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Awaken your heart to the sound of the generation

by Jonathan Cho | 8 November 2017, 6:23 PM

Something I often hear Alarice say when she shares her story, is that she never knew she could sing. She never thought she could lead the people of God into worship. Well, let me tell you: This girl can sing.

You might already know Alarice Hong as the unofficial face of Awaken Generation, the woman behind the worship mentorship school that sprung up almost out of nowhere in 2015. Today, they’ve had almost 190 students from over 45 different Churches come through the doors for training, shaping and mentoring.

I remember when I joined AG last year and my cohort attended our very first Convergence – a monthly gathering of all the different AG streams – where Alarice led us in worship. As I’d never heard her sing live, I was immediately struck by the power of her voice and the authority she carried when she declared her praises to God.

And that’s the spirit of AG itself, really – our gifts are nothing without the anointing that flows from a heart that’s connected to Heaven.

Sure, she’s got a quality voice, but it was as if Alarice carried a song inside her. I was listening to a song birthed from the overflow of her deep relationship with God. If you were there, you’d know the song was coming out of that wellspring.

When Alarice sings, you can hear her heart for Jesus and the nations. And it’s this heart she carries into AG’s curriculum and how the school – and its students – serves the body of Christ.

Alarice, a self-professed “rojak” Singaporean, spent most of her life growing up in seven different countries before relocating to Singapore in 2010. Her husband Calvin, who pioneered AG with her, is no different – he spent almost 20 years in New Zealand before moving to Singapore sometime in 2011 in response to God’s call on his life.

Despite their personal background, or what might seem as “loose ties” to the country in the eyes of man, it is abundantly clear that Alarice and Calvin have opened their hearts to God and the nation of Singapore, to carry His heart for His people and to serve Him in this place.

In fact, Alarice once shared this in an interview with Selah: “Ever since I was a little girl, the Lord had tied my heart to this nation; I remember listening to a few National Day songs and weeping.”

And at her tender age, she’d already started on her music journey in Australia, where her dad was based for work, having been talent-spotted by her teacher in school. Little did she know, but her voice and her unexplainable heart for a country she’d never stayed in would one day be divinely woven together.

It’s hard to imagine how a natural performer like Alarice could ever feel insecure or uncertain about her talents. Even before AG, she was already professionally writing and recording music as a singer-songwriter.

Yet, I learnt through our friendship over the years that she’s had her own journey in learning how to take ownership of her God-given gifts and wield them for His Kingdom purposes.

The struggle with self-consciousness and doubt, uncertainties and fears, the desire for affirmation and the joy of being championed by a godly community are just some aspects of her story of stepping into her destiny as a worship leader and musician. It is certainly one that many on the same path can identify with.

Alarice would tell you herself that she would not be who or where she is today had it not been for the precious individuals in her life who were faithful to identify and call out her gifts.

People seldom take active steps to affirm those who have a God-given gift for something, because they do it so well that one assumes they already knew they were gifted at it and didn’t need to be told again. Serving in ministry, I’ve often been left to wonder if I completed my assignment excellently or not, because there was simply no response – positive or otherwise – from the people I was serving with.

But Alarice and the AG team are different, they don’t make those kind of assumptions with the people they meet. It is both their culture of honour – a huge thing in AG – as well as Alarice’s heart to affirm and champion others.

One of my favourite memories in our songwriting class was when each of us presented the original songs we had written for a mid-year assignment. Though it took time, Alarice and Ian (our other songwriting mentor) made an intentional effort at the end of each presentation, to affirm every individual and pray over each of us.

I recall one moment in particular where Alarice stopped one of the students after his presentation and said: “Doesn’t he have a great voice, guys? You have a great voice. Now, say it, ‘I have a great voice!’

Alarice, Calvin, and the AG team never meet and mentor people for the sake of it. They’ve always been after something bigger than themselves. Thus it is not uncommon to hear words like “nations” or “generations” in their conversations.

