Monday, November 15, 2010

Time Out

I blogged for the very first time (read post here) this day two years ago. I started my own blog because I wanted to share what I learnt in New Creation Church with fellow Christians who felt lost and searching for meaning in their own Christian lives.

I was like that once, before I came to NCC. I only knew and experienced my Christian life as a ticket to heaven, an escape from hell after I die, nothing more. I was a zombie Christian; there was no life in me. I lived the same way as one without Christ, people could not tell that I am a Christian and some acquaintances even expressed surprise when I told them I am one.

However, after I came to NCC on 19 Oct 2003, my Christian life began to stir and I experienced a "re-rebirth". Slowly but surely I was awakened from my zombie state; my opinion of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit changed (read post here). I now live my Christian life free of condemnation and locked in God's deep perfect love for me. How liberating and invigorating this is, and I wanted to share this discovery with fellow zombie Christians.

I started out sharing through posting comments on articles written by blogpastor and some other Christian bloggers but I soon realized that there were many who disagreed with my (NCC's) take on the scriptures, and these people drowned out my often lone voice in a sea of counter comments which I often find illogical from a Christian perspective.

Hence, I decided to write my own blog (and hence, the name "The Logical Christian") so that my voice can be heard loud and clear even if my articles do invite negative comments. I am glad and thankful that through these two years of blogging, there were some who expressed their appreciation of my articles which have helped them. I am also glad and thankful that through these two years of blogging, I have met online and later offline friends who share the same faith.

However, after two years of blogging, I feel it is time now for me to take a break from blogging regularly. I have actually already slowed down my blogging for the past few months but I guess it is appropriate that I make it "official" today.

Since July when I moved to my present stall location, I have experienced a sudden and tangible increase in peace and joy; I am basking in the warmth of Daddy God's love and am so acutely conscious of His hand in my business and in my relationship with my wife and children.

I sense the Holy Spirit telling me to take a break from writing and concentrate on living, on experiencing God's blessing which He promised to me in Psalm 128:

1BLESSED (HAPPY, fortunate, to be envied) is everyone who fears, reveres, and worships the Lord, who walks in His ways and lives according to His commandments.
    2For you shall eat [the fruit] of the labor of your hands; happy (blessed, fortunate, enviable) shall you be, and it shall be well with you.
    3Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the innermost parts of your house; your children shall be like olive plants round about your table.

I am not saying I am out of the blogging game for good. I'm just taking a time out and hopefully, I'll be back ;-)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Declare Your Blessings

For years, I have asked God to bless me with this and that - money, health, good job, obedient kids, etc - but over the past seven years, as I listened to NCC's sermons over and over again, it began to dawn on me that I shouldn't be asking God for blessings.

No, it's not because God is a strict God and He gives sparingly ... on the contrary, it's because God is a good God and He HAS ALREADY GIVEN all the blessings!

Rom 8:32 (Amplified Bible)
He who did not withhold or spare [even] His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also with Him freely and graciously give us all [other] things?

Eph 1:3 (Amplified Bible)
May blessing (praise, laudation, and eulogy) be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) Who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual (given by the Holy Spirit) blessing in the heavenly realm!

Why do we need to ask (beg) God to bless us when He has already done it? "If God has already given me the blessings, then why am I not blessed?", you ask. It's precisely because you do not see yourself as blessed, therefore you do not see the (manifestation of) blessings in your life.

Why not take a different approach from what you used to do? See yourself blessed. Believe it. Search the scriptures for the blessings which God has already given you and declare them aloud every day over your life. Thank God everyday for the blessings He has already given you.

For the past two weeks, I have been declaring Psalm 128 over my life every day:

1BLESSED (HAPPY, fortunate, to be envied) is everyone who fears, reveres, and worships the Lord, who walks in His ways and lives according to His commandments.
    2For you shall eat [the fruit] of the labor of your hands; happy (blessed, fortunate, enviable) shall you be, and it shall be well with you.
    3Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the innermost parts of your house; your children shall be like olive plants round about your table.
    4Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who reverently and worshipfully fears the Lord.
    5May the Lord bless you out of Zion [His sanctuary], and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life;
    6Yes, may you see your children's children. Peace be upon Israel!

I am blessed, and so are you. Declare your blessings today!


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Game Over, Finally

To my friends who have been following my long-running (3 years) saga with my first landlord, I'm happy to announce that it is game over, finally. My first landlord has finally given up on putting me out of business by operating a dessert stall to intercept my business; he has now decided to open a noodle stall instead.
[24 Nov Update: The stall opened for business on 28 Oct but closed down on 23 Nov because he was not satisfied with the sales revenue. He's trying to rent out the stall again.]

This is my final post on the saga between me and my first landlord. I thank Jesus for seeing me through a difficult three years which have taught me to cling on to His favour no matter what my eyes see in the natural. Indeed, His favour has now started to manifest when He moved me to my current location on July 1 this year. My business has now improved so much that other stallholders have noticed and commented on it and I believe my first landlord has seen it too and therefore decided to back off. Thank you Jesus for your faithfulness, hallelujah!

Those of you who don't know or cannot remember what happened between my first landlord and me can refer to my earlier posts:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

7 Years Of Grace

19 Oct 2003, a memorable day, the day my life started to turn around ...

19 Oct 2003, I attended New Creation Church for the first time. My father was very ill then; his liver was failing. My sister's sister-in-law invited her to New Creation Church, and the whole family including my mum, two younger sisters, my wife and I went with my father, hoping for a miracle.

When we arrived at Suntec City, there was already a long queue outside the Rock Auditorium but we managed to join the shorter priority queue since we were first-time visitors. After we got into the auditorium, my sisters and wife left their seats to go to the toilet. Barely a minute later, an usher came up to me and asked me if the three empty seats beside me were taken. I replied yes. A few minutes passed, another usher came up to me and asked the same question, and got the same reply.

Another minute passed and I could see the worship team getting on stage, ready to begin the service. At this moment, yet another usher came up to me and asked me the same question! I told her, yes the seats are taken, the ladies were in the toilet. The usher answered me, "Could you call them to come back now, otherwise the seats will be given to others." This made me really fed up, and I was boiling inside. I mean, the ladies were in the toilet, doing their thing, how can you expect them to just come back to their seats at your call? I was very angry because the ushers, instead of making me feel welcome, were like trying to chase me out of the auditorium! However, an ugly confrontation was avoided because the ladies came back just at that moment and the usher backed off.

