Monday, November 30, 2009

The New Has Replaced The Old

For the past two weeks, I have been lusting and will be continuing to lust (for the next three months before I can recontract my mobile phone line) for a new smartphone to replace my trusty Palm Centro (pic left) which has been faithfully serving me for the last one and a half years.

My Palm Centro is still working fine but its 2.1 inch small screen is beginning to look outdated compared to the gorgeous 2.8 inch to 4.3 inch screens of the smartphones in the market today. While my Centro also allows me to perform tasks like photo and video taking, its 1.3 megapixel camera pales in comparison to the 3 to 8 megapixel cameras in today's smartphones ... the list goes on.

My Palm Centro is slowly but surely becoming obsolete; you won't be able to find any Palm Centro in any of the three local telco's retail shops now. In fact, Palm Inc, the manufacturer of my faithful Centro decided that the Centro's operating system (palmOS) was just simply not good enough; so instead of trying to improve on and upgrade palmOS, Palm Inc dumped palmOS altogether and created a totally new operating system called webOS and designed brand new handsets based on it. The new OS has replaced the old.

Similarly, God found fault with the old covenant which He cut with His chosen people, and instead of modifying the old covenant, God established a totally new covenant to replace the old:

Hebrews 8:7-9,13 (NIV)
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.

13By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.

This new covenant is established through Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross of Calvary and his resurrection three days later. This covenant calls for a totally new priesthood: Jesus, of the tribe of Judah, becomes the High Priest FOREVER in the order of Melchizedek (Heb 6:20), NOT in the old order of Levitical priesthood under the Law (Num 18:7); Christ Jesus becomes "the mediator of a new covenant - that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant." (Heb 9:15). The new priesthood has replaced the old.

By His blood, Christ opens up a brand new way for us to approach the throne of God with boldness - Hebrews 9: 12-14 - "He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,c]"> so that we may serve the living God!" The new blood has replaced the old.

This new covenant is established based on new and superior promises (Heb 8:6): in the old covenant God promised to "visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me" (Exodus 20:5) but in the new covenant God promises that He will put His "laws in their minds and write them on their hearts", He "will be their God, and they will be His people" and He "will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more" (Heb 8:10,12). The new promises have replaced the old.

In the old covenant, the hearts of the people have hardened like stones but in the new covenant, God says "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26) The new heart has replaced the old.

You are no longer under the old covenant. You are now under the new covenant. Do you know what it is and understand what it means? Find out more from new covenant preachers like Pastor Joesph Prince, Joel Osteen, and Andrew Wommack. Just click on their links under my blog's title banner and get started on a "a new and living way" (Heb 10:20).

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Cruise

Harry and Sally were walking down the street when they noticed a huge sign outside a travel agency: "Free tickets for a cruise to Hawaii". Harry looked at Sally and said,"This is too good to be true. It must be a scam." Sally said,"Well, let's check it out anyway."

They stepped into the travel agency and before they could say anything, a pretty young lady stuffed two tickets into their hands and said,"Be at the wharf by 9a.m. tomorrow. The ship sails off at 10.00a.m."

The next day, Harry and Sally arrived at the wharf at 9a.m., and sure enough, a cruise ship was docked there with a long queue of people boarding it. They joined the queue and before long were on board and in their assigned cabin. At exactly 10a.m., the ship's horn sounded and the ship set off on its journey to Hawaii. As Harry looked at the distant horizon through the cabin window, he said,"Sally, this is unbelievable! I can't believe that we are really on our way to Hawaii, on a luxurious cruise ship, for free!"

"But what about our meals? I happened to take a peek at the restaurant on the way to our cabin and it looks expensive.", Sally said. "No worries, I brought instant noodles!" beamed Harry. So for the following two days, Harry and Sally went suntanning on the top deck by the pool and when they were hungry, they went back to their cabin to cook instant noodles. While they were cooking their dinner on the second day, they heard a knock on their cabin door.
When Harry opened the door, the ship captain was standing outside.

"Good evening, sir. I was passing by and I detected the smell of cooking from your cabin." "Oh, we are just cooking instant noodles for our dinner." "Oh I see, but sir, why don't you have meals at the restaurant? There is a great variety of food available." Sally answered,"This is a bit embarrassing but we can't afford to eat at the restaurant. We need to conserve our cash for Hawaii."
"But ma'am, don't you know? All meals are free on board this ship! Did the travel agency hand you the brochure regarding this ship?" "Yes but we haven't really read it." "Well, ma'am, I suggest you read it in detail and discover all the privileges you get to enjoy on this ship but first, for starters, may I suggest you proceed to the restaurant for your free dinner."

