God is already pleased with me.
It’s pointless to work for God if I have no relationship with Him.
Jesus wants His joy to be full in us.
Not too long ago, God put some thoughts in my heart about the idea of family. I am so grateful that family is His idea, and that He has spent the last five years of my life restoring me to my natural family. I have grown to love and honour my father and mother like never before, even to desire harmony and relationship with my grandmother, my sister, cousins, uncles and aunts. And this has blessed our family tremendously.
But recently He asked me to think about a different family – my church. “What does it mean to see your church as your family?” He asked. And the more I thought about it, the more I realised how crucial it was for me to understand this. How I view my church ultimately directs the way I regard its people.
For instance, I could view it as an organisation that is responsible for feeding me spiritually, and all I need to do is receive? Or, I could view it as an institution that I come to and ‘pay my dues’ so that I can have a safe and good afterlife? Thirdly, I could view it as a business, where operations must run smoothly and efficiently in order to please and wow the members so that they will keep coming back?
As we wrapped up the English sermon series It Runs In The Family, I reflected on the five important qualities of family as per God’s original design. They are so applicable to growing and strengthening the church body as a family, too. Here are some suggestions as to how can we apply this in a church context and I hope this will start you thinking about how we can build our church community further.
“I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.” ~ John 13:34-35 (AMP)
Have we actively shown love to each other in the church? Every week, ministries work together to plan and run weekend services. As we serve alongside each other, do we treat our areas of serving as tasks to be completed, or do we use these moments to build relationships with each other and bless each other in love? Have we spent time and effort to identify the love languages of our church friends and ministry teams, so that we can best make them feel loved? Serving truly transcends the task itself. If we pull off great services but do not grow in love towards one another, perhaps we are missing the point.
The beauty of our church is its diversity. In FGA, there are four different language campuses, and we are home to people from many nations and walks of life. The diverse cultures paint a lovely image of the Kingdom, and at the same time, this provides us with the beautiful opportunity to learn to accept people who are different from us. Communication is not just about conversation and getting our points across. In the sermon, Angie mentioned that “healthy communication = active listening + life-giving words”.
James 1 reminds us to ‘be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger’. We have no knowledge of someone else’s story unless we seek to listen and understand without judgment!
I also feel like we can never have enough of life-giving words. Each individual being is created with the likeness of God, so of course, you can always find something amazing about that person to call out. Praise in public, speak life into people and encourage individually and corporately. I believe that this will build up people to be more confident that they are walking according to their calling when they serve one another.
This may be just my opinion, but at times, I feel that we don’t give each other enough credit and trust to do outstanding and great things for the Kingdom. We sometimes seem hesitant to trust people to get a job done ‘well’, because they haven’t met the standards that we’ve unknowingly placed over them. Rhordan spoke about how trust is usually earned, but if we tried giving trust, we may be surprised by the outcome.
Remember that Jesus entrusted Peter to feed his sheep and lambs (John 21:15-17). This was after Peter denied him three times. Jesus didn’t wait for Peter to get ‘up to standard’ to give him the task of building the very first church in history. He simply trusted Peter to do it. If you read the book of Acts, you will see what eventually happens. In fact, you and I are here because of the efforts of Peter and the other apostles.
All because a simple fisherman with a glib tongue and rash behaviour was trusted and empowered to do great work for the expansion of the Kingdom.
In this sermon, Angie stressed upon the importance of demonstrating and passing our faith on to the next generation. The primary space for this is within your family. This month, we also prayed to become a church that constantly teaches the next generation about God, and how to walk with Him in relationship.
Our church is constantly reminded to be a people who ‘make disciples who make disciples’. Even if we do not have children of our own, we can demonstrate our faith to those we disciple. The way that we walk out our faith will be observed by those we lead. Are we helping them grow in their faith by being a living testimony to the goodness of God? Are we offering them Godly advice when they come to us with their problems? Are we having regular conversations about God with them?
And if you are not discipling, or being discipled, can I gently suggest that you start? Just ask someone if they will walk in discipleship with you and take it from there. You can talk to our pastors and leaders for some resources that will help you get started. We are not all called to be apostles, teachers, prophets or evangelists, but Matthew 28:18-20 does call us all to be disciple-makers.