The worship leader asked everybody to stand and the loud and energetic praise and worship session began.  However, I was still boiling hot inside because of the usher episode and I refused to stand and join in the praise and worship. I just sat, folded my arms and sulked. Inside my heart, I challenged God: "What are you gonna do, God?"

After the praise and worship was over, Pastor Prince came out and started his preaching. I still sat there, sulking.  Pastor Prince's sermon that day was "The Blessings Of The Third Day", and as he started preaching, I couldn't help but pay more and more attention to his words. The way he brought out the truths in the bible seemed so different and refreshing from what I am used to at the AOG church which I attended since I was a child. Before I knew it, an hour had passed and his sermon was over but I wanted to listen some more; I wasn't the only one.

My mum and sisters also wanted to listen some more and we decided to go again the next week. However, while we were queuing up for the service, we received a phone call from the maid informing us that my father was not looking so well and we rushed home. My father passed away less than a week after that.

The Sunday after the funeral, my whole family was back at NCC again. We were hungry for God's Word; we wanted to learn more from Pastor Prince because the Christianity he preached was so different from what we had been hearing and experiencing for the past thirty years. What's so different?

Firstly, NCC changed my opinion of the Heavenly Father. He is no longer the school principal that I thought He was, always waiting to catch me doing wrong and then punish me. 

No, I have now learnt from NCC that the Heavenly Father is my Daddy God, always looking out for my interest, always there to love me in spite of my mistakes, always there to turn around my mistakes to lead to good for me, a Daddy I can count on in my time of need:

Rom 8:32
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Secondly, NCC changed my opinion of the Son, Jesus Christ. I always knew that Jesus' blood washed away all my sins, that is, all my sins up to the point when I received Him as my Saviour but after that, I had to confess any sins I committed since then in order to be forgiven of them, and that was all I knew about Jesus.

However, NCC has taught me that Jesus' blood was shed on the cross once for all time to wash away all my sins, that is, literally all including my past, present and future sins -  I no longer feel condemned when I sin but now feel eternally grateful to be already forgiven and learn from my mistake and then move forward with my life in Christ.

Heb 10:11-18
11Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
 15The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: 

 16"This is the covenant I will make with them 
      after that time, says the Lord. 
   I will put my laws in their hearts, 
      and I will write them on their minds." 17Then he adds: 
   "Their sins and lawless acts 
      I will remember no more." 18And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

NCC has also taught me to discern Jesus' body. I have divine health and wholeness because of Jesus' broken body. Healing is mine because of Jesus' stripes which He bore for me. I expect to live to be 120 with my eyes not dim and my strength not abated.
Isaiah 53:5
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
After thirty years of being a Christian, I also learnt, for the first time, from NCC why Jesus had to die on the cross and not any other way, for example by stoning. I learnt that Jesus died on the cross to take away the curse of the Law so that I can now enjoy a life of God's blessing, just like Abraham did.

Gal 3:13-14
13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." 14He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Thirdly, NCC changed my opinion of the Holy Spirit. I used to think that the Holy Spirit lives inside me to spy on me, to remind me of my every sinful thought and action. Now, I know that the Holy Spirit lives in me to glorify Jesus' eternal and complete work on the cross. Now, I know that the Holy Spirit lives in me to constantly remind me that, despite my sinful thoughts and actions, I AM the righteousness of God in Christ. Hallelujah!

2 Cor 5:21
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

I have learnt so much during these past seven years that it is impossible for me to share them all in this short post. I'm writing this because I want to thank God for leading me and my whole family to NCC, to (for want of a better word) "resurrect" my/our Christian life.

I now enjoy being a Christian. Do you?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Do You Love Me?

No, in case you are wondering, I am not asking you this question ;-)

This was the question which Jesus, after his resurrection, asked Peter three times:
John 21:15-17
15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”
And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.

In the English translation, it seems that Jesus asked Peter the same question three times but in actual fact, Jesus asked Peter the same question only twice. The first two times, in v15 and v16, what Jesus asked was "do you ἀγαπάω (agapaō ) me?"

Both times, Peter answered "I love you" but in the Greek, the word "love" which Peter used was not agapaō ; Peter actually said, "I φιλέω (phileō) you."

According Strong's definition, agapaō  means "to love dearly" whereas phileō  means "to like"; agapaō  is the deep love which God has for us whereas phileō  is just affection for another person.

Why did Jesus ask Peter "do you ἀγαπάω (agapaō ) me?" twice? Jesus wanted to confirm that Peter had indeed learned his lesson. What lesson? Before Jesus' arrest and subsequent crucifixion, Peter was so sure of his love for Jesus that he boasted to Jesus - "Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble. Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!" (Matt 26: 33,35) - yet before the night was over, Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times.

Peter had now learned his lesson. He knew that he could not love Jesus the way Jesus loved him. Peter knew deep in his heart that he could not agapaō  Jesus, the best he could do was phileō Jesus, and he did not change his answer the second time.

Satisfied that Peter had learned his lesson, Jesus asked Peter the third time, but this time Jesus asked "Simon, son of Jonah, do you phileō Me?” and Peter answered, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I phileō You."

Peter knew that the Lord Jesus knew that he only phileō  Him, but Jesus let Peter know, by His third question, that it is okay that his love is only phileō ; Jesus did not insist on agapaō , he can still use us at our phileō level to do His work - "Feed my sheep".

In John 14:15, Jesus said "If you love Me, keep My commandments." Many preachers have used this verse to exhort the church to keep the 10 commandments. Some preachers have also said the commandments do not refer to the 10 commandments but rather the commandments Jesus mentioned in Mark 12:30-31 - "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself."

However, I think both set of preachers missed the significance of the key word in John 14:15 - "love". Yes, you'd probably guessed correctly by now that the "love" in the verse is "agapaō ". If you have learned Peter's lesson, you'd know that it is almost impossible for us to agapaō  God, it is impossible for us to love anything, let alone God, with ALL our heart, ALL our soul, ALL our mind and ALL our strength; only God can love like that because GOD IS LOVE.

