Till death do us part

I will be celebrating my 10th wedding anniversary with Sharon this week! I thank God for how He has shaped our love for each other over the years. Just a few days ago, many were also busy talking about “love” but what can love look like in real life? Following is a personal letter written by someone dear to Sharon and I. This person was hospitalised at the point of the letter. She was 90 years old and her husband was 92.

Dearest Husband,

You have accompanied me for 72 years of our marriage, I could not imagine that this unexpected situation would cause both of us to be separated for the first time and up to 20 days. Due to bacterial infection in my liver and blood, I have to be on antibiotics to clear the abscess as an operation would be too dangerous. Hence, I will not be able to return home for the time being. Please forgive me for not being able to take care of you. I can only plead in tears in the presence of the Lord, may the Lord be with you and grant you strength to stand up and walk again so that you can take care of me. Now that we are both of age, it is indeed our greatest blessing to have children who tenderly care for us... May the Lord bless them for being so filial! Hopefully in the next few days, the doctor can arrange for me to go home for a short while to chat with you and make you laugh again.

Most importantly, please be patient so that those taking care of you will not be put in a difficult position. If you have strength, please stand up and walk around to let your blood circulate. I love you, …love you forever. To have a husband who never leave nor forsake is the greatest blessing of my life.

My hands are shivering as I write, without glasses and proper lighting, all is written in a mess. Please don’t laugh at me ok?

Your wife

(This letter was written 2 weeks before her discharge on 24 Mar 2017. Her husband went home to Christ 1 week after.)

If you are married, does the above look like how you will deal with separation from your spouse? Is this how you would yearn for each other’s love, affection and presence even with persistent flaws? If your answer is yes, rejoice! You have what it takes to put in perspective the marital conflicts and challenges you are facing right now.

But if the above seems like a movie scene to you, would you ask God to overwhelm you with His love, so that you will be able to avail such sacrificial and unconditional love to your spouse now?

If you are single, may this letter remind you of the faithfulness of God. His love will never leave nor forsake you. He will never abandon you. You belong to Christ.

Mark 10:9: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."

A Great Re-Bible

In 1740-1742, there was a mighty movement (known as the first Great Awakening) of the Holy Spirit of God in the churches in Northampton, Massachusetts, USA., of which one church was where Jonathan Edwards pastored. Stirred by the Spirit to deal with issues raised by the movement, Jonathan Edwards wrote a small but significant treatise titled “The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God”.

In one chapter, Jonathan Edwards listed out those signs that infallibly prove that a work is of God. A major sign seen in a true revival is that believers will experience a deep hunger for God’s Word. As someone observed, “True revivals turn the people of God into busy Bible-beavers. Bibles long set aside in favour of TV Guide began to be eagerly searched and devoured.” Loving and obeying God’s Word is a very major sign of a God-sent revival.

Many years ago, a revival broke out in a foreign land. One of the young converts who failed to catch the word “revival” mistakenly said this in a report: “We are having a great re-Bible here.” Amen!!  The Bible is so central to God’s reviving work, that while we might laugh at the young convert’s mistake, we also ought to say that there is no difference between “re-vival” and “re-Bible.”

God-sent revivals build people up in the truth. People’s hearts were filled with the hunger for the Word of God. During times of revival, people become humble in God’s presence.  

Are we experiencing a revival in our midst?  Do we have a hunger to read and study God’s Word?  It is my earnest prayer that our congregation will experience a “great re-Bible,” I mean, great revival.   It is my prayer that more small groups will be formed and more leaders will be trained and equipped to lead and to handle the Word of God.  (cf. 2 Tim 2:15).

Prayer: “God please send us a mighty Holy Spirit revival!  May we have a ‘Great Re-Bible.’”

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves,

and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,

then I will hear from heaven

and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

(2 Chron. 7:14)

Rev. Eddy Lim

A THOUGHT ON OUTREACHING

Let me first offer a prayer to all our Chinese members and friends as you and your family celebrate the Chinese New Year. May God in His supreme sovereignty and boundless grace bless, keep, and sustain you and all your family members throughout the year.

