#273 Is City Harvest Church a social enterprise, financial institution or place of worship?

I had to read and re-read to make sure I had not misread City Harvest Church (CHC) offering loans to needy church members; that some churches gave loans to pastors to pay mortgages on their homes; and instances of offering loans between sister churches — from the afternoon edition of Today!

Sacrilegious! How could money given to tithes and the sacrifices of worshippers be honored for such purposes? Is this not making a mockery of the church as a place where individuals can find solace and to meet with God?

Gone are the days when the church actually help the poor and needy.

In the past, bursaries were awarded to those needy for education and individual members who own companies gave a tenth of earnings in support of the church — a classic example was ‘Tithes Dental’ that was located in Middle Road owned by Elder Goh Ewe Kheng. (Naturally his children could not understand their father’s benevolence toward Christian pastors and missionaries and needs of the church.)

I believe the mainstream church denominations like the Presbyterian still offers bursaries to the needy members’ children for education.

Is helping the poor means treating the old folks and needy to a meal or ferry those elderly to church weekly? Are members of CHC satisfied that the church offers such services?

The Christian Bible has clear understanding on members making loans and never loans offered from the institutional church or temple.

Exodus 22:25 “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest.”

Psalm 15:1,5 The psalmist asks in verse 1 — “Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? The psalmist outlines standards throughout the remaining psalm and this is one…

      “…who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. (v.5)”

Exodus 23:8 “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous.”

Leviticus 25:35-37 “If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you (v.35). Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God so that your countryman may continue to live among you (v.36). You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit (v.37).

These guidelines were given to God’s chosen people, i.e. the Israelites. Lest there be misunderstanding, the Israel referred to in the Bible is NOT about the nation Israel today.

Today, God’s chosen people are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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#162 religious freedom

In an earlier post I complimented President George Bush that he was smart in his decision to attend the Olympic Opening Ceremony in Beijing — smart does not equate wise though.

As usual the US and the West pride they know what freedom is…human rights, religious freedom, freedom of speech…

This religious freedom the West adopted has bankrupted many believers in Christianity…in fact money has become the God! During the Reformation and Enlightened Age, the West shone in every aspect of life — politically, economically and socially. Today, decadence seems to pervade the West, so much so many young are embracing the eastern religions.

When I was in Germany in the 1980s, I discovered the citizens had to pay church tax. I do not know if this tax law exists today. What was the church tax for? The state would deduct 1% (?) off a personal income. Many young resent this deduction as they do not believe in their parents’ belief and the church. In fact many claim atheism or believe in other religions.

I believe ALL churches ARE registered with the state around the world.

In China, I believe there is a measure of religious freedom today, unlike the Mao regime when all religions are forbiddened. There was crackdown on those religious leaders and active devout devotees…buddhism, muslim, christianity and confucianism and taoism.

Yet strangely my encounters with many Chinese who went overseas, the first place the young actually entered was the church. Many had the notion that the church is spiritual refuge from reading the Russian literatures. However many young are blindly following the trail of the MONEY God!

Religious institutions exist and it is actively operating…yet why the foul cries from the devotees?

When I first visited Beijing on my own (not with tour groups), I was pleasantly surprised at the openness. Yes, there were uniformed police patrolling around the Tiananman Square area and the shopping areas, but that did not give me the impression that I had to watch that I say any more than in my own land or when residing in the West. In fact I feel safe that these uniformed police were around for security reasons!? In fact these are signs of a developing nation on the road to prosperity! (I’m sure I’d be clobbered for this!)

One obvious sign to religious freedom was I saw many monks clad in their robes walking freely around. Or are these for show?

Are the locals not allowed to worship in the open 3-self churches? These might be opened for the expatriate community and I was told Christians are not allowed to openly evangelise or proselytise. I can talk and discuss Christianity within the church compound but not outside. I’ve yet to test the truth as I was not there long to see the truth. 

Many Christians in China feared that if they openly profess their faith in Jesus, they are liable for persecutions…is this true? Can a people light a lamp and put it under a bowl? Are Christians not the light of the world?