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” ~ Matthew 18:15 (NIV)
In the Singaporean culture, we tend to shy away from conflict. Based on the Menti survey we took as a congregation over the last weekend, most of us prefer to stay away from confrontation. We would prefer to keep the peace rather than rock the boat.
But I believe that we can learn to be a church family that communicates differences and manages conflict well. Pastor Rhordan broke down conflict management in a few steps:
#1: Address the matter as soon as possible #2: Decide to take initiative
#3: Own your part of the issue
#4: Check your motives
#5: Speak the truth
#6: Speak it in private!
I have to confess that I used to hate dealing with conflict. I was one of those who would prefer to keep the peace, stew inside, but I found myself drifting away from the people who hurt me because I ended up judging them rather than clarifying the matter with them. Things changed when I realised that God’s design is for the church to be united as one, and it is the enemy’s grand scheme to try and divide us – first by creating the fear of confrontation the opinions of others, and then using that fear to create distances between each other, usually culminating in a whole lot of unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness.
So, let’s aim to be bold, loving and honest in our relationships within our church family. Let’s chase relationships with each other. Let’s make it our priority to close the distance and become one. “By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.” (John 13:34 AMP) When we treat each other like family, we will be an unstoppable force, and we will reflect God in His full glory to the world.
In Luke 4 when Jesus went to his hometown to preach there, he chooses Isaiah 61.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord
This is what he came to do. And to illustrate that, he set people free from demons and evil spirits, healed the sick – the blind saw and the lame walked. Today the offer still stands. To set us free from the strongholds and filters in our hearts. To bind our broken hearts from all we’ve suffered. God never meant for all the brokenness in your life but He is big enough to use it to heal and restore your identity, your name, and your purpose. In the brokenness, you can find the truth of your original design. Who he meant when he made you. Jesus came to restore us and that’s what he is committed to doing. He restored us to our Father, now He wants to make you whole.
Now in recovering your story, it’s important to understand we will be re-living the painful memories again. But this time, we need to allow Jesus to come into the various events of our lives that had either the world’s or the enemy’s interpretation – which gave you false messages about who God is, who you are, and who you are to him. He is not happy about what happened to you and he wants to come and defend us where we need to be defended, offer forgiveness where we need it, words of truth where we need it, and the true and right interpretation of events.
Pain is your friend. -Pastor Terry Benavente
Yes yes I know, pain sucks and we all wanna avoid it. Like I mentioned before, I wanted to bypass pain altogether too. But as Christians, we are called to enter death and resurrection. To share in the death of Christ in order to share in his resurrection. To share in the suffering of Christ in order to share in his glory. I found something interesting about the beatitudes. The one about mourning.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted Matt 5:4
If we are not in touch with our brokenness in order to recover our story, we can’t mourn because, well, we wouldn’t know what we are supposed to be mourning for or are we even supposed to be mourning in the first place. In other words, no mourning, no comfort. One doesn’t need comfort if he or she doesn’t know what to mourn for.
Recovering your story and walking with Jesus through the brokenness of your life will be painful but this time there will be comfort, there will be truth, there will be freedom, and there will be a great joy. Jesus himself endured the cross, which was the most brutal death anyone suffered in the history of the world, for the joy set before him! So there will be joy after mourning!
Whatever your story is, know this the foundation to be true:
Through faith in Christ, because of Christ, you are again a child of the most high God. A God that is wise, loving, just, intimate, noble, kind, strong, sovereign, faithful. A God that is your Father. A Father that chose you before he made the world. It was and is his joy and delight that he created you. To bear his image uniquely as male or female. That he made you for himself, to be his intimate ally in joining him in the great theme of the story of this age – the redemption and restoration of your heart and the hearts of mankind. He has a specific purpose for you in this age and the age to come.
Would you allow God to take you on this journey of recovering your story? Would you allow Jesus to come into the broken and wounded places of your heart, restore the truth that was stolen from you, bind your brokenness? Would you allow him to interpret the many events that seemed to send all those false messages about who you are? Would you let him set you free? Would you let him comfort you? Would you let him come and make you whole?
If you do, then pray this prayer with me.
Father, yes. Yes, I believe in the story that you have and are writing about this age and the age to come. I thank you for sending Jesus to die for me. Through him, I have been restored to you. And now Jesus, you want to make me whole. I believe in your restoration work and I am ready. I accept your offer to take me on this journey of recovering my story. I want to be walking in your truth and your truth alone. I want to know you, experience you, be loved by you, and love you. The real you that only you can reveal. Come and take me on this journey to bind my broken heart, set me free, and make me whole.