After Harry and Sally finished their sumptuous dinner at the restaurant, they sat down in their cabin and began to read the brochure in detail. "Harry, we have wasted our last two days here!", Sally exclaimed, "All we did was suntanning. We could have had one hour of karaoke free every day, $10 free credits at the video arcade, a free rock climbing session, free movies and more!" "
If only someone had told us all this earlier! Thank God it's not too late, Sally. We still have 7 more days to enjoy before we reach Hawaii."

I had been a Christian for more than twenty years before I came to New Creation Church. I was attending an Assembly of God church, and even though I knew all the while that I will be going to heaven, I struggled in my Christian walk on earth.

The only thing I was glad about being a Christian was that I will be going to heaven but I did not enjoy being a Christian; I always felt that I was not up to God's standards, that I was not what God expected me to be. When I got into trouble, I had no assurance that God is able or would want to help me. I thought that it was all up to his whim and fancy; in theological jargon: it is all up to "God's will" because "God is sovereign".

How grateful I am that God led me and my family to NCC where Pastor Prince opens up the bible to us in a new light and shows us how righteous we are in the ship of Christ and all the rights and privileges we enjoy in the ship of Christ.

After I heard the really Good News about Christ in NCC, I felt the same way as Harry and Sally -"If only someone had told us all this earlier!" - and this is why I write this blog, to share with other Harrys and Sallys how we can all enjoy this cruise to heaven and not regret our wasted time.

Psalm 103:1-14
1BLESS (AFFECTIONATELY, gratefully praise) the Lord, O my soul; and all that is [deepest] within me, bless His holy name!

2Bless (affectionately, gratefully praise) the Lord, O my soul, and forget not [one of] all His benefits--

3Who forgives [every one of] all your iniquities, Who heals [each one of] all your diseases,

4Who redeems your life from the pit and corruption, Who beautifies, dignifies, and crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercy;

5Who satisfies your mouth [your necessity and desire at your personal age and situation] with good so that your youth, renewed, is like the eagle's [strong, overcoming, soaring]!

6The Lord executes righteousness and justice [not for me only, but] for all who are oppressed.

7He made known His ways [of righteousness and justice] to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel.

8The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy and loving-kindness.

9He will not always chide or be contending, neither will He keep His anger forever or hold a grudge.

10He has not dealt with us after our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

11For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great are His mercy and loving-kindness toward those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him.

12As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

13As a father loves and pities his children, so the Lord loves and pities those who fear Him [with reverence, worship, and awe].

14For He knows our frame, He [earnestly] remembers and imprints [on His heart] that we are dust.

Friday, November 20, 2009

What Am I?

While all was quiet on this blog, my previous blog post "Close Encounters Of The Fourth Kind" generated quite a few responses on my facebook page. My facebook friend, C disagreed with me that a believer is always righteous in God's eyes regardless of any sinful actions; he says that when a believer sins, he is a sinner.

C says, "What is wrong for God to see us as righteous because of Christ's act and to see us as sinners for what we really are?" Therein lies the crux of disagreement between C and me - What are we, really? Another facebook friend, the wise Lip Kee accurately summarized C's and my respective positions thus:

1. For Stanley, the term "Christian" and "sinner" are used to define the spiritual IDENTITY of a person.

A "Christian" is someone who believes in and accepts the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, saved from the prison called "sin", and born again as a child of the most high God. The IDENTITY of a believer, a saved person, a Christian, is that of "the righteousness of God in Christ" (Rom 5:21), even if he were to fail and fall, and commit sinful acts.

Does a Christian still have the flesh in him? Does sin in the flesh have an influence over the believer? Is it possible for a child of God to still commit sins? Yes, yes, and yes. But he remains forever a born again child of God. He cannot "un-born" himself from God's family.

In contrast, a "sinner" is an unbelieving, Christ-less, unsaved person who belongs to the tribe of the first Adam and has yet to be reborn into God's family. The IDENTITY of an unsaved person remains that of a "sinner", regardless of how saintly he behaves, and how many good works he has done.

Stanley believes that the real IDENTITY of a Christian is found in the last Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ, and not in the first Adam. As born-again children of God, our true IDENTITY is found in the Spirit (the supernatural), not in the flesh (the natural).

