A word in season for the staff and leaders of City Harvest Church.
|CN PHOTO: Michael Chan
On Aug. 24, A.R. Bernard, senior minister of Christian Cultural Center in New York City, met some of the staff and leadership of City Harvest Church at the church’s Jurong West complex. This was his second time sharing at CHC’s weekly leaders’ meeting and he came with a message to encourage and exhort the people.
Bernard spoke on the topic of God’s loyalty and dedication to the good work He starts among His people. Even though there may be crises preceding a turning point in a person’s life, the response of the believer is important as a decision usually has to be made at such junctures in a person’s life. He added, “[Sometimes] crisis for the believer serves as an opportunity to reveal the cracks or areas in life that require change.”
GOD’S HOLINESS VERSUS GOD’S LOVE
Bernard emphasized two opposite aspects of God’s character: His holiness and [the nature of] His love. Whereas God’s holiness separates Him from evil, His love allows Him to extend His full favor, compassion and care upon His creation.
Bernard explained how the opposite poles of His holiness and the sinful nature of man are reconciled through His love and acceptance, illustrating that in relating to sinful Man, God balanced His standard of righteousness and holiness with a self-sacrificial love in order to make the relationship work.
Likewise, Christians should demonstrate sacrificial love to the people around them. For example, when children disobey their parents, even though the latter may be upset, no parent in their right frame of mind would want to destroy the child.
At this point Bernard offered crucial insight—that even though the child has fallen short of the parents’ standards and expectations, love always seeks a way of redemption because the parents value the relationship.
“In other words,” said Bernard, “if you don’t place a value on the relationship, you won’t be committed to it.”
TURNING POINTS IN LIFE
Bernard introduced the Hebrew word khesed from Micah 6, which means “mercy”; expressing passionate undeserved loyalty as the defining quality of God’s goodness.
He emphasized how God is a “diehard loyal to whatever He creates, initiates, begins, builds and establishes.” In this vein, loyalty is a gift which cannot be bought; true loyalty exists regardless of title or position.
Bernard then defined a turning point as an event marking a unique or important historical change of course or else making a deeper commitment to an existing course of action already chosen.
Using marriage as an example, he stressed that a turning point for a marriage in trouble need not necessarily have to lead to divorce. Instead, how each spouse responds to a turning point in their marriage shows what each of them is committed to: Whether are they willing to fight for their marriage or have they decided to give up on each other.
GOD’S COMMITMENT TO MAN
Illustrating God’s commitment to Man, Bernard traced an outline of the creation, fall and degeneration of Man, highlighting God’s decision not to annihilate mankind completely but to start again through the family of Noah. He also expounded from the post-creation account where God faced a turning point in Genesis 6:6 (KJV) where “it repented the LORD that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart.”
As he concluded the session, Bernard succinctly summed up the lesson through Philippians 1:6, that the Church can be confident that God who has begun a good work in them, will be faithful to complete it. “All God needs is the smallest degree of hope in order to start an incredible work,” he affirmed those in the auditorium.
City News spoke to attendees who were at the session to find out what they had learned.
Sharon Tan, 25, a marketing executive shared, “When Dr. Bernard talked about the true meaning of loyalty, it struck a chord in me. You don’t give loyalty because the person deserves it; khesed in Hebrew means undeserved loyalty—it is a gift of mercy given when someone doesn’t need to earn it, rather, you choose to stand with the person.”
Poh Yang Hong, 23, a university student, concurred and shared that his greatest takeaway was the revelation that “true loyalty is a gift given willingly without expecting a returning favor.”
Said Matthew Chee, 42, “I learned that a healthy organization must have a clear goal, but more importantly, the ability to renew itself at different milestones.”
The crowd that evening left challenged not only to rethink the definition of loyalty, but to give of it freely and fight for it passionately.