“If you don’t choose Antioch, you end up with arrogance or apathy”: Lou Engle warns Singaporeans at Kingdom Invasion 2018
by Thir.st | 14 March 2018, 2:02 AM
With over 4,000 pairs of ears from 44 different nations listening in great anticipation at the start of Kingdom Invasion 2018, Lou Engle opened the conference on March 13 with a familiar word – this is the 40th year since Billy Graham’s prophecy over Singapore as the Antioch of Asia in 1978.
And in the wake of Dr Graham’s passing on February 21, 2018, barely a month before this gathering, he believed it has been no accident or coincidence of timing.
Comparing the renowned evangelist to the prophet Elijah and referencing the early chapters of 2 Kings where Elijah was taken up to heaven after passing on a double portion of his anointing to his servant Elisha, Engle pleaded with Singaporeans not to take their prophetic destiny lightly.
Prophetic word is an invitation to the Cross – Jesus went to the Cross because His ears were open to the Father.
“Can you hear my cry?” he asked the crowd. “Singapore has the invitation to be the Antioch of Asia – but if you don’t choose Antioch, you will end up with arrogance on one side and apathy on the other.”
“You have to choose Antioch. It means sacrificing everything to see this Antioch vision come forth.
“Prophetic word is an invitation to the Cross – Jesus went to the Cross because His ears were open to the Father.”
Would Singapore have their ears open to feel the urgency to pick up the mantle left by Billy Graham, the way Elisha picked up Elijah’s cloak after his master had returned to God in a supernatural whirlwind? (2 Kings 2:9-12)
“If we depend on ourselves, we will get arrogance. If we don’t care about anything but our own lives, we will get apathy.”
It was a warning, but one laced with love and encouragement.
In relation to this, Engle invited his ministry partner of 34 years, Chris Berglund, up on stage to share a dream he’d received the night before Kingdom Invasion 2017.
Chris shared that he’d seen himself in a room with a high ceiling, much like the conference hall where we were seated at Expo. At the end of the event, the owner of the building came forth and asked him to go to Dock 1-17. He was to find a ship there, which he was to cover and raise up.
“When I found the ship, a voice came from behind me saying: ‘Whatever was planted in 1938 and 1978 will see a harvest in 2018.’”
Interpreting the ship to be Singapore, Engle noted that although they didn’t fully understand the significance of those dates, a quick check on Google revealed that these were the years that missionary John Sung had first brought a wave of revival to Singapore in 1938, and the Billy Graham Crusades in 1978.
Whatever was planted in 1938 and 1978 will see a harvest in 2018.
He believed that the numbers “1-17” were related to Daniel 1:17.
“To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.” (Daniel 1:17)
“God is going to ship from Singapore ‘Daniel 1:17’ dimensions of revelation. The supernatural revelation of Daniel is going to lift up Singapore.” Engle declared with excitement.
As he was speaking, someone stepped forward and showed him something on a mobile phone. A bright smile spread across Engle‘s face as he realised what he was seeing.
But he emphasised again that if Singapore did not pay attention to visions and dreams, they would remain as they are – just dreams.
And in the way Daniel turned his heart towards seeking God through regular prayer and fasting as he received these visions and dreams, we too should follow this model of responding to revelation with intercession.
“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.'” (Acts 2:17)
These are the last days, Engle rallied the crowd. Who here was willing to fast and pray in this hugely significant year of great transition for Singapore?
“You don’t just dream your own dreams – you dream the dreams for your time. When Daniel understood it was time, he set his face to fasting. To turn the nation back. To loose the bonds of the captives.
“You’re in a 40-year cyclical review. It’s an inspection; the Lord is coming to inspect Singapore.
“Don’t miss your moment.”
When Daniel understood it was time, he set his face to fasting. To turn the nation back. To loose the bonds of the captives.
Engle went on to recount many related dreams and encounters he’d had and heard of leading up to tonight, but one from Singaporean Oh Wei Lun stood out.
In her dream, Wei Lun found herself in a big white room with marbled floors and a throne in the centre of it. “Dreams have to be judged,” Engle admitted as he shared her story, “but I do believe she met God in the Great Throne Room.”