Since we are taught in the Bible to walk NOT by sight (i.e. to perceive and live naturally, to look to ourselves and depend on our self-efforts) but by faith (i.e. to perceive and live super-naturally, to look to Jesus and depend on His grace), we are to see our IDENTITY in Christ, in the Spirit, and not in our humanity, in the natural.

I believe it is in the above sense that Stanley asserts that a Christian (a child of God) can never become a sinner (a non child of God) and should therefore not be addressed as such.

2. For C, the term "sinner" simply describes a person based on his actions and deeds. The term "sinner" does not so much define the identity of a person as it DESCRIBES THE DEEDS performed by him.

Therefore, when a person, regardless of whether he is a believer or an unbeliever, commits a sinful deed, he is described as a sinner.

Here, we are NOT talking about the person's identiy. His identity as a beloved child of God remains intact - he is still fully forgiven, still completely accepted, still perfectly righteous IN CHRIST.

Nevertheless, when seen and described in his humanity, in the natural state (in contrast to the spiritual state which is IN CHRIST), this person is indeed someone who has done wrong and fallen short - a doer of sin, a sinner.

The question remains, "What are we, really?" A cow gives birth to a calf (ie. a little cow), a dog gives birth to a puppy (ie. a little dog), a cat gives birth to a kitten (ie. a little cat), a sheep ... well, you get the picture.

We often call a Christian as a born-again believer. Do you know why? Jesus tells us why in John 3:3-6 :
In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.a]">"

"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit."

In the natural, when we were born into this world, when we came out from our mothers' wombs, we were born of the flesh and thus identified as such, the natural man.

In the supernatural, when we are born again into the kingdom of God, we are born of the Spirit and thus we are now also spirit. What are we, really? We are spirit and thus identified as such, the spiritual man.

The natural man does not understand the things of God while the spiritual man is able to listen to the voice of God - "
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one." (1 Cor 2:14)

Does the spiritual man commit sins? Yes, he does. Does that make him a sinner? No, for that is not his identity anymore because a sinner is a citizen of the natural world, not the kingdom of God. The spiritual man's identity remains forever the "righteousness of God in Christ" (2 Cor 5:21).

Let me give an illustration:
A Singaporean has just emigrated to Australia. He renounced his Singaporean citizenship and became a citizen of Australia.

One day, this brand new Australian went shopping at a shopping mall and a few hours later, felt hungry and proceeded to a food court for dinner. The food court was crowded but he finally spied an empty seat, quickly rushed towards it and placed a packet of tissue paper on the table before joining a queue for fish and chips.

Let me ask you: does this typical Singaporean habit of reserving a seat with a packet of tissue paper make him a Singaporean again? No, he is still an Australian. This is his new identity and the Singaporean habits within him does not change his new identity at all. Of course, over a period of time, we can expect him to display less and less of those typical Singaporean habits but he is an Australian now.

Do you know what you are? You are the spiritual man (woman). Your identity is not based on your acts of good or bad; your identity is based on only ONE ACT, that one act of Christ - "Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone." (Rom 5:18)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Close Encounters Of the Fourth Kind

I have a facebook friend, C who loves to post quotes by famous people (most of whom ironically I have never heard of) which sometimes sound reasonable and true at first but as I think about them more deeply, I find the quotes do not reflect the truth. I have disagreed with and rebutted so many famous people's quotes (posted by C) on facebook that people probably think that I'm trying to be (or am) a smart aleck.

Anyway, C recently put up a quote which I again disagree with:

There are only two kinds of men: the righteous, who believe themselves sinners; the rest, sinners who believe themselves righteous. ( Blaise Pascal)

I agree that there are these two kinds of people as mentioned above:

1. Sinners, who believe themselves righteous

During His ministry on earth, Jesus met many of this kind of people, mainly the Pharisees and other religious leaders and teachers. They believed that they were righteous because they scrupulously followed the religious laws and did good works; they were proud of themselves and did not see themselves as sinners:

Luke 5:30
But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"

Luke 7:39
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner."
Luke 15:2
But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."

Jesus knew their hearts and told a parable to teach them that their works do not make them righteous:

Luke 18:9-14
Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

2. The righteous, who believe themselves sinners:
Sadly, there are many of this kind of people around and they call themselves Christians. Many Christians are not assured that they will go to heaven because they still commit sins after they become Christians, and therefore they still see themselves as sinners.

