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This is no time to live carelessly: Bill Johnson at Kingdom Invasion

by | 15 March 2017, 11:31 PM

Christians don’t only have the ability to affect the atmosphere – we have the responsibility to change it, said Bill Johnson.

The senior pastor of Bethel Church, speaking at the second day (15 March) of Kingdom Invasion 2017, told the audience at the Singapore Expo: “We were designed to manifest the presence of God on earth.”

“If you don’t discern the presence (of God), you will be reduced to principles. People study real money, not counterfeit money, to be able to tell what is real.”

He went on to share about how a simple act of kindness and service can actually turn out be access points to encounters with God.

“God doesn’t just touch people on a surface level – God heals on so many different dimensions… We owe people an encounter with God.”

He shared with the congregation that as Christians, we not only have the ability to affect, but we can also change the atmosphere.

“The strongholds of people’s lives are in the thought realm. The presence of the Lord removes people from a place of their own deceptive influences and helps them to think clearly for the first time in their lives. There is no lack in your soul in His presence.”

He went on to give the example of Moses and the burning bush, saying while God might appear to be ignoring Moses’ question of “who am I?” (Exodus 3:11-12) by only answering him with “I will be with you”, but He could actually be saying: “Who are you, Moses? You’re the man I’d like to be with”. God promised His presence before Moses could even wrap his head around the entire situation.

“We don’t just live carelessly; we need to live with ambition.” Bill urged that we become architects and designers of culture who live with intentionality so that we can shape the value system of our nations.

“When you walk in the room, the odds change: we carry the presence of a Person who has manifested for who He is. We are here to give language for what the lost are aching for.”

Amidst this, he encouraged the congregation to first set their face on God.

“He watches over the watch of those who watch over the Lord.”

Kingdom Invasion 2017 will run until Friday at Singapore Expo Hall 1. Night sessions starting from 6pm are free, subjected to availability of seats. For more details, visit www.kingdominvasion.sg.

/ christina@thir.st

Christina is a designer and a writer. She is an INFJ who loves matcha, beautiful typography, good books and sad music. She also dreams of raising her own pet penguin one day.

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“Stop window-shopping, it’s time to pay the price”: Will you be the one?

by Thir.st | 23 November 2017, 6:25 PM

He was speaking to a crowd of over 300 young people from more than 80 churches – gathered in an auditorium on a Thursday afternoon at the FOPx conference for youths – but there was someone specific Pastor Tan Seow How was looking for and speaking to.

“I’m not speaking to the 300 of you. I came here to preach to the one man, one woman who is God-ready. Ready to pay the price of surrender. Ready to rise up to change the world.”

Affectionately known at Heart of God Church as Pastor How, he reminded the congregation of something God said to Adam in Genesis 3:9, where He asked: “Where are you?”

“God isn’t really asking where we are. Don’t you think He knows?” said Pastor How. It wasn’t a matter of physical location. God’s question to Adam was one about willingness of heart – was Adam’s heart in the right place, and would he come to God? Where are you spiritually? Are you present? Are you ready?

And the reply He is looking for is: “Here I am! Send me!”

“Perhaps there are only 2, 5 or even just 10 in our midst,” he said, acknowledging that not everyone was going to be respond that way.

Some things look good from afar, but when you go closer and realise the cost, will you still commit to it?

“It’s like window shopping,” said Pastor How. “You see something that you like in the store and it looks good. So what’s the next thing that you do? You reach for the item and you look at the price tag.”

He then drew the parallel between window shopping and surrender: There is a price tag, and not everyone will be willing to pay the price.

“It’s easy to come to a conference or hear a good message and get all excited, but it’s what you do after the conference that counts.

“Surrender is hard work – to serve God you might have to sleep less, be left out of the fun others are having, read the Bible, actively live a holy life …

“Some things look good from afar, but when you go closer and realise the cost, will you still commit to it?”

Drawing reference from The Message version of Psalm 53:2, he asked the crowd again, “Who will be that one God-expectant man, that one God-ready woman?”

For God is looking for the one who is willing to stop window-shopping and pay the full price of surrender. The one willing to till the ground and usher in revival for the generation.


FOPx will be taking place this week from Thursday to Saturday, November 23-25, 2017. It will be held at Trinity Christian Centre (Days 1 and 2) and Bethesda Cathedral (Day 3). Tickets are priced at $40 per person and you can get them here. Night sessions are free and open to all!

Speakers include Lou Engle (co-founder of TheCall), Ben Fitzgerald (Director of Godfest Ministries) and various local Senior Pastors. 

