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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Advertisements

Ambidextrous Faith

Note: The following is a detailed write-up of Pastor Lia‘s message over the weekend of October 31st & November 1st.

What is faith? To different people, it may mean different things. For some, it can be a feeling; for others, an attitude. Maybe the best source to find out about faith isn’t ourselves, but the Bible! So let’s take a look at what it has to say.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1

There we have it – the most reliable definition of faith. According to the Bible, faith is a strong sense of belief that we can have, especially for things that we have yet to even physically see or touch. With that basic knowledge, we can now move on to understand Pastor Lia’s message even more. Yup, it has only just started!


In life, it is very easy to be fearful. In a hospital room, in an examination hall, on stage. The struggle is not between needles & veins, questions & answers or speaker & audience – but faith and fear.

11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” – Hebrews 6:11-12

When we are in tense settings like those mentioned above, it is very common for us to respond in fear. It is almost like an instinct for us to imagine the worst that can happen! However, just as described in Hebrews 6:11-12, we should have faith. Because it is through this faith in God that He will lead us to our “promised land”. God is always awaiting to do great things through us and fulfill His promises in our lives. But it is only people with faith – a special kind of faith that will inherit these promises.

ambidextrous-faith

Ambidextrous = able to use both left and right hands equally well

Some of you must be thinking at this point, “What exactly is this ambidextrous faith?” Well, Pastor Lia begins to explain with a historical example. Saint Basil of Caesarea was a bishop who lived in the 4th century, when many heretics were preaching and spreading their belief that Jesus was a mere man. In such a time as this, one would normally shrink back in fear. But Saint Basil was different. Though it was difficult, he chose to fight back in faith and spread the truth of Jesus Christ.

As such, his siblings described him as having “ambidextrous faith”. Why? Because with one hand, he held the blessings of God and in the other, the pains and struggles of life. We must understand that both blessings and problems are equally important in bringing us towards God’s plan for our lives! If you read the New Testament, you would realize that the disciples of Jesus understood this principle too. Even they had their fair share of sufferings. Of course, it’s best that we do not encounter such persecutions and tribulations. But if we do happen to, we shouldn’t be surprised! As we accept the good and the bad that is in stored for us, God will use both of them to bring us into our destiny.

“We may never find the reason for our suffering. But we can find the purpose for our suffering.”

Still a little unsure about the concept of ambidextrous faith? Pastor Lia continues with Scripture from Judges 20:13-16 (NLT & MSG). With this passage, she explained that in the olden times, when soldiers are wounded in battle, they have 2 choices. The first is to head home; the second is to stay and fight. The 700 elite soldiers mentioned in these verses chose the latter option, even though their right hands/arms have been wounded beyond function. These elite troops are described to be ambidextrous, deciding to learn how to fight with their left hands and becoming better doing so than they were ever before while right-handed.

How awesome is that? Some of us may have been discouraged in our faith, but we got to choose to be like the 700. We can decide to “go home” and be spiritually handicapped or stay on and continue the fight. Those guys back then refused to quit and became so accurate even with their left hands. The Bible describes them as being able to sling stones at a hair and not miss. They are literally Hawkeye! In the same way, we must keep on going and exercise ambidextrous faith. Sometimes, we may feel like we are neither qualified nor adequate enough to serve God. Or maybe we have stumbled in our faith and feel like we have failed Him. It hurts as much as having our right arms ripped off. But we got to learn how to fight with our left hands. Because where our strength ends, God’s begins.

child-like-faith

15 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” – Mark 10:15 (NLT)

The other kind of faith that we need in order to enter into the promises of God is none other than child-like faith. Note that “child-like” does not mean “childish”. What this means is that we have to approach God with a trusting & simple heart of a child. A child looks up to and trusts his father. In his eyes, his Dad can do anything and will do anything for him. At this point, Pastor Lia addressed the congregation.

“Before we get a vision for God, we need to get a vision of God.”

Most of the time, we Christians may only think that what matters to God should matter to us. But we must also realize that what matters to us, matters to God. Never forget the love of God and why we want to do great things for Him in the first place. Before Pastor Lia wrapped up her sermon, she shared with us a quote.

“What if faith and not fear is your default reaction to threats?” – Max Lucado

Can you imagine how different our lives would be if our “default mode” is always faith? God will be able to do amazing things in our lives! When we live by faith, knowing that we are children of the Most High King, we will inherit His promises and be fruitful. In Genesis, God just told Adam & Eve to be fruitful and multiply. He didn’t even need to explain fruitfulness to them because they were by default, already living in an environment of faith and fruitfulness! They instantly got it. If we let faith be our default mode in approaching our careers, schoolwork, relationships, sicknesses and life in general, we will walk in fruitfulness and miracles and sometimes not even know it.