They still have not understood that even in their mother's womb, even before they have commited any sinful actions, they are already sinners. They are born sinners; they are sinners not because of sins they have commited but because of THE SIN which ONE MAN [Adam] commited:

Romans 5:12
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned -

However, after we become Christians, we are no longer sinners, we are the righteous. We are righteous not because of our acts of righteousness; we are righteous because of THE ACT of righteousness of ONE MAN [Jesus]:

Rom 5: 17-19
For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

While I agree with Blaise Pascal that there are these two kinds of people around, I disagree that they are the ONLY two kinds. Let me introduce you to another two kinds:

3. Sinners, who believe themselves sinners

This is what we were before we became Christians. We knew deep in our hearts that we were sinners and thus estranged from God and we sought for a remedy, and we found it in Jesus - Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone (Rom 5:18)

Blaise Pascal said it like this: "There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus."

After we become Christians, we are and should be like the fourth kind of people:

4. The righteous, who believe themselves righteous

We, Christians, must have the assurance that we are the righteous, and we are assured because our righteousness is not what we earned through any righteous acts we do but rather it is what we received as a gift of God through Jesus Christ:

Rom 5:17
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

You ask,"But we still commit sins after we become Christians, so are we still righteous?" Our righteousness is not a state of sinlessness but a position of right standing before God. Yes, we still sin but our righteousness is credited to us apart from works and therefore we are the blessed man whose sin the Lord will never count against him (Rom 4:6-8).

When we accepted Christ as our Lord and Saviour, we are no longer sinners; we are a new creation, reconciled to God, and our sins are no longer counted against us:

2 Corinthians 5:17-19
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them.

I am the fourth kind of people. I am reconciled with God. I can now call him Daddy (Rom 8:15).

I am the righteous and I believe it! Do you?

(Recommended listening: Sermon by Pastor Joseph Prince - "When You Sin, Are You Still The Righteousness Of God?")

Sunday, November 15, 2009

1st Anniversary of TLC

Exactly one year ago, I started writing this blog because I was frustrated that my voice was being drowned out by others when I commented on other blogs to rebut what I felt were wrong teachings or interpretation of scripture verses. I decided to have my own say and let others comment on what I have to say instead.

My concern is mainly for fellow Christians whose Christian walk is suffering because of the erroneous things they are hearing in church. Many of these things may sound reasonable at the first hearing but when you dig deeper, contradictions surface; you discover that these teachings are illogical when you compare them with scripture and that is why I named my blog, "The Logical Christian".

For a little while, my blog was bombarded by attacks from anonymous bloggers especially after I wrote a few articles to support Pastor Prince when the news media broke the story on his annual income. I tried to act smart and retorted with sarcastic barbs and veiled insults but thank God for the Holy Spirit and a good friend to remind me that all this came from my ego, and that I should not be doing this. A valuable lesson in humility was learned and I believe my blog is the better for it.

Through commenting on Mal's and other blogs, and later writing my own blog, I have also "met" quite a few brothers and sisters-in-grace in cyberspace and also in person, which evolved into Grace United. The one who started the ball rolling was Jeffrey, who appeared out of the blue at my stall one day and asked me the question which I subsequently would encounter many more times: "Are you Stanley?"

I was surprised one afternoon by a visit at my stall by Blogpastor, together with his preacher friend, Monte Lee Rice, and we spent a wonderful hour(s?) chatting about the gospel. I am also especially touched that someone all the way from Kuala Lumpur squeezed a visit at my stall into his itinerary on his 2-day family holiday in Singapore even though he knew me only through my blog. Thank you, Peter Sze :-)

I hope you all have been blessed by my articles, just as I myself have also been blessed even as I write. Thank you all for supporting my effort for the past year, especially those of you in Grace United, and I hope to continue writing for many more years to come.

To celebrate the first anniversary of this blog, I have given it an extreme makeover. How do you like it?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Curious Case Of The Zero Dollar Chef

In my post, dated 4 April 2009, entitled "The Curious Case Of The Half A Million Dollar Chef", I used the parable of a restaurant and its chef to talk about the relevance of the salary of my senior pastor, Pastor Joseph Prince which the news media had found out and reported to be about $500,000.

