Alive

Hi everyone. Today, I have officially existed for two decades! 😄 Haha, I know that’s an unconventional way to put it. But more than just growing another year older, I also realized this year that I have been a Christian for a quarter of my life! 5 years ago, I stepped into Heart of God Church as a 15 year-old boy and my life truly began.

It’s funny because you can be breathing physically and yet not really be alive. As I looked back on the past 5 years, there’s just so much to be thankful for – my church, my friends, my family, those are just some people I never want to take for granted.

But if there is just one person that I need to mention and thank on this day, it would have to be Jesus. Over the past 1800+ days, God has changed my life so much and given me a purpose and a destiny greater than myself.

The reason why I could elevate my mindset, grow in my character and change as a person from the inside out is because of Jesus. Without His grace, I would never have become who I am today. I mean 5 years ago, I would have never thought I will be writing like I am now!

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

So today, I just want to thank Jesus. I am a sinner and I never deserved the life that I am living now – the life that He has given me. But that is what grace is all about, isn’t it? We were all doomed for death because of our sins. We had no choice; we had to go down the pit; we didn’t deserve life. But He still came for us, showed His love for us on the cross and pulled us out of the darkness.

I never once regretted having known and accepted this amazing grace & love that our God has for us. Because now, I am no longer in captivity. I am no longer a prisoner held in chains. I can now have the ability to let Christ cleanse me from all unrighteousness and come into an intimate relationship with Him.

Grace does not say “I am allowed to sin”; grace says “I am free to change.” His overwhelming love for us does not remove our necessity to lead a holy life – it gives us the freedom to do so!

Grace does not give us the license to sin; grace gives us the power to change. That is why I want to change and grow in my character – because with God, I can. And think about it, anything that is alive and healthy grows. 

Today if you have never known the love of Jesus, the empowerment of His grace and the joy in being in a relationship with Him, know that you can have all of it. Don’t just breathe. Live. Eternal life is about this relationship of knowing Jesus. And today, it is a free gift that He is extending to you. But like I said, gifts have to be accepted. So the question is, will you take it? :)

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The Test Continues

After 2 weeks of making an impact in Europe, my pastor is finally back home with us! And in case you do not yet know, Pastor How is currently on a new series – The Character Test, which will continue with a second part this weekend. Here are some clips from Part 1 if you missed it:

Enjoyed what you just watched? Well, those were only snippets of the message that we heard 3 weeks ago! And the good news is you can hear the next part for yourself in person. Visit Heart of God Church this weekend and experience it for yourself! 😉

The Character Test: Part 1

“Men of genius are admired, men of wealth are envied, men of power are feared; but only men of character are trusted.” – Alfred Adler

That was the quote Pastor How used to begin his sermon last weekend. He was starting a new series on character because it is one of our most important assets as human beings. And just as Billy Graham once said:

“When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.” – Billy Graham

But how do we know if we truly have character? How do we know if it is lacking in some areas and we have to make a change for the better? Well, we just have to put it to the test and we will know. That is why this series is called The Character Test. There are a set of tests that we can put ourselves through, and by how we respond to these tests, we will have a clearer picture of our character. Our responses reveal the real us!

character-test

And it is so important for us to know our own character and the character of the people around us because all relationships are based on trust – every relationship. So if you have even a tinge of doubt about a person’s character, your relationship with him/her will be affected! This applies to God too! If we don’t know His character enough because we don’t read His Word enough or we don’t spend time with Him enough, then we will doubt even our perfect Heavenly Father!

And just like every relationship we have in life, our relationship with God is also based on trust; and trust is based on truth. If a person is always full of lies and deception, you will never trust him, would you? But because there is truth in our God, we can trust in Him and have a relationship with Him.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” – John 14:6

Now I must say at this point that this message isn’t for us to judge others and criticize their character; this is for us to look at ourselves in the mirror and become people of character. Because the depth of a relationship depends on the depth of trust present in that relationship! As much as we would like to have great friends, teammates, colleagues, bosses or even one day marry a person of character, we must first become a workmate, an employee, a leader, a friend and a person of character.

So how do we know if we are people of character and truth? We got to put ourselves through the following tests; because character is revealed by…

1. How we respond to failure

We are all humans, we are imperfect. And sometimes we make mistakes and fail terribly. But what do we do from there? That defines our character. Because we can either make progress and learn from our failures or make excuses and push the blame. It’s one or the other, we can’t do both!

