The Fullness of the Time

In Galatians 4:4 Paul called attention to the fact that God prepared the world for the coming of His Son to earth in human form. Through the mighty political power of Rome, the cultural and intellectual prowess of Athens and the messianic hope of Jerusalem, God prepared the world for the sending forth of His Son to bring redemption to a war-torn and a sin-weary humanity.

This brings me to the thought that Christmas is more than a historical event and infinitely more than a commercialized festive season of fun, shopping and drunken parties etc.

To think that God would move heaven and earth to send His Son shows how much He truly loved us. A. W. Tozer, in his book, ‘A Disruptive Faith,’ wrote: “I can understand why God did most everything …  It is easy to see why He might do some things, but it is extremely difficult to understand why God should love mankind and why man should be such a fixture in God’s mind. It is one of the strangest phenomena in the universe.” He went on to say that he cannot understand why God lets man live, because he has forfeited all right to live, and yet in spite of all of this, man is a fixture in God’s mind. God cannot escape the great love of His heart for the human race – that means you and me.

There is only one answer to this human puzzlement. What brought Jesus Christ to this earth to die for us? Was it that He might carry out God’s eternal purpose? Yes, in a way that’s true, but the answer lies deeper. He visited us because we were a fixture in His mind. It was love that brought Him down to die. God’s anxious, restless love was incarnated in human flesh. Our Lord’s great pain for us compelled Him to come down to earth. Calvary was pain. The nails and the hanging on the cross, the perspiring in the hot sun, and bleeding must have been painful. But one pain was bigger than all the rest. It is His pain of loving. However, one day that love is going to be fully satisfied as recorded in Isaiah 53:11, “He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: …”  

How is that love going to be satisfied? Tozer concludes, “Man, as long as he is sinning, is a pain in God’s heart. When he turns from his sin to God, he is a satisfaction in God’s heart … I, for my part, want to bring joy to the Lord Jesus Christ.”    

How about us? You and I are one of these two things – either a pain or a satisfaction in God’s heart.  

Rev. Mark Tay

Are you Kingdom-ready?

“Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man

is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

- Matthew 24:44

In this Advent season, let me ask you: Do you ever think about preparing for Jesus’ return? If you do, how would you go about in your daily lives preparing for His return?

We don’t have to prepare for the first Advent - it is history. All we need to do is to be thankful for it. In that history, Jesus had come and the elect - the chosen - are already counted in His Kingdom. More through the coming to faith is to be added as time goes by.

I am thinking about the second Advent. That is in the future, and that we have to prepare for. To prepare for it is to prepare for Christ’s glorious Kingdom. Jesus enjoins us to “stay awake” and “be ready” (Matthews 24:42, 44). Furthermore, He pronounces the “servant” to be “blessed”  whom He finds ready for His return (Matthew 24:46).

As Christians - people who will one day inherit the blessed hope - shouldn't we be expected to show that sacred holiness of the Kingdom in our daily lives? Yes, we look for Jesus in Word and Sacrament, but I think that’s not enough. We should also prepare to meet “the Master” (to use Matthew’s terminology) in the market, in our workplace, and especially in our homes.

So, I invite you in this season to ponder the question: How would you prepare for Jesus’ coming?

The Kingdom is both here and coming. One useful thought I use is to fervently believe that in the now, God is always up to something good, always seeking to bless and create and restore and bring hope to our lives, our fears, and our impotence.

Advent for me then is a time to “be still” (Psalm 46:10), to be aware, to be ready, and to live a holy consecrated life. God is good. Jesus is coming again. Go, look for him and help others to look for him too.

Don’t miss a single opportunity to live in this present-day Kingdom.

Pastor Robert Chew

Our Wedding Day

One year ago, today, I was gliding down the red carpet in church, dressed in a beautiful white gown, covered in a veil, clasping on to my father’s arm. It was a special day for me, a day that I had been looking forward to for a long time. I was about to be married. I remember feeling extremely nervous as I walked down the aisle, all eyes on me. I remember my eyes welling up with tears as I read out my vows. Those were vows I never thought I would make to anyone, vows to a man who was just as excited about the vows he had just read to me, vows before my heavenly Father who has watched over me from before I was born.

Yet, the excitement we had on that day was not simply over the day itself, the beautiful decorations, the heart-warming songs of praise, the enlightening exhortation from God’s Word, or the mouth-watering food. The excitement I had in my heart came from the anticipation of a new life ahead with my groom as one entity, as one flesh.

Now, as I look back on the past year, we are still excited. Daniel and I have shared a humbling journey together so far, and we know that the best is yet to come. Yet our excitement does not come simply from the fun we have on our dates, the joy of serving the Lord together, or even the hope of building a family together. The excitement we have comes from a deeper hope, a hope that perseveres through the joys and pains of being sanctified, the hope of being made ready to join our awesome and glorious betrothed, Jesus Christ, in heaven.

… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) Revelation 19:7b-8

As we draw near to the end of 2018 and prepare ourselves for the year ahead, let us be excited about our wedding day. Let us look forward to the joys and pains of sanctification with boldness. Let us get ready to be joined to our awesome and glorious groom, Jesus Christ, in the presence of our heavenly Father.

Come, Lord Jesus.” Revelation 22:20b

Mrs. Grace Gan

How we can run our spiritual race

I am in-between ministry work and In-Camp Training during this part of the year. As I fold my “smart-4” (army uniform) and “kiwi” my boots, I recall the early days of full-time National Service. I remember vividly that we were once asked to bring back to camp, 6 tin cans fully filled with sand. These “sand cans” which were secured to our bodies (on our webbings) would then serve as dead weights as we ran the Standard Obstacle Course. You can imagine the damage those “sand cans” did to our bodies through those runs! They weighed us down, they slowed us down. Think of the pain, misery, confusion and fatigue they have caused us!

That is what sin does to us.

Sin weighs us down. Sin makes life miserable, it makes us want to quit.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Every disciple of Jesus is called to run a race. We run this race not to earn our salvation but to obtain that imperishable reward (1 Cor 9:25).

  • We do this by looking back to imitate the lives of faithful witnesses.

  • We do this by looking inward to untangle our hearts, to remove things that are dragging us down in our race. We are to do this with endurance.

  • We do this by looking upward to Jesus, who alone is our Security and Surety.

The moment i removed the “sand cans” to attempt the race again, i realised for the first time how fast I could run! I was more focussed and actually ran as “one who would get the prize” (1 Cor 9:24).

What weights are you carrying now that is wearing you down in your race today? What is your heart tangled with? Can you imagine what it would be like to run without any weight and sin?

Resolve today to lay aside every weight so you can begin to find delight in Jesus who is committed to help you finish your race.

Dn. Gideon Loh

Thanksgiving for Sembawang BP Church’s 48th Anniversary

Whenever I think of church anniversary, I am reminded of Samuel’s words to Israel, “Consider what great things he has done for you” (1 Sam. 12:24). Yes, anniversary celebration is a time of thanksgiving for the great things the Lord has done for us both individually and corporately. As we reflect on God’s goodness and blessings, our hearts will cry out with the psalmist, “O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good: for His mercy endureth forever (Ps. 107:1).

We are indeed a blessed people. However, I fear we may not be as grateful as we ought to be. And yet the giving of thanks is a powerful phenomenon with a liberating effect.

The desire of an individual to offer thanks to God goes back to the early chapters of Genesis. When Noah left the ark, having been saved by God, he “built an altar… and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled the soothing aroma” (Gen. 8:20, 21). Noah modelled the importance of saying, “Thank you.”

The experience of corporate thanksgiving finds expression in the annual harvest festival when Moses directed Israel to observe a full week of thanksgiving after the harvest: “When you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD for seven days” (Lev. 23:39).  After the years of captivity, Nehemiah reinstituted the harvest festival of thanksgiving to God. It is recorded that there was great rejoicing (Neh. 8:17)

There are at least 140 passages of Scripture that deal with the subject of thanksgiving from a personal or corporate perspective. In the NT we read how Jesus constantly gave thanks to the Father. Paul began nearly every one of his letters with an expression of thanks and urged us to give thanks in everything (1Thess. 5:18). The writer of Hebrews tells us to “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name?  How shall we as a church give thanks to God? The best way to thank God is to live our lives in a spirit of gratitude.