Well, Pastor Prince just announced last Sunday at the Singapore Expo (where New Creation Church held its Sunday services instead of Suntec City as it has been "commandeered" for the Apec Summit) that the church board, after four years of objections, has finally acceded to his request to be removed from the church's payroll. In effect, he has just "demoted" himself from the Half-A-Million-Dollar Chef to the Zero-Dollar Chef.

Just as it did not matter to me then that Pastor Prince was paid $500,000 a year, it does not matter to me now that he is paid a big fat $0. What matters to me are the sermons he preach week after week, whether those sermons are glorifying Jesus and helping me to know Jesus more and more, because that is the measure of his calling.

Let me ask you: "How do you measure the performance of a pastor? How do you conclude whether a pastor is a good pastor or not?" Some Christians (or maybe even non-Christians looking in) may feel a pastor is good because he knows many members by name, visits the sick, is easily accessible whenever a member needs help or counseling, etc. While these traits may be seen in a good pastor, I firmly believe that the true measure of a good pastor is his sermons. If you don't feel fed by the pastor's sermons or the Holy Spirit in you somehow does not agree with the pastor's sermons, then he is not a good pastor for you.

Frankly speaking, visiting the sick or praying for you, etc can be a show (I'm not saying that it is but that it can be) put on by the pastor and if we base our assessment on these aspects, we will be deceived. At the risk of sounding like a broken record player, the true test is the pastor's sermon. When you hear the sermon being preached by the pastor, are you hearing the voice of man or the voice of God? 1 Thessalonians 2:13 says "And we also [especially] thank God continually for this, that when you received the message of God [which you heard] from us, you welcomed it not as the word of [mere] men, but as it truly is, the Word of God, which is effectually at work in you who believe [exercising its superhuman power in those who adhere to and trust in and rely on it]."

The pastor cannot fake a sermon because he needs the Holy Spirit to speak through him. When you hear a pastor's sermon and it starts sounding like "the word of [mere] men" instead of the "Word of God", then you know that something is not right with this pastor; something must be happening in his life which is causing him to avoid God and close his ears to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. He can still churn out "sermons" for a while based on his head knowledge and his training in theological college but there will be no life in those sermons.

Have you heard such lifeless pastors before? I have but I shall not name them here; instead, I'll like to introduce you to preachers who preach life, who preach JESUS - Joseph Prince, Andrew Wommack, Joel Osteen, Paul White, Åge M. Åleskjær, Peter Youngren, Steve Mcvey ...

So, how is the chef going to survive now that he is earning a $0 salary? I don't know but Pastor Prince is not worried; he told us to watch and see what the Lord will do. I eagerly await his testimony ... watch this space ;-)

Psalm 35:27-28 (NKJV)
27 Let them shout for joy and be glad,
Who favor my righteous cause;
And let them say continually,
Let the LORD be magnified,
Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.
28 And my tongue shall speak of Your righteousness
And of Your praise all the day long.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fill Up Your Faith Tank

Last Wednesday, a local tabloid, The New Paper, reported on the rising divorce rate among couples who are above 50 years old, and highlighted the tragic case of a 54-year-old woman who committed suicide after her 59-year-old husband confessed to having an affair for the past 6 years and wanted a divorce.

At first, I regarded this report only as a commentary on a current social phenomenon as Singapore becomes a progressively aging society but this report took on a whole new meaning for me after my wife asked me, "Did you look at the pictures?"

Actually, I only glanced at the pictures as I had concentrated on the written report but as I took a closer look at the pictures and wondered what my wife was fussing about, she pointed to the guy in the blue shirt and said, "This guy looks like Pastor Gabriel!" (from our church, New Creation Church).

While I cannot confirm it, I think the guy in the blue shirt is indeed Pastor Gabriel and hence it is highly likely that this couple or either one of them attended New Creation Church. My immediate thought was "How could this happen to them if they were attending NCC regularly?" To be fair, I don't know the couple personally and have no idea whether or how long they have been attending NCC but this tragedy does set me thinking: week after week, thousands file into the Rock Auditorium and overflow rooms for Sunday church service but how many have truly absorbed the gospel of grace into their spirit?

I suspect Pastor Prince may be wondering about the same thing too as I find that he usually repeats his series on "righteousness" after a few seasons. I remember that Pastor Prince once said that he does this over and over again to drum this into our hearts.