Upon seeing a grandfatherly figure with a face too bright to be seen seated on the throne, Wei Lun had run forward and told God: Do you know that the greatest revival in the history of mankind is about to happen in Singapore?
In her dream, Dr Billy Graham then entered the throne room, looking about 60 years old, the age he gave the prophetic word to Singapore, and she awoke with these words ringing in her ears.
“More will be given to those who will humble themselves.”
Kingdom Invasion 2018 will run until Friday at Singapore Expo Halls 7/8. Night sessions starting from 7:30pm are free, subjected to availability of seats. For more details, visit www.kingdominvasion.sg.
In collaboration with Burning Hearts House of Prayer, which has its roots in IHOP, a power-packed team from IHOP Kansas City (where the prayer movement started in 1999), including worship leader Misty Edwards, opened the livestreamed event on Thursday evening with 780 in attendance.
IHOP KC’s missions base director, Allen Hood, set the stage for the rest of the two and a half day conference with a moving exposition on Psalm 139. Using almost every verse from the 24-verse long Psalm, he urged the audience to see how much God loves them, the way King David, who wrote it, did.
Allen Hood preaching at One Thing Gathering’s opening night
“When you receive this revelation, there is no need for performance,” Hood told the crowd. “Because if you don’t hear God through this lens, Singapore, you will just be trying harder to be please a heavenly parent – just like you’ve tried to please your earthly parents.
“And who’s going to please a heavenly parent whom you think is always angry and mostly sad when He looks at your life?”
Before we rush ahead under the pressure of Psalm 27:4, the Gathering’s theme verse, we must start from a place of right identity: Knowing that before we even desire to make God our one thing, we are His.
“Psalm 139 is the verse of refuge from a life of demands and performance,” Hood said. “It’s the go-to Psalm for the rejected, the insecure, the religiously weary … Where those who are tired are beckoned to come.”
Carefully dividing the Psalm up into what he called “four rooms of truth”, Hood explained how David brings us through an exploration of four truths that will guide readers to a revelation of God’s immense love for each of His children.
Before we even desire to make God our one thing, we are His.
4 ROOMS OF PSALM 139
1. I am fully known and loved by God (Verses 1-6)
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. (Psalm 139:1-2)
Human beings long to be fully known and fully loved, and the lack of this is one of the most painful experiences. Most times, it is the places where we should be the most known and loved that are our greatest pain and loneliness – in our marriages, families, friendships and workplaces.
The good news is you may feel alone but you’re never alone. God knows you fully and perfectly – and yet He continues searching you.
What does it mean for God to search us? You can review what you know, but you can’t search what you already know. After all, what’s left to search when you have perfect knowledge? We get so bored so fast with what we know, the way we rarely watch movies twice or get tired of people we’ve gotten to know.
God perceives you even before you come into consciousness of who you are.
Yet God who knows you perfectly can’t wait to search you – like a proud father, He loves watching your life unfold in every season even though He already knows the beginning from the end.
He knows the most menial of things, like sitting down and standing up. He also knows the most fundamental things that make you, you – your thoughts. And before your thoughts even come, God knows them. God perceives you. He perceives you even before you come into consciousness of who you are.
And with that perfect knowledge and perception, God, like a good husband, still chooses to accept us, be with us and protect us every step of the way (Psalm 139:5).
2. I am never separated from God (Verses 7-12)
“If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
How many of us retreat when we are too “known” or when it gets too close for comfort? Sometimes we try to flee from God, but even there He is there with us. Even Jonah, who avoided following God’s directions and wound up in the belly of a whale, couldn’t get away (Jonah 2:1-7).
Out of the depths we cry and God hears our voice – we cannot get away by accident or on purpose.
“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”
That means we won’t even be able to separated in our mind or emotions – no shadow of depression, despair, anger, numbness or discouragement. Because the darkness is not dark to God – He will take the shadows and turn it to light, He will take the night and turn it to day.
Everybody suffers, but for believers, God has said He will work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28), regardless of our circumstances, emotional state, and internal disposition.
He will take the oppression, break it and use it for your good.