The desire to disciple one generation for the sake of another yet unborn (Psalm 102:18) is so essential to the call of the school, that their syllabus includes a teaching titled “Thinking Generationally”. The heart and vision of this team is great, because they have caught of glimpse of the greatness of God’s own heart.

As John Piper puts it: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t.”

Apart from the obvious work of running a school that cultivates a generation of true worshippers, Alarice and Calvin have also been intentional to involve AG in mission work throughout the year, fulfilling the missional call to disciple nations into becoming worshippers.

The couple believes that each nation carries an inimitable sound of worship – a heart cry unique to each people group – and they have set their hearts on unlocking every nation’s unique offering of praise to their King.

Your name, and Your renown, O God, is the desire of our hearts.” (Isa 26:8)

AG desires to empower the children of God in the ministry of worship so that true worshippers may better execute His will wherever He plants them. In this season, God has stirred them to steward their skills and resources towards unlocking the sound of worship in the heart of this nation.

From the simple prayer of: “God, we will disciple an entire generation in this nation with You – for You – if that is what is on Your heart for us”, God has worked through AG to touch so many lives.

It is all God. The hallelujahs raised by AG have indeed been multiplied by a simple act of laying down their five loaves and two fishes (John 6:1-14). By their example, I am compelled to look beyond myself, and allow God to use my life for His greater purposes.

AG are my family, because they truly live as children of God and the Kingdom. And in worship with them – I am constantly reminded that I must do the same.

AG’s latest single, “Hallelujah (For the Broken)”


Awaken Generation 2018 Applications are now open. Early bird applications close November 19, 2017. All applications close December 17, 2017. Their streams include: Vocals, Keys/Guitar, Bass, Songwriting and Dance.

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How does discipleship work?

by Calvin Hong & Shawn Wong, Awaken Generation | 20 August 2018, 4:55 PM

Disciple.

There are multiple times in the Bible where this word is mentioned. But what is the essential meaning of the word “disciple”? Quite simply, a disciple is a disciplined follower of Christ.

In Jewish culture, where rabbis (teachers of the law) are well-respected, children begin memorising the Torah (first five books of the Bible) from around the age of 8-10. Yet being a disciple is not just about reading the Bible, but being disciplined to live the life it describes.

So what does it mean to be a disciple in our current day? Are we true followers of not just His teachings, but in how we choose to live our lives? Let’s explore this.

“Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it”” (Luke 14:25-28)

… being a disciple is not just about reading the Bible, but being disciplined to live the life it describes.

A SINGLE-MINDED DECISION

At events, in the midst of “large crowds”, people tend to get excited: the atmosphere, the lights, the music! But I love how the words of Jesus always cut right through all the hype and go straight to the heart. It may be easy to say yes when everyone around you is doing so.

But when all the hype is stripped away, without the influence of crowds, how will you choose to live? Being a disciple means to single-mindedly dedicate yourself to follow Christ, without being tossed back and forth.

Luke 9:62 says: “But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”” It’s a firm decision, one that is your own to make without regret (looking back). Know that it’s no longer about you or your preferences, but about complete obedience to God.

CARRYING YOUR CROSS

It’s interesting that Jesus mentioned the cross in this passage even before His crucifixion.

He was talking about the pain, suffering, humiliation and sacrifices that may come upon giving God your “yes”. The Kingdom of God is not for the faint-hearted. To truly know Him, we have to be willing to go through hardship. Jesus made it clear for us so that there need not be any second-guessing.

If we want to follow Him, there is a cost.

Trials in this life remind us that our strength is not our own. Humanly, it’s impossible to live this life without the power of the Holy Spirit. Life’s crucibles keep us reliant on God as the source of all our strength and ability – refining and humbling us.

If we want to follow Him, there is a cost.

ACCOUNTABILITY TO SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY

Godly governance occurs in the context of family.

