Monday, March 30, 2009

God Bless You

How many times have we said to people "God bless you"? When we say "God bless you", how many times have we really meant it or believe that it will happen? Sad to say, "God bless you" has become a cliche for Christians (me included), something that we utter to replace "Goodbye" or "See you again".

I have heard that quite a few times at my stall. When some customers who are Christians discover that I am also a Christian, they say "God bless you" as they leave after they collect their orders. I usually reply with another cliche - "God bless you too"!

Of course, I believe that the tongue has the power of life and death (Prov 18:21) and would rather have people say to me "God bless you" rather than "God curse you" but sometimes I get the feeling that these 3 words "God bless you" are just empty words spoken by people who have no heart for you as a fellow Christian brother. It seems as if they are obligated to utter these 3 words to you for their own sake rather than yours.

I met at least two such Christian "customers" who have "blessed" me with these 3 words before but regularly buy desserts from another dessert stall (which, by the way, has a thai prosperity "god" installed inside) just two doors away. I see them only when the other stall is closed. Okay, you are probably thinking that maybe the other stall's desserts taste better than mine but at the risk of sounding arrogant, my desserts taste much better (based on testimonies from regular customers who have tasted the other stall's dessert too).

However, regardless whether my desserts actually taste better or not, they have the freedom to choose which stall they want to patronize but somehow their actions make those 3 words ring hollow in my ears. For someone in need, what he wants is not just your words of blessing but also your blessing in deeds.

I read in a report about "The 100k Blessing" campaign started by Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) with the "aim to bless 100,000 lives for Christ". FCBC got its church members to commit "themselves to accomplish this churchwide mission by reaching out to individuals around them – including their loved ones, friends, colleagues or just about anybody that they meet – and praying for them in any areas of need that they are facing."

At first, when I saw the name of the campaign in the article, I thought that it was about doing a kind act for 100,000 people but after I visited the FCBC website, I realized that the campaign was about praying for 100,000 people. Although this is a noble project and does have its own merit, I can't help but feel that it is well short of its full potential because its emphasis is on praying for somebody but does not include doing something for somebody as well.

For someone who is in financial need, having a fellow Christian pray over you and encourage you with scripture is good for the spirit BUT if another fellow Christian stuffs an envelope full of cash into your hands without saying a word to you, who do you think has really blessed you?

Yes, as Christians, the words we speak carry power but at certain times, actions do speak louder than words.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Are You Worth It?

I read the above comic in last Sunday's newspapers and it caused me to wonder ... how many Christians think that our Daddy God is like that man in the comic? How many of us believe (consciously or subconsciously) that God will consider whether we are worth saving before He moves?

Consider this: At the time when you accepted Christ as your Lord and Saviour, were you worth saving? Did you deserve to be saved?

Ephesians 2:4-6 (Amplified Bible)
4But God--so rich is He in His mercy! Because of and in order to satisfy the great and wonderful and intense love with which He loved us,

5Even when we were dead (slain) by [our own] shortcomings and trespasses, He made us alive together in fellowship and in union with Christ; [He gave us the very life of Christ Himself, the same new life with which He quickened Him, for] it is by grace (His favor and mercy which you did not deserve) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ's salvation).

Eph 2:5 says that we are saved by God's grace i.e. we are delivered from death unto life through God's favour and mercy which we do not deserve, and the reason for this is the intense love that God has for us.

There are Christians who like to say "God is love but God is holy!" They believe that God is always watching them to catch them do wrong and then punish them. Some also believe that God will not help them in their troubles since they got themselves into trouble because of their own sins. Is this true? No! On the contrary, I say "God is holy but God is love!"

God is holy and therefore He insists that the price of sin has to be paid. However, above all else, God is love and "because of and in order to satisfy the great and wonderful and intense love with which He loved us" (Eph 2:4), He paid the price of sin himself through the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus.

God helps us not because we deserve it but simply because He loves us - "When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." (Rom 5:6-8)

Consider again: God gave us His greatest gift, Jesus even though we are not worthy or deserving. Will God then withhold anything else from us? Will God then insist that you make yourself worthy first before you can receive anything from Him? "Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?" (Rom 8:32)

We cannot make ourselves worthy BUT God has already made us worthy 2,000 years ago through the cross. I can just imagine the devil saying to Jesus on the cross "Why do you want to suffer like this? Are they worth it?"

Monday, March 23, 2009

Is God a Schizophrenic?

There are some Christians who believe that God will send sickness, disease and accidents to discipline you. A case in point is this blogger, justifiedbygrace whom I encountered in the comments box of another blog.

He said,"God can chastise His children however He wants to for the purpose of conforming them more to the image of His Son so they in turn can bring Him more glory. Christians realize that God can and does use sickness, disease and accidents to discipline His children, and we wouldn't have it any other way. As long as it brings the Lord all the glory, we receive it with thankful hearts."