Therefore, I believe it is vital that the church, week after week, focus on God agapaō us, and in the process fill our hearts with so much of His love that we can't help but love (phileō ) Him more and more each day. If the church focus on we agapaō  God, I fear that we may some day end up burnt out and denying Jesus like what Peter thrice did.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Playing Music To The Cows

Chinese idiom
A kind sister-in-Christ, L, who is also attending NCC, after reading the comments on my previous post here and on facebook, emailed me to advise me and fellow NCC members "not to waste time engaging the outsiders" to explain NCC's one-north project.

I understand her feelings and agree that it seems a waste of time to share our church's vision with them since it seems that many of them have already made up their minds that NCC is on the wrong path, no matter what we say. It is like what a Chinese idiom says: "playing music to the cows" .

I agree with her too that "whatever God has called NCC to do is purely for our members and I believe only we can totally appreciate and enjoy the whole process. It is also a result of many years of revelation of God's Word in NCC members' life and the vision that God has given the church leaders that we dare to step out to do what we did."

I explained to her that my comments and rebuttals are not really meant to convince the person I am arguing against but rather to give another side of the picture to other readers reading the exchange so that they can make a more informed judgment. I'd like more people to understand NCC's position but I guess ultimately it does not matter that others do not understand because it is enough that we, the members, appreciate, participate in and enjoy the whole process.

There are many armchair critics who make comments without thinking it through thoroughly. That's why sometimes I purposely question them to provoke them into thinking more deeply about and justify their comments. For example, one facebook acquaintance questioned why "NCC doesn't consider other alternatives to 1-North" and I asked him for his good alternative. His answer: "split into smaller churches".

Split into smaller churches? That does not meet NCC's objective of keeping the whole church under one one roof, does it? His answer: "many churches down history and in singapore have split into smaller ones when they hit a particular size. there's nothing new about megachurches' size except their insistence on staying under one roof. if this isn't siege/kingdom mentality, i dunno what is. is a family under many roofs less of a family?"

Okay, let's say splitting into smaller churches is really good for NCC. How do you implement it? How many churches should you split 22,000 people into? How about 5? That means over 4,000 people per split church, if every member just unquestioningly follow instructions (which is how some outsiders tend to view us NCC members; the person who suggested the church split even refer to us as drones) to attend a particular split church. That still makes each split church technically a megachurch. Where can you find 5 venues in land-scarce multi-religious Singapore to accommodate 5 new megachurches? How many more pastors and staff and equipment are needed to serve 5 different congregations in 5 different locations? Most importantly, what is the objective of splitting into smaller churches?

When NCC exhibited the first pictures and scale model of one-north, I (and quite a few friends) found that from certain angles, one-north looked like Noah's Ark and perhaps that is fitting since Noah's Ark, just like one-north is now, was a building project ridiculed by those outside his family but Noah knew it was God's project. Those outsiders eventually knew it too, when the flood arrived.

God bless the integrated hub @one-north. Amen.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Why This Waste?

Yesterday, Pastor Prince announced the result of our Miracle Seed Sunday - $21.1 million sowed with attendance of 22, 272. The free local tabloid, mypaper, has reported on this today and compared the amount with the $10 million raised for the President's Challenge last year.

As usual , there will be critics who question the sanity and morality of New Creation Church members who collectively gave such a huge amount at such short notice (one week) for the one-north project. One facebook acquaintance of mine called our giving "a kind of self-centredness" and asked "what must have been on the givers' minds?".

I wonder what is on the critics' minds? I'm guessing that they are probably thinking the same thing which Jesus' disciples did two thousand years ago:

Matthew 26: 6-9
6While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, 7a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.  8When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. "Why this waste?" they asked. 9"This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor."

Why this waste? The mypaper writer implied as much when she compared our miracle seed collected with the President's Challenge collection. Is it a waste?

Jesus himself answered his own disciples:
"Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."

Did Jesus sound heartless to you? Does Jesus not care for the poor? Of course not! What Jesus is saying is that there is always time and opportunity to help the poor but there is only a window of opportunity to do something special for Jesus. Jesus said the woman poured the perfume on him to prepare him for burial. Did the woman know it? No, she did not but she listened to her heart and worshiped Jesus by anointing him with very expensive (worth a year's wages) perfume.

After Jesus was crucified and buried, three women bought spices and went to the tomb to anoint Jesus' body but what they found was an empty tomb (Mark 16). They were too late. They had missed the window of opportunity. Only the woman who poured the perfume on Jesus before his arrest and subsequent crucifixion enjoyed that privilege, and in the process, she is remembered forever, whenever the gospel is preached throughout the world.

Is the one-north project on the same level as what the woman did for Jesus? I don't know, probably not but I do know that it represents a window of opportunity for us, New Creation Church members, to do our part in building a house of God. I believe that this house which we build will be a beacon of light attracting people from all walks of life to come out of darkness and into the light of Christ.

It is our privilege to give during this window of opportunity. Once the one-north project is completed, the window is closed; it will be too late for you to play a part, just like the three women who faced the empty tomb.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A New Beginning - Update

My first landlord's stall all shuttered up
Last month, I moved my dessert stall to my new location at #02-130 which is directly opposite the unit where I first started my business (#02-141) and I am happy to report that my sales turnover has improved a lot compared to when I was at my previous location (#02-139). Thank you, Lord :-)

If you are a little confused about the above-mentioned locations, please read my 1 July post. Anyway, if you recall, in that post, I shared with you my "history" with my first landlord (#02-141), how he is persistently trying to put me out of business by insisting on renting his stall out to only tenants who also sell desserts.

After I vacated his unit and moved to #02-139 three years ago, my first landlord rented out his unit to his sister-in-law to open a dessert stall in order to cut off my business. However, he had to personally shut down her business 22 months later as she owed him several months of rental and utilities bills and couldn't pay (I blogged about this here). Subsequently, after a 3 month search, he found another tenant to open a dessert stall, which also closed down after less than 4 months.  My first landlord then spent another 5 months searching for another tenant to sell desserts (meanwhile leaving his stall empty) but I guess he could not bear the wait any longer and rented his stall out to a lady selling cut fruit, fruit juice and smoothies.

Her stall opened for business on the same day I did last month, and her business volume was very bad for the first week but gradually picked up over the next two weeks. I was hoping that she would do well since she was not really in the dessert business and thus not a direct competitor.  However, her stall has been shuttered up since then and I began to wonder whether she had decided to quit.  Yesterday, the lady finally came down to pack up her stall (see pic above) and confirmed her decision to quit. She even gave me a can of "nata de coco" which she no longer needed for her business.

Now, I wait once again to see who my first landlord will line up to be his next tenant. I won't be holding my breath though, since his last search took about 5 months. Meanwhile, my Lord continues to watch over me.

Thank you, Lord :-)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

If It Hurts, Don't Give

Last Sunday, Pastor Prince announced that this coming Sunday, 22 August, will be the third Miracle Seed Sunday for New Creation Church members to give to the one-north building project.

For the past few days, I have been thinking about the reason I'm giving and of course, how much to give. Some Christians have criticized preachers of misguiding their flock into giving large sums of money with the promise that their giving will reap returns from God many times over.

Actually, the preachers are not wrong to say that their giving i.e. sowing will reap a harvest BUT they are wrong if they packaged their message to influence their flock to give IN ORDER TO get back a manifold return. We have to be clear about the reason why we are giving. God sees our heart. If we give in order to get back a huge return, then it is no different from us buying a 4D lottery ticket - the bigger amount you bet, the larger your payback.

Ask yourself: "Why am I giving to the one-north building project?" For me personally, I am giving because I want to play a part, however small it is, in building a permanent home for our church to gather together to worship God and listen to the Word of Christ week after week. I am giving because I believe one-north is going to be a beacon of light attracting people to come out of their darkness into the light of Christ.

After you have sorted out your reason for giving, then the next question beckons: "How much should I give?"  How many times have you heard preachers exhort (pressurize) you to give till it hurts? How many times have you increased the amount you originally planned to give because of that kind of "exhortation"? How many times have you felt a tinge of regret that you may have given a bit too much?

I say to you, no matter what the amount is, IF IT HURTS, DON'T GIVE. On the NCC web page announcing Miracle Seed Sunday, you will see 2 Cor 9:7 - So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

Isn't it a contradiction that a preacher can tell you to give cheerfully and at the same time to give till it hurts? How can I be cheerful when it hurts? How can it hurt when I am cheerful? Some preachers like to quote the example of King David in 2 Sam 24 to support their call to give till it hurts; their favourite quotation is "I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." (2 Sam 24:24a)

However, let us examine carefully in detail what King David said. He said he would not sacrifice something that costs nothing, which means the sacrifice must cost something BUT it does NOT mean that the sacrifice must cost EVERYTHING. How much did King David actually pay for the items to be used for the burnt offering? 2 Sam 24:24b - "So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them."

King David paid fifty shekels of silver for the threshing floor and oxen. I don't know the market price for those items then but I've got a feeling that King David paid above the market rate for them. However, please put the fifty shekels of silver in perspective - how much is this in comparison to the wealth which King David possess? The fifty shekels of silver is just a drop of water in the ocean for King David.

Perhaps it is fitting that King David himself was also involved in a similar building project - the temple of God. King David himself gave a huge amount of his personal wealth to the building project but he also involved the people in the process. Look at how the people responded:

1 Chronicles 29 : 3-9
 3 “And now, because of my devotion to the Temple of my God, I am giving all of my own private treasures of gold and silver to help in the construction. This is in addition to the building materials I have already collected for his holy Temple. 4 I am donating more than 112 tons of gold from Ophir and 262 tons of refined silver to be used for overlaying the walls of the buildings 5 and for the other gold and silver work to be done by the craftsmen. Now then, who will follow my example and give offerings to the Lord today?
 6 Then the family leaders, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, the generals and captains of the army, and the king’s administrative officers all gave willingly. 7 For the construction of the Temple of God, they gave about 188 tons of gold, 10,000 gold coins, 375 tons of silver, 675 tons of bronze, and 3,750 tons of iron. 8 They also contributed numerous precious stones, which were deposited in the treasury of the house of the Lord under the care of Jehiel, a descendant of Gershon. 9 The people rejoiced over the offerings, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord, and King David was filled with joy.

The people, collectively, gave a huge amount - 188 tons of gold, 10,000 gold coins, 375 tons of silver, 675 tons of bronze, and 3,750 tons of iron - but the key is not the amount but the heart; "they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord".

This coming Sunday, no matter how big or small the miracle seed you have set in heart, just give freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord, and there will be great rejoicing in the house of the Lord. Remember, IF IT HURTS, DON'T GIVE.

P.S. One more thing, ask God to give you the seed to sow for it is "He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food". (2 Cor 9:10)

Monday, August 16, 2010

NCC's National Day Song - With One Heart

Watch this on YouTube: -

The original song in the video, With One Heart, is written by Karen Lim, a songwriter and music arranger of New Creation Church. Penning her love for Singapore into a heartwarming song, the piece not only represents the unity of our nation but is also a prayer of blessing over Singapore.

The song was sung by our worship leader Angie Lesmana alongside Elise Tabensky, Dominic Chin and Ong Zheng Kai at all our English services on Sunday, 8 August 2010, the eve of National Day.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The One Thing I Appreciate Most About New Creation Church

There have been quite a few articles written recently in the newspapers about megachurches in general, and judging from the interviews with the theologians, lecturers and other church leaders, it seems that one of the main reasons the megachurches are attracting more people is the more contemporary way in which the megachurches are run, as can be seen in their style of worship, management structure, use of technology, etc.

However, for me personally, these are not the things which attracted me to New Creation Church. The ONE thing which attracted, and still attracts me, is how the sermons in NCC have radically changed the way I see God. These sermons reveal to me the true character of my God and now I have a good opinion of God.

The two sermons which really impacted me and began the change in my perspective of God are "The Significance of the Cross" and "Understanding the Major Covenants In the Bible" by Pastor Joseph Prince. I will not be expounding on those sermons but I highly recommend that you listen to them for yourselves.

I just read a report in The Christian Post Singapore, "Bible Presents God's Character, Not Concepts: Theologian", which really speaks to my heart, and which accurately describes what NCC is doing week after week, ie. revealing to us God's character through Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross. That is the one thing I appreciate most about NCC.

God bless NCC.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Good News To The Poor

The headlines on the front page of last Saturday's edition of the Weekend Today tabloid, a quote from our Finance Minister, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, reads: "An activist Government focused on helping the poor".

In the report, Mr Shanmugaratnam says that the Government aims to increase median income by 30% in real terms the next decade and is "very serious in wanting to ensure that incomes for the bottom 20% keep growing in real terms and it means providing opportunities across the board and investing in every Singaporean - their skills, their attitudes, their abilities to operate."