In Jesus name, Amen.
This is the second of a three-part entry about recovering God’s story for our lives. Read Part One if you missed it previously.
It is the image of God reflected in you that so enrages hell; it is this at which the demons hurl their mightiest weapons -William Gurnall
We were created in the image of God. An image that all of us bear and one that is good and holy. The enemy fears us. He knows we will do a lot of damage on the side of good, for the sake of the Kingdom of God and in the name of our King Jesus. So he targets our identity and attacks with lies during times of trauma and brokenness to distort it. Because a person who doesn’t truly know who he or she is can’t live out the life that God meant.
So even if a careless word was spoken to us, he is there whispering things like maybe people just don’t like you. We try harder to be accepted, by agreeing with it, and that dangerously leads us on the path to self-sufficiency, self-dependence and gives the people around us the power to validate us instead of putting it in its rightful place, in the hands of the Father.
That’s just one example. Each person’s story is different and unique. Find an example and look for others over the course of your life and then you will start to notice something. That there is a theme to the brokenness in your life.
In recovering your story perhaps it would be good to ask these questions. What’s the message behind the brokenness?
What’s the theme of the brokenness in my life?
Have you been bullied when you were young for voicing out? Maybe you were made to be a voice and not an echo.
Have you been mocked for being sensitive? Maybe you were made with a sensitive heart to be able to feel what others can’t and to walk with people in a unique way.
I have learnt that brokenness also comes about when we are not yet whole or the people we are relating to are not yet whole. Unfortunately, these people are sometimes the people that are closest to us. Are there wounds that need to be tended to? Are there people that we need to forgive and release into God’s hands? Maybe things didn’t work out quite as well you have thought and don’t know how to handle the disappointments. Maybe relationships? Marriage? Maybe you were assaulted with accusations and injustice and now there is some resentment?
Our past colours our present. So how we have chosen to deal with our brokenness contributes a lot to how we see God and see ourselves, more than we like to admit. We could be limiting God based on the way we have dealt with our specific brokenness, believing contrary to who He says he is. Sometimes the hurt is too much and we bandage it with self-medication – like sweeping it under the carpet, callousing our hearts to each other and to God. Over time, these become strongholds which hinder the working and experience of God in our lives. These further hinder our relationships, hinder our purpose and calling, hinder love.
The good news is that God loves us too much to leave us with these filters and strongholds in our lives that do so much damage.
In recovering our story, we can pinpoint the origin of these strongholds and then let Christ set us free to be loved and to love God as he truly is and not through filters, brokenness, self-redemption, theological limitations etc. It is at this point we realise and remember that the price for our freedom has been paid.
Stay tuned for the final part of Eugene’s story, coming up soon.
We were blessed to hear Bruce’s testimony last weekend. While his daughter was his motivation to stay out of prison for good, it was God who gave him the strength to keep on the path. May his story stir you up and give you the strength you need for the challenges you are overcoming today.
Valentine’s Day is often commercially associated with romance, flowers, candlelit dinner, and many other lovely things that make your heart warm and fuzzy. But behind the flutter of lovey-doveyness we know that love is often much more than a feeling in the moment. It is an act of will, just like to choosing to love and follow Jesus. We have to want it. Valentine’s Day only takes place once a year, it is up to us to choose our partners for the other 364 days – for better or worse.
As a single and unmarried individual, I decided to seek the wisdom of married couples with a very important question:
Here are their answers…
In January, FGA embarked on a 12-day churchwide fast and prayer. Together with a devotional focused on the book of Nehemiah, we waited on the Lord to show us the burdens He placed in our hearts, and provide direction and strategy on how to address these burdens.
One of our partners Widya shares her fasting experience with us.
“I was praying for breakthrough with children whom I deal with in my line of work. I fasted a dinner meal during the 12 day period. Initially, it created discomfort in my tummy for a few evenings but my system finally adjusted to it.
I discovered that fasting and praying is a good discipline and should be done on a more regular basis like weekly. It is very powerful when it is done with sincere intentionality to contend with God for breakthroughs over some strongholds. It’s amazing how we begin to hear more and more from Him, before witnessing breakthrough taking place gradually. Fasting teaches me how to persevere.