I totally disagree with him. As a father of 3 boys, I certainly wouldn't wish, let alone inflict any sickness, disease or accidents upon my 3 boys just so that they can learn a lesson. Any parent who does that is a sick parent and should be arrested by the police for child abuse! Our Daddy God is not a child abuser!

However, justifiedbygrace justified his view by quoting Lev 26:18-25 and said,"Also, God is not man. His ways are not our ways. We should never equate God's love with the way we humans love. We should never equate God's discipline with the way we discipline. His ways are higher than our ways. Instead what we ought to do is look at Scripture, see the character of God as it has been revealed to us and submit to it. We dare not assume any character of God based outside of what is revealed in Scripture. We dare not assume any qualities of God based on emotions or human standards.

God does use horrible things to discipline His children, because He loves them way more than any human father can love. He will break us into a million pieces if He has to in order to mold us into the image of His Son. And that truth, to me, is very beautiful. To know that I am loved. Loved so much that God will not allow me to go my own sinful ways. Rather he chastises me and disciplines me so I can be the man He wants me to be."

Yes, we should see the character from the scriptures but the question is, from which part of the scriptures? The context of Leviticus 26 is God telling the Israelites, who are entering into the covenant of the Law, the consequences of obeying the covenant (blessings, listed in v1-13) and of breaking the covenant (curses, listed in v14-39).

However, the character of God is revealed through Hebrews 8:6-13 (NIV):

6But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.

7For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8But God found fault with the people and said:
"The time is coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.
9It will not be like the covenant
I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.
10This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
11No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,'
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more."

13By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.

God himself found fault with old covenant because He knows that we definitely cannot keep it and therefore will suffer all the bad consequences listed in Lev 26. God does not want us to suffer, and gave us a new and better covenant through Jesus (Heb 8:6). We don't have to suffer evil consequences under this new covenant because Jesus took our place and bore it all for us - "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 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." (Isaiah 53:4-5)

Moreover, Psalm 91:11-13 says "For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent."

Is our Daddy God a schizophrenic? On the one hand He commands his angels to surround us with protection while on the other hand, He himself inflicts accidents on us to discipline us? NO! Of course NOT! God is LOVE.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

Do not underestimate how much this little word "so" means to God. It cost God his only Son. It allowed us to call out to Him the same way Jesus did - "Abba! Daddy!" My Daddy God loves me so much that He will NOT discipline me by causing bad things to happen to me.

(For a better understanding of how God disciplines us, I recommend Pastor Prince's sermon, "Understanding The True Chastening Of The Lord")

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Arise and Build (2)

I read the following comment by a Christian sister at another blog regarding the $19 million raised for New Creation Church's building project:

"God doesn’t reside in a physical house of worship. He resides in your heart. Enough said."

While what this sister said is true, I feel that it is not enough said.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT)
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

1 Corinthians 14:26 (NLT)
Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done mus strengthen all of you.

Yes, there is no longer a need for a physical temple, like the one built by King Solomon, for God to reside in because God resides in our hearts and we are now temples of God BUT Hebrews 10:25 encourages us to meet together to encourage and strengthen one another, hence we need a physical location for that purpose.

Wherever the people of God meet together, there is the church - be it a rented shophouse, someone's home, a church building or even a grand cathedral. Then why does NCC need to spend a budgeted $500 million to build a meeting place? I have dealt with that issue from a practical and logistical point of view in an earlier post. However, it is interesting to note that the bible also recorded a case of someone facing the same problem as NCC - the necessity to build a bigger meeting place for a growing congregation:

2 Kings 6:1-2 (NLT)
One day the group of prophets came to Elisha and told him, “As you can see, this place where we meet with you is too small. Let’s go down to the Jordan River, where there are plenty of logs. There we can build a new place for us to meet.
“All right,” he told them, “go ahead.”

While some Christians agree that NCC needs a bigger meeting place, they think that $500 million is too much money to be spent on a church building, they think it is extravagant. I must stress again that NCC is NOT building a church building but a commercial complex with a retail and entertainment zone owned by its joint venture partner, CapitaLand and a civic and cultural zone (which includes a 5,000-seater auditorium which NCC will use for its Sunday services) owned by Rock Productions, NCC's commercial arm.

However, even IF the $500 million is used to build a church building, is it really wrong from a biblical point of view? King David wanted to build a house for God but God told him that his son, Solomon will be the one building it instead of him (1 Chronicles 17:11-12). Even though King David was not allowed to build the temple, he was the one who set aside all the construction materials necessary for building it, and look at what he set aside:

1 Chronicles 22:14-16 (NLT)
“I have worked hard to provide materials for building the Temple of the Lord—nearly 4,000 tons of gold, 40,000 tons of silver, and so much iron and bronze that it cannot be weighed. I have also gathered timber and stone for the walls, though you may need to add more. You have a large number of skilled stonemasons and carpenters and craftsmen of every kind. You have expert goldsmiths and silversmiths and workers of bronze and iron. Now begin the work, and may the Lord be with you!”

