How my heart got set ablaze
More than 17 years ago, when I was a Secondary Three student, I encountered God for the first time. It was a regular Sunday service, but my heart was awakened to the person of Jesus. I felt the presence of God tangibly and my heart was overwhelmed by an indescribable love. It was as if a hand was gripping unto my heart, and only until I gave my life to Jesus did that handgrip ease off. Something changed; it felt as though God had left His handprint on my heart and a longing was birthed that could only be satisfied by that hand.
In the following years, I pursued the knowledge of Jesus relentlessly. This fervour was recognised by my leaders in the church, and I was soon thrust into leadership in the ministry. With this leadership mantle, my focus started to shift: fulfilling the expectations of the ministry took centre-place. Some of these expectations were unrealistic, nonetheless I persisted just so that I could keep my standing in the eyes of those around me. My identity became intrinsically linked to my ministry. I was burning out.
• • •
Eleven years later, on a sleepless night, a refrain kept ringing in my head, “If I were to take everything away from you, what is the one thing that will remain in your life?” I knew that God was confronting me, yet all I could muster were “model Christian” answers. I wrestled with this question on my bed for five wakeful hours.
Eventually, I heard God saying to me, “Jason, I gave up everything for you because you are my one thing.” Those words gripped the core of my being, exactly like the first time I encountered Him. At that moment, I felt the zeal of His heart begin to consume me from the inside. The reality of God’s love and His desire for me became tangible. He wants me completely and I belong to Him.
Through a series of divine connections and provisions, I was led to the International House of Prayer (Kansas City), where worship and prayer were lifted up to God unceasingly. I enrolled in a 6-month programme which required me to spend six hours a day in the place of prayer — I had to learn the art of contemplative prayer by constantly gazing at and meditating on Christ through the Scriptures. It was a huge struggle because the traffic of my mind could not simply come to a standstill.
During those months, the deepest encounters I had with Jesus were not dramatic, but the ones found in silence and stillness. The gentle whispers of Christ found me and transformed me from the inside out. These tender moments ignited a passion within me to pioneer a worship and prayer movement.
I was inspired by the story of Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf. The Moravians, whose movement he had founded in the 1700s, were renowned for their courage and love for Christ. They devoted themselves to prayer and committed to preaching the gospel in the hardest and darkest places. Young people would give up their comfort and convenience — even selling themselves to slavery — just so that they could reach the slaves and make the love of Christ known to them.
The Moravian rallying cry was to see the Lamb of God who was slain receive the reward of His suffering. Their belief in the cause of Christ was so revolutionary that AW Tozer would refer to them as the “fellowship of burning hearts.” No amount of hype or man-planned activities could produce such faith. I believe it is their life of worship and prayer that gave them a revelation of Jesus’ beauty and worth, empowering them to be His witnesses.
I came back to Singapore with a vision to raise up a different breed of young people who will be captured by the beauty and worth of Jesus. This led to me starting Burning Hearts with the aim of shaping the culture of prayer in Singapore among the young, and to unite the Body of Christ in the place of prayer.
The initial years were tough going. Our methodology was completely opposite from the mainstream culture’s formula of entertainment- or hype-based attraction. Instead, we simply taught them to sit with their Bibles opened, and to sing and pray from the Bible. Through five years of consistent modelling and mentoring, today, a vast majority of those in the Burning Hearts prayer room are young people. They will be pacing and praying with their Bibles opened, at times taking the microphone to lead in prayer with the Scriptures, or singing new melodies with lyrics rooted in Scripture.
Yet, it is only a matter of time when, out of the environment of worship and prayer, a missional movement will come forth. We can no longer only sing about the magnificence and greatness of Jesus, but we have to proclaim and bear witness to Him to those who have not known Him. As we pray for the nations, I believe that we will become the answers to our own prayers by being the ones who go.
Before championing the Moravian movement, Zinzendorf, too, had a defining moment: when he saw the painting Ecce Homo (“Behold the Man”) by Domenico Feti. It was a portrait of the crucified Christ with the inscription “This have I suffered for you; now what will you do for me?” As a young man, he stood there for hours, riveted by what he saw and read. This painting led him to make a vow to serve Christ wholeheartedly, as it was the only response befitting of Christ’s work — “I have one passion, it is He; it is He only.”
Over the centuries, the gospel of Christ has spread all over the world. Yet, the Good News we have received came at a price: it is stained with the blood of many saints who abandoned comfort and convenience, some even to the point of death. Such courage could only stem from the inspiration of Jesus, who modelled obedience to the point of death.
I have a friend, with a family of four, who sold every possession his family had, and moved to northern Iraq, which borders Syria. There — under the constant threat of ISIS, located only 45 minutes away — they serve hundreds of displaced Syrian refugees. Out of curiosity, and perhaps ignorance, I asked how long they had planned to stay, because ISIS could overrun their location any time.
His reply has been one of the most life-altering moments in my life: “We don’t plan to leave. Even if we lose our lives, it is okay. Because our blood will speak louder than our words. They will know the love of Christ through this because this was how Christ demonstrated His love for us.”
I believe that Christ exemplified His love on the cross so that we can learn to do likewise. Perhaps, the crisis of faith we are facing globally today is not fanatic terrorism nor the confusing redefinition of gender and marriage; it is found in the state of Christians being nominal.
Yet, a day shall come where the saints will overcome the evil one by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimonies, and they will not love their lives even unto death (Revelations 12:11).
For those of us who aspire to change the world, let us start by first impacting our spheres of influence. How far are we willing to inconvenience our lives so that one more person may have the gospel and encounter Jesus in their homes, classrooms, or workplaces?
May His love deepen in you, such that you cannot but act on your prayers. Your actions may seem small, but if we are faithful, God will add to us — the Gospel will advance from our homes to our communities, city, and the nations. One day, the King will return to inherit what He has paid for on the cross.
A great cloud of witnesses was faithful in their day, and now the baton has been placed in our hands. Let us be involved in this story that the Father is writing for His Son. It begins with a “Yes” in your heart, when you ask the Lord to catch you up in His story. Your defining moment might just happen today.
The 1:11 Conference – Fellowship of Burning Hearts will be held from 13th July to 15th July at Saint Andrew’s Cathedral. Come together to worship Him with the nations, as we make room for God to show us His infinite beauty and worth. If you haven’t signed up yet, please visit www.burninghearts.sg for more information. Night sessions are free.