We come again to the time when we will, with some mementos of goodwill and tracts, be “doing” an outreach to the people in our community.

I’d like to share a couple of thoughts on “outreaching.”

Avoid a One-off Mentality

In the parable of the “ten minas” Jesus tells the story of a “nobleman” who gives to his ten servants “ten minas.”  The nobleman’s instruction to them is “engage (or “occupy” as in the KJV) until I come.”

Obviously, this is a call for disciples of Jesus Christ to be occupied in, or carry on, the business of the gospel, and to improve on the “minas” He has given them.

When we accept this “occupation” we can’t treat it as a one-time, one-off occupation. Neither should it be viewed or treated as a separate stand-alone undertaking. To me, “engage/occupy” implies a process of personal stewardship - a life-long occupation. It is until He comes!

What does the bible say about what we should be doing when we are outreaching?

I have space to cover two points.

First, show compassion. Compassion fills the pages of the Old Testament and the Gospels. This is a challenge to the followers of Jesus. The Bible speaks of God having compassion for Israel. It tells of a Savior who suffered for the world, and it asks us to live and act compassionately.

Compassion means someone else’s heartbreak becomes your heartbreak. Another’s suffering becomes your suffering. True compassion changes the way we live.

Second, “to save”. Jesus came “to seek and to save” the lost. This brings up the overarching purpose of outreaching - God wants to forgive sinful people. He wants to heal them. So, we bring the good news to people for God to heal their brokenness.

Rev. Robert Chew

Lunar New Year

When enthusiastic crowds appear in Chinatown, unending queues form in banks and in front of bak kwa stalls, and festive music suddenly graces the malls, we know that Lunar New Year is right around the corner! Like every other culture in the world, festivals and feasts are important markers of our ethnic identity. Nonetheless, as Chinese Christians, we can enjoy the Lunar New Year celebrations with greater joy and an eternal perspective because of the hope we have in Christ.

Spring Cleaning. Traditionally, Chinese families clean their homes thoroughly before the first day of the new year to get rid of bad luck from the past year. It is customary not to sweep on the first day of the Lunar New Year to prevent “sweeping” any good luck, or 福 (blessings ), away. However, in Christ, we can be assured that all eternal 福 have arrived, and He cannot be taken away from us (Rom 8:31-39). As we clean our homes this season, let us also clean our hearts for the Lord, asking Him to create in us a pure heart and a right spirit (Ps 53:10).

Reunion Dinner. The reunion dinner is the time when family ties and solidarity are reaffirmed. Family members will make every effort to come together for a bountiful meal together, believing that having an abundance of dishes will signify a year of wealth and abundance in the new year. However, we who have been adopted into the family of God by faith in Christ, must not forget our spiritual family through the blood of Christ, even as we reaffirm our ties with our family by blood (Gal 3:26-29). Let us also learn from the Jews, for whom every feast is a remembrance of what God has done for His people, and recall the goodness of God in our lives as we enjoy His abundant blessings.

Lunar New Year. During this season, Chinese families will visit friends and relatives and exchange mandarin oranges, 红包 (red packets ) and greetings. In a modern society like ours, this may be the only time that extended families get together and catch up on one another’s lives. This year, let us consider how we may show the hospitality of Christ. As Christine Pohl says, “A life of hospitality begins in worship, with a recognition of God's grace and generosity. Hospitality is not first a duty and responsibility; it is first a response of love and gratitude for God's love and welcome to us.” Let us open our homes to families, neighbours, and strangers, welcoming them into the love of God (Lk 14:12-14).

Grace Gan

2019 Theme - Acting in Faith on The Promises of God

The year's theme is Acting in Faith on the promises of God.

For most part of this year, we will be working through the book of Joshua.

