The Worship(ping) Team Member

Today, I’d like not to give a sermon, as though there aren’t enough of those circling around. If you’d like a nice grand definition of what worship is, this is not the place to look for it. Rather, I’d like to speak specifically to those of you who serve for the good of the congregation – whether you are the worship leader, or the bassist, the slides coordinator or the ‘sound’ guy, the lighting technician or even the usherer, or if you are serving at any capacity throughout the worship service, I’d like to have a chat with you.

Perhaps some of you are seasoned members of the ministry, to the point that chord sheets are a hindrance or shaking hands and handing out the church bulletins are second nature to you. Or, maybe some of you are newbies, bursting with excitement for your next scheduled worship practice, or getting all crazy on photoshop and illustrator for the next 120 slides that the worship leader has just submitted the night before Sunday service. If this doesn’t sound familiar, I’d still like to speak to you.

Often times I find that if you’re either end on the spectrum, of being a veteran or a freshie, you’re in danger of actually missing out the grand joy of being ‘a part’ of the congregation, and being served and ministered to on the Sunday. This can even be to the point where you either find no more joy being a ‘normal’ congregation member when you are not put on duty, or that you simply want to get your duty done and out of the way. If any of these examples apply to you, I’d like to encourage you with three simple things, that may change not only the way you serve, but more so, to appreciate what God is doing in us through all of it.

 

  1. Before we are called to serve, we are called to Worship

Sometimes, we get caught up in the idea that if we’re not sitting on the pew during Sunday service, that we are in some kind of elevated state, where ‘worshipping’ doesn’t apply to us. We may tell ourselves, ‘I need to ensure that every newcomer has been made to feel welcomed, that every news bulletin has been distributed.’ Or maybe we tell ourselves, ‘I’ve got to get every beat right, or to get that punch or cut right just as we’d planned during worship practice.’ And we’re so anxious to get our role down perfect, that we feel nervous and stressed out during service.

The truth is, none of those things matters – first. At the end of the day, the gathering of the church on a Sunday is not only for those who are not on the duty roster, but it is for every single one of us.

When the band starts to play songs that remind us about God, do I feel my heart elevated, and my mind full of wonder and delight at the God we worship? When the pastor begins to preach about Jesus Christ crucified, or the courage of the apostles or the folly of the Israelites, does it make my heart ache for redemption, or my hands lifted in humble adoration and surrender to God?

Whether you’re on stage or off stage, God’s eyes is running over all of us, searching for all who will seek Him with a humble heart and outstretched arms. He doesn’t just want the congregation, He wants you – the boy with the sticks in his hands, or the girl with the freshly printed church pamphlets. You are His child, and He beckons us to worship Him this Sunday morning.

 

  1. Before we are called to serve, we are called to Surrender

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
Matt 22: 37 – 39 

The church is full of different needs – from financial to emotional, to physical to spiritual needs. Often times, we carry not only the burdens of our fellow brothers and sisters, but rather we bring our own burdens into the auditorium hall. And these burdens can weigh us down from truly experiencing the joy that the Spirit of the Lord brings, not just on the Sunday morning, but daily!

God calls broken and lowly people to His service, that is not breaking news. From the disciples who were fisherman, to the tax collectors and the prostitutes, God has been calling all the dirty and the sinful people to be His citizens, that He may first work in them and then through them to establish His reign as Lord and Saviour.

But He doesn’t do this, without first tuning our hearts and minds to His desire and His thoughts. God doesn’t call us to serve Him apart from our sufferings and our burdens, but rather with them and sometimes, through them! Our pains and our sufferings can sometimes bring comfort to the people around us, because they know that whatever it is that they are going through, they are not in it alone. Furthermore, God uses our trials and tribulations, to shape us, so that we not only grow tough as a warrior, but that we may become more and more like Jesus – in the way he lived, in the way he loved.

This act of surrendering, of letting go and giving it all to Him doesn’t only happen on the Sunday. But each and every day of our lives, as we learn to love God most and to entrust to Him our cares and worries, He tunes our hearts, sharpens our minds and moves our hands to be effective and compassionate ministers of His grace, peace and love to His congregation.

 

  1. Before we are called to serve, we are called to Savour

Often times, we are more concerned about becoming more skilled or more effective servants of God. But before all that, God calls us to enjoy Him – to the fullest.

He wants our drumbeats, to be driven by His Heartbeat for the church and the lost. He wants our slides not to reflect our artistry, but to reflect Him as the Author of all creation.

And these things don’t come about just by the investment of time in our skills, but first in our search for Him in His word. If we are first not captured by His beauty, His holiness and His love which transforms our lives, how can we expect anyone else’s heart and life to be transformed on a Sunday morning?

When Tommy sees Jane enjoying what looks like the best cone of ice cream in the whole darn world, don’t you think he’ll be curious to find out why?

That’s not to say, that we all need to serve with big fat smiles plastered onto our faces… Rather, the love of God compels us to love, to serve, and to minister to others with a joy inexpressible. This can only come from Him, when we spend time with Him and when we come to understand the power that is working in us, for His glory.