The reason why I go to Heart of God Church every weekend without fail is this very reason – it’s an environment of faith. Through the worship, sermons and people, faith always leaps from one corner of the church to another and fills our hearts. This is why I have the strength to conquer every single week that comes. It isn’t just positive thinking! Trust me, if you ever step into our church on a weekend, you will leave it forgetting what “Monday blues” even mean. I dare you to try, especially if you are not yet a Christian. You may be thinking “Let me see God first, before I believe in Him.” But remember what faith is in its very roots? Have faith in Him today and believe first. Then, you will see Him for who He truly is.

29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”” – John 20:29

Before I end off this post, I must say that I did not exactly follow the order of Pastor Lia’s sermon! Honestly, there are also certain parts of the message that I’m very sure I did not include in here too. So if you’re in Singapore anytime soon (or if you’re Singaporean), do drop us a visit and you may just hear the woman of God for yourself! It is way better than reading this for sure.

Now, I am going to conclude this article with a story that Pastor Lia originally shared in the middle of this sermon. It is the story of a young man in our church who possesses ambidextrous faith, and I would like to share it with you here to end off today’s post.

calvin

Calvin has been a member of our church for the past few years. He serves in the Videos Ministry and you would often find him in our Media Room, giving his best in serving God. These are a few things in church that he does amongst others that make up his purposeful life. But what makes him so special? What makes him such a man of ambidextrous faith?

Well, until recently, few of us would know that he was born with a deficiency – color blindness. This condition causes him to see certain colors as others, and also renders him unable to tell apart shades of the same color. You must be thinking now if I made a mistake about him being in the Videos Ministry. Nope I didn’t; the church has seen his work before too! Calvin just didn’t let his condition be his conclusion.

Just like the 700 elite troops, he did not let his deficiency be a disadvantage or excuse for himself. As soon as he got a vision from God one day to do videos for Him, he just ran with it with passion. He got trained, got into the ministry, and the rest is history. He has done so many excellent videos to this date and is on his way to doing more, and none of us could ever tell that it was done by a man who has his condition.

In fact, for 4 long years, nobody knew about his deficiency! It wasn’t because he was insecure and wanted to keep it a secret. He just didn’t look at his disability as an issue worthy enough to raise. In his eyes, it’s nothing! He did not look at this disability first and let it stop him from pursuing the dreams that God has given him. With the help of his friends in the ministry, as well as with his determination, he is able to produce awesome videos like the rest.

Just to put you into context with an example, other video crews would usually just work on a video and choose colors for it easily. But for Calvin, if he wants to have a certain color for a video, he would need to go through a longer process of searching up the hexadecimal code of that color (e.g. Gold #ffd700) and pasting it into the editing software, before applying it on the video itself.

Has these slowed him down in producing videos? Maybe a little. But has all these slowed him down any bit in terms of chasing his vision? Not at all. That is why he is our hero of ambidextrous faith.

Why am I so convinced that only God can be responsible for such faith? How am I so sure that Calvin’s story is true? Well, have I ever mentioned before that I also serve in the Videos Ministry? Haha.

Calvin_LR

He’s my friend.

The Parables of Jesus Part 1: Discernment

Note: The following is a detailed write-up of Pastor How‘s message over the weekend of October 3rd & 4th. “The Parables of Jesus Part 1” is the first of 3 parts in this opening season of  a new sermon series, which will be covered across multiple seasons over the next few years.

Parables – stories that provide earthly analogies for the heavenly messages behind them.

Commonly used by Jesus, their purpose is to help our worldly minds comprehend and understand spiritual principles more easily. Because naturally, we have no concept of Heaven to begin with.

Throughout this sermon, Pastor How shares his interpretation of Matthew 13, which is probably the most accurate, balanced and thought-provoking one I’ve ever heard. In the book of Matthew, chapter 13, Jesus taught using 8 parables, 4 of which were shared to the multitudes and another 4 that were only shared to His disciples.

Usually, we would read each parable individually and interpret them as they are. But what we have failed to realize is that Jesus actually had ONE overarching message behind all 8 parables. What is it? Well, here’s what we’ve learned from unpacking the first 4 parables that were covered in this part:

Sower

13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” – Mark 4:13

According to the verse above, one thing is for sure. This first parable in Matthew 13 is the key to deciphering and decoding all the other parables in the same chapter. The Parable of the Sower, after being explained by Jesus, gives us a set of “decryption keys” to work with:

Seed” refers to the Word of God.
Birds of the air” refer to the wicked one/Satan.
Soil” refers to our heart, which can be categorized into one of 4 types:

  1. Wayside
  2. Stony places
  3. Thorns
  4. Good ground

So as seen above, there are 4 different kinds of hearts! When God drops a word into us, whether we receive it or not or how we receive it depends on what kind of heart we have.

