Monday, November 8, 2010

Gratitude

Greek philosopher Aristotle once mused, "Misfortune shows those who are not really friends." However, the inverse is also true: "Misfortune shows those who are truly friends."
The Holy Spirit inspired these words in the Holy Scripture: "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" (Prov. 17:17).
Through the last few difficult months, I have never felt more alone in my life. Yet, I am always reminded that although I may feel alone, in truth I am far from. So it is with utmost gratitude that I would like to appreciate each and every one of you that have stood by me in spirit, in action and in words. Together with the promises of the Word and the presence of God, your support has been the rod and staff that I lean on during these "valley moments" ... the arms that hold me up when the pressure of the situation threatens to break me down.
To the little boy who asks Jesus to protect me each night before he sleeps ...
To the doctor who cares for my family and believes in us unreservedly ...
To the staffs who serve tirelessly for the church through it all ...
To the zone leaders who pray and confess God's goodness for my life unceasingly ...
To the members who cheer up my darkest days with a smile and a note of encouragement ...
To members of the Internet community worldwide for their kind words on Facebook and Twitter that bless and uplift me daily ...
To the local pastors who stand with me unwavering ...
To the overseas ministries, missionaries, disciples, and Bible school graduates who choose to love me, believe in me, and pray for me constantly ...
To my parents, in-laws, siblings, cousins, nephews and nieces who have shown so much strength and grace in the midst of our tough times ...
To my little boy Dayan who is the joy of my life ...
And to my darling wife Sun who has been my pillar of strength ...
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
I count it my greatest privilege to serve you in and through City Harvest Church, and to be called a friend.

"Thank you for giving to the Lord,

I am a life that was changed.

Thank you for giving to the Lord,

I am so glad you gave."

~ Ray Boltz

Friday, June 18, 2010

Reflections

Barely less than three weeks ago, the entire City Harvest congregation was basking in the immense success of the Asia Conference 2010. It wasn’t merely a climactic finale to all the hard work and dedication that had been put in by the staff and ministry volunteers of the church; it was a culminating representation of all that the church has achieved in its 20 years of existence through the goodness of God and the sacrifices of its members. In a short span of five days in May, the CHC congregation aptly displayed its unique DNA to the 25,245 delegates coming from 70 countries representing 2,086 churches.
What is the City Harvest DNA? In essence, it is the message of the Cross — “loving God wholeheartedly and loving people fervently” (Matt. 22:37-40) — while simultaneously crossing over and engaging the culture of our societies so that the message can be communicated in a fashion that is both relevant and attractive to the generation of our times (Matt. 5:14-16). Let me take this opportunity to thank both the CHC congregation as well as our visiting friends for making the conference one of the most groundbreaking Christian conferences in recent history. :)
But what a difference a day makes ...
The morning after the Asia Conference concluded, certain members of the church, including myself, were called to assist local authorities in an investigation into the management of church funds.
The page had turned. The celebration had abruptly ended.
Because we’re in the midst of the investigation, I am unable to provide any details about the progress besides what already has been released by the Singapore Police in their statement to the press. But I would like to assure everyone that I, together with the Management Board of the church, am fully cooperative in providing the necessary information needed for the investigation.
On a more personal note, I would also like to assure everyone that my family and I are doing well. I am awed by the concern that so many have shown during this time. I am also deeply grateful for the support and advice that has been so generously given. Thanks to all of your love and support, I’ve realized that this is the most opportune moment in my life to reflect on what matters most to me in my life: Faith, Family and Friends.
FAITH. My relationship with God is and always has been at the centre of my life. During times of adversity, I have always taken comfort in one thing that I know to be true: I have honestly served God and shepherded His people to the best of my abilities. It matters most to me that my account to God is absolute and I can say without hesitation that I have done my best to glorify His name and build His church. Loving God is my deepest passion and it is my greatest privilege to serve Him with all I have.
FAMILY. Other than my relationship with God, my family represents the portion of my life for which I am most undeserving of and thankful for. If the fruit of my faith is the legacy I leave in this world from my existence, then my family is the legacy that I have gained in return. What a profitable exchange! Without my wife and son, I would be a poor man indeed.
FRIENDS. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17). How true. In this time of trial, I see who my friends are and appreciate the confidence they have in me. Confidence given not because I’m a “pastor,” but because I have in some way or another proven myself worthy to be called a “friend.” Their kind words and thoughtful insights have kept my spirits up during this time. Trust is such a precious commodity. To my friends both within and out of CHC who have chosen to trust in the intent of my heart, I can only say “Thank You.”
It has been a glorious 20 years of church building filled with tears and triumph, brokenness as well as breakthroughs. What can we hope for the years to come? Well, we know from the Holy Bible that God’s thoughts toward us are thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give us a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11). I believe that the City Harvest story will continue to unfold. There is not a hint of doubt in my heart that my Lord Jesus Christ is not only the author of our faith, but also its finisher (Heb. 12:2). So it is on that promise we should stand, trusting that His Word is true, His heart is for us, and His love will never fail.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Did Jesus Resurrect from the Dead?

The last few weeks have been quite the rollercoaster ride—ups and downs aplenty! I promise that in my next blog post, I will address all the concerns that some of you have raised recently. But for now, I hope that we can all focus on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as we celebrate His sacrifice and victory for us this Easter weekend.
The period from Palm Sunday to Good Friday and Easter Sunday is traditionally known as the Passion Week. It is the holiest week in the Christian Church calendar. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ have been documented extensively in the Holy Scripture. If Jesus is indeed the Son of God, death would never overpower Him. As such, we read of the resurrection in the following passages:
  • Four Gospels (Matt. 27:62-63; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22; John 2:19, 21).
  • Book of Acts (Acts 1:3, 22; 2:31-32; 3:14-15; 4:33; 13:30-31; 17:18).
  • Paul’s writings (Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:4-8).
  • Peter’s words (Acts 10:40).
Most importantly, Jesus Himself personally testifies that “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Rev. 1:18). In that resurrection, Jesus’ soul and spirit were reunited with His body, which was made alive by the Holy Spirit. He physically rose from the grave, never to die again. Jesus was the first to experience that because while others were restored to physical life, they didn’t have a new body. Jarius’ daughter (Mark 5:35-43) and Lazarus (John 11:38-44) were raised from the dead, but they would ultimately die again. These people would die because Satan, who had the power of death, had not yet been conquered (Heb. 2:14). Christ became the firstfruits (example) of those whose souls would be redeemed from sin (1 Cor. 15:21-23).
Why is the resurrection important? Because Christianity stands or falls with it. Paul says, “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty . . . And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1 Cor. 15:14, 17). In the landmark book Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Vol. 1, author Josh McDowell writes that “the resurrection of Jesus Christ is either one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless, hoaxes ever foisted on the minds of human beings, or it is the most remarkable fact of history.”
Throughout the centuries, there have been many theories to explain away the possibility of a resurrection. The Theory of Substitution claims that Jesus was never crucified in the first place. Someone else who looked like Him was forced to take His place. If that is true, then Jesus is guilty of deceit, dishonesty and heartlessness. He cared little for the death of an innocent bystander, or for the grief of His closest disciples.
Another theory is the Swoon Theory that states that Jesus never really died on the cross. After hanging for six hours, unknown to the public, He managed to come down in a “swoon.” He was then laid in a cool cave and was later revived by the application of healing ointment and strongly-scented spices. The Swoon Theory suggests that Jesus didn’t want to die, which is evident by Him “hiding” in Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal. His prayer for God to pass the cup from Him also showed His reluctance to die (cf. Matt. 26:39). Besides, there were no witnesses to actually see the crucifixion. The fact that Mary mistakenly took Jesus to be a gardener confirms that He was in disguise to hide from the authorities!
Is the resurrection a hoax or an actual historical event? Josh McDowell, a lawyer by training, puts forth the following ten evidences:
1. Jesus was not afraid to die. In fact, He predicted His own death (Matt. 17:22-23; 20:18-19).
2. Jesus was willing to die. When the Roman soldiers came to arrest Him, He didn’t cower in fear, instead He boldly “went forward” to talk to them (John 18:4).
3. Jesus was definitely sentenced to death. To be sure He remained dead and buried, He was put through six trials to prove His “guilt.” He first appeared before Annas and Caiaphas the high priest, who felt that Jesus was worthy of death (John 18:13-14). He then stood before the highest religious court in the land, the Sanhedrin, who sought charges against Him to put Him to death (Matt. 26:57-59). He was then taken to Pilate and Herod, and the former sentenced Him to death by crucifixion (Luke 23:1-25).
4. There were political motives for His death. To the Romans, Jesus was a rebel by affirming that He was “the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:3). Pilate could face the wrath of Tiberius Caesar for not dealing with a potential menace to the empire. To the Jews, failure to bring a radical troublemaker to the authority could lead to reprisals and stricter oversights from the Romans in the long run.
5. There were economical motives for His death. Jesus upset the commercialization inside the temple (Matt. 21:12-16). Temple service required provision to be made for getting what was needed for the sacrifices—animals, wood, oil, etc.—especially for pilgrims from afar. The great feasts provided opportunities for extortion to abound. Jesus drove the lot out. The chief priest and the temple elders were upset.
6. There were religious motives for His death. Jesus was getting more popular than the established religious leaders. The Pharisees were saying among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!” (John 12:19).
7. Crucifixion ensured the certainty of death. The Persians used it. Alexander the Great used it. In Israel, crucifixion was usually reserved for idolaters and blasphemers. It was the most degrading and cruel form of death sentence. And it was the surest way to guarantee a criminal dies. For Jesus, the pre-crucifixion torture included the whipping using long leather strips with sharp jagged pieces of bones and lead. Most people would have simply died by the end of the whipping. Jesus was then made to wear a crown of thorns and carry the cross up Calvary hill. A seven inch spike was then driven through His wrist nailing Him onto the cross. It was a custom to speed up the death of a criminal on the cross by breaking his legs. But in the case of Jesus, it wasn’t necessary because He had already died (John 19:33). To ensure His death, “one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out” (v. 34). Medically speaking, this implies that Jesus died of a heart failure due to exhaustion and shock. The Romans would never allow the body of a criminal to be taken down from a cross unless they are absolutely sure he is dead. The death must be certified by four executioners. When Jesus was taken down, there was no question that He had truly died.
8. The solid rock tomb made certain there was no possibility of getting the body out. As a Jew, Jesus was buried according to Jewish custom, which will never allow a dead body to be left overnight without embalming. The body of Jesus was covered with 100 pounds of spices and then wrapped in embalming cloth that was sewn by women using three separate garments (John 19:39-40). There was absolutely no possibility of Jesus waking up naturally and freeing Himself from the cloth and the spices. The very large stone against the door of the tomb (Matt. 27:60) weighed 1.5 to 2 tons. Twenty men couldn’t have moved it. To further secure the tomb, the authorities put a Roman seal on the stone to ensure that the tombstone was not tampered with (Matt. 27:66). The Roman seal came with a warning sign that grave robbers would be severely punished. Finally, there was a Roman guard unit of four to 16 men watching over the tomb to make certain that no one stole Jesus’ body away (Matt. 28:11).
9. Yet, the tomb was empty. This could only mean one of two things: (a) the dead body of Jesus was stolen. This by itself would be a miracle considering all the precautions already taken by the Roman and Jewish authorities to prevent anyone from doing that. Besides His dead body was never produced. (b) Jesus Christ really did resurrect from the grave!
10. The immediate psychological and social impact attest to a resurrection. On Easter Sunday, Jesus Christ made at least 15 appearances after His crucifixion and burial:
  • Mary Magdalene (John 20:14; Mark 16:9)
  • Women returning from tomb (Matt. 28:9-10)
  • Simon Peter, later that day (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5)
  • Emmaus disciples (Luke 24:13-33)
  • Disciples with Thomas absent (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-24)
  • Disciples with Thomas present (John 20:26-29)
  • Seven by the Lake of Tiberias (John 21:1-23)
  • 500-over believers in Galilee (1 Cor. 15:6)
  • James the brother of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:7)
  • Eleven disciples (Matt. 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-20; Luke 24:33-52)
  • Ascension day (Acts 1:3-12)
  • Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:3-6; 1 Cor. 15:8)
  • Stephen the Martyr (Acts 7:55)
  • Paul in the temple (Acts 22:17-21; 23:11)
  • John on the island of Patmos (Rev. 1:10-19)
The enemies could have easily disproved the resurrection with a corpse from the grave, but no body was ever produced. Instead the religious leaders resorted to bribery to concoct a story that Jesus’ disciples had stolen the body by night (Matt. 28:12-13). Yet, there is no historical record of a search for Jesus’ body because too many people at that time had witnessed the resurrection.
The psychological impact among Jesus’ followers was so tangible that they moved from disillusionment, fear and unbelief into courageous faith. What could have precipitated such transformation? Only one thing—an actual resurrection appearance by Jesus Christ! More than just the early apostles, millions of Christians over the last 2,000 years were willing to suffer persecution and death for their faith in a resurrected Savior.
Josh McDowell is right: the resurrection of Jesus Christ is either a terrible hoax or indisputable history. McDowell says that the promise of the resurrection is this: what happened to Christ can happen for us. Like Him, we will die, but His resurrection is a promise that death is not the end. His resurrection is the prototype for our own.
Jesus is our example: if we follow Him, He can make a way when there seems to be no way.
He can raise our dreams when they seem to have died.
He can resurrect marriages that seem to have failed.
He can bring divine health to our broken bodies.
He can lift you up when you feel like you’ve fallen.
This Easter, let’s put our trust and hope in the One who died and rose again. Because through His sacrifice, we can all do the same.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

CHC’s New Home: Suntec Convention Centre

This is an article about CHC’s new church building that was printed in City News Weekly, March 7, 2010. CNW is a newspaper reporting news from a Christian perspective. With CNW’s permission, I have reproduced the whole article in full below. Enjoy!
The news is out: City Harvest will be moving to its new premises at Suntec Singapore International Exhibition and Convention Centre by 2011.
By Theresa Tan

PHOTO COURTESY OF SUNTEC SINGAPORE
This has probably been City Harvest Church’s best-kept secret in its 21-year-history. The exact location of the church’s new site has been a hot topic that has kept Christians within and outside the church guessing, since it was confirmed on Jan. 16 that a space had finally been procured after a five-year search.
Bound by a non-disclosure agreement, the management could not say a word until yesterday afternoon, at the first service of the weekend at the Jurong West church.
The revelation of Suntec Singapore International Exhibition and Convention Centre met with great excitement from the church congregation. This location would put all the services of the church under one roof.
“When we were looking for a property, there were three major considerations,” said senior pastor Kong Hee.
1.Size. “It had to be as big as we can go in our small city-state with limited land. Suntec Convention Centre has a total usable area of more than 1 million sq ft—that is 20 times our Jurong West property and 10 times Expo Hall 8. Suntec has the size we need and can accommodate our traffic.”
2.Location. “We wanted a place that was central and easy to get to by MRT and bus. CHC members come from all over the island. Suntec is centrally located with three major MRT stations nearby: City Hall MRT is a 10-minute walk; Esplanade MRT and Promenade MRT open this April and are even closer by.”
3.Facilities. “A church is not just a main sanctuary and nothing else. Having extra facilities is critical to the operations of the church. We need areas for children, rooms for Bible study, car park space and eating places. Suntec Convention Centre has more than 30 meeting rooms, and we will have access to over 8,680 car park lots in the Suntec-Marina area. Between Suntec City and the Convention Centre, there are 283 stalls/restaurants for our members to eat at, and 622 retail stores for our members to shop in.”
Through this agreement, CHC becomes a co-owner of Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre, and has a share in the annual revenues of all its facilities. The two floors CHC will primarily use are the sixth and seventh floors and include the CHC Auditorium which is column-free and can accommodate up to 12,000 seats. Early plans for this space reveal a stadium-style layout with a sizeable play area for children, and 10 meeting rooms. “All our morning prayer meetings, seminars and conferences will be held here in the future,” explained Kong.
The other parts of the Convention Centre will be open to the public, and will continue to be rented by third parties for exhibitions, fairs and performances as is currently the case.
Tan Ye Peng, deputy senior pastor, explains to City News what co-ownership of Suntec Singapore means. “Last year, ARA Asset Management Limited announced that its ARA Harmony Fund had acquired the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre. Harmony Fund’s investors comprise Suntec REIT, which holds 20 percent, and a consortium that holds 80 percent. CHC has bought a significant stake into the consortium.”
City Harvest is looking to raise S$310 million, but this sum is not the value of the property, says Tan. “This amount consists of cost of shares; rental; renovation and equipment; professional building, management logistic and maintenance fees; refundable deposits and moving costs.”
One of the key considerations for this site is the business model that CHC can and will adopt for Suntec Singapore. “For Singapore Expo, we are in a lease-only business model. As such, what is being paid out does not have any returns or profit-sharing for CHC. The Board and the Building Committee discussed and concluded that with an ‘ownership-and-license’ business model, the rent we pay out will be recovered by CHC in the form of profits and dividends.”
“It’s perfect for our church,” says Tan. “This place has everything we need. It’s been around, it’s an established place. It has been the venue for some of the most important events that ever took place in Singapore, like the APEC CEO Summit last November, and the International Monetary Fund-World Bank meeting in 2006. This August it will be the venue for the 2010 Youth Olympic Games. It’s got all the facilities, and it’s super convenient. There is no other place that allows us this space size in this part of Singapore.”
In the event that there are such key events on the same scale as the IMF-World Bank meetings, Tan says City Harvest will exercise flexibility and vacate the space for such clients. “We are now part-owners,” he explains. “It benefits us too.” Tan points out that although City Harvest will use the space for its services, the building is still a commercial entity, and technically not a “church building”. “The church will lease the space to use for our services,” explains Tan. “The difference is that we are also co-owners of this building.”
For Chew Eng Han, who was tasked in 2005 to be the key person on the ground to find out what was available, and to speak to consultants and banks, the success of this partnership with Suntec Singapore is a triumph. “I feel fulfilled,” he declares.
The search was far from an easy one. “It required a lot of wisdom,” says Chew. “We needed the right location, central yet big enough, yet it could not be too costly, and it had to earn income, too. At the time we were looking, between 2005 and 2008, construction costs were escalating. When the crash came, property prices came down, but finding a partner became a challenge.”
Suntec Singapore was negotiated at the right time, and agreed upon at the right price, says Chew.
“It’s the best location because it’s already in existence. Although it may have been around for a number of years, the building is continually being refurbished and in good shape. Since we are not buying a new plot of land, we don’t have the risk of escalating costs—building costs fluctuate. The space is great: it totals over 1 million square feet, the hall is big enough, there are more than 30 meeting rooms and we have access to the Gallery space, and also the 600-seat Theatre on weekends.”
“It’s an ideal location for City Harvest, really—but at a much lower price than its original cost.” Suntec Singapore was originally built for a price of S$650 million in the early 1990s.
The best news for the burgeoning congregation may be the fact that with the space already built and available, CHC targets to move in by the end of the first quarter of 2011, once its lease at the Singapore Expo expires.

