Friday, May 29, 2009

Worshippers of the Lord

I had a wonderful chat with a dear friend yesterday and she said something that has stuck in my head ever since.

"We are not dancers who worship before the Lord, but worshippers who dance before the Lord."

We were talking while walking in the rain with this small, fragile umbrella over us, so I was processing her words while trying to get to the library as soon as possible to avoid being drenched.  I showed my agreement with what she said.

It was a few moments later, as I soaked in the words spoken to me (and the rain at the same time) that I realised the full impact and richness of what she communicated within that one sentence. For some reason, those words invoke certain feelings of joy, peace and love each time I recall them. I cannot fully verbalise those feelings, but I shall attempt to capture snapshots and frames of the convictions that have arisen out from this.

Often times, we like to think of ourselves as taking on a particular role. We like being in a position where we are assigned a certain role with a certain label attached to it. For example, we are the “singers”, the “preachers”, the “teachers”, the “dancers”, et cetera. We cling on to these titles and make them our identities. We think things like: “I can sing well, so I must be a singer.” “I know the best dance moves, so I will be the dancer.”

Of course, often times, we do not articulate them so explicitly but rather, these mindsets creep in insidiously when we are least aware of it and these strongholds have taken up stance against the pure worship that our Lord desires. When we operate under this mentality, we first focus our attention on our talents and abilities. We take up our “roles”, back them up with our talents and gifts, and attempt to worship God in our self-defined roles. The dynamic here is this – that the role or position takes centre-stage while worship comes in second. With reference to the original quote, I am first a dancer and one of my tasks is to worship the Lord.

Yet, contrast this to the latter clause, which says: we are worshippers who dance before the Lord. In this mindset, first and foremost, we are called to be worshippers. Forget the roles, positions, duties or tasks. The primary “role” (if you like to call it that) is being a worshipper. And one of our expressions of worship is through dancing.

Every time we come before the Lord, we come in adoration and the awe of the one King of heaven and earth. I looked up the word ‘awe’ and the meaning of the word gives the idea of fear, veneration and wonder. Each time we stand before the Lord, we are in the presence of a being who created all things – every atoms, crystal structure, every muscle, ligaments, joints and tendons in our bodies, every grain of soil, every drop of water and every breath of air that we take in. We stand before a God who is almighty and powerful, who bows before no one but subdues the even the greatest kings and nations. We stand before a God who breathed life into us, and who can just as easily take it from us in the blink of an eye. We stand before a God who we know so little about, yet one who calls us into submission to His plans and agendas. We stand before a God who calls us to life in His Spirit and to His purposes that are good and everlasting.

When confronted by this supreme being of pure goodness and light, there is no place for man-made roles to take centre-stage. The only worship that will be acceptable is one that is done with clean hands and a pure heart, a heart that desires to delight solely in the Lord, a heart that waits and anticipates as a bride awaits her groom, a heart that is ready and willing to be filled with the joy and the peace that transcends all understanding.

And in that place of adoration and awe flows the expressions of worship – the dancing, the singing, the speaking, and so on. When our heartbeats are aligned with that of the Creator and our spirits are attuned to His, and as we allow Him to pour into us, we will be so filled with His joy and His peace that we express the abundance of grace poured into us freely and openly before the Lord.

Each time I recall those words, my heart tingles with joy and throbs with excitement. I am first and foremost a worshipper of the Lord. And I shall dance freely before the Lord, in His peace, love and joy and covers me.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

What Do We Believe?

This week I finally had the courage to step out in faith to talk to random people in the streets to ask them about their perspectives of life. I was quite hesitant at first (and still am) but I discovered that as I stepped out in faith, I discover so much more of the richness of the lives of the people around me that goes beyond theories, conjectures and hypotheses. Instead of being averse towards strangers as I initially painted them to be, I found out that people (in Australia at least) are really open to sharing their thoughts and opinions on life.

I spoke to three different people in the past two days – one a homeless guy, one a retired man and one a year 12 student. What I discovered fascinated me. I asked them a similar question: What do you think is the most important thing for you in life? They all gave the same response: Doing the things you liked doing, exploring your interest, delving into your passion, however you want to word it.

People value their interests, and people value their passions, even more so than they actually value prestige or fame.