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FOPx: Surrender ushers in the supernatural, Ben Fitzgerald urges youth

by Thir.st | 23 November 2017, 5:19 PM

“When God tells you to do something, He’s not asking you to figure out how to do it. It’s up to you to obey. It’s up to God to do it.”

Ben Fitzgerald, leader of Awakening Europe and GODfest Ministries, opened this year’s FOPx Conference – themed “Surrender” – with a simple question: Whose wisdom are we going to live by?

“As a Christian, you’re supposed to be filled with God and His wisdom. It may look irrational to you, but God is not irrational – He is trans-rational. His thoughts transcend your thoughts.

“We only have to surrender and say yes.”

Referring to John the Baptist, Pastor Ben, who used to serve at Bethel Church, Redding, exhorted the 300 young participants of the National Youth Conference to faithfully obey as God calls, to prepare the way of the Lord.

“If you rely on your ability to do something, nothing supernatural will ever happen.

“John had nothing naturally in him that anyone should have listened to him, but he had a yes in his spirit. He had zero – zero resources, zero qualifications – but he was close to the One.

“He simply bent his knee and allowed the Son of God to step across into His destiny. And you and I have the same call on our lives.”

He reiterated his point on this importance of submitting our humanly wisdom to the wisdom of God with the example of King David, who continually turned to God to ask Him how He wanted things done.

And because he always consulted in God’s rationality above his own, King David was able to surrender himself wholly and walk in God’s way throughout his years of kingship.

If you rely on your ability to do something, nothing supernatural will ever happen.

Pastor Ben ended his sermon with a personal testimony of putting God’s wisdom above his own. During a trip to France, where he was due to speak in a local Church, he encountered a woman in a wheelchair on his way to service.

It was just 5 minutes till the service started and he had just enough time to walk to the Church, but something stirred in his spirit to stop and pray for the woman’s healing.

“I heard God tell me that He wanted to heal this woman, but I really didn’t want to be late for my speaking appointment – I almost wanted to tell Him to go ahead and do it Himself!” He said to a laughing crowd.

“But I knew I could either go with my own rational wisdom to not be late, or surrender in obedience to what He was putting on my heart. So I stopped and approached her.”

Although the woman spoke no English, her husband who was pushing her wheelchair did. His wife was suffering from a debilitating muscular disease and was no longer mobile. He allowed Pastor Ben to pray for her, but did not offer to translate.

I knew I could either go with my own rational wisdom or surrender in obedience to what He was putting on my heart.

Pastor Ben went on to share that as he prayed, the woman began to writhe, but as he persisted in prayer, she suddenly went limp, as though something had left her body.

Speaking in rapid French to her husband, he explained that she was confounded by how the chronic pain in her back and legs had disappeared. She could move again! Overjoyed, she leapt up and embraced Pastor Ben.

That night, as the couple attended the service Pastor Ben was preaching at, they received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. What’s more, the woman prayed for another lady in the congregation who was suffering from the same disease, and she too was healed on the spot.

“Imagine if I’d obeyed my watch instead of the watch of the Lord,” Pastor Ben said. “Your rationality should never get in the way of the wisdom of God.

“Whose wisdom are you going to live by?”


FOPx will be taking place this week from Thursday to Saturday, November 23-25, 2017. It will be held at Trinity Christian Centre (Days 1 and 2) and Bethesda Cathedral (Day 3). Tickets are priced at $40 per person and you can get them here. Night sessions are free and open to all!

Speakers include Lou Engle (co-founder of TheCall), Ben Fitzgerald (Director of Godfest Ministries) and various local Senior Pastors. 

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Hope for the suffering Christian

by | 22 November 2017, 2:34 PM

Recently, I learnt from a cell group member that someone in our young adults ministry requires a serious operation due to the presence of a benign tumour. She’d sent a message to several chat groups, telling us to “remember our friend in prayer, and drop her a prayer and note of encouragement” if we could.

I found myself perplexed – what could anyone say to someone in this situation? It didn’t help that the doctor said that there was a possible chance of future recurrence.

Faced with such a situation, was there anything to be said that would make things better? Words seemed like mere platitudes, even hypocritical.

It is difficult to grapple with the notion that Christians may be “perplexed, but not driven to despair” (2 Corinthians 4:8) – pain is real and difficult to bear, hence despair seems to be the natural reaction, not its opposite, hope.

SUFFERING IS REAL

Physical death came into the world as Adam’s punishment for disobeying God’s command (Gen 3:19), and has also been passed down to Adam’s descendants (Romans 5:12) – all of us.

