Archive for the ‘ christian ’ Category

The Future is Rend Collective Experiment

Rend Collective Experiment (RCE) is the future. I’ve noticed that I’ve been saying that a lot lately — be it about the iPhone or iPad or the ebbs and flows of social media — but RCE here is the real deal.

Imagine this: the Rend Collective is a bolt of blue, a breath of fresh air, a streak of light across a night sky. Throwing out what we understand about modern worship out of the window, right with the baby and bathwater. Completely redefining what we consitute about the ‘sound’ of worship, infusing a whole new sense of what it should be like, and presenting with such honesty, realness and verve. Oh, I could wax lyrical about their music the whole day long if I had to. But more than that, more than the bright-eyed, whimsical musings of star-struck wonder, more than just plain good music, you can touch, feel, experience the joy of the Lord reverberating through their notes and melody.

What truly sets RCE apart is the sense of freedom that propels their music, best expressed in ‘Movements’ — in which the video perfectly illustrates their sound — it’s the liberation, the elevated joy, that we possess because of Jesus. No longer prisoners of sin but of hope. What would your reaction be if you, a slave born to a life of servitude, wretchedness and death, were told that, ‘You are set free from your slavery, your bonds are undone; you are now a king, a beloved son, and all that is in the kingdom is now yours’? Would you not shout, dance and sing? Would you not give praise to the One who broke the chains, bought you liberty?

What RCE does is reveal that freedom and that joy. And it is all too evident in their music. Like in ‘You Bled‘, it’s a song of praise, of exultant worship, contemplative but without the sombre weight that accompanies most of the music we hear from Christian bands nowadays. It’s a celebration. One that frees you to be who you are, whoever you may be, but also welcomes you with open arms; it’s not a commission or an exhortation, but an invitation! Worship in the Father’s house is always one that includes and never excludes. We are brothers and sisters all, each different and every one unique, all belonging.

And there is always dancing, that expression of pure joy, that spreads and suffuses every inch of your being, that you can’t help but sing and smile and move; united together with the sharing of that same rich exhiliration that can only come with the revelation of the price and purpose of Jesus’ sacrifice of love. It’s faith and hope and love, wrapped into one person, expressed in this music. Community.

Rend Collective Experiment shows us a whole new way of expressing worship. ‘Radical’ is not the word. Nor is ‘transcendent’. But it is real. And inclusive. And maybe that’s what we need to know most about God.

P.S There is so much to be said about the individual videos as well. iPhone worship is one example of their boundary-breaking efforts. I love their use of brass instruments, the collective scenes of fun and celebration (in ‘Movements’ and in the end of ‘You Bled’), and the mash-ups of old hymns in ‘You Bled’ (How wonderful/how marvellous and Yes, Jesus loves me) and the narrative of children. How it alludes to how we must approach the things of God like a child, and how God is best seen through their eyes of simple faith and open hearts.


Love IS the Answer

Peru, Lima

What does it take to change the world?

We talk about it.. we profess it.. we declare it.. but does it mean something more than a phrase we like repeating because it sounds cool? Or because everyone is saying it? I want to know, whether you, or myself, really believe in it when we let the words roll of our tongue.. punctuated with pursed lips and a slight nod and perhaps a clenched fist thrown in as well?

I keep coming back to Hillsong and United, who have seemingly pervaded boundaries and cultures across continents with their verve, passion and fervour.. it’s mind-bending when you do think about it, because we’re talking about lighting a fire in tens of thousands of people in a single night, who glimpse Jesus in new and radical way as they experience a kind of earth-shaking worship they may have never seen or heard before until that moment — that moment when heaven collides and your spirit does a little somersault and sets off a series of explosions that you shed a tear or are just awed into silence — something inside you is just lit up, as if it were as simple as throwing a  switch, and you walk away from everything changed, brand-new, different, reborn.

This is worship we’re talking about.. imagine a city on a darkened hill, blazing, fiery, turning on thousands of little lamps at every angle it can reach.. so much so that we see the hillsides dotted like fireflies, who then turn on little lamps of their own.. it gets faster, quicker, spreading like wildfire… and before you know it, everything is just light, all darkness forgotten, a distant memory.. Mine is a poor metaphor at best, but think about it, chew on this and wonder about what it means.. more than just a metaphor Matthew uses.. ask Him what does it mean for you in the literal sense, in a real and practical way: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matt 5:14-16

Change is in our hands.. in the way we bring light to the people around us.. the real question now is how.. and the answer is simple.. we’re lamps.. vessels shaped to carry light.. used in dark places.. light-bearers and darkness-banishers.. and now we come to the exciting part.. and how gloriously simple it really is..

What is it that changes hearts, transforms minds, fires up the soul…? Something so powerful.. so all-encompassing.. so ferocious.. and yet so gentle to the one that it touches.. what is it that reaches that place deep inside of you that no man or natural thing can.. transcending mere words in a book.. crossing all walls and defenses.. more than language.. more than perceptions and mindsets.. even more than doctrine?

What is it then? Let me tell you this.. Love is the answer.. and His name is Jesus.

Let my hands be Yours, my words Your own, Your heartbeat in mine

Tearing Down The Walls


Shameless self-plug:

Where do we go from here?

That was the question weighing on my heart after leaving the EXPO Pavilion yesterday evening. With all the good that God has wrought in my life — the privilege and honour of serving, to be able to walk out the grace that has been poured so lavishly upon me, to witness the mighty ways He is moving in this generation — how do I walk away from the Zone Conference without squandering what He has put in me through it?

Read the rest here.

The Call of Men

What is the measure of a man?

Part of Reverend Col Stringer’s message yesterday of how the world today is perpetuating a generation of the selfish. Seeing how we are surrounded by so many avenues of instant self-gratification, I’d have to agree. He also spoke of how the dissolution of family has contributed to this worrying trend, where young men are not men but boys adrift in a sea where their fathers have not anchored them.

What results is men not knowing how to be men.. but how could they know, when their own fathers have failed at their responsibilities to be leaders, mentors and examples? They are sons, paying for the sins of their fathers.

The message Rev Stringer shared has been something on my heart for a long time, even since the start of this year. It was such a joy to hear him speak of this. I sat there, in the auditorium, leaning forward in a manner no doubt inspired by the hunger within to hear and listen. I loved how he was real and such a straight-shooter.

It’s true. More than we need to be taught, we need to be trained. It’s not something we can just soak up overnight – it has to more than merely fill our heads and the underused grey machine residing within. It has to be exercised, put through the motions, it has to be something we speak of and do because this how we learn and becomes something instinctive.

So often in the news, we read of men beating their wives.. or pushing them on the path of an oncoming train.. or when we hear men travelling to Batam to pay for sex with children.. or of women in search of future coming to our shores and finding themselves tricked into prostitution. A hundred tales, a thousand tears, ten thousand sorrows. It’s all there.

But this is not how the world should be.

Do you feel the same? Do we just shake our heads at the sadness of it all and not wonder what has been festering in their hearts to cause to act thus?

In his article, ‘The Crisis of Manliness‘, Newell states something similar to what Rev Stringer shared in yesterday’s message:

“One thing is sure: Given our current confusion over the meaning of manliness, we have nothing to lose by re-opening the issue. If academic feminism is correct that violence toward women stems from traditional patriarchal attitudes, our grandparents’ lives must have been a hell of aggression and fear. Yet, if anything impresses us about our forebears, judging from their lives, letters and diaries, it is the refinement of their affections for one another — and of men’s esteem for women in particular.”

Newell’s article is eloquently expressed and defines the roots of the problem of the lack of manliness or masculinity. Mohler in a Boundless article presents his opinion on this ‘crisis’ in ‘A New Corruption of Masculinity‘ and offers his take on biblical masculinity in ‘For Guys Only: The Marks of Manhood‘. Rev Stringer yesterday also brought up the interesting notion of there traditionally being no notion of ‘teenhood’ – a boy was a man when he turned thirteen, evidenced in the Judaistic ritual of the bar mitzvah – while Alex and Brett Harris discuss this trend of unnaturally prolonged immaturity in ‘Addicted to Adultescence‘.

To me, one of the hallmarks of adulthood, or manhood in particular, is that you are called to accountability and responsibility. To love, honour and respect.

If you’re thinking that it is a too tall order for us to carry out, then remember what Rev Stringer also said: the gift of God’s grace means we are given maximum potential. (Was it Rev Stringer who once said that our potential in Jesus is 100%, in a sermon many years ago?) It simply means that whatever we thought impossible to do in our own self and by our own strength, is now possible by the grace of God.