This is the kind of good news which will be welcomed by the poor, the kind of good news which offer hope or, in the words of our Finance Minister, "optimism in the future". Whether the Government can achieve that goal is another matter but at least, they have made clear their intention to help the poor.

Imagine if the Finance Minister announced instead that the Government would be taxing all levels of income (presently, those earning below $20,000 per year are not taxed) and increasing the GST (goods and services tax) from 7% to 15%, would that be good news to the poor? Of course not!

However, that is the kind of Good News which some (I suspect, many) Christians believe is the Gospel which Jesus is anointed to preach to the poor i.e. making the poor poorer. These Christians say that God did not promise health and wealth in the Gospel but that God demands sacrifice from us, that God wants us to give Him all of whatever little we have.

If that is true, then I say this God is an unreasonable and selfish god! Hebrews 7:7 says "And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater." What is wrong to expect blessings (in all areas including the financial) from God? For without doubt, God is the greater, nay, the greatest!

Look at how God blessed Isaac in Genesis 26. Isaac lied that his wife, Rebekah was his sister but God blessed him even though he didn't deserve it. The land was in famine but "Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him" (Gen 26:12).

In fact, God blessed Isaac to the point that he "became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him" (Gen 26:13-14). The Philistines were so envious that "all the wells that his father's servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth" and forced Isaac to move away from them (Gen 26:15-16).

However, the Lord continued blessing Isaac in the new land, and he found water in every new well that he dug. The first two wells which Isaac dug were forcibly taken by the Philistines but he did not fight with them. Instead, he dug a third well, which again found water, but this time, the Philistines left him alone. Why? This is because the Philistines could see for themselves how Isaac is blessed by the Lord, and now they sought to make peace with him when previously, they were persecuting him by taking over the wells which he dug - "We saw clearly that the LORD was with you; so we said, 'There ought to be a sworn agreement between us'-between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you that you will do us no harm, just as we did not molest you but always treated you well and sent you away in peace. And now you are blessed by the LORD." (Gen 26:28-29)

Why should we be afraid or apologize for the fact that our Lord blesses and blesses us? Isn't this a good testimony for others especially the non-Christians to see? The non-Christians do not read the bible. What they read is us, our lives. When they see how blessed (in all areas including the financial) we are, they too will have some respect for our God and may even turn to our God.

Why was Issac blessed? Because of something he did? No, he lied about his wife being his sister and putting her in danger - Gen 26:10 "Then Abimelech said, "What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.""

Isaac was blessed because of God's promise to his father, Abraham - "I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham."(Gen 26:24)

We are also similarly blessed like Isaac for we are also children of Abraham:

Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
(Galatians 3:6-9, 13-14)

God promises to bless us in all areas, including the financial - "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Rom 8:32). Why should we be afraid to say that? Why should we be afraid to tell the people that God blesses us financially? Do we not tell people this good news for fear of them becoming worldly or totally money-minded?

Jesus said in Matt 6:24 - "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." but He did NOT say that God doesn't bless you financially. In fact He says that God does bless you financially, so don't worry about your finances:

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
(Matt 6:26, 30-33)
Take note that Jesus did NOT say that we don't need to eat, drink or wear; He said "your heavenly Father knows that you need them".  Take note that Jesus did NOT say that God will NOT give you all these things; He said "all these things will be given to you as well"!

However, as Jesus warned in Matt 6:24, our focus should not be on Money but our focus should be on God. When our focus is on God, and we "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness", and do not follow the pagans and "run after all these things", all these things will be given to us.

Just because we are afraid that the people might focus on Money instead of God does not mean that we should be afraid to tell the people that God does bless us with Money. Jesus said in Luke 4 that He was anointed to preach the Good News to the poor. Even our earthly government knows what is good news to the poor; how much more our Heavenly Father! 

Don't rob the poor of the Good News!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Anti-Prosperity Hypocrite

A few years ago, my mum chatted with a couple from my previous AOG church, and when they found out that she is attending New Creation Church, they told her to be careful because NCC is a "prosperity church". I have also heard this similar warning from various people and online over the years, and one thing struck me: the warning usually comes from people who are financially comfortable.

These people are enjoying financial prosperity but love to warn others about the teaching of prosperity in churches such as NCC, saying that such teachings cause us to be worldly. They also love to quote 1 Timothy 6:10 - "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil". They equate the teaching of prosperity with the love of money. The irony is that many of these people do have a lot of money but they don't consider themselves lovers of money. They have a lot of money but they disapprove of the church teaching its people how to have more money the godly way.

The same people naturally disapprove of the preacher being rich; they say that a preacher should be living a simple life. Setting aside the fact that it is almost impossible to set a universal standard for "simple life", these people demand a lifestyle for the preacher which they themselves do not want.  Some, like mike20, the commenter in one of my posts, even say that Jesus taught us to sell our possessions and donate the money to the poor. How many of them really believe that? After they have sold and donated all their possessions, they would be joining the ranks of the poor and waiting for handouts from others who have to sell and donate all their possessions. Is this the Good News?

In Luke 4:16-22, it is recorded that Jesus read from the book of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
      because he has anointed me
      to preach good news to the poor.
   He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
      and recovery of sight for the blind,
   to release the oppressed,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

After that, He sat down and said "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." What exactly is the "good news to the poor" which Jesus was anointed to preach? That the poor will remain poor on earth but they can expect great riches in heaven? What's so good about that?

Didn't Jesus also say in John 10:10 that He came to give us a more abundant life? Did He mean a more abundant life that does not include financial prosperity?

I have a suggestion for these anti-prosperity hypocrites. Why don't you sell and donate all your possessions and then quit your day-job, and preach full-time your anti-prosperity Good News for free? I may still not agree with your theology but at the very least, you have earned my respect.

Monday, July 19, 2010

What Is The "Prosperity Gospel"? - A Statement By The Lausanne Movement

Blogpastor pointed me to this website, "The Lausanne Movement" which published a statement on the "Prosperity Gospel". I agree with the views presented in the statement and reproduce it below for your convenience (please take note of the African context of the statement):

A Statement on the Prosperity Gospel


Lausanne Theology Working Group

From the Africa Chapter - Lausanne Theology Working Group

At its consultations in Akropong, Ghana, 8-9 October, 2008 and 1-4 September 2009
NOTE:  This is a statement, offered as a discussion starter for further reflection (theological, ethical, pastoral and missiological, socio-political and economic) on the phenomenal rise of prosperity teaching around the world at large and Africa in particular. The points below are a digest of many points made in the course of the discussion of three papers at the Oct. 2008 and ten papers at the Sept 2009 consultations.

