24 Feb 2013
This morning, the message will be a little different. I will have it in two parts. The first part, I hope to answer some FAQs, frequently asked questions, that we feel are better answered on the stage rather than in that little piece of paper you have. And we sprung a surprise anew last week. And it got a lot of people who went back a bit shell-shocked like, “Hey, this is kind of fast.” And so, we thought it was good if we could answer some of those questions. We do not have time to meet each of you individually though that would be ideal so you could ask questions. But we also felt that sometimes as Asians, we do not ask questions of authority, we tend to accept things, but those things tend to spin in our minds. So we thought it best to deal with it today. And then the second part of the message today would be building God's house in God's way, principles taken from the great builder, Nehemiah. We've always said that the church is people, people are much more important than buildings.
FAQ1: Have we changed our belief that people are more important than buildings?
Have we changed our belief in that? The answer, obviously, is no. The church is people, is a group of people. It is not a bunch of bricks, it is not a piece of land. But we feel that at a point in our time of our growth, we need a place for people together, God's people together. We need a place for God's people, to invite other people to come into this place and grow in Christ. So really, our position has not changed. We are not going to glory in a beautiful building, we made it very clear at our meeting the last few days that it will be functional. Building is to serve a function, is a place where we can gather. It's not an iconic building, we can boast in and feel so happy about the building. We want to be happy about transformed lives, not about architecture. And so, our focus, even with the building, as you build that building, and as you maintain that building, is still the people in that building. So, I hope that's very clear our position has not changed.
FAQ2: Have we changed our position on buying property rather than renting it?
What about our position on buying property rather than renting for all those years? I have always emphasized that I cannot justify spending huge sums of money on one building, all tied up in that one building, when that money could be used in better ways: in fulfilling the Great Commission. Millions could be tied out one building but those same millions could be used to lead 1000s of people to the Lord. So, for years that was our position. Why tie up your money? Free that money up! $1 in Singapore is to some 2+ ringgit, it is 5 Chinese yen, it is 30 pesos in the Philippines, it is 4000 reals in Cambodia, it is 7000 rupees in Indonesia. Why tie up when millions or tens of millions out there and we could do so much. And in all those years that we were nomadic, that money indeed was freedom. And I think you all know that hundreds of thousands of people have heard the gospel. In those few years that money was used to share the gospel, not thousands but hundreds of thousands of people, possibly hundreds of thousands made profession of faith. In those few years we have planted about 50 churches, 50 daughter churches or granddaughter churches that came out from the churches we planted. They are still there, they're still growing. So instead of tying our money up in one building, we had freed up that money to do God's work.
Now the question is why do we change that now? Why do you want to tie money in a building rather than continue to do this? Have we changed our position? The reason is, the situation has changed. You know in those days, 6, 7 years ago when 360 Dunearn Road was too small, we just went to SCGS, it wasn't that difficult to get it, it was just a one kilometer away. It's a beautiful place, rental was very affordable. The hall was beautiful, breakout rooms more than enough for all our congregations, Sunday school etc. Plenty of meeting room, plenty of carpark, plenty of makan (makan means eat/eating in Malay) place. Hey, why buy a building? It's all there, maintained for you, done for you, built for you at great costs. And we enjoyed those facility for six years and then our money was sent out to the mission field. And then government policy changed. We didn't change our position, the government policy change. The educational policies said schools could not be used for churches. So out we went after six years there. So we said, “Okay, no big deal. We can rent another place.” So we went to another place and then we went to SIM and we were quite happy there for a year. Pretty good. Nice parking. Nice auditorium. Nice breakout rooms, makan places and everything. Very convenient. Not as convenient as SCGS but still pretty good. We were there happily thinking we're going to be there for years. And then educational policy change regarding universities. Sorry, churches cannot use it anymore. Took us aback. No big deal. We can move on to hotels after all, you know typical hotel. Sunday morning is downtime. Nice big hotels have huge places like this. And who wants to go to seminar on Sunday morning, Sunday morning is time to sleep? Who has dinners in the morning? Chinese wedding dinners in the morning? Unheard of, dinners are for night, right? So, what do you do in a room in the morning? Empty, downtime, go to the hotel and they will beg you, “please come and use my place”. Sign a contract at a cheap price to use the auditoriums or halls in the morning because they are empty in the morning. I had plenty to do with it in the evening. Lo and behold wedding policy change. As more and more people want fancy weddings in fancy hotels, there are only that many fancy hotels that have big auditoriums, big ballrooms. In the good old days, you had your Chinese dinner in some restaurant, forget it. That's down, man. You have to go to an odd, beautiful place. And, you know, it's got to be four star, five star hotel and how many are there? So, the pressure was put on couples. You know, we did pre marriage counseling, it was not like where you want to get married, “Pastor, it depends on when I can get a booking in a hotel.”
