Friday, June 29, 2012


Recently, upon recommendation by Annie, Sophia and two other ladies from the TS video store in Clementi Mall, I've been watching the Chinese drama 步步惊心. The drama talks about a young girl in modern day Beijing who gets transported back in time to the Qing Dynasty during Emperor Kangxi's reign. Once she is there, she has to accustom herself to a whole new culture where every aspect of one's life is mandated by the emperor (What a great parallel to how every aspect of our lives are in the hands of God!). She finds this difficult to accept since she's been brought up in modern day China to believe that she can make her own decisions with regards to things like marriage.

During her years spent in the Forbidden City, 若曦 Ruo Xi matures into an accomplished young lady who is flanked by no less than EIGHT princes, four of whom have revealed their feelings to her. 


That's three too many! 

Anyway, while I haven't much to say about the storyline or the values scripted in by the scriptwriters (way too many guys- I don't get it!), I really fell in love with the colours of the flowers and costumes in the drama. Many scenes that were shot in the gardens or palace grounds looked like beautiful paintings in their own right.

I was so impressed by all the 成语s (proverbial sayings?) and various scenes of the characters writing with 墨笔 (ink brush?) that I decided to take a Chinese Calligraphy class. 


If only my Chinese teachers from primary and secondary school could see me now! 

Me, the stunted Chinese student who couldn't even read a chapter straight through without saying ”什么什么“ at least once. Me, the student who hated Chinese classes with a passion and kept failing tests without even trying. The very same me is now voluntarily taking Chinese Calligraphy lessons! 


It's like having a cat voluntarily taking a bath!

Anyway, the first lesson was yesterday, at the Civil Service Centre along Tessensohn Road. There are a total of 8 lessons and the teacher, 王老师, is a Hainanese uncle who reminds me of my own uncles (all people from the same generation). 

At the start of the lesson, 王老师 wrote something on a piece of paper and said: "this is nice, right?" 
I looked at it, looked back at his expectant face, and realised I had no idea what "nice" calligraphy looked like! 

By the end of the night, I was so fired up with excitement from learning how to use the brush and write with basic techniques that I wrote the word 主 at least 30 times in a row, trying to perfect each stroke. 

This only goes to show one thing:

 Trying to force feed children with information is useless. They will never retain the information they've acquired and instead grow to hate the subject like I hated Chinese. But capture their hearts and their imagination and you will reap a curious brain and unrestrained passion. 

I mourn the loss of precious childhood years spent hating the very things I now wish to know more about. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Judge Those Within The Church

To my dear friends who read this blog: I know many of you have been affected or troubled in some way by the recent City Harvest Church debacle. I've decided to write this article about it because I am quite disturbed about it too. I am disturbed by the fact that so many non-Christians are able to see through the shenanigans of these people, yet many Christians (especially CHC-goers) continue to stubbornly support the church. 

I am not trying to pass judgement on any individuals involved in CHC because God is the supreme judge! However God's Word warns us of false shepherds in the last days coming in the guise of lambs. In Paul's first letter to the Corinthian church, he tells them to "expel the immoral brother!"

Why? Because Paul understood the simple philosophy that "a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough" (1 Corinthians 5) 

What I'm trying to say here is- as followers of Christ, we should not easily accept anyone or any philosophy that comes in the guise of Truth and Light. Test everything against God's Word and in prayer (1 John 4:1).

If there is one bad seed that plants itself in God's holy universal church, do not call it a good seed! It is to be uprooted before weeds overgrow and choke up the whole place. 

In other words, we are to set ourselves apart from the things that we know do not glorify God or are false, lest we be lumped together with the yeast. 


Those of you who are in Singapore would undoubtedly have caught wind of the breaking news that shook the island a few days ago. City Harvest Church, with the largest congregation in Singapore of about 15,000 members was recently embroiled in yet another count of embezzlement charges. This time, the famous pastor Kong Hee and four others in CHC's administration were charged in court with much evidence surfacing from an investigation of the church funds which started back in May 2010. 