Deuteronomy chapter 8 verse 10 warns us that when everything is going well, there is a tendency for us to become proud and thus forget God. We must take time to thank God for all the good gifts that we enjoy. Most of all, we must live out the words of Psalm 103:1, 2 “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”  

As we celebrate our 48th Anniversary at Sembawang, we should count our blessings, and as we count them, say with George Herbert, the English poet, “Thou hast given so much to me, give me one thing more – a grateful heart.”

Rev. Mark Tay

Pastoral Address by Rev. Robert Chew

We have gone through the “five solas” in our month-long sermon series marking the sixteenth-century reformation.

The question now is: should we continue to reform?

Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda, the Latin phrase for “the church reformed, always reforming” has been used often to support the idea that we need to keep reforming. The kernel of the idea is true enough: Until we are glorified - until we are fully and perfectly conformed to the exact likeness of Christ - we individually and collectively as the church of Jesus Christ must always be reforming.

True reformation is not about a slavish subscription to one particular set of confessional standards, as if the Reformers or their immediate successors reached a level of doctrinal perfection beyond which further reform is impossible.

John Calvin, one of the great Reformers, was under no illusion that the Reformation had reached its goal in his lifetime -- or that it would get there in a generation or two. He wrote,

Christ "loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish," (Ephesians 5:25-27.) Nevertheless, it is true, that the Lord is daily smoothing its wrinkles and wiping away its spots. Hence it follows that its holiness is not yet perfect. Such, then, is the holiness of the Church: it makes daily progress, but is not yet perfect; it daily advances, but as yet has not reached the goal. (Institutes, 4.1.17)

Here’s the point: the only true and valid reformation occurs as we align our beliefs, our behavior, and our worship with the Word of God. The full, unabbreviated version of the Latin slogan is Ecclesia reformata et semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei meaning “The church Reformed and always reforming according to the Word of God.”

God’s Word is the only true standard we have a divine mandate to conform to, and it is the ultimate standard by which we will be judged. Success or failure in ministry, therefore, cannot be evaluated by numerical statistics, financial figures, popularity polls, public opinion, or any of the other factors the world typically associates with “success.” The only real triumph in ministry is to hear Christ say, “Well done.”

May God bless us all.

In Christ,

Pastor Robert Chew

Happy Reformation Day: The God Of Accidents

October 31 is remembered most for being Halloween and the day where the Catholic Church received their most unforgettable trick-or-treat. A lowly Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, sneakily hung “The 95 Theses” on the door of the Wittenberg Castle church, hoping to incite some good-natured academic discussion on the Church’s shameless approval of the practice of indulgences.

Yet Christ has tolerated His wanton bride long enough, and the Church was overdue for reform. Luther’s innocent and accidental spark was fanned to a bonfire when the 95 Theses were quickly translated and distributed throughout Germany and then made their way to Rome. This meek monk was called before assemblies, commissions, Cardinals and the Pope, to which in time, he stood his ground defiantly, “Here I stand”, and under God’s purpose, became the first of many to usher in the reformation.

This month, we remembered many of our biblical truths - Scripture as the divine and absolute authority in our lives (Scripture Alone), Grace as the free gift of salvation given by God (Grace Alone) through Faith (Faith Alone) because of the work and person of Christ (Christ Alone) for the purpose of His glory (To the Glory of God Alone).

But let us also remember that God loves to use the “accidents” in our lives to bring about his purposes. There is a quote that says, “In the sentence of life, the devil may be a comma, but never let him be a period.” As a “comma” that invites a pause, a short delay, the devil may cause “accidents” and “delays” in our lives, but being neither the Alpha nor the Omega, our lives do not begin or end with him. Rather, just as how we understood that the Reformation that began over 500 years ago was a result of an “accident” - Luther’s accidental spark that change the course of Protestant theology, we should also see God’s divine fingerprints at work in our lives.

So let us not fear the “accidents”, but look for His hand, and trust that God knows what He is doing. As Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) reminds us, He has it all planned out, that despite the “comma” causing “delays” and “accidents” in our lives, we will not be harmed and God will take care of us, to give us the future we hope for. Period.

Daniel Gan

Calvin’s View on Worship

There are controversial issues in the church today that were also contentious during the Reformation. One of these issues was how God is worshipped. Calvin identified that this was one of the two things that separated the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Church.