CN PHOTO: MICHAEL CHAN
For some, the announcement brought tears of joy. For others, the location was a complete surprise (See box story: What The Members Say).
Kong’s wife, singer Sun Ho, flew back to celebrate the announcement together with the church. Moments after the announcement, she tells City News: “I’m standing in a historical moment when miracles have just happened. God has done it again. My heart is overwhelmed, because this is something in which not just Kong and I, but the whole church have sown, labored, prayed, believed and claimed for, for so long. This is the time, this is the moment—we sowed in tears, and now we are really reaping in joy. Above the location, my heart is just so full of gratitude that we are able to build this house for God, for His glory. I’m grateful I can be a part of it.”
The church will fund the S$310 million through freewill donations from churchgoers. The church building fund, Arise & Build, is into its fifth round, with a target of S$17.3 million. There are eight more Arise & Build campaigns planned.
Further information on the design and details of the Suntec Singapore location will be released in the coming weeks.

What The Members Say
“I live in the Northeast, so I’m very happy especially since the Circle Line is opening. Everybody knows where Suntec is. It’s a very exciting move for the church!”
Khoo Lili, banker, in her 30s
“I never thought it could be such an awesome place. It’s at the center of Singapore—Formula One, Youth Olympic Games are all held there.”
Jason Jiang, pre-enlistee, 18
“I didn’t expect it, I thought it would be Marina Barrage. It’s exciting for the usher ministry—but greater challenges will come because of the bigger crowd. We’ll need more ushers to rise up for leadership and more members to join usher ministry.”
Ng Yoong Tian, engineer and usher team leader, 27
“The location is great as it brings in revenue for the church without the opportunity time cost. It really is a God-given idea.”
Kenneth Lee, IT director, 40
“Very excited to see such a big place and looking forward to having more quality and longer fellowship with my cell group members.”
Ang Xin Yee, secondary school student, 13
“I came specially for Service 1 though I was supposed to go back to JB. I teared when I heard the news and I can’t wait to worship at our new location.”
Lin Yilan, retiree, 60
“Mind-blowing! Totally unexpected! I believe this is the start of greater things with God bringing us to the next level. It is truly an honor and privilege to be part of history in the making.”
Ee Jia Ying, NUS undergraduate, 21
“I think God is amazing. All these years we’ve been giving and we didn’t even know where it would be! Upon hearing the news, all I can say is that God is indeed faithful!”
Rachel Lim, AIA financial services consultant, 26

Saturday, February 27, 2010

New Building

In the Holy Scripture, Jacob encountered the Lord in a dream. When he awoke, he proclaimed, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” (Gen. 28:17) He called the name of that place Bethel, which means “the house of God.” What a beautiful description of the church—an awesome place, the gate of heaven. Jesus Christ Himself says, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).
After five years of seemingly endless property searches, City Harvest Church has finally purchased a new property to serve our next phase of growth and development. Our members have been giving faithfully and sacrificially, seeking to own a venue where God’s people can gather to worship, pray and serve His kingdom purpose. Next weekend, we will make that location known.
While CHC members (and I suspect, some in the public) sit on the edge of their seats in suspense, awaiting the release of this vital piece of information, I too, am anticipating the various reactions that may arise after the location is known. As such, I have generated a list of Frequently Asked Questions for those whom may have some queries weighing in their minds.
Whatever the case, I hope that we will share the same conviction as King David that the house “for the LORD must be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all the lands” (1 Chr. 22:5).
1.Why is there a need for CHC to secure such a huge facility?
We need a facility that will be able to accommodate the congregations from our English Services, Children’s Church, Chinese Church, Dialect Church, JAMs (Jesus for All Minds) Church, Indonesian Service, Tamil Service, and Filipino Service. By God’s grace, we have been growing steadily and our database name list currently stands at 32,731.

