Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Reflections on Psalm 4

Looking at the psalm in whole, I see the following of God.

1) God hears everything, and will respond when we need / desire His response.

One thing that comes to mind is how some people can ask "Where is God", but live like they don't care to know the answer, or they don't expect God to respond. Such a perspective will keep us from seeing God and how He responds to our needs. While it's true that God is not limited by our perspectives, He does take into consideration what we want, and if we question him but aren't really seeking a response from Him, it is unlikely that we will see any.

2) God does not tolerate sin, but He also prefers transparency to pretense.

This is regards to v. 4 - "In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent."

The phrase "do not sin" is so hard to abide with. Ever noticed how sin always starts off with some emotion, one that is usually not pleasant to experience? Speaking of sin itself, I always think back to the 10 commandments, which comprehensively cover all the ways we might sin, and how avoiding sin sometimes feels like the Chinese idiom ει’εŸ‹δΌ (literally means "ambushed on 10 sides").

So it is a great relief to know that with God, it is okay to feel all the emotions which eventually lead to sin and be honest about them.

I personally feel that God gave us such capacity for emotions not so that we might sin, but for higher / better purposes. Looking at David, as the supposed author of this psalm and many others, one such purpose could possibly be to help us discover more of God and see His promises fulfilled. Throughout the psalms, David's emotional expressiveness really brings out the reality of God's presence in his own life.

3) God gives abundantly.

It occurred to me that only after we have set down and detailed the full extent of our desires and expectations, can we know what abundance we receive from God. I had a good laugh reading the last two verses of The Message version (quoted below), which also serves as a reminder why do I have any faith in God at all about how much He loves me - because I have seen Him answer my requests, although not always in the way I expected - and that gives me reason to expect that He will continue to do so in my life.

"I have God's more-than-enough,
More joy in one ordinary day
Than they get in all their shopping sprees.
At day's end I'm ready for sound sleep,
For you, God, have put my life back together."

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Life lessons I learnt from leading worship (Part 1)

Having been in worship teams and leading worship for some years, I have often been asked questions ranging from heart issues to the practical day-to-day stuff. So it triggered me to jot down some important lessons I have learnt through leading worship, creative people and teams over these years. Would like to qualify that this list is not exhaustive, in no order of importance and from personal experience. These lessons are not just applicable to worship team dynamics but also in life. I hope it helps and encourages.

Investing in the next generation is critical
Somebody somewhere took the risk to believe in me and gave me my first opportunity to develop my gift and ability to lead worship. Without that, I will never be doing what I’m doing now. Over the years I have had leaders and mentors who dared to act on what they believed God had for my life, and provide me the guidance, inspiration and platforms to grow. Even though I made many mistakes along the way, they never gave up on me. This has made me deeply aware of the need to believe in others and provide them opportunities to spread their wings and fly. These wonderful leaders assured me that it was ok to fail and encouraged me to stand up and try again. They taught me what they knew but always allowed me space to be myself. Investing in a young person can be risky and can cause much inconvenience and sacrifice, but the rewards far outweigh the cost. Every time I find myself breaking through in the level of my influence, I never fail to remember and give thanks for all the people who have allowed me to stand on their shoulders so I may see further.

2 Tim 2:2
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

Be yourself
When I first started off as a worship leader, I did it by copying what I saw someone else in church do. Gradually my role models began to change as I grew older and gained more experience. There was a stage in my life where “everything I learnt about worship leading, I learnt from Darlene Zschech”. And that drove most people around me crazy! I was searching for the true meaning of worship because I knew deep down inside me that leading worship was not just about singing songs and jumping around. It took me years to accept that I must be myself and many more years before I discovered who that really is. I have had strong influences from many people in my previous churches and they really helped to balance out some of my extremities. Coming before God just as I am was such a wonderful and freeing experience. God assured me that there will never be another me and He loves me the way I am and He wants me to be who He made me to be. Wow. From that point, my worship leading took on a new level of freedom and authority because I was no longer bound to the comparison and criticism of people. Knowing that I must lead out of who I am in God was one of the most powerful things I learnt.

Submission to leadership pleases God and releases blessing
Leaders are not perfect and I’m sure we all know at least one leader who makes us wonder how he or she could even become a leader. As a worship leader, we are under the covering and authority of either the worship pastor or senior pastor. During a service, they give spiritual oversight. I have often heard the funny observation that many times worship leaders tries to act like the senior pastor and the senior pastor tries to become the worship leader. What results is a tussle of roles while the congregation watches on. Submitting to the authority given over you is equal to submitting to God’s authority, for He is the one who establishes all authority. Even when you feel your leader is wrong, remember it’s probably a matter of preference and should not become a point of conflict or bitterness.