3. I am lovingly handcrafted by God (Verses 13-18)
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:13-14)
In Genesis, God spoke creation into existence, but when it came to Man, He formed him with His hands. You see, God didn’t just speak you into being – He formed, knitted, made you. You weren’t part of a mass production line, you aren’t an anomaly, neither did you go unseen by God.
“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.” (Psalm 139:17-18)
We don’t just meditate on Him, He meditates on us. God’s eyes are free to roam heaven and earth, yet He fixes His gaze on me – His thoughts are about me, and they are countless!
And here’s the best part: Not even death can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38). When we awake in His presence, we are still with Him. God has removed the last enemy of our souls – death – that He may dwell with His creation forever.
4. I am one with God (Verses 19-24)
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
David only had a glimpse of what was coming, but we know the person of Christ. Through Jesus, God took on our form as human beings – He didn’t just write the manual of humanity, He became humanity.
He became one with us so that He can truly be with us and know us, the way Jesus told His disciples in John 15:15 that He can now be called a friend. He’s not just our Maker, He’s our Master (Isaiah 54:5); not just our God, but our brother (Romans 8:17).
He knows what it feels like to be wrapped up in shadows – He even knows what the depths of hell feel like because He’s been there.
Because of Jesus, God knows our frame, our emotions, our every season in life. He knows what it’s like to be rejected, broken, misunderstood and forsaken. He knows what it feels like to be wrapped up in shadows – He even knows what the depths of hell feel like because He’s been there (Acts 2:31).
And in the same way Jesus said, in His lowest moment on earth: “Father, I can’t feel you, but because You’re my Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46), we too can trust the words of His forefather King David in Psalm 139. There is nowhere we can go from our Father God, nowhere we can be hidden or separated from Him.
Hood ended the night with a few simple challenges. “If you’re suffering tonight, don’t suffer alone,” he said. “God is very near you. He is with you.
“Yearn to be with Him – cultivate that longing – and remove everything that hinders your relationship with Him.
“As long as you get this revelation of Him, you will long to be with Him.”
Happening from July 19-21, 2018, for the first time in Asia, the One Thing Gathering calls for young people who have purposed in their hearts to live with abandonment and devotion to Jesus, to do His work, be His voice and see His transformation in the nations.
To register your attendance, visit their page. Night sessions are free!
A young church leader’s journey through sexuality and lust
by Aloysius Tan | 19 July 2018, 4:39 PM
Aloysius* serves as a leader in a large church where he has mentored hundreds of youths and young adults for over more than a decade. But beyond the public persona, few others know about his troubled past with lust and sexuality. This is his story.
If you’re in my circle of friends, this is something I would have probably shared about before: The biggest struggle in my life is lust.
It goes back all the way to primary school, I think it was in Primary 5. That was when there was a bit of, you could say, self-discovery, when I discovered masturbation.
I didn’t know what was it about. It was only in Primary 6 when one of my friends asked me during recess, “Do you masturbate?” I honestly didn’t know what he was talking about, so I was like, “What? Masturbate who?”
My friend replied, “No, no – it’s this.” He was making a certain motion with his hand. Knowing then what he was referring to, I replied sheepishly, “Yeah, I do lah … This whatever thing that you call it.”
And with that, they pulled me into their “group session”.
The four of us would do it together at a secluded staircase in a building near my school. It was in this group masturbation setting where I was first touched by another guy. Even the porn they introduced me to was deviant in nature: It never had two people in it – there was always a whole bunch of them.
That was the start of my addiction. And it got pretty bad because I would masturbate at least three times a day. I would stay up late at night just so I could surf the web in secret. My computer was plagued with all kinds of viruses – and so was my mind.
The consequence of having such a sexual experience in my childhood was scarring, to say the least.
What my friend did to me at that staircase really messed me up quite a bit. It meant that my first sexual experience was homosexual in nature and done in a group – something that was reinforced by the forms of pornography I was introduced to.
It made for very unnatural attractions. Though a year later our little group had gone our separate ways, I found myself trying to form a new covert group of friends to do the same thing in secondary school. I almost succeeded in my attempts several times – but thankfully I never followed through. My conscience kept me from doing so.