Truly, this tells me that people value their individuality and uniqueness. People value the dreams that they have, their gifts and their talents, their hopes and their aspirations. People value the interests and passions that make them uniquely them. And they value these things even more than being part of the tides of fame and glory. In other words, people want to be themselves, exploring the things that give them joy and life, rather than be part of the mechanistic systems of pursuing power and prestige.

One might perhaps argue that my sample bias was skewed towards such people and that if I looked into the larger population, more people might actually love the glitz and the glory rather than pursuing their interests (which might not be as prestigious). In a sense, they may be right. I admit that perhaps I might not have seen enough of the world. It might very well be that if I observe more, I might actually discover many more people who are just cynical about life and people who just want to be part of the cycles of power, prestige and productivity.

Yet, I am not overly concerned about this. Why? Because all that matters is that I have caught a glimpse of people (even if it is a minority population) who believe in talents and uniqueness, who believe in dreams and passions, who believe in a hope and a future.

The world does not like these people and in the eyes of the world, these people are worthless and hopeless.

What does the world say to a homeless person? You are just a burden to society!

What does the world say to a retired man? You are no longer productive to the society and potentially an economic burden to the nation!

What does the world say to a Year 12 student who wants to go into film and music? Your qualifications are not good enough. You will never get anywhere in life!

And this is how the world thinks of them. But how then do we, as the people of God, see them?

Do we join in the condemnatory chorus of the world in categorising them into the “worthless” group? Or do we dare to believe in the dreams, the passions, the visions, the hopes, the faith, the aspirations that these people have, these things that have been placed into the hearts of these uniquely made individuals by our Heavenly Father? Do we dare to believe that these people can impact humanity in ways that are beyond our imagination? Do we dare to believe in the things that God is doing through their lives, to move and to mobilise these people to shake the clockwork system and to usher in the breath of life, “chaos”, creativity and newness into this world?

The world believes there is no hope for them. What do we believe?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

To Believe

To believe in the things that God is doing amongst the people all around us. Today I am baffled once again by the God’s amazing work amongst us today.

We can rant on and on about how “ungodly” hippies are. We can tell pub-crawlers how “evil” or “sinful” their actions are.  We can brush off a socialite’s work as being “satanic” or self-motivated.  We can easily criticise and cast aspersions upon the character and nature of people who do not fit into our category of “do-gooders” or “nice and decent”.

However, rather than cynically categorising people who don’t quite fit into our image of people who do good and great things, it indeed takes a lot more faith to actually dare to grasp hold of the goodness that is in the hearts of these people and to connect with them through the spirit that resonates deep within each and every individual. And those who are able to do so are indeed greater than those who merely go around labelling and disparaging the works of others.

Today, I am reminded yet again of how easy it is to fall into the mindset of categorising people according to our preconceived notions of goodness. This happened after my final lecture for the day. One of my coursemates came up and played a video advertisement, primarily telling people about her having her head shaved and requesting that people donate in support of her. The video was quite entertaining, I must admit, and I thought it was pretty well choreographed.

At first, I thought to myself: Ah, what a waste of time! She’s just trying to get the attention to herself. Why do you need to come up with such an elaborate video for such a simple act?

Then, it suddenly dawned upon me that she was doing all of this to raise donations for cancer patients. It suddenly hit me that the step that she was taking was no small step at all. At least, I think that no one would just shave their heads and making a big deal out of it just for fun! I could start to appreciate the largeness and goodness of her heart to actually want to do something to help these groups of people who are suffering.

As I shared this with a friend, it struck me that, “Oh my gosh, God is just doing something amazing in this girl’s life, through this step of faith that she is taking.” And it truly reminded me once again that appearances definitely can be deceiving and that underneath the veil of her party life and the cover of her seemingly carefree attitude is a heart that desires to bring goodness and grace to people (Honestly, she was one of the people whom I least expect to be motivated to do such things for people, yet once again, I am proven wrong!).

I was left walking back home from university awestruck. In the back of my head for the whole time was the thought: Oh my gosh, Lord! You are truly awesome and you have amazed me yet again. I can’t think of any other words to say to you now but just…Wow…

Today was a good day indeed. I am reminded that deep within each individual lie seeds of goodness. In the core of each person is the innermost desire to see life and grace overflow. These things are most definitely not worked out by logic or reasoning, nor is it perceived by the physical senses. Rather, it is sensed by the spirit within us that resonates with the frequency of the Spirit of God that is at work in all of creation, in all individuals, bringing life and goodness through the most unlikely of people in the most unlikely of circumstances.