Do you know what is the price of gold today? It's about USD900 an ounce. 1 kilo is approximately 32 ounces, 1 ton = 1,000 kilos, so 4,000 tons = 4,000 x 1,000 x 32 = 128 million ounces, therefore 4,000 tons of gold is now worth about USD115,200,000,000 (how much is that? the number's mind boggling but I think it is definitely more than S$500 million).

$500 million does not seem so extravagant after all when compared to the house that King David wanted to build for God. Take note that God did not refuse to accept the house; He just did not allow David to build it because he has shed blood. God did not tell David, "No, you must not do this. It is too extravagant."

When you see the grand cathedrals like St Paul's Cathedral in London (pic left), do you admire its beauty or do you say "It's too extravagant! This should not have been built in the first place!"

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Arise and Build (1)

In my earlier post, I have explained, using arguments based on logic, why it is necessary for New Creation Church to have a bigger place for Sunday worship services and why it is necessary and beneficial to do it via a commercial complex. I deliberately did not quote any scripture at all because non-Christians would not understand.

After the "NCC raised $19 million report" was published,
it was well within my expectation that non-christians made unkind and mean-spirited comments about NCC's building project (a sample of which can be found here). Their comments were expected because they are unbelievers who do not understand Christ's love for us and our love for Christ, and why we, NCC members, are willing to give our own money to build something in which we do not have a personal stake.

However, I am saddened that even fellow Christians have jumped on the bandwagon and criticized NCC for misusing funds, and church members for being gullible enough to be conned by NCC's erroneous preaching, and some have also quoted scripture to back up their arguments. I wonder how non-Christians view this display of disunity within the body of Christ. One major reason why I wrote that article as well as this post is to enable fellow Christians to appreciate why NCC is building One-North and hope that they will agree in faith with us that Christ will be glorified through this.

Today, I intend to talk about NCC's building project using scripture too ...
One gentleman on asiaone forum quoted Matt 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17 and Luke 19:45-46 which record the incident of Jesus driving out the merchants doing buisness within the temple to support his view that "mixing church premises and commercial interest is a no go."

I also agree with him that commercial activity should not be conducted within the church premises but I think he missed the point that NCC is not building a church but rather a commercial complex with a retail and entertainment zone (which is owned by joint venture partner, CapitaLand) and a civic and cultural zone (owned by NCC's commercial arm, Rock Productions). NCC is merely renting an auditorium within a commercial complex for Sunday worship services, much like what it is presently doing at Suntec City except that NCC does not own Suntec City.

I have stated in my earlier article the practical reasons for NCC building a commercial complex instead of a dedicated church building but
some Christians have argued that the church should not engage in commercial activities. However, I feel that NCC is actually being a good steward of its funds by investing wisely instead of just parking its funds in fixed deposits like what traditional churches do.

Consider the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-27.
14"Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.19"After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.'

21"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

22"The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.'

23"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

24"Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.'

26"His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

Take note of v15 - the master gave seed money of different amounts according to each servant's ability. Have you wondered why certain churches are called to handle large sums of money while others are not? Is it a coincidence that the servant who hid the money instead of investing it was given only ONE talent?

Take note of v16 - the servant with the five talents went AT ONCE and put his money to work. The servant worked fast; he did not hesitate, he did not delay, second guessing his master or worrying about what the other servants think or do. He invested the money wisely, letting the money work for him. He definitely did not park the money in a bank (v27).

In a 17/9/2007 Straits Times interview, Deacon Matthew Kang revealed how NCC's investment in Marine Cove (through Rock Productions) has generated good returns for the church. I append the excerpt below:

One of its shrewdest was the 2001 purchase of Marine Cove at East Coast Park for $10 million, $4 million below its valuation price, after the previous owner had to sell off assets to pay creditors.

Mr Kang, who readily quotes from the Bible to illustrate the virtues of investing, said: ‘Marine Cove was a great investment. It came with ready, popular tenants such as McDonald’s and the place is always crowded. Even the carpark is making money.’

Profit from Marine Cove came up to $425,388 in the last financial year.

$425,388 represents a 4.25% annual return on a $10 million investment, almost 5 times better than the 12-month fixed deposit rate of 0.89%.

Take note of v21 - the master said to the servant who invested the five talents wisely, "Come and share your master's happiness!"
The master is happy! The master is happy because the servant has been faithful with a few things, and therefore he is going to put him in charge of many things. In 2001, NCC was faithful with an investment of $10 million and now God is going to let NCC make an investment of about $500 million (budgeted)!

Take note of v26 and v27 - the master rebuked the servant as wicked and lazy, and he actually said that
putting the money with bankers is a last resort, just slightly better than doing nothing with it. v27 also implies that merely putting the money with bankers is essentially a lazy option. It actually takes much time spent seeking God and much hard work to invest wisely the money God has given the church.

