Christian Gospel Mission: tutored in grace for a mission at hand

Christian Gospel Mission

The church opposite former Keat Hong Camp

The former Keat Hong Camp was where national servicemen collected their soldier uniforms, caps, socks, belts and boots. As I stood at the worship hall of Christian Gospel Mission and looked out across Choa Chu Kang Avenue 1, I saw a large spacious bare land. Keat Hong Camp had been flattened. In its place, the Housing Development Board will be building thousands of apartment units. The harvest is coming to where the church is.

The Christian Gospel Mission, which first began in Jalan Cheng Hwa in Bukit Panjang, had relocated here, and has remained here for decades now. It is part of a stretch of shop-houses opposite what was once Keat Hong Camp. They are a church, a kindergarten and a student care center. They are Mandarin-speaking but the children of the original church congregation, have grown up and are mostly  effectively bi-lingual. They are about 70 members and with a good mix of young and old and middle-aged. They have a new pastor, a former teacher, and he has taken over from his father, Choo Fah Chong. He is pastor Kevin Choo and he preaches the message of radical grace. The church is currently adjusting well as they sit under teachings that bring a new perspective to the outworking of the Christian life.

Discussion during Sunday serviceGrace-based, bi-lingual, interesting service

The unique thing about this church is that besides being “grace-based” and bi-lingual, the church’s Sunday service has an interesting format that my Christian education director would have been proud of. After the singing, the offering and announcements, the church would break into discussion groups after the pastor gave them some directions. The fruit of the discussions of each group would then be shared, and the pastor would teach the word, using and referring to the input as he delivered the message. This is learning that is interesting, engaging, interactive and dynamic.

Teochew muay

Since I was a guest preacher they did the usual traditional order of service. I had an interpreter Joseph, who translated my message for the Pastor Kenny's message translated into Mandarincongregation. I spoke about “God’s Love Tattoo”.  One of the sermon illustrations I used was about Teochew muay. It tickled them so much that I heard this Easter service they had that after the service. They have a retired hotel chef, so their Teochew muay must have been plus, plus. I brought along a Pastor Kenny, Pastor Kevin Choo, Euclid, Josephfriend, Euclid, who had been trained for a year in the School of the Supernatural in Bethel.  He was a great help during ministry time when we prayed and prophesied over people who came forward with needs.They were friendly and hospitable and after the service, we lunched at a coffee shop nearby: Teochew muay…well almost.

Being equipped for a great mission

I left the place thinking of its potential: the congregation experiencing new beginnings in the gospel of grace; the vast numbers of new families that will have new beginnings in the apartment blocks that will be built within four years. For such a time as this, the congregation is being tutored and equipped in the truths of grace, and I pray the Lord’s word will prosper and bear fruit through their faithful stewardship of the gospel to the new harvest field in front of them.

 

 

Kingdom Invasion 2013 : they beheld God, and ate and drank

kingdom invasion 2013 at Spore expo

I was disappointed to learn that Bill Johnson would not be at the Kingdom Invasion Conference 2013. I was looking forward to hearing more from him “live” after hearing some of his free downloads online. It was announced with apologies that someone very near and dear to him had gone home to the Lord.

My colleagues told me how good the last conference was so I decided to sign up for this one. As the conference went on they told me that the last time round they had more systematic teaching that laid down the kingdom framework for God’s people to exercise a ministry of the supernatural and healing.  This conference was different in the sense that there were more soaking times, long stretches of waiting in God’s presence and enjoying communion with him. This was probably due to Heidi Baker’s unique ministry and gift-mix.

Those who came largely for cognitive input would probably be somewhat disappointed, but I was not. As it were, I have always leaned too much on my left brain – the rational, the analytical and logical. The few day’s sessions of sitting with the Lord among God’s people filled me up to the brim with the power of his presence. I felt liberated and strong in the spirit, able to tackle any challenge and temptation. “……they beheld God, and ate and drank”(Exo 24.11).

One of my takeaways was that the impressions of Holy Spirit can be very light, or weak, or slight, a passing thought flashing by. Too often such a thought would have been judged in split seconds to be our own thought. Randy Clark and Tom Jones gave examples of doubt and hesitation about the impressions that they had, and how when they obeyed remarkable things had happened. Many of us could relate with their examples.  They encouraged us to act upon these weak impressions, as God would be pleased with acts of faith. We were urged to take some risks and see what the Lord can do when his people step out in faith and respond boldly to such thoughts. The practice of the supernatural was placed in the larger theological framework of the kingdom of God, a kingdom of power that has already come in the person of Jesus, a kingdom of which Paul preached about, and demonstrated.

I had a chat with Pastor Rupert from Cornerstone Church over coffee and he said it costs the church money to run these conferences. The conference fees were insufficient to cover the costs. They had pumped in finances because they felt it was what the Lord wanted done. That’s wonderful. Praise God for this church.

