Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Christian Or Non-Christian, Same Difference?

During an an exchange of views over at blogpastor's post, "Give Joseph Prince a Fair Hearing", one Christian brother, JM, made the following comment:
"Prosperity is great when you have it, but what will you do when it leaves you?
If you are now a 40 years old male, you can reasonably expect to live to about 72 years in Singapore before succumbing to a disease that will eventually kill you. 

We can predict that we will look forward to one of 3 outcomes:-
1. A sudden death without any warning.
2. A sudden life changing and debilitating experience which may drag on for many years.
3. Have more than 50% chance of getting Alzheimers if you live past 80.

How does JP’s “Unbridled Grace” model handle this reality – have done a cursory search but found him quite silent."

When I read that comment, the first thought that came to my mind was: "If that is what I can reasonably expect, being a Christian makes no difference in my life at all." NO! There must be a difference between a Christian and a non-Christian because we have been set apart by the Lord - "And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself." (Acts 20:32).

We have been set apart in Christ - "And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’" (Acts 26:17-18); Because of our faith in Christ, we are what Christ says in John 17:16 - "They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world." - i.e. we have been set apart. 

Since we have been set apart from the world, we should not expect the same "fate" of the world.  The world can expect a "sudden death without any warning" BUT we can expect a long good life because God says through the Psalmist in Psalm 91: 16 - "With long life I will satisfy him".  The world can expect a "sudden life changing and debilitating experience which may drag on for many years" BUT we can expect to be protected from harm because God says in Psalm 91:10-11 that "No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways."

What is the reality for one who has been set apart by the Lord?  Is it the same reality as that of the world?  In the Old Testament, we see Israel, which was under the Old Covenant set apart by God.  In fact, even before the nation of Israel was formed, before they received the Law, while the people were still slaves in the land of Egypt, they were already set apart by God. In Exodus 8, God told Moses to appear before Pharaoh to demand the release of the Israelites but of course Pharaoh refused and God released plague after plague on Egypt.  The Israelites were also living in Egypt but did they also suffer the same fate as the Egyptians?

Exodus 8:20-24 (NKJV)
20 And the LORD said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh as he comes out to the water. Then say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. 21 Or else, if you will not let My people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you and your servants, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground on which they stand. 22 And in that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there, in order that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the land. 23 I will make a difference between My people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall be.”’” 24 And the LORD did so. Thick swarms of flies came into the house of Pharaoh, into his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt. The land was corrupted because of the swarms of flies.

Can you see that God makes a difference between those who are his children and those who are not?  I think that many Christians don't feel this difference and non-Christians can't see this difference because many churches today don't know and/or don't preach this difference.  We have been set apart in Christ and this makes a difference, nay, I should say this makes THE difference.  Many churches today preach on what you must do and what must not do as a Christian but don't know and/or don't preach on what it means for us to be in Christ.

Do you know that the word translated as "difference" in Exodus 8:23 in Hebrew is  פְּדוּת (transliteration  pĕduwth) which literally means "ransom"?  God has made Christ a ransom for us and this is THE difference between us and the world.  Don't expect the same as the world expects!  The world expects the worst but we should expect good for God says in Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Is Victory Achieved Or Received? (3)

Those of you familiar with the chain of events in my "tussle" with my ex-landlord will know that he rented out his stall to another dessert seller (who incidentally is his relative who had no prior experience) in order to intercept business from my stall which is situated only two units away.

If you can recall, in my 18 Aug 2009 post "Is Victory Achieved Or Received? (1)", I reported that the other dessert stall closed down in late July 2009 and I heard from sources that my ex-landlord wanted to look for another dessert seller to take over. Well, he did find another dessert seller to take over the stall and it opened for business in mid October 2009. For the past few months, my business was again affected and turnover was lower but at least, thank Daddy God, the impact was far less than when that first stall opened in October 2007.

While the first stall lasted 22 months, thank Daddy God that this time, I received His victory in 4 months! Yes, the second stall has officially closed down on last Saturday, 6 February 2010! Hallelujah! Again, victory was not achieved by me but received from the Lord.

This second stall was opened by a lady who boasted (loudly to my neighbouring stall so that my mum could hear every word) that she had 30 years' of experience in the dessert business (she was working as an assistant in a dessert chain before she made this short-lived move to open her own stall) and therefore had the confidence to open her stall here despite the existence of my stall and another dessert stall situated at the other end of the hawker centre.  Based on feedback from some other stallholders, the taste of her desserts, though not fantastic, was acceptable and my own eyes witness that she had her share of customers as well.

