Praying for revival

​One word that has been on my mind for the past few weeks is Revival. I’ve been praying for it to happen in my own life, my seminary, my church, my country and beyond. 

I’m excited to be able to talk to friends in seminary who also feel the same way and really do hope to see a revival in our life time. 

I’m also extremely blessed to be part of my Family Group chapel’s service last Friday. The tetimonies were raw. Real. Unprocessed. Those tears were real. I sensed a genuine work of the Holy Spirit, as even those in the congregation were crying too. That must be God’s doing, not ours for sure.

Initially I was wondering if I should raise my hands as I led the worship (cos I seldom see anyone leading doing that – what would they think)? But then God reminded me: are you more concerned with your image than what truly worshipping me? So I just let myself go and freed myself from self consciousness. And my spirit was lifted with joy.

Praise the Lord. I pray that God would truly revive us and the wind of God the Spirit would continue to blow upon us!! 

Also praying for revival: http://cathedral.org.sg/vicar-writes/revive-us-again

Silence

Silence

This past Monday, I went with a couple of friends to catch the movie “Silence”. It is directed by Martin Scorcese and based upon a novel by Shusaku Endo. rs-silence-8ec449bd-cf0f-4008-942e-3d25d5a334f7

 

In short, it tells the story of two Jesuits (Catholic missionaries) who make the perilous journey to Japan in order to look for their master. There had been rumors that their master had indeed apostatized, but the two young Jesuits did not believe this.

Upon reaching Japan, they learn of the terrible persecution of the Kirishitans (Christians) by the Imperial Government. To prove that one was not Christian, you had to step on the fumie, which was the image of Jesus. The samurais invented horrific forms of torture and methods of slow death for the Christians who refused to step on the fumie. Christians were drowned, burned, crucified, hung in the pit, beheaded, etc.

In the climax of the show, the young Jesuit is faced with a most agonizing choice – would he step on the fumie or not? His disgraced master tells him to do it, that that was the only way for him to save those who were hanging in the pit. Otherwise, the Japanese would keep on killing more and more Christians until he officially recanted.

The young Jesuit then looks at the fumie and he notices that the image of Jesus is not the one he recalls so often in his dreams and thoughts. This image was crushed, marred, blackened and covered with the filth of the hundreds before him who had stepped on that image of Jesus. And he hears Jesus tell him,

“Trample! Trample! I more than anyone know of the pain in your foot. Trample! It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men’s pain that I carried my cross.”

And the priest steps on that image of Jesus. The other Japanese Christians are set free, and the Jesuit lives the rest of his days as a Buddhist, living as a “prisoner” of the land.


Many themes run through Silence.

Foreigness and Perversion

Inoue-Sama himself says that Christianity is like a foreign tree that cannot grow in the swamp of Japan. It is the wrong soil. It is like a foreign woman. The Japanese should choose to marry a local woman, rather than give heed to the persistent lover who is an ugly, barren woman.

Is that true? Not exactly, there were 300,000 Kirishitans in a population of 20 million.

But then the apostate master of the Jesuits, argued that the Japanese did not really worship the Christian God, but a perversion. Not the Son of God but the Sun God. Japanese cannot look past nature and human existence to a supernatural being, he asserted.

Our main character, Rodriguez disagrees. It is real Christianity, he argues.

The Silence of God

Another theme is that of God’s silence.

Where is God in the midst of all the suffering? Why is He saying nothing? Why is He doing nothing? Why does He not answer any of their prayers and cries for help.

The only time God says anything is at the climax of the show where he asks the young priest to trample on His image.

But is God really silent?

Sharing in Suffering

C.S. Lewis writes,

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Today, I read the book of Philippians in a new light.

I believe Paul was in prison, and facing impending martyrdom/death.

Can you see the parallels between Paul and the young Jesuit in the movie? I think I do.

Here are Paul’s thoughts on suffering and death.

Paul says,

“Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Paul then struggles with the choice of whether which is better: to live, or to die.

He views death as far better – to be with Christ.

Then comes a verse (1:30) that absolutely STRUCK me:

“For it has been granted you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”

Wait a minute, we are to suffer for Christ?

Since when did we ask God for the chance to suffer for Christ ?

We always pray for good health, ease, comfort, a way out, wealth, etc.

We never, ever ask to suffer for Christ’s sake.

Paul goes on later in 3:10 (my paraphrase)…

[I want to] know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and that I may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death

Oh God. Now I see. Now I understand!

To truly know Christ is to share in His sufferings.  It is to follow him unto death. 

Jesus set the example, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death on a cross.

He suffered…. oh how he suffered … for us …. he knows …. our pain …. our tears ….

To know Christ is to share in his sufferings. To suffer for Him. 

He is not silent for he suffers with us.

 

Towards Spiritual Maturity

Rev Halim, 12 Fev 2016
Reading: Heb 5:11-14, 6:1-2, 10-12
Opening Prayer
1. We need to grow spiritually
2. The power of salvation by grace and in Christ
3. Spiritual maturity requires discipline

Context of Hebrews – author.

