Let’s Run Together

Living the Christian life is not easy. Acts 14:22 says we will go through many troubles, afflictions, hardships and sufferings to enter the kingdom of God. We are running a tough race.

Many years ago, at the Seattle Special Olympics, nine runners were in the blocks, poised and ready to spring forth at the sound of the gun.

It looked to all the world as though this was a normal race. But it was not. This was a race of a different kind. It was a special Olympic race, a race for the physically or mentally disabled.

The stand was filled with people sitting at the edge of their chairs, anticipating the moment of excitement. When the starter fired the gun in an instance, the nine runners all started out, not exactly in a dash, but with the pleasure of just running the race to the finish line and win.  However about 25 meters down, one runner tripped and fell, sprawling headlong down the track and began to cry.

The other eight contestants heard the cry. They slowed down. Looked back. Then they all turned around and every one of them went back and picked up their friend. One girl with Down syndrome bent down and kissed him and said: “This will make it better.” They picked their friend up. They said, “Let’s run together.” Then all nine of them linked arms and together they ran, hand in hand to the finish line. Everyone in the stadium stood, and the cheering went on for several minutes.

Yes, God has given us the grace to run this race, but He wants us to encourage one another.  We do encounter difficulties and challenges in our spiritual journey, which in one way or another, affect us all mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  As a result, we are being ‘disabled’ to run the race ourselves. We do need to ‘hold hands’, so to speak, to run together to the finish line.

The Christian life is not just about ‘winning’ the race for ourselves – selfishly ‘ownself cares for ownself’. No! No! No! No place for the spirit of “kiasu” (afraid of losing), “kiasi” (afraid of dying) and “kiabo” (afraid of having nothing).  The Christian life is about helping one another to finish the race, to run to the finish line. (cf. Hebrews 10:24-25). May God help us.

Rev. Eddy Lim

The Tomb that needs no sweeping

Qing Ming Jie is the time of the year where people who observe it go to the tombs of their ancestors to remember those who are no longer living. It is a common practice for families to offer prayers, food, paper models/monies and joss sticks to the departed during these visits. Part of the goal of such visits is to “sweep” the tombs.

I am reminded of another important day which we observe during this same period. Christians remember the death of Jesus on Good Friday and the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. We also remember a tomb, but we remember an empty tomb.

Both Qing Ming Jie and Easter provide us with an excellent pause to consider the topics of death and life beyond this world.

The swept tombs during Qing Ming Jie do tell us something about life and death, the empty tomb in the Easter Story on the other hand tells us more.

- Through the swept tomb, we are reminded of the need to honor our ancestors and by extension our elders, in their death. Through the empty tomb, we are commanded to honor and love those around us, in life (Exodus 20:12, Mark 12:31).

- Through the swept tomb, we catch a glimpse of the care and love of living family members for those who have departed in the offering of yearly sacrifices. Through the empty tomb, we see human’s greatest need being eternally met in the risen Savior Jesus, who gave His life as a once-for-all sacrifice to decisively defeat sin and death (1 Cor 15:55-57).

- Through the swept tomb, we recall the good life of those who had departed and the need to uphold the legacy they left behind. Through the empty tomb, we are told of the One who lived a perfect life and died a perfect death so that all who believe in Him become joint-heirs with Christ, sharing in both His sufferings and His glory (Rom 8:17).

- Through the swept tomb, we are confronted with the brevity of life and by extension, our mortality. Through the empty tomb, we are reminded of the eternality of our souls and the decisions which determine their ultimate destination (Matt 10:28).

This season, let us conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the glorious hope we have in Jesus, the Risen Savior who left behind an empty tomb, one that needs no sweeping.

“..but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect..” 1 Pet 3:15

Dn. Gideon Loh

Guardians of the Earth

A huge animal recently appeared in the news on 18 March 2019. A whale was found dead in Philippines, despite earlier attempts by local authorities and fishermen to draw it back to the sea when it was found stranded in shallow waters. It was later discovered that the dehydrated whale had died of starvation because it had 40kg of plastic in its stomach, which made it impossible for the whale to eat or drink.

How do we, as Christians, view such news?

