Dr AR Bernard, the guest speaker for last weekend’s Coffee with Kong Weekend Edition, shared his experiences recovering from COVID-19, as well as his visions and hopes for City Harvest Church in this extraordinary season.
By Brian Kang
City Harvest Church’s online service this past weekend (Aug 15 and 16) brought back the much-anticipated Coffee with Kong Weekend Edition. This week the congregation was treated to an interview between the church’s senior pastor, Kong Hee and the senior leader of Christian Cultural Center, Dr AR Bernard, who has also been a spiritual mentor to the church for many years.
The video call started with Pastor Kong asking Dr Bernard about his current well-being as well as his recovery from COVID-19.
Relating to his previous interview with City News, Dr Bernard shared his experience during the illness, quoting that he felt that he was in a “place of darkness”, where the darkness represented not just mental and emotional hurt but was an indication of engaging in deep spiritual warfare.
Dr Bernard went on to describe how he overcame his personal trial by reflecting upon a verse in John 1. “The light shines in the darkness” became his daily meditation. When Dr Bernard had an enlightenment that darkness could not overcome the light, that the light that was Christ in him could still shine in the darkness of his experience, the word became a source of strength for him.
“Abandoning myself to God’s providence gave me peace,” he said. “But what gives you peace doesn’t necessarily give you strength. It took the Scripture and the unpacking of that text that gave me strength and courage, and filled me with joy.”
Dr Bernard went on to illustrate how this verse brought him a greater understanding of how Jesus wrestled with the reality of His own darkness that He was about to face as the Passover Lamb and how that gave him strength and hope.
HOPE IN GOD
When Pastor Kong asked how he could find the supernatural peace and strength to overcome his darkness, Dr Bernard replied humbly that he was a normal Christian like everyone else. Rather, it was hope in the immutability and character of God that became the anchor of his soul.
Pastor Kong followed up with a question on how Dr Bernard would advise his church members to grow in their spiritual walk in this season, especially to those who struggle with isolation and loneliness. He said that in this season, how the members choose to utilize their time would be of vital importance.
“We should use that time to explore our interior life, and begin to examine the weaknesses and the strengths that exist within us,” he said.
Dr Bernard went on to illustrate how COVID-19 allowed people worldwide to re-evaluate their priorities in life. This is especially so for relationships and people should seek those who are important in their lives like their family emphasized Dr Bernard. He also adds that this season would be a good time to attempt to fulfil the previous ambitions that they have placed on hold.
Regarding the future, Pastor Kong asked Dr Bernard for his view on how the church would like in the next few years. Revival was the key belief of Dr Bernard. He explained that as people start to gather around rebuilding culture, they rally behind a common cause and that brings about life and light to human society.
Furthermore, Dr Bernard dived into his personal take away from his experience, stating that what he learned the most was when he sought his personal mission in this world. As he pondered “What does the world demand from me?” he began to change his approach to life, to himself, to God, to people, and to everything. It made him realize that humans are all called to a higher dimension of existence.
As Dr Bernard shared about the need to listen to medical professionals, especially with regards to reopening of church services, Pastor Kong seized the opportunity to ask Dr Bernard about the age-old question about having faith and trust in God that no weapon formed against them shall prosper, to which it instantly evoked laughter from Dr Bernard.
“Faith is a reasoned trust. It is not blind at all,” explained Dr Bernard. Faith may be used to navigate dark spaces but it’s not blind, hence reason is absolutely critical. God gave humans the power to think. Hence, when it comes to decision-making, one needs to combine both emotions, which provides passion and intellect which guides action and both must work together and not by themselves.
Lastly, before the interview ended, Pastor Kong asked Dr Bernard for a word of encouragement to the congregation. “Hope in the character of God. His consistency, His immutability becomes an anchor for our soul,” replied Dr Bernard. He then ended the interview by saying a word of prayer over City Harvest Church.
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COFFEE WITH KONG – WEEKEND EDITION, FEATURING DR AR BERNARD
In case you missed it, watch Pastor Kong’s interview with Dr Bernard on The CHC App and read the interview here.
Pastor Kong: Dr AR Bernard, I just want to thank you for being with us in our Zoom interview. And our church, we’re so excited that you could be a part of this. We miss you so much.
Dr AR Bernard: I miss being in Asia, believe me, and miss being with my City Harvest family.
PK: The last time we met in person was almost four years ago. Can you imagine how time flies? Four years ago. I’ve not seen you for four years. I’m so glad that we’re able to talk like this again. And I hope that this will be the beginning of many such occasions.
ARB: Well, I will tell you, there’s a new term that I learned called “Figital.” And a marketing company came up with the term and they were talking about what the customer experience will be in the future, after experiencing the digital space and going back to the physical. It’s going to take a blend of the two now to give a full customer experience. And I think what’s true in the secular world is also going to be true in the church.
PK: So I’m really excited because that means we’re going to have more of ARB. We’re going to have more of Dr Bernard.
ARB: Absolutely! Why not?
PK: Why not, right? Well, Dr Bernard, I’m just so grateful to God that we’re able to have a conversation like this because 28 March 2020 was such a momentous day. You were diagnosed with COVID-19, you had fever, chills, body aches. And many of us read the interview you gave with City News. You were in a very dark place, you had hallucinations, having nightmares, and had somewhat like an out of body experience. Now, I think the first thing that is in all our members’ hearts would be: How are you feeling now?
ARB: I feel fantastic. You know, we never experience life with just part of us; it’s always a complete experience—spirit, soul and body coming together. And I have to say in the totality of my being, I’m in a very special place with God, with my health, and my relationships, and ministry.
PK: Doctor, you mentioned in that interview you did with City News that you were low in your oxygen level, you were really struggling and you were in and out of consciousness, a little disoriented. And you mentioned that phrase; that you were in a “place of darkness.” Could you just explain to us a little bit more, because it’s so interesting—now what exactly was that?
ARB: Well “darkness” is metaphoric language, biblically speaking, for places of great challenge, places where we don’t have clarity of vision, understanding. It’s a place where we feel quite … I would say not uncomfortable, it’s deeper than that. It’s where you have to, like I did, abandon yourself to Providence. I felt like I stared into the abyss of darkness and despair, and that darkness was not just mental and emotional, but it was spiritual; because I felt deeply that there were spiritual forces at work. And I will tell you, as I spoke to some of my members and friends, there were certain intercessors who on that very day, March 28, they experienced incredible spiritual warfare. And I was placed in their heart into the center of that warfare. So it was more than just catching COVID-19, it was deep spiritual warfare for me.
PK: How did you come out of that? You mentioned a verse from John 1, right? Can you tell us a little bit more?
ARB: Well, I will tell you. Going through the hallucinations, the loss of my taste and smell, I began to get chills and my body trembled. Knowing that there was no vaccine, no treatment that was official, and that I had a preexisting condition of asthma; and this particular virus attacks your lungs, your heart, your brain—the biggest thing is blood clotting, and that’s what would cause rapid death—it was quite a challenge. I was in a place where, especially with the hallucinations as well, that I abandoned myself to God’s providence, His wisdom. I said, “Lord, You’re in charge of this. You know the outcome. And I’m in Your hands.” And I will tell you that gave me peace, but it didn’t give me strength. It gave me a sense of peace and comfort that whether I stay or go, I win. You know, it’s like Paul said: if I stay, then I continue in the victory of Christ; if I die, then I am with Christ in His presence. So, it’s a win-win situation for believers. And I then began to think of this overriding theme that was with me for three days and that was darkness. And I began to reflect on the verse in the Gospel of John 1, where it says, “the light shines in the darkness.” And in the Amplified Bible, it nicely unpacks the shadows of meaning in the language. And it means that the darkness could not comprehend it, the darkness could not overpower it, the darkness could not absorb it, ally it. And I thought about that power that was Christ in me, and that light that could shine in the darkness of my experience. And I will tell you when I unpacked that passage, something deep and profound happened inside of me. It gave me strength.
So abandoning myself to God’s providence gave me peace. But what gives you peace doesn’t necessarily give you strength. It took the Scripture and the unpacking of that text that gave me strength and courage and filled me with joy. And then it led me to Jesus. And what He, I began to engage my imagination to what He experienced in the garden when He too peered into the darkness that He would have to face—the death that was ahead of Him. He resolved that, not on the cross, He resolved that in the garden. So when they came to arrest Him, He was prepared—spirit, soul and body—because He wrestled through the reality of the darkness that He was about to face when He would become that Passover Lamb. That which would appease the offense of God from humanity and bring reconciliation and peace, and of course, a resurrection to the new life. So I said, man, if I’m experiencing this, which is just a fraction of what Jesus experienced for the whole cosmos, the redemption of all of creation—I began to get blown away by the thought of that magnitude of darkness that I could never never encounter or experience successfully. It takes God, and only God in the person of Jesus could face that the way He did.