Likewise, sickness occurs as part and parcel of a fallen world – a consequence of Man’s collective rebellion against God. It does not discriminate among individuals (John 9:1-3); no one in this world has a get-out-of-suffering card.

Hence, it is important to note that suffering is valid and we should never downplay the tragedy of it.

As believers in the Greatest Hope, we may not feel permitted to be sad in the midst of trials and suffering; to not see them as such. On the contrary, the Bible tells us God’s people – Joseph in the book of Genesis, Naomi in the book of Ruth, King David, Job, the apostle Paul, among others – faced many trials!

Prophets wept. People of God cried out. Throughout the ages, good people have faced the scourge of suffering. We need to acknowledge that some parts of life truly hurt – and that’s okay because we’re not alone (1 Peter 5:9).

IS THERE PURPOSE IN SUFFERING?

Romans 8:28 tells us that “for those who love God all things work together for good” – the all-inclusive nature of this statement means God is working to use our circumstances to conform us into Christlikeness, even in suffering (Romans 8:29).

In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul exhorts the Corinthian church to trust in God’s strength in the midst of their weaknesses – God used his suffering to strengthen the faith of other believers (2 Corinthians 1:6, 7). Paul concedes to be so utterly burdened beyond his strength that he “despaired of life itself”.

Yet, he also acknowledges the purpose in his suffering – to rely not on himself but on God (2 Corinthians 1:8, 9).

We can rejoice because God can, and will, conform us into Christlikeness in all circumstances, including tough times.

In the midst of suffering, we remember that God sent his Son into the world to suffer more than any man ever will. We cry out for help and comfort to a God who fully understands the pain of suffering and never forsakes us even in the fallenness of life.

It is because of this that Paul is able to rejoice even in prison because he knows that when God comes through for him, he will get to experience the same resurrection, saving power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead (Philippians 3:11).

REJOICE IN SUFFERING?

In Romans 5:3, we are told to rejoice in suffering. This sounds both counterintuitive and cruel at first glance. Yet, reading in context, we see why this is worth it – not that we remain happy in difficult circumstances themselves, but to rejoice in the fruit of suffering.

It bears explaining that “rejoicing” is more than being “happy” – even as Paul issues the command to rejoice, it is important to note the object of our rejoicing. On closer reading of Philippians, we realise the object of our rejoicing remains constant and doesn’t change with circumstances – we are able to rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 3:1, 4:4).

This contrasts with being happy – an emotional state which fluctuates with life’s circumstances.

We can rejoice because God can, and will, conform us into Christlikeness in all circumstances, including tough times. By looking to Christ’s sufficiency and power when faced with a difficult situation, we avoid giving in to resentment, bitterness and complaining. In this, our faith perseveres and is made stronger.

Furthermore, despite present suffering, we know we can rejoice in suffering because we have hope – we find hope in the person and saving work of Christ (Hebrews 6:19), which provides security and stability for our souls.

In light of this knowledge, this is how I will now respond to my friend’s predicament:

Dear friend,

I’m not sure what I can say – I know my words can’t change your situation. Both you and your family may be feeling scared, possibly also in anticipation of hospital charges and medical bills – which might be hefty. It’s a horrible situation to be in – and it’s not your first time undergoing this operation.

But this is what I hope you’ll remember – God’s love for you doesn’t fluctuate, even though your health does. God is using this for His glory, to grow you in Christlikeness. While that looks different for each person, your friends are encouraged that despite tough circumstances, your faith in God is never lost. I’m sure that pleases God!

We’ll be praying for God’s peace on you and your family.

Love and blessings,
Me

/ eudora@thir.st

Eudora found herself writing on public platforms by chance. Apart from writing, she likes many random things, including spoken word poetry, adult colouring books, tea, stationery and fresh, clean laundry.

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The Modern Sabbath: Separating fact from fiction

by | 22 November 2017, 12:07 PM

One of today’s marks of a good Christian is one’s attendance of Church on Sunday morning.

Stay with me on that one. Why is attendance on Sunday even a benchmark of faith? Well, because of the fourth Commandment: Honour the Sabbath and keep it holy (Deuteronomy 5:12).

That means we have to go to Church on Sundays to sing songs, listen to someone talk for a while and throw some loose change into the bag before real life resumes around lunchtime. Penance paid, duties completed. Hey, maybe God will bless me with a bonus or good grades if I keep this up.

If you’re nodding your head – I hope it’s because you like sarcasm.

But seriously speaking, to properly understand the biblical concept of the Sabbath, it’ll be helpful to first consider some of the church’s misconceptions and disagreements over it for the past two millennia.