It is the grace of God that will allow us to become the men he has called us to be (2 Peter 1:3-4). Not by our might or power, but by His grace alone.

Like what Rev Stringer shared about as well, I also believe that as men, we’re called to honour and respect women (1 Timothy 5:2). For me, I grew up reading lots of fantasy books which was where I came across the notion of chivalry.. I’m reminded of Arterburn and Stoeker’s book, ‘Every Young Man’s Battle’, where I came across this quote:

“In a newsletter, author and speaker Dr. Gary Rosberg told of seeing a pair of hands that reminded him of the hands of his father, who had gone on to heaven. Gary continued to reminisce about what his father’s hands meant to him. Then he shifted his thoughts to the hands of Jesus, noting this simple truth:

“They were hands that never touched a woman with dishonour.”

I pondered Gary’s words a little longer. Jesus’ hands never touched a woman with dishonour, but Jesus said lusting with the eyes is the same as touching. Given that Jesus is sinless, I suddenly realized that Jesus not only never touched a woman with dishonour, He never even looked at a woman in dishonour.”

That excerpt hit me to my very core and gave me food for thought. If I were a father, how would I want her to be treated by a young man courting her? If you are now pursuing the affections of a young lady, then do you realise that she is also the daughter of a father?

Earlier this year, I wrote about my thoughts of the film The Twilight Samurai, referring to Iguchi Seibei:

“Seibei, as we eventually come to learn, is a simple, unassuming man. His concerns centre completely around sustaining his family, even resorting to taking on odd-jobs like weaving insect cages (which was considered a woman’s work and shameful for men to do) for extra income. He carries a bokuto (wooden sword) in the guise of a real katana, having sold the sword passed down from his father, in order to pay for his wife’s funeral.

The implications of this are tremendous; a samurai’s katana is not only his weapon – it is a symbol of his authority and status, the personifaction of his identity as a samurai. Without his sword, a samurai is nothing.

Seibei, however, does not appear to be perturbed by this, and confides to his closest friend Iinuma that he wishes to relinquish his samurai status, preferring to live as a farmer and watch his daughters grow up.”

In my eventual post (‘Treasure in the Man‘) which I shared about the journey Abba was taking me, I wrote:

“Man’s opinion of us will always waver, but the way Abba sees us and all these ’small’ acts is unchanging: heartbreakingly beautiful in Jesus Christ. This is why I can lift my head high and have a grin on my face even in the midst of these nondescript things I do, because I know my Father’s heart for me.

Perhaps this is why I find such affinity in Seibei’s character in The Twilight Samurai. I see the love he bears for his family, that he would give up his samurai status to preserve the life he shares with them. He sought not glory won with the sword, one of the driving forces of a samurai, but to love and care for his family.

I think that I want to be that kind of man to my wife and children. I choose not to dwell or seek after the worldly things such as money, a high-powered career, what to eat or wear; instead I want to love my wife and delight in my children just as Abba loves and delights in me. All other things will be added unto my life, just as He promised.”

I thank Abba for the reminder and affirmation in the message shared by Rev Stringer. I know that this journey I am on is not coincidental, but without a doubt, every step planned by God. I read through those old entries again, and I find myself still wanting the same things that I wrote about ten months ago:

With all that said, I just want to be a man, an ordinary one who is content with the simple pleasures that life has to offer… an ordinary one in himself, but made extraordinary only by the grace of the living God. A man who walks by the Spirit, who realises the utter weakness of his flesh and yet knows with conviction the immeasurable extent of his Abba’s ability to assume authority in all aspects of his life in the place of his own inability.

Ito, Seibei’s daughter, says this of her father at the end of the film:

“In the new Meiji era, many men who had worked with my father rose to positions of great authority. I often heard them say, ‘Twilight Seibei was an unlucky man’.

“But I do not agree.

“My father had no desire to rise in the world, and I don’t think he considered himself unlucky. He loved his daughters and the beautiful Tomoe loved him.

“His life, I think, was short but full.

“I am proud to have had such a father.”

By the grace of God, and knowing that I can never accomplish anything apart from Jesus, I find myself wanting to be that kind of father to my own children.

Review: Jesus Camp

Directed by Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, Jesus Camp follows several young children to the charismatic-oriented ‘Kids on Fire’ camp at Devil’s Lake, North Dakota. The camp is run by Becky Fischer and her ministry, Kids in Ministry International, and the film focuses on three children who attend the camp – Levi, 12, Tory, 10 and Rachael, 9.