I have also had the privilege of working with musicians and singers who are such a pleasure and joy to work with because they have such a humble and servant heart. Unfortunately I must also admit that I have encountered many musicians and singers who struggled greatly with submitting to leadership, either to the worship leader or the senior pastor. Those were trying times because every rehearsal felt like we were in a war. It was emotionally and mentally draining for everyone, but eventually they either repented from their lack of submission, or simply left the team, and some, the church.

Sometimes we think we have valid reasons for not submitting to a leadership decision. Sometimes we even think we’re morally higher than a leader whom we might not have high regard for. However in these times I’m always reminded of the story of David and King Saul. King Saul was clearly not leading a Godly life and was after David’s life. However David never took on a self-righteous nor judgmental attitude, choosing at every moment to honour God’s decision to make Saul king. We all know the outcome of the story and can learn lots from David’s example.

Heb 13:17
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Team matters
This is probably one of the top lessons I have learnt from leading worship and being in worship teams. Some musicians are incredibly skilled and established in their own right, but it has always amazed me when they simply cannot work in a team. Putting many talented musicians together does not make a worship team! There is so much that goes into team dynamics and I believe that the most important is a heart of love and humility. When you deem others better than yourself, and also look out for one another, there will be a great team. I suggest to you that many people find it hard to work as a team because of their own insecurities and fear about themselves. I have certainly walked through this myself, feeling threatened when I felt someone was better than me. Pride rears its ugly head and destroys the unity of the team.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of doing life outside of playing together for church. A group of talented musicians can come together and play a wonderful set of songs, but walk away never knowing anything about each other’s lives, struggles, hopes and dreams. I don’t think that’s the heart of God for our teams and ministries. The best teams I have been with are those who played, prayed, cried and laboured together. Even years after we stop playing together, many of us remain firm friends and continue to encourage each other in the faith.

Teams must be built. It is the job of the leader to build teams, but it cannot be achieved without the effort of every member of the team. Having said that, I have seen many leaders discouraged and worn out because their people just would not do their part. I feel sad for them because it is truly an uphill task to lead unwilling people and I pray we never have to go through that ever again.

1 Cor 12:27
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Handle conflict the Biblical way
I stand by the “Matthew 18 principle” when conflicts arise. Matthew18:15-17 says "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Every time I have done this, it has worked. Every time I attempted to bypass what Jesus taught in conflict resolution, I have not done so well. Conflicts will arise as we work together as a team. Unresolved conflict will spread like a cancer through the body and will allow the enemy to have a foothold. Keep short accounts and always be ready to forgive. There is such power and freedom when we choose forgiveness and honour.

Know your role
It is a common saying in church circles that if you are in the worship ministry, you don’t have to be skilled or really good in what you do as long as you are a worshipper. I can only agree with half of that statement. I absolutely agree that you must be a worshipper and that’s the primary call of every Christian. I also passionately agree that if you are to be playing in a worship team, you must have a heart of worship. However, we must know our roles. If we were to consider the role of the Levites in the Old Testament (many people like to equate our modern worship ministries to the ministry of the Levites. I choose to take a broader, non-literal interpretation of that), the Levites were not just skilled in ministering in the Temple with their instruments, they were also very much involved in incredibly elaborate duties within the Temple. Every Levite had a specific role and it went beyond their musical abilities.

I have learnt that as a worship leader, I am to be worshipping on or off the platform. But when I am leading worship, I am primarily a leader. Which means I must lead! It does not mean that I become a dictator and do whatever I like, but I must know my role as a worship leader and what I am supposed to do. I work in partnership with the Holy Spirit and function under His leading. Every musician and singer on the platform has that role as well. They are to be worshipping already, but when they take the platform, it is to come together to lead as a team. Some of the most powerful worship teams I have been part of, or have seen, are those where every person in the team knows their role as a servant-leader, and proceeds to function confidently in that role.

Lead worship in life
This is the most important lesson I have learnt from leading worship. In fact, I have since discovered that this is my personal mission in life. I am a worship leader in life. In all areas of my life, I seek to lead people to worship God at whatever point they are in their lives. In order to live this out, I must continuously worship and encounter Jesus in my life, and consciously tell others about Jesus and lead them to encounter and worship Him in their lives. Leading worship has taught me to be a worshipper and that every part of my life is to be offered to Jesus as worship. I started leading worship through songs and music but I now know that worship goes beyond the music and is about life. I was made to worship God, the Creator of heaven and earth who revealed His love for me through Jesus Christ His Son. To that, there is no other fitting response, but worship.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Razi Grew!