At the same time, the cost of hall rentals in Singapore has been increasing. It therefore makes financial sense to have our own facility in the long run. What’s more, our ability to rent halls for worship depends on their availability and other contractual terms. Having our own property means we will no longer subject our congregations to the risk of not being able to rent a facility for use, or having to move from time to time to different venues.
2.Why does the project cost S$310 million?
There are three factors to consider regarding the cost of a project:
a.The size of the property: the land size of the property is large enough to contain a 12,000-seater auditorium to accommodate the needs of our growing congregation.
b.The location of the property: CHC has members coming from all over the island. Centrality and ease of access via public transportation is important to us.
c.The facilities of the property: The building will have many meeting rooms and restaurants, with sufficient car parking space for our congregants and the general public.
3.What type of building will the facility be housed in? Integrated mall? Or purely a place of worship?
It is not purely a place of worship. This property has a 12,000-seater auditorium, and many other meeting rooms and F&B outlets.
4.Why does the church need to be in the CBD area?
We already have an existing church building at Jurong West. But our members come from all over the island. Proximity and accessibility by public transportation is the key factor behind our decision to find another facility that is in the central district of Singapore.

5.How does CHC plan to finance the project?
We will finance the project from the free-will contributions of our members.
6.CHC is planning to spend S$310 million on their building, shouldn’t CHC take care of the poor and needy instead?
CHC spends 20 percent of its annual budget on local community and overseas humanitarian work to help the poor and needy. This work has been ongoing since the church began in 1989. For example, in the aftermath of the Aceh tsunami and Haiti earthquake, CHC volunteered teams of doctors and disaster relief workers with medical supplies, tents and water filters to help the victims. In addition, CHC has been actively giving to missions work and supporting its network of churches all over Asia. With a facility to house the church’s growing congregation and multifaceted ministries, we can serve the needs of the community in an even greater way.
7.Economically, wouldn’t the church save more money if its facility is outside of CBD or in the suburbs of Singapore?
Properties are scarce and property prices are generally high throughout Singapore. The key consideration behind our choice of location is proximity and accessibility for our members.
8.What does CHC plan to achieve in undertaking this massive project?
The facility is meant to meet the needs of our growing congregation for a place of worship. It also allows CHC to move from its present expensive rental model to a more financially sustainable ownership model for the long term.
9.Since majority of the activities of the church are on weekends, how will the building be used during the weekdays? Isn’t it a waste of space?
The facilities of the property and F&B outlets are open to the public daily. During the weekdays, the auditorium will be used from time-to-time as a venue for seminars, conferences, arts and cultural performances.
10.According to the laws of Singapore, can worship services be held within the Central Business District?
There is no legal restriction against conducting worship services in the CBD area, provided zoning and other legal requirements are met. Currently there are more than 30 places of worship in downtown Singapore. These include churches, temples and mosques such as St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Wesley Methodist Church, Orchard Road Presbyterian Church, Sri Mariamman Temple, Masjid Jamae Chulia, Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, Maghain Aboth Synagogue; just to name a few. We will ensure that use of our new facility does not breach zoning restrictions or other legal restrictions applicable to the facility.
11.Since CHC already owns a property in Jurong West, why does it need another facility?
CHC has long outgrown the facility at Jurong West as its capacity is limited to 2,300 people. Our present congregation is more than 14 times the maximum capacity of our Jurong West building. Since 2005 we have had to rent premises at Singapore Expo to accommodate our congregations.
It should also be noted that the new facility does not mean the Jurong West church building will be redundant. Activities such as outreach to the elderly and children living in the Jurong area will continue. The property in Jurong West will still be utilized for training, counseling, prayers, etc.
12.Should CHC elect to have its facility in the downtown area, would there be a potential for crowds and traffic jams in the already crowded CBD?
This is an important consideration which we factored into our planning for the new facility. There is ample car parking space, and the roads surrounding the property are wide enough to ensure smooth traffic.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Power of Fasting

I have been fasting regularly since 1986. In the early days, I would fast once a week for 24 hours, from 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday to 6:00 a.m. on Thursday. However, since 2004, I have been going on 21-day full fasts once every 6 months. Once, in 2007, I fasted for 40 days.
Many people have asked me, “Kong, why do you fast so often?” This blog is dedicated to that question. There are many wonderful benefits of fasting:
1.Biological: The physical benefits fasting has toward the body have been so well documented that even non-Christians these days fast regularly for better health. According to World Health Net, a study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, shows that regular fasting can reduce risk of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, insulin resistance, immune disorders, and more generally, the slowing of the aging process, and the potential to increase maximum life span.
In Japan, “fasting clubs” are now in vogue. A June 16, 2003, issue of Newsweek states that “for decades Japanese doctors have treated obesity, diabetes and some psychiatric illnesses with fasting.”
During a fast, the body takes the opportunity to eliminate a lot of toxins (harmful substances) that have been built up over the years. The toxins are predominantly stored in fat and mucous cells. The body is “resetting” itself. A common detoxification reaction is headaches. This occurs because the toxins in the blood cause it to thicken and hence cause a headache. A simple remedy is to drink more water or have a bowel movement. In fact, a three-day fast has been used as a standard means of detox recommended by nutritionists the world over.