Calvin believed “God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by His Word”. The strictness of this principle was to prevent the congregation from following their own pleasure and prevent them from wandering from the right path. Calvin recognized that the Roman Catholic Church in its manner of worship, had robbed God of His glory and transferred it to His creatures. This caused worshippers to chase after shadows and thereby overlook true repentance that leads to salvation.

One of the reasons images were used in worship during Calvin’s time was to aid the uneducated to understand what was taught in the Scriptures. However, Calvin maintains that if the Church was faithful in teaching the Word of God, there would not be any uneducated people in the congregations. Another reason for this need of images in worship is due to the lack of trust in the absence of God’s physical presence.

Calvin acknowledged that God did not leave behind in detail how we ought to worship Him. Therefore, we must take refuge in general rules which God has given in his Word, to maintain the order and decorum of worship. With this principle in place, worship is characterized by simplicity, decency and dignity in its ceremonies that ought to lead us straight to Christ.

The worshipping of images is not an issue in the Protestant church today. However, Calvin’s insight helps us to understand why people seek after tangible manifestations of God’s presence. Music has become the tool to invoke such experiences in many churches today. While music itself is not the problem, it can be misused to take the focus away from Christ. Calvin’s principle for worship is one that requires us to be led straight to Christ, so that the truth is not obscured, and grace is not overlooked. The church will do well in using this principle as a guide to evaluate how praise and worship are practised today.

Dn. Mervin Lin

Legacy Of Reformation

Indeed, Martin Luther, the great reformer was well known for nailing his 95 theses on the Wittenberg castle’s door or his famous confession before the Diet of Worms: “Here I stand, I can do no other!”  However, there is another important legacy of Luther which is not so well-known: the Heidelberg Disputation. Pope Leo X wanted Luther disciplined so he ordered Johann Staupitz, the head of the Augustinian Order to do it. But instead of disciplining Luther, Staupitz invited him to present his thoughts to the gathering at Heidelberg. Luther produced forty-two theses for that occasion.

The main question Luther addressed was: How can we know God? The most natural response is to look at creation, spiritual experiences or miracles i.e. through what is visible. Imagine if we know God through creation, the people who knew him best would be those who understand the science of the universe. Or imagine we knew God through spiritual experience then we would boast, “I know God through my intelligence or my spirituality or my morality or my power etc.” It would lead to pride and this pride would then obscure the glory and grace of God.

If we cannot know him through what is visible, then can we know him at all? Luther’s answer is this: God is known through what is contrary or in a hidden way. God’s invisible attributes are revealed in suffering and the cross: glory in shame, wisdom in folly, power in weakness, victory in defeat. In short, God is known through the message or the theology of the cross.  This theology contrasts the theology of glory which, when divorced from the cross, belittles suffering, and results in the empty pursuit of wisdom, experience and miracles. Like the religious leaders at the cross, mistaken theologians of glory think that God’s power should be displayed the same way that human power is displayed: in a powerful act in which Jesus comes down from the cross (Mark 15:29-32). But it was the Roman centurion who, by faith, was able to see God’s glory revealed in the suffering and abandonment of Jesus (Mark 15:39).

So, the cross upsets all human ideas of glory. The message we proclaim is foolishness and weakness in the sight of the world (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).

Does the theology of the cross still matter to us today? To Luther it is the foundation of knowing God. We know him not primarily through mystical insight, theological wisdom or supernatural visions etc. We know God through the message of the cross. How do we know the power of God? Answer: through the message of the cross and not through healing miracles or managerial skill or megachurches or inspirational leaders or sociological theories. We need to dump our worldly ideas of success, our preoccupation with numbers and size and embrace the theology of the cross. The Cross still matters, and not just for theology’s sake; the whole of the Christian life here on earth is to be cruciform or cross-shaped (Galatians 2:20)

  

May God help us to hold on to this precious legacy of the Reformation.

Rev. Mark Tay

Children... our gift, and our ministry

]-[This past week, many schools celebrated Children's Day with gifts and games. We, too, celebrate children, because “children are a heritage from the Lord” (Ps 127:3) and it is our responsibility to protect them and give them our best.

However, what exactly does giving them our “best” entail?