One of the reasons I went to view this documentary was because it was said, based on some secular reviews, that the film was ‘even-handed’ in its portrayal of what is essentially only a segment of charismatic Christians in America. Driven by curiosity to see if the film held up that lofty claim, I discovered that the term ‘even-handed’ was merely a slick marketing move made by the distributors so as to avoid alienating a potential audience demographic.

My initial thoughts after watching the film was that the audience will see what they want to see. I wondered what they would think after having witnessed children sobbing, speaking in tongues, writhing on the floor or worshipping God with arms raised.

The problem with this film, and speaking from a believer’s perspective, is that so much of what is shown is taken out of context, despite claims otherwise. For example, in the beginning of the film, we hear Tracy, Levi’s mother, saying: “There are two kinds of people in the world, those who love Jesus and those who don’t”; this is not long after we see the children dressed in miltary fatigues with camouflage-painted faces and performing what looks like a war dance. The statement alone appears either fanatical or polarizing. Later, I discover that Tracy had actually said, “There are two kinds of people in the world, those who love Jesus and those who don’t. And they are both worthy of dignity and respect, by virtue of the fact that Jesus died for them”.

You see how much difference a single sentence can make?

Such editing for sensationalism’s sake becomes characteristic throughout the rest of the film, but accomplished in such a subtle, manipulative way that people who have never had an opportunity to attend a charismatic church service would walk away from the film thinking that we’re all a bunch of crazies. It also throws in doubts whether the teachings of Becky Fischer, which frankly appears to be a mishmash of old and new covenant in the film, were edited to seem that way so as to stoke up the fires of controversy.

Jesus Camp does have an agenda. The directors, both non-believers, have produced the film to echo the political state of America and how evangelical Christians, the 30 million of them comprising 10% of the American population, can sway an election and how the children are ‘indoctrinated’ into the faith by their parents. I am certain that for most non-believers, the term ‘brainwashing’ comes to mind.

Believers with some foundational knowledge of the gospel will definitely enjoy some scenes in the film. The handsome Levi, tells Becky that he wishes he can be less shy and be able to go up to talk to people, but says that he isn’t shy when he’s moved by the Spirit. Tory loves dancing and Christian rock music, and confesses it’s hard not to ‘dance in the flesh’. Rachael is a lovable kid who stammers a little, but is no less bold about professing her faith.

The best part about Jesus Camp was when the film moved towards chronicling the events at the camp itself. Levi seemed like a very special boy who was asked to preach, and his preparation was a mix of boyish glee and surprisingly mature seriousness. Tory, however, didn’t get much screen-time – I also had trouble distinguishing which kid she was in the camp. Rachael’s portrayal was more for her fervency and outspokenness of her beliefs (which I think the directors wanted to reveal as fanatic).

To witness the children praying in the Spirit during the ministering sessions and moved to tears by the presence of God was very poignant, and one particular scene stood out for me. Andrew, a startlingly eloquent blonde-haired boy, went up to the stage to share about how he doubted the truth of the bible and even the existence of God. Even though the directors cut to closeups of confused looks of the other children (which were also taken out of context), I couldn’t help feeling it was such a beautiful thing to see Andrew being so vulnerable to share. I suppose it’s very much like a caregroup setting!

Jesus Camp is a documentary, but only in the loosest interpretation of the word. It has taken several scenes out of context and produced it in a manner that portrays charismatics or Christians in general as fervent or devout to the point of being fanatical, irrational and histrionic. Grady and Ewing do seem intent to lead non-believers along this road.

When I was leaving the theatre, I overheard a youth telling his girlfriend: “That was just sick! I can’t believe they’re doing this!” That made me sad, because of all the veracity was ripped from the film. If the film was as ‘even-handed’ as it was purported to be, would responses to the film be so vehement?

However, for the believers, some scenes will warm your heart and the Spirit will rise up within and make you realise, “Hey, they’re just like us”. Sometimes we think we’re the only church in the entire world that matters, but God is working in places and people we can’t even imagine where, or who. Just like what He’s doing here in Singapore, He’s raising up history-makers all over the world as well.

And that thought makes me smile and be thankful that we have a Father in heaven who’s bigger than anything we can ever comprehend or understand.