In America, it is now common to have a 28-day detox program. Books such as Get Healthy Through Detox and Fasting: How to Revitalize Your Body in 28 Days by Don Colbert, and New Again! The 28-Day Detox Plan for Body and Soul by Anna Selby, describe detoxification plans which remove harmful toxins from the body and revitalize it.
2.Spiritual: There are a number of very good reasons why we Christians should fast:
a. Breaking the power of the carnal flesh. Our fallen nature is so tightly linked to the physical appetites of our human body. The more inordinately we yield to our physical drives (such as hunger, sleep, sex), the more we embolden the carnal nature of our undisciplined flesh. Apostle Paul himself was fully aware of the power of the flesh, and constantly disciplined his body “to bring it into subjection” (1 Cor. 9:27). One of the ways he did this was “in fastings often.” (2 Cor. 11:27). As I deprive my body of its craving for food, I am taming my flesh and bringing it into subjection to my spirit. By the end of my fasting period, I often find myself more spiritual, more heavenly minded, more in tune with God, and more sensitive to His voice. In fact, the Scripture records that the reason the church leaders of Antioch were so sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit, concerning His plan to reach the Gentile world, was a direct result of prayer and fasting (Acts 13:2).
b. Self-humbling before the Lord. This is the reason why the saints in the Bible fast (Ps. 35:13). They were reminding themselves that they were weak in their own human strength to achieve the big visions and goals that God had set before them. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak (Matt. 26:41). Therefore if our God-ordained dream is going to happen, it must be by a supernatural work of the Lord.
Fasting heightens that awareness. When I fast, I feel so weak in myself. I can’t workout in the gym. I can’t run five km (three miles) each day. After every service during my 21-day fasting season, I often felt like “crashing.” I would then cry out to the Lord, “Jesus, I can’t do it, please help me by the power of Your Holy Spirit!” God will always give grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).
c. Increasing the anointing level. Jesus says that certain demons can’t be expelled except by prayer and fasting (Matt.17:21). Last month at the Kuala Lumpur Emerge (our annual youth conference in Malaysia), many commented that the preaching of the Word and the ministry time were some of the best they have ever had. Honestly, I didn’t feel any different. In fact, I felt I didn’t preach too well in a couple of the sessions because I was tired due to my long fast. However, many attendees sent me text messages and emails to say that their lives were so impacted and irrevocably changed. As I reflect on this, I can clearly see that God Himself was doing the work. He had so anointed my voice and let His power flow freely through the laying on of my hands. The presence and power of God made a huge difference in my time at KL.
3.Revival & Church Growth: In the Bible, whenever the people of God stopped fasting, they became dull and complacent. However, when a fast was decreed, the whole nation underwent revival and deliverance (2 Chr. 20:3-25; Esther 4:16; Ezra 8:21; Jonah 3:5-10). Last month, I fasted and prayed for three specific purposes: (1) 30 percent growth in every pastoral zone, (2) CHC to get its 10,000-seat arena in the city, and (3) my wife Sun to excel in her American singing career. Fasting greatly adds spiritual momentum to my prayer and faith.
What to Do When You Fast?
  • If you have a sickness, if you are pregnant, or if you are a nursing mother, please don’t fast.
  • If you have a history of weak health, please seek medical advice beforehand if you want to fast.
  • If you are on regular medication, please consult a doctor before you fast.
  • If you can’t fast throughout the week, just go for a three-day fast. But please don’t fast intermittently (stopping a few meals, eating a few meal) as this will affect the rhythm of your gastric flow and may hurt your body. Once you start fasting, don’t eat until you have finished the fast.
  • You must drink a lot of water when you fast. Be careful of juices and beverages (such as, coffee) that may give you gastric problems because of the acids they contain. For some people, milk may result in a lot of gas. Yoghurt may cause stomach rumblings, and is generally considered food. The best is electrolytes like 100-Plus, H-2-0, Pocari, et cetera. You need the minerals contained in them during a fast. Drinking clear soup in moderation is good when you need extra energy for work or ministry.
  • Don’t do anything strenuous like run 10 km, house-moving, dance performances, etc. Adopt a commonsense approach to fasting.
  • Brush your teeth often as you will tend to have bad breath (again, due to the release of toxins). I normally carry a toothbrush and toothpaste everywhere I go when I am fasting.
  • Most of all, when you fast, try to start or end the day with a time of deep personal devotion and prayer. Fasting must go with prayer. Otherwise, it is just dieting or a “hunger strike.”
How to Break a Fast?
After fasting, always begin with a light meal, even if you have fasted for only a short period of time. Don’t begin with anything too greasy, fatty or heavy.
The next thing to keep in mind is that the longer the fast, the more gradual it takes to break it. Somebody has said that you must take as long a time to break your fast as you do the period of fasting. When you have fasted for a long time (over three weeks), your stomach becomes like that of a baby’s. Feed yourself after that fast as you would a baby. It may take up to a week to get back to consuming normal food.
When you are in a fast, you usually don’t feel so hungry after the first three days. However, when you start to eat again, your hunger comes back. That is when you must really hold on to yourself. Exercise self-control. Fasting causes your stomach to contract. It is unwise to expand it again to the same extent. Fasting is a great way to change our eating habits, which many of us need to do. However, if you are planning to slim down or reduce your weight, fasting alone will not do that normally. You will get a few kilos off, but you will put them on just as quickly unless you combine it with a changed program of eating and exercise.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

When Bad Things Happen To Good People

There are many wonderful blessings that come with belonging to the Faith/Charismatic circle: the belief in signs and wonders, divine healing and health, success and financial prosperity, living a life of influence and purpose, et cetera. However, one area that most Charismatics do not handle too well is the issue of suffering. The prevalent reasoning is that if God is a good, healing, delivering God, whose desire is only to protect and bless His children, then a Christian should not have to suffer. And if a believer does suffer, then there must be something wrong with his/her life or faith. As such, it is not uncommon to hear prominent Faith/Charismatic ministers making rhetorical statements like, “Our heavenly Father will never allow Christians to suffer. I reject sufferings and claim only God’s blessings!”
Recently I was invited to speak at an Indonesian church an hour outside of Jakarta. The senior pastor was diagnosed with liver cancer a year earlier. The doctors attending to him explored the possibility of a liver transplant. After much effort, the money needed for the operation was raised and a liver donor was found. On the eve of the surgery, as the doctors were doing a final pre-op examination, they discovered that the cancer had spread throughout his body. It was now too late to do a liver transplant and the procedure was called off. The pastor and his family were devastated by this unexpected turn of events. Upon hearing the news, the assistant pastor was so grief-stricken that the next day, he suddenly collapsed in the middle of the church service and died. Forty days later, the senior pastor passed away. Without any clergy in this fledgling church, the housewifely widow of the senior pastor had to conduct the funeral service on her own. Some finger-pointing members started questioning if the untimely deaths of the top leadership were due to divine retribution, or whether the church was cursed. Over the next few months, attendance began to dwindle. As I ministered in the church, I could sense an unspoken question in the air—why do bad things happen to good people?
When this kind of simplistic thinking is embraced, it can make a person judgmental and mean-spirited. If one is faced with an incurable disease or experiences a tragic accident, it must be the result of an unconfessed sin, a generational curse, or that God is giving up on that person. It is a judgment from God, a divine retribution.
Years ago, one of my Bible college classmates died unexpectedly. Instead of consoling and comforting her father, who was a minister in the Assemblies of God, some Christians wrote accusatory letters condemning him of being the cause of his daughter’s untimely death. They speculated the existence of secret, unconfessed sins that had resulted in this “divine punishment.” Otherwise, it must have been his “lack of faith” that failed to raise that girl from the dead.
Shortly after Seow-How and Cecilia co-founded Heart of God Church in 1999, there was a terrible accident that took place outside of their church premises one Sunday. Two teenage members were walking across the road when a sleepy bus driver rammed into them. One of them died on the spot, the other died in the hospital hours later. It was a heart-wrenching tragedy for this very young church and its congregation. One lady from a local Charismatic church berated Seow-How and Cecilia, saying that the church had been divinely cursed. How else could they explain the unexpected death of the two teenagers? If God’s blessing was on the congregation, there should never have been any form of suffering.
In an overly simplistic view on suffering, the logic usually goes like this:

If you are good, there will be no suffering for you.
If you are bad, you will suffer.
So if there is suffering, then you must be bad, cursed and judged!
If this line of reasoning is true, then what about Jesus Christ, the apostles and all the heroes of faith? They all suffered greatly for the gospel. Obviously the “suffering-means-accursed” logic espoused by many is greatly flawed. I feel strongly that we need to re-look the whole concept of suffering, especially through the life of Job, a man who went through an unparalleled magnitude of suffering.
The Scripture introduces Job as someone who was “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). In fact, Job’s morality was so legendary that he was listed twice as one of the three most righteous men in the Old Testament (Ezek. 14:14, 20). He was a spiritually mature man, not a novice in the things of God.
Job was blessed with seven sons and three daughters, all grown up with their own families and homes. He was incredibly wealthy with thousands of livestock. His ownership of 3,000 camels meant that he ran the largest transportation business in the region during his time. The sheer number of his sheep, camels, oxen and donkeys meant that Job also owned a lot of farmlands for the animals to graze on. Without a doubt, he “was the greatest of all the people of the East” (1:3), a man professionally respected by all.
Beyond his material success, Job was a caring father to his children. Like the patriarchs, he functioned as a priest over his family. He took his sacrificial obligation seriously, viewing it as expiation for sin. To Job this included even sins of the heart, for he made special offerings just in case his sons had secretly cursed God (1:5). Even God Himself acknowledged that there was not a better man than Job in his day (1:8). If ever there was an outstanding man, it was Job. Yet, very bad things happened to him.
In one day, severe calamities befell him and his household. Out of nowhere bandits came and pillaged all his oxen and donkeys, murdering all his farmhands in the process (1:15). Then a lightning bolt came out of the sky causing a forest fire, and all his 7,000 sheep and herdsmen were burned alive (1:16). At the same time, robbers came in three raids and took away his 3,000 camels and slew all their handlers (1:17). And before the dust could settle, a freak storm struck the house wherein his ten children were dining. The roof fell on them and they all died instantly (1:19). Within 24 hours, Job lost his entire business and family. Without anyone to help him, this 70-year-old elderly man had to bury all his children by himself.
As if what happened was not bad enough, Job now became very sick. His body was inflamed with ulcerous sores (2:7). Bible scholars believe that he had a severe case of elephantiasis, an illness that causes swelling and the disfiguration of face, causing him to be unrecognizable (2:12). He began to lose appetite and spiraled into depression (3:24-25). His body was covered with scabs oozing out pus and there were worms crawling all over him (7:5). He developed difficulty breathing (9:18), darkening of the eyelid (16:16), severe weight loss (19:20) as well as continual pain and anxiety (30:27). The high fever and blackened skin (30:30) indicated that he was probably having some form of kidney or liver failure. For the next nine months, Job was in constant delirium.
Because he was totally bankrupt, Job was now living at the city dump where they burned garbage and human excrements. He was the absolute personification of misery. The richest man in the East was reduced to nothing. He was now a social outcast—shamed, disgraced, rejected and despised by all. Very bad things happened to this very good man!
It is never easy for anyone to go through difficult times and tough situations. However, when terrible things happen to us, here are a few things we need to bear in mind:
1. Know that God is not angry with you. Job was an extremely righteous man, yet he suffered like no one else. Psalm 34:19 says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” The apostle Paul, who himself is no stranger to suffering, says, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). You could be going through a hard time because you have been righteous and godly. So do not condemn yourself or think that God is displeased with you.

By the way, the word “afflictions” also means physical suffering and mental anguish. With all my heart, I fully believe in divine healing (Mark 16:17-18). However, I also submit to the sovereignty of God in any given situation. Like Job, many great men of faith (with strong healing ministries) have themselves been afflicted with terrible illnesses. Elisha the miracle worker died of a terminal sickness (2 Kin. 13:14). The apostle Paul was said to have had an incurable disease (2 Cor. 12:7). Epaphroditus was so sick he almost died (Phil. 2:27). Billy Graham and Yonggi Cho are both diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Reinhard Bonkke struggled with prostate cancer a few years ago. Casey Treat was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 2003. A week ago, on November 22, megachurch pastor Billy Joe Daughterty succumbed to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and passed away. All these ministers are godly men of faith, with impeccable integrity, but have themselves been suffering with severe illnesses. The next time you see someone who is sick, please do not be quick to judge him/her for having little faith. We do live in a fallen world with imperfect bodies.
2. Realize that you are in a spiritual warfare. The Bible makes it very clear that the source of Job’s suffering was Satan the devil. He has come to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Through tragedies and calamities, Satan constantly seeks to tempt us to reject God, to “curse Him to His face” (Job 1:11). When you are faced with hard times, do not get mad with God. It is not His fault.
3. Believe that God is ultimately in control. To touch Job’s possessions, family and health, Satan needed permission from God (1:12; 2:6). We can be assured of this one thing: nothing can ever happen to us without His permission. As a good God, He never enjoys seeing His people suffer. Yet sometimes, He allows bad things to happen to bring about a deeper change in us. In the case of Job, Satan may have thought that he was provoking God; but really, God was simply using Satan to complete His own perfecting work in Job.
4. Offer up the sacrifice of praise. Despite being grief-stricken, Job “fell to the ground and worshiped,” acknowledging God’s sovereignty over his life to give and take away (1:20-21). Even when he was made bankrupt and saw the irrational death of his ten children, never once did he “sin nor charge God with wrong” (1:22). Job’s trust in God’s goodness was astounding.
5. Understand that God is seeking to make you better. God is more interested in our character than our comfort. He is a very purposeful God and never arbitrary in His treatment concerning us. That is why when we do not see His hand, we must learn to trust His heart. If not, we will become confused, resentful and bitter. That is precisely why we need faith in our walk with Him. The silence of God will make you wonder if He even cares, but He does. The silence of God will make you wonder if He is even there, but He is. Faith is never for the good times, it is always for the difficult times.