Mark 9:33-37 gives us a thought-provoking account on Jesus’ perspective of serving children. In this story, Jesus takes a child in His arms and declares that “whoever welcomes (or serves) one of these little children in My Name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me but the One who sent Me.” In other words, we are called to welcome and serve children in Jesus’ Name, with the goal of serving and showing our love to Christ. It is easy to serve children because they are adorable, or because we want to invest in the next generation of our church. But Piper points out that “ministering to children in any way but in the name of Jesus, does not fulfil the will of Jesus.”* Why is that so? “Because the most important blessing (we) can give to a child is the all-satisfying centrality of God in life.” When we serve children because we love the God who created them, children can see that, and that inspires them to love God more effectively than if we simply talk about loving God.

How then do we give our best to the children amongst us and point them to God?

Firstly, let them see us integrate our faith into our daily lives, live authentically like a “fish in a fishbowl”, and be ready to have spiritual conversations with them in all seasons. This is also what Moses commanded Israel in Deut. 6:4-9: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” I, myself, am a living testimony of that. Seeing my parents strive to love God in all areas of life and marriage and being constantly challenged by them to see God’s finger in every part of my life has deeply shaped my love for God today.

Secondly, pray for them daily, and not just for our own children. Pray for protection from the influences from this world, pray for their salvation, pray for wisdom on how to train them in the way of the Lord.

Children are a gift from God, but they are also our ministry for God.

Mrs. Grace Gan

________

*https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/receiving-children-in-jesus-name

Serve and Protect Public Morality

Romans 1:27 says, “In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

Recently, in response to the call to repeal 377A, an article has resurfaced - a transcript of NMP Professor Thio Li-Ann’s speech in Parliament in 2007 to keep 377A. The following are what I learned from her on Public Morality and Social Consequences.


One of the arguments from the LGBTQ activists is the “argument from consent”, it argues for the state to be kept out of the bedroom, so as to safeguard “sexual autonomy”. It claims that as the homosexual act is done in private and between consenting adults, it is not immoral as no harm was done.


This argument may seem impartial, but it slips in a subtle philosophy of Hedonism. It celebrates the satisfaction of sexual desires without restraint as a matter of autonomy. But the way we satisfy our desires have to be bridled within a morally good, heteronomous societal framework, or we may harm our self and society as a whole. As we have seen from the Book of Judges, the nation of Israel did “...what was right in his own eyes,” and their autonomy caused the entire community to be so enslaved by the vile values and cultures of the Philistines that they almost ceased being a nation.


Thankfully, Singapore is a country that seeks to protect public good and public morality. Let’s take pornography for example. A person who watches it in the privacy of his or her own bedroom can argue that any effect is only on himself or herself and does not harm anyone else. Yet, it is against the law to keep, distribute or sell pornographic materials under the Undesirable Publications Act, as well as Section 292 of the Penal Code. This is because Singapore takes a broader view on the concept of harm.


If people are legally allowed to buy and sell pornography openly, then our children will be exposed to sexual libertine values, sexual immorality and a culture of lust that takes rather than gives. If 377A is repealed, thus legalising sodomy, it will over time change both our attitude and conduct. Coupled with sexual hedonism, this repeal defies the strong family values that we as both Christians and Singapore citizens hold dear. 377A serves and protects public morality and buttress strong families based on a faithful union between man and woman, the ideal model for raising children.


Given what was shared above, I would like to strongly encourage you to:

1. Give feedback to the Government by signing the petition at https://www.change.org/p/singapore-government-please-keep-penal-code-377a-in-singapore

2. Be respectful and loving toward those who hold a different opinion. (Hebrews 12:14)

3. Pray for Singapore. That our nation be wise in taking the appropriate actions by 24th  September, and may our church be equipped with both grace and truth to minister to those with same-sex attractions.


1. https://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2007/10/23/377a-serves-public-morality-nmp-thio-li-ann/

2. https://singaporelegaladvice.com/law-articles/what-is-the-law-on-pornography-in-singapore/



Do we show truth or grace? (Section 377A)

Recently, there was much debate on the matter of repealing Section 377A in response to 1) the Indian Supreme Court repealing Section 377 of its Penal Code on Sept. 6, 2018 and 2) the closure of a comprehensive review of the Penal Code in Singapore that did not include Section 377A.

So, what is Section 377A?

Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years.