I had my first girlfriend around this time. I was attracted to her emotionally, but I was sexually attracted to guys. I felt like I was living two lives: In school, I was the teacher’s pet, I had good grades, I was a great student. But on the other hand, I had this deep and dark side buried inside of me.
At this point, between my compulsive desires, the frequency at which I watched porn, and the increasing deviancy of the porn I was watching – I felt screwed up.
I felt so screwed up and filthy.
But this was also the period I first came to church, where I eventually accepted Christ.
Becoming a Christian gave me the first impetus to begin fighting against lust and acting on my unnatural desires. But my struggles were still something I was not yet ready to share about.
In the mean time, I continued to grow rapidly in church. My leaders liked how excitable and energetic I was and gave me more opportunities to serve, raising me into leadership positions. Just nine months in, I began serving as a mentor. So I shepherded and taught, and watched as those under me grew as well.
But for all my “growth” and service, things still got to a point where I just couldn’t take my double life anymore. How could I be singing hallelujah in church while failing this badly in private?
A day came when I was walking with my mentor and suddenly blurted out: “Is masturbation a sin?” In reply, he asked me why I had asked him that question. We talked a bit more until he asked me the really pertinent question: What had triggered this for me?
That meant I had to finally share about what had been going on all these years. But it took me 45 minutes before I could even say a word to him.
Eventually I told my mentor about those guys, what had happened with them in primary school, and my sexual attraction to the same gender.
When I was done, it felt like a stone had been lifted off my heart. My mentor listened, but didn’t present me with any solutions. I appreciated that. He only told me I wasn’t alone, and that there were others in church who had shared with him about similar experiences.
By God’s grace and wisdom, I picked up a few valuable principles to hold on to in the fight for an authentic faith. Having Christian community and mentorship helped, but it wasn’t like the church gave me a crash course or intensive guidance on how to cope with this area of sexual struggle in my life.
The first thing I came to realise was that there is a difference between love and sexuality. Because we live in a world where love is very much sexualised, a lot of young people have this thinking: “I love you because I’m sexually attracted to you.” But that’s the wrong starting point.
Sexual attraction is not love. I can vouch that this kind of confusion exists as someone who was sexually attracted to guys because I was first stimulated by one. It made for a struggle with same-sex lust that was started and continually fed by the type of pornography I locked myself into.
My recurrent sin reinforced my wrong thinking.
Against the lust that I had known, I began to see what love really was about. God’s love is different. His love beats lust a hundred billion times to one because real love is infinitely better and so muchmore than lust.
Love is about sacrifice. It’s about discipline. It’s about all kinds of good things that lust isn’t. And for all I saw of God’s love, I saw that this loving God is, to the utmost, holy. I knew I had to change.
I told myself that if I keep saying, “I can’t control myself” and just caved every time temptation came – I would stay like a child for the rest of my life. And that life of self-pity would be my lot.
I didn’t want that, so I started to be accountable. Accountability was huge for me. No matter how good or bad my walk was, I would keep my mentor in the loop. Even if all I had to send were long messages about my stumbling – I kept myself honest to him.
I tried my best to set high standards. And when I fell, I would reassess what caused the fall so I knew what kinds of triggers to avoid. I’d say I learnt 4 main handles in this fight against sexual sin.
4 POINTS TO BEAT PORN
1. Acknowledge there is sin
Not only do we need to acknowledge how far we’ve fallen – we also need to see how much grace God has for us. When ours hearts are broken and contrite about the state of our flesh, we’ll be interested in God’s own heart about the issue we’re bringing to Him.
Know what God says about the sexual sin you are involved in, the theology behind why you fight, the verses to lean on in hard times. When you know God’s heartbeat on the issue you’re facing, then you won’t be fighting for no reason.
2. Recognise it is a habit
For instance, though I know in my mind that my compulsive masturbation is a bad habit I no longer want, my body doesn’t. I’m a creature of habit, so though I’ve made up my mind to do something different — my body often does something else entirely.
I might not even trigger myself by watching a suggestive show on TV, but there are times my body just goes off – like a microwave on a timer – without any apparent stimulation. That means it’s a habit and an urge you can curb.