PK: Dr. Bernard, you talk about peace, and you talk about strength. You know a lot of people here in Asia, even many of my members, I think it’s pretty much similar anywhere in the world right now; many have been sick, some in the region have died, some of my pastor friends that I’ve known for years have died in Indonesia. Many, many are out of jobs; their future looks bleak, their dreams gone, they have to downsize, some of them have lost their mortgage. So it’s a very difficult time. What would you say in a practical level? Because someone watching this service, watching this interview, they may say “I’m not Dr. AR Bernard; I’m not that strong.” How can a normal Christian, a normal City Harvest member get that peace and the strength that you talk about?
ARB: I’m not an abnormal Christian. Don’t get it wrong. I’m just as normal as everyone else. Because we all go through this, and in times of despair, in times of tragedy, loss, going through the grieving process, we look for hope. And hope becomes the anchor of our soul. And hope is a positive mindset, a positive state of thought and feeling and emotion that comes from positive expectations. And you can only have that when your hope is anchored in God.
You don’t look at the circumstances the way you would without hope. In Romans 4, it talks about Abraham, that he considered his own body, he considered that of his wife, Sarah, he considered the circumstances, and situations, the realities of life. But it says he hoped against hope, which means when there seems to be no hope or things seem hopeless, he chose to believe and have faith anyway. And that becomes an anchor, the character of God, His immutability, His consistency in relationship to His covenant and promises. And please understand when we use the term “anchor.” An anchor is designed to keep you within a certain radius. It doesn’t exempt you from the storm. You’re tied to the anchor, which is down. You’re still on that water, in that boat. The storm, the waves, the wind—everything is hitting you. The anchor keeps you from being carried away by it. The anchor keeps you within a certain perimeter of experiencing it, but it keeps you centered where you should be, so you don’t get carried away by it. So the anchoring of our soul does not exempt us from the tribulations, the trials, the realities of human experience; but it keeps us within a safe perimeter of trust and faith in God.
PK: Doctor, during this time, many people feel isolated and lonely. What would you say to people that are struggling with a sense of “lost-ness,” how would you advise your own members in your church to keep on growing in their spiritual walk and their faith? What would you say to them?
ARB: Well, it’s a matter of how you utilize this time. Yes, we’re humans and as human beings, we are gregarious, we are social beings, we need physical touch, hug, interaction. When we separate or are separated, we should use that time for introspection. We should use that time to explore our interior life, and begin to examine the weaknesses and the strength that exists within us. And go to work on those things. Begin to build those things up, begin to talk to God, elevate our minds, and our sense of being in relationship to God. So, we’re not really alone. When Jesus said, “Lo I’m with you always,” it expresses two things: proximity and participation. Proximity, in that He would be there, present, with them. But He wouldn’t just be present, and He would participate; He would be actively involved—in their life, in their situation, in their circumstances, in their growth and development. So, there are times that God separates us, and use the circumstances and situations to get our attention so that we listen to Him and experience Him in a way that we cannot and will not in an environment of busyness. And boy, the world is busy. We are in such movement and such activity that it takes discipline to slow down and to take time because we allow very little margin for that type of introspection. So COVID-19 put the brakes on everybody. It began to teach us what we could live without, what we didn’t really need in life; and reduced us to the essentials. It reduced us to what was really important.
PK: What do you think is important then?
ARB: Our relationship with God first. Family—the people who are most important in our lives that we can find ourselves neglecting the richness of those relationships and building and strengthening those relationships. Things that we have put on hold that we wanted to achieve or accomplish and couldn’t, we can begin to think about. Because we don’t have all of the other distractions that tend to slow the process of achieving the things that we want to achieve. You see, I’ve got a positive mindset on this. I’ve got a mindset with positive expectations because I live in the kingdom of God and the kingdom of God is not only the rulership of the totality of my life as a servant to Christ. But it is a way of seeing and experiencing life. It’s a comprehensive way of seeing life that informs my words, my thoughts, my motives, my actions, my attitudes, my choices. So, I’m experiencing the kingdom in a new way, in a deep way—in a way that is detached from all of the distractions.