That’s why God implemented spiritual authority: Fathers, mothers, leaders, elders. As we grow as disciples, it’s important that we maintain accountability to those in spiritual authority over us. Their authority is not given so they can rule over us, but to help us grow in maturity and teach us to obey the commandments in the Bible.

So let’s ask ourselves: Am I willing to lay down my rights and agendas for His? Am I willing to turn away from my old lifestyle? Will our decision to follow be half-hearted or single-minded?

Our responses to these questions will determine the trajectory of our discipleship journey.


This article was first published on Awaken Generation’s website, and is republished with permission.

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What is intimacy?

by Mark Lee | 20 August 2018, 4:18 PM

I was listening to the radio earlier today, and there was a segment in which three professional family counsellors were sharing their perspectives on what intimacy is.

I was very frustrated by their responses. One of the first things they said and kept returning to was how they didn’t want to “box in” intimacy by being prescriptive or normative by giving definitions. A professional “insight” like that was hardly compelling.

Then one of the counsellors said that intimacy between two people was about creating a shared space in which both partners could share without presumption or judgment. At last, we were getting close to something that could be evaluated and actually realised in a practical way.

Then the counsellors bounced off each other’s ideas along that trend, talking about non-judgment and non-prescriptive exchange, and how “it’s really up to the couple to define it for themselves”. Since it really wasn’t going anywhere particularly helpful, I decided to turn off what was apparently professional advice and mull over my frustration.

So here’s my unprofessional opinion: Intimacy can be defined, not exhaustively, but at least with some identifiable characteristics.

One key characteristic and marker of intimacy is when the dichotomy between self and other cease to exist. Simply put: Intimacy is when two beings cease to be separate and begin to be one.

Now, for many of us, one of the first representations of such intimacy that comes to mind would be sex. Understandably so, just from the biology and physicality involved in sexual intercourse. But we can’t allow ourselves to think that that’s all there is to intimacy, that sex is the only representation of intimacy or even the pinnacle of intimacy – that’s a lie that an intimacy-starved world is being fed.

If we consider that intimacy is when two beings cease to be separate and begin to be one, there are a number of cases where it is not about sex.

This scenario has everything to do with our souls being made for more than our self-desires and self-wants. It has everything to do with the beauty of a soul recognising that it was made for greater things – that it has the capacity to unite with another to reflect something that it would never be able to on its own.

But we can’t allow ourselves to think that that’s all there is to intimacy, that sex is the only representation of intimacy or even the pinnacle of intimacy

I think of when the disciples asked Jesus to show them the Father (Father God) – that that would be enough for them to believe and to trust (John 14:8).

Jesus’ reply is astounding. In verse 9, He says that anyone who has seen Him (Jesus) has seen the Father. In verse 10, He goes one level up, saying, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”

So Jesus, a man who never had sex, is a role model of true intimacy: They are so close to one another in the relationship that Jesus says that Father God and Himself are inseparable – one and the same.

No longer is A (Jesus) doing A’s things, and then B (Father God) doing B’s things – A is with B doing AB things.

Of course, there’s something to be said about Jesus “deferring” to God’s authority and debating whether God’s work is Jesus’ work, but the point still stands: There really is no longer a dichotomy between self and other – there’s only one. Jesus no longer physically walks on this earth, but the relationship between the Church (all who call themselves Christian) and Jesus is likewise supposed to emulate this oneness.

We should not feed ourselves a watered-down or fluffy version of intimacy. We need to courageously consider this new paradigm of intimacy and apply it where possible in our lives.

We need to move past a version of intimacy where “you and I” are still glaringly present. It’s not about about one person getting some good stuff, and another getting some good stuff … Because why is there still both? Why is there still we?

I know it sounds extreme, but those are terms which mean two entities are present. So people can talk all they want about wanting to make each other comfortable and serving others – but we can’t allow ourselves to believe that true intimacy ends there.

No longer is A (Jesus) doing A’s things, and then B (Father God) doing B’s things – A is with B doing AB things.

