Possessing the City Gates

Cities don’t have walls anymore. We don’t have to pass through massive, guarded gates which are impenetrably barred at night, or in times of danger. People come and go at will, bringing with them their wares and cares. There’s no inspection, no questions asked. There may even be a big ‘Welcome’ sign.

We’d have to go back a millennia or more to fully grasp the importance of walls and gates of the city to the people in Biblical times. What was their purpose then, and what’s their relevance to our lives today? If we fail to understand their meaning, we may inadvertently be leaving ourselves vulnerable and defenseless. This is no time to be caught unawares! We need to increase our vigilance, and ensure our gates are secure.

The first mention of possessing the gates of our enemies came as a promise to our father Abraham. “Your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.” Gen 22:17 As Abraham obeyed the Lord, the benefits of God’s covenant with him were progressively unlocked. First, he was promised land. Then he was promised progeny. But here, after he had willingly offered his son Isaac, he’s told to yarash (Hebrew), or seize the gates of his enemies. Gates were not only intended to be defended; they were to be taken. Abraham was being alerted that his descendants would one day exert power and influence over those who stood in their way.

Can you see the direction God wants to take us, Cornerstone? He wants to bless us. He wants to multiply us. Then He wants our influence to increase by occupying places where we exercise leadership in our society and culture. These are our ‘gates’. Though walls may ‘surround’ our offices, schools, or neighbourhoods, by faith we become gatekeepers to keep evil out, and let the presence and purposes of God in.   

In Biblical times, kings ruled. Their words became law. Their judgments were uncontested. They were worshipped. Taxes were levied to pay for their dreams to be fulfilled. Men were conscripted to fight their battles. Rivals were executed.

For context, place King Ahasuerus on a throne reigning sovereign over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia. Do you see a man standing next to him? This is Haman, the second most powerful person in the Persian Empire. He was the sworn enemy of God’s chosen people.

As the story of Esther unfolds, another figure comes into focus. He has no position. He wears the cloak of a commoner. He comes from a minority – and persecuted – class. And yet, he too has power.

You see, ‘Mordecai sat within the king’s gate’ (Es 2:19). Every day. The longer he sat, the more he heard, the more his power grew. Even the king’s eunuch came out to meet him in front of the king’s gate (Es 4:6). One day, the king sent Haman out to parade him through the streets adorned in royal robes, and sitting upon the king’s steed. In time, Mordecai would influence the laws in the land, and even rose to take Haman’s place.

Mordecai represents all who have learned the importance of possessing the ‘gates’ of his city. He did not aspire to the throne; he desired not its glitter nor prestige. He understood that gates, when occupied, are the real source of power. From there, he came to know the secrets of the palace, all the while feeling the pain and concerns of the people.

He learned that the dictates of rulers were one form of ‘power’; but discovered intercession could transform the destiny of a nation. The role of kings is to rule by laws and systems; Mordecai’s brilliance lay in that he understood people are even more impacted by ideas, culture, and faith.

Haman is a type of the modern-day enemy. He had position, a title, and authority. By all appearances, he was the one with ‘power’. In his lust for authority and intoxicated by envy, he conspired to slaughter innocent Jews.

Beloved, our battle is NOT with flesh and blood. Mordecai won this ‘battle’ with Haman by steadfastly occupying the gate. He won by being among the people. He won by superior ideas, righteousness, and impacting those around him with the values and wisdom of the Kingdom. He won by intercession.

God is speaking to us. We’ve been authorised to possess the gates of our city. If God had wanted Abraham’s descendants to occupy thrones, He’d have said so. Instead, He commands us: possess the gates! Rule from the place of confident trust, of redemptive and compassionate culture, and by the influence of godliness, wisdom, and faith.

As we do, plans for destruction are reversed. Our sons and daughters are favoured and promoted as Esther was. And in foreboding, anxious times like we’re facing in this hour, we may open the gates of peace and security that the rest of God’s promise to Abraham might be fulfilled as in Gen 22:19: “In your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Ps. Kevin Graves

Thriving Through The Seasons

In 1 Chronicles 12:32 is a description about the sons of Issachar that we’d do well to emulate – they had understanding of the times and knew what Israel ought to do. We can be swayed by the circumstances and uncertainties of the times we’re living in or we can find answers to these questions ‘What season am I in? What is God doing in my life? How do I respond?’

When we don’t know the season we’re in and what we ought to do, we might wish we’re in someone else’s season, resist what God is doing in our lives or try to get out of His timing. Instead of going through each season victorious, we barely survive because we don’t recognise what the Teacher is trying to teach us. The process of learning and growing can be frustrating read more…

God’s Faithful Witnesses

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is when good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

I seldom have people witness to me about their Christian faith, though many have confessed their faith after I initiated a conversation. It’s highly true that the vast majority of Bible-believing Christians don’t witness to others about their faith in Christ. We may invite our friends to church, but the majority don’t win others to Christ, and many of us are guilty.

Our Lord Jesus commissioned each of us to share the Good News and “seek the lost.” He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations”; and “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Matt 28:19; Mark 16:15).

This is our greatest calling, which is to share His love and read more…

Faith or Fear

As a church, we’re into a full month of increased precautionary measures against the spread of Covid-19. We issued a set of advisories on the first weekend of February, and engaged a cleaning company to do a thorough cleaning and sanitisation of our facilities weekly.

The following week, we cancelled our Toddlers’ classes, all non-urgent meetings of over 50 people, introduced mandatory temperature-taking and weekly live-streaming of our services. We essentially trimmed our gatherings to just our weekend services, and on Feb 15, announced the cancellation of our Kingdom Invasion Conference.

These last four weeks have been intense as we sought to put measures in the church to ensure our members’ safety. For any other organisation, it’d be pretty straightforward. But for a church, there’s always a lingering question as to whether we’re acting in faith or fear.