We define prosperity gospel as the teaching that believers have a right to the blessings of health and wealth and that they can obtain these blessings through positive confessions of faith and the “sowing of seeds” through the faithful payments of tithes and offerings. We recognize that prosperity teaching is a phenomenon that cuts across denominational barriers. Prosperity teaching can be found in varying degrees in mainstream Protestant, Pentecostal as well as Charismatic Churches. It is the phenomenon of prosperity teaching that is being addressed here not any particular denomination or tradition.
We further recognize that there are some dimensions of prosperity teaching that have roots in the Bible, and we affirm such elements of truth below. We do not wish to be exclusively negative, and we recognize the appalling social realities within which this teaching flourishes and the measure of hope it holds out to desperate people.  However, while acknowledging such positive features, it is our overall view that the teachings of those who most vigorously promote the ‘prosperity gospel’ are false and gravely distorting of the Bible, that their practice is often unethical and unChristlike, and that the impact on many churches is pastorally damaging, spiritually unhealthy, and not only offers no lasting hope, but may even deflect people from the message and means of eternal salvation. In such dimensions, it can be soberly described as a false gospel.

We call for further reflection on these matters within the Christian Church, and request the Lausanne movement to be willing to make a very clear statement rejecting the excesses of prosperity teaching as incompatible with evangelical biblical Christianity.
  1. We affirm the miraculous grace and power of God, and welcome the growth of churches and ministries that demonstrate them and that lead people to exercise expectant faith in the living God and his supernatural power. We believe in the power of the Holy Spirit.

    However, we reject as unbiblical the notion that God’s miraculous power can be treated as automatic, or at the disposal of human techniques, or manipulated by human words, actions or rituals.
  1. We affirm that there is a biblical vision of human prospering, and that the Bible includes material welfare (both health and wealth) within its teaching about the blessing of God.  This needs further study and explanation across the whole Bible in both Testaments.  We must not dichotomize the material and the spiritual in unbiblical dualism.

    However, we reject the unbiblical notion that spiritual welfare can be measured in terms of material welfare, or that wealth is always a sign of God’s blessing  (since it can be obtained by oppression, deceit or corruption), or that poverty or illness or early death, is always a sign of God’s curse, or lack of faith, or human curses  (since the Bible explicitly denies that it is always so)
  1. We affirm the biblical teaching on the importance of hard work, and the positive use of all the resources that God has given us – abilities, gifts, the earth, education, wisdom, skills, wealth, etc.  And to the extent that some Prosperity teaching encourages these things, it can have a positive effect on people’s lives. We do not believe in an unbiblical ascetism that rejects such things, or an unbiblical fatalism that sees poverty as a fate that cannot be fought against.

    However, we reject as dangerously contradictory to the sovereign grace of God, the notion that success in life is entirely due to our own striving, wrestling, negotiation, or cleverness.  We reject those elements of Prosperity Teaching that are virtually identical to ‘positive thinking’ and other kinds of ‘self-help’ techniques. 

    We are also grieved to observe that Prosperity Teaching has stressed individual wealth and success, without the need for community accountability, and has thus actually damaged a traditional feature of African society, which was commitment to care within the extended family and wider social community.
  1. We recognize that Prosperity Teaching flourishes in contexts of terrible poverty, and that for many people, it presents their only hope, in the face of constant frustration, the failure of politicians and NGOs, etc.,  for a better future, or even for a more bearable present.  We are angry that such poverty persists and we affirm the Bible’s view that it also angers God and that it is not his will that people should live in abject poverty. We acknowledge and confess that in many situations the Church has lost its prophetic voice in the public arena.

    However, we do not believe that Prosperity Teaching provides a helpful or biblical response to the poverty of the people among whom it flourishes. And we observe that much of this teaching has come from North American sources where people are not materially poor in the same way.
  • It vastly enriches those who preach it, but leaves multitudes no better off than before, with the added burden of disappointed hopes
  • While emphasizing various alleged spiritual or demonic causes of poverty, it gives little or no attention to those causes that are economic and political, including injustice, exploitation, unfair international trade practices, etc. 
  • It thus tends to victimize the poor by making them feel that their poverty is their own fault (which the Bible does not do), while failing to address and denounce those whose greed inflicts poverty on others  (which the Bible does repeatedly).
  • Some prosperity teaching is not really about helping the poor at all, and provides no sustainable answer to the real causes of poverty.

  1. We accept that some prosperity teachers sincerely seek to use the Bible in explaining and promoting their teachings.

    However, we are distressed that much use of the Bible is seriously distorted, selective, and manipulative.  We call for a more careful exegesis of texts,  and a more holistic biblical hermeneutic, and we denounce the way that many texts are twisted out of context and used in ways that contradict some very plain Bible teaching.

    And especially, we deplore the fact that in many churches where Prosperity Teaching is dominant, the Bible is rarely preached in any careful or explanatory way, and the way of salvation, including repentance from sin and saving faith in Christ for forgiveness of sin, and the hope of eternal life, is misrepresented and substituted with material wellbeing.
  1. We rejoice in the phenomenal growth of the numbers of professing Christians in many countries where churches that have adopted prosperity teachings and practice are very popular.

    However, numerical growth or mega-statistics may not necessarily demonstrate the truth of the message that accompanies it, or the belief system behind it. Popularity is no proof of truth;  and people can be deceived in great numbers.
  1. We are pleased to observe that many churches and leaders are critical and in some cases overtly renounce and cut the links with specific aspects of African primal or traditional religion and its practices, where these can be seen to be in conflict with the biblical revelation and worldview.

    Yet it seems clear that there are many aspects of Prosperity Teaching that have their roots in that soil.  We therefore wonder if much popular Christianity is a syncretised super-structure on an underlying worldview that has not been radically transformed by the biblical gospel. We also wonder whether the popularity and attraction of Prosperity Teaching is an indication of the failure of contextualization of the Gospel in Africa.
  1. We observe that many people testify to the way Prosperity Teaching has in fact impacted their lives for the better – encouraging them to have greater faith, to seek to improve their education, or working lives.  We rejoice in this.  There is great power in such testimony, and we thank God when any of his children enjoy his blessing.