Intimacy is about a willingness to surrender the self to something or someone, with the hope of becoming something more with them – something that does not dismiss or deny the existence of the self or other, but allows for both the self and other to be powerfully re-expressed, re-created as one.

There are weighty implications to this: If we hold each other at arm’s length, which of us would truly be willing to be the first to surrender?

Yet Jesus did it. Somehow. Even with people who mocked, betrayed and killed Him. He decided not to save himself, but surrendered.

But the story doesn’t end there. Jesus’ surrender and death became something that exceeded far more than that surrendered self. Jesus realised God’s plan, life itself – a possibility of reconciliation for all humanity to true goodness and life with a Father God that desires true intimacy with us.

There are just two simple questions left to ask yourself now.

  • To what or who am I willing to surrender to?
  • What confidence do I have that my surrender will yield something greater?

This article was first published on Mark’s blog, and is republished with permission.

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How God saved my grades while on exchange

by Amanda Wong | 20 August 2018, 3:17 PM

Everyone said exchange would be a piece of cake: confirm pass, can’t fail. But that wasn’t the case for me.

During my exchange semester in South Korea at Yonsei University, I decided to take a total of 6 modules. They would all be credited as pass/fail modules anyway, so I figured I might as well take more so that I wouldn’t have to worry during my last semester back in NTU.

I opted for 1 mathematics module, 3 economics modules, 1 liberal arts elective and 1 business elective. I thought the examination requirements were manageable, so I didn’t worry much.

When the midterm period came round, I studied normally just like how I would have studied for any other midterm in NTU. I thought that would be fine because I just needed to pass the midterms.

Out of the 6 modules, I had a midterm for everything except the liberal arts module (just a presentation for this instead). And because the economics modules were all theory-based, I assumed I could just write something that made sense related to the theory, so I didn’t put in that much effort.

However, when the midterms came, I came out of every midterm feeling depressed. One of the economics module was a total shocker: the lecture notes were all theory, but the midterm was all calculations! I couldn’t do most of it … all I could do was pray for a miracle.

Because I was failing everything.

I recall trying to finish one of my assignments before church service on Friday night.

I was really struggling, googling books and answers, but nothing was helping. I had agreed to do street evangelism with my church friends, but I was still stuck on the assignment.

So I told them to go ahead without me because I had to finish my work. And even after they had evangelised for more than an hour, I still had nothing written on my paper. I thought I was screwed because all the Korean students would have solved it and submitted long answers … but mine would just be a blank piece of paper.

Funny thing was, I attempted the question again a few days later and finished it in 20mins. Seriously?! I could have done street evangelism with my friends instead of wasting that time away. I should have trusted in God’s providence of time and wisdom, but I relied on my own will.

This made me question what happened to my reliance on God. Because just a month ago, I also had to choose between a school assignment and church. Even though my church leaders told me to focus on my studies, I decided to rely on God’s time and wisdom to complete my assignment.

I got 92/100 for that assignment … How could I forget that?

I realised that God doesn’t bless me because I serve Him. He blesses me because He wants to.

As the finals approached, I started to redo my notes and past papers and attended consultations.

I spent so much of my time studying at cafes that cafe owners recognised me. I tried to plan my time better like waking up earlier to study – or studying between church events.

I tried my best to juggle studying and serving at church because I didn’t want to stop helping out at church just because of my grades (I only had to pass, after all). I really believed in what God was doing in South Korea and I wanted to be a part of it as much as I could before I left.

On the day that scores were released on the school portal, I saw that only 2 of my 6 modules had scores posted. I knew that the scores were not the final grades I would be receiving, but they were indicators if I was going to pass or fail the module.

And it wasn’t looking good. I felt so screwed when I saw my results: 18/100 for Public Finance and 8.5/100 for Money and Banking. My parents would flip if I couldn’t graduate on time because I failed my modules! I tried to play it cool but I was panicking inside.

All that was left was to trust in God’s providence though everything looked impossible. How was God going to help me pass in this situation?