So don’t push the blame to others, because we empower whoever we blame. If we blame someone else for our failures, we give them control over our lives & our destiny! If we blame the devil, we give him power. But if we take responsibility for our own actions, we will be able to control our lives and grow our character for the better! Because taking responsibility is the beginning of change, which will lead to progress.

Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”” – Genesis 3:12-13

Of course, it is not easy to take the blame. As seen in the scripture above, it is our human nature to blame. So we got to go against the human nature to be a man of character. That’s one way we can identify a person of character, when we observe him/her when they go through failures and mistakes.


#2 How we respond to success

“Don’t let success get to your head; don’t let failure get to your heart.”

You know, failure isn’t the only way that the devil can get to you. If the devil can’t get to you through failure, he will try to get to you by success. Success is a great thing, but we must guard our hearts and our minds when we are at the mountain tops. Because the danger of success is complacency and pride.

For simpletons turn away from me—to death. Fools are destroyed by their own complacency.” – Proverbs 1:32 (NLT)

For us Christians, we must always remember to give glory back to God. Staying humble is so important because our talents, abilities, opportunities and education can get us to the top, but only our character keeps us at the top. So to see if a person has character, just look at him/her when they attain success!


#3 How we respond to temptation

Put it simply, if we cannot resist ice cream, we cannot resist the devil. 😄 Haha, I know it sounds funny but it’s true! If we can’t resist the everyday temptations of our lives, we will not be able to do great things. Ice cream is mostly just a harmless and relatable example that Pastor How is giving us, but it gives us a good illustration about character.

Because we need to have a characteristic of delayed gratification – the ability to resist what you want now in order to have what you want most. So for example, if you want to lose weight, you have to resist the temptation of eating your favorite ice cream! Or if you want to be successful one day, you got to resist having fun all the time and instead spend more time on studying and acquiring knowledge & wisdom! That is also how we can have character!


#4 Time

“In the short term, people are won over by charisma; in the mid term, people are won over by success; in the long term, people are won over by character.”

Relationships (like marriages) are supposed to be for the long term. Love at first sight usually never lasts. Because to know the character of a person takes time, and that is especially important when it comes to our future spouses. It takes time to know them, it takes time to reveal character. Beauty & charisma might catch attention, but it’s character that catches the heart.

For the potential husbands & wives, dating is the best time to watch the other person when he/she fails, succeeds or are tempted. Unfortunately, character is not revealed when everything is rosy and perfect. Real character is about consistency, which can only be revealed through time.

The difference between amateurs and professionals is consistency. Just like how we would want our favorite soccer team, hairstylist and local restaurant to be consistent, we should want to have character consistently.

character-test-2

And that is all for part 1 of The Character Test series! If you enjoyed reading this post, you will enjoy Part 2 even more hearing it in person. Come visit our church if you’re in Singapore! We’ll love having you with us, and you’ll definitely have a great experience too. Hope to see you soon! 😉

p.s. Pastor Tan Seow How & Pastor Cecilia Chan, more affectionately known as Pastor How & Pastor Lia are the senior pastors of Heart of God Church – my spiritual home.

Unbelief vs Disbelief

Hi readers! After a 2-week break over Chinese New Year – eating all the food there is to offer and spending all the time we had with our families, all of us are finally back in church! Now it might have been the re-opening weekend for our church, but it is also only our second weekend here in our New Home! If you do not understand what I’m talking about or have not been keeping up with the happenings of Heart of God Church, check out this previous post of mine. If you are on the same page as me (or have just returned from reading that post), let’s get into what I’m going to be talking about today.

What I’m going to be writing about today is basically the message preached by Pastor How over this re-opening weekend. After an emotional testimony was shared by one of the leaders in our church, Pastor How encourages her and takes the stage – the stage some of us now call “Cross Stage 2.0”. Haha, you got to come check it out for yourself. But anyway, he begins his message with the word “humility”. It was a weekend when many people are going to come to God, be it for the first or not. That didn’t matter. What mattered was they did. However for them to do that, they got to first be humble.

Because it is not our strength that will bring us to God, but our humility. And in that case, humility becomes our strength. Many people would need just that to believe in God and His power that can change their lives. But I know for sure that there are some who needs more. Maybe a little evidence? Maybe a personal encounter? Well to me, Imaginarium isn’t just a place, it’s a story. In fact, it’s God’s story. I know I’ve said this before, but the very existence of our New Home is an evidence of God’s faithfulness and a memorial that glorifies Him.