You know, in other countries, they look at the stars, how they align, you know, the astrologer tell you when you get married. In some places, you look at a Fung Shui in Singapore, you look at the hotel bookings, right. So, they book, they fight for the Saturday night, sometimes one year ahead, two years ahead. And then slowly, smart pragmatic Singaporeans see why just Saturday night, Monday also can cheaper, some more 20% savings, Tuesday also can. And then people start to fill even the weekdays. And then as pragmatic Singaporeans you see, “Every night so crowded, so full, then how about morning? We have a 10-course brunch.” Right? And then lo and behold, when we were in grand Copthorne thinking we were going to sit pretty there for they loved us because we fill the empty space, every week, every Monday, will chase us out. When we signed that agreement and say once in a while, we will need the auditorium, but once in a while, became once a month. And then soon we were in little breakout rooms, like seven or eight breakout rooms, a few people in each room watching Pastor Jason on television. That is reality, situations change. And so, we are here, and the population is not going to get smaller. The pressure on these places is not going to get less in the years ahead. People are not going to say, “Now you're just going to have a wedding in a coffee shop.” I do not think so. Everybody wants a wedding in a fancy place. This place is always for now. But the pressure to get kicked around is going to get higher and higher. That is the reality. We did not change our position. The situation changed.
Well, Ecclesiastes, one of my favorite books because life is all about timing. Whether you're an investor, whether you're anything, it’s timing. It is not whether you do the right thing, but more importantly whether you do the thing at the right time. Right and he says in Ecclesiastes, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven; A time to be born, and a time to die; exact opposite things, a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted, a time to kill, a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build up.” (Ecc 3:1-3) “You have made everything beautiful in his time.” (Ecc 3:11) We think the time to pluck up has come, a time to plant a place has come. The seasons have changed, and we have to do according to the seasons. The season of renting a large hall enough to hold Gospel Light church is getting harder and harder. Reality. Okay, so that is our situation, I do not believe if we can rent a place conveniently where God's people cannot be unnecessary inconvenience, why not rent it? Why tie up millions of dollars when every day souls are perishing? Might as well use that money, do something that lasts for eternity rather than put it in bricks.
FAQ3: Do you and Pastor Jason have different convictions about spending money on a building?
Alright, next question. Many times, asked, “Do you and pastor Jason have different convictions about sinking millions into a piece of property?” The answer is yes. Yes. Am I right? In my conviction? Or is he right in his? Am I more spiritual than him? The answer is no. Alright and let me explain that to you. When I was called to the ministry about 30 years ago, my burden in my heart was twofold. Reach those around you, start a church; reach those far from you and further from you, least people, last people reach them too. I had that same burden in my heart on day one, when I started GLCC. And I told the people I said, “You know something, I'm going to be a pastor on one condition. I'm going to do my best to serve you. But at the same time, please understand, there is a burden in my heart also to serve people far, far away. People you don't know, people you have never seen, people I have never seen.” But somehow there was that dual burden in my heart, at the same time, kind of strange. A lot of people told me, “Pastor, you're weird. You must focus on your church. You must build up your church. And one day when you are strong enough, you can do missions.” I said, “I just don't have that, God put both at the same time.” And so, from day one, I would preach every Sunday in our church and then sneak off on the weekdays somewhere. Come back for Bible studies, then sneak off again. That was my life. Some of you have conviction, some of you like children's work and some of you also like to do choir, both, and sometimes there is a tug. Some of you are all choir alone. You know what I am talking about? Now Pastor Jason has a different burden from me. When he started this church, and ministry handed to him, he said, “Pastor, this is what I want to do. I am not going to be distracted by missions. Pastor, you go to missions,” he said, “I will focus on a local church.” See, that is great. You are not interested in missions at this point of your ministry? No. I will invite him to go somewhere. He has a good excuse. Alright, I just did two days ago, another excuse. Alright. Because that is not his call. At this point of his life, his burden is I am going to build a good local church here. I am not saying he's not interested in missions, don't get me wrong. He believes a good local church, God will raise people up who are interested in missions, but that is not his call at this point of his life. Now, I am very happy for that. Because I know there is going to be a pastor who is going to serve the people well, focus his heart on the people here, disciple them, mentor them for me, you know, honestly, I told my people always I tell them without no hiding. If I have given a choice to preach to nice people like you all in church, who love me and I love you, who are comfortable with me, and I am comfortable you. If I am given that as one option, or to preach to people far, far away I never seen who do not like me, who probably hate me or want me to get out, who are probably so different from me, poor or illiterate, pick another language or culture. If I was pressed with these two choices, you know what I will choose? I tell my people, “No