SABBATH ≠ “WORSHIP DAY”

In Mosaic Law, the Sabbath, or shabbat, was introduced to the Israelites as a holy day on which no work was to be performed following six days of work (Deuteronomy 5, Exodus 16, 31, 35, Nehemiah 13, Jeremiah 17).

In our terms, it actually falls on a Saturday, and till this day it begins on Friday night and ends after nightfall on Saturday. Their “first day” of the week is what we know as Sunday.

There are certain instructions given for a “holy convocation” or gathering to occur on the Sabbath (Leviticus 23), with special rites being performed (Numbers 28). The Sabbath was kept as a sign of God’s sanctification of the Israelites as they journeyed in a foreign land (Exodus 31:13).

However, in this post-captive Israelite community, worship was continually performed by the tribe of Levi, who continually made sacrifices on behalf of the wider community of Israelites. This worship wasn’t just on the Sabbath.

So while the Sabbath could well be an aspect of Jewish worship, they were not entirely the same thing.

For Gentile believers, we do not live by the same covenant. In the New Testament, Christians were recorded meeting in synagogues, not to worship, but to evangelise to the Jews who were gathered there, just as Paul did in Acts 18:4.

Early Christians met often – some every day – to study the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). Unlike the Jews who met on the Sabbath, the Bible tells us these Christians met on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:2, Acts 20:7), and were not bound to worship on the Sabbath day.

But even though the early Christians didn’t officially keep the Sabbath, it doesn’t necessarily mean we should follow suit. Discernment is key.

SO WHAT’S UP WITH SUNDAY SERVICE?

The Sunday worship tradition practiced by most churches today honours Christ’s resurrection, which took place on the day after the Sabbath (Matthew 28:1) – remember, the Sabbath falls on our Saturday – and was sealed in tradition by the authority of the Church over centuries.

There’s also a theory that examines the politics of the Roman Empire – some 300 years after Christ. In those days, Egyptian Mithraists set aside Sundays for their worship of the sun-god.

Sunday. Kinda makes sense, doesn’t it?

As Christianity grew and became secularised by politics, Church leaders wanted to attract some of these pagans into their ranks, and incorporated some pagan customs into Christian church ceremonies.

To differentiate themselves from Jews and win pagans over, they decided to appropriate the pagan festival of Sunday and turn it into an official Christian and civil holiday.

As Christians, we honour Christ’s resurrection by baptism – not Sunday-keeping.

Over time, the Catholic church assimilated this practice into their official doctrine, and subsequent generations of believers simply took their word for it.

“The Lord’s Day” soon replaced the concept of Sabbath entirely, reducing it to a kind of personal discipline similar to tithing or fasting. 

So traditions have nothing to do with the biblical concept of the Sabbath. Neither Christ’s death and resurrection, nor the Catholic Church’s convenient strategy should’ve made a difference to God’s original blessing (Mark 2:27).

As Christians, we honour Christ’s resurrection by baptism – not Sunday-keeping (Romans 6:3-6).

So, since I’m not Jewish, should I even bother about the Sabbath? Hold that thought – but prepare it for the gallows.

THE SABBATH IS NOT JUST A JEWISH THING

The concept of Sabbath actually predates Judaism entirely. Meaning “rest” in Hebrew, Sabbath follows a period of work, as seen from the account of Genesis.

Clues of its origins can be found in various languages worldwide, most of which are unrelated to Hebrew.

In over 100 diverse languages throughout Asia, Europe, and Africa, many unrelated to ancient Hebrew, “Sabbath” refers to Saturday, which was a designated day of rest. For example, in Ancient Babylon – which existed centuries before Abraham and the Hebrew race – the seventh day of the week was called “sa-ba-tu”.

Jesus – the Lord of the Sabbath himself – kept the Sabbath throughout his life. If His likeness is your life’s pursuit, the Sabbath is for you.

Despite the evolution of language over time, the original word for “rest” is still fairly recognisable in modern variants of these tongues.

And if you’re tempted to believe you can read the New Testament without the Old, here’s food for thought: Jesus – the Lord of the Sabbath himself (Luke 6:5) – kept the Sabbath throughout his life. 

Jesus understood the importance of the Sabbath when He customarily read Scripture in the synagogue (Luke 4:16). He even honoured the Sabbath in the grave.

If Jesus is your Lord, and His likeness is your life’s pursuit – the Sabbath is for you.

THE SABBATH IS NOT SIMPLY “ANY DAY”

In the creation story, God rested after six days of work.

Now wait a minute. Why does God even need to rest? Does that imply a certain lack of strength or ability on God’s part? Of course not – that would go against His omnipotent nature.