As I studied the devotional, what resonated most to me were the messages on days 4 and 8:
* FAST – PRAY – PLAN instead of the other way around, which most of us often do.
This requires much patience, humility and TRUST in His direction & timing!
* Valley experiences before the Fountain experiences.
Going through periods of uncomfortable/painful ‘pruning’ & ‘refining’ (purging out of any impurities) seems to take forever, but He is actually preparing us for greater work in the future. Understanding that what He’s working in us at all times will enable us to give thanks even in time of trials/valley moments. It is indeed true that only through trials, we’ll come out more refined in our characters and our faith in God.
We are commanded to go into the world and preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15), but what is evangelism and how is it different from other spiritual conversations?
Want to learn more about evangelism, and how to become an effective witness for Christ in the world today? Sign up for The Emmaus Way workshop! Learn how to share the Gospel using the bridge illustration, how to turn everyday conversations into spiritual ones, and how to lead a person to Christ.
In September, Mark and Terry Benevente from Elijah House School of Ministry came to our church to run prayer ministry sessions, as they have done for a number of years. This time, they also came to train a few of our leaders who were interested in a deeper level of understanding and equipping of the ministry tools, which would ultimately allow them to be more effective in ministering to others.
The first half of the Prayer Ministry course was run over the week, and the leaders all received a certificate of completion at the end of it! They will complete the next half of the course in 2018.
One of our leaders, Mervin, shared his testimony with us.
“Prayer Ministry and Deliverance” – What used to immediately come to mind whenever I came across that term, was one of a Priest commanding an unclean spirit to leave, all the while holding an opened Bible in one hand and the other on the head of the person getting ministered to.
How wrong I was.
What I saw and experienced during the training was immensely peaceful, introspective and most importantly, Spirit led. We would be equipped in the basics during the day and were given time to practise what we learned amongst ourselves. We were unsure of what to do at times, but the Lord took the little that we had and multiplied it as we could see our fellow classmates being healed on the inside. We all felt ministered to and we definitely knew that God was bringing the healing to our lives and souls.
While we were ministering to each other, Ps. Mark, Terry, Angie and Josefa were all ready to give us a hand whenever we felt stuck. They skillfully brought the ministry sessions to a wonderful close each time. By the end of 4 days, we all came out of the training feeling refreshed, light as a feather and also, whole.
At FGA, we come from all walks of life. Each of our lives are so different but one of the things we have in common is that we are all broken people whom God wants to make whole. And prayer ministry is one of the ways He makes us whole again. Prayer ministry is for everyone, and I would encourage every follower of Christ to attend it regularly.
A call to us, the younger generation, have been issued. The question now is, what are we going to do about it?
As I was seeking the Lord about what to share over the anniversary weekend, the only thing that the Holy Spirit impressed upon my heart was Malachi 4:5-6.
“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”
As I read this, the urgent necessity of our response as a younger generation hit me hard. The fathers of our land, our parents, the elders, their hearts will turn and have been turning to their children, but as a younger generation, we need to intentionally make that active decision to turn our hearts to our fathers. This is a necessity and it’s fundamental in the family. We as a younger generation need to Honour the generations before us. And it can’t just simply be empty words or lip service. It needs to come forth in our genuine actions.
And as a church body, we know that we’ve been marked to magnify. We know that we need to make disciples that make disciples. We know that as a church, we have an apostolic calling.
But for us to do all of that, we need strong families that are grounded in His word. Strong families whose hearts are turned towards each other and aligned with the Father above. Because Discipleship truly begins at home. It needs to happen internally within our families before it happens externally with the people around us.
So to us, the younger generation, let’s make the intentional effort to turn our hearts to our fathers. Let’s bridge the man made gaps and connect heart to heart. This is fundamental in our families and it’s a necessity for such a time as this.
1. We as a Generation, choose to repent of our old ways and turn our hearts to our parents and to the generations before us.
2. As your word says in exodus 20:12: “Honour your Father and Mother so that you may live Long in the land your God is giving to you.” Father, we choose to do so intentionally.
3. Let Honour be established in our families and let our families be turned towards each other and aligned with you.
4. We thank you for who you are to us and who we are to you. Let us your children arise to do your will for such a time as this.
Let us arise because we are marked to magnify.