As I stepped into this place for the first few times, I couldn’t help but be reminded again and again of the journey that God has brought us through. If not for Him, we will really not be who we are today. So if anyone asks me, “How do you know God is real?” I will bring them to this place, show them around and tell them, “Because I see Him here – at every corner, in every person, in every life.”

So really, if you have never stepped into our church before, come and see it for yourself. Let it be an inspiration for you; we had such humble beginnings. If God could do for us what He did all these years, then He can do anything for anyone who has faith – including you. Pastor How used the scripture in Mark 9:17-27 (NLT) to illustrate this.

“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” – Mark 9:23 (NLT)

In these verses, we find a man coming to Jesus for help because an evil spirit has possessed his son. To cut the long story short, Jesus successfully cast it out. The boy also regained consciousness and recovered. But within this story lies a few interesting things that we can learn from. Firstly, note what the desperate father says to Jesus in verse 24.

The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24 (NLT)

Sounds paradoxical, doesn’t it? You must be wondering whether this father believes or not. But the thing is, sometimes we do this ourselves too. Sometimes, we find ourselves having a conflict between our mind and our heart, just like the father! Maybe you’re a Christian, maybe you’re not. But you can definitely relate to being in a situation whereby your heart wants to believe in something, be it for a miracle or a breakthrough, while at the same time your mind is full of doubts about it. Well you know what? Christianity is that kind of faith; the kind where at times, our hearts and minds go into a conflict, where we experience a little of what the man in verse 24 had – unbelief.

doubt-tolerance

What is unbelief? It is a lack of faith or trust, most commonly appearing in the form of doubts. For example, you may have heard that Jesus can heal, that He wants to have a relationship with you, that He can change your life for the better. But because you’ve never personally experienced those things before, you find it hard to believe in them. And as a result, you may not believe in Jesus too. Fortunately, that is normal. Let me repeat myself. It is totally normal to oscillate between faith and doubt, even as Christians! One thing you must know is that our God is doubt-tolerant. He will not release His wrath & curses upon you just because you have some doubts. It’s not Him.

That is why sometimes Christianity is called the Fight of Faith! We constantly fight doubts in our own mind. Even the Bible contains multiple examples of this fight. You see, the Bible is not propaganda. It doesn’t exaggerate the good and cover up the bad; it tells us both and everything in between. In it we see the victories & the defeats, the good men & the fallen men. In the same way, our Christianity is not a “bed of roses”. We find ourselves at the mountaintops where believing is easy, and we also find ourselves in the valleys where having faith is difficult.

If you have your Bible with you, just look at the Book of Psalms. It is an emotional and spiritual journey of a man, consisting of both the nice and not-so-nice parts. Flip to chapter 23 and you’ll see the faith, the joy and the praises. Flip one chapter back to 22 and you’ll see the struggles, the frustrations, the pain. Just a chapter apart, and the contrast so huge. So once again I must say, it’s normal. Some days we’re at chapter 22, some days we’re at 23. For the man in Mark 9:24, he was swinging between these two. What’s most important was that he was honest with God about his feelings. We should do the same.

disbelief

But while it’s okay to have a little unbelief in us, disbelief is a realm we should never step into. Disbelief is when a person decides NOT to believe. It is very different from unbelief, because regardless of evidences, people of disbelief have already made up their minds. They don’t listen to explanations, they only think about arguments. The Bible describes this as a very dangerous hardening of the heart.

That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts…” – Hebrews 3:7-8 (NLT)

Never harden your heart, reader. Big problems arise for those who do so because they have already closed & locked up the doors to their minds and their hearts. Even if good things are presented to them, they see it as bad. When testimonies and stories of changed lives are shared, they see it as a  scam. When churches are mentioned, they immediately think they’re all bad. Indeed, a quote from Stuart Chase could not be more true.

“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” – Stuart Chase

What is faith? It is believing in something even though there may not be a physical proof of it yet. That’s called faith! If we need proof to believe in Jesus Christ, then it’s no longer faith anymore. I can tell you, I have never seen Jesus physically before. I’ve never heard His audible voice. Haha but you know what? My life has been changed by Him since I believed in Him. I have had many of my prayers answered. I have felt His love and His presence. And I’m not alone. Sometimes, you just got to believe first before you see.