One cannot appreciate Job’s love for God unless one understands Job 29, which is a description of Job’s life before the tragedies befell him. Way back then, the counsel of God was already a lamp unto his feet and a light unto his path (29:1-3; Ps. 119:105). He was walking in revelation. By Job’s own admission, he considered himself as one who had already “arrived” at advanced spiritual growth and maturity: “I was in the days of my prime” (Job 29:4). He was living with great material abundance and God’s presence (29:6).

When he spoke, everybody listened. Job was the “eyes to the blind,” the “feet to the lame,” the “father to the poor,” the provider to widows, and the defender of justice. The people loved, admired and looked up to him. He was their guide, commander and king. Really, there was nothing more for Job to achieve. He had done it all! He was living the dream!

I know that for most Christian businesspeople or “kingdom professionals,” this is the kind of life we all aspire to live—blessed with wealth, a great family life, and status in society. We desire to be the head and not the tail, above and not beneath, and at the same time, a spiritual leader that everyone looks up to in the church and community. Yet as far as God was concerned, Job was not completely mature. There were many inner struggles he had that nobody knew of. For one, Job never felt safe or secure in life in spite of all his achievements. He had a lot of restlessness and anxieties in his soul (3:25-26).

Here was a man who knew and sensed God, but never had real, deep, life-changing encounters with God. He had heard from God, but had never seen the Lord (42:5). Although he loved God with all his heart, he had not yet reached the point of total abandonment toward Him. Job is like the Christian who has not come to a place where he can say, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21), or “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).

Job was successful, spiritual and blameless, but he was not broken unto the Lord. He felt he had “arrived” (materially, parentally, socially, spiritually), but he was terribly deceived—a victim of his own illusion. God wanted to change that in him. In His sovereign wisdom, the only way to break Job was to take him through a period of abject suffering.
6. Develop the capacity to obediently endure. This is the key purpose of all God-ordained sufferings. James 5:11 exhorts us to experience and learn the “perseverance of Job.” Perseverance is the “capacity to endure,” which is critical to our maturity and destiny. Very often, when we are exposed to certain viral sicknesses (for example, chicken pox), our body develops immunity against it thereafter. Similarly, while suffering does not originate from God, He allows it to build in us the spiritual capacity to handle intense pain and stress, and an immunity toward discouragement and depression.

Romans 5:3-4 says that “we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” No one in the right mind will ever wish for suffering.We do not rejoice in suffering unless we know there is something greater that God has purposed in our lives. God’s ultimate purpose of putting us through crisis, heartbreaks, misunderstanding and persecution is so that we develop perseverance (the capacity to endure), character (moral strength) and hope (a positive outlook of life).

How great a life do you want to live? Well, how much pressure are you able to take? When Job lost all his wealth and ten children, and his resentful wife blamed God, he was able to keep on worshiping Him. When his physical body was suffering from sores, swellings and multiple organ failures, and when his psychological state of mind was in severe depression, Job was able to keep trusting God. His capacity for pressure was amazing. Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). Trusting God is when you do not need an explanation from Him for whatever is happening in your life.

When his three friends (Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar) turned against him and persecuted him, telling him that his predicament was a punishment from God for his sin, Job held on to his faith: “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

Even Jesus Christ went through sufferings to “learn obedience” as a Son (Heb. 5:8). Obedient endurance is the crowning mark of maturity. When you can obey the will of God even in the midst of crisis, heartbreaks, misunderstanding and persecution, you have become truly mature.

Sufferings refine our faith in God like nothing else will. That is why the Scripture encourages us to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3). As your capacity for endurance grows, and you can keep on obeying the will of God in spite of stress, hardships, criticisms and pain, you will become “perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (1:4).
7. Get ready for the double portion. Suffering is a prerequisite for sonship. Only true sons inherit the Father’s estate. Jesus was willing to suffer and become “obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:8-11). Jesus Christ, the true Son of God, became the heir of all things and inherited His Father’s estate. It is the same for us: “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Tim. 2:12). This is what obedient endurance does: giving us the sonship to inherit the double portion.

Ultimately, God’s purpose of Job’s suffering was to qualify him for the double portion. True enough, God doubled all his possessions. He was blessed with 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 oxen, and 1,000 donkeys (42:10-12). He was blessed with ten other children (42:13-14). God then doubled his length of days by adding another 140 years (70 x 2) to his life. Moreover, Job became God’s example of obedient perseverance for all eternity.
Like Job, it is one thing to be blameless but quite another to be broken unto the Lord. True maturity is the absolute abandonment to God and His will. When there is no capacity for obedient endurance, we are not yet ready for the double portion. If you are going through a period of intense suffering, wisely do everything you possibly can to overcome it. And having done all, hold on steady and stand before the Lord in faith (Eph. 6:13). Obediently endure through the fire, trial, pain, disappointment, sickness, financial lack and persecution by faith. God is working out something beautiful in your life.