LESSONS FROM QUARTER 1
11 May 2021
We are in the midst of quarter 2 and I want to share some lessons I have gleaned in the first quarter of 2021 with you, for two reasons.
Firstly, as the global senior pastor of our movement, I believe that God has a word in season for you through the role He has entrusted to me.
Secondly, I want to share with you my own journey as a learner. As disciples, we can only grow when we learn. The moment we stop learning, we stop growing. Therefore, let’s take time to learn and continue to be curious so that God can impart new revelation into your spirit!
Senior Pastor Jeff
In January this year, we did a series called ‘Circles and Rows’. ‘Circles’ refer to our Life Group gatherings where we sit facing one another. ‘Rows’ refer to our corporate gatherings like weekend services where we sit facing the front.
Initially, the series title suggested was ‘Circles over Rows’ because we aren’t able to meet in rows as much as before. So the team understandably thought to share about the value of gathering in Life Groups. However, the series is not about sharing that one is better than the other. In the Book of Acts, the early church met in Circles (homes) and Rows (temple courts). Both play important functions in the life of the church and in the lives of believers.
In Circles, we get to fellowship deeply and serve. Everyone can buy food, share a testimony, cook a meal, or lead a game. We are not just familiar strangers in a big setting; we know each other as friends. In Rows, we get to hear from the senior leadership where God is directing our church to go. We get to experience the ministry of spiritual gifts God has endowed in people outside our Life Group – in teaching, in prophecy, in worship, in prayer. We also remind ourselves that we are all part of a bigger body.
One reason our church remains strong in the pandemic is because we believe in Life Group. At the same time, we also want to do our very best on the service stage so that more people will hear the Gospel and encounter God. In the same way, while we outreach, let’s continue to do discipleship. And as we do well in discipleship, let’s remember that a true disciple makes disciples, and the way we start to make disciples is to outreach to people.
Andy Stanley once said, “The question to ask is, does the problem keep resurfacing? Once a problem is solved, it shouldn’t keep resurfacing. If it does, this is an ongoing tension that needs to be managed and not a problem to be solved”. When we are passionate about a strength or a new learning but are not mature enough to see the whole picture, we may fall into this trap of using a truth to knock another truth. But remember that both truths are important. Let’s speak the language of balance and maturity; let’s use a truth to complement another truth.
As shocking and saddening the news was, do not be judgemental. Instead, let us reflect and learn what will be helpful for us. Firstly, we should not be skeptical of every leadership and think that every leader only wants sex, power, or money. Also, while we don’t put leadership on a pedestal, we must honour leadership. We are all sinners saved by grace, but in God’s kingdom, we are to follow God’s leaders.
Anyone can fall
What Ravi Zacharais did is not beyond any of us – we are all equally capable of doing the same wrong. Romans 3:23 isn’t just a verse for pre-believers, but for believers too. Therefore, Paul instructs believers in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 to be watchful over our lives. We must not be fearful, but we have to be watchful. We must not be overly confident in ourselves, but we can be confident that the grace of God is sufficient for us and pull us through.
Everyone needs accountability
Because anyone can fall, everyone needs accountability. One of the key failures of this saga was the lack of accountability. We need people around us that will keep us accountable with our lives.
I took the time to speak to the pastors team and some key male leaders of our church and asked them what is biggest temptation to them – many of them answered ‘sex’. You see, the devil is not after sex; the devil is after our destiny. For the men, God has called us to lead – in our family, in our Life Groups, in our centres. God will use you in a big way, but the devil knows your weakness and wants to tear down your destiny. Therefore, keep yourselves accountable.
The higher you go in leadership, the harder you have to work in being accountable. Personally, I remind the pastors team to watch over me and am also accountable to Pastor Alan Platt and Pastor Benny Ho. I share with them about my ministry, marriage, and thought life. Through this software I use, ‘Ever Accountable’, my wife, Pastor Claudia knows every website I visit and every photo I look at. She is also aware of every meeting I have. The reason I work so hard to be accountable is because I don’t want to shipwreck my faith or drag God’s name through the mud.
Whether you are married or single, keep your life accountable. Make sure you account to your spouse, your leaders, and those around you. I really want to see all of us end our race well and to be able to say what Paul said – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
As I age, I get to see more of death in an up-close fashion. The truth is that we can’t witness death and not think about life. In January this year, these truths touched me afresh when I saw my Dad breathe his last.
Salvation by Grace
During my Dad’s wake, I got to hear many tributes made about him. Many good things were said, yet I know that he wasn’t that good – just like I am not that good. Yet in Ephesians 2:8-9, he is able to go to heaven simply because of God’s grace.