 

So the question now is, what must change? Let me suggest three things:

  • Pray for the congregation – for the members, for the newcomers, for the pastors and the elders. This tunes your heart not to the perfection of your craft, but to the perfection of God’s people through His Holy Spirit
  • In your preparation, worship – As you prepare the slides, your songs, or the church pamphlets, remember Who you serve. Let the words of the songs, the pictures on your slides and the upcoming events serve to remind you about His love for you, and let it cause you to sing and dance and shout for joy
  • Spend time with God – This may seem like a cliché, but truly nothing else prepares us more for His service, then the Father Himself. Only by growing in love for Him, may our love for His people be reflected in our songs, in our handshakes and in our lives

 

 

 

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Coming out

One of the biggest things I’ve been learning recently, is that sin is no trivial matter. I know, some of you may go, Yeah duh, shouldn’t that be the way?

But it’s so easy to treat it as such! We get caught up with the busyness of life, we say a prayer or two, and we ‘try’ to live our best. But the reality of sin is this, it lodges itself deeply, so deep that sometimes we don’t even know it exists. But it is there, it is there because the bible says so.

That is why, when there are moments when God grips our hearts and minds, when He convicts us of the shame and guilt that we have, there is something extremely powerful that we can do.

And that is, to confess. Some of you may then go, but what if I feel like I’ve nothing to confess? What if everything in life is going as it should, I’m not doing anything horrendously bad. Why must I make up a problem, just to feel bad? 

This is what the bible says in response to that:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 

1 John 1:8

That’s how destructive, and how deceitful the work of the devil is! He makes us think that we’re alright, that we’re doing fine… But slowly and surely, what he is trying to elude to is, You’re not that bad, God loves you always and He will take care of you, you don’t have to do anything. 

Oh, how treacherous you are! And how corrupted have our hearts and minds become to believe that lie! Yet, this is what the bible says in response to that:

If we confess our sins, he (Jesus) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

So this is where I’m here to do exactly that, to respond to the Word of God, the Word of Life, the Word of Freedom.

I’ve shared this before, in front of my christian community in OCF, before my family, and even before the members of my church in Singapore. But once again, I must confess because still, it plagues me. And I boldly want to now seek for your help, you the one who would read my heart. I want – no I need you to pray, to pray not just for me, but for everyone who struggles with sin. I need you to pray for yourself, if you know and have been convicted that you are struggling with sin. I need you to surround yourself with people who will love you, and who will pray for you. Do it, because your soul is at stake.

So I’m just going to come out, right here and right now, because I believe in Jesus’ name, and with the support of God’s people, I will claim the victory over this sin, that He has already claimed it when He died and rose again from the cross.

I struggle with pornography, with lustful thoughts, and with masturbation.

I once came out before my christian community, that in the peak of my struggles, I had visited a brothel in Thailand and I had almost committed a sexual act, but God in His great love and mercy, He intervened and I was spared from that torment.

And from there, begin a journey of slowly recovering my identity in Christ – understanding who I was, but above all, who He is. How great, how mighty, how powerful, how all-consuming He is.

And I can say, I have grown. I have come to see the depravity of this world, the brokenness of our people and our need for Him. I have learnt to trust Him in my doubts, to follow Him in my uncertainties, to go… though none go with me.

Yet, I still struggle. And I struggle because in the daily grind of life, sometimes I choose other things over Jesus. I choose instant gratification, I choose relief from pain – emotional or physical, I choose escape over perseverance. And in doing all those things, I have built up a wall, a path that is other than Jesus that leads to my own destruction.

But all this struggle, turning around and getting stuck has just made something sink in even deeper for me.

I need Jesus, daily, hourly, by the minute, every second. I need to remember Him constantly. I need to know Him more.

How He has so much more to offer than the pleasure I gain from indulging in pornography, sexual thoughts and masturbation.
How He wants to free me, from being enslaved to pleasing myself and for living for me.

How He HAS made me clean, and pure, blameless and righteous in His sight. That I no longer bow to sin, myself, or the devil as my master. But that Jesus is my only, one true love and glorious King.

And so now, I come before you, humbled, seeking Your forgiveness God. I want to love you so much more than I do. I want to know you more so much than I do.

I’m tired of turning back, I’m tired of always striving, but I’m not tired of being on my knees before You, and before Your people.

So once again, if you are reading this. I plead with you, pray.

Pray for me. Pray for your loved ones. Pray for the lost. Pray for yourselves.

And may our God hear our prayers, and free us from the sins that pull us away from Him.

In love,
Alwin

We have the mind of Christ

But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,

nor the heart of man imagined,

what God has prepared for those who love him”—

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:9-16

Indeed, my prayer God is for Your Spirit to bring into comprehension what no eye has seen or heard, nor the heart of man imagined, the wonderful and magnificent thoughts You have. I pray that Your people will understand the things freely given to us by You God, as we have received the Spirit who is from You. May the Spirit continue to teach us, as we interpret Your truths, not of human wisdom, so that no many may boast of him or herself. May we judge all things, with the help of Your Spirit and with the mind of Christ.