So to inculcate habits you do want instead, there must be very practical measures put in place, right down to your environment, the people you associate with and the media you consume.
3. Forgive yourself
Forgiveness is so frequently overlooked. I used to have a lot of flashbacks to what happened at the staircase in primary school with those other boys. I thought to be past that, all I had to do was forgive them and move on.
But it’s about more than just forgiving the ones who abused you. We need to take the step in the spiritual realm to declare in Jesus’ Name that our chains of bondage are broken. We need to proclaim His truth over our lives, that we are redeemed.
Often we find it easy to forgive others, but we forget to do so for ourselves. We must receive God’s forgiveness and forgive ourselves for true inner healing to take place.
4. Lose the fear
Early on, every time I faced temptation I would get afraid. I would think to myself, “Oh no! It’s happening again!”
I was so afraid I often forgot I actually have authority in Christ! Because of Jesus, I can say to the spirit of temptation, “I cast you out in Jesus’ Name.” The spirits should cower in fear — not us. We are children of God!
Whenever I fled from temptation courageously, I held one particular verse dear to heart. It’s from the latter part of 2 Corinthians 10:5 which says, “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
But even as I was learning principles like these, I had to reconcile all this failing and inner healing with being a church leader, because I was still concurrently involved in hundreds of lives.
If you asked me how I made it through those years, my answer would be God’s grace. There were so many weekends I’d be so happy for the growth of my ministries, yet devastated within at my own personal failings when it came to purity in the middle of the week.
As much as I fell, I anchored my struggle on the knowledge that God is not expecting perfection right now from me. It is a journey of transformation by the power of His Spirit; He is looking for a broken and contrite heart. He wants me to be blameless, and I don’t mean sinless – I mean above reproach.
“For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.“ (Titus 1:7-8)
That has meant a continued fight for my life against sexual sin. A fight to keep sharing, keep accounting, keep changing and growing. To that end, whenever self-condemnation or self-pity knocks on my door in times of failure, I remind myself that there is now no more condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1).
I let my struggles remind me that my authority and victory come solely from Christ – not me. While we consecrate ourselves before the Lord, there is one defining thing to remember: Jesus is our Redeemer and Saviour, and it’s only because of Him that when God looks at us – He sees not the filthiness of our sins, but the image of Christ because we are in Christ.
I know this is the generation of authentic people. But while we are authentic, we should also be principled. We should never be any less zealous or enthusiastic for God. So even as we young people are spontaneous and all-out for Christ, let’s continue to be real in showing others who we are.
My dark childhood and sexual struggles have become a source of blessing and encouragement to my mentees, who in turn are stirred to be as honest and vulnerable as I am with them. God used these experiences to help me lead a National Service (NS) group in my church for 6 years — a ministry that finds sharing difficult because guys tend to be more private in their struggles.
As I look across my ministries, I see that God has created in them a culture where there is vulnerability, openness and a willingness to share deeply. We’re fighting together, and finding freedom. We’re no longer finding our identity in our lives’ repeated failures but in who God says we really are — His children!
If I didn’t have the childhood I had, and the struggles I still deal with right now, I think my ministry would look very different.
Years later when I began to consider companionship in the opposite sex, God revealed certain truths to me.
I realised that sexual attraction is just one aspect of the gift of intimacy. Beyond physical intimacy, there are also emotional and spiritual aspects of intimacy I hadn’t considered. I was looking for whole and total intimacy, but mistakenly thought that it was found in sex.
Though I still face same-sex attraction on occasion, I’ve come to see that these attractions don’t mean they are my identity. I know now that who I am is not defined by what I experienced in the past, and it is better to love a person the way God does.
If I could talk to my 11-year-old self, this is what I would say.
There’s more freedom than you can imagine that is coming your way. But it will only happen when you finally let the light in. You are going to trade your shame for Christ. You are going to exchange your guilt for healing.
God is going to help you through this. You are going to become a blessing to fellow brothers and sisters and He is going to use your testimony.
God will turn your ashes into beauty.