If you harden your heart, you will go from unbelief to disbelief. Just think of two of Jesus’ disciples for a minute. Peter had unbelief and so did Judas, but both of them had witnessed the works & miracles of Jesus in the flesh. One of them repented and became one of the greatest apostles ever. The other one betrayed Jesus and committed suicide. You know which of them moved into disbelief. Unbelief is fine. Disbelief is not. Unbelief says that “I want to believe but I can’t!” Disbelief says that “I simply do not want to believe.” They are very different.

faithfulness

“If we deny him, he will deny us. If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful…” – 2 Timothy 2:12-13 (NLT)

Today as you are reading this, you might be a believer, a non-believer, or an ex-believer. But one thing you must know is that there is a difference between denying God, and losing faith. Denying Jesus is a very serious thing, but I don’t think any of you reading this would deny Jesus in disbelief and hate Him. Even if today, you’re no longer going to church or hanging out with your friends whom you met in church, I’m sure that deep down in your heart, you still believe in Jesus. You just simply went through a season when you were unfaithful. But just like the verse above says, even if we are faithless, God remains faithful. It’s just who He is.

So come back to Jesus. He loves us regardless of all the sins we might have committed. Look at some of the great men in the Bible, they all had their past! Abraham slept with his maid, but now we call him the father of faith. Moses had anger issues, so much so that he killed a man; but we now know him as the one who parted the red sea. Noah was a drunkard, but we know of him as the one who built the ark. Told you the Bible wasn’t propaganda, right? David committed adultery and many more atrocities that broke at least 4 of the 10 commandments. Now we call him the man after God’s own heart. Peter denied being affiliated with Jesus, but as previously mentioned, moved on to becoming one of the greatest apostles ever. What does that mean?

saints-sinners

It means that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. And it is only possible because of the love & the power of God that we can have in our lives when we believe in Him. We are all not perfect. But with the power of the blood of Jesus Christ in our lives, we can be redeemed and have a future, just like the saints in the Bible. All we got to do is to be humble, put away all the pride that we have and come back to Jesus.

Let me end this post with one last analogy by Pastor How. If you’re driving towards a certain destination today and you find yourself making a wrong turn somewhere, what would you do? Would you get all frustrated and beat yourself up against the steering wheel for making such a mistake? Would you stop the car, get out and give up driving? Or would you keep on driving in the wrong direction? No. You make a U-turn. It might cause a little bit of delay, but at least you turn around and rectify that wrong turn. In the same way, most of us will not have a perfect path to our spiritual destination in God. What matters is when we make a “wrong turn”, we repent and turn around to go back on track. If you need to, make that U-turn today.

p.s. Pastor Tan Seow How & Pastor Cecilia Chan, more affectionately known as Pastor How & Pastor Lia are the senior pastors of Heart of God Church – my spiritual home.

What Heart of God Church Means to Me

“Church is a place where a nobody like me who knew nothing, found Somebody that gave up everything, so that everybody & I would know this thing – that in Him we can be somebody that has something.”

This is what I wrote recently on an Instagram post that I had, which summarized very much what church means to me.

For this last post of the day, I’ll be expanding on that whole idea, breaking it down to give you a clearer picture of what God and Heart of God Church has done for my life. This also is what I feel, the most important post out of every single one you’ve seen today about Fun, Laughter and Creativity. Because this one is about Christ.

1. “Church is a place where a nobody like me who knew nothing,”

Before I came to Heart of God Church, I was literally a nobody who knew nothing. I was just like any other typical teenage boy, and had no greater purpose in life to live for. Each day was about having school and having fun. I played computer games with friends & surfed the Internet all day long after finishing a day’s homework. I was satisfied with my life! I never thought about my future, how much potential it holds, and just lived day by day.

I knew nothing that I could hold on to for life and had no skills that I could anchor my hopes on. I was just a 15 year-old boy! I mean I knew some martial arts and could play some guitar but they were more of just things I was passionate about. Passion and Purpose are 2 very different entities.

I’ve found that if we only got passion, and happiness that comes from that passion, it will run out when we’re not doing what we’re passionate about. Purpose however, gives us a true joy that lasts beyond the times we spend fulfilling it. Even in our darkest times, we can still have something to rejoice about, knowing that we have a God-given purpose and a reason for being alive.

By living for that purpose, we will have a joy that lasts, even after a point of time when we can no longer continue. That’s because we would know that we have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7)! Above all, a God-given purpose has eternal significance. So knowing that we’ve made a difference in such a way would definitely give us joy that lasts.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain

Have you ever thought to yourself, why you were born on this Earth and what you are here for? Passion can’t answer that question. Purpose can. God can. For me, I didn’t even think about it. Hahaha how sad! So as a result, I did not really have dreams – for myself or for anything in particular. Or should I say, I didn’t know how to dream?