The amount found to have been misappropriated by these people rounds at a whopping $50.6 million. Sadly, such an outrageous case of corruption in CHC comes with no surprise to many Singaporeans. Why? Here's a bit of context:

CHC is pastored by Kong Hee, a wealthy businessman and his wife, Sun Ho, a Chinese pop singer. These people are charismatic (both in their manners and in their beliefs) and pride themselves on reaching out to the youth via the hype and flash of pop concerts. 

This church has earned a reputation for concert-type worship sessions, drawing fans of Sun Ho and other worshippers of the Prosperity Gospel. 

Unfortunately, the pastors' wealth have caused many outsiders to question the validity of their lifestyle. I mean, how many millionaire pastors do you know? How would you feel sitting in the congregation, listening to a rich man who has two cars, maids and a butler read these following Bible verses? 

"Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys." (Luke 12:33)

"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you." (James 5:1)

"People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction." (1 Timothy 6:9)


Now I'm not saying that all rich people who claim to be Christians are doomed to an eternity in hell. But there are two things that I always keep in mind when thinking about the whole CHC fiasco. 

First of all, having a lot of wealth is not a good thing for one's relationship with God, but it does not make it impossible for one to enter heaven. 

Matthew 19:24 says "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God".  

Note that this verse doesn't actually mention the word IMPOSSIBLE. Indeed, it is possible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. In fact, I've often thought about the possible ways for a camel to enter the eye of a needle as a kid and this is what I came up with:

1) Make the eye of the needle really big- bigger than a camel.
2) Ground up the camel into powder or liquid and have it poured through the eye of the needle. (It doesn't say whether the camel has to be alive or not right?)

Now the problem with option 1 is that if we assume the needle refers to heaven in Matthew 19:24, then there's no way option 1 would be feasible. In Matthew 7:14, it says "small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it". 

I don't think the needle's eye will be enlarged anytime soon. 

That then leaves me with option 2. A rather gruesome approach of entering the needle's eye I must say. But it clearly illustrates my point (which I'm coming to). It is not impossible for a rich man to enter heaven, but it is an exceedingly difficult, painful and arduous process full of spiritual barriers. It is certainly a path that no man can embark on on his own strength and prowess. Because it is such a difficult road, we can only assume that very very few people ever make it.

In my own life, I have experienced financial and material ups and downs. It is during the times when I was financially and materially down that I found it the easiest to trust and obey God. However when life started looking up and I no longer had to scrimp and worry, I found my mind often wandering from Christ. 

See, when I was "richer", I had more things to entertain myself with and I could very easily find fast and convenient satisfaction outlets whenever I was feeling down and out. Very quickly, I realised that being "rich" was a huge stumbling block in my walk with Christ. Not insurmountable, but huge nonetheless (thank God for the millions I don't have!)

People always think that life gets easier when you've got lots of money. 

Sure, some things get easier. But if you're talking about a relationship with Jesus Christ, there's no scarier trap than the trap of a comfortable life in the deep-set armchair of riches and fame. 

Knowing this puts many doubts in my mind about the soundness of CHC's teachings. While much of what Kong Hee quotes from the Bible is true, some other things he says in this video just makes me feel plain uncomfortable... It's like he's trying to justify being rich. Why does being rich need justification in the first place? 

Ok bear with me, I'm on to my second point about this CHC's fiasco. 


Now that I've talked about how being rich can be a stumbling block, I'll proceed with how being a pastor or shepherd of God's flock puts one at a different position from others. 

Firstly, James 3:1 tells us that "not many of you should presume to be teachers... because... we who teach will be judged more strictly". 

Judged by who? By God? By men? I don't know. It doesn't say. Perhaps both. But one thing is for sure; the teachers of God's Word carry more weight of responsibility than any other believer. For all he's worth, Pastor Kong Hee and his wife Sun who claim to bear the burden of preaching the gospel to young fans of pop music, claim a heavy load indeed. 

