Monday, August 30, 2010

Why This Waste?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A New Beginning - Update

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Lord :-)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

If It Hurts, Don't Give

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 16, 2010

NCC's National Day Song - With One Heart

Watch this on YouTube: -

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

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

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The One Thing I Appreciate Most About New Creation Church

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

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

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

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

God bless NCC.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Good News To The Poor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't rob the poor of the Good News!