So the question that we should be asking is: Do we sense the Creator and his goodness at work all around us, through different people in various circumstances? And do we then grasp hold of that nudge or tingling of excitement that propels and moves us to believe in and be part of the amazing things that He is doing in our midst in individuals all around us?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Kingdom Culture

I love my country, Malaysia. Regardless of how self-centred or power-hungry the politicians running the country can be, or how foolish and messed-up the government is, I still love my country deeply. For that was where I was conceived and that was where the Lord birthed and called me. Though it is lacking in so many things, I love the diversity, I love the people, I love the cultures, I love the beauty, I love the history, I love the memorials, I love the symbols, and I love the work of God there.

Yet, what has happened to my beloved country? Why has she been overrun by so many rogue parties tearing her apart? Why are her leaders so fired up when talking about peace and equality, yet so lackadaisical or negligent when it comes to implementation? How can it be that the nation that was founded upon mutual trust, respect and understanding has degenerated into its current pitiful state? Why do so many of its people still choose to live in their illusory world of bliss and ignorance while the stability of the social fabric is being ripped apart more and more every single day?

These are some of the questions that I truly do not have answer for. Yet, I want to serve the country that I love. I want to dare to believe that change is possible. I want to dare to believe that God can do the impossible, even in the midst of the media farrago, political tumult and social dissent. I want to dare to believe that the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ can cover the whole land of Malaysia and that the Kingdom of God will advance slowly, but surely to invade the entire territory of the Peninsula and the East.

Yet, would I have enough faith to stand up to the challenge and believe that the promises of God are good and true? Would I have enough life and grace to live out the Kingdom proclamation back home in Malaysia? Would I have the strength to stand if I bade farewell to Melbourne and established myself back in my home country? Is my training here preparing me for the battle that is ahead?

Our training now should be focused on grounding ourselves in the Kingdom culture that is universal and reproducible. But what is the Kingdom culture? In part, the culture of a kingdom is shaped by its laws, and vice versa. Similarly, the culture of the Kingdom is shaped by its laws. And as citizens of the Kingdom, we subject ourselves to the law of the Kingdom.

Paul tells us that there is only one law that we are subject to now and that is the law of the Spirit. Hence, to obey the law of the Kingdom is to live in the Spirit of the King who gives life to us. The law of the Spirit compels us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love one another as we love ourselves. The law of the Spirit calls us to engage in faith in the understanding of the hope of resurrection and restoration, and in the evidence of things that are not seen. In essence, the live in the law of the Spirit is to choose Life*.

The trouble with me now is that I am good at knowing the law, but am faced with difficulty in practising it. I can readily articulate the phrase “Love your neighbour as yourself”, but when it comes to actually doing it, I often become cynical after minimal exertion. In theory, I know that I should “resist the devil and he shall flee”, but when it comes to delivering a punch to the enemy, I often miss and end up punching air.

Perhaps this is where the training needs to happen, training not only in knowing what to do, but also in actually doing it. What I need is a training that will prepare me to live in the law of the Spirit anywhere in the world as a citizen of a Kingdom that will soon invade every corner of the globe. What I need is training that will shape my culture and my lifestyle – in the way I engage with people, in the way I perceive the world, in the way I invest into relationships – into those that reflect my standing as an influential representative of a Kingdom culture that will soon overtake the entire world.

And sure enough, this training needs to begin now – in every relationship, every opportunity, every sphere of my life. And this training shall equip me indeed to stand as a representative of His Majesty’s law and culture anywhere I am, including Malaysia, a country that I love and one that will soon come under the rule of the God of Heaven and Earth. 

And I would not have it any other way...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

It All Comes Down To Life!

In the end, mercy triumphs over judgement!

In the end, it all comes down to life!