As servants of the Most High God, should their weightier spiritual position also mean greater fame and riches on this earth? 

On the contrary, Philippians 2 paints a very different picture of the Highest of Highs and King of Kings. We are told in the letter to the Philippians that Jesus, the ultimate example of humility, actually "did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant

And since "no servant is greater than his master" (John 15:20), how can I reconcile the humility of Christ with the lavish lifestyle of these two pastors who claim a great responsibility in the kingdom of God?


Some Christians outside of CHC warn us not to throw the baby out with the bath water even now that Kong Hee and his colleagues have been charged with embezzlement. They say we should not discount the people who are truly saved by their encounters in this church. While I agree that there may have been some people that were saved in CHC, I have nothing to say about how hearts have been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit there.

And because my answer to this is more experiential than based on hard fact, you don't have to take my word for it. 

Of all the people whom I know that are staunch members at City Harvest Church, not a single one actually tries to model their lives after Christ or finds their glory in Him. To elaborate further, these CHC members seem rather to be modeling a life of stardom and wealth, often giving praise to Kong Hee or their cell group leaders instead of Jesus Christ. An arbitrary "praise God!" or "Amen!" might be mouthed, but ultimately it is Kong Hee who seems to receive the most praise and gratitude. 

It is this aspect that I find most disturbing about CHC. 

We are to worship God in truth and spirit (John 4:24); not by growing one's bank account, gaining more friends and popularity or by looking like you're going clubbing when you're going to church. Christian fellowship is ultimately for the glory of God, not the glory of oneself!

Anyway, when all this is said and done, the conclusion I have come to is simply to pray for the true believers in CHC and also for Kong Hee and his wife Sun Ho. Ultimately, we do not know what God's purpose in their lives really is, but there are some lines that I would draw between myself and City Harvest Church. 

I do not endorse the entire shade of the Prosperity Gospel they preach, nor the lifestyle that the pastors and church goers lead. 

If a friend of mine decides to seek Christ in City Harvest Church (or New Creation Church, for that matter), I would strongly discourage it because I have seen for myself what spiritual havoc their teachings can wreak in a person's life. A fig tree cannot bear olives. Similarly, a church filled with the Holy Spirit, based firmly on the foundation of Christ alone cannot bear anything but the fruit of the Holy Spirit. 

Therefore, in these matters, let us be wise as serpents but simple as doves, always giving thanks to God for His amazing grace shown to us undeserving sinners. 

After all, the Son of God did come to seek what was lost. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Runway Skate 2012 & Pulau Ubin


Blogging regularly is so hard, especially since I've been squeezing all sorts of activities into my calendar. This post is about last last weekend- just about 11 days too late. Sorry about that to my future self! I know you'll be shaking your head, wondering what happened in between...

Alright, early in the morning, on Sunday 17th June, I went to SAFRA, Paya Lebar Air Base for a mass cycling/skating event. I was there early enough to catch the sun rising over the military runway. 

Though this event happens every year, this is the first time I've gone to it. The first time I'd heard about it, I was already in the U.S.

Was really stoked to finally be able to go check it out!

Because I was there so early, there weren't a lot of people yet. 

I thought it was really cool to be able to come into this air base that is usually closed off to the public. Not only that, but to be able to skate on the same tarmac that fighter planes take off from is awesome too. 

They'd tucked most of the planes away except for a few that was out for display.

Skating with legends from the industry.

And finally it's a go!

I hung back a little bit with the rest to wait for the initial crowd to start first. 

I love skating not only because I get to see places that I normally wouldn't be able to see from the bus or on foot, but also because I've met so many nice people around Singapore.

I had a lot of fun on the runway dodging cyclists and racing with my shadow, but by 09:00, my shoulders were really starting to feel the sun and the runway just seemed to stretch on forever into the horizon. 

Much like running on the track, going round in circles on the runway on rollerblades gets boring after a while. I think I still prefer skating on the streets.