question. I will reach out to them.” That is the way God burden me. Their needs are great. I want to reach them. You guys, even I do not preach for three weeks, you will be alright. Nothing is going to happen. Nothing significant is going to happen. But if that opportunity I missed, it is gone. Right? So that is the way God burdened me. And so, secret of secrets, right? You guys were always second choice. And I told many people you know, I am not called to be a pastor, I am called to be a missionary. But I think God stuck me here in the church, so that I can learn to be a better missionary. So, for 20 years, he trained me in the local church, guinea pigs all here so that I can now do something useful out there. Moses took 40 years to learn, I took 20 that is not bad. I am twice as fast as he is. But the point is, different convictions. When I see a poor village, I get all excited. All the potential that can happen there. When pastor Jason when the Punggol, he got excited at all that could happen. “Watertown! MRT! Wow! School!”, he said, “You must see it.” So, I went there. I look, “MRT, Watertown very interesting…” I went with Pastor Mike, two of us walk around. When he is another missionary like me, we walk around and said, “Not bad… It’s okay.” And then the moment I reach home, someone on the building committee called me and said, “How is it?” I said, “It's okay.” Is Pastor Jason wrong in his assessment? No. If he went to see a poor village, he would say, “It's okay. Not bad. Pastors, you can do that. Yeah.” You see, it's about burden. Some of you see children, you get all excited. Some you see children you say, “Eee” (an expression of disgust). True or false? Some you see old people who cannot speak your language and speak funny dialects. Wow. I love all these folks. It is how God burdens you. It is not I'm right, and you're wrong and whatever. Go away, God convicts you. And if God chose pastor Jason, I believe with all my heart. God chose pastor Jason to lead this church and God places in his heart that burden to build a strong local church, I say, “Pastor Jason, go for it.” Right? You lead this church where God has burden you right? So that is the reason it is not about who is more spiritual. We do have different burdens in our heart, or we can say different convictions, but I'm not your pastor anymore. He is, right? And He is the one God has chosen to lead, not two heads in this church, but one head and we must go with him, and I will go with him because I am a member of this church.
FAQ4: Prices are so high, why buy now?
Now, question number four, prices are so high, why buy now? Logical right? This is probably the biggest question in Singaporean minds. Now all the Singaporeans are all thinking property or COE. And you will say, “Why buy now? Let the prices drop.” Well, if we are talking about condos, there are plenty, let the prices drop. You want to buy a condo now? I say no. Do not buy right. This is my two cents of advice, buy a house now I say no. Buy a car now, I say no. But a church. There is not a lot of choice. Last time a piece of land was released by HDB was almost 2010. The number of releases seem to be getting less and less, though the population gets more and more. And interest in Christianity in this country is growing, population is growing. And yet the release of HDB land for churches is less. In simple words, you do not have a choice. Sometimes you just have to make a move. And land like this that seems to fit pastor Jason is not that common. Number one, big place. They expect about 300,000 people to be there in real time. Now if I am like 66 years old, why would I bid for it? By the time, the place is ready, I am 70 you know. 300,000 I can hardly even think of 300 at a time. Right? But this is a pastor who is in his 30s. Not many significant size churches in Singapore and their pastors are as young as Pastor Jason. He got a long way to go. And if it's 300,000, that sounds exciting. Secondly, it is young couples there, young families. That is what he is, young family. Perfect demographic. Urbanites or what you call the upwardly mobile, that is what's going to be at that place. That fits his demographic, that fits the way he is built. That fits the way he preaches. That fits the way he is. So there seems to be a beautiful fit. It's almost like when a guy is praying for his dream girl. And then one day the dream girl comes, and he meets this dream girl and says, “This is the girl.” Then he says, “But at this time of my life very busy. I think I wait until I'm not so busy, then I will say hello to her.” Then he waits for a time to come when prices are not so high, things are not so busy. The girl got married, has three children already. You have to move when the time comes. Right? So, I believe that this whole demographic, the whole town of Punggol, seems of fit this church at this point of its life, this church life. One question we posed at our committee, I posed that question, before we agreed to it. I said, alright, all of us here in the committee, there were five of us. I said, “We are always in Kingdom business, you're not here to build GLCC, that's not our primary role. Our primary role is to build God's kingdom. So why do we compete with another brother who also wants to build God's kingdom? Why are we going to fight with him so that we all get this place and knock him out? If we're all building God's kingdom, why fight?” That was my question. Then I said, “Can we answer honestly before God, that we believe as a committee, we are the most suitable for that piece of land, to the best of our knowledge.” This is not an ego game. It is not like wow, I am better than you, more handsome than you. Nothing like that. And we have to answer that question. Why do I have to fight with a brother for this piece of land? Let us all agree and bid the lowest, the rest of money go missions. Why not? Why don't we all gather? Come on, come on. who can, let’s all serve God. Who is the most likely to serve God? Let us bid $1. All right. Cartel.