PK: How do you feel the world will be like once this COVID-19 pandemic season is over? if I ask you to look prophetically down the road by 2 years, 3 years, how do you think the church would be like, moving on from this pandemic?
ARB: I think we’re going to have to go through a process to figure out what the new normal will be. We don’t know. We’re all trying to figure it out. If anyone says, “We’ve got it”—they don’t. And if we think we can simply revert back to the way things were, we’re missing it—big time. It’s going to take a blend of the physical experience in the building and the digital experience that has now gotten people accustomed to doing things quite differently. In terms of the world at large, when we have this kind of upheaval within the society where we get stripped, where all of the social institutions that kept our attention are shut down—even the church—we begin to see life differently. Because all of these things are taken away. We begin to start thinking about, gosh, what’s really important. We start thinking about purpose. We start thinking about structure, we start thinking about relationships, we start thinking about identity. It’s true for the individual, it’s true for the church corporately, the church locally, it’s true for society at large.
Who do we want to be? What are our core values? What do we believe in? What drives us as a people? So for me, this is wonderful, this is revival. Revival is the renewal of creativity and fervency towards purpose. Revival is when we begin to examine the people who are in our spaces. We begin to examine how our lives are arranged because however you arrange your life creates a rhythm and that rhythm establishes a pattern. And if that pattern is not wholesome in building and developing your life and your walk with God, then you need to change how your life is arranged. I will tell you, I love this period that we’re in. It is amazing. But then, that’s through my lens.
PK: So Doctor, you don’t think God is angry with the world and that’s why all these things are happening or God has given up on us?
ARB: I don’t know what God that may be but it’s not my God. God has been consistent from the book of Genesis, He opens up and He says be fruitful, multiply, have dominion. That fails, not because of Him but because of humanity. He raises up a man over 2,000 years later and He makes him a promise that He’s going to build a society through him that will have a special relationship. He raises up a Moses, He brings it to pass and what does He say to them? “I’ll make you the head and not the tail, I’ll place you above and not beneath. People will be jealous of you because of the relationship that you have with your God. So that promise remains the same. And what happened? That failed. So He raises up Jesus. And what does Jesus come? What’s His message? “I have come so that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly.” So the message has been consistent right to the end of the book. The book ends with the promise of a new heaven and a new earth, wiping away all tears, wiping away all pain.
His overall delight for humanity is to bring the beauty that He intended originally in the Garden of Eden. So in spite of human failures, alright, He has an objective. And that objective is to have a society that loves God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength; and loves their neighbor as themselves.
PK: Doctor, what would you say to someone who is watching this interview and who has lost their job, lost the dream, lost a lot of finances, lost the career? What do you say to a person like that right now?
ARB: I would say to them that they are probably in a place of grief. They’re grieving a loss. And there are stages that we go through, it’s called the five stages of grief. We all experience that grief differently. So don’t let anyone tell you how you should grieve, how long you should grieve. But do help you work through it, walk through it. Jesus said: in the world, you will have tribulation. He was letting His disciples know that they will still have to deal with the realities of life—sickness, disease, death, loss, failure, success, joy, sadness—all of those realities of life will be their reality. But He said: be of good cheer, because I have overcome the world. Which means that in spite of the realities that they have to face, God is still present and He’s going to do something about it. And what we need to do is pay attention to discern His hand, His voice, His movements.
PK: Well Doctor, you mentioned in your interview that you really believe that in this season that we could have a God-inspired revival—a reawakening of passion. So how can we enter into that reawakening, that revival, here in Singapore, in City Harvest Church?
ARB: That is stirred by the Holy Spirit and requires a cause. Whether that cause is around rebuilding lives, rebuilding institutions, rebuilding families, rebuilding communities, rebuilding spiritual communities, we are cause-driven as a people. And especially the Millennial Generation and the Generation Z—they love a cause. They rally behind a cause. So if we take up a cause, get excited about it, that’s going to bring beauty and love, and life and light to human society. What the term amongst the Hebrew culture is tikkun olam—repairing the world, and our responsibility to use our gift, talent and ability to help repair this world; to make it a better place. We’re not going to make it completely wonderful and perfect—only Christ is going to do that when He returns. But we can make it a lot easier to deal with the negative realities by bringing the positive into it. I believe that wholeheartedly.
PK: Doctor, you’ve been consistent all this while—in your teaching, in your doctrine, in your theology—about bringing Christ into culture, right?
ARB: Yes! Absolutely.