The “Wayside” heart, just like its literal counterpart has been “trampled upon” and hurt so much that it’s hardened. And of course, a ground/heart that is hardened can receive nothing.

The “Stony” ground or heart on the other hand is where the seeds of plants can be grown and the Word of God can be sown. However, due to its stony nature, these plants are unable to grow roots and when the Sun shines upon them, they get scorched and wither away. Perhaps you’ve already gotten it, but basically the Sun represents problems in our lives, which can be good or bad. If we Christians do not grow “roots” within ourselves, these problems will cause us to leave God and church due to discouragement. But if we do, these problems will make us stronger like how sunlight will make rooted plants stronger!

“Hot water hardens eggs but softens potatoes. It depends on what substance we are made of.”

The “Thorns” in the ground or our heart represent the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches. During our time on Earth, we will be tested by pressures and tempted by pleasures.

Lastly, the “Good” ground symbolizes a heart that not only hears, but understands God’s word. It’s funny because the truth will not set us free – as compared to the understanding of that truth. When that happens, just as how good ground produces fruit, a good heart will also produce the fruits of good character. But of course, good character traits aren’t gifts that are just given to us. They need to be worked on and developed, just like how fruits have to be cultivated and grown.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22-23


Wheat_Tares

24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.” – Matthew 13:24-25

The second parable that Jesus talked about is really interesting. Let’s begin with how it starts – “The kingdom of heaven”. What you will realize is that if you read all the subsequent parables in the chapter, Jesus will start them off the same way. In fact, all of the parables in Matthew 13 begins with “The kingdom of heaven”, except of course the first one – the Parable of the Sower. This makes the first parable really unique and reinforces its importance as a source of reference like we’ve discussed previously.

But before we come back to the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, what exactly is “the kingdom of heaven”? One thing it definitely isn’t is Heaven. Pastor How explains that the kingdom of Heaven is not Heaven itself, but rather, it is the dominion of the King (God) on Earth during His absence. With that covered, we would then study the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares and once again see another set of “keys” that Jesus has given to us after his explanation in Matthew 13:36-43:

The “man who sowed good seed” refers to the Son of Man, Jesus Christ Himself.
The “field” refers to the world.
Good seed” refers to the sons of the kingdom/“good ground” Christians.
Tares” refer to the sons of the wicked one.
The “enemy” refers to the devil.
The “harvest” refers to the end of the age.
The “reapers” refer to angels.

As Pastor How went through this parable with us, we were taught to also refer back to the first parable. And as we did, this whole parable about wheat & tares made more sense. For example, if it’s true that soil represents the human heart as Jesus explained, it would also be true to say that a field which is a collective of a body of soils represents the world that is a collective of the hearts of more than 7 billion people on the planet.

And if you and I are really “good ground” Christians, Jesus would want to send us into the world to make a difference and be a light shining for Him in the darkness! But He will only “sow good seed”. The bad kind of seeds that will produce tares are sown by the enemy. Here’s a fact: the devil cannot create, and can only copy and counterfeit. God is the ultimate Creator. So who do these “tares” or “sons of the wicked one” refer to? Well, they refer to false Christians.

Yup! Don’t be surprised. They do exist. I’ve met some before, and at some point of time in the past, I could have been one myself. So at this point of time, I want to write to both non-Christians and Christians alike. To non-Christians, if you personally know me and I have offended you unknowingly before, I deeply apologize and want you to know that I did not mean it. I’m constantly working on it! And to those who do not know me, please understand that there are many “Ian”s out there (Christians minus the Christ). If you’ve met any one of them before, please do not lump every other Christian in together with them and see us all as the same. Bad or false Christians do not change the 100% goodness of God. There are Christians who do live in His ways.

Now to all the Christians reading this, my Pastor is not teaching us to judge and criticize those whom we deem are false Christians. It’s not in our position to “go to war” with them. At the end of the age, God will send out His angels to do it Himself (Matthew 13:41-42). And besides, you never know when these people may change for the better! I mean come on, have we all been so good all along? Wheat produces fruit, but tares don’t. So if we really are good and have the fruits of the Spirit within us, we should let God send us into our world to be witnesses for Him, not judges.


Mustard

This third parable is probably one of those that we either misunderstand, or don’t understand at all. Especially if you’re Singaporean like me, you would know that most of us ain’t farmers, botanists or horticulturists and wouldn’t get this parable. Pastor How probably spent hours digging into the Word and researching on mustard plants and trees because what he shared with us next blew my mind.