As I waited nervously for my final results, I was planning what additional modules I would take when I got home. But on the third day, I checked my grades to find that somehow I had passed all my modules! None of it made any sense.

The next day when I went to church, my heart was just filled with gratefulness. It was an unexplainable gratefulness. It really made no sense, but everything worked out: I was able to serve at church while receiving the grades I wanted. So of course, I had to ask the important question to God: “What are You teaching me?”

I realised that God doesn’t bless me because I serve Him. He blesses me because He wants to. Having demanded God to bless me just because I had served Him was foolish. I initially served because I just wanted to help the church in whatever way I could. But somewhere along the way I had served because I wanted to be blessed by Him.

And that was what God was trying to teach me: Not to have the wrong starting point. It’s really about reliance on God when it comes to studies because there’s no way we can do it by ourselves.

His grace doesn’t really make sense, but that’s just what it is.


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What’s your anthem?

by | 20 August 2018, 1:07 PM

I am a massive fan of the German football club, Bayern Munich.

I keep up with all of FC Bayern’s matches and buy the latest jerseys. I even celebrated in public when the club won its sixth straight league title in April. I also bought the tickets to see them play at the National Stadium at the International Champions Cup last year.

Though Bayern lost 2-0 in that match, I was still awestruck by how the fans united together as we sang the anthem together. Race or background didn’t matter. Though we were losing, we continued to cheer and roar the club’s anthem loudly and proudly.

So I was struck by an anthem’s power for unity. Think of “La Marseillaise”, the anthem that spurred the French middle and lower classes on to battle in the heat of the French Revolution. Anthems unite, rallying people to a common purpose and hope under a common banner.

So, what’s your anthem? What’s your cause, passion and hope?

My life is driven by the knowledge that God is the Creator.

In Genesis 1:1, it says that God created the heavens and the earth. Just think about that. From the grandest of galaxies to the smallest of ants – everything is designed by Him. Every evening, I look at the bright orange, yellow and sometimes purple sunset, and I can’t help but be in awe of what an artist my God is.

Humans create too. But we can’t make a paper plane without paper, and we can’t make houses without bricks. Yet God made something out of nothing. We know from Genesis 1:2 that the Earth was without form, yet God simply spoke and all of creation came into existence.

That never fails to blow my mind.

From the grandest of galaxies to the smallest of ants – everything is designed by Him.

And somehow this awesome God is not a distant god: He is a loving and intimate Father.

My God is intimately personal with each and every individual on this planet. 1 John 4:10 says that before we even loved God, He first loved us. He has led me into deeper love with Him in more ways than I can count. From heartbreak to breakthrough, He’s led me on an adventure that’s been nothing short of amazing.

And day after day, I am reminded that He loves me. In spite of all my sin and darkness, He loves me to the point that He would die on the cross for me. How could it be that God Himself would take on the punishment of torture, ridicule, pain and death – punishments that I rightfully deserved?

And by nothing I could have done, He calls me His son. This love from the all-powerful God leaves me in awestruck wonder.

This is my God: The Creator of the Universe, from the immense expanse of the Milky Way to the very atoms that form the universe – the intimate Father who would in spite of all my sin and shame, take on the punishment I deserved so He could call me His child.

Those are the words in my anthem, and I would gladly give my life for the Gospel to be proclaimed till the whole world sees!


Want to know more about God and His love? Come on down for “ANTHEM: Till the whole world sees”, a worship concert by the youth ministry of Trinity Christian Centre on 2 September 2018, 7:30pm at Trinity@Paya Lebar.

DM @trinity.ignyte on Instagram for more information.

/ junheng@thir.st

JunHeng is a 100% extrovert who loves caffeine – lots of caffeine. He also likes HTHTs, jamming and eating good food. Did he mention he loves caffeine?

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Article list

Awaken your heart to the sound of the generation

#THIRSTACOUSTIC: Unfailing Father

How does discipleship work?

What is intimacy?

How God saved my grades while on exchange

What’s your anthem?