdom 25, I talked about why God created us – He created us to be like Him. And His end goal, Paul tells us in Rom.8:29, is that we are changed to become like Him. Then I ended Kingdom 25 by asking, “Does it make sense now why receiving His love is the most important thing of all?” Just in case it might not be clear to some, it’s like this : We know God is love, right? Since we were made to be like Him, we were therefore made to love. But can we love? No we can’t. We are all naturally self-centered, because of this sin nature in us that we inherited from Adam and Eve. So that is why we need to receive God’s love.
  • Without God’s love in us, on our own, we cannot really love. I mean yes we can love, but our human love is very limited, often inconsistent and possibly even selfish. Who knows if we might love with an ulterior selfish motive? In Jer.17:9 God said the human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it? That’s why we need God’s love. It is only His love in us that can change us to be like Him.
  • Now let me continue from the previous segment. Jesus said what He is looking for are friends. Not just obedient servants. I believe God is looking for those who seek to know His heart. If God wanted perfect machines, He wouldn’t have created man, right? He could create all the perfect machines He wants. But would perfect machines bring God delight? I believe what brings God delight is when we struggle with ourselves and despite the self in us crying out to be pleased, to be satisfied, to be pampered, to be given priority, instead of that, we put ourselves in the shoes of others to feel what it is like to be in their shoes, and we choose to put others in priority to ourselves. That’s what love is.
  • But how many of us can do that, all the time? Well we can do that for those we love. But how about for those we find hard to love? I believe God knows that we can’t do it on our own. So He waits for us to invite Him to come and empower us to love, but the decision to love has to come freely from our hearts. Not something programmed into us like putting a program into your computer to function exactly the way you want it. You can’t have a love relationship with your computer, can you? You can only have a love relationship with someone who is free to love you or reject you.
  • A long time back, I think it was sometime in 1989, I had a question that really troubled me. I told God unless He explained this thing to me, I will not be able to understand the Bible nor what life is really all about. I asked Him, “Why did you put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden? Didn’t You know what would happen? Didn’t You know it would lead to all the terrible things that have happened in this world : all the evil, hatred, disease, wars, murder, rape, abuse, oppression, injustice, selfishness, poverty, all the misery and pain and suffering. And death. What a terrible thing to be separated by death. God, You knew all that would result. So why did You do that?
  • I figured unless I had the answer to this question, nothing else in the Bible would really make sense to me. Everything, including why Jesus even had to come to die for us, hinged on this one thing that happened in the very beginning. Why put that tree there and then tell man not to eat it, knowing that he will do it? Doesn’t make sense, right?
  • One day God answered my question. And this is how it happened. My wife and I, we love dogs. But we did not have a dog. My neighbor had a dog. Instead of getting a dog of our own, we enjoyed our neighbor’s dog without having to look after one ourselves. We were living very busy lives in those days. Whenever my wife and I came out into the garden, my neighbor’s dog would come and lean against the fence and we would put our hands through, through the chain link fence and pat the dog. But one day, we heard two dogs barking! When we went out to see and my neighbor had gotten another dog – a lovely golden retriever. I immediately fell in love with it.
  • It was very funny but the 2nd dog learnt very quickly. Whenever my wife and I came out, both dogs would come and lean against the fence, and we’ll put our hands through and pat them! One day, my neighbor saw us doing that and he was very amused. He said, “Hey you really love my dogs so much, why don’t you take one of them? I can’t look after two dogs. But don’t take my old one. You can take the new one.” I said “Really?” Wow, I was so happy, I was thrilled.
  • I decided to name her “Betsy”. So I went to the shops, I bought a chain and a new collar and brought Betsy back to our place. I closed the front gate so she couldn’t go out. Everyday I would let her out to go and “do her business” (if you know what I mean), but when she had “done her business” she would go back to my neighbour. Then I would have to take the chain, go over to my neighbor’s place and bring her back, bring her back and close the gate. The next day, guess what happened? The same thing happened. And the next .. and the next, for 7 days it happened.
  • But on the 8th day, when I let Betsy out, after she had “done her business”, she came back to me with her tail waving to and fro! Wow I was so happy. I hugged her and said, “Betsy, you came back to me!” As I was hugging her and patting her, all of a sudden, I heard God speaking so clearly as a voice in my head. This is what God said, “Betsy was never your dog until today. Now she is yours.” That’s all He said. Immediately the whole Bible opened up to me. I suddenly understood why God put the Tree there, in the Garden of Eden. (By the way, I need to say this. I don’t always hear God speaking so clearly. I usually have an “understanding” as it were that God is saying something to me rather than hear specific words. But sometimes God speaks so clearly as an inner voice in my head. And this was such a time).
  • How did that answer my question about the tree? You see I can keep Betsy chained up with my front gate closed, but that doesn’t make Betsy my dog, does it? Especially not if she keeps going back to my neighbour as soon as she is free to leave, right? Betsy only really becomes my dog when she is free to go but she chooses to come back to me. So just like I had to let Betsy go and in time she would come back to me and become my dog, so God had to let man go in the hope and plan that he would return to Him. That’s why He put that tree there in the garden of Eden. He had to give man the freedom of choice so that when we return to Him, He can say, “Now you are really mine.”
  • Of course God knew the consequences, but there would have been no other way He could have us, nor for us to fully know and experience love. We were created to be like Him with the potential to love and experience love. But that potential would remain only a potential unless freedom of choice could be exercised, right? Love has flow out of a heart that’s set free to choose. Otherwise it is not love. So let me say it again. Jesus doesn’t just want servants who obey but who do not know their master’s heart. He wants our hearts. He wants people who seek to know His heart. I believe that’s what God is waiting for.

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.