1. We need to grow spiritually
Spiritual immaturity (11-14)
-They were dull in hearing, slow to learn. (v11)
-Heard a lot but never grow.
-They should know the basics well and be able to teach the basic truths to someone else. (v12-13)
-They can’t distinguish good from evil. (v14)

Spiritual maturity is a must.
EG you have been christian 25 yrs. Is it 25 yr experience, or 1 experience, 25 times?

Warren Wiersbe said,
‘Too many Christians are “betweeners”: They live between Egypt and Canaan, saved but never satisfied; or they live between Good Friday and Easter, believing in the cross but not entering into the power and glory of the resurrection.’

2. The power of salvation by grace and in Christ

What does salvation mean? (Dallas Willard)
– presence of a new power, the Holy Spirit, breaking us from the past thru repentance and forgiveness
– immediate and developing transformation of individual character and personality
– power over evil forces of this age and world, exercised by individual n church.

We need to grow spiritually so that we can be a channel for the Holy Spirit to work through us.

3. Spiritual maturity requires discipline.
-Growth must be intentional.
-Be diligent, not lazy (6:11-12)

Why do we need to be spiritually mature?
– So that we can love God and love others more perfectly
-Loving God and loving others is what God wants from us.

“Love is the language they speak in God’s world, and we are summoned to learn it against the day when God’s world and ours will be brought together forever. It is the music they make in God’s courts, and we are invited to learn it and practice it in advance. Love is not a duty, even our highest duty, it is our destiny.” – N.T. Wright, After You Believe, pg. 188

About the ACS Clock Tower revival

Recently, someone lent me a copy of the book: “The Clock Tower Story: the beginnings of the charismatic renewals in Singapore”, edited by Canon Michael Poon and Rev Malcolm Tan.

I am not going to recount the whole story here, but just some of the things I found interesting.

Luke Goh who helped lead the Christian fellowship in ACS had just returned from the Keswick convention. It is an annual conference that aims to encourage Christians to move beyond intial conversion to a deeper experience of holiness. There Luke heard the message of total surrender to Jesus Christ.

Soon enough, Luke began leading the boys in the CF to do the same: surrender fully to God. Many small groups began meeting in school to pray for revival. In ACS, every recess, boys would run to the clock tower just to pray. They would even come in early or stay back later to pray too! This carried on for a while, and spread through the school.

Then it was the year 1972. A big year of renewal in the Singapore church. During the June holidays, a day before the ACS CF camp, Malcolm Tan was alone at home.

He prayed for the Lord to baptize him with th Holy Spirit, and then there was a shaking in his room. He felt the room shake, and then saw a figure of a dove go through his window, fly straight at him, and hit him with a thud! He then felt God’s presence and began worshipping God, and speaking in tongues.

Malcolm then began teaching the rest of the CF about the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Great numbers of students came to know the Lord. During this time, the students were marked by:

  • Hunger for the Word of God
  • Hunger for prayer
  • Hunger for evangelism and preaching

There was even news that many people in Ipoh, Perak were praying for Singapore. They knew prophetically that God was going to pour out His Spirit, and they started to pray for us!
An interesting and important character in the revival is Rev Hugh Baker, who was an Assemblies of God missionary to Singapore. I find what he said very funny:

…in the early days beginning in 1972…the word to use was “spiritual renewal” or “charismatic”, we dared not use the word “Pentecostal”. … Before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit we were forbidden to talk about it in the Angican church. We were not methodical enough for the Methodists, and we did not have enough doctrine for the Lutherans. As for the Brethrens, the door was shut tighter than it had ever been before.

The year 1972 is important, for in Dec 1972, Bishop Chiu Ban It was also baptized in the Holy Spirit and led to renewal in the Anglican church, starting with St Andrew’s cathedral.

Bishop Chiu had been at a conference in Bangkok reading Dennis Bennett’s book Nine O’clock in the Morning. He asked God to do the same in him. After a nap, he took a shower and began speaking in tongues! He was transformed and SAC began holding healing services, prayer and praise meetings.

The revival spread from ACS, through several other schools. To the Methodist church, Anglican church and beyond in that eventful 1972.

We’ve often prayed for revival in Singapore. What does Rev Hugh Baker have to say about it?

Regarding the baptism of the Spirit, Hugh Baker says,

There is nothing in ourselves that merits anything from God. But God in his mercy and his grace and his love sees the hunger of our hearts and the channel that is open for the moving of the Holy Spirit. And He begins to pour his Spirit into that channel and that begins to spread out.

You can pray right now: “Lord I want to be a channel, just a channel, someone that you can use to pour your Spirit through.”

“Father here I am. I just want to be a channel that you can use to ignite the revival that will not only spread across Singapore but will spread out to the rest of the world. And the world will come to know the glory, the majesty and the power of your name. And the free flow of your Holy Spirit will demonstrate to the world the power of a living Christ. Thank you Father, thank you Father, thank you Father.”