Knowing about God must change the way we live. So therefore, Acting in Faith on the Promises of God is apt. Knowing that God is a promise-keeping God must lead us to act in faith, to live by faith.

Theology must lead to doxology. The word of God sowed in our hearts must bring about a life-transforming love for Christ.

This theme is not only apt, it is timely. The generation which came out of Egypt was not the generation which was called to occupy the promised land. This new generation has not seen first-hand the miracles in Egypt, those which their fathers told them about. Through the unfolding narratives in Joshua, God displayed His power through a number of miracles for this generation. It was time for this new generation to witness God’s power in a more intimate and personal way. It was time for them to experience God first-hand. Our current Moriah congregation is also a very different group from the generation which came from Sembawang to Simei. The call for us then, is not one of “exiting Egypt” but a call to occupy the Promised Land as we turn 21 this year! As we cross our “river Jordan” to begin occupying God’s “Promised Land”, it is time for us to behold God’s power, providence and presence, first-hand.

We the “Gen J (Joshua!)” must realise that until and unless we begin to move and act in faith on the promises of God, there will be no conquest, there will be no victories and there will be no promised land. If Moses had not raised his staff over the sea, there will be no parting of the Red Sea.

If Israel would not move to take on the enemies that occupied the land, they will own no lands.

If the founding members of Moriah did not act on God’s word, there is no Moriah today.

In His divine sovereignty, God calls His people to respond in faith. We too are to respond in faith on the promises of God. The book of Joshua is a call to act in faith, we must do so because God is faithful to His word; what God says, God does. It’s time to claim the promises of God.

Joshua 1 shows us the way God will give success to Israel,

• God will personally give them the land He has promised (Joshua 1:2-3)

• God has provided His word/laws to guide them (Joshua 1:7-8)

• God will be with them wherever they go (Joshua 1:5,9)

Likewise, we will see success because God has given us His promises, His word and the Holy Spirit.

What kind of church will Moriah be if we all start to act in faith on the promises of God?

Would you begin a journey of a more personal and intimate walk with Christ?

Gideon Loh

“Lim Kopi” – Coffee Anyone?

In my life, coffee holds a special place. I must have coffee every day, caffeinated or decaf, steaming hot or iced, instant or brewed, it doesn’t matter, as long as it is coffee.  It will sort of “jump start” my day. Maybe I am suffering from the spirit of “procaffeination”.

I know…I know…too much coffee is not good for my physical heart, but somehow it works wonders on my spirit.  When I have a cup of warm coffee in my hand, it releases something inside of me and allows me to make connections with people faster.  

Coffee has provided me with a meeting ground for many years. Whenever I wish to meet up with someone for fellowship or otherwise, I would call up that person and ask, “would you like to ‘lim kopi’?” It seems to work all the time. It works not only for one-on-one meeting but it also works for a gathering of a big group of friends.

I think none of us can deny that asking people to “Come together for a cup of coffee” has paved the way for new acquaintances, deepening friendships, healing hurts, reconciling differences, and even for subtle rebukes.  By the simple invitation of sitting down in a comfortable place, with good ambience and sharing a beverage, walls come down, prejudices become soft, and hearts open up. (By the way, do you know that C.O.F.F.E.E. can be acronym for “Christ Offers Forgiveness For Everyone Everywhere”?).

Please do not downplay on “Small Coffee Talk”.  Sydney Smith, 19th century English essayist, said “One of the great pleasures of life is conversation.”  Laurie Chock and Goldberg, a communicating consulting firm in New York, said, “Small talk is a misnomer. Those little conversations probably have more impact than any other.” Another communication expert said, “For many of us, small talk is hard work…(But) if you have comforted yourself by saying small talk doesn’t matter, think again. Small talk builds rapport and often leads to bigger things.

Friendships and relationships can be built and enhanced over small coffee talks. So, in this coming year, let us find time to ‘lim kopi’ and fellowship with one another. Let us also make time for our pre-believing friends, and perhaps even have casual conversations about God during our “coffee talk”, when the time is right.

Thank God for ‘coffee’ and ‘tea’ too, of course.    

Rev. Eddy Lim

Acting in Faith on the Promises of God

In the last Sunday sermon of 2018, Dn. Mervin reminded us that though we are assured of our salvation, we still have to actively work to keep ourselves from being enslaved to the idols of the world. This reminder echoes Joshua’s exhortation in Joshua 24:15, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

In 2019, we will begin our journey from the pulpit by traversing on the rich historical narrative of Joshua. In this book, we will witness the fulfilment of God’s promises to the Israelites (21:45) when the Israelites, led by Joshua, acted in faith. The recurring promise of Yahweh’s “I will be with you” (1:5; 1:9; 3:7) and the resulting victories are contingent on the obedience of the Israelites.

What about us? The promise of God’s abiding presence is also for us (ref: Hebrews 13:5-6) and there is nothing more reassuring for us than to hear God’s, “I will be with you” or “I will not forsake you” amidst our struggles in life. But have we been wholeheartedly obedient to Him? Are there secret idols in our life we are enslaved to? Have we acted in faith on the promises that were given to us? Will we say as Joshua had, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”?

For this year, each month’s memory verse is a promise from God taken from either the Old Testament, Epistle or the Gospels. I would like to challenge us all to, as per the Joshua Code (1:8), keep God’s Word in our hearts through memorization and meditate on them “day and night”. The Word thus received and retained in our hearts and minds will train us to fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, overcome temptations from the idols of this world, bolster and strengthen our faith, and build and edify others when recited with our mouths.

May we then act in faith on the promises of God - knowing that Yahweh will be with us!

“God’s Word is shallow enough not to drown the young,

but deep enough that the greatest theologian will never touch the bottom.”

- Early Church Father Augustine

Mr. Daniel Gan

Remedies for Burnout (1 Kings 19:1-21)

How are you feeling as the year comes to a close? Are you feeling tired? Do you feel like giving it all up?

In 1 Kings 19, Elijah, the most powerful prophet of God was running from an influential queen, Jezebel. The irony was that Elijah had just experienced an incredible victory in a confrontation with King Ahab, Queen Jezebel, 450 priests of Baal and 400 priests of Asherah. But yet he ran, and he “ran” into a great suicidal depression. (1 King 19:4).

Exhaustion from ministry service, burnout or even depression can hit any believer, sometimes even in the midst of spiritual victories.  Our text shows how God restores this suicidal prophet.

God provided respite and refreshments (vs 5-8)

We need to take our rests seriously. Many of us are not disciplined about our “re-creation” time, rest from work, to play or even time for exercise. We work while we are supposed to be resting and sleep while our minds are supposed to be engaged.

We need to eat well too. We get into health troubles if we do not watch our diets. For example, eating too much of the wrong food and not eating enough of the right food. If we are always exhausted and lethargic, we should take steps to alter our diet and be good stewards of the bodies God has given us.

God provided a reality-check (vs 9-21)

While rest and replenishments are important, it is the conversation with God that is most crucial in this whole process. God had to remind Elijah of 3 things. 1. Elijah is God’s servant 2. God is not his servant and 3. God has other servants.

God asked Elijah a confronting but needful question. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (vs 9, 13) Coming from our all-knowing God, this question serves only to re-orientate Elijah to remember His calling and purpose as a servant of God. He even issued new assignments to Elijah. God displayed His power through the strong wind, earthquake and fire to reinforce the truth that even the elements serve Him. Finally, God as a-matter-of-factly, corrected Elijah by revealing that He has 7000 other people who are still faithful to Him. God was in essence telling Elijah that he was not alone. God even gave Elisha to Elijah to serve as a successor and helper.

To restore a burnt-out prophet, God did not give more sermons to Elijah. He gave rest, food and drink. God did not blast at Elijah to wake him from his sad state. He gave grace, assurance and help.

Which of God’s remedies for burnout do you need most in 2019?