    However, we observe equally that many people have been duped by such teaching into false faith and false expectations, and when these are not satisfied, they ‘give up on God’,  or lose their faith altogether and leave the church.  This is tragic, and must be very grievous to God.
  1. We accept that many prosperity teachers mostly have their roots in evangelical churches and traditions, or were brought up under the influence of evangelical parachurch ministries. 

    But we deplore the clear evidence that many of them have in practice moved away from key and fundamental tenets of evangelical faith, including the authority and priority of the Bible as the Word of God, and the centrality of the cross of Christ.
  1. We know that God sometimes puts leaders in positions of significant public fame and influence.

    However, there are aspects of the lifestyle and behaviour of many preachers of Prosperity Teaching that we find deplorable, unethical, and frankly idolatrous (to the god of Mammon), and in some of these respects we may be called upon to identify and reject such things as the marks of false prophets, according to the standards of the Bible.  These include:
  • Flamboyant and excessive wealth and extravagant lifestyles
  • Unethical and manipulative techniques
  • Constant emphasis on money, as if it were a supreme good – which is mammon
  • Replacing the traditional call to repentance and faith with a call to give money
  • Covetousness which is idolatry
  • Living and behaving in ways that are utterly inconsistent with either the example of Jesus or the pattern of discipleship that he taught.
  • Ignoring or contradicting the strong New Testament teaching on the dangers of wealth and the idolatrous sin of greed
  • Failure to preach the word of God in a way that feeds the flock of Christ
  • Failure to preach the whole gospel message of sin, repentance, faith and eternal hope.
  • Failure to preach the whole counsel of God, but replacing it with what people want to hear.
  • Replacing time for evangelism with fund raising events and appeals

First Draft by Rev. Dr. Chris Wright (Chair, Lausanne Theology Working Group)
Edited by Rev. Dr. John Azumah (Member, Lausanne Theology Working Group) In collaboration with Rev. Prof. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, Chair of the Akropong consultations.
This is a collated digest of points made by many contributors, through the written papers and the following discussions.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Limiting The Word of God

In my earlier post, "I Am, Therefore I Do - a little debate on facebook", I showed you an exchange of opinion with Gwee Li Sui over whether Isaiah 53:5 refers to healing of the physical body:

 I did not reply to Gwee but what he said bothered me because the way he interpreted the verse (and other verses) is common among many "knowledgeable" Christians in that they tend to apply the verses to only "a higher spiritual reality", which is of no bloody use to our "lower" physical reality here on earth.

Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came that we "may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)" (Amplified Bible). What is the life that Jesus was referring to? Here on earth or in heaven? Does this abundant life include good health?

Gwee asks, "Did Jesus become very sick or was He made a leper?" Of course not! Isaiah 53:5 is talking about Jesus' work on the Cross, not His minstry on earth. He bore our diseases on the Cross so that we might have divine health.  "Did Jesus live a long life on earth?" Of course not! Jesus' life was cut short so that we might have a long life, in fact, a long and abundant one.

Is Gwee wrong to say that Isaiah 53:5 refers to Jesus dying for our sins? No, he is not wrong but I believe he is wrong to exclude physical healing from the verse; he is shortchanging himself by limiting the Word of God.  Let us take a look at the story recorded in Mark 2 and Luke 5 of  the paralysed man whose friends lowered him from a hole made in the roof into Jesus' presence: What was the first thing that Jesus said to the paralysed man?

Son, your sins are forgiven you.
Mark 2:5
Did the man come to Jesus for forgiveness of his sins or for physical healing? Physical healing, of course! Surely Jesus must have known that! Why then the first thing that Jesus did was to forgive the man's sin?  This is because the greatest power that Jesus has is to forgive sins and He has that power because of His work on the Cross. The power to heal is all wrapped up in His power to forgive sins; if Jesus has the power to forgive because of the Cross, then He definitely has the power to heal because of the Cross.

Jesus himself demonstrated this truth in Mark 2:9-11 :
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

Which is easier for Jesus? To heal or to forgive?

 Update: Gwee posted a link to this article on facebook, and a brother made a good point:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What Is The "Prosperity Gospel"?

I have never quite understood the label "Prosperity Gospel" slapped by some people on New Creation Church's teachings on prosperity.  What exactly is the definition of "Prosperity Gospel" and in what way is it erroneous?  A facebook acquaintance who appears to be vehemently against the "Prosperity Gospel" posted a link to this article "The Prosperity Gospel: A Modern Day Cargo Cult?", and the writer defined the "Prosperity Gospel" as follows:

In simplest terms, the idea of the law of prosperity requires the adherent to think themselves rich. Whether the blessing is to emanate from the Christian deity or the universe, the philosophy behind the mindset is pretty much the same.

If you were to put it down in an equation, it may look something like this:
Sincere belief in a power waiting to bless abundantly + earnest actions displaying that belief = abundant blessings and fiscal prosperity

The prosperity gospel for those of the Christian background requires eager believers to understand that God wants to bless them. Since He is the maker of the universe, there is no blessing too big or too hard for Him to give. All that He requires is a sincere belief in Him and His blessing power.

As you can see from the definition, the writer has reduced the bible's teachings on prosperity into a formula, and I must say that there are preachers who have done exactly that (but Pastor Prince is not one of them). I am also against such teaching because it fails to show us the heart of God and is based on self-effort i.e. we must do something in order to get blessed or rich.

The term "Prosperity Gospel" itself betrays the bias of the person who slaps this label on a pastor's teaching on prosperity. The Gospel includes prosperity but prosperity itself is not the Gospel. The Gospel i.e. the Good News is this:

13 No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.
 16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
 18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.
John 3:13-18 (NLT)

The Gospel is about we being reconciled to the Heavenly Father through His Son, Jesus Christ. However, this Gospel also brings with it the fringe benefit of prosperity, and health, wholeness, peace, joy, etc for "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Rom 8:32)  It is unfair to simply accuse a pastor of preaching "The Prosperity Gospel" when prosperity is just a subject among many others which he preaches.