This law was introduced by British colonial authorities as part of a broader legislation which also banned sexual acts such as anal and oral sex. While we do need to deal with the broader moral and societal implications of keeping or repealing Section 377A, perhaps we should start from the Bible and allow it to frame our response to the matter.

There are several references to this throughout the Bible. One example in the OT is found in the reason given for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19). Eze 16:50 states that they did something “detestable”, and this same word is used in Lev 18 and 20 to refer to homosexual relations. Similarly in Jude 7, we are told that they were destroyed because they indulged in sexual immorality and “pursued unnatural desire” (ESV).

In the NT, Paul in his epistle to the Romans condemned homosexual practices as “against nature” (Rom 1:26). The notion of “nature” in this passage refers to God’s intended design, just as “male and female” have been defined biologically since Gen 1, for the decree to “be fruitful and increase in number” is possible only between a biological male and female. “Nature” does not refer to one’s “natural desire” or “inclination”.

How then should we view the call to repeal Section 377A? Homosexuality is not the only sin that we should address - adultery, greed, anger, pride are also sins and issues we have to wrestle with. However, given the potential adverse effects the repeal of 377A could have in our daily lives and in that of our children and their children, it is prudent to give voice to the convictions that we hold. As we have learnt from our Sunday Bible Classes on the book of Daniel, we need to engage the society in ways that reveal the distinctive values of the Kingdom of God. We need to be compassionate toward those struggling with their sexual identity, but we can do so without silencing our biblical convictions.

Let us:

Be gracious in a way that is full of truth.

Be truthful in a way that is full of grace.

Mr. Daniel Gan

Not Without Hope

From time to time we should remind ourselves that we are not living for the present only. We should always keep eternity in view.  

We can be living so comfortably in this world that we may be in danger of losing sight of our blessed hope. Sometimes we may feel that Christ’s coming could be so remote and far removed from reality that it becomes unattractive to us.  

After all, the philosophy of today’s society may be summed up in the letters YOLO, which stands for “You Only Live Once.” This echoes the attitude of, “let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die” which Paul was warning the Corinthians against (1 Cor. 15:32).   Underlying this philosophy of life is the belief that death is the end of the road. There is nothing to look to beyond death. Such was also the view of the people in Paul’s time. Death was viewed as a sleep from which there would be no awaking. For example, Catullus wrote: “The sun can set and rise again/ But once our brief light sets/ There is one unending night to be slept through.” Theocritus (Idyll, 4.42): “Hopes are for the living; the dead are without hope.”

The Thessalonian believers were also not immune to such fears and hopelessness. In fact some of them still associated death (sleep) with an utter lack of hope. We can understand how distressed they might be by the death of fellow believers prior to Jesus’ return. To them it would have meant the end of any hope of being with the Lord in the future; that the wait for His Son from heaven had been in vain.

In response, Paul offers a profoundly different understanding of death, the future, and the fate of believers. This understanding is grounded solidly in the most fundamental event in history: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which is the source of the hope for the Thessalonians as well as for us today.   

From 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, we are reminded that what will happen in the future is not an end, but only a means to an end. The final destiny of Christians who died before the coming of Christ is not death, but rather the resurrection leading to life with the Lord forever.

Knowledge of the future and the coming of the Lord ought to shape and influence how we live in the present.

Finally, we should use what we know to encourage one another to love and good works. Let the words of the refrain encourage us:

Because He lives I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future.
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

Rev. Mark Tay

True Blessedness

I recently read an article showing how six global trends indicate that the world is slowly improving. These trends are:

Extreme Poverty.  In 1940, about 75% of the world was in extreme poverty, but today that number is 10%. That means 75% of the world are making more than US$1.90 per day. It might not seem a lot for us, but making any less would make it difficult to survive anywhere in the world.

Basic Education.   In 1820, only a privileged few were able to get basic schooling. Today, the number of classrooms and schools around the world is remarkable. At this moment, 86% of people today have access to basic education.

Literacy.  In line with the increase in basic education, literacy has increased from 12% to 85% over about two hundred years. This has a huge impact on missions, as the gospel can now reach most people via the written word. When you add the proliferation of the Internet to this, the reach of the gospel today could be wider than we think.