In Matthew 13:31-32, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed, probably the smallest of all seeds which is sown into the ground by a man. And “when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” But did you know that that statement didn’t make sense? Well, I didn’t either until Pastor How explained further!

You can Google it, but basically, a mustard plant and a mustard tree are 2 totally different species of plants. They are unrelated and a mustard seed only grows to a mustard plant, not a mustard tree. That statement above is as good as saying an orchid flower will grow into a coconut tree! So contrary to popular belief, this parable is actually talking about an unnatural kind of growth that will happen in the kingdom of heaven – an unnatural growth that will occur in some churches, where they will grow to a point that “birds of the air” can “come and nest in its branches”.

Wait hold on, “birds of the air”? Sounds awfully familiar. That’s because it’s one of the “keys” provided by Jesus in the first parable! What does it represent again? The enemy, the wicked one, the devil, Satan. So does it mean that if churches grow big, it’s a bad thing because the devil can take residence inside them? Of course not! Let me make myself very clear again. Pastor How isn’t saying that all big churches are bad, or that churches should not be big. In fact, we want our church to be bigger too. But if our church or any church were to be big, it must happen naturally. It must be by God’s will and spirit, not ours!

A church cannot be built by the ambitions and ego of its leader or pastor. Because even if it does grow big, it will happen in such an unnatural way that management of it is difficult. And when that happens, the devil can have the freedom to operate within its walls. This can be compared to a man growing huge muscles but on steroids. There are side effects. If the devil cannot destroy the church by failure, he will destroy it by success.

“Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

We do not need to grow at all cost. In Heart of God Church, our pastors believe in using the church to build people, and not the other way around. A plant or tree can only grow as tall as its seed allows it to. We can only grow as tall as our genetic code. Likewise, a church can only grow according to that “seed” or “genetic code” that God has placed on the inside of it. There’s always a limit to a child’s physical growth as she grows up to become an adult. But when she grows up and gets married, she will eventually give birth to more children that will also grow up. The same goes for the church. There’s always a maximum cap to a church’s growth. But there’s no saying how many more churches that can be birthed forth from this one church as a result of its fruitfulness!

“Don’t use people to build the church. Use the church to build people.”


Leaven

The last parable that Pastor How covered and we will be talking about today is this one about leaven. Once again, the message that Jesus is trying to convey over here is nothing like we’ve ever thought of. The common interpretation of this parable is that the leaven represents the gospel that will be spread all over the world. But this doesn’t make sense because firstly, if it is indeed a representation of the Word of God, why must it be hidden as described in Matthew 13:33? It should be preached throughout the entire world!

Secondly, if we look at different parts of the Bible, leaven is always used to symbolize something bad. For example, in Matthew 16:11-12, leaven symbolizes the false “doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” This is also probably what Jesus is talking about here in this parable – false doctrines.

Leaven” refers to false doctrine.
Meal” or “bread” refers to the Word of God.

Here’s the scary thing about false doctrines. They are usually mixed in with the “bread” of the Word of God. It isn’t obvious, and can come in the form of a sermon, a message, an article or a book. They may not necessarily be totally wrong, but neither are they totally right. They could be half-truths that we will receive gladly if we are not careful. We must constantly discern the good and bad of what we read and listen! It doesn’t mean that something popular is naturally good. And even if something is good, it doesn’t mean that it is of God. Just 2 weekends ago, we had John Bevere in our church sharing a message from his newest book “Good or God”? And that’s exactly what he talked about too.


Conclusion:

In this first part of “The Parables of Jesus” series, we have truly learned a lot. Through this in-depth look at the first 4 parables shared by Jesus in Matthew 13, we can see that Satan’s tactics are to plant counterfeit Christians into the world, establish counterfeit churches and preach a counterfeit gospel through them. In this current age and time that we live in, we must take heed to guard our hearts and be discerning. Some of us may have encountered any of the above and have been discouraged, disappointed, disillusioned or deceived. But we must expect these things to happen and stay strong.

13 Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13

If you enjoyed reading this post, you got to come and hear the next part for yourself. In our humanly perspective, it may seem like the kingdom of heaven is on the edge of defeat and despair. But in God’s eyes, He has another plan altogether through all this. He will have the final victory. This weekend, Pastor How will be unveiling this through Jesus’s next 4 parables in Matthew 13. I can’t wait already!

Last but not last, I must say that even though I may have been able to write down and share with you what he has preached, hearing the man himself is at least 10 times better than reading my posts. On October 10 & 11, mindsets will be shifted, hearts will be touched and lives will be changed. So come and experience it for yourself. See you in church!

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.