But we said, “Considering Pastor Jason's age, years ahead of him. The way he does things, his background, etc.” Finally, every single one of the committees said, “We believe that this fits us and to the best of our knowledge, the other people who seem to be in the race I think, hopefully without being proud, and arrogant and egotistical, we said we believe we should be there.” Only after that, that we begin to move. Because why? It's not the right fit. Let somebody else who is more fit go ahead. Why compete? We all brothers, one day, we all be in heaven, forever and ever. So finally, we agreed that piece of land fits, is fit for GLCC. Or rather GLCC is fit for that piece of land. Right? So, these are the four questions that are not in that book. The book gives you a lot of other FAQs, especially about some technical stuff, and so on. I hope you will go back read it. Think about it. And if you have really do have some questions that are more beyond this, feel free to ask us. All right, the leadership.
Building God’s House God’s Way
Okay, now let's get on to the message, building God's house God's way. Now, sometimes we think that as long as we build God's house, and we are confident that God wants us to build that house, then it's okay. No, I believe number one. First question is, does God want us to build a house? Number one. Or is it an ego thing for us? We have to ask ourselves, also, there is a GLCC thing, so that we can be the biggest church in Singapore, whatever, whatever. Is that it? Then I say, do not build, forget it. But if we feel honestly, we can minister to that 300,000 people there the best, then we should be there. So, number one, is it for ourselves? Or is it for ego? Number two after that, how are you going to build this house? Are we going to spend all our weeks, begging for money, and preaching about money and forcing people and all that, is that God's way? God says yes, I want you to build a house and we do it our way using human salesmanship and techniques and all that I say. Forget it. I am not going to build it. God's work must be done God's way. You can’t do God's work your way. So today I want us to look at some principles from the book of Nehemiah. Right? I have always looked up to him because he's a builder. Two people I love in the Bible. I will say my two heroes. Number one is Paul, Apostle Paul, because he is the missionary, and great commission is part of our life. So, I want to learn how to do missions from Paul. But I want to learn how to build from the Nehemiah. And all of us have to build, whether we like it or not. We are born little, we build muscles, and we compete. We are born empty there. We build knowledge and become smart. It is all building. We were born alone, we wed a wife, and we build a family, it is building. We have little children, and we grow a home, and it is building a home. It is building. Everything about God's technique, God's way of doing things, is about building so we better learn how to build. The principles of Nehemiah are not just about building some bricks, though the story is about bricks, but the principles is about building. So many of us say, Nehemiah, why do I want to learn about Nehemiah? I am not going to be a contractor. No, no, we all builders, of God's body he gives me, God's mind, God's family, and children. All is God's. My ministry. My career. It is all building. We need the right principles. Some of you have read the book of Nehemiah. Can I just ask by show of hands? How many of you have read the book of Nehemiah? Impressive. All right, maybe two thirds, three quarter. Can I suggest all of you, read it. Okay. Don't understand? I am not asking you to understand. I said read it. At least I understand it. Alright. You know how many words are there Nehemiah? Less than maybe the first four pages of the Straits times this morning. Okay. I know you guys have been reading the Straits Times for breakfast, toilet, everywhere, right? No more words than the first four pages of the Straits Times. Read it as stories, newspaper stories. Read it as a story. You take a step of reading it and God takes a step of guiding you. You do not read it? You say, “I don't understand. So, I don't read,” then you will never understand. Right? The Bible is full of stories, 70% of Bible stories, right? So, you say, I don't want to read the Bible. You do not want to read stories? You love stories! You want to watch Korean serial, right? All kinds of serial, right? Night after night, you love stories, and the Bible is full of stories. Read it. You say I do not understand all of it. Nobody does. But the more you read humbly before God, the more God will show you. Okay, so I suggest if you have never read Nehemiah, go home today, do it one go, throw the newspaper. Today nothing is going to happen. If you do not read the paper today or watch news, the world will still continue, you will still be okay, read Nehemiah today. Okay.
Now let's look at some principles from this guy, Nehemiah. Number one, he had no experience in building. See the last line there. He was a cup bearer. (Referring to Nehemiah 1:11) Basically kings in those days did not trust everybody, the kitchen, the crew, etc. Because some people could bribe them to poison the king. So, the king's cup bearer was a guy who the King could trust so that he sometimes would have to test the food before the king. Right? And the king said, “You take it” “I took it already. It is okay. You wouldn't die.” He was a man of character, but not a man of great skill. I do not think you need a lot of skill to bear cups. He was a cup bearer basically. That is his job. He had never experienced in building I think, I do not think he could iron his own clothes because he was a high position. So, he was not a man using his hands a lot. So, number one, he did not have experience in building. Number two, his crew, the people who are going to help him build the wall of Jerusalem. See the wall of Jerusalem had been destroyed. Literally the wall had been crumbled down and destroyed. The gates all burned, and it was just ruins and he was burdened by God to rebuild that wall. And these were the people he had to help him. The remnants that are left at the captivity there in the province are in great affliction, great, bad condition. (Nehemiah 1:3) They were poor. They were not educated, they were lowly motivated, they were in reproach, they were look down by others. So, his crew were not builders. They didn't have instruments; they didn't have building skills. They were not terribly united; they were not terribly motivated to do anything. So, he was a guy who didn't know nothing about buildings, and he's got a whole crew of people like that.
