Sunday, May 28, 2006


I look forward to next weekend. It’s Pentecost Sunday.

This year is special. This is the centenary of the Azusa Street revival. This was a glorious outpouring of the Holy Spirit that began in Los Angeles, California in 1906. This outpouring rocked the world. Many call this the second Pentecost.

In the days of old, God poured out His Spirit on selected individuals for specific purposes. But God promised He will pour His Spirit on all His people. This is a prophecy of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost on every Christ follower. Just fifty days after the resurrection, God’s action through the Holy Spirit erupted on Pentecost. This is one of the most important spiritual experiences in the life of a Christ follower.

Scriptures tell us that the Christian today shall encounter the presence of the same Spirit who came with power at Pentecost and fanned the message of Christ into a flame. God not only wants us to have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, He wants to completely saturate, overflow and baptise us with His Spirit. Out of our innermost being will flow rivers of living water. Life giving! Endless! Pure! Our salvation and eternity doesn’t depend on us having the baptism in the Holy Spirit. But without it, it’s our big loss. We miss out on a dynamic, powerful Christian life!

Before I was baptised in the Spirit, I feared witnessing. But I desired the roaring fire of the full power of the Spirit instead of glowing embers. I longed to live this life. I am grateful to be taught the complete picture about the Holy Spirit from Scripture. When I got baptised in the Spirit, the words of a language I don't know came into my lips. Thank God for the release in prayer and the praise in tongues. I became bolder in witnessing.

Being baptised in the Spirit is to receive God's enpowerment to witness. It is a personal experience of the divine. Praying in tongues as enabled by the Spirit is the initial physical sign of being baptised in the Spirit. Baptism in the Spirit is a one time occurrence but being filled with the Spirit is not a one time experience. If you have been baptised in the Spirit but your relationship with God seems stagnant, ask God to give you a fresh filling of the Spirit. Be continuously filled with God’s Spirit.

If you haven’t been baptised, what does it take to experience the overflowing fullness of God? Jesus said just “Ask.” Believe God is going to do it. Believe you will receive it the moment leaders lay hands on you. Expect to speak in tongues. Receive this release in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit loves to come and take truth about Jesus and turn it into an experience of Jesus.

I encourage you to honour the Holy Spirit. Be hungry for more of Him. Pray for an outpouring of the Spirit. This is the key to an effective life. May Pentecost happen in your life and in your family.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

What a month

It's been four weeks since I last wrote about my world. Here is an update of what's been happening from 24 Apr to 21 May. In that month were two long weekends, our kids prepared for, sat for and ended their mid-year exams and much more.

There were celebrations. It was a joy to conduct Frank and Lyn's wedding. It was on the day of General Elections. We also celebrated the first milestone with our campaign team and had appreciation time with our Competency task force.

There were interactions. Dinah and I were glad to catch up with our friend Tonje from Norway. She was a church intern in 2000. It was good to catch up with old friends and meet new ones at the AGM of the Evangelical Fellowship of Singapore. It was good to meet up with family and young adult guy leaders at our place.

There was newness. I joined Mandarin service at the new venue which is normally a karaoke joint. A place where people slaughter songs is now a place where we offer songs to God. Then we organised a special event to prepare people for the Da Vinci Code movie. It was standing room only.

The highlight of the month was probably our first men's conference. The fact that the guys got together was already good. The all-male worship was powerful and the covenant was meaningful. The entire atmosphere was rich and very masculine. What a month.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Truth is stranger than fiction

Several staff and leaders have been getting prepared to respond to the upcoming Da Vinci Code (DVC) movie. Tze Wei and I spent Saturday finalising material for our Monday night seminar.

Movies have such a powerful influence on our society that many people's views of reality and morality are shaped largely through their entertainment choices. 'The Last Temptation of Christ' was a controversial movie. The DVC is more controversial. Many are getting ready to see this one.

The DVC is based on Dan Brown's best selling mystery novel. The novel is well-written. It's an entertaining, exciting and page-turning thriller. He crosses over into multiple genres - suspense, fiction and religious.

Although a work of fiction the book claims to be meticulously researched and goes to great lengths to give the impression that it is based on fact. It is not clear how many of the acknowledgements in the book are credible. For example, Project Gutenberg is an online library of public domain texts. It may mean no more than that he used their facilities and they did nothing special to assist his research. Then the hero in the novel is a 'renowned Harvard symbologist'. Harvard has no department of symbology.

The author also uses occult, feminist and Gnostic fantasy. Some titles in his bibliography represent New Age speculation that run counter to history. Historians and scholars do not take these works seriously. Yes he tries to use the reputation of brilliant men such Leonardo Da Vinci to help make its case that historic Christianity is a pack of falsehoods. Using a painting as a historical record?

Although unoriginal in its allegations, the story proves misguided theories don't fade away. It is imaginative fiction combining half-truths, distortions and historical inaccuracies. It misrepresents some currently popular but silly ideas of the life and teachings of Christ. It is ignorance at best and falsehood at worst. It's a grand conspiracy story. In the conspiracy is heresy. Heretical conspiracy disguised as a suspense novel.

Does anyone take these ideas seriously? Would anyone pay money to read this? About 40 million people around the world! Brown has a way of making the novel's theories about Christ and the early church seem credible. So why do people want to believe or are at least open to the bizarre claims?

Well the story appeals to modern secular sensibilities. It corresponds with what people want to believe. We desire a Jesus who is more like us. This is a world that rejects absolute truth and reconstructs truth.

Another well known feature of today's culture is that many can't tell fact from fiction. Some who believe in the speculative theories of the DVC will hold on to them whatever the evidence. Truth is stranger than fiction.

There is also a need to feed the public taste for conspiracy. I've read that the way to increase any blog readership is to be controversial. Conspiracy is always controversial.

It doesn't help that many Christians are not aware of the church's history. We need to learn our story.

Beneath the surface, our culture is fascinated with spiritual topics. From the 'Gospel of Judas' to DVC, our culture is responding to God-shaped vacuum in our hearts.

Nobody needs to burn books or do loud protests outside cinemas. (Negative publicity only helps the movie). This cinematic event is an exciting opportunity to clarify real history. Talk to people the truth of historic Christianity. Turn an anti-Christian story into an opportunity to some helpful conversations.

"Rather than protesting the DVC, why not invite people to read a better book - the Book that tells the dramatic story of God who sent His son, who lived a perfect life, died on the cross and who rose again to break a curse, not a code." Ed Stetzer

Here's the first step. Be equipped to know the truth so we can proclaim it clearly and graciously. Know the truth. That's why we're having tomorrow's seminar.

Second, don't be afraid to ask our friends, neighbours and co-workers, "Do you understand what you saw?" They might reply, "What does it all mean?" We need to be sensitive to such a question. Remember Philip asking the Ethiopian eunuch, "Do you understand what you are reading?" in Act 8:30.

A follow-up question we can ask: "Does the novel match up with the facts of history?" In asking, be humble and gentle in our life.

Finally, be confident in our faith and allow that confidence to overflow in genuine concern for those around us who may be struggling with spiritual decisions. I read a great opener: "Now that you've read the fiction, read the facts". II Timothy 4:2 encourages us to be ready to share our faith in season and out. Share and see some of our friends come to accept the truth of Christ.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

So when did I become a man?

This Friday is a public holiday and we are gearing up for our first men's conference. As I started developing conference lessons, I wondered when I became a man.

First I have a confession to make. I'm a man. No, that's not the confession. The confession is that I don't know when I became one.

I've been male since my mother's egg was fertilised. At birth I became a boy and that was affirmed frequently all the way through kindergarden. Bad boy. Good boy. Boys will be boys. What do you expect from a small-town boy?

So when did I become a man?

At age 10 I got kissed by a girl. She was a year older and she was my neighbour. Then I caught a crocodile when I was 11. I trapped it with chicken pieces in a large mouse trap with a knife. Our gardener and maid knew what I was doing and the risks involved, but let this 11-year-old kid go ahead and trusted me not to injure or kill myself. The next morning I was surprised that it worked. It was not a small reptile. Our gardener, my brother and I hung it so we could skin it from the underbelly. Mom cooked it with herbs. It tasted like kampong chicken. When it was all said and done, no one proclaimed me a newly made man.

Then I was sent to an overseas boarding school. This was a boys school. At ages 17 to 18, I played competitive rugby. If I had committed a crime then, I could have gone to jail since I was no longer a minor. In the eyes of law, I was an adult, yet I know I was still was very much a kid.

I got my drivers license when I turned 19, as many guys did. For some, this is the defining event. It wasn't for me, though there are aspects of that day that could be considered an initiation into manhood. My mom, my instructor and the entire system trusted me with the operation of a 1-ton piece of machinery that could go 200 km an hour. I could have done some serious damage but showed enough maturity to handle it. For the most part, I was careful. For all the stupid things I've done behind the wheel, I never did anything worse than knock into a trash can. But driving didn't make me a man and wasn't recognised as passage into manhood, despite the fact that I gained rights and responsibilities.

At some point, I became a man, without any clear indication it had happened. The obvious thought would be that since I was a boy all through school, the transformation took place in university. Or did I become a man when I first took a job, paid my own rent and put food on my own table. Was I a man then?

Society doesn't seem to notice the lack of transitions until we do something wrong that proves we aren't the men we should be. This will be the starting point of my discussion with the guys on Friday.