*The author’s name has been changed for confidentiality.
Recently, a good number of my brothers and sisters-in-Christ — people who are close to me — are beginning to have their doubts about their churches on a number of issues. Some weeks it’s about something the preacher said. On another, it might be about a reckless choice of song during worship.
While it’s crucial to keep standards and be sensitive to audience feedback, upon reflection I honestly find that a lot of the criticism comes from a place of pride.
We all care for our church to varying degrees, but I find myself wishing more effort was spent on ensuring there’s edification and encouragement after a disagreement rather than a pat on the back for saying something theologically clever.
Because there’s always going to be something to disagree about, we need to learn how to disagree without causing dissension.
“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness,he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions,and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” (1 Timothy 6:4)
Whether it’s theological differences or wrong song choices, there’s a great deal in the Church today with the potential to divide us if we let it. But there’s also a lot more common ground than we realise.
So how can we have unity without uniformity? How do we disagree within closed ranks? If we want to call ourselves a united body of believers, these are questions we must have answers to.
PRIDE AND POSTURE
Recently, I attended my church’s bi-annual camp in Malaysia. Going with a group of young people, it was actually my first time attending such a camp and I didn’t really know what to expect.
The camp turned out to be very heavily focused on family issues like marriage and fatherhood, so a lot of the singles quickly felt left out in terms of content and context.
By lunch, it had gotten to a point where I had been in multiple conversations about the sheer irrelevance of the sermons. That sort of conversation really fed into my bitterness about the camp. I worked my socks off last week to clear assignments, paid $500 and took a 9-hour coach ride to be here for this?
That attitude of mine lasted until the night service, where I repented for being so stuck up and insistent on my own way. As the speaker ambled up the stage, I told God quietly: “I know You didn’t bring me here to waste my time, and I don’t want to waste Yours. You have something here for me, and I really want to learn it. Help me to be humble as I listen.”
And everything changed after that. When I pressed in to learn humbly, something clicked. And I began to listen to what the speaker was saying — the importance of getting marriage and fatherhood right. And so I learnt.
My personal belief is that a lot of our reactions today stem from entitlement.
Marriage, fatherhood, motherhood and family are not things that singles get to ignore. In fact, until that night I was tempted to believe that holiness in the home was just something that happened once I got married.
Nothing could be further from the truth — it takes the real hard work of fathers to be the spiritual thermostat of their homes. It takes discipline and time today. As men, our spiritual disciplines and walk with God must be on point if we want to lead a godly family.
I can’t speak for my whole generation, but my personal belief is that a lot of our reactions today stem from entitlement. At least for younger Singaporeans, you want anything — you snap your fingers and there you have it. Instant gratification in just the way you desire. So I find that we tend to react poorly when we don’t get that.
We’ve gotta respond instead. When we encounter a situation we’re uncomfortable in, we need to stop complaining as the first recourse. I know how much I need to shut up for a second and ask God what He’s doing; I’m scared to think of how much wisdom I’ve missed out on just by merely dismissing it before I really hear it.
And if you know me, you’d know I have a very binary view on life, in that every decision either takes you closer to God or further away from Him. So the next time you start openly disagreeing with a sermon or song, check your posture. At the heart of it, do you just want to sound right? Do you just want people to agree with you?
Or do you really want to lovingly build up the body of believers God has put you in?
Unity is generally an easier thing when we agree. But do we want people to also end up closer to God even – especially – in our disagreements? At the bottom line, it’s all about the net kingdom profit.
HUMILITY AND HONOUR
What if you decide that unity is the highest value in your church? What would your conversations sound like? How different would the way your ministries are run be?
Conversations either honour leaders or dishonour them. Conversations about members either respect them or belittle their concerns. Regardless, if they don’t have love in them, the harsh truth is they are just words meant to make you sound smart.
But if they are spoken in the love of God, they build up the church, its leadership and members.
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
We don’t do honour very well, but we desperately need it. Especially when we disagree, we need to be able to have conversations that still encourage, edify and exhort. We are so frequently doing the very opposite, that Satan might as well recline on a deck chair given how terribly efficient we can be at his work.