Okay, that is Nehemiah. But what does he do? He built the city wall in 52 days. (Nehemiah 6:15) Now, that is something! Some of you got lift upgrading in your HDB. How long does it take to do a lift upgrading? One year? To put that box that goes up and down? Well, this was to build a whole city wall and you had to make the brick first. There were no shops which sold bricks in those days, you had to chisel the stone, and you did not have powered tools. And you had to carry the materials from wherever to wherever and you did not have trucks or donkeys for that matter. You had to make instruments to help build, you had to make locks for the door and beams and bars. You do not have steel and there's no way to buy steel. You probably have to sacrifice your farming utensils; you have to melt it down and then your spade and your hole and whatever you had to melt it down so you could make building instruments. Now from scratch, getting the material, building the instruments, etc., all the planning or whatever. But in 52 days, the wall was up, built by guys who never built before, who didn't have anything in their hands to build. How in the world did they do that? Normally, city walls were not built in days, they were built in years, now I'm sorry, not even years, but in decades. When the whole King with his resources take years to build something, Nehemiah built in 52 days. So, what was his skill? How come he can do so well? I want to be a builder like him. I want to build my family like that. I want to say my family can be strong and God loving and independent in 52 days. How in the world did he do it? What was his talent? You look at the book, go read the 13 chapters and you will find he did not seem to have a lot of talent. We do not see him planning. No significant planning. We did not see him persuading, he did not go around telling everyone, “Come on, we got to do this man, go for it.”, every week he is haranguing them to give more bricks and give more steel for smelting and work harder. You know something? I don't see that in a book at all. I do not see him as a project manager. He did not even seem to supervise. I mean, I read the book, Nehemiah, 50, 60, 70 times. I cannot find those things in that book. If there was planning, there was that bit. If it was persuasion, it was less than microscopic. Project management was non-existent, almost. What was Nehemiah’s strength? If we are going to build God's house, what do we need? What is going to help us get that building up? Alright. Three requirements. Pray, pray, pray. Someone said the three rules in buying property. All the three rules: location, location, location. What are the three rules in Bible interpretation: context, context, context, right? Context of that verse, in his immediate surrounding. Context, the verse in the chapter. Context, the verse in the Bible. Three fundamentals to get Punggol in our hands and to be a home for us.
Pray, pray, pray. That is all I can see in Nehemiah’s life that strikes out from the 13 chapters. Number one, Nehemiah probably knew this verse, right, except the Lord build the house (Psa 127:1), do not bother. You try and build, you will build your house, not God's house. You want to build God's house, only God can build it. Otherwise, do not bother. Right. Now let's look at this part about Nehemiah. When Nehemiah heard, he was a cup bearer. And one day some news came to him that the city of Jerusalem was in tatters. It was in ruins. The name of God and the children of God were a reproach, everybody was laughing, “You call Him the Jehovah God, that's his city? And those are his people? And that is the City of God, the walls are… where are the walls? And the doors are burned down, and that is God's house?” Alright, and this is the response of the Nehemiah, “And when it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven,” (Neh 1:4) Right, he felt terrible about this. And he did not go into depression. He went down, he went down on his knees, and he prayed, and prayed. “And said, I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, terrible means awesome, alright, not bad, that keeps covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe His commandments. Let thine ear now be attentive and eyes open, that thou may hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned” (Neh 1:5-6) He went down on his knees, he wept before God, he confessed before God. Day and night, and later we will see how long that went. Right. Now we see in verse 11, “O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant that's Nehemiah. And to the prayer of thy servants, that is his prayer, kaki. That is his prayer companions, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, they servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer” (Neh 1:11). So, he not only prayed with all his heart, you know, he prayed day and night, he prayed with his companions. Look at that, right, in the prayer of thy servant. And the prayer of thy servants. So it was crying out to God. God, help us rebuild this broken-down wall. Okay, so we see Nehemiah in prayer.
Let's go on. Next verse. Let's see how long he prayed alright. In verse one, it says, “The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu,” doesn't mean anything to us, right? What month is that? It is a Hebrew kind of month. And then we see the next time a month is mentioned. Alright. “And it came to pass in the month Nisan alright, this is not a car, this is a month alright. In the month Nisan, is four months from the month Chisleu. He prayed and prayed and prayed for four months and nothing happened, so to speak, he thought, but he went on praying, he was a man of prayer. Okay, so let me read these few verses to you. “It came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was brought before him, and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been before time sad in his presence. Wherefore the king said unto me, why is your countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? This is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid. (Neh 2:1-2) You see, in those days, you are not allowed to look miserable before the king, you will always look happy before the king, you are not supposed to depress the king, right? And he is already depressed. And you are supposed to cheer him up. And if you look depressed before the king, you could lose your head. And so the king said, “Oh why are you sad? You never done this before”. And you know Nehemiah thought, this is it. I am not going to build the walls of Jerusalem. I'm going home to my God. He trembled. I was sore afraid that means I was scared to death.