After seeing that His work was good (Genesis 1:31), God set aside a full day (literal or allegorical) for the purpose of rest, blessing it and calling it holy. On Day Seven, God simply basked in the enjoyment of His creation.

And He still invites us to be a part of that practice.

 The Sabbath is a gift from God for our enjoyment and welfare – not a yardstick of our personal holiness.

This seventh-day Sabbath is what the Jews were called to obey in Scripture as part of their Mosaic covenant. The Bible says it carries the special blessing of God.

Remember the hundred over ancient languages we talked about earlier? Among all the languages which used the word “Sabbath”, none of them designated a rest day apart from the seventh.

Perhaps seventh day rest extends far beyond the timeframe and locality of Jewish culture, given the plethora of cultures which point to the seventh day for rest.

THE SABBATH IS NOT AN OUTDATED RULE

In Mark 2:27, after being rebuked by Pharisees for letting his disciples “break” the Sabbath law, Jesus speaks of how their great king David was no different.

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)

The Pharisees had missed the point. The Sabbath is a gift from God for our enjoyment and welfare – not a yardstick of our personal holiness.

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.”
(Leviticus 19:9-10)

It precisely because of this law that Jesus’ disciples were able to be fed physically. If our practice of the Sabbath prevents us from exercising kindness and compassion, then we also have missed the point.

The Sabbath is intended for our ultimate redemption in the new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 66:22-23). It is part of God’s blueprint for a joyful, fulfilling and meaningful existence.

When you find yourself running on empty, losing the joy of living, or simply going through the motions of a bleak and meaningless existence – slow down.

Take a deep breath. You could use an injection of some Sabbath essence in your life.

THE SABBATH IS NOT “DOING NOTHING”

Practising the true Sabbath imbues in us a profound sense of responsibility towards ourselves, our fellow humans and the entire world we live in.

It’s more than a day each week – it’s every dayIt’s more than a Jewish thing – it’s for everybodyIt’s not an outdated way of living – it’s past, present, and future reconciled God’s way.

And it’s actually more than making God happy. It’s about trust, gratitude, and true rest expressed through the unforced rhythms of grace.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

/ kenneth@thir.st

Kenneth is best understood through his impassioned Instagram posts, composed in the deep of night when the tumultuous world finally lies silent. He probably prefers dogs to cats.

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What do your holidays look like?

by | 21 November 2017, 5:45 PM

For a lot of students in Singapore, holidays aren’t truly holidays.

We live in a culture where the end of the school year is simply a place in time to prepare for the upcoming year.

Parents start their children on enrichment classes to cover the following year’s syllabus, students read the next year’s syllabus in advance…

And I’m not sure it was always like this. When I was a child, my December holidays were spent creating awesome memories like that one time we drove around the region for 2 weeks.

But it seems we’re on a different train now. Constantly in motion, many of us can’t stop to see we need rest.

Certainly, preparing for the year ahead isn’t a bad thing. But whether as parents or students, when it’s done out of a kiasu mentality – at the expense of forgoing rest – and not excellence for God’s glory, that’s when we really need to examine our hearts.

After all, the Bible tells us that sleep (rest) is a gift from God, often spurned by anxious toil (Psalm 127:2). He made sleep as a reminder that we should rest in him.

Rest reminds us that it’s not our work that’s decisive in running the world – only God’s is.

Jesus redefined Sabbath rest for us as a gift of love to meet our needs. It is for us and our good. Rest reminds us that it’s not our work that’s decisive in running the world – only God’s is.

God neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:3-4). Living with this truth allows us to rest, knowing that God is always in complete control.

In Ecclesiastes, we read that enjoying life is also a gift from God.

Like the food and drink on our tables, life should be humbly and gratefully enjoyed as a gift God has blessed His children with (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25, 3:13).

God is pleased in our pleasure, when we enjoy it knowing only He offers total satisfaction.

After all, however pleasurable the rest and leisure of this world may be, none of them last forever. None of them match up to the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, who came to deliver us from striving.

Happy holidays!

/ eudora@thir.st

Eudora found herself writing on public platforms by chance. Apart from writing, she likes many random things, including spoken word poetry, adult colouring books, tea, stationery and fresh, clean laundry.

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Article list

This is no time to live carelessly: Bill Johnson at Kingdom Invasion

“Stop window-shopping, it’s time to pay the price”: Will you be the one?

FOPx: Surrender ushers in the supernatural, Ben Fitzgerald urges youth

Hope for the suffering Christian

The Modern Sabbath: Separating fact from fiction

What do your holidays look like?