PK: So this is, possibly to you, a great time for us to bring the gospel, to bring Christ into our situation, into our culture. What would you say to an average cell group of, say, 10, 20 people. How could they make a difference and bring Christ into culture during this pandemic? With all these boundaries: you’ve got to stay at home, there’s little social interaction. What can we do to make a difference right now?
ARB: You know, it is times like this that God squeezes the creativity out of us. Because that’s what it calls for. Creativity, innovation—should excite us. The opportunities that are presented to us because of the problems that are around us. Who will be the shining light? Who’s going to come up with the idea that is going to change the way people feel and think about what’s going on? This is a wonderful time. I’m a contrarian. When the stock market is down, I go fishing; bottom fishing. I look for what’s available, what can I pour into? What can I grow and develop? You know, that’s redemptive thinking. God is all about redeeming humanity; not judging. Jesus said: I didn’t come to destroy the world; to judge the world. No. He said: I came that you will be saved. He came to bring salvation. He came to bring His love and His life and His light, that man could experience it in such a way that nothing else could satisfy.
PK: Wow Doctor, that’s amazing. That’s amazing. Can we backtrack a little bit now and let’s go back to a more personal strain? And that is, what is your personal takeaway out of this entire COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the light of your near-death experience.
ARB: You know, death reminds us of the brevity of life and the fact that we’ve been given a gift, talents, ability, purpose, time, space, relationships, resources—with the expectation that we’ll make a difference in this world. So it is times like these where the need is greatest that there’s a demand for us to make a difference. You know, there’s your calling, right; that for which you were designed and empowered by God to do. There’s your occupation, that’s what you do to pay the rent, to pay the bills. But then there’s an important question: your mission. Your mission asks the question: what does the world demand from me? What does the world need that I have been designed to respond to? And man, when you start thinking like that, now you’re flying with the eagles. You have now entered a place of transcendence. And when you’re elevated like that in your thinking, the landscape looks different. You begin to change your approach to life, to yourself, to God, to people, to everything. And I think that’s what we’re being called to; a higher dimension of existence. A higher place, see? And that comes from a deeper connection with God.
PK: Do you see any practical change in the way you do life and ministry now after March 28?
ARB: Absolutely, absolutely. I have a heightened awareness of God’s presence, a heightened awareness of His providence and appreciation for that. A passion to utilize my gift, talents and abilities and build relationship. And think about this; there have been several pandemics over the last 2,000 years—the Bubonic Plague, Black Plague, the … 100 years ago the Spanish Flu, 50 million people died, we have this pandemic, we have the Justinian Plague. So over the last 2,000 years, alright, that Christianity has been present here on the earth, there have been major diseases that impacted, and millions of lives were lost. But if you look back at history, you’ll find that after each one of them, new innovations, inventions advance society, human society, in ways that were not advancing prior to that. Out of what happened with the Black Plague, it was the precursor to the Industrial Revolution that would follow. Because when man is challenged like that and shaken, he comes to a place where he doesn’t ever want to return to that. He starts thinking, what can we do to make it different. So you have inventions like the bathroom because that was a big problem in Europe with the Black Plague—sewerage. They began to think about how can we create sewer systems, how can we create ways that people can use the bathroom and not throw it out the window in the front yard. So after every crisis like this in civilization historically, new inventions, new innovations, new systems and structures come into play. That’s how we respond. And I believe that God uses those opportunities to inject civilization with answers to problems to questions that we’ve struggled with for so long. And society accelerates closer and closer to the culmination of human history when God returns.
PK: You know Dr Bernard, you’ve been such a mentor to me and to Sun for so many years, so many years. How do you like City Harvest, during this time, as a church to be creative? How do you see our church, say, three years from now, five years from now?
ARB: How do I see City Harvest? I think that what’s going to happen, think about this. There’s a friend of mine, he is a pastor in Knoxville, Tennessee. He has a church of about 500 members. They tend to be affluent members, so he’s able to do a lot more financially. But only 500. Since he has been online because of COVID, he is now reaching 3,000 people a week. Churches are expanding their reach; expanding their contact globally. So when they go back in, they have to now figure out how do we satisfy the people that need and want the corporate worship experience in the four walls of a building. And at the same time, continue to expand what has been expanding as a result of a digital presence. They’re going to have to figure all of that out. We have to think bigger, we have to think wider. And I think that our growth is now decentralized; no longer tens of thousands coming into one space. No. It’s decentralized growth. It’s spread out. How do we keep people connected; keep them growing? Build them, strengthen them, inform them, educate them, direct them—in such an expanding platform.