And said unto the king, in his trembling, “He said unto the king, let the king live forever. Why should not my countenance be sad? When the city, the place my father's sepulchers, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? Then the king said to me, for what doest thou make request?”, (Neh 2:3,4a) What do you want? I like the next little phrase. Look at the next little phrase there. Especially that word. He's scared to death. Right? He thought the king is going to chop his head off but the king now surprises him with “what can I do for you?”, rather than, “Why are you sad in my presence? Who do you think you are? I pay you to make me happy not make me sad.” So, he is double shock, first he thought he's going to lose his life. The King now sees his face. Then now the king surprises him and say, “What can I do for you?” So, he is shocked, he is shell shocked, so to speak. What do you do when you are shell shocked? You do what comes naturally right. Tremble, tremble, tremble, whatever. Alright. What does he do naturally? “So, I prayed.” (Neh 2:4b) You see, unless prayer is habitual to you, unless prayer is part of your life, when a crisis comes, you don't pray, you panic. And then when you go home after running around like a headless chicken, you go home and say, “Oh, I forgot to pray.” You know that. I know that. Because prayer is not really part of our life. Prayer is an add-on to our life. Prayer is a thing we do like people other religions three times a day, five times a day, we pray. It's not part of our life. But for Nehemiah, panic, shock, “So I prayed”. What do you know about this guy? Prayer is like breathing for him. So, I breathe. Alright, so here we see Nehemiah, obviously, was a man of prayer. And I said unto the king, that's very interesting. So, I prayed right? To the Godhead, how did he pray? The king sat on his throne, “So what can I do for you?” Nehemiah says, “Wait, I want to pray.” How did he pray? Right in his heart. He prayed so naturally, so spontaneously in his heart, the king didn't know he prayed. See, the king isn't a believer in the God of heaven. The King is a believer of himself. So, I prayed, in that split second, he prayed to God. In that split second, he knew God heard his prayer. So natural. And I said to the king, after that, this is how he probably pray, no noise. But I have to say something else so that you know what I'm doing right? “God helped me.” That is probably what he said. “You can do it God.” “And then I said unto the king, If it pleases the king, and if thy servant have found favor in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me under Judah, unto the city of my father's sepulchers, that means grief, that I made, build it.” (Neh 2:5) Wow. God had heard his prayer. For months, he prayed. He got shocked. Like all of us, we pray and pray and ask, but when it comes, we go shock. We pray, “God, I know your answer. But when it comes, you get shell-shocked, right, that's how much we believe. And so, God answered his prayer. Is he a man of prayer? I believe so. I believe prayer was part of his life. If the leadership in this church are not praying people, the Lord will not build this house.
We must believe that God alone, must be the main builder of the house. Alright, so we have now seen, the foundation which is prayer. Now let us see the events that ought to take place, if it is God's work. How do we know in these four years, if we do get the land? This is the way, God is doing this? God is building this house? How would we know? I want to see five things from this little book of Nehemiah, five things that will happen if God is indeed building the house right.
Nehemiah 2:17 – 3:32
Now let me read a little bit of Nehemiah for you and help you get a feel of the five things I am going to bring up. So, after he prayed, Nehemiah was sent back to Judah, to Jerusalem. And then when he was in Jerusalem, he surveyed the walls of the city. Oh my goodness, it was terrible. It was like, it's like a bombed-up place. He looked at it, one survey, and then he went to the people, all the remnants that were left back in Jerusalem: poor, ragged, haggard, unskilled, unmotivated, disunited people. And this is what he said to the people, imagine you standing before the people, right, just like I'm standing before Gospel light and all of you in rags, you never built a thing in your life, you don't have any money in your pocket. You can barely survive, barely feed your families. And this is what Nehemiah said. “Then said I unto them. Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem that we be no more a reproach.” (Neh 2:17) And we are no more a laughingstock to the people. “Then I told them of the hand of my God which is good upon me.” (Neh 2:18a) So he told the people, I prayed to God, God touched the king, etc, etc. And “as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.” (Neh 2:18) Wow. It's not a great speech. You know, it's not like he's saying “Come on guys. You got to do it. Hey, I tell you, we are going to do this for God. And you know, God, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, but nothing.” He is just saying, you know, house like this is pretty bad. Let me just tell you what God has done for my life. I prayed. God sent me here. I mean, the king sent me here. The king said, it’s okay, go and do. We will give you some wood, give you some letters of recommendation, go. That is what he said. And the people say, wow, let's arise, let’s build. I see great spontaneity there. I did not see a pushing. I do not see him trying to convince them in with slick things alright. “But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the seven, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn,” (Neh 2:19a) and they say, these guys look at this ragtag band, they are going to build something? Are you kidding me? And “heard it they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, what is this thing that ye will do? Will you rebel against the king? Then answer I them and said unto them, the God of heaven, He will prosper us, therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial in Jerusalem.” (Neh 2:19b, 20) You know, when a ragtag band like that is told you will build the walls of Jerusalem, they said, are you kidding? You know, the moment we said, we're going to buy this land, there's some voices that will say, “What? You sure or not? You sure you can build this or not? We? We can't!” But God can. If it is us, it is pastor Jason and us. I say, project abandon. Let us call it a day. We have better things to do, folks. But the God of heaven, He will prosper.