Pastor Prince preached in the very last sermon of 2009 that 2010 is going to be the year of restful increase but to be honest, I have not been restful since the start of the year, worrying about the lower business volume and how to pay my bills.  That is why you have not seen me writing much last month.

I am thankful that while I was feeling down and empty of God's Word, Geri was overflowing with His Word and I was blessed and gradually rejuvenated by the words of encouragement in her notes on facebook even though they were not specifically directed at me (see my previous post).

I am also thankful that my mum bought Joel Osteen's DVD album and brought it to the stall.  I played his sermon "A New Season of God's Mercy (Favour)" over and over again at the stall, and his simple sermon about how one touch of God's favour can turn things around for me stirred up my spirit and re-ignited the hope I have in the Lord.  Slowly but surely, my heart began to rest and I just trusted that the Lord will do something for me.

As it turns out, as I was slowly beginning to rest, Daddy God moved for me and the second stall suddenly closed down last Saturday.  I did not expect it because just a few weeks ago, that lady put up Chinese New Year decorations at her stall and even installed a pair of Chinese mythical creatures (statues) which were supposed to draw prosperity into her stall.

Thank you Daddy God for your favour and I look forward to even more of your favour in the coming days. Amen!

Monday, February 8, 2010

New Creation Church Is NOT A Cult!

For the past few weeks, I have been playing Joel Osteen's DVD sermon, "A New Season of God's Mercy (Favour)", at my stall over and over again.  Last Saturday, a first-time customer saw the DVD sermon and warned me to be careful of his teachings. She learnt that I was from NCC and immediately gave me a disapproving look and told me to "be careful of these cults; their teachings are not based on the bible".  She also said that the preachers are promoting themselves only.

Despite she being my customer, I could not resist telling her off.  I told her that she can disagree with NCC's teachings but she cannot label NCC as a "cult".  It seems that the term "cult" is freely thrust upon any church that does not seem to conform to the preaching or theologies of mainstream/traditional churches, especially if the church in question does not belong to any recognized denomination. I'm sure that Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Lutherans, Pentecostals and other denominations differ and disagree with one another on certain aspects of theology but you don't hear their church members labeling the other churches as cults.
Since 17 Dec 2008, I have been regularly attracting hits on my blog through google search.  Anyone want to venture a guess on the googled keywords? Yes, you've guessed right: "new creation church cult" (see picture, left) and the reason why google direct them to my blog is because of the article I posted on 17 Dec 2008 - "Is New Creation Church a cult?". 

In that post, I reprinted an article which described the characteristics of a cult, and I think it is worthwhile to reiterate the key points of that article here:

1. A cult, by modern standards, is any group that incorporates mind control to deceive, influence and govern its followers.

2. The mind control, or brainwashing, exerted by cults often take the form of at least several of the following elements:

a) A totalitarian control over the lifestyle and time of its members - Many cults tend to dictate exactly what its followers should read, eat, how and with whom they should spend their time, and even what they should do in off hours. This totalitarian control is necessary for the leaders to indoctrinate the followers in everything they do, and is also an attempt to separate them from anything not associated with the cult. This is why cults often live together in groups.

b) A charismatic, self-appointed leader with complete authority - Cult members are taught not to question the teachings, practices, or ideas of the leader. Many cult leaders truly are charismatic people, and are able to influence people to believe them. One very clear identifying element dealing with the leader of a cult is that the leader will always focus the attention and veneration of the members upon himself or herself. At the heart of a cult usually lies a very self-centered and self-seeking person.

c) A focus on withholding truth from non-members - Many cults teach their followers to be completely open and truthful within the group, while at the same time they are encouraged to be secretive and evasive when questioned by people outside of the group. Only specially-commissioned members are appointed to recruit members from outside. New members are usually encouraged to keep silent or even lie, especially to their families and close friends.

The three elements listed above are very successful ways to create a group mentality, an us-against-them way of looking at things. This is essential for any cult that wants to keep its members. The more afraid of the outside world the members become, the more strongly and faithfully they will keep within the safe fold of the cult.