The Bible tells us that God created the world (Gen 1) and that the world belongs to Him. Till today, He provides and cares for His creation (Ps 104:10-14, Lk 12:6). The Bible also tells us that after creating mankind, “the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it (“abad” in Hebrew) and keep it (“shamar” in Hebrew).” (Gen 2:15)

“Shamar” generally has the sense of protecting, watching closely, and guarding (see “keep” in Num 6:4), while “abad” has the sense of serving (Gen 29:18) and cultivating (Gen 4:12). Interestingly, this same pair of words appeared again in Numbers 3:7-8, describing the duties of the Levites: the Levites are to “keep guard” (“shamar”) over the needs of the priesthood and the furnishings of the tent of meeting, as they “minister” (“abad”) or do the work at the tabernacle. If this is so, then Genesis 2:15 is saying that God gave us the responsibility to steward, protect and watch over His “good” creation.

Sadly, in another news article published a few days earlier, on 15 March 2019, scientists have estimated that the world population of less than 8 billion people produces around 300 billion kilograms of plastic waste annually, and half of them were used only once (i.e. single-use plastic). In 2017 alone, Singapore produced around 815 million kilograms of plastic waste with a population of around 5 million. Since plastic is not biodegradable, this plastic waste has simply ended up in slums and dumpsites overseas, in the bellies of sea creatures, or disintegrated into micro-plastic and winding up in fishes and crustaceans that we later consume.

In light of Genesis 2:15, will you join me in making baby steps as Guardians of The Earth by reducing our use of single-use plastic? Let us be good stewards of this earth that God has created. Let us learn from our Saviour Jesus Christ, who sacrificed His comfort and convenience for the salvation of mere creatures like us. Let us resist the temptation to prioritize our convenience over the wellbeing of those under our care. Let us work hard to care for one another, and for the “good” earth that God has created.

Mrs. Grace Gan

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References:

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/dead-whale-in-philippines-had-40kg-of-plastic-in-stomach-11355714  

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/nations-set-to-agree--significant--plastic-cuts-11349248

http://www.plasticfreechallenge.org/what-is-single-use-plastic 

 


Always Have a Long-Term View

The noted British economist, John Maynard Keynes, is famous for his quote, “In the long run we are all dead.” He wrote this in the context of refuting other economists’ view that governments should not interfere with the economy, as in the long run it will stabilise itself out. While Keynes was not specifically thinking about spiritual things, ironically his comment does have a ring of truth to it.  

We are often more concerned about our short-term circumstances than our long-term relationship with God. In Luke 13:1–5, some people asked Jesus about the Galileans who were massacred while sacrificing in the temple. Such tragic circumstances led them to question if these people were especially sinful and this was why God allowed them to die in such a terrible way.

But Jesus’ response clearly rejected this belief that bad things are always happening to bad people and that good people will escape such an end. Jesus even continues to emphasize the seriousness of His rejection by referring to another tragic accident, where a tower in Siloam collapsed and killed those who were inside. He went on to warn His audience that in the long run, they will also perish, unless they repent.

Whenever we are met with bad news, we tend to think that God is punishing us for some sin in our lives. This thinking assumes incorrectly that we can maintain our “goodness” such that God will not visit us with punishment. I recently saw on the news that a lady in Japan has been officially acknowledged to be the oldest person in the world at 116. If the idea that bad things only happen to bad people is true, then this lady must be the godliest person in the world!

However, if we dare to admit it, regardless of how long we live in this world, “in the long run we are all dead.” The fact is that we do not even know when we will die. That is why Jesus was so serious in His warning to repent or perish. While we have the time that God has so graciously given us, we ought to make sure that we are right with Him. And according to the Scriptures, no one comes to the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6).

If we think it is unjust that bad things can happen to good people, we must realise that this only happened once in the history of the world. There is only one person who can be called good, and He is Jesus Christ.

Dn. Mervin Lin

Lent?

Lent?

It’s a shrug.

That’s the reaction I guess I’d get if I were to ask millennials what Lent meant to them. I’m also pretty sure that that would be the reaction of most twenty-first century Christians, especially, those who don’t have traditional liturgical worship experiences.

So, a little introduction...

Lent is the 40 days before Good Friday, always starting on what is called “Ash Wednesday.” (Though Eastern and Western Christian traditions count it differently.) The 40 days are traditionally observed by the faithful to prepare for Good Friday, the holiest day of the year.

Christians who observe Lent use it as a time for prayer and devout reflection. Preparation for Good Friday would also involve fasting and more time in prayerful meditation on Jesus’ sacrifice. Some will forgo (at least temporarily) some hobbies, some kinds of food, or activities such as staