Why I’m Going to Name My Kid Heman (or She-ra if She’s a Girl)

Okay, I may not name my first kid Heman. It’s not a particularly popular name and I’m worried he might get bullied in school. Or maybe his peers might place incredibly high expectations on him to produce feats of supernatural strength.

I did want to name my kid Ethan though, until my good friend’s sister stole the name and bestowed it upon her progeny.

Think about it: almost every Ethan you know, famous or otherwise, is good-looking (if you have proof to the contrary, I don’t really want to know about it!). This is a bonus. The cool thing actually is that it is a name of one of the worship leaders in the Bible. So is Heman.

When I started reading more about worship leading, it worried me a little that the term “worship leader” or any other permutation of it like “lead worshipper”, “worship facilitator” or “song leader” isn’t mentioned in the Bible. I started thinking: is what we are doing as worship leaders a construct of the modern church-growth movement, or does it have biblical precedent?

Thankfully, I came across this passage in 1 Chron 15:16ff:

David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brothers as singers to sing joyful songs, accompanied by musical instrumetns: lyres, harps and cymbals.

So the Levites appointed Heman, son of Joel; from his brothers, Asaph, son of Berekiah; and from his brothers the Merarites, Ethan son of Kushaiah…. The musicians Heman, Asaph and than were to sound the bronze cymbals… Kenaniah the head Levite was in charge of the singing; that was his responsibility because he was skillful at it.

The context of this passage was that David had just brought the ark up to Jerusalem. The ark was never meant to be in Jerusalem; it belonged (according to established institutions) at Mt Gibeon, in the Tabernacle of Moses – in the Holy of Holies. Yet David longed to have God’s presence near him in his capital city, so he pitched an ad hoc tent for the ark. And then he instituted a new form of worship, one not based on sacrifices and protocol, but one in which music and singing became the “housing” for God’s presence.

And so, amongst others, four leaders were appointed. Their names are interesting:

  • Asaph means “one who gathers and removes reproach.”
  • Heman means “one who is faithful.”
  • Ethan means “consistent and permanent praise.”
  • Kenaniah means “established by Jehovah”.

The names together give us a powerful picture of the role of the modern worship leader as follows:

  • Worship leading is about gathering people to focus them on God. This means an ability to bring unity, break down walls between generations and cultures, drawing people from all walks of life, pointing them away from their own circumstances and differences and towards praising God and His greatness. I might add that often, and ironically, we see worship as something that divides us down denominational lines and along age and cultural preferences. I long for the day when we can put aside our preferences and unite around God’s presence, irrespective of style and expressions!
  • Worship leading is about allowing the Holy Spirit to minister to people was they draw near to him; removing their reproach, sins, hurts, pain, sickness, brokenheartedness and bondage. We don’t cleanse ourselves in order to worship, but as we worship and enter into God’s presence, we are transformed! This means that every time we gather together, we should expect a divine transaction to take place in our hearts.
  • Worship leading is about being faithful to the house of God; pastoring our people and supporting our church’s vision. We aren’t rogue soldiers who do our own thing, but we learn to submit to leadership. We are faithful to God’s call on our lives, not striving to become more popular and famous, but realising that we please God by fulfilling our call wherever we are planted, whether we lead a small group of 10 or a large congregation of 1000.
  • We are established by God. We don’t struggle to gain recognition and approval from people, but we know that our approval comes from God; our anointing and qualification comes from Him alone!
  • Worship leading is an outflow of consistently and permanently praising God, not only when we lead a gathering, but wherever we are, in the trenches of life, in the good times and hard times and bringing the worship to God that is forged out of those experiences.

On second thought, I might name my first kid Kenaniah. It’s got quite a nice ring to it.

For to Us a Child is Born

Well, I can hardly believe it’s nearly the end of the year and the festive season is upon us.

Firstly, I apologise for not having had much time to write in the past month. It’s been full of activity, from Global Day of Worship to finishing up work before the holidays to preparing for a mission trip. I’m about to fly out to Singapore today and I’ve finally found a moment!

Secondly, I wish all of you a merry Christmas! Amidst all the food, gifts and festivities, let’s never lose sight of the reason for our celebrating.