I regularly attend New Creation Church's Sunday worship service together with my family and about 19,000 other people, and from my personal experience, I can tell that we are not a bunch of tightly controlled zombies worshiping Pastor Prince.  Pastor Prince himself has also encouraged us not to just blindly accept everything he says but to check his preaching with what we read in the bible for ourselves.     

Pastor Prince's sermon CDs are available for sale at the Rock bookshop and on the online store, and those sermon CDs, which date from the year 2000 and represent hundreds of hours of preaching, are easily accessible to any critic who wish to mine for any evidence of Pastor Prince preaching heresy or focusing the attention and veneration of the members upon himself.

Sad to say, many of these critics shoot their mouths off based on hearsay rather than examining the evidence at the source.  At this juncture, let me express my utmost respect for Pastor Kenny aka blogpastor who, in his blog post "Give Joseph Prince A Fair Hearing", said "Pastors should not just go by hearsay and what they read of others’ comments, but actually go to the source and give Joseph Prince a fair hearing: read his books or listen to his tapes. Put down your guns and set aside the warning label called “antinomian” for the time being, roll the sleeves, and do some honest research."

Without a doubt, Pastor Prince is a charismatic preacher but I challenge anyone to produce evidence of Pastor Prince preaching a sermon which promotes only himself.  Every Sunday, we hear Pastor Prince preach only Christ and His finished work on the cross.  Of course, not everyone agrees with all that he preaches, and over the years there have been people who left NCC because they could not accept his preaching but looking at how NCC has almost doubled from 10,000 members in 2004 to 19,000 today, it is obvious that many more have come than left.  However, my point is not to boast about NCC's church growth but to highlight the fact that NCC's members are FREE to come and go, which certainly is NOT the characteristic of a cult.

About 2 weeks ago, a customer patronised my stall.  I chatted with him and discovered that he also attends NCC.  He said, "Coming to NCC was the best thing that happened in my life."  He is not the only one to feel that way.  I also feel the same and hearing the testimonies read in church every Sunday, I know quite a few others from America, Europe and other parts of the world feel the same too. Again, my point is not to boast about NCC but to highlight the fact that for every critic out there who objects to and disapproves of Pastor Prince's preaching, there are many more whose lives have been transformed for the better because their eyes have been opened through his sermons.

Am I asking you to agree with Pastor Prince's preaching? NO! I am asking you to listen to Pastor Prince's sermons and read his books for yourself before you condemn him, NCC and its members!! Don't you dare call NCC a cult without producing any evidence to support your accusation!!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Cheerleading Ministry

As you guys have noticed, I haven't been writing for quite a while now. I have been feeling a bit down because of some challenges and tired out from all the firefighting, I simply did not have the energy nor inspiration to write.

However, thank God that while I was running on empty, my dear sister-in-grace, Geri, was overflowing with God's timely Word and put out many notes filled with words that inspire and stir up the spirit. I was particularly inspired by her note entitled "Hear Only The Good Stuff" in which she said "Being in grace doesn’t mean that we no longer face any trouble. Many believers are stumbled becoz they dun expect any more testing. Remember we are esp hated by the enemy and so he will shake things around us - circumstances beyond our control. But the key is to always hold on to this truth- nothing is beyond our Daddy God’s control.  Although we still go through trials today, we have come to stand on the Word instead of what we feel, hear, or experience. That is the difference."

I remember during my army days, when we were doing our 2.4km run (for the Individual Physical Proficiency Test or IPPT) , many of us felt like giving up two-thirds into the run because that is usually the time when our legs start to feel rubbery and our mouths can't seem to suck in enough air. Just when we were on the verge of giving up and starting to walk instead of run, our fitter buddies who had finished the race before us would track back and run beside us, pacing us, urging us, encouraging us to carry on running: "Come on, don't stop running! Just a bit more, you can see the finish line already!" "Final burst! Come on! You can make it! Run, run, run!"

Oh, how we needed those words of encouragement! In fact, many times we see those who moments ago were wobbling and fighting for breath, suddenly summon up extra strength from don't know where and sprint across the finish line. There were quite a few times when I managed to pass my test by a few seconds because of that final burst of energy ;-)

Similarly, in our faith race, there will be times when some of us will be feeling wobbly and struggling for breath, thank God that there are cheerleaders like Geri (minus poms poms ;-)) who boost up our energy levels and help us to keep on running.

P.S. Thanks Geri! I'm back ;-)