Contending

‘The children of Dan went up to fight against Leshem and took it.’ Joshua 19:47

My natural disposition is of one who avoids conflict. When our family took a personality profile test together and the result showed that I was a ‘Peacemaker’, my kids all echoed, “That’s you, Dad!”

This does not give me an excuse to be passive or refuse to take up a matter that requires attention any more than being poor is an excuse for stealing. I cannot negotiate or rationalise away my responsibilities because they’re inconvenient or intimidating. Sometimes, we just have to ‘take up the sword, and fight’.

When Joshua led the Children of Israel across the River Jordan, each tribe was given an allotted inheritance for which they’d need to confront corrupt and entrenched native inhabitants.

Only by displacing these nations could God establish Israel under His rule and execute His Divine plan. During the rollout, tribes responded differently. Some obeyed; some did not. Some took risks; others shrank back and justified their tepid responses.

The two tribes’ responses in particular recently caught my attention. Joseph’s tribe (split up into Ephraim and Manasseh) claimed to be a ‘great people’ (Joshua 18:14ff) who proved to be wimps.

They came to Joshua to complain that the inheritance they were given was too small. Their mentality was classic entitlement. They felt they deserved more. They believed they had been given the short end of the stick. The Canaanites they faced were obviously more powerful than the other tribes’ enemies; theirs had chariots of iron!

Joshua’s response was masterful. He basically said, “Well, if you’re such a great people, why don’t you get up there and clear that forest and make a wonderful district for more of you to live in?” They wanted everything to be handed to them on a silver platter. Sadly, many Christians have exactly this kind of mindset today.

But that is not who we are, Cornerstone. A chapter later (Joshua 19:40-48), the tribe of Dan exhibits a totally different spirit. Far from being passive or entitled, after Dan had settled into its allotted territory west of Jerusalem on the Mediterranean coast, they organised for battle 250 kilometres north, determined to take the city of Laish (or Leshem), a region originally given to Manasseh. 

Joshua 19:47 records, ‘They struck it with the edge of the sword, took possession of it, and dwelt in it.’ They then proceeded to change its name to Dan, in honour of their forefather, as if to make a further declaration – “This region is now ours. We fought for it, and God has made it our inheritance forever.”

Leshem was in fact a gateway city and a transportation hub on Israel’s northern border with the hostile Assyrians, and later the Babylonians. Manasseh had refused to claim their inheritance, but Dan would not be intimidated.

Old Jacob had prophesied over Dan nearly 500 years earlier that he would ‘be a snake by the roadside, a viper along the path, that bites the horse’s heals so that its rider tumbles backwards’ (Genesis 49:17).

This act, then, was the tribe of Dan taking hold of its prophetic destiny. How many of Israel’s enemies would be turned back at the border because of this courageous act? How many would get bitten and ‘tumble backwards’?

I feel like God is speaking to us through this story. We must know who we are. We must take bold steps to walk in our prophetic calling. We must resist the temptation to follow in the way of Ephraim and Manasseh, expecting things to be handed to us without having to work for them.

Instead, may we be like Dan, a people who were not content to simply occupy, but were willing to contend for more, and the best, of what God has ordained for us.


Pastor Kevin Graves

Timeless Wisdom of Mothers

Happy Mother’s Day to all mums as we celebrate ourselves and one another! This is life, to rejoice and find reason to give thanks in all things. Another day will break forth while we yet have a day to live, to make adjustments, and change where we need to.

There’s nothing like learning from history, gleaning the timeless wisdom of the mothers who made a difference from a collection of 66 books and letters called the ‘Bible’, spanning over 4,000 years.

Like today, those mothers grappled with many similar issues and their stories are teaching points in our journey. While we navigate our personal journey, their lives create a rich tapestry of faith for successive generations. The Holy Spirit desires to lead our steps as He directed theirs so that we’re perfected in God’s love.

Perhaps the most popular verses read more…

Goliath is Easy

How often have you heard it said, “We need to face our Goliath!” Every one knows what a ‘David and Goliath’ battle means, even if they’ve never read the Bible. We think that the most challenging battle David faced in his life and career was against this giant. But I’d like to suggest that Goliath was an easy target for David compared to other giants he’d encounter in later years.

David walked onto the battlefield, slung a stone, and sank it into Goliath’s skull. He then chopped off the giant’s head with his own blade. I doubt David even broke sweat. But, compared to the wars, persecutions, backstabbings, and family feud that David had to endure, killing Goliath was child’s play.

It’s not always the ‘Goliath’ issues in life that are the most difficult for us. Yes, it was an read more…

The Seed of Greatness

Many years ago, I went on a ministry trip to a neighbouring country. I was to speak at a youth meeting on the third evening and really struggled with what to say to the young people. Interestingly, I had a dream the night before that. I was in a school assembly full of students. A speaker was expounding on ‘The Seed of Greatness’. I only heard the title and woke up.

I pondered about it, prayed, researched a little, and managed to craft a message just in time for the meeting. I wished I had heard the rest of the message, but the revelation contained in the title was powerful enough.

Ephesians 2:10 says, ‘We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.’ Inherently, people desire to make an impact with their lives because we’re created with the read more…

All We Like Sheep (Not Shrek the Sheep)

I came across this amusing but true story about a New Zealand Merino sheep named Shrek who escaped from the farm he was raised on because he wanted to avoid being sheared.