What will churches do with their money if this lazy option of fixed deposits is no longer viable? Horrors of horrors, what if they have to PAY INTEREST to the bankers for taking their money?

The picture above shows an article on page 2-3 of the Mar 15 Sunday Times saying that low interest rates will be around for quite some time and some experts warned of the possibility of savers having to pay interest to the bankers for the service of holding their cash.

Any suggestions from those Christians who insist it is wrong for the church to engage in commercial activities on how to be a good and faithful servant of God and generate a good return for the church's funds?

What Sze Zeng Missed On Sunday March 15

I invited Sze Zeng to visit Suntec City on Sunday Mar 15, the last day of the IT Show so that he could see for himself the practical and logisitical problems that NCC faces when major exhibitions are held there. However, Sze Zeng politely declined to do so, saying "I've been to NCC a few times and understand the limitation of space the church is facing. Yet this problem is not something new or unprecedented in Christians history." I think Sze Zeng may not have visited Suntec City during those times when major exhibitions are held, usually during the March, June, September and December school holidays.

The photo on the left was taken by STOMPer Aileen on Sunday, Mar 15 of the underpass Citylink Mall which connects City Hall MRT to Suntec City.

I walked through the underpass too that morning before the opening time of the IT show and it took me just 10 minutes since the crowds had not arrived yet. But look at the crush after the IT show opened!

Aileen was caught in the crush and
she estimated she took about 30-45 minutes to get from Suntec City to City Hall MRT. I think this picture is a powerful visual presentation of "practical and logistic reason" for NCC to move to One-North. Too bad Sze Zeng did not personally experience this but thankfully this report by Aileen should add to his "knowledge capital" ;-)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Gospel According To Sze Zeng, Peter & Paul

In yesterday's post, I highlighted an excerpt of Sze Zeng's article on NCC's building project where he said NCC "don't know what is a church and the gospel". In that article, Sze Zeng also provided a link to a 19/9/2008 article which he wrote, entitled "What is the Gospel?"

I append below Sze Zeng's conclusion in the 19/9/2008 article:

So now we know that the character of the Gospel, as we have seen, is not some vague divine messages. Neither is it some ‘prosperity’, ‘health and wealth’, or ‘hyper-grace’ news that guarantees emotional, psychological, monetary, or materialistic fulfilment in the first place.

The Gospel is first and foremost the reckoning of the presidential sovereign of Jesus. In St. Peter and St. Paul’s word, the Gospel is, “Jesus is Lord” (Acts 10.36, Romans 10.9, 2 Corinthians 4.5). In today’s term, it is, “Jesus is Prime Minister/President”.

The new order of God, which is personified in Jesus, is directed to liberate the socially and religiously marginalized people in the society, and among each individual within it. It concerns social justice and the whole community at large.

We do not have evident that shows Jesus to concern over individual financial aspiration or constraints. Neither do we have contextually-interpreted texts recording his promises of good health and abundant wealth to his disciples. His healings are not merely for the well being of individuals but the signs of his authority as the delegate who launched God’s agenda into the world.

The disarming love that underlies God’s agenda uncovers the significance and power for society to advance hope, peace, and love. Yet this love never stops critiquing and challenging individuals by its object of a crucified and resurrected Messiah of how such advancement can and should be done.

Therefore any ancient or present-day Gospel that is emptied of the message as exemplified through Jesus’ life and ministry, that Gospel is not the jargon of the Christian community as understood historically and through the church tradition. (Galatians 1.6-9)

"Coincidentally" Pastor Lawrence preached today on what the Gospel is. He began by quoting Romans 1:16-17 - "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”"

The Gospel is about God revealing to us His righteousness and that we receive His righteousness through faith in Jesus. Peter and Paul showed us what the Gospel is through their preaching:

Acts 10:34-43 (NKJV)
34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. 36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all— 37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39 And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom theye]">[e] killed by hanging on a tree. 40 Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. 43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.

Peter preached that whoever believes in Jesus will receive forgiveness of sins (v43). At that point, when Peter was still speaking those words to Cornelius and his household, the Holy Spirit fell upon them and the Jews who witnessed this were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles too (Acts 10:44-45).

The Holy Spirit could not even wait for Peter to finish preaching his sermon and fell upon Cornelius and his household just when Peter was telling them that whoever believes in Jesus will receive forgiveness of sins but Acts 13:16-41 records a full sermon preached by Paul.

In that sermon, Paul also preached the same thing - whoever believes in Jesus will receive forgiveness of sins - "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses." (vv38-39)

"‘prosperity’, ‘health and wealth’" and "emotional, psychological, monetary, or materialistic fulfilment" are just the effects of believing the Gospel of Christ and should not be confused with being the Gospel.

This is the Gospel - through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins. This is what NCC preaches and we are not ashamed of it!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sze Zeng's Article on NCC's Building Project

Sze Zeng aka YOUNG Joshua has written an article on New Creation Church's building project.