Democracy.  In 1900, only 1 in 100 people lived in a democracy. Today, 56 in 100 live in a country with free and fair elections. Democracy is a blessing from God, because it allows the changing of governments to be a peaceful process.

Vaccination.  We are blessed to live in times when many diseases are prevented by vaccinations. Two hundred years ago, this medical technology did not exist. Thankfully, 86% of people in the world are vaccinated against many basic and devastating illnesses.

Child Mortality.  As recently as 1920, 30% of infants would die before they reach their 5th birthday. Since then, improvements in housing, sanitation, medicine and science have reduced this global rate to 4%.

We live in an age, where life can seem to be naturally blessed. Modern science and technology have pushed us further away from the curses found in Gen 3. It is no wonder that people might be led to think that they have all they need on this earth to be happy. Regardless of how good a life one may have in this world, it will never reverse sin and death (Gen 2:16–17). It is only in Christ that we find true blessedness that will survive even the world that we are living in.

Dn. Mervin Lin
 

The Legacy of Faith

What eulogy would people share about us at our wake? Will they commend us as a person who has lived life to the fullest for God and a life worth emulating? Yet this is precisely what the author of Hebrews reminded his hearers regarding their forefathers’ example in Hebrews 11:1-7.  

In this short passage the phrase “obtained a good report” appeared several times with variations in verses 2, 4, and 5.  This good report is in fact God’s commendation. It is as if God is saying to them, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant … enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Matt. 25:21).

This brings me to the question for each one of us to ponder seriously. What legacy would we leave behind for our children and our children’s children to follow? How can we live a life that pleases God and receives His approval and commendation?

The key is found in the three examples of faith i.e. Abel, Enoch and Noah. All three lived lives that were pleasing to God. Each one demonstrated in his own unique way what it means by the phrase, “The just (righteous) shall live by faith” (Heb. 10:38 / Hab. 2:4).

Abel showed that the righteous will conduct his or her life by faith even in the face of suffering or death.  “And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.”  (Heb. 11:4)

Enoch proved that the righteous will overcome death by faith. “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him.” (Heb. 11:5).  

Noah demonstrated that the righteous does not have to fear the final Judgment by faith. “By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (Heb. 11:7).

From the beginning to the end a life of obedience in trust of God’s promises and dependence on his power is the real secret to pleasing God.

Let us then emulate the faith of the ancient faithful, be inspired by their perseverance and focus on the ultimate example of endurance and the One sufficient to enable us to reach the goal of our pilgrimage and cross the finish line of our race (Heb.12:1-3). In this way, we will leave behind a legacy of faith for the future generation to emulate.

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb.12:1, 2)

Rev. Mark Tay

Tolerance and Harmony

As we prepare to celebrate with the rest of our fellow-citizens our nation’s Fifty-third National Day, I would like to share this brief personal statement on the issue of
tolerance and harmony in Singapore   

In a discussion held on the issue of living in harmony in OnePeople.Sg, one paragraph reads as follows:

From schools to public housing and National Service, we have infused our public institutions with opportunities for Singaporeans of different backgrounds to come together, understand one another and respect our society’s rich diversity.

That is a valiant idea … “come together, understand and respect” our diversity--a diversity that could be both our strength and our weakness. What will make the difference?

“In Singapore, we start with the irrefutable proposition that the alternative to multi-racialism … is genocide in varying degrees” says the late Mr S. Rajaratnam (1959-1965) when he was the then Minister for Culture.

The nation’s founding leaders were well aware of the fragility of our social harmony, and of the real possibility of fracture in a multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. 
Over the years, three fundamental principles are promoted to maintain social harmony; these are:

- Multiculturalism: Different ethnic groups were encouraged to come together as one united people without giving up their cultural heritage or beliefs.
- Secularism: Backed by the rule of law, the State is secular, but not against religion. Everyone has the right to practise their religion freely.
- Meritocracy: Opportunities are bestowed based on individual merit and performance, without bias to any race, creed or social-economic background.

We should wholeheartedly support these and do our level best to strive for harmony. To this I would add the Christian ethics of love and tolerance, which is our calling. Without them there can’t be harmony.

Happy birthday Singapore!