After I was done skating on the runway, I went around the event premises to check out the various activities they have. Because that weekend was somewhere in the vicinity of Fathers' Day, they'd set up some fun family games for children to play. 

Though I wasn't there with my family, I had lovely Xiin Da to join me on the choo choo train! 

Age ain't nothing but a number...

There are some days that will stick out in your memory for years to come. I think this is one golden Sunday morning that will stay in my heart for a long time. Nothing extraordinary happened, but just a few short hours of feeling young, alive and joyful. 

No wonder the Bible tell us to "be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment." (Ecclesiastes 11:9)

Last Monday was our company's day out and I organised a trip to Pulau Ubin!

For those who don't know, Pulau Ubin is a tiny little island off of mainland Singapore. It takes about ten minutes on a bumboat to get there. 

We got to the jetty around 13:00. 

Since there were 10 of us and the boat only needs 12 people to take off, we got to leave within ten minutes of everyone arriving at the jetty.

Off we go!

On the window of the bumboat, I noticed this little poster. All of these sayings are kind of funny, but very true. 

Looking towards Changi from the back of the bumboat. On Instagram, Nat said this looks like Hawaii. 



We finally got to Pulau Ubin after a very breezy and sunny ride.

I remember coming to Pulau Ubin as a little kid. Back then, this corner restaurant by the jetty was the first restaurant you'd see coming off the boat. Even a year ago, I still remember it being open albeit with little customers. I was quite sad to see that it had closed down now. 

The rest of the island still looks pretty much the same. Perhaps a little cleaner than before, and with paved roads.

Bicycle rental in Pulau Ubin is at $2, while the shops at East Coast Park charge $6! So ridiculous.

Being the adventurous sort, my boss decided we should hike instead of bike since it promotes better conversation.

Some of us grudgingly obliged. 

It was quite a nice walk actually and we spotted a wild boar sleeping near a very open and public space on the way. That, and we encountered a native Ubin dweller who started catapulting stones at us because my boss took a photo of the sign in his driveway. 

It was wonderful! 

Just like the good ol' kampong days eh?

Finally reached the observation tower overlooking Chek Jawa.

The tower is about five stories high and sways in the wind.

On the way down, we saw more wild boars! 

They came so close to the boardwalk, I could've touched one if I wanted to. But I didn't really want to get knocked down by the angry mother.

Our walk continued through the mangrove area by the sea.

And onto the boardwalk on the Chek Jawa shoreline.

Chek Jawa is a protected nature conservation area and best appreciated at low tide. That's when all the cool crabs come out to play. 

Everyone was fascinated with the armies of crabs sprawled over the sand.

View downwards.

There were so many crabs at one point that one of my colleagues started getting freaked out.

Walked a bit further...

And we spotted a baby monitor lizard. 

The sun that day shone in just the right angles and degrees. All my pictures turned out really well thanks to the great lighting!

Having fun already? :)

After the boardwalk, I came upon this little house called House No. 1. No one lives here now, but this obviously used to belong to a wealthy colonialist. 

This tourist attraction now claims to have the only operating fireplace in Singapore. Somehow, I don't quite believe that!

Whoever lived here during the early 1900s must have had a magnificent view.

Imagine if this was your backyard?

Tired from the 2 hour hike, we settled down at the Pulau Ubin Seafood Restaurant for dinner.

Ice cold water for everyone.

And beer for others.

The food was really good! Especially the black pepper beef dish. We gulped it all down in a second.

Pulau Ubin dogs are so cute, and they all look the same! I wouldn't be surprised if they become their own breed in decades to come.

On the way back to the jetty, we passed by a colourfully muralled house.

I really liked what it said on top of the gates.

The day ended faster than I thought it would. Guess that's what happens when you are having fun!

On the way back to Changi Point, our boat stalled and so another bumboat had to come alongside ours to tow us in to the jetty.

It was soooo fun!!!