We need to whip out Ephesians 4 a little more, and be mature enough to have conversations about the things we disagree with without being stumbled, or worse – stumbling others. Even if we don’t like a particular sermon, speaker or song, we need to be able to talk about these things in a way that still honours the brother or sister, that still allows for mutual edification and unity.
If it’s not mutual edification or unity, then it’s disunity and dishonour. And if you’re leader, you have the added responsibility with your words. The younger ones are looking up to you, and they will either watch your weekly disdain of the speaker or follow in the culture of honour you are making.
Recently, I came across an article in which the writer chronicled her experiences of sleeping with married men.
The author wasn’t looking for a long-term relationships, and since married men have obligations to their family, she decided that they would be ideal one-night stands for her with no strings attached.
Through her hookups, the author learnt that men typically commit infidelity because their partner stopped having sex with them. And these men found it easier to get their sexual needs met elsewhere rather than to ask why. Other men confided that their wives were bedridden, but they had chosen to not leave their partners.
As I read on, it struck me that these men weren’t looking for a relationship – they already had that with their wives. They were simply looking for sex. In the author’s words: “But the other husbands I met would have preferred to be having sex with their wives. For whatever reason, that wasn’t happening.”
I was appalled when I read the article. How could a husband cheat on a wife and still claim to love her? How could anyone betray their loved ones like that? How dare they! But as angry words turned over and over in my a mind, a small voice broke through the internal rant.
Don’t you cheat on Me too?
It’s easy to point fingers and play the blame game. But it’s more productive to understand that cheating happens when we succumb to temptation.
All of us face temptations in our everyday lives. Some of us check girls out (Matthew 5:28), others watch pornography or even engage in forbidden relationships. And sometimes as singles, we may think we’re not cheating anyone when we cave in – but we are.
We’re cheating on God.
… fidelity and self-control aren’t things that just automatically start after we’ve utter our marriage vows. They start now.
Temptation is universal. I have friends who have given into temptation, I know some who were betrayed by their partners. Likewise I also face temptations, when I was single and now also as someone who’s attached. And I’m pretty sure I will continue to face temptations even after I marry.
As a married person, you choose and fight to stay committed to one person. As a single or unmarried person, you fight to remain pure. So whatever your relationship status is, fidelity and self-control aren’t things that just automatically start after we’ve utter our marriage vows.
They start now.
Temptation is that tension between the heart, mind and will.
In the heat of the moment, it’s all too tempting to simply give in. We rationalise and deceive ourselves – anything just to convince ourselves that it’s okay.
We need conviction.
A friend shared with me a passage from Jane Eyre which had helped her to overcome her struggle with physical intimacy. Jane had fallen in love with a man who she later found out was married. The man begged Jane to stay by his side, a plea which caused her great emotional turmoil. But Jane produces a remarkable response to the temptation.
“I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad — as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth — so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane — quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot.”
… if we stay where we are tempted for too long, the temptation will overtake us. So we must also flee.
Many of us already know what the right thing to do is. We just lack the determination to see it through when the test comes. But that’s human nature. So beyond deciding early what we will stand for, we need to flee when temptation comes.
We plant our foot on our convictions when trials and temptations come. But if we stay where we are tempted for too long, the temptation will overtake us. So we must also flee.
In times of peace, prepare for war. Feed yourself with the Word. Strengthen your beliefs. Pray for your spirit to grow. If you ever stumble and fall, repent and pick yourself up again. God’s mercies are new every morning.
Purity, integrity and our relationship with God – these things are priceless. So fight for them.
It sounded ridiculous – even sadistic – to me as well, when my friend said a similar prayer years ago. But today, these seven precious words have taken on a new meaning for me.
Experiencing and resisting same-sex attraction (SSA) is probably the hardest battle I have ever fought. While I’ve had crushes on guys as well, my attraction towards females has always been much stronger. Throughout the past seven years of resisting the temptation to act on my emotions, I’ve never understood why I had to go through this.
Doesn’t God know how disgusted I am with myself whenever I come to Him?
Doesn’t He know how difficult it is for me to repeatedly turn away from my most natural attractions?