He said,"More to imagine how much can $19 million do. Those who support NCC's project try to justify by invoking practical and logistic reason (bold lettering done by me to show that Sze Zeng used this phrase to link back to my NCC Building Project article) . But I think the root problem is not they don't know how to manage their money, but they don't know what is a church and the gospel. They think the gospel is all about God's grace saving our souls from sin and death. Period. To them, a church is just a place for people to gather, sing praise and worship songs, pray, and listen to Joseph Prince, so that our souls can be saved. This is of course nonsense."

I posted the following comment on his blog just now:

"Dear Sze Zeng,

Thank you for posting a link to my blog. You have rightly said that my article is "invoking practical and logistic reason" for NCC's building project.

It seems to you that the practical and logistical issues that NCC faces are not good enough reasons for NCC to move to another location.

Perhaps you could visit Suntec City tomorrow and see for yourself first-hand the problems NCC faces since the IT Show is also being held there at the same time.

As tomorrow is the last day of the IT Show, I expect a very large crowd and would advise you not to drive there because you could have difficulty finding an available parking lot."

I look forward to Sze Zeng's feedback.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New Creation Church's Building Project

(What I have written below does not in any way represent the official position of NCC and its leadership. It is just my personal analysis of the One-North project.)

The above report was published on the front page of the free tabloid, My Paper on 10 March 2009. The almost $19 million mentioned in the headline was the amount of money raised by New Creation Church on 15 Feb 2009 which was designated as "Miracle Seed Sunday" for its church members to sow into the new building project at Buona Vista.

I did not read the report from the physical newspaper but rather the online version. The difference between the physical and online version is that the online version allows netizens to post their comments on the report and predictably, there were a lot of mean spirited comments which can be summarized into the following points:

1. NCC does not need to have its own building

When I first attended NCC in 2003, average attendance was about 10,000 but now in 2009, it has nearly doubled to about 18,000 and continuing to grow. Presently, on a typical Sunday, NCC holds 4 English worship services at the Rock Auditorium at Suntec City Mall which can seat about 1,400 people. Live video is also fed to Eng Wah Cinema (for the first service only), overflow rooms on the 4th floor and 6th floor as well as at Gallery West in Suntec Convention Centre. The Chinese Church and Children's Church hold their services at various ballrooms in Suntec Convention Centre. All these premises are rented and cost NCC a lot of money.

However, whenever there are any major exhibitions held at Suntec Convention Centre, the Chinese Church and the Children Church will have to move to another location eg. Swissotel the Stamford and Marina Mandarin Hotel. This is very tedious for not only the logistics team but also church members who have children attending Children's Church and parents attending the Chinese Church.

The present situation is already not ideal but what happens if Suntec City is sold to new owners who have different plans and decide to redevelop the site? Where can NCC accommodate 18,000 members for Sunday services at short notice?

It is thanks to the foresight of NCC's leadership that it had thought over this problem for a long time and when the opportunity arrived, NCC took advantage of it and bidded for the One-North project and God granted NCC success.

2. NCC should not spend so much money building its own church

Many critics say that NCC should not be spending so much money (budgeted at almost $500 million) to build a church building; it is too extravagant. These critics do not realize the difficulty of constructing a church building in Singapore.

In the first place, it is very difficult to find a suitable piece of land, especially so in land-scarce Singapore. To build a church on the land, the land must be specifically zoned for religious purposes and it is not easy to find one that is correctly zoned and also in a suitable location. Moreover, land zoned for religious purposes have only a 30-year lease. For NCC's situation, the land must also be big enough to build a church that can house 20,000 members.

A case in point is City Harvest Church. In 2001, CHC built a 2,300-seater, titanium-clad church complex in Jurong West Street 91 for S$48,000,000. Apart from that, it has offices and schools in five different locations. If you visit CHC's church complex, you will find that it is on a rather small plot of land, and to maximize the use of the land, CHC built not only upwards but also downwards by incorporating several basement levels into its design.

However, despite the ingenious design, the church complex can no longer accommodate CHC's growing membership and CHC is now conducting its Sunday services at the Singapore Expo and also embarking on another church building project.

God has given NCC the opportunity to circumvent these problems with the One-North project at Buona Vista. NCC is not constructing a church building; it is constructing a commercial building in partnership with CapitaLand.

The One-North project allows NCC to solve the problem of "30-year lease for land zoned for religious purpose" because the land is now zoned for commercial purpose and thus have a 60-year lease. Moreover, because the project is a civic and cultural plaza cum shopping complex, the land is also conveniently located next to Buona Vista MRT station. This huge project allows NCC to incorporate a 5,000-seater auditorium into the design, which it will use for its Sunday worship services.

Constructing a commercial building requires a huge amount of money, much much more than for a church building. It was prudent of NCC to have brought in CapitaLand as a partner for the retail and entertainment zone of the complex while NCC takes over the civic and cultural zone.