PK: It sounds like you’re pretty pumped up and excited about our future here in Singapore.
ARB: I am!
PK: You know we’re all very concerned for New York City and we’re all praying for New York. When would you think you’d be able to get back together as a church?
ARB: Well, the consensus for our church—they’re not in a hurry. They love the online experience that we’re giving them, the format that we’re giving them, and they’d rather be safe than sorry. Interestingly enough, New York was the epicenter of the virus for quite some time. We are now the lowest number of deaths and Coronavirus cases in the country. It is now spread to the South, to the Mid-west, to the West—they’re experiencing spikes, some 10,000 cases—new cases—within a 24-hour period. So New York, and kudos to the governor, because our governor has really handled things carefully. People push back, they get upset, but it’s ok, it’s like children screaming and hollering because they can’t go out to play, you know? He has handled it well. And as a result, we are seeing a much better re-entry than many many places across the country. There was an article in the New York Times yesterday, and it talked about the fact that some 650 cases in the San Antonio area have come as a result of churches reopening. There were 13 states that reopened that now have to close down because of spike in COVID cases. There are churches that reopened and now there are members who are experiencing COVID, some dying, because they reopened too soon. Pastors are saying, we regret reopening so quickly. So, for us, it’s about safety. It’s about safety of our members, it’s about safety of the citizens within our community and our society at large.
PK: Doctor, I think you touched a very important point because we’ve got to balance between safety on one hand and community on the other hand. And you know, being Asians, we’re a communal people; we love community. And then being Christian, we have a double whammy here, because we can’t wait, we’re longing to come back together. And sometimes as leaders in the church, we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. We want to satisfy their need, but we’re also concerned for their safety. As a mentor to us and, like a spiritual leader to us, what would you say is a right balance of wisdom for City Harvest Church? How should we really negotiate this coming back or having the online experience
ARB: I would say listen to the medical experts; they know what they’re talking about. Follow protocol. And see, this is the deception because here we’re talking about, you know, 25 percent of your capacity and then 50 percent, and then we work our way up. But people are, I would say, misunderstanding what it means to re-enter right now. Because if you re-enter and start having services, even with 25 percent of your seating capacity, it’s not going to be the same experience that you’re used to. You have to take temperature when they come in. You have to wear face masks. You have to be separated at a distance of six feet. You have to be at least 25 to 30 feet from the stage where any singing is going on because the physics of fluid says that when you are singing, you’re forcing more air which carries those drops a greater distance than when you’re having a conversation. It’s anywhere from 12 to 18 feet. So you have to think of all of this and with the mask, with the distance, you’re not going to be experiencing what you thought in terms of community and closeness. It’s a whole different experience than what you may think. And they’ve got to realize that.
PK: Doctor, what about faith? What about we’ve got to step out by faith and trust God that no weapon formed against us shall prosper.
ARB: Faith is a reasoned trust. It is not blind at all. We may use faith to navigate dark spaces but it is not blind. It’s a reasoned trust. So reason is critical. And we have to be careful because too often, this can get so emotional that we tend to deny our emotions that benefit of our intellect. God gave us the power to think. emotion provides passion, but intellect guides actions. Those 2 things must work together; not by themselves.
PK: Doctor, thank you so much. I think this has been such an enriching time. Just to be able to hear you speak again, we feel like we’re with family and you’re speaking to us as an elder, as a very senior pastor to us and we’re so glad and so blessed by this. So I know my members will be very upset with me if I don’t ask you this question: So when are you coming back to Singapore to speak in City Harvest Church?
ARB: Physically? Or Zoom? IG? Which way?
PK: Let’s start with physical first.
ARB: As soon as things open up. I’m following protocol; so I’m just as anxious to be with you as you are to receive me. So I can’t say specifically. You know, here in the United States, they’re talking about a second wave coming in September, which is the flu season here. The fact that there may be a mutation of this particular virus during the flu season. So, you know, there’s talk of a bubonic plague. So there’s just so many variables that we’re trying to get a handle on that we have to be wise. And that’s what I’m trying to be for me personally, for my family, for the ministry, and for you guys.
PK: If you cannot come here physically, can we do this on a regular basis?