If God really loved me, why didn’t He just make me normal?
Why did He allow me to go through so much pain?
Those were some of the thoughts that used to run through my mind. Even as I grappled with these questions, God used a recent infatuation I had to show Himself to me.
SUCCUMBING TO TEMPTATION
I met her on a week-long overseas work assignment and we clicked instantly. She was kind and took special care of me. Soon, we grew closer and started to confide in each other. We often deviated from the group to spend time together and even hung out in each other’s hotel room alone. I didn’t fully recognise my emotions then and hence, set myself up for trouble.
Perhaps it was the extended amount of time that we spent exclusively or the emotional connection we had that led me to develop feelings for her. As much as I knew my feelings were contrary to what constitutes holiness and Christ-like behaviour, I couldn’t help myself. I told myself every day that I couldn’t continue indulging in my feelings, but I just kept falling helplessly into sin.
One day, God intervened and graciously used the situation for my good. At that time, I had yet to share my struggle with my mentor and friends, hence I did not have anybody to turn to. As a result, God became the only Person I could hold on to. But at the same time, I felt far too dirty and sinful for God to handle.
WE CAN ALWAYS DRAW NEAR TO GOD
But even in the midst of my struggle, I was repeatedly reminded of what the apostle James wrote about choosing God over worldly passions. He instructs us to “resist the devil” and “come near to God” (James 4:7-8). It’s a two-pronged approach that we have to take – not an either-or approach – for it is impossible for us to turn away from sin without drawing near to God.
The apostle James also encouraged us in this: When we violently reject the devil, he flees from us. But on the other hand, when we run to God, He draws near to us.
That beautiful and magnificent image of God Himself being with me kept replaying in my mind.
… when we run to God, He Himself draws near to us.
When that realisation hit me, I knew what I had to do.
I had to come to God in brutal honesty, regardless of the state I was in. Humbling myself to realise that I could not do it on my own and raising the white flag in surrender was difficult, but I knew that there was no other option for me. I had done all I could with my human strength but it still did not amount to anything. I saw my helplessness and my desperate need for God.
I remember crying out to God in frustration. I whined endlessly to God in agony. I begged Him to remove my feelings of attraction. It was in these moments of vulnerability that I realised that it is absolutely okay for me to come to our Holy God in filthy rags.
God proved to me that He provides us with the strength to obey Him, so that we can resist even the toughest temptations.
In fact, just like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, He welcomes and embraces us when we come to Him in repentance – regardless of the state we are in. When we become His children, we can never be too dirty, too unholy or too distant to come back to him.
Slowly, I started to feel less alone in my struggle and I knew for certain that God was fighting alongside me. Every time I turned to him, comfort and peace, which were usually elusive to me, suddenly began to fill my heart. I felt reassured that turning to God was the right thing to do.
I also noticed how my prayers shifted from asking God to remove the temptation to asking God for strength to make the right decisions. He became very real to me in those precious seven days when I struggled with that temptation.
GOD NEVER ABANDONS US
For the first time, I was truly convinced that our Father never abandons us. Even in our times of rebellion against Him, He is never too far away for us to reach out to.
God proved to me that He provides us with the strength to obey Him, so that we can resist even the toughest temptations. In Philippians 1:6, He reassures us that He is not done with us yet and that He will complete the good work that He started in us.
… my prayers shifted from asking God to remove the temptation to asking God for strength to make the right decisions.
Since I began this journey, I have found it easier to obey God. By actively distancing myself whenever I find myself developing feelings for other girls and being honest with God about what I’m feeling, I now struggle less to turn away from temptations and turn my heart towards God.
I still do not have an answer for why God allowed me to be attracted to both genders and am far from being immune to temptations, but God has opened my eyes to see how these encounters have become a way for Him to draw me back to Himself.
I’ve seen how weak and helpless I am in the face of sin, and how the Almighty God works even through that.
Now, I am able to truly thank God that I struggle with same-sex attraction, for if I didn’t, I wouldn’t see how God graciously provides us with His own presence and supernatural strength to fight these battles and to ultimately win the war in eternity.
This article was first published on YMI.today, and is republished with permission.