One of the benefits of having a commercial building versus a dedicated church building is that when the church is not using the facilities, they can be rented out to generate income; if you do a tour of church buildings during weekdays, you will find many of them are just empty shells, sitting there looking holy.

3. NCC should not be building now as times are bad

The One-North project was awarded to NCC on 7 Sep 2007 and during that time, the economy was booming! In fact, the economy was running so fast that NCC had to revise its original budget of $280 million to almost $500 million partly because of the rising cost of construction materials.

Now that the economy is on a downturn, it is a blessing for NCC since the cost of construction materials will be coming down and the One-North project is also a blessing for the Singapore economy since it will be contributing to output from the construction sector.

Moreover, all glory goes to God when the project is completed because all this is achieved in a time of famine.

4. Some of the funds for the building project could have been given to charity

A church is not a charitable organisation. While a church should and does engage in charity work, its primary focus is not charity but the feeding of heavenly manna to the congregation.

Even though $19 million is a huge sum of money, it must be noted that it is just 3.8% of the $500 million budgeted cost. The $19 million was contributed by church members in response to the Senior Pastor's call to sow specifically into the building project on 15 Feb 2009. Church members contributed knowing that the full amount will go into the building fund.

While the One-North project is still ongoing, NCC has not been slack in giving to charity. On 14 Dec 2008, church members responded to the church leadership's call to contribute to the Boys Brigade Sharity Gift Box (BBSGB) project and NCC donated about $150,000 worth of daily necessities and household needs to the BBSGB’s beneficiaries.

Over the last 12 months, NCC has also made donations to the following:
Yayasan MENDAKI ($100,000 , 21/2/09)
Kampong Kapor Family Service Centre ($1,750 , 25/1/09)
Celebrate Christmas In Singapore (CCIS) 2008 ($100,000 , Dec 2008)
ChildAid 2008 ($50,000 , 3/12/08)
Football Association of Singapore’s (FAS) Golf Challenge ($10,000 , 9/11/08)
Mercy Relief ($50,000 , 20/10/08)
Sichuan Earthquake Charity Show ($100,000 , 25/8/08)
Myanmar Cyclone Relief through Feed The Hungry ($50,000 , 13/5/08)

5. The money to be spent building the church could be better utilized elsewhere

Some people argue that instead of spending $500 million to construct a church building, the money could be better utilized elsewhere. Some have suggested that the money could be used for missions work and evangelism.

Firstly, NCC is not constructing a church building; it is constructing a commercial complex in partnership with CapitaLand.

CapitaLand owns the retail and entertainment zone of the complex while NCC through its commercial arm, Rock Productions owns the civic and cultural zone. NCC's main interest is in the 5,000-seater auditorium which it can use for its Sunday worship services.

Secondly, the $500 million budgeted for the new building cannot be viewed in isolation.

The $500 million headline figure is a huge number but it must be noted that this figure is a conservative budget figure with provisions for cost increases and for a project with a 60 year lease. It must also be compared against the amount of money that NCC is spending every month (about $800,000 if I remember correctly from Deacon Matthew Kang’s presentation) to accomodate the 18,000 strong and still growing congregation.

Doing a simple calculation, over 60 years, assuming no increase in existing rental fees and no increase in renting space, this works out to about $576 million. When the congregation grows even more, more space needs to be rented which will then result in higher rental costs incurred.

We still have not considered the fact that the space that NCC is renting now is not guaranteed. As it is now, NCC’s Chinese Church and Children’s Church have to be conducted away from Suntec City once in a while due to non-availability of rooms which were booked for other conventions or trade shows.

Whether NCC builds or rents, about $500 million or more will be spent either way. However, the new building at One-North gives NCC the assurance of guaranteed space for the next 60 years.

NCC does not need to answer all those critics of its One-North project. NCC only needs to answer to its members and it had done so through several briefings in 2007. It has also posted a list of FAQs and periodic updates on its website.

It must be noted that NCC has never collected any funds from the general public. All the funds are contributed voluntarily by the church members.

I don't see why all those critics should make any noise since not a single cent of their money is involved. Imagine how you would feel if your next-door neighbour appears at your doorstep one day and starts criticizing you for the way you are spending your OWN money. What would you say to that nosy neighbour?

I can think of only two words ...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What Is Your True Worth?

Yesterday, I read Young Joshua's latest reply to my comments on blogpastor, and his use of shit (as analogy) to support his arguments reminded me of Paul who also did the same thing but much more elegantly and meaningfully:

Philippians 3: 4-9 (KJV)
4Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:

5Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;

6Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

7But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

8Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

9And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

Many of us, especially men identify with and establish our worth in what we do, ie. our careers. In Singapore especially, most of our social status is derived from our economic activity rather than birth. The higher we climb the corporate ladder, the more we feel we are worth, the more highly we think of ourselves and others think of us.

I used to work in a bank but switched to being a hawker about six years ago. At first, I felt awkward if I happened to meet acquaintances at the hawker centre as subconsciously I felt I had taken a step down the social ladder but after a few years, I had gotten used to being a hawker and did not feel self-conscious any more.