Between my parents, my dad is the kinder and more helpful one. Yet, my Mum knew the Gospel before my Dad. If my Dad didn’t know Christ, even though my Mum was the more difficult person, she will be the one that goes to heaven while my Dad goes to another place. It is truly salvation by grace.
Reality of the Gospel
Usually people will comfort the grieving family with words like ‘he/she is in a better place now’, or ‘he/she has passed on in peace’. But are we able to say with conviction that one truly is in a better place and has peace in death? 1 Corinthians 1:18 shows us that we can only do so because of the power of the Gospel.
If we believe in the Gospel, it must truly change us. We will all die one day, so how we live from today till then must reflect our belief in the Gospel – to love neighbours, to make disciples, and to plant churches in order to fulfil the Great Commission.
What Hope Singapore is to Hope Global is what Singapore is to the whole world.
Hope Singapore to Hope Global
God has given Hope Singapore the privilege, responsibility, and influence to be the parent church of the Hope Global movement. This means that what we do in Hope Singapore – our values, our culture, our practices – has an impact on the whole movement.
In the long run, Hope Singapore will not and cannot remain as the biggest church. However, we can remain as the most influential church – not to dominate but to serve the rest of Hope Global. That’s why we need to continue to grow because what we do here has an impact all over the world.
Singapore to the World
As a nation, Singapore has consistently been able to punch above our weight category. I recently went for my COVID-19 vaccine and was so impressed by how seamless, efficient, and safe the whole process was. Singapore is small, but we are described as a miracle nation. From 1819 when Sir Stamford Raffles founded this island, to the years the nation progressed under Lee Kuan Yew’s leadership, as well as in 1978 when Billy Graham prophesied that Singapore will be an antioch to Asia – it is clear that God’s Hand is upon Singapore and He has a purpose for Singapore.
I am very glad that our church is playing a part in turning Singapore Godward through Love Singapore. As we serve Hope Singapore, we are in the epi-centre of what God can do through Hope Singapore and Singapore to the rest of the whole world.
Church, we truly are serving in a very privileged position. Our role here in Hope Singapore and Singapore goes beyond the shore of this little island. So let’s not take what God has so graciously given us for granted. Let’s build our lives, our Life Groups, and our church well, and make an impact on Hope Global and the whole world.
OUR MANNER AND MISSION IN LIFE
9 February 2021
I hope that you are having a blessed new year!
After 10 months of living in this new norm, I’ve observed that some of us continued to gather momentum and thrive for God, while some of us began to lose momentum and dwindle in our faith. I believe this difference is due to our life manner. Therefore, I’d like to encourage us with this word that the Lord has spoken to me regarding how we are to live as we pivot upon God in this new year.
One day, an angel of the Lord appeared to the wife of Manoah, an Israelite, telling her that she will be expecting a child. Manoah asked the angel, “what is to be the child’s manner of life and what is his mission?” (Judges 13:12)
This is a crucial question for all of us – after knowing Christ, how should I live (life manner) and what should I live for (life mission)? There are two observations here.
Firstly it is manner before mission. If we live the manner of our life right, we will also live the mission of our life right. If we are only concerned with our mission – busying with our studies, work, serving, and family – but not working on our life manner, we will have what the Bible describes: ‘a form of godliness but denying its power’. (2 Timothy 3:5a) We still do what we are supposed to do, but if our true love for God is gone, what is left is just an empty shell. Therefore, we must build our life manner strong.
Next, it is both manner and mission. We cannot divorce our life mission from our life manner. If we claim to have the right manner, our mission must follow suit. Our mission is the outflow of our manner. It is not manner or mission but both manner and mission.
As we begin this new year, I’d like to bring us back to the basics of building a strong foundation for our life manner:
Just like how God has used these fundamental things to help me walk with Him through the highs and lows the past 20 plus years, I believe that He will use them to help you walk strong with Him as well. As your pastor, I truly love you. I want us to live our lives in proper biblical fashion, so we will have both life manner and life mission right. This 2021, let us commit to get our basics right, and live a life that is both fruitful in God and fruitful for God.
Senior Pastor Jeff
Since the Circuitbreaker period in April 2020, we have been working from home. With the flexibility from telecommuting, we realised that while mornings were less hurried, there was a tendency to sleep in more. Hence, we had to be disciplined to wake up slightly earlier so that we could still set aside at least 15 mins to read God’s Word before we began our work. In the morning, I (Larry) also began to develop the habit of kneeling down and praying to God, to make it my first discipline. I find that the posture of kneeling helps my focus on praying, frames my day right in God’s love, and see things through His perspective. I find myself less anxious and become more aware of God’s presence during stressful situations at work.
