To My Pastors & Leaders – Thanksgiving 2015

Hi everyone! Happy Thanksgiving!

Now I know what some of you Singaporean readers are thinking. “We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving!” Yeah I know! But I just thought that it’s a great opportunity for me to use this day to share with all of you some people in my life that I am really thankful for. Besides, you guys aren’t the only readers out there right? Haha!

On top of that, Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday! And in case you haven’t noticed, I post usually on either Tuesdays and/or Thursdays. So without further ado, let me begin to share with all of you some really awesome people in my life. And specifically, just 2 groups of them.

The first group of people that I am really thankful for are my leaders in Heart of God Church. Wise, sharp, inspiring, spiritual, anointed, patient, joyful, kind, encouraging, loving – there’s just too many great words to describe our leaders in church! These people who are full of character never fail to watch out for us in every single area of our lives, be it in our school, work, relationships, emotional health, spiritual health, (or even) physical health! In our valley-lows and our mountain-highs, they are always there to bring strength and affirmation.

Personally, I have quite a few leaders that have sown into my life. But today, I’ll be talking about one of them as a prime example, just to show you why we love our leaders so much. Hmm, let me just call her “Catherine”, since this is a surprise mention and I don’t really know if she’s comfortable with me revealing her identity! And nope, I’m not talking about the Duchess of Cambridge here. LOL.

Anyway if you know me, you would know how passionate I am in creating videos. In fact, I serve in the Videos Ministry in Heart of God Church! And personally, I have huge dreams of serving God in this area in the future. So knowing that, Catherine always encourages me and the “creative bunch” in our Connect Group to never stop dreaming and working towards our dreams! But earlier this year, she decided to go beyond her words to show just how much she believes in us.

One day, Catherine dropped some of us a text and asked us out for a day at the Dreamworks Exhibiton, which ran for a period of time at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands. Of course, as an animation enthusiast myself, I immediately agreed! So on the Friday of July 31st, Catherine and us the creative bunch visited the Dreamworks Exhibition.

I was really excited on my way to the ArtScience Museum and really looked forward to what the exhibition had in stored for us that day. I was a little late though because of school. But it didn’t matter! The rest had lunch, bought the tickets and were just at the entrance as I reached. There, our little adventure into a world of imagination began.

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The overarching theme of the exhibition was “From sketch to screen.” It showcased every single stage of the production process for our beloved animated movies such as Kung Fu Panda, MadagascarShrek and How to Train Your Dragon. From storyboarding, to modelling, to music composition and to world-building, every stage was equally important. But more than just seeing the importance of every stage, I was just so amazed and inspired by the level of detail that Dreamworks Animation Studios was at. I told myself that in the future, our church will do great productions like this too. Just that for us, we we will be glorifying God!

We truly enjoyed ourselves that day. Every single one of us. We covered every corner of the exhibition, took a lot of pictures and even bought souvenirs for memory’s sake! But it wasn’t until the end that I found out the true purpose of this trip. As we left the museum, I recalled that because I was late initially, I haven’t paid for my ticket to the exhibition. Knowing that Catherine and some of them paid for our tickets first, I approached her to ask her how much it cost.

But to my surprise, she told me that I just needed to return to her a portion of the ticket price. She went on to tell me what she explained previously to the rest while I was on the way. She said that she really believed in my dreams and that as she gave to pay for a portion of my ticket’s cost, it was a sign of her faith in them. She believed that as she sowed into my dreams, one day they will come to pass. As a matter of fact, she paid for a portion of all the tickets of everyone who were there that day. She told us all that as we went for the Dreamworks Exhibition, we must also know that our dreams will work out too in the end. THAT has got to be one of the most inspirational puns I’ve ever heard, haha.

Jokes aside, Catherine’s actions just blew me away, more than any exhibition could. It is one thing to say that you believe in someone, and another to do something and make a little sacrifice to show just how much you mean it. That was what I caught that day, more than all the inspiration and creativity.

Today, I am so thankful for leaders in Heart of God Church like Catherine, who constantly cheers us on to pursue big dreams for God. And she is just ONE of the hundreds of leaders who have made a difference in this place! I’ve witnessed leaders loving their members in so many ways. Some have been a great listening ear in dark times, others have helped people to overcome their addictions,  and there’s those that have financially blessed the ones that are in lack. And these aren’t even the tip of the iceberg. So if you’re a leader in Heart of God Church today, or if “Catherine” you are reading this, I just want to say that I appreciate you and love you for who you are.

So that’s the first group of people that I really wanted to talk about! The second group of people that I want to thank on this day are well, two people actually. Every Christian in Heart of God Church would have either seen them or heard them. Some may even know them personally, especially all the leaders above! Haha, it’s obvious who I’m talking about, isn’t it? Of course, it’s our beloved Senior Pastors – Pastor How and Pastor Lia!

pastor-how
Pastor Tan Seow How
pastor-lia
Pastor Cecilia Chan

Pastor Tan Seow How and Pastor Cecilia Chan are not just the founders of Heart of God Church, but our spiritual parents. You will know in awhile, but the reason why all of us can do what we’re doing today, be it in ministry, leadership (as mentioned above), having big dreams for God, or even the simple fact that we have a place to know Jesus and have a relationship with Him is because they first started Heart of God Church. Without them, I wouldn’t even be here writing this to you today! And Catherine, the creative bunch, and all my friends in church would have also not stepped into God’s destiny for them.

That is why today, I want to thank the both of them for first giving their all to build this House. Some of you may not know or realize this, but Heart of God Church has never been built by the brilliance of one man, the wealth of the people or the abilities of a talented bunch. The church started with just 9 youths; our beginnings were humble. But I believe that Heart of God Church has always been built on teamwork, a heart that puts God first and a belief that He will use ordinary people to do extraordinary things. And it all started from our Pastors. The classic stories are the ones we will never forget.

Back in the day, as soon as Pastors felt God calling them to build Heart of God Church, they immediately obeyed. But obviously, this obedience would take some tough choices. For Pastor How, he had to choose between building the church or assisting his father in his business. It’s clear which is the easier path. Along with that, his father even challenged him that if he were to drop his idea of becoming a pastor, he would give him not a quarter of, not a half of, but a full $1 million.

Of course, you know what Pastor How chose to do. But with that in mind, you must also know that it didn’t mean his relationship with his father was compromised. In fact, years later, Pastor How even led his father to Christ! Today, Pastor How has also taken over his father’s business and is both a successful businessman and the pastor of our church.

As for Pastor Lia, it wasn’t easy too. She was working as a journalist and loved her job! Then the call from God came, and it came just as she was going to be promoted and given a bonus. But here’s the thing. Pastor Lia loved her job, but she loved God even more and decided to obey Him immediately, giving up the promotion, the bonus and the job.

At that point in time, their actions must have seemed so foolish and crazy to the people around them. But because they obeyed God and wanted to encounter Him on a deeper level in their lives, we have a Heart of God Church today that is not only impacting all levels of society, but all walks of life. It is also without doubt that that many lives have been changed, and are still being changed by God as a result of Pastor How & Pastor Lia first sacrificing and putting God first in their lives.

But more than that, they also put others before themselves, and are constantly having people on their minds. For example, when they are on vacation, they would always see certain books or clothes or gifts and be reminded of somebody in church! Knowing that this certain thing would bless that person, they would buy that gift and when they are back, love him/her with it. And this isn’t all!

Every year, during Fathers’ Day, Pastor How would write cards and get simple gifts prepared for all the members in our church who do not have a father figure in their lives. Some of them may have lost their fathers at birth or at a young age due to different reasons. Others may have parents who are divorced. And Pastor How would just want to just affirm every single one of them and point them towards their Heavenly Father. In fact, I myself experience this because I am one of them!