Now, let me now read chapter three. All right, so we see the kind of spontaneity: Come on let's do it! But not everybody, not all are going to say let's go buddy. Alright, let's now look at chapter three. I like the word ‘then’ look at it, ‘then’, another spontaneous word. ‘Then’, and I'm going to read, and you follow me right. “Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it, even unto the power of Meah they sanctified it, unto the Tower of Hananeel. And next to him builded the men of Jericho and next to them builded Zaccur the son of Imri. But the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build, who also laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof. And next unto them repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz. And next unto them repaired Meshullam the son Berechiah, the son of Meshezabeel. And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put out their necks to the work of the Lord. Moreover the old gate repaired Jehoiada the son of Paseah, and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah; they laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, and the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.” (Neh 3:1-6) Next please. “And next unto them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite, and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon..,” and next to them, next to them alright. Are you getting the theme of it?
First Principle: God never forgets
Number one question, why so many names? In five seconds, you cannot even remember the name. One name, don’t even say all alright. Why does God write it down? Why does God keep mentioning the names, who cares? God cares. First principle we need to understand is many things we do only last a while. Some things we do last a long time. Some things we do last forever. These men, nobody knows who they are. The bricks, they built are gone. He did not write on every brick. He didn't write his name, Jeremiah, the son of whatever, he did. But do you know something? But every brick that this man made, somebody remembered, who was that? God. We are going to do a lot of things in our life, we are going to work a lot of things, we are going to build a lot of things in this life for ourselves, for our comfort, nothing wrong with those things, but just know they have a lifespan. After that, it is over. It is forgotten. But what is done for God, not everything done in the name of God is for God get that clear in our minds. Not everyone says, I am building the house of God is for God. Many people believe for the ego. And we have to be extremely careful, we don't do it. And we are not Superman here, right. We also can fall into that trap. But everything we do, we must say it is for God and God can read our heart, and if it is really for God, let me assure you this, it will be remembered. It will be remembered forever and ever, and ever. The bricks are gone, the wall is gone. But what you did for God, last forever, remembered by God forever, right? First principle, God never forgets what we do for him. This is a very important principle. You will do a lot of things in your life. But do things that last, do things that count. And whatever is done in God's name is never forgotten. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord for as much as you know, your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor 15:58) Okay, so number one, don't build it for GLCC, don't build it so you have some nice convenient place and comfort. Build it because you believe it is God's, it's for the glory of God. And God will remember whatever you do, okay.
Second Principle: Spontaneous
Second principle, spontaneous. Can I trouble to get me to verse 18? Chapter two, verse 18. Alright, we saw how Nehemiah went up to them and said, “You know, our walls are a mess. We cannot even gather in this city. Let us build.” And the man said, “Let's arise.” I like that. It is spontaneous. And then we go to chapter three and verse one. Right? And then the word ‘then’, then. We do not see Nehemiah saying, Eliashib, you and your family is quite strong. Why didn’t you start building? I tell you what, I will help you this, help you that and then you do this. I do not see all that. I do not see him even saying anything about planning. And the next thing I know, Eliashib goes off, the men of Jericho go up, the sons of Hassenaah go up and they start building. What is that? That is called spontaneity. You know, I like it because one of the things that confirm that this is God's thing for us. Before we even announce it to you some had heard about this land. Before we said anything, some had pledged money, big sums. Of course, you know when we said 3.5 million, people will say to me, “Pastor, 3.5 million what to bid ah, terrace house also more than 3.5 million. You want to bid 30,000 square feet next to Watertown for 3.5 million? You serious?” Yeah. Honestly, if we are going to be 3.5, we will be in reproach. People will think we are a bunch of jokers, clowns. But you know, before we made any appeal to you all, huge sum money had popped up. Let us call it spontaneous. Because I believe Pastor Jason and the team have been praying for months. And God worked. Alright.