Focus on God’s agenda for the gays

The church in Singapore could do herself much good by reorienting her focus on God’s agenda for the gays, instead of the publicly perceived homophobia of the church and its fear of the gays’ agenda for the world. The gays may have an agenda, but so does God, and God’s agenda and love plan for the gays and the world is what will prevail. The church can ask, “Lord, how can we partner with You in what You are doing among the gays, and how can we  join You in Your work”?  One thing this would involve is the church seeking to understand and inculcate compassion and develop church ministry and care of gay inclined believers. It will take the church out of a war footing into a posture of peacemaking, towels and basins. It will mean the church  identifying with the marginalized, taking risks, and serving with humility.

I was reading a friend’s review of a book titled, ‘Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality’ by Wesley Hill, who is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity School for Ministry. Sze Zeng summarized three lessons he picked up. They helped me see the struggles and loneliness of believers who experience same sex attraction. It helped me feel the plight and pain of brothers and sisters who often endure it all in anonymity. I have quoted two of his lessons. For the third lesson, please read his full blogpost.

Lesson 1: Same-sex attraction is real—the need to struggle with it.

There are those among us who are really and genuinely feel attracted to people of the same gender. For this reason, many have tried to find a connection between same-sex attraction and their childhood. Some even try to link sexuality to gene. Hence the whole debate between ‘nature versus nurture’. Accordingly, there are ‘therapies’ designed to help people to change their sexuality.

The author cuts through this impasse debate by talking about his own personal discovery of his homosexual orientation. He was brought up in a non-abusive childhood and had a fairly good upbringing. It was during high school years that he sensed a “steady, strong, unremitting, exclusive sexual attraction to persons of the same sex” (p.13). The unchangeable sexual desire for homosexual relationship is real to him and to those who experience it. Since then his life is marked by fear, persistent loneliness and inner conflict.

Hill asked a probing question, which I think many homosexual Christians are asking as well, “Can we gay and lesbian Christians who experience no change in our homoerotic desires live in the joyful assurance that our lives are satisfying to God? Can we who remain homosexually inclined actually please God?” (p.135).

To Hill, the answer depends on our understanding of homosexuality: What do the Scripture and Church tradition say? Hill is clear that same-sex attraction is “one of the myriad tragic consequences of living in a fallen world stalked by the specters of sin and death” (p.32). With full conviction and tireless struggle, Hill writes, “I abstain from homosexual behaviour because of the power of that scriptural story” (p.61), and such endurance is a “daily dying” (p.71). As Hill further affirms, “I am waiting for the day when I will receive the divine accolade, […] “Well done, good and faithful servant” (p.150). Hill’s spiritual persistence is exemplary for all Christians in dealing with our own temptation, be it on sexuality or otherwise.

Lesson 2: Homosexuality comes with unbearable loneliness—the necessity of a trustworthy and supportive community within the church.

The loneliness experienced by those with homosexual inclination is not easily understood by heterosexuals. Gay Christians cannot relate to their heterosexual peers’ interest in the opposite gender. They have to be careful not to jeopardize their friendship by developing romantic interest with friends of the same gender. They are afraid that they will be rejected and discriminated when their sexuality is known by their family, friends, and church-mates. They have to constantly struggle against the desire of entering into a monogamous homosexual relationship, especially in society where homosexual practice is widely accepted and legally protected (e.g. civil partnership and same-sex ‘marriage’). On top of these, they have to face negligence in various degrees by their heterosexual friends who eventually get married and start their own family. To Hill, loneliness is the “defining struggle” of his life (p.92) that makes him feels “painfully contradictory” (p.115).

“What I wish,” as Hill once said to his pastor, “is that I could feel the church to be a safe place” (p.42). “The remedy for loneliness—if there is such a thing this side of God’s future—is to learn, over and over again, to do this: to feel God’s keeping presence embodied in the human members of the community of faith, the church” (p.113). Writing from Hill’s own experience with his church, “I began to learn to wrestle with my homosexuality in community over many late-night cups of coffee and in tear-soaked, face-on-the-floor times of prayer with members of my church” (p.48, italics original) Are we, as part of the local churches, willing to learn to provide the kind of safe space for our brothers and sisters in Christ to wrestle with their same-sex attraction?

Church of True Light: many nations in one church

Church of True Light on Perak Road

God Positioning Something (GPS)

Tucked into a corner on the edge of Little India, stands a church gazetted for conservation, an Anglican church called Church of True Light. In this easily Indian services signboardignored tight space, God seems to be doing a divine positioning of sorts. Spiritually skilled “craftsmen” with experience seem to be brought together by divine orchestration to set up the stage for some supernatural workings of God that will glorify the Lord and add people to the church.