And for Pastor Lia, she would do the same too every year for those who do not have a mother figure in their lives. No matter how busy they are, our pastors remember people and love them. They could be preaching 4 services that weekend, but nothing would stop them from being others-centered and caring for the people. Truly, our pastors don’t only preach on stage. They live out the Word of God and genuinely care for, and want to know every single one of us. This is why I said they are our spiritual parents!

Even up till today as the church is starting to grow bigger, they still try to get to know every new person. This is because they believe that even as the church grows bigger in size, it must feel smaller and closer as a family. There was once when a youth in our church bumped into Pastor Lia in the washroom. Not only did Pastor Lia talk to her and find out more about her, but she even took a photo of her, uploaded it onto Instagram and encouraged her through the social medium. She said that she will be a leader of hundreds and change her world. Until today, that youth still remembers that act fondly and is indeed growing and serving in church.

That is just ONE of many things our pastors have personally done for people over the years! Oh and have I mentioned before that they are very hardworking people? They never fail to give their best to God no matter what. One more story. There was once when Pastor How was playing soccer with some of the leaders in our church when all of a sudden, he fell down. It turned out that he actually pulled a ligament in his leg. All the leaders were so worried and immediately helped him to get to the doctor’s.

There, Pastor How got a cast on his leg and had to use crutches to get around until he recovers. But here’s the catch – he was supposed to preach that very weekend. I think all of us would guess that he would have asked Pastor Lia or one of the senior leaders to take his place. But that wasn’t the case. That weekend, with crutches, he went up on stage, took a seat and preached the Word of God with his best. Do you now see why we respect our pastors so much? The reason why the leaders and myself can be who we are today, is because we have great pastors as our role models. We model after them as they model after Christ.

“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 11:1

Last but not least, I love my pastors for their simplicity.

“We know the price of everything but the value of nothing.
We know the price of a house but not the value of a home.
We know the price of dinner but not the value of fellowship.
Our children know the price of an iPhone but not the value of communication.” 

– Pastor How

In Pastor How’s recent article, My Answer to Prosperity Theology, he talked about how he and Pastor Lia have decided to live simply. For 20 years since their marriage, Pastors have lived in probably the cheapest neighborhood in Woodlands. Pastor How explains why:

“In the early years, that’s what we could afford.  But now we can easily move to a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood.  The first reason for choosing to live simply is our personal covenant with God.  Inspired by the words of Haggai 1:4, we made a commitment to build God’s house first, then build our own house.  So perhaps after Heart of God Church moves into our new Home, then I will move my home closer to church.”

“The second reason for choosing to live simply is our decision to give one million dollars to our church’s Building Fund a few years ago.  Pastor Lia received a big insurance payout because of her cancer.  Together with profits from my business and all of the insurance money, we took that leap of faith.”

Yes, in case you didn’t know, Pastor How & Pastor Lia did give $1 million to the church in 2012. I was there and I witnessed that significant event. But it’s interesting isn’t it? How God sees our sacrifices and honors them? If you remember, $1 million was exactly what Pastor How gave up back then to start the church. But now, after being faithful to building God’s house for so many years and also with a habit of saving, Pastor How is able to give $1 million to the church together with Pastor Lia.

You see, God never shortchanges us. When we take Him seriously, He will take us seriously. But what I am also really amazed with here are Pastors’s attitude towards blessings. Whenever they are blessed in their lives, instead of keeping everything to themselves, they are always found pouring these blessings back into the church, just like how they poured back $1 million back into Heart of God Church. And they always say this:

“When God blesses you financially, it is not just to raise your standard of living but your standard of giving.”

Yup, so that’s my pastors and leaders for you! Just thought of really taking this day to really appreciate them and give them double honor.

17 Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. – 1 Timothy 5:17

I also think that having a spirit and heart of thankfulness is really important. People tend to complain a lot when they’re not thankful. But in Christ and in thankfulness, we can be different. I shall end off today’s post with one last verse.

“12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” – Colossians 3:12-15

Thank you for reading.

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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.