I remember a few years back when our church was doing a 24 hour non-stop cover-to-cover Bible reading. The idea was that people would take turns to read the Bible out-loud. It took us about 3 days to complete the exercise. I would come in at various times to the church to read a portion or to just stay and soak in the Word.

I remember reading Isaiah 9:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

I love this passage, because one of my theme verses is Acts 16 which talks about the restoration of the fallen tent of David. It’s not just about a tabernacle, although Jesus became the living Tabernacle of David and dwelt amongst men, but the phrase “tent of David” could also be interpreted “line of David”, or the “lineage of David”.

I then came back later in the day to read another passage, Matthew 1. Starting from Abraham, it traced the ancestry of David and ended with Jesus, the Messiah.  I remember tearing as I read that, seeing how even during that weekend, God showed me so clearly how Jesus was the fulfillment of all the hopes of the Jewish nation first, and also for all of mankind.

So during this Christmas season, let’s remember the reason for our worship.  We are now in 2012 AD (anno domini or the year of our Lord). It’s been 2012 years of Jubilee! Let’s come before Jesus our Messiah with grateful hearts!

I’ll leave you today with one of my favourite Christmas songs: We are the Reason!  God bless!

Building a United House of Prayer

This Monday just past, 22 October 2012, I was invited to a dinner to honour those who have worked and forged the way for unity in the church of this city.

The setting was perfect: Frasers Restaurant in Kings Park. Frasers has a reputation for good food, and being a bit of a foodie myself, I couldn’t really resist accepting the invite. My first thought was that it would be quite intimidating going to a meeting where there would be some well-recognised leaders of the church, many of whom I did not know personally. But then I thought: hey, free meal at Frasers – why not? And as I sat there at my table, the sun just setting and the lights of the city coming on building by building, I thought, “wow, for a meeting to honour the leaders of church unity in this city, there is no better place.”

Pastor Candace Lahr of OneChurch opened the meeting by saying that this dinner was first and foremost about honouring those who had gathered; those who had worked tirelessly over many years and some (like me) who were newer to journey because somewhere along the line, Jesus’ prayer in John 17 had gripped us all:

I pray … for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

I think the profundity of that moment caught me off guard, and tears began to well up.

We all know to some extent that God honours us and esteems us – for no other reason than that He loves us. I have always thought, and you may have heard others say many times before, that there’s nothing we can do to make God love us more. It’s true.

But what struck me about what Candace said was this: in this moment, in this gathering of leaders, God was honouring us because of something we were doing!

Think about this: Jesus’ heart for unity was so important that it was one of the last things He prayed before He was arrested and crucified. In a sense, it was His last will and testament. And he linked it to the church’s credibility as far as the world was concerned: if we would be one, then the world would realise that Jesus was sent of God and that God loves them.

And yet, this prayer of Jesus for centuries to this day remains unanswered – held ransom to man’s will because God refuses to violate our free choice.

And I then realised that this moment was more than God’s honouring a group of people because they were His children and He loved them. He was honouring them because they were labouring to answer the cry of His heart.

Later on that evening, Pastor Candace shared about her God-given vision to establish a United House of Prayer Perth (UHOPP), where worship and intercession would take place 24/7 for the city and the nations, and recognising God’s destiny for Perth as an Antioch city to send missionaries and resources into the 10/40 window towards fulfilling the spread of the gospel back to Jerusalem.

I was reminded again of the pivotal verse in Acts 15 where James echoed the words of the prophet Amos: that one day, God will restore David’s fallen tabernacle – a place of continuous prayer and praise – so that the remnant of men may seek God’s face. When that day comes, Amos says, the plowman will overtake the reaper!

I was excited by Candace’s vision and what that would mean for the transformation of the city.

And I was even more amazed when Candace’s senior pastor Paul Botha challenged those who were gathered to give of their best to UHOPP project. He set the example by giving his best, a pastor on his staff roster, to the kingdom of God in the city.

I left the dinner that night feeling more excited and encouraged than ever before – that in this city, Jesus’ prayer can and will be answered in this generation: that we will be one so that the world will know….