Life-giving and death-bringing

Two distinctions that I have so forgotten

Forgive me Lord once more

For ever forgetting the most important thing you have taught me

To give life or to bring death

The clearest and simplest truth there is

To show mercy or to pass judgement

A simple choice yet an arduous step


For now I see once more

The liberty of your grace and your mercy

The abundance of life and life everlasting

The celebration of your works and deeds amongst us

The beauty of your purposes and promises everywhere in creation


Heavenly Father, Lord Almighty

Gracious God, Merciful Master

Praises and glory be to your name forever

Brother Jesus, Worthy Lamb of God

First born of the dead, Prince of peace

Let your life and your ways be known to all men

Holy Spirit, Divine Fire

Pillar of cloud, breath of life

Move amongst us, lead us we pray

That your Kingdom come and your will be done


Let heaven and earth be one

And the transcendent merge with the imminent

Lead your army to battle now O Lord

Let revival and reformation sweep

Lead your soldiers to war, Sovereign Lord

And usher in your presence and your light


Shake the heavens and the earth once more

That all that can be shaken will be shaken

And all that cannot be shaken will remain

And take us then, your people

To be a signet ring bearing your name


Plant us firmly in the land you have promised

Establish us in the covenant of our ancestors

Let us have rest from every side

Allow the rivers of life to flow once more

Bringing grace and healing to all nations


And open up the floodgates of heaven once again

And pour out your blessings upon your people

Your people who humbly and fearfully seek you

Who repent of their sins and turn from their wicked ways

And seek your face and pray in your holy name


I speak power and authority

I speak praise and honour

I speak blessing and grace

I speak abundance and life

Into this earth you love so dearly

Into the image bearers you care so much for


Let there be life and life everlasting

For salvation and glory

And honour and power

And kingdom and authority

Belong to you forever and ever



Monday, May 18, 2009


Often times, we have mixed opinions as to what constitutes worship. 

Is it the good music? Is it the talented band of musicians? Is it to glittering lights and the propped-up stages?

Nah...of course not...surely these things are not worship that is pleasing to God. We all know that. Truth be told, we know much about what worship is not, but do we know what it is then?

I have to admit that I do not have the whole picture of what is worship, but I shall attempt to have a go at some thoughts about what worship means to me.

Worship flows from a heart full of adoration and awe.

Worship stems from an attitude of reverence and humility.

Worship comes from clean hands and a pure heart.

Worship springs from a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

Worship involves laying down our ambitions and goals in surrender to a higher purpose and calling that far exceeds our limited knowledge.

Worship is leaning in and listening to the voice of the Spirit as He leads. 
(For that matter, it is not about how the musicians are able to lead the crowd into the next song, but it is more a matter of how they are able to open up spaces to be still and listen to the leading of the Spirit. 
Also, worship is not about the loud and charismatic music that gets you pumped up because I believe that it usually drowns out the voice of the Spirit rather than creating space for it.)

Worship is spiritual warfare! It involves battling and tearing down forces (sometimes very subtle ones) that try to detract from the adoration of the one true God or forces (sometimes seemingly very encouraging voices) that attempt to drive the congregation instead of allowing it to be led by the Spirit.

All in all, worship comes back down to the place of intimacy and relationship with the Father who is in heaven, Creator and Maker of all, the awesome and almighty God of all.

Worship is so much richer than what is has become. Worship is so much more intimate, relational and awesome than the superficial personifications that it has been made to portray.

Dear Lord, forgive us then of our weaknesses and of our idols. Cleanse our hands and purify our hearts. Lead us once more to the place of adoration and awe. Lead us again to the place of intimacy and relationship with you. Amen.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What if...?

What if all that we believed in faded away before our very eyes?

What if all that we fought and stood for crumbled and disintegrated to ashes and dust?

What if all that we hoped for and placed our trust in turned out to be nothing more than lifelong delusions or misshapen illusions?

What if all that we loved and cared for died and withered away in our desperate embrace?

What if all that we have held on to so firmly and securely are ripped away and torn from us?

What if all that we have dared to step out into in faith and clarity became a sudden blur and darkness?

What if all that we have immersed ourselves into turned out to be murky, turbid seas of enigma and death?

What if all that we have cherished, all the promises made, all the life lived, all the time invested, all the relationships formed, all the dreams dreamed, all the visions pursued, all the futures anticipated, all the goodness experienced, all the joy poured out, all the fellowship shared, all the sacrifices laid down, all the faith believed in, and all the hope grasped turned out to be nothing more than nothingness in the end?