ARB: Absolutely! I will tell you something. When we go back into the building, alright, we’re not going to go full force. We are noticing that we have more people in our congregation plugged in and engaged with the building closed than when we had the building opened. Because of Zoom webinars, because of remote experience, more people are attending classes, more people are attending the men’s meetings online, the women’s meeting, the marriage meetings. I mean, it’s absolutely amazing. We have a daily morning prayer call, Monday through to Friday, for 1 hour. And our ministers are praying. We have a thousand people every morning within that hour praying together. It’s amazing what has come out of this whole experience. Our staff have been forced to become creative, to respond to the need to keep people connected. And I’m excited about it.
PK: Doctor, last thing. Last thing. Our time is almost up. You’ve been sharing so many of your insights and a lot of it is very prophetic by nature because everything you’re saying, I could sense that it’s flowing out of your spirit; the Holy Spirit is anointing it. But if you could say the last word to encourage all our members right now, what would you say to us as a church?
ARB: Hope in the character of God. His consistency, His immutability becomes an anchor for our soul. This is a time, this is an opportunity for you to really draw close to God. Prayer is the elevation of the heart, the mind, the spirit to a place of a deeper awareness of God’s presence. And I will tell you, the more conscious you are of His presence, it’s amazing how that affects you spiritually, emotionally, and even physically and psychologically. So I would say work on that awareness. Dig deep into the Scripture. Avail yourself of the time and opportunity given to you to study, to pray, to share, to interact. Yes we’re not in the building. But the church hasn’t closed. The church has continued to be open. We are still doing community, but we’re doing it differently. And it’s making us have a greater appreciation of when we do come together, when we do fellowship, we do hug and lay hands, and interact with each other, and greet each other. But for now, this is a time for deep, deep quality time with God, with the Holy Spirit; examining our sense of purpose, what’s important, what’s valuable. Take the time to reflect on those things. And I will tell you, it’s often in the midst of that kind of reflection that we move away from worry. And all of a sudden, we begin to see God actively involved in changing our circumstances in ways that we couldn’t detect Him before. Because we were blinded by the loss, blinded by the worry, blinded by the fear. Fear and unbelief work together. That’s why Jesus said, “Why are you so fearful, O you of little faith?” Those things work together. So bring faith, bring trust, bring belief into it. You have the power to do that. You have the quality of reason and thought. And now’s the time to exercise that.
PK: Doctor, that is so good. Thank you so much. Would you say a prayer for all the members of City Harvest Church, and all those in the Harvest Network that are watching this broadcast all throughout the region and in the world.
ARB: Wow. Let me say this to City Harvest Church and to you. If anything, your church has demonstrated, over the last five years, is the power of resilience, faith, trust, persistence. Because at the end of the day, here you are, beyond that season in your life and in the life of the church; and you can sit here in the freedom of Christ, smile, and shepherd this congregation into the future. Wow. Absolutely amazing. That was God. Only with the Spirit of God, the power of God, could you have that supernatural resilience against the things that you’ve been through. So I commend you for not becoming bitter about everything. But embracing God’s providence in your life and knowing that this is a new season, and a new beginning. Not only for you, but for your family and for City Harvest Church. So, Lord, thank You, for that You don’t need evil in order to bring about good. But You do use evil to bring about a greater good. Thank You for the greater good that You foresaw years ago for City Harvest, for Pastor Kong, for this leadership. And for this relationship. So Lord, I pray that there would be an awakening of passion, fervor, and creativity towards purpose—the purpose of Your kingdom—bringing Jesus, His love, His life and His light to a very needy and fearful world. Thank You that You are indeed the anchor of our soul, the character of immutability, consistency; that You are God and You change not. And Your commitment and desire for us is still the same—that we may have life, and that we might have it more abundantly. So Father, let the people of City Harvest Church—the cell group leaders, leadership at every level, the executive leadership—let them come alive with curiosity that fuels creativity and innovation, to look at the future and say, “How can we capture this future? How can we take what we’ve been through and make it better? How can we keep people connected, deepen and broaden those connections?” Lord I pray that the spirit of witty inventions, the spirit of wisdom, discernment, rest upon Pastor Kong and Pastor Sun as they shepherd this congregation out into the new normal; into the new future, that only You know how great it will be. So we trust You with it, we thank You for it, and we’re excited about it. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
PK: Amen. Thank you Dr Bernard, that was amazing. Thank you so much.
ARB: It is my pleasure and I hope that we can do this again.