Indonesian service signboardLight to the nations, testimony to Singapore

Not that nothing had happened before that. God has already been at work in this church with its ups and downs. And the remarkable changes it had gone through are nothing short of surprising from my viewpoint. For one, this originally Chinese church with an English service offshoot is dominantly Chinese but had opened its doors for the outreach to Indians. To date they have an ordained Indian priest, a Tamil service, a Malayalam service, a Sinhalese service and a Hindi service. Not to forget recently they have started an Indonesian service, an international service and a small Korean fellowship also worships there.  I like the way that this church is going counter-culture. While Singapore society totters on the edge of xenophobia, this church, even with its physical signboards, declare that there is nothing to fear: the good news is for all races and God is bringing all things together in His Son, Jesus Christ. Amen and amen.

passionate leading by sis Rebecca in worship

Friends and familiar faces in the church

The current pastor of the English congregation, Rev. Vincent Hoon, invited me to preach last Sunday, and so I did, on the topic: God’s Love Tattoo.  This church is not new to me. I have taken two of their church camps two decades ago. One was in Port Dickson and the other was in Cameron Highlands. My daughter was in kindergarten then and now she is an adult. The camps were followed by several invitations to preach in the church. Then for many years we were out of touch. They outgrew me for sure. So I was pleased to see at least 8 couples that were still there faithfully serving in the church.  A faithful man who can find? In this day and age, they are as uncommon as mousedeer in the nature reserves.

Drs Samual Cheng and Chay Giam

One of the friends I met and took pictures with are Drs Samuel Cheng and  Chay Giam his wife, an earnest and lovely couple who love the Lord and are the Singapore representatives of the Elijah House. He is himself a psychiatrist and a trainer of ministers of inner healing and wholeness. With his practice and experience, he brings a useful down to earth perspective and spiritual discernment to bear on the fine line between demonic intrusion and mental illness.

The Church of True Light is very much setting up the sails to catch the supernatural wind of the Spirit. My prayer for them is that the Holy Spirit will visit them in waves that will carry them farther than any man-made fan or motor can. May they ever carry the torch of Christian hospitality to the foreigner and stranger.

Century Christian Fellowship: moving on in faith

Century Christian Fellowship

Pilgrim church

Century Christian Fellowship is a small church on the move. It is a pilgrim church. When God says, Pitch up tent, let’s move on to another leg in the journey, a new chapter in the book, we can either say, “Lord if it is possible, take this cup from me”, and stay there….or we continue with, “…. but not my will, but yours be done”, and move on in faith. This extension of Chapel of Resurrection has chosen to do the latter. In a month, they would be moving from their current premises in Simei, to be the Sunday evening English service of Church of Epiphany at Jalan Kayu, between masterstroke Punggol and conventional Sengkang. It will be a convenient  English service option for Anglicans living in either of these estates.

Pastor Peter Chang

My wife and I were early for the 9.30am Sunday service, and we caught up with what’s been happening with the church. Pastor Peter has enjoyed his over 2 years of leading the church. The Pastor Peter Chang and mecongregation has been around for about 20 years and there were a handful of faithful members who have been with them for more than a decade.

They were doing a series of messages on the book of Joshua and as it turned out the passage allotted to me was Joshua 18. It was an interesting passage pregnant with relevance to the move in front of them. Seven tribes had not yet moved in to possess the land that God had given to the descendants of Abraham. Joshua urged them to do so, and I love the King James Version of it because it shows how much the version has contributed to our use of the English language. “And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the LORD god of your fathers hath given you?”(verse 3). Notice the word “slack” – a favorite among young people even today! Anyway, I had a good time connecting with the people and encouraging them to press on into all that God has planned for them in terms of blessings as well as calling.

Kenny preaching the Father's love

Pastor Lawrence Koo of Agape Community Church

Stalled car and stalled mind

My thoughts jumped about like monkeys in a tree. I had to tell pastor Lawrence Koo of Agape Community Church about what happened. He may have to be prepared to speak instead, as I was to be the guest speaker in his 4pm church service on Saturday. Maybe I should call for a tow truck. I should get a cab, but can I leave the car here on busy Bukit Timah Road? I could not get him, so I messaged him and hoped he read it.

My car had stalled in the middle lane near Eng Neo Avenue, but I managed to slowly guide it to the side with my hazard lights on. The stalled car was hampering traffic on lane 3.  Somehow I managed to get the car going again, with Ps Lawrence Koo with methe air-con switched off, but the car stalled again along the main road, and I managed to guide it into quiet Dunkirk Road. Hailing a cab, I dashed to  Toa Payoh where the church meets in a cozy red auditorium, that could easily pass off as a cinema.