Thank You God, and in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Following Hard After God

The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One. Many ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness. Or if he must see them go, one after one, he will scarcely feel a sense of loss, for having the Source of all things he has in One all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight.

Whatever he may lose he has actually lost nothing, for he now has it all in One, and he has it purely, legitimately and forever.

– The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. Philippians 3:8

The Aroma of Christ

When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. 2 Corinthians 2:12-17

There are times even in the work of the Gospel, that we grow weary. The circumstances around us are less than desirable, and what we hoped it would look like, the people we partner with, leave us disappointed and with a restless spirit.

Yet, God’s work remains undeterred by us. Furthermore, it is by the power of Christ, that not only God’s name is proclaimed and magnified gloriously, it transforms us so that THROUGH us, His name is declared and praised!

Our humanness is real, our struggle with the flesh is real, but if that were the end of the story, then what would be the point of carrying on? What’s the purpose of persevering and suffering?

The reason is clear and simple. Not us, but Christ. Yet through us, by Christ.

God chooses to use us, but in doing so, He transforms us. Liken to an aroma, a pleasant and sweet scent to God, where He not only uses us, but He is pleased and takes delight in us.

What does it mean that God takes delight in us? How do we respond to a God who not only chooses to use us for His glorious purposes, but who takes delight in who He has made us to be?

The God who always is

As a Christian, there are still many seasons of our lives where we feel down, insecure and even overwhelmed. In such moments, I find myself praying a prayer such as this:

I said, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search: I will remember the deeds of the Lord ; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. [Psalm 77:6, 11-12]

Recently I’ve been thinking with reference to the words ‘deeds’ and ‘works’, how does God’s deeds and works look like in the 21st century?

In the past with the many stories of the bible, we see God’s intervention when He saved the Israelites from the hand of pharoah. We saw how God delivered the Israelites from Goliath. We even saw how Jesus on this earth, healed the sick and the lame, cast out demons and loved the poor and the young.

It’s so easy to look at these events of the bible and to clearly attribute glory, honour and power to our God.

But what about now? What does God’s mercy, love and grace look like now?

I think, that we’ve been a generation so attuned to thinking for ourselves, to only seeing the world through our own lenses, that we fail to see the hand of God which is on and in all things! When we asked and did not receive, when we pleaded and heard silence, when we cried for peace and found no rest, we assume that God has withheld His goodness from us.

But that could not be further from the truth!

Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. [Psalm 19-20 ESV]

That’s the love of our God, that even when we failed to recognise His love and to worship Him as our God, He still chose to love us.

This is our King, and just as He loves us like Jesus loved His disciples, He loves us through His people, the people of God.

Even when we think God has forsaken us and we respond in uncertainty, even unfaithfulness, His faithfulness and love endures forever.

To the God who walks silently beside me, behind me and before me, thank you.

Being a son… Of God

“and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.””‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭6:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:4-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Indeed, what a privilege it is to not just be named, but to BE a son or daughter of God. Sometimes (or rather most times), it’s so easy to take this great and unfathomable truth for granted. We covet, and find ourselves bitter at the immeasurable favour of God’s love for another brother or sister, because we feel like they are less deserving. That’s such a sad sad irony though, for who are we to call ourselves worthy?

It is all Our Father’s choice, to love WHO He shall love, and to love them in His own way for His own purposes.

That leaves me with the question – how do I then live with (and more importantly, love) my fellow brothers and sisters?

One thing about our earthly family that teaches us how to love, is the unchangeble fact that we don’t choose who our father or mother, brother or sister would be. And as we learn to accept our family members for who they are, we practice grace, patience, kindness and even gentleness with one another.

In the same way, we do not choose who our spiritual brothers and sisters would be! Our Heavenly Father has brought us all together to be, one family. More than that, He loves us all equally and there is no competition for more affection, for more good gifts or for more favour. We have all been infinitely blessed beyond our own human comprehension.

My prayer:

My Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for loving me immeasurably more than I could’ve ever asked for. I thank You for taking me into Your family, as unworthy as I was. Each day, You are transforming my heart, to not only love as You’d want me to, but to love you so much more through the various trials and storms.

Our Heavenly Father, we lift all our earthly conflicts, inadequencies and hard-heartedness to You. We need Your guidance, Your direction and above all, Your Spirit to come and rest upon each and every single one of us. That our interactions will be filled with Your love, Your patience, Your kindness and even Your gentleness.

Thank You so much for hearing our cries and we pray, that Your presence in our lives will just grow ever more radiant, that we will not only be overwhelmed with grace, but that Your love and mercy will just overflow from our lives.

I rest my hands, my mind and my heart in Your loving arms. Thank You.

In Jesus’ Name I pray, amen.