Merino sheep are raised for their prized wool that needs to be sheared once a year because, unlike other sheep variety, Merinos lack the ability to shed wool by themselves and need to be shorn by farmers.

This sheep in question ran away from the farm and spent over six years hiding in caves. When finally spotted by farmers, Shrek’s fur was so thick he could hardly stand under the weight of his own fleece. An average Merino fleece weighs about 4.5kg but this escapee’s weighed 27kg, enough to make suits for 20 men! The overgrown fleece also covered his eyes, read more…

One Year On

It has been exactly a year since Circuit Breaker measures were put in place in Singapore. Never before in our history as a nation has there been a lockdown as such. I doubt any of us had experienced anything like this before either.

For two months, most of us had to stay home except for essential activities and exercise. This wasn’t just happening here in Singapore but most of the world was experiencing something similar in different degrees.

With the lockdown, came new norms. We had to work from home, cook meals more often, and our kids had to get used to home-based learning. Masks became a common thing. Churches had to be shut. The country literally came to a standstill.

A year on, things have reopened substantially, but there are still many things that have not been normalised. We’re read more…

Lion or Lamb?

“Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah… has prevailed… And I looked, and behold… stood a Lamb as though it has just been slain.” Revelation 5:5-6

In Revelation 5:5, John describes a vision of Jesus as a powerful, fearful, yet majestic Lion. As his knocking knees buckled, verse 6 says he lifted his eyes and Jesus had been mystically transformed into a gentle, irresistibly approachable Lamb.

So which is Jesus, a Lion or a Lamb? How we answer this question is much more than a theological matter. Our perception of Who Jesus is and how He interacts with us has far-reaching implications for how we live. It can also directly impact our ability to stand firm in our faith as the darkness around us increases in this hour.

In truth, our finite, natural minds tend to latch on to read more…

Journey of a Christian

Mankind’s journey began at the creation of Adam and Eve. The Christian faith started with a couple named Abram and Sarai, from whom the lineage of our Lord Jesus was traced.

The journey of Abram was called out by God because He chose to raise a peculiar people to reveal Himself as God, to the nations. This was re-confirmed in Exodus when Moses re-established that same covenant, reasoning with God not to destroy His peculiar people, when He was about to and willing to start all over with Moses.

From the Ur of the Chaldeans to the land of Philistines, from Egypt to the Wilderness, and onwards to the Promised land. From riches to dependency, from the populous to being out of the ordinary. From a culture of the powerful to the powerless in society.

Both departed from a supreme read more…

A Just Man

In Matthew 1:18-19 concerning the virgin birth of Mary, Joseph was referred to as ‘a just man’ (‘And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.’)

What does it mean to be called ‘just’? Such a phrase usually refers to a person who obeys the law and applies rules fairly to all. From the context in that passage, the book of Deuteronomy 22:23 states that, ‘If a betrothed virgin meets a man in the city and lies with him, the two of them are to be stoned.’

But Matthew 1:18-19 affirms that, because Joseph was ‘just’, he decided to break the law of Moses and divorce Mary quietly rather than shame her. He extended mercy and grace.

Interesting.

Isaiah the prophet painted a prophetic picture of a suffering Servant read more…

A Lamb For Every Household

It was with great joy and gratitude to the Lord that I witnessed the baptism of my father recently. When I first got saved 23 years ago, I was the first believer in my family. My parents were of another faith and were really upset with me when I got water baptised. But I’m so glad they both gave their lives to the Lord and are water baptised.

Maybe some of us have been praying for years – and even decades – for our family’s salvation. Being amidst brokenness and sin at home, it can often seem like our prayers are not being answered. There were moments I felt this way. It was a long, tough journey for me and I learned some valuable lessons along the way.

A vital lesson is that God wasn’t just dealing with my family read more…

When Daddy Is Angry

The Apostle Paul painted two sides to God’s character in Romans 11:22, ‘Consider then the goodness and severity of God…’ We’re often familiar with the goodness of God – singing and reciting “God is good all the time.” But let’s also consider His sternness. If we want to truly know who God is, and not simply have a self-conceived image of Him, we need to consider both His goodness and severity, His mercy and judgment, His love and wrath. 

It’s hard to relate to a God who’s angry, as anger is a human emotion and a mostly negative one. Divine anger is not the same as human anger. God is slow to anger (Exodus 34:6) and allows us the chance and time to change, as seen in Romans 2:4 – ‘Do you think lightly of the riches of his kindness and tolerance and read more…

Sing, O Barren!

Scripture is full of paradoxes. The poor are made rich, the weak strong, the humble lifted up. In reading the Word, we’re continually confronted with real life stories of situations which are downright shocking.

Seas and rivers part. City walls fall flat. Donkeys talk. Magi from distant lands travel for months following a star representing the arrival of a long-awaited Lord and King, only to find him wrapped in strips of cloth, a baby bedded in an animal’s feeding trough. And all of these examples pale before the anomaly of the Cross.

This past year has also been rife with paradoxes. With churches closing their doors and physical gatherings prohibited or scaled down, one would have predicted a drop in membership and a dramatic decline in offerings. While challenges and hardships have been real, we now have the benefit of read more…

Book your tickets