After a tiring rehearsal with Vertical Rush, we were ready to pack up and head off for dinner when Jean - who was helping out on vocals with us - suddenly said we should pray for Razi - who is a longtime friend of ours and who also runs the practice studios that we rehearse at.

Now I have to tell you what mental state i was in. I was pretty grouchy by the time practice was over. I had to wake up a bit early in the morning (anytime before lunchtime on Sunday is early for me), and practice was pretty rough. We only managed to run through a third of the songs we wanted to do and we wasted a lot of time. Not only that, for some reason my guitar amp wouldn't work, and I had to drag another amp in from the other studio. To make matter worse, the vocals PA kept feeding back, my guitar sounded really awful and I ended up getting more and more frustrated through practice. By the time we ended practice, i was literally ready to bite someone's head off!

in any case, i gathered up what little was left of my good humour and head out with jean and esmond, not quite knowing what to expect, or what i was going to get myself into. we bundle razi out of the noisy studio into the *scape corridor. we make esmond and razi stand side by side and mark their arms with a sharpie.

after that, jean, esmond and myself laid hands on razi's legs and start to pray some really simple prayers. all this while my right brain was going like, oh man what if this doesn't work?!? sure very malu - not just for us but for Jesus as well. then my left brain was like - oh, even if there's a difference it'll probably be parallax error or something that could be rationalised away.

such a man of faith i am.

anyway even as we are praying, i could feel razi's leg growing. i laid my hand on his kneecap and notice its positioned right over the edge of the couch he was sitting on. when we finished praying for him, it looked like his knee was clear of the edge of the couch. i'm still thinking it might be parallax error at this point.

when we get esmond and razi to stand side by side, the results are just absolutely mind-boggling.

no way that could be parallax error. thank you Jesus. thank you Jesus. You've just totally taken me to school again about what living in faith really means.

back to the story: i basically went ballistic at that point. i totally had no clue that the results would be so clear, so obvious. in hindsight, its easy to say "duh, of course it would be this obvious. i mean, its GOD we're talking about right?" but at the time i was just going "WHOA!" at the top of my voice. i was completely stunned!

i think razi is still in a state of shock at how much he's grown! we said good bye and we hugged - as we did that i prayed for him again, and i could just feel him shaking and i could feel his heart racing.

this totally made my day. and i hope it did for razi too.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Reflections on Psalms 4


1) v1 : Even King David laments and complains to God, Reminds me that its fine to be real to God.

2) v5:  Study Bible says that to God, our attitude of submission and obedience is more important than the actual sacrifice. Reminds me that there is more to "doing and serving".

3) v6 - 7: These verses remind me that trusting in the Lord is the key to joy. Many times, I worry and think too much of things around, career, future, house, etc. Trusting in the Lord yields a joy that is "greater" than "that of the world". The former is dependent on God, who is never changing and perfect, whilst the latter is dependent on the "grain and new wine" which is temporal. v7 - God alone makes us dwell in safety, this reminds me of God's sovereignty and that He is truly in control.


Sunday, 10 August 2008

Reflections on Psalms 4

This psalm is often considered as a prayer for relief after a calamity. To me, though I'm not going through a period of distress or calamity, it is an assurance to know that God will always hear me when I call out to him (v3). Sometimes, I run out of patience when I ask God for something, some truth, some justice to be instilled, but yet I 'see' (physically) nothing happening. My tendency is to then take charge and work it out on my own. I find that my lack of patience can be a potential hindrance from seeing God's answers revealed in my life. And this lack of trust and tendency to be self-sufficient is something I need to work on.

(v4)'In your anger do not sin, when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.'
It is always a timely reminder or even warning to me regarding what I should do or not do when in anger; not anger in explosive spurts but mostly brewing displeasure/s that can be equally lethal. I am an escapist by nature and often shy away from confrontations of all sorts, and as a result, I do realise that I tend not to want to search my heart to discover my naked feelings as they make me real uncomfortable and uneasy. This verse reminds me to face up to the 'search' process that will allow me to be transparent with God, albeit an uneasy task. But I believe this step is crucial so that I don't harbour bitter sentiments that may brew and even fester into something worse. I'm reminded of the need to make right with God in terms of my every emotion and even the people that I may have been offended or whom I have offended.


Saturday, 9 August 2008

Psalm 4 - Marcus

In your anger do not sin

Its so easy to let emotions take over, to let emotions be an excuse for acting inappropriately. Its so easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment, to do something that doesn't please God, and try to brush it away or justify it by saying that it was "situational", that this case was "different". But the fact is, God's Word is not "situational", His Truth doesn't differ in every situation. It is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow, and it is uncompromising, unchanging.