The people of Isaiah 6:9 "Hear and hear continually, but understand not; and see and see continually, but do not apprehend with your mind.", are we like them? No, we are not because God tells us, "I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart." (Ezekiel 36:26, NLT), which is why Pastor Prince's constant drumming is a good tactic since "faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ." (Rom 10:17, NLT)

That is also why I keep listening to the same sermons on CD or MP3 over and over again; often, it is only after many many listening sessions that a truth which Pastor Prince preached in a sermon finally dawns on me and sinks into my heart.

Do you know that faith, like physical fitness, cannot be stored indefinitely? Just as you need to exercise regularly to build up and maintain your physical fitness, you need to keep hearing the "Good News about Christ" over and over again to build up and maintain your faith. Just listening to the sermon preached by the pastor when you attend church on Sunday is not enough. Go and buy sermon CDs and listen to them as often as you can during the week.

Faith needs time to be built up and maintained. Don't wait till a crisis strikes, just when you need faith the most, and you suddenly discover that your "faith tank" is nearly empty. Start listening to the "Good News about Christ" over and over again NOW.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Holy Communion and Anointing Oil (by Peter Youngren)

The Holy Communion and Anointing Oil

by: Peter Youngren

One of the bonuses of traveling to places in the world where most people don’t get to go is unusual experience. Now I don’t mean seeing strange animals, or mere traditions; I mean unusual spiritual experiences. Indonesia is a fascinating country. Though it is the world’s largest Muslim country with more than 200 large unreached people groups, among the Chinese people-- which are 40 million strong, there are many large churches.

One of the most inspiring I’ve come across is the Tiberias Church, which conducts 178 services per Sunday across various locations in Jakarta. Total membership across Indonesia is 500,000, with most of these in Jakarta. According to church growth experts, it’s the 9th largest church in the world.

The pastor, Yesaya Pariadji was a muslim to whom Jesus revealed himself in 1986. He became acquainted with the Full-Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship and visited a number of conventions across America with its founder Demos Shakarian. Jesus appeared to Pastor Pariadji after healing his wife out of a debilitating disease, commissioning Pastor Pariadji to bring a deeper understanding of the Holy Communion and anointing with oil in the name of Jesus Christ. Last Sunday, after our Gospel Festival in Kupang, I flew to Jakarta, to speak in a couple of the services at the Tiberias church. I had met Pastor Pariadji a year ago and was deeply impressed with how Jesus is shining through his life. This time I gained a greater understanding of the church. The message of God’s grace permeated the praise and worship. Every song, many of them written by Pastor Pariadji’s son, Argo Pariadji, really lifted up Jesus and the Father’s love. The people received my teaching with great joy. I hope to be able to show it on one of our telecasts. You could tell the message of grace had already penetrated the congregation and they were ready to receive. Though we were on a tight schedule, I was anxious to stay to the end of the service when Pastor Pariadji would give out the Holy Communion and anointing oil. I have never witnessed people so eager to receive the bread and the wine; such energy of faith. The church bulletin featured testimonies of people who have been healed simply by trusting in Jesus and receiving the Holy Communion and the anointing with oil.

Pastor Pariadji’s teaching on the anointing oil from the olive tree as symbolic of the redemptive work of Jesus is profound. I felt that what I saw and heard would have been just like when disciples in the first century received the bread and the wine. I went home with a determination to not only take the Holy Communion in Sunday services, but at our Grace TV headquarters.

Well my last two days in Indonesia were intense. First the closing service in the Kupang Gospel Festival with a huge crowd [see photo report], then the flight to Jakarta and the services there, and after the final meeting in Jakarta I took the last flight to Medan, the largest city in Sumatra (the area of recent earthquakes), in order to spend almost a day with the Gospel Revolution Bible College headed by Susan Hoover. The students were ready and receptive. It was exciting to see growth in the school, and I also met many of the missionaries that have come out of our Bible College; Sarah DeRidder, Kyle Laviolette, Gola Tiruneh, and John & Lasmian Kingma. Do you have a testimony of Jesus revealing Himself to you through the Holy Communion? Let me know. -Peter

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Keeping The Faith - Online

The local tabloid, TODAY, in an article dated yesterday, entitled "Keeping the faith - online", reported on the phenomenon of "internet churches":

"The World Wide Web has become the hottest place to build a church. A growing number of congregations are creating Internet sites that are fully interactive, with a dedicated Internet pastor, live chat in an online "lobby", Bible study, one-on-one prayer through instant messaging and communion (viewers use their own bread and wine or water at home)."