Georgia, Georgia, no peace I find

Many people know about John and Charles Wesley’s Aldersgate experience, where their hearts were “strangely warmed”. Less of us know about their Georgia (USA) experience.

Interestingly, John and Charles’ parents, Samuel and Susannah had such a significant impact on their lives. Samuel Wesley actually wanted to be a missionary to Georgia in his old age, but he ended up not going.

John and Charles Wesley then fulfilled their dad’s desire. After being ordained in the Anglican church, they went as missionaries to Georgia! (Isn’t that amazing? Thank God for godly fathers! May we take the baton passed to us!)

Samuel Wesley desired a form of Primitive Christianity, based on the early church of the first five centuries A.D.  He also favored social reform, justice and education. He definitely influenced John and Charles in that direction too.

The Wesleys spent a short time in the US (Charles spent about 4 months and John 19 months). They actually had revivals there but John left due to an ugly experience … 

John Wesley’s “Romance“

Here is my paraphrase of his romance.

John fell in love with Sophy Hopkey who was just 18 at the time. (He was in his early 30s). She probably liked him too. They actually grew quite close.

But somehow John wanted to be a celibate, for reasons unknown to me. (He was an Anglican priest, right?!) Nevertheless, he then prayed for God’s guidance for the next step – should he marry or not? 

John then decided to cast lots. On three slips of paper, he wrote : MARRY HER, THINK ABOUT IT IN A YEAR, THINK OF IT NO MORE. A fellow pastor then drew the lot “Think of it no more” and indeed John put aside his ideas of marrying Sophy. (I have no idea why he used this method – I will ask him when I meet him in the new earth!)

However, many others encouraged John to pursue Sophy, but he showed no interest whatsoever. (I actually think he still liked her!)

And so, Sophy, got married to someone, a certain Mr. Williamson. Months later, when they came to a service where John was serving communion, John refused to serve them the elements! 

Infuriated, the Williamsons sought a lawsuit against John Wesley, and thus he left Georgia for UK.

But…all was not lost

Nevertheless, John and Charles’ time in Georgia was not a waste. They had a taste of reality, suffering, nasty churchgoers, failure in romantic relationship (for John), and an experiment in the societies concept. 

Going back a disappointed, but much more mature man, I would say Georgia prepared Wesley for Aldersgate.

And so here’s my closing thought…

We all need a Georgia experience before an Aldersgate experience. 

Do we not identify the “Georgia” episodes of our life? 

The season of pain, sorrow, reality, broken hearts, relationships? Or when we are faced with the harsh reality of ministry which shatters all the naive, rose-tinted ideas we once had? Georgia is when we understand God in a much, much deeper way.

Georgia comes before a new season of hope.

Aldersgate represents a new work of the Holy Spirit.

A hope that’s purified and forged through the fires of disappointment and broken dreams. 

A hope oriented on Christ. 

A hope that is mature, based on our total dependence on God for all we need in life.

A hope that leads to revival, a fire starting from a heart strangely warmed, that spreads like wildfire through the world.

Methodist Covenant Prayer

Lord God, Holy Father,
since you have called us through Christ to share in this gracious covenant,
we take upon ourselves with joy the yoke of obedience
and, for love of you, engage ourselves to seek and do your perfect will.

We are no longer our own but yours.
I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
exalted for you or brought low for you;
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing;
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, Glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

Covenant prayer – From The Methodist Worship Book 1999

“I thought you wanted to save the world. What happened?”

Recently at a family CNY reunion, one of my relatives was asking what I was up to. I told him that I was studying in a Bible college. He then asked me, “I thought you wanted to save the world. What happened?”

Previously, I was doing a PhD in environmental life sciences and I had all these big dreams of being a cutting-edge researcher, discovering a drug to cure cancer, or a drug that could be next new antibiotic, or find the gene that causes killer disease X. Yeah, and dreams of joining or founding a new start-up/social enterprise that could solve the world’s problems of water shortage, or food shortage, or poverty, etc.

Yeah, what happened? Here are some of my thoughts:

 

1. There is only one Savior of the world and it’s not me!

John 3:17 “For God did not send his Son [Jesus Christ] into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

1 Tim 1:15 “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”

2. I’m still on mission to save this world ! 

We’re tasked to carry out God’s task of making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded us. We’re to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth.

We eagerly await the reality of the coming kingdom of God, as seen in Rev 21:1-4

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

3. Changing the world starts with changing myself. 

Here is a poem that I came across a long time ago.

An Epitaph
Written by an Unknown Monk 1100 A.D.

When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.

I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.

When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town.

I couldn’t change the town, so I tried to change my family.

Now, as an old man, I know the only thing I can change is myself.

And suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family.

My family and I could have made an impact on our town.

Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.

Who knows? We may still save the world! Let’s do it.