Third Principle: Coordinated
Next interesting thing is it was coordinated. Can I get back to chapter three again? Alright, go home and read it. It is very interesting. We do not see any planning, we don't see Eliashib told, alright, this is your section. And then the sons of Jericho, this is your section. And then the sense of Hassenaah, this is your section. I do not see anything. I do not see any kind of visible planning. But I see, everybody knew what to do. Who was telling them? Who was the project manager? Who was the planner? I'm sorry, I don't see any, go home and read it for yourself. Alright. And let's go to chapter three, please, verse 15. But the gate of this repaired this guy. Verse 18, after him repaired this guy, and next to him repaired this guy. And everybody seemed to just fit in. Nobody says, “Please don't cross over this side. This is my side.” And then nobody had built this side and they say, who is building this gap here, over here? It just seems to fit in. If it is God's work, it's not only spontaneous. It is going to be cooperative. Not competitive. It will not be politics. If the Church Committee and the church building project has much quarreling and fighting about things, I will say, it's not God's work, it’s not God's way. We go to this in the next 48 months, and we are quarreling about the carpet and the what, and who does this and how come this committee is like this, and this committee never told me about this and this and this. Shut it down. It is not God's way. If it is God's way, there is a certain beauty in God's coordination. Things seem to fit. I heard so many building projects, the amount of politics and quarreling about curve and territory. We are the Finance Committee. How come there is this you know and quarrel and quarrel. Shut it down. God's house must be built God's way. So, you go back and read, and ‘next’ unto him the word ‘next’, next next next next seem to be like, wow. So simple, so coordinated.
Fourth Principle: Sacrificial
Sacrificial. When you go back, read chapter three, and you will find the word repair and build appear 30 times, at least 30 times. Now if you know what it is to build a wall in Israel, or even in Singapore, you know that's hard work. That is why in a building industry in Singapore, there is almost no Singaporeans. Out of 3, 4 million Singaporeans you cannot find anybody who want to do building. It is hard. That is why, even with the machines, even the cranes, even with all the stuff, we say, it's hard. But you know, without all those machines, every brick had to be carried on their shoulder, every stone had to be chisel and carried. Hard work. What is the fourth thing about building God's house: sacrificial. It is not spectator folks. If we all are going to say wow, we are going to have to build God's house, and somebody is going to pay for it. Somebody is going to do it and we're all going to enjoy it; I say that's not how God builds his house. Hey, God has touched the king, He touched Artaxerxes. Artaxerxes was a powerful King, but Artaxerxes could have said “Nehemiah, what do you want?” Nehemiah said, “I want to build the walls of my city” and Artaxerxes say, “I like you a lot, buddy. Nehemiah, you are such a good cupbearer I'm still alive. Nehemiah, the Persian army will build it for you.” Couldn't God touch the king of this empire to build it? Close eyes he could have touched him, but God did not do it that way. God says you can go, you can build it. Nehemiah’s mind probably at times, like, how are we going to build it? We do not have bricks. We do not have tools. We do not have skilled workers. How are we going to do it? But God touched the people to be sacrificial. They worked hard. They gave their all. Hey, they were not like, got no jobs to do, they were struggling to survive. They have work, to feed the families, they had to plant their crops and now build some more the city? We can hardly feed our families. To make all those things, they donated their instruments, they smelted it down, they made building instruments, blah, blah, blah, they give everything, whatever things they had. They sacrifice. Right? So go home, read it. And ask yourself how can a bunch of ragtag people build a wall from scratch in 52 days? Sacrifice.
Fifth Principle: United
And lastly, united. If you go back and read chapter three, it is very interesting. It is all, everybody was involved. Sometimes mentioned, he was a goldsmith, mentioned he was an apothecary, which means a perfumer. I think they purposely mentioned that because Goldsmith do fine work. Not build walls, not chisel stones. They do this right. And yet they got involved. Perfumer is like you know, mixed a few things for smell, okay. Yeah, he did it. The daughters did it. The rulers, everybody did it. Handful did it and their names are also mentioned. And this people refuse to work. You can be in God's memory for good or for bad. Alright, as one who served him or one who did not do anything. Alright, so if it is God's work, let me tell you, it is not only sacrificial, but also a church-wide project. It is not Rockefeller giving us money, it is going to be built, we all sit back and enjoy it. It's not a few people doing it, but everybody says, I will do my part. Even if I can contribute that much, I will give my best.
So, I hope that if we get a piece of land, we will also build it in God's way. And these are the five things alright. Number one, we know it is God's work, God will remember. It is spontaneous. It is coordinated. Alright. What else is there? It is sacrificial and it is united. May God help us to build God's house in God's way. Thank you.
More Episodes from Pastor Paul Choo:
16 Jun 2021
20 Sep 2020
13 Sep 2020
06 Sep 2020
19 Apr 2019
10 Mar 2019
23 Dec 2018
17 Jun 2018
Episodes from other sermons:
16 Jun 2021
02 Apr 2021
25 Dec 2020
20 Sep 2020
13 Sep 2020
06 Sep 2020
30 Aug 2020
23 Aug 2020