However, this is still not ideal as I still measured one's worth according to one's economic contribution. I had merely adjusted or gotten used to my new role as a hawker by rationalizing that I am still earning an income.

During this time of economic downturn, many people have lost their jobs and face difficulty getting a new one, and especially for the man, this severely impacts the way he values himself and the way he sees how others, in particular his wife, value him. Our self-worth is tied to our careers and when the career is no more, the self-worth also disappears accordingly.

This is when family trouble starts. In Japan, the divorce rates among old couples is on the rise partly because the husband can no longer lord over the wife as he has lost his economic power and is considered a nuisance around the house, disrupting the daily routine of the wife.

In Singapore, we have read newspaper reports in the past of cases where the man committed suicide because he could not bear the shame of not being able to provide for the family. The most sensational case was the one of the man who killed himself by jumping into the path of an oncoming MRT train. Later, it was discovered that the man was often jobless (although he tried hard to look for work) and his family could only afford to eat instant noodles for every meal every day, even adding an egg into the noodles is considered a luxury.

There are cases of very senior managers slipping into depression because they lost their jobs in an economic downturn. All these point to one thing that we have to resolve: what is one's true worth?

The apostle Paul gives us the answer in Philippians 3:8-9; he considered all the qualifications and status he achieved in society as dung (or shit, using YOUNG Joshua's terminology) and realized that his only true worth was to be found in Christ.

When we know our true worth as we are in Christ, we will not be shaken by our external circumstances. Our self-worth will be a constant, and not fluctuate according to our level of economic activity. We need to listen to sermons that tell us who we are and what we have in Christ. I recommend Pastor Prince's sermon "Being Christ Occupied and Not Self Occupied".

What are we in Christ? What we do we have in Christ?

1. We are dead to sin but alive to God. (Rom 6:11)

2. We have the free gift of God ie. eternal life. (Rom 6:23)

3. We have no condemnation, and are set free from the law of sin and death. (Rom 8:1-2)

4. We are never separated from the love of God. (Rom 8:38-39)

5. We have the grace of God. (1 Cor 1:4)

6. We have the wisdom of God. (1 Cor 1:30)

7. We are a new creation. (2 Cor 5:17)

8. We are the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21)

9. We have freedom. (Gal 2:4)

10. We have the blessing of Abraham. (Gal 3:13-14)

There is so much more to learn about who we are and what we have in Christ. Search the Word of God and discover your true worth in Christ.

Monday, March 9, 2009

First-Hand Knowledge vs Second-Hand Knowledge

In my post yesterday, I mentioned about my ongoing exchange of views with YOUNG Joshua and how it led me to be thankful that Jesus came to live with us as a man and therefore fully understands what we go through.

Joshua's view is that personal experience is not critical in building up one's "knowledge capital", he said the following in blogpastor's comment box:

"And the idea that experiencing something warrants one’s knowledge better is of course nonsense.

One knows the effects and danger of cocaine without the need to use them. One can describe such effects through tapping on the experiences of others without the need to experience it ourselves.

Experiencing it would just add to our memory capital but doesnt necessarily add to our knowledge capital. That means if u had already read about the effects of cocaine previously and then u take cocaine. Then you just gain an experience but that doesn’t add to your knowledge about what you already know about cocaine’s effects. You just had an additional memory (experience) but not necessarily knowledge. And you dont need to experience cocaine to really ‘appreciate’ its effect. Or without experiencing it doesn’t mean you cannot describe its effect accurately. In fact many time, one can describe the effects from reading about it than those who just experienced it."

The following is an excerpt of my reply to him on blogpastor:

"The so-called “knowledge capital” that you have from “tapping on the experiences of others without the need to experience it” yourself is just second-hand knowledge. The one with the personal experience does not just add to his “memory capital”; in fact he has the true knowledge capital."

Today, as I was reading the sports pages in the Straits Times, a short report jumped out at me, as if to confirm what I had said. Take a look at the picture: the player being quoted is Andrei Arshavin, a football player who joined English Premier League club, Arsenal from a Russian football club in January this year.

Effectively, Andrei is saying that first-hand knowledge is so different from second-hand knowledge.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Jesus Our Sympathizer

Yesterday, I had an exchange of views with YOUNG Joshua in a blogpastor comment box regarding his perspective on children. My point to him was that his perspective on children is narrow due to his lack of life experience; as he is not a father, he cannot see children from the viewpoint of a father. He said that sometimes an outsider's view is much clearer but I feel that there are certain things in life that only personal experience will suffice eg. a man can never understand the difficulties that a woman go through during pregnancy and actual child-birth.

This exchange reminded me of Job's three friends who went to comfort Job in the midst of his suffering. However, they actually made Job's life more miserable by saying things that showed their total lack of understanding of what he was going through:

Job 16: 1-4 (NLT)
1 Then Job replied:

2 "I have heard many things like these;
miserable comforters are you all!