Dn. Gideon Loh

The Men Who Missed Christmas

The birth of a child always brings joy to a family. Christ who was born ought to have brought great joy to His people, yet not all responded with joy at His birth (Luke 2:10).

Joseph and Mary returned to Bethlehem for the census as decreed by Caesar Augustus. Jesus was born that night, in a manger, in a place that serves as a night-time shelter for animals (Luke 2:7). But the Innkeeper who owns that manger missed out knowing the Savior. “I have no room for you”, he said to Joseph and Mary, even as he busied himself with the other guests, “...but you can stay at the lower level with the animals.” The Innkeeper missed Christmas although he was so near to Jesus.

The Innkeeper said, “I have no room for this King”.

Herod the Great heard the news of the new-born king and he was greatly disturbed (Matt 2:3). “Where will he be born?”, he asked the chief priests and scribes of the people. Getting the location from them, he then directed the Magi to find the new-born king while harbouring thoughts of murder in his heart. “I have no throne for you”, he thought to himself, even as he sat on his throne of power and authority. King Herod missed Christmas although he was so near to Jesus.

Herod said, “I have no throne for this King”.

The Chief Priests and Pharisees knew of the birth of the Messiah. All of Jerusalem had heard the Magi’s question and they themselves have been asked of the Messiah’s location from Herod (Matt 2:1-5). They gave the location to Herod and yet they, as teachers of the Law themselves, did not look for Him. “We have no time for this...”, they said, as they busied themselves with the feasts and festivals and ceremonies, with the washings and rituals in the temple. The Chief Priests and Pharisees missed Christmas although they were so near to Jesus.

Chief Priests and Pharisees said, “We have no time for this King”.

Have you any room in your heart for Jesus?

Are you going to dethrone yourself so that Christ will sit on the throne of your heart?

Are you going to spend time knowing our King, our Messiah, our Savior?

Or are you going to miss Jesus this Christmas?

(Adapted from a Christmas Sermon by Rev Wan Khwen Lam in 2017)

The Virgin Birth

Matthew begins the story of Christmas with the way Jesus was born (Matt. 1:18–25). The story is told from Joseph’s perspective and it provides evidence of the unique circumstances of Jesus’s birth. The fact that Joseph was resolved to divorce Mary quietly, showed that Mary had conceived Jesus without Joseph’s involvement.

The Scriptures reveal that this pregnancy occurred through supernatural conception. The account of the virgin birth or more correctly termed “virgin conception”, has been a source of much embarrassment to those who find it difficult to explain the reason for its existence in the New Testament. We live in a naturalistic world, where all reality must be explained through science or it cannot possibly be real.

And yet, the virgin birth is one of the core doctrines of the Christian church. It is found in the Apostle’s Creed, which is a confession that dates back to the 2nd century. According to tradition, it was written by the apostles after Pentecost and it remains the core teachings of historic Christianity. Why then is the virgin birth an important doctrine?

It is important because it highlights the unique person of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 1:22-23, the angel told Joseph that Jesus shall be called Immanuel or “God with us”. This revealed that Jesus is not just a man, but God as well. God who knows what it is like to live as a human being. The second person of the Trinity is to put on a human nature and be born as the God-man with a human body and soul. This could only be done by the work of God alone, in order to show that humanity cannot rescue itself from the consequences of sin.  

If the virgin birth did not happen, Jesus would not have the ability to accomplish what He came to do. In 1 Corinthians 15:45–47, Paul describes Christ as the “second man” in contrast to Adam, who is the “first man”. Christ is also referred to as the “last Adam”. This indirectly reaffirms that Jesus, like Adam, was created directly by God and not through human procreation.

However, unlike Adam, Jesus never sinned. This allows Him to replace the “first man” as the better source or root of humanity. Therefore, through the virgin birth, Jesus Christ restores us from the original ruin that came upon us when Adam sinned. He is truly the best gift God has given to us.

Dn. Mervin Lin

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