This is read more…

Betraying God

I was reading the usual passage of Scripture for Holy Communion in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread…”, when my eyes zoomed in on the word ‘betrayed’. Betrayal has to do with being unfaithful in guarding, maintaining or fulfilling the trust given, especially in times of need: it’s to deliver or expose someone to an enemy by treachery or disloyalty.

We find great comfort that, whenever we’re betrayed, we’ve a Saviour who can understand and identify with our pain, even as He was betrayed by His disciple Judas Iscariot, and even Simon Peter who denied Him three times. Yet, that day, in my time of searching my own heart, I found myself asking this question which we seldom ask, “Lord, have I read more…

When God Seems Silent

Upon receiving disappointing results for her first school assessment, my dejected daughter came to ask me, “Why didn’t God answer my prayer and help me in my test?” I immediately shot up an emergency prayer to heaven for inspiration to help me satisfactorily simplify a theological enigma for my 7-year-old.

Since the beginning of this year (2020), my family has been diligently incorporating the daily creed of ‘Praying First for ALL Circumstances.’ Before sleeping each night, we take Communion, recite Psalms 23, 91, and The Lord’s Prayer, and then pray for one another. That’s why I knew I had some solid explaining to do for my little one’s ‘unanswered prayer’ conundrum. 

My first attempt didn’t go down too well. “I think God answers all our prayers in His perfect way, but we’re the ones who see our requests as unanswered.” That read more…

Be Still

It’s amazing how quickly things change. Last month, my daughter woke up to tremors and snow-like ash falling outside her window in the Philippines from a nearby volcano. Meanwhile, the coronavirus erupted too, spewing panic like poisonous ash on unsuspecting populations.

Masks have dawned overnight like sandbags amassed to keep back swollen rivers. Once-teeming cities of millions in China have become ghost towns. Young and old, rich and poor now huddle behind feeble defences, hoping the virus won’t ‘Pompeii’ its way towards them.

The ‘Be still and know’ verse in Ps 46:10 begins with a frightful description of waters roaring, mountains shaking and being carried into the seas. It reads like a modern-day newspaper, and yet breathes hope into these chaotic events.

I found myself yearning to enter a time machine, propelled back to the feet of David. I’ve a read more…

Safe Under God’s Covering

I’ve spent a lot of time being upset about things I couldn’t do anything about and, along with it, the companions of guilt and condemnation aren’t too far away either. And it doesn’t help when you don’t have peace and are unable to enjoy life.

Psalm 5:11 says, ‘But let all those who take refuge and put their trust in You rejoice; let them ever sing and shout for joy, because You make a covering over them and defend them; let those also who love Your name be joyful in You and be in high spirit’. (AMP)

The key to trust is to develop a habit of learning to trust God at all times, in every area of our lives. Christians are called believers, and we should not be behaving like unbelieving believers. Often, we trust our friends, the bank, read more…

Not All Is Well

As we celebrate Chinese New Year, there are so many things to give thanks for. We thank God for the family that He has given us, the roof over our heads, the jobs that supply our needs, the community that we’ve planted ourselves in. Yet, for everyone who has, there are many other who have not. 

Perhaps rightly, as we celebrate a festival that’s all about abundance and prosperity, we should consider especially those who are in a place of lack. What can be sadder than to return home on Chinese New Year’s Eve to an empty house? Or to look around the reunion table, and see an seat empty that should’ve been filled. Or perhaps to be found under an ever-looming shadow of depression. While some are celebrating, others are shackled to their struggles inwardly. 

Genesis 34 is a read more…

Failing Forward

I know – Failing Forward isn’t a very exciting nor inspiring title to kick off a New Year’s blog. We’ve not even crossed the first month of the new year and we’re talking about ‘failing?’

People look forward to a new year because it presents an opportunity to start afresh on a positive note, a new beginning, much like a ‘reset’ button. Besides, this year isn’t just another new year. It’s the turn of a new decade. It’s the year of moving forward with a ‘20/20 vision’, filled with expectations of what the Lord is going to do.

I started this year experiencing quite the opposite. Things started ‘going south’ as each day passed. The things which I normally do well started to turn on me – I messed up a simple family lunch reservation, used the wrong choice of read more…

The Shaking, The Sifting & The Shaping

Let me qualify myself from the outset. I’m neither a doomsday prophet who continually spouts dark and foreboding scenarios, nor am I a dominionist who believes that Christians have to take over and monopolise the world before the return of the Lord Jesus.

I’m simply a disciple who wholeheartedly believes all that Jesus Christ taught, warned, and promised – and since spiritual revelation requires participation to be fruitful, I desire to be a spiritually-effective participant in what God is doing in the world these days.

Not surprisingly, 2020 has already begun choppily with riots in Hong Kong, fires in Australia, floods in Indonesia, the U.S. airstrike which killed an Iranian general in Baghdad, and the tragic air crash which killed 176 innocent passengers caught in the crossfire of a retaliatory Iranian missile.

According to End Times expert Michael Snyder, it read more…

Be Prepared. Be Ready. Be Vigilant.

People often ask me, as a pastor, what’s the one thing that influences the decisions I make with regard to the church. I’ll tell you right now, it’s my theology that determines my decisions, especially my theology on the last days.

The Word of God is very clear on what’s coming in the last days and, because I know what’s going to happen, it influences and has a bearing on every decision I make. I believe we’ve to have a crystal clear vision of what the future is going to be.

The apostle Paul preached that the Kingdom of God is entered into by many tribulations. Yes, salvation is a free gift. Yes, I’m saved by grace through faith. But tribulation is part and parcel of the Gospel and any pastor who neglects to warn his flock is negligent and read more…

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