Working from home was also a time where we found it easy to gain weight due to less physical activity. Hence, we decided to eat just 2 meals a day (breakfast and dinner) and have fruits for lunch. With the change in our lunch habits, we decided to channel the time for personal devotion in addition to mornings, where we could carve out about 45mins to worship God, read His word, or tune in to online resources to enrich our faith. Not only were we able to upkeep our physical health, we also received spiritual refreshment regularly. Though we didn’t always manage to keep to this lunch devotion 100% of the time, the habit is now ingrained into our lifestyle.
Besides personal devotion, we also partake in weekly virtual fellowship with our workplace Christian group and remain connected with our Hope spiritual family through small group and 1-on-1 meetups, as well as with pre-believers. We also had opportunities to connect with neighbours better where we collaborated together to build a mini community garden, and became good friends with another young family with children as they come to our house regularly to play board games. While being intentional to reach out to our neighbours, we enjoyed the process of building relationships with them. As we seek to refresh them, we find ourselves refreshed as much!
All in all, we are thankful to God that through this season, He has provided us with the opportunities to build deeper relationships, with Him, and with people around us!
Larry & Kelly
(Hope Singapore Adults Axis)
This Life Group, to me, is truly God-given. It has allowed me to have a solid brotherhood to keep each other accountable for our battle with temptations and lust. Shout out to them for being so supportive and loving in encouraging me to chase Christ in not just fighting for purity, but in surrendering other guy-related struggles in my life like pride to God. The unusually long and encouraging text messages from my leader and calls late at night from my LG mates to stay pure, help me know that other people deeply care about how I’m walking with God.
Every Christian man really needs to have a group of trusted brothers to share and do life with; to train us in putting down our egos and admitting our flaws. As guys, it’s so easy to fall into the temptation of keeping our sin private to maintain our outward image. In that same way, having brothers that platonically love each other creates an environment of authenticity and real brotherly love where our vulnerability isn’t taken advantage of and isn’t ridiculed. Choosing God isn’t easy as it’s not in our nature, but thank God He helps us to choose Him!
Hope Singapore Tertiary (NS)
At the start of the pandemic, my sub-district members expressed their doubts and fears about what was happening, hence we quickly jumped to online interactions so we wouldn’t feel alone in this journey. However along the way, some members stopped attending Life Group with excuses like work matters, poor connection, and shifting schedules. It was evident that they have neglected to feed themselves with God’s word daily and were sliding away from Him. That was when God prompted me to gather everyone for group devotions on a weekly basis.
Our devotions focused on igniting our faith through the life of Job, Joseph, Moses and Joshua. Initially only the Life Group Leaders and core team came, but with constant follow-ups and encouragement in the LG chats, members started attending too.
Through this group devotions, we see many members fully connected into the Word of God, with some even taking the lead in the discussions! We were also able to encourage a new believer who joined us in December 2020. She was having a difficult time, but through the group devotions her faith was reignited, and she now fully commits her time to LG and services.
Right now, our sub-district’s prayer and worship life has completely evolved and we can evidently see it in the growth of our people. We’ve had 4 water baptisms during this pandemic, even in our bathtubs. We have members who have grown in their discipleship journey, from A to B, and B to C. Members are sharing more and more devotions in the LG chats, and constantly inviting friends from all over the globe to join our online / hybrid LGs. Prayer requests such as new jobs, approval of passes, healing and provisions have been poured out generously by God. We are really pressing in for more because with Jesus, there is always more for us and more to come!
Hope Singapore Filipino
When COVID-19 struck, we in Hope Melbourne were immediately thrown into a state of uncertainty. It became increasingly difficult for international students and fresh grads to stay in Melbourne. Even locals and residents lost their employment and people had to move out of the city. As a Life Group, we needed to find a new way to stay connected.
We moved our gatherings online and started to livestream services together. We share our learning from the Word regularly and get very real about our prayer requests. We also have crazy times of games which are both hilarious and competitive to the point of shouting over each other on Zoom (and my parents knocking on my door). We persist in meeting together and at the end of every LG session, our hearts are full to the brim.
The pandemic might be a disruption, but it did not stop God’s work. Prior to that, we were just meeting as Hope Melbourne. But across 2020, we meet virtually across Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide as well as Singapore. As part of Christmas celebration, we even played Secret Santa and sent each other gifts across the continents!
More importantly, I can see how God’s hand is on His community. Even though we gather over Zoom, Hope Aussie has become such a safe space for us to share vulnerably about our struggles in our walk, to embrace and uplift each other when some of us are in doubt or afraid, and to pray and proclaim truth over each other as we look to God above the challenges.
Truly, Hope is better together. Hope Aussie became my home away from home, and I thank God for it every day!
Hope Melbourne & Adelaide