Pastor Lawrence Koo

The singing had already begun and Pastor Lawrence was glad to see me and I was glad I was only 10 minutes late. My thoughts still wandered about while others worshiped. Lord, give me Your peace and I entrust the situation to You. Before I knew it, I was graciously introduced. Pastor Lawrence and I first met when we went together to visit Willow Creek Community’s Church conference about a decade ago. He is a widely respected Assemblies of God minister who during his Bible college days planted a church in Seremban, Malaysia which today is one of the more notable churches in that town. We have caught up on various occasions since then . He went frequently to the annual Leadership Summit hosted by Bill Hybels’ church. What a wonderful thing it was when he actually brought the Global Leadership Summit (an abridged video version of the Summit) to Singapore several years ago and chaired the executive committee for several years. He provides able and loving leadership to Agape Community Church and chairs the denomination’s Bible college, A.G.B.C. It was evident there was a strong bond of love between pastor and congregation.

beautiful auditorium

worship team

speaking of the Father's loveThe Father’s love for us

Before I knew it I was at the sleek modern pulpit and despite a slow start managed to gradually connect with the congregation that comprised mostly young families. I preached to them some fundamental truths of what the Father has done for us from gospel-rich Ephesians 1: 3-7. I talked about the Father’s love for us: how He wants to bless us; how he had chosen us, and adopted us as his children.  The message was peppered with lots of relevant illustrations and analogies and applications.

Chong’s car diagnosis

The service ended and the people were friendly and Lawrence introduced me to Chong, an expert with cars. They were very kind and drove me to my stalled car. Chong took about 25 minutes to investigate the problem thoroughly. His diagnosis: radiator problem. You can drive back but do so without air-conditioning and keep sight of the temperature gauge. As I drove off, I thank God for this kindness, and was happy to be safely home and to have the car to use on Sunday.

Contemplative prayer in a Pentecostal church

sitting before the cross

Worship hall rearranged

The chairs were removed from the worship hall for the Holy Week of Contemplative Prayer. A wooden cross had a  robe wrapped around its outstretched arms. Around the neck, was a crown of thorns ingeniously made from rose branches and toothpicks twisted together. A large candle, and a porcelain blue cup and plate bought from Israel, were laid on an Ikea coffee table with a beautiful the crown of thorns and the robetablecloth. At the sides of the hall were three tables and chairs set aside for faith expressions: artwork materials, soft clay, and card making materials. The lights were dimmed on all four nights of the arrival of contemplative prayer in a Pentecostal church.

Holy Week theme

Holy Week as we all know starts on Palm Sunday and culminates on Easter Sunday. In the lead up to Good Friday and a Easter Sunday Baptism we created an inviting environment for God-chasers to contemplate the death of Christ. The theme this time were the 7 words of Jesus from the cross. It built up on Good Friday with 7  sermonettes on the same theme interspersed with music, silence and worship. Then the climax was an Easter celebratory service followed by a baptism in the East Coast – a most fitting end with all the church people having a picnic and food galore at the beach.

Contemplative prayer: what it looked like

Each evening of the Holy Week of Contemplative Prayer began at 8pm and ended at 10pm though people were free to leave earlier at 9.30pm. The evenings were led by a facilitator whojournalling and other expressions guided the participants through the silence, the lectio divina, the journaling, and the holy communion. Instrumental music and silence were used and it needed no live music. On each evening,  a scripture passage that captured the words of Jesus on the cross were read three times, and minimum comments were made, so that the participants can receive the word of the Lord.

journalling with art: why have you forsaken me?Complementary to retreats

The attendance was encouraging. To make a retreat require annual leave, giving up weekends, and money. Though such contemplative nights cannot be compared with the sheer vastness of undistracted time devoted to attending to the Lord in a retreat, it is a good complement, as it is grounded in everyday life. Unlike in a retreat, the participant does his daily activities as usual and comes to the place of quiet prayer with some effort, and leaves to go home to rest and then to work/school the next day. The ordinary day becomes the space for “retreat”. A regular daily rhythm of prayer and reflection may take shape in the midst of ordinary living. This is something that cannot happen in a retreat. As many as half of the 20-30 participants came everyeucharist night. Some of them wanted it to be a more regular affair. Most were blessed and helped by the guided times of silent prayer in a community context.

Contemplative and Pentecostal?

It may be regarded as rather odd that the contemplative and charismatic can flow together like streams that join together to water the people of God. How can something so “Catholic” be found in something more known for  noisy meetings and emotionalism  and evangelical fervour? But why shouldn’t the waters mix together in a heady, bubbly oxegenated mix?  Weren’t the early Christians contemplative Pentecostals? Both of these stereotypes of ancient spiritual practices being “Catholic” (and therefore suspect) and Pentecostals being boisterous and uneducated spiritual drunks do not belong to the 21st century. They are baggages that should have been left behind in the last century. We need a spiritual humility, one that discerns what is good in other traditions, acknowledges them as God’s gifts, and adapt them for use in one’s own tradition.