2. “found Somebody that gave up everything,”

Thankfully, all these changed on May 29th, 2011. It was the day I stepped into Heart of God Church for the very first time. That day, I met the most genuine people on the planet! They were not just friendly, they became my friends.

Seriously, they were so kind that when my cousin secretly told them that my birthday was just around the corner, they planned a simple celebration right after the service to surprise me with a little cake! They even sang me a birthday song. All these, on the first day they’ve ever met me. Though to many it may seem like just a small thing, to me it was special. Because other than my parents & some relatives, no one has ever celebrated my birthday with me before. I don’t remember any of my friends doing so! But after that day, no single birthday that followed in the years to come was dull or lonely.

I was so touched by the people’s warmth that day. It left a huge impression on me and I was so happy. So although I did not become a Christian immediately, I went back to church pretty regularly for the people (and also because I had free rides from my uncle, LOL). But after some time, I realized that my friends in Heart of God Church are very different, and why.

The answer is Jesus Christ.

As I continued going back to church, I started to feel a love & a peace in the atmosphere that I’ve never felt before anywhere. It can’t really be explained in words, you got to experience it yourself to understand it. As the people praised & worshiped Him, as people shared about how their lives were changed by God, and as Pastors preached the Word of God every weekend, I can’t help but be touched by Jesus’s love for us.

He gave up everything He had. In fact, He died for me and you. Not only did He descend from heaven’s throne to walk this earth as man like us. He took all our sin upon Himself on the cross so that we can be set free from this power of sin – the power that prevents us from having an intimate relationship with Him. That’s right. Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship with God.

Thankfully, Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose again on the third day and offers us now a relationship with Him, the Creator of the whole universe. When I saw that picture of God’s perfect love and the many people around me whose lives were undoubtedly changed by this relationship they have with Him, I could no longer hold back anymore. I had to give it a go. So from that day onward, I became a Christian and my life would never be the same again.

3. “that in Him we can be somebody that has something”

Of course, that was only the beginning.

I kept going back to church even without my uncle’s free rides. I kept going back to church not just for the people, the lights, the music. I continued to go back because of God.

In God, mindsets are shifted, hearts are touched, characters are transformed.

Fast forward to present day. Do I still play video games? Yeah, but not all of the time anymore. Do I still make mistakes & have problems in life? Yes, but now I have faith to conquer them with Christ on the inside of me. How about being a nobody who knows nothing? Well for that, it is no longer true of me anymore.

After being in church for awhile, I started to serve and give back to the house and the Lord that have both given me so much. And that is when I discovered my gifts and talents in video production! Actually when I was younger, I enjoyed using simple tools like Windows Movie Maker to put together videos. But I eventually stopped because there was no PURPOSE in doing so.

In church it’s different. We can all use our different gifts and talents for a greater purpose, to serve God and His people. If I’ve never come to church and God has never found me, my gifts would never have been discovered. I would never have known that I could be creative, much less use these gifts for a great purpose.

The videos that I produce with my fellow Videos Ministry mates are literally being shown to thousands of people on the weekend services! But this is also only possible because of the great leaders in Heart of God Church that never fails to encourage us. Personally for myself, when I first joined the ministry, I really knew close to nothing about creating videos. All I had was an interest for it. But my leaders in church really believed in me and trained me from scratch. That is why I can be who I am today, doing the things that I do!

But why do they believe in us so much? Because Pastor How & Pastor Lia also believed in them, and continues to believes in all of us too! Our Pastors never despise youths, and always believe that young people can do great things for God. They don’t just say it! They mean it by trusting us with expensive equipment in church such as sound consoles & cameras, just to name a few examples. And because of this environment that they have created, all of us can dream big dreams.

I have dreams now, yes. I have a purpose now, definitely. In fact, part of it involves me writing this post you’re reading right now. You see, in God and in Heart of God Church, I don’t just have “something”, I have many things! A great spiritual family is one of them, true joy is one of them. It’s impossible to list out here every single thing that God has blessed me with over my past 4 years as a Christian! This is really just the tip of the iceberg! And I’m only ONE out of the MANY lives that were changed by God here in Heart of God Church.

Today, I’m no longer a nobody. I’m a child of God and He’s my Heavenly Father. What gives me the most joy is not only having a purpose, but knowing that I have a God that loves me no matter what. And because of that, I can now learn to love others. I must say though, that I still see myself as ordinary. But I’m ordinary with an extraordinary God. A God who found me while I was mostly clueless about life ahead. A God who brought me to a church where I can call “Home”. A church where I found a family. A church where my dreams will come to pass. This is what Heart of God Church means to me.