3 Will your long-winded speeches never end?
What ails you that you keep on arguing?

4 I also could speak like you,
if you were in my place;
I could make fine speeches against you
and shake my head at you.

How wonderful that we have a God who came as a man and lived life as a man, and therefore He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. We can never accuse Christ of not being able to understand us because He has never experienced what we are going through, for we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. (Heb 4:15)

Knowing that Christ understands us enables us to "approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Heb 4:16)

Thank God that we do not have to suffer like Job, who longed for a mediator to speak on his behalf - "I need someone to mediate between God and me, as a person mediates between friends" (Job 16:21).

Thank God that "we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous." (1 John 2: 1b)

Thank God for Jesus, our sympathizer.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Don't speak the language of the devil

Newsflash (5MAR09_1040HRS):
I just got a phone call from a woman from China (for the third time) speaking to me in Mandarin. I used the same trick by speaking in English, "Sorry ... who is that speaking please?" And predictably, she stammered,"er ... sorry ... wrong number" and hung up. 3 for 3 ... strikeout!

The following is a press release by the Singapore Police Force dated 3 Nov 2007:

One Singaporean Falls Prey To Lottery Scam Every Day

The number of people falling prey to lottery scam fraudsters remains a concern to Police. In the past month, on average, 1 Singaporean falls victim to it daily. So far this year, more than 210 victims have been cheated of over S$2 million.

The fraudsters, claiming to be staff of an overseas company, would typically call their victims on the pretext of conducting a survey or inviting the victims to attend an overseas event. The following days, their accomplice, also claiming to be staff of an overseas company, would call and inform the victims that they had won a cash prize in a lucky draw entered on the victims' behalf. To claim the prize, the victims would be requested to make a payment in advance to them through a remittance company or to a bank account in China. This being payment for administrative or processing fees. In some cases, local bank accounts were also used. To lend credence to their claims, the fraudsters would in some cases provide the victims with login Personal Identification Numbers (PIN) and website addresses, or phone numbers purportedly belonging to overseas audit or law firms.

Another tactic of the fraudsters is to send winning notifications to victims’ handphones via SMS. The messages tell the victims to call an overseas number to claim their prize. The victims are also asked to make payments in advance.

These lottery winnings do not exist. They bear the hallmark of requesting the victims to part with some money before being able to claim the lottery winnings. This is commonly known as ‘Lottery Scams'. After pocketing the money, the fraudsters either conjure up more tales to solicit further payments from their victims, or may abscond altogether. Legitimate lottery companies do not conduct themselves in this manner. If anything sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Police take a stern view of such cases and will not hesitate to prosecute anyone if there is evidence of fraud. The public can provide information on such scams to the Commercial Affairs Department at 1800-3250000 or 391 New Bridge Road, #06-701 Police Cantonment Complex Block D, Singapore 088762, or at any police station. Members of public are also advised to visit the Commercial Affairs Department's website,, for more information.

Public Affairs Department
Singapore Police Force
3 Nov 2007 @ 10am

A few weeks ago, I received a call from an unfamiliar number on my cell phone and I was greeted by a female voice speaking in Mandarin with a China accent.

The conversation went as follows:
"Hello ..."
"喂, 你好, 请问..." (hello, how do you do, may I ...)
"Sorry? Who is that speaking please?"
"请问你可以讲华语吗?" (could you speak Mandarin please?)
"Sorry? Who is that speaking please?"
"Ah ... er ... ok ... sorry ... never mind ..."

This was the second time I have received a cold call from a woman from China (judging from her accent) and both times, the trick of speaking only English has scared them off, simply because they can't speak English! If you start speaking in Mandarin to them, even though you are aware that they are trying to con you, they will keep pestering you on the phone, refusing to hang up. When they finally do give up on you, they will curse you before they hang up.

Do you know that someone is trying to con you all the time every single day? No, it's not your husband! I am talking about the devil (well, some of you might say it's the same thing but ...).

The devil will plant thoughts in your mind to make you feel condemned or unworthy, and you have to reject those thoughts! How? By speaking only God's language, and not speaking the devil's language.

The devil will always speak the language of condemnation to you. When the devil says to you that you are not worthy to be a Christian after you have quarreled with your spouse, just keep saying "I am the righteousness of God in Christ." (2 Cor 5:21)

The devil will always speak the language of fear to you. When the devil says to you that you are going to die because of your illness, just keep saying "By His stripes I am healed." (Isaiah 53:5)

The devil will always speak the language of doubt to you. When the devil says to you that God is not around to help you now that you are in trouble, just keep saying "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1)

Don't try to have an interview with the vampire ... er ... I mean devil, because he will suck the blood ... I mean life out of you. Just keep speaking God's Word over yourself for "those who discover these words live, really live; body and soul, they're bursting with health." (Proverbs 4:22, The Message)