Apostolic Worship and the Revolutionary Spirit

Last night, I was watching a Jackie Chan film called 1911 which chronicled the 1911 Chinese Revolution led by Sun Yat Sen. I have always wanted to read up on Chinese history, but the expanse of it was always too intimidating and I never really knew where to start.

1911 was a precis about the momentous events that led to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty and the fall of the last emperor of China. What was really interesting (processing it through my sanctified Christian mind) was how the language of the revolution was very similar to the language of Christianity. The characters talked about “reviving the spirits of the people”, the power of standing together in unity and sacrificing for the next generation.

As embarrassing as it is to admit it, after I watched the film, I did a bit more research on Wikipedia and discovered that Sun Yat Sen was baptised into the Christian faith whilst he was in Hong Kong and he pictured the revolution as similar to the picture of the salvation mission of the Christian church.

If I were to define “apostolic worship” simply, it would be this: Apostolic worship is worship that brings in the the governance of God on earth as it is in heaven. In expression, apostolic worship involves intercession, the prophetic and spiritual warfare.

Ultimately, apostolic worship is linked with spiritual revival and societal transformation. When the governance of God comes into our hearts, passions are renewed, wounds are healed, captives are freed, wholeness is restored, dreams are activated. When the governance of God comes into a city, lives are transformed, resources are released, the poor are lifted, righteousness and justice prevail.

Jesus didn’t just to come to seek and save “the lost”, but to seek and save “that which was lost“.

I was talking to a pastor who had recently arrived in Perth and he told me that he felt very strongly that revival in Australia would begin in Perth, and that it would be sparked by the Asian church because of the passion of the Asian church. Little did this pastor know that many well-known international prophets have longed prophesied that Perth would be the catalyst of revival in Australia.

Another pastor once told me that the redemptive gift of the Asian church is its strength of discipleship.

I also learnt that a pastor who is involved in prototyping transformation models under the ministry of Ed Silvoso is now working in Perth.

I get the sense that the church in Perth is on the cusp of great spiritual awakening and worship will play a vital role.

If you look throughout the history of the church, you can see a pattern of loss, beginning at the zenith of the church of the book of Acts, reaching its lowest point in the Middle Ages and now moving into a time of recovery, beginning with the Protestant reformation. Today, we are beneficiaries of the move of the Holy Spirit now known as the Charismatic Century: a move of God that has spanned over the last 100 years and is continuing in greater force than ever before.

In this pattern of loss and recovery, worship has always been a key issue. After Constantine institutionalised the Church, the concept of New Testament priesthood was lost. No longer was worship the realm of the masses, it became the vocation of the professional clergy. All throughout church history, worship has been the centre of friction and fissure, from the Eucharist, to baptism, to the use of hymns, to the introduction of folk song. In recent years, discord has stemmed from things as trivial as whether the electric guitar and drums are valid instruments for worship; to the appropriateness of dance in the church; to silly arguments about which songs people prefer to sing. Commentators refer to this latter phenomenon as the “worship wars”.

But in every disintegration, there is restoration. In recent years, we have seen the recovery of the five-fold ministry, particularly in the last decade the gift, function and office of apostle. There has been a move towards seeing entire cities being reached and transformed for Jesus. The gospel of grace is becoming firmly entrenched in our theologies.

I believe that the restoration of apostolic worship will be one of the moves of God that will signal the redemption of our societies.

Acts 15:16-18 says this:

After this, I will return

and rebuild David’s fallen tent.

Its ruins I will rebuild,

and I will restore it,

that the remnant of men may seek the Lord

and all the Gentles who bear my name,

says the Lord, who does these things

that have been known for ages.

God is rebuilding David’s tabernacle. Whereas worship has in the past been a cause to split the church, I believe that in the restoration of the Tabernacle of David, the church will once again be united around worship. And the presence of God will mark the united church in the city so powerfully that the church will become irresistible to the lost. And as apostolic worship goes forth, societal transformation will occur at every level, from the marketplace, to the government, to the media, to our education systems. God is aligning the city of Perth to walk into its great destiny as a revival catalyst for the rest of Australia.

Revolutionary writer Victor Hugo said this:

No army can withstand the power of an idea whose time has come.

The idea is the restoration of David’s tabernacle. The time has come for the church. And no army can withstand it. Revolution is on its way.