There is no excuse for giving in to sin, and we should always be mindful not to let our lips or our actions let loose that which does not glorify the Lord, no matter how hard the circumstances are, no matter how irritating some people may be, or how stupid the situation may seem. God's Word still holds true for every person and circumstance. And as His Children we are called to do likewise - to be as God is, full of grace and love. However small or however challenging, we are to be God's people of grace.

You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound

Its also very easy to get caught up in the things of the world. The temporary, transient pleasures. To let these things distract ourselves from what is most important, from the one thing that truly gives the greatest joy. The things of the world give happiness - but that in itself is transient, fleeting, momentary - the things of God give joy, a deep lasting and unshakeable sense that all is as it should be, such that even in the midst of the storm we can celebrate and praise God. That's real joy.

We are challenged to think about why we spend money on that which is not bread, and labour on that which does not satisfy (Isaiah 55:2). Many a time in my life, I've spent nights partying and doing things that I shouldn't have, or which ultimately didn't satisfy. And I'd return home to the four walls in my room, and sink to the floor in despair feeling empty and joyless. God changed all that. He truly satisfies. And I'm still discovering new depths of how He can satisfy, and how His joy has transformed me.

God truly satisfies. And whilst He does allow us to find happiness in things, in people, in activities, He also wants us to know and embrace His joy. May we learn how to lean on Him for strength, courage, and joy in our lives, and not look to people, things or circumstances.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Reflection on Psalm 3

Reflection on Psalm 3 (I know im so so late)...

I think this Psalm really speaks of God's grace and mercy. Even during times of trouble, God is never far from us.

1) He is our shield- protection and favour

2) He answers us- He listens and continue to converse with us

3) The Lord sustains us- He will give us the strength we need

4) From the Lord comes delieverance - He wont leave us in the lurch and He will deliver us


I know and believe that no matter how tough a situation may be, God is never far. He will still be there to listen and provide us with His strength. His grace and mercy will always be evident and ultimately, He will deliver us.

Brings me back the my verse of the year:

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1: 2-4


Leaning on the Lord,


Reflections on Psalm 3

Would like to apologize for not posting earlier, many things have been going on, and I also wanted to read up on the background of Psalm 3 before posting my reflections. Unfortunately, that took a lot of time to think through.

Personally, reading this psalm tells me a lot more about the psalmist's attitude than about God himself. It's a little frustrating when one is looking to learn about God without having to go through the psalmist and the emotion he pours into the psalm, and for awhile I felt like I identified more with people who have no understanding about why we are willing to have faith in Him than with being someone who truly knows God.

I suppose it's something we all have to go through periodically, so that when we finally recognize God's participation in our lives, it becomes truth and real knowledge, not merely blind faith. Anyway, thankfully, the psalm had a preceding description - "A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom." So I turned to 2 Samuel 15-18 to read the story behind the psalm.

To briefly summarize, Absalom was David's son, he took over David's throne by conspiracy, and later set out to kill David. Thus, David had to flee for his life, and along the way, he discovered many people who turned against him. Some of his trusted advisors, his men, and his friends were among these people.

Given his situation, David had every reason to despair and question God, yet he still chose to put his faith in God and expressed it in a psalm. And what really stands out in 2 Samuel 15-18 is that David received everything that he had declared in faith within Psalm 3. I've decided to leave further details on above to the end of this entry, otherwise this will eb very long.

My personal takeaway from this is that God rewards us for both our faith in Him and the subsequent actions undertaken out of that faith. Such actions don't have to be very significant or visible, it could be as simple as choosing to praise Him despite not feeling like we want to. The most important thing to know is that living out our faith is THE condition we need to satisfy in order claim His blessings.


List of ways in which God answered David's declarations within the psalm in 2 Samuel 15-18. Verses listed are from the Psalm.

v3. "you bestow glory on me and lift up my head."
- God restored his status as king, both officially and in the hearts of his people.

v4. "To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill."
- God sent many others who were willing to follow him and flee with him or take his instructions to do what they could while Absalom was in power. When we think about David's position, it's actually a very lonely one - can anyone else understand what it means to receive such betrayal from a son, especially for a king? Yet God never left Him alone, and He showed it by allowing David to meet people who supported Him.

v5. "I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me."
- I'm not sure if we can fully understand David's plight, imagine running long distance with great fear for your life and the others with you. But God sustained David so that he covered a great distance as he fled.

v6. "I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side."
- One interesting thing I noticed in 2 Samuel 15-18 is that David still undertook actions against Absalom's plans. For instance, he had people within the palace tell him of Absalom's plans, and frustrate Absalom's advisors' advice, even though he had no guarantee that God would indeed return him to the throne. Indeed, though David feared the results of Absalom taking the throne, he still had the courage to plan against Absalom and eventually planned a battle Absalom's men.