Personally, I like the concept of an "internet church" although I do attend a "regular" church. I believe that this is what the world wide web was created for - the spreading and sharing of the gospel. The internet is a very useful tool to reach the previously unreachable, eg. those living in remote or sparsely populated places, or those who are incapacitated who are now able to participate in a church service as long as they have access to the internet.

Some Christians might think that the internet church encourages Christians to be lazy, to stay at home on Sunday instead of going to church (the physical one). I say if the Christian doesn't want to go to church, then let the church come to the Christian; at least he can still feed on the Word, and I believe when he has fed enough, he will eventually want to go to a regular church as well for even more feeding.

On a personal note, while I have not "attended" an internet church service before, I have watched and listened to sermons from great preachers like Andrew Wommack (a lot) and Joel Osteen (a little). I would probably not have been able to ever hear them speak in my lifetime (unless they come to preach in Singapore) and learned so much from them if not for the internet. I have also made a lot of new friends on cyberspace, linked by the gospel of grace and facebook ;-)

We do not need to fear that the internet church will replace the regular church because both have their roles to play and both complement each other. I foresee that New Creation Church will have to involve the internet in its church services soon as the church expands beyond the shores of Singapore. Even within the shores of Singapore, the church is growing at such a fast rate that by the time we move to our new and bigger premises at one-North, the church will probably be operating at close to full capacity, and will eventually need (not "overflow rooms" like at present but) overflow off-site premises.

The internet has been abused by the devil for a long time (pornography, terrorism, etc) but it is time now for the Church to aggressively make use of the internet for the glory of God. Amen?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Seeing Defeat In Victory

In my previous post, I put up the picture on the left and asked, "What do you see?" Many of you had to look very hard to see the word "DeFeat" in yellow embedded in the word "victoRY" in black.

This picture illustrates the kind of preachers and preaching we see in many churches today - preachers who do not or dare not preach the total and absolute victory we believers have in Christ; preachers who try very hard to preach defeat into the victory we believers have in Christ.

Casting aside differences in teachings about the baptism of the Holy Spirit or Holy Communion or the Lord's prayer, etc, let us talk about the most basic thing about Christianity ie. if you accept Christ as your Lord and Saviour, you will go to heaven after you die. This is quite straightforward, isn't it? This is at least what Christ died on the cross for, isn't it? This is the ultimate victory for us believers, isn't it, that regardless of how we suffer here on earth, at least we can enjoy heaven after we pass on?

No, we have preachers who preach defeat into this victory. These preachers preach that our salvation is not assured, entry into heaven is not guaranteed because of Matthew 7:21-23; that we risk losing our salvation at the very last if we do not live holy lives. These preachers do not or dare not believe in and preach the finished work of Christ on the cross; they believe and preach that Christ's work on the cross is just the beginning and we have to finish it through our own efforts by living holy lives.

Does Matt 7:21-23 really say that we may not enter heaven unless we do our part by living holy lives?
"21"Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’"

Many preachers interpret that "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven" means not every believer is guaranteed to go to heaven BUT they fail to see that in v23, Jesus says "I never knew you". If you are a believer, then Jesus can't say that He never knew you because He at least knew you once before!

Moreover, v21 says that the one who can enter the kingdom of heaven is "he who does the will of My Father in heaven". Preachers then interpret doing the will of the Heavenly Father as obeying God's commandments or living a holy life BUT what truly is the will of the Father? In John 6:40, Jesus himself defines what is the will of the Father - "this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day".

It should also be noted that in the context of the book of Matthew and Matthew 7 in particular, Jesus was preaching to his fellow Jews who were under the Law. Jesus was telling them that now that He has been sent to replace the Law, they cannot go to heaven under the old system of the Law, no matter how fervent they were under the Law. They could have prophesied and cast out demons in the name of God BUT that cannot get them to heaven. Now that Christ has come, they can get to heaven only through believing in Him (John 6:40). Jesus confirms this again in John 14:6 - "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me". Therefore, I submit that Matt 7:21-23 was not referring to us believers.

The total and absolute victory of Christ's sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection has thus been tainted by the defeat which many preachers strenuously squeezed out from their erroneous interpretation of scripture. There are many more such instances of preachers seeing defeat in victory and I hope to share more on this in future.

Isaiah 25:8
He will swallow up death forever,
And the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces;
The rebuke of His people
He will take away from all the earth;
For the LORD has spoken.

1 Corinthians 15: 54-57

So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“ O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.