Pastor Robert Chew

How to be like God (Judges 17:1-6)

Here is the story of Micah, a son who stole some money from his mother. Micah’s mother, having found out that her money was missing, uttered a curse on the “thief”. The son heard the curse and was afraid. He then returned the money, lest he suffers the consequences of the curse. His mother was thankful that her son had repented and returned the money. Alas, what was lost is now found. She then told the LORD that she will give ALL the money to Him for “religious” use… only to end up giving a small portion instead! The son then put together all things religious, even appointing one of his sons to be a priest (non-Levite) at home! 

What kind of parenting was responsible for raising a son who would steal from his own mother? What kind of son would steal from someone who had provided for him his whole life? What would make someone break a vow made to God? How could Micah appoint priests? How could one be so “religious” yet lived an incoherent life? This family seems religious but their “religion” has limited power over their lives. 

Here are the ironies. Micah feared the consequence of the curse uttered by his mother but not the consequence of violating God’s law. His mother cursed a thief only to end up stealing from God herself. This one’s my favourite: Micah actually means “who is like God?”! 

Micah was picking and choosing what to believe about God. His mother was doing the same. Micah seemed to think that his mother’s curse was more important than God’s “thou shall not steal”. His mother actually believed that “thou shall not steal” only applies between people. 

Micah’s god was just a tad less powerful than his mother. His mother’s god was big on grace and less on law.  Both would make decisions that please themselves, and then rationalise that the same please God also.  The reality is, Micah and his mother are really worshipping themselves. They “did what was right in their own eyes, since there is no king in Israel”. They lived and made decisions as though they “are like God”. 

Here’s the thing. Dysfunctional individuals give birth to dysfunctional families and communities if we continue to recreate God rather than to have God recreate us in Jesus. Jesus died on the cross to save and rule all that belong to Him. Why do we accept Jesus as Savior but never as Lord over ALL of life? The promised abundant life in Christ is possible if we would continually surrender our heart-thrones to the King. Perhaps this is when we are most like God; when we surrender our life as Christ did, to the glory of God. 

Prayer
Lord change my heart today. Help me to find true delight ONLY in You. Let me do what is right in my own eyes ONLY if my eyes are filled with Your Light. Let the light of your truth and grace shine through my willing and joyful surrendering. I pray this in your name, amen

MBPC Sunday Bible Class (SBC) is completing the study of Judges today. We will be continuing our study on the lives of Daniel and Joseph from 12 Aug onwards. Come join one of our classes if you are not part of SBC yet. Contact mbpc.sbc@gmail.com today!
 

World Cup? Or the Cup won for the World?

World Cup. A momentous worldwide event that happens once every four years. An event that draws people of diverse age, culture, race and gender to come together because of a common pursuit. A love for soccer. 

We all started with our favorite team in the World Cup and we studied the statistics of each player in the team. We watched highlights and replays of their goals, fouls, misses and we either cheered or screamed at them. As quarter-finals became semi-finals and semi-finals to final, and our “favorite” team dropped off the list of competitors, we shifted our attention to the final two teams; France and Croatia competed for that coveted trophy. France emerged victorious and won the World Cup. 

We gathered in communities to watch the finale – churches, neighbourhood community centres, friends’ homes and even at void decks. And for that moment, we were united in our love for soccer. For that brief moment, we were one body and then it’s gone, till the next World Cup in 2022.

A momentous worldwide event also happened thousands of years ago. An event that drew people of diverse age, culture, race and gender to come together because of a particular pursuit. The love of God. 

For the first time, God entered history as a man, as Jesus Christ, who lived, died, and rose   for the sins of man. 

It started with many different players – Herod the Great, John the Baptist, Pontius Pilate, Judas Iscariot, Caiaphas, Jesus Christ, etc. The masses were studying every action of these players and were either cheering or screaming at them. As the final day drew close, they were left with the final two “teams” – Christ and Death. Christ proved to be victorious and won the “World Cup”.

Unlike the World Cup 2018 that France won, Christ will never lose this “World Cup”, for this “Cup” of thanksgiving was won in exchange for the cup He drank at Gethsemane (1 Cor 10:16; cf. Matt 26:39). He drank so that all of us can drink from this cup of thanksgiving – a new covenant in His blood – in remembrance of God’s love and our love for Him. 

We are all united as one body… not for a brief moment but for eternity, in fellowship with God, in Christ Jesus, through the Holy Spirit.

Daniel Gan