Jesus in sermon on the mount said:

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14)

Is this not true that the Chinese government is cracking down on the clandestine groups — those groups that function without registration or within the law?

I fancy there are two groups praying for the Olympic Games: one, this will be a success and the other, hoping this event will highlight some ugly aspects of the country and eventually to shame China!

Unfortunately, the Olympic Games has become a tool for politiking!!!

#158

Living in these days of uncertainties and a sense of hopelessness pervades —

senseless killings where suicide bombers and terrorists made war on the innocents and civilians by planting bombs around the most crowded and unexpected areas;

mother nature wreaks havoc — global warming; earthquakes, droughts…

perplexing economic crises — staple food crises, fuel hikes, subprime and credit crunch, etc;

and political hagglings around the world…

— as a Christian, the words written in the Book of Revelation are true source of comfort. Those warnings ring true…and reassuring me good triumphs over evil, hope as we face difficult times and gives guidance when my faith is wavering.

#153 money, money, money

These days, I wonder where my hard-earned money went?  There is marked increase in the prices of food! With the fuel price hike, I wonder when announcements will be made for another transport fare increase?

Why is money so important? No money no talk. Without money one cannot survive.

Wonder how our founding governing leaders manage to bring Singapore to where she is considering a land without any natural resources. They were able to mobilise the human resources and only assets Singapore has was the port and air route…which then created tourism. Today it’s the intelligence resource… The economic downturn or recession is evident…and I can only pray for wisdom for our governing leaders to manage wisely…

Wisdom is a shelter

as money is a shelter,

but the advantage of knowledge is this:

that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.

(Ecc 7:12)

A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes life merry,

but money is the answer for everything.

Whoever loves money never has money enough;

whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.

Money is important but the love of money is the root of all evils…

#119 one prays for China

I’m praying that my Lord Jesus Christ will give the Chinese the courage to face tomorrow and at some unkind and callous words of discouragements to the victims and people of China. 

I pray for all aftershocks to cease and allow those in authority to concentrate on reconstruction and serving her people.

I pray for salvation and healing to come upon the land of China. That China will be the favored country tomorrow…that God will bless China bountifully.

I pray that those whose children died in the quake will allow the dead to rest in peace, though difficult that may be — to forgive those leaders in the counties and to give those callous leaders a second chance to prove themselves to bring good to those under their care.

During my time working on oral history in understanding Christian believers in China in late 1970s, one lesson that stood out — those suffered forgave those who persecuted them. They saw those who persecuted them were forced to under the circumstances. They saw another unseen force at work quoting from the Christian Bible when Paul wrote in the New Testament in the Letter to the Ephesians Chapter 6:12…

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms…

Furthermore God in Christ has enabled many miracles and wonderful testimonies that shone brightly in those days of darkness.

The quake is a double-edged sword — this either draws the best out of humans or the worst in humans.

“Weeping may tarry in the night but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

 

#77

In light of the drama of Torch Relay and human rights issue calling for boycott to the forthcoming Olympic Games in Beijing, I cannot help reflecting on this story in the Christian Bible in John’s Gospel chapter 8:1-11

Jesus went to Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis of accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

 

I wonder about those countries like UK, France, US and others — do they not have this human rights issue at their doorstep? Is this because they are a democracy and are therefore absolved?

Let not the pot calls its kettle black — another English proverb.

If the next venue for the Olympic Games in 2012 was not in the UK, will her prime minister attend the closing ceremony?

#31

Last Saturday March 8th was International Women’s Day.

Women championed her cause since “…in 1908 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.”

(Links: http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp )

Glad we are given equal rights and access to education since Singapore was first founded.

Today, women are found in almost every arena of vocations and professions in developed countries. Naturally, in developing countries, that depends on its cultures and mores.

The woman expressed in the Christian Bible in Proverbs 31 is resourceful and liberated:

“…She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.

She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.

She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.

She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.

She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.

In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy…”

Why is there the feminist movement in the West? Why has the church contained a narrow view of the place of woman?

Proverbs 31:11, 12 clearly suggest she is not a threat:

“Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.

She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

and “her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her” (verse 28).