In my seven years of listening to Pastor Prince's sermons, I can say without any doubt that any subject which Pastor Prince preaches on ultimately leads to Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished on the Cross for us, even the subject of prosperity.

The writer of the above-mentioned article says "The prosperity gospel for those of the Christian background requires eager believers to understand that God wants to bless them. Since He is the maker of the universe, there is no blessing too big or too hard for Him to give", and she is right! We need to understand that God wants to FREELY bless us with ALL things WITH CHRIST (Rom 8:32).  If God withholds financial prosperity from us, that means God values financial prosperity more than Jesus; if God withholds physical health from us, that means God values physical health more than Jesus. How can that be? Jesus is the greatest gift that God can give us, therefore "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" 

We now give our tithes and offering to the church because we know that God already gave us the greatest gift, His Son. We do not give in order to get back more in return from God but praise God for His grace that when we give, he gives us more in return because we can never outgive God.  Jesus himself says in Luke 6:38, "Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back."  Would you accuse Jesus of preaching the "Prosperity Gospel?" 

Notice that Jesus did NOT say, "Give IN ORDER to receive". Jesus said "Give, AND you will receive"; He just simply stated the cause and effect - when we give, we will receive. It's like this: when you jump into a swimming pool, you will get wet BUT you don't jump into a swimming pool in order to get wet. No, you jump into a swimming pool to swim or play water polo or soak in the water to keep cool but NOT in order to get wet.

We give, not in order to receive. We give to acknowledge and appreciate that whatever we have is all because of God's blessing - "But you shall [earnestly] remember the Lord your God, for it is He Who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day." (Deut 8:18). 

Why do we give to the church? When we eat at a restaurant, isn't it normal for us to pay for the food and service? Paul says essentially the same thing in 1 Cor 9:7-14:

7 What soldier has to pay his own expenses? What farmer plants a vineyard and doesn’t have the right to eat some of its fruit? What shepherd cares for a flock of sheep and isn’t allowed to drink some of the milk? 8 Am I expressing merely a human opinion, or does the law say the same thing? 9 For the law of Moses says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? 10 Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who plows and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest.
 11 Since we have planted spiritual seed among you, aren’t we entitled to a harvest of physical food and drink? 12 If you support others who preach to you, shouldn’t we have an even greater right to be supported? But we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ.
 13 Don’t you realize that those who work in the temple get their meals from the offerings brought to the temple? And those who serve at the altar get a share of the sacrificial offerings. 14 In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it.

I understand that those who are against the "Prosperity Gospel" are concerned that followers of such "Prosperity Gospel" preachers are hoodwinked by the preachers into giving money to their "ministry" and enriching only the preachers themselves. I agree that those preachers who manipulate their followers by their preaching into giving IN ORDER to receive deserve to be exposed but we have to be careful not to taint all preachers who preach on the subject of prosperity with one broad stroke of the same brush.   

Finally, it is important for us to remember that when we give to to the church, we are giving to God, not men,  for Hebrews 7:8 says "Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives."  Ultimately, God will take care of the money we give to Him, and no preacher abusing God's money can hope to get away with it for long. There have been preachers past who got away with it for a while but in the end, they still had to pay a price for their misdeeds. Recent events in Singapore may yet confirm this once again.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A New Beginning

Today, I'll be running my dessert stall from a new location - stall no. 130 - which is directly opposite my first stall location (stall no. 141).

For those of you who have not been following the saga of my run-in/stand-off with my ex-landlord, let me explain: I first started my dessert stall at a corner stall - no.141 - about seven years ago but moved to stall no. 139 four years later after a dispute with my ex-landlord.  The hawker centre had inked a deal with a private gas supplier and it had to close the centre for two weeks to lay gas pipes. The gas supplier gave a sum of money to each stall operator to compensate for loss of business for two weeks. However, my landlord refused to hand over the compensation money to me, insisting that it was meant for him, the stallholder, and not for me, the stall operator and even accused me of trying to cheat him of the money.  He also told me that if I didn't like his decision, I could end my lease and leave.  Well, I did and moved to stall no. 139, two units away.

However, stall no. 139's location is not very ideal compared to no. 141 as customers have to first walk past no. 141 before they can notice my stall. My ex-landlord took advantage of this and rented his stall to his sister-in-law to open a dessert stall to cut off my business.  My business was indeed badly affected initially (dropping by about 40%) but it slowly recovered though not to my previous level.  I thank God that He protected me during this period and 22 months later in July last year, that stall was shut down by my ex-landlord because his sister-in-law owed him several months of rental and utilities bills and couldn't pay (I blogged about this here).

I enjoyed improved business for the next few months while my ex-landlord searched for a new tenant. He took so much time because he insisted on finding a tenant to sell desserts only.  Anyway, he finally found one and the new dessert stall opened in October last year.  Thank God that this time, my business was less severely affected (down maybe about 20%) and the wait for victory was much shorter too.  That stall closed down after about 4 months in February this year (I blogged about this here).

You'd think that my ex-landlord would have learnt his lesson but, no, he still insisted on finding another tenant which sells desserts. A fellow stallholder selling "you cha kway" (i.e. deep fried flour fritters) wanted to rent the stall from him but he refused, saying that he was looking for a dessert seller. Well, after leaving his stall empty for almost five months, he finally found another dessert seller which will be opening in a few days' time.
(Update: The new stall has opened but is not really selling desserts. It sells mainly fruit juice, smoothies and cut fruit but my ex-landlord made them keep his ice-shaving machine and bowls and plates, which they do not use, in the stall. I have no idea why they agreed to pay him rent to keep his equipment in the stall!)

Thank God that He already foresaw this, and this time God turned from defense to offense and moved me from no. 139 to no. 130, directly opposite no.141. This location is much better compared to no. 141 because it faces the oncoming customer traffic and therefore customers will see my stall first.

This is the result of  God's favour because I did not actively seek out my new stall location: a few weeks ago, my new landlord approached me and invited me to move over to her stall as her existing tenant had decided to terminate her lease. The timing was also perfect as the hawker centre was scheduled to close for spring cleaning last Monday and Tuesday, and I could move all my equipment over to my new location without worrying about affecting my fellow stallholders' businesses or causing inconvenience to customers.

I see God's hand in this move and I thank God that when I just let go and let Him take care of the situation, He does a perfect work for me. I'm going to work soon and looking forward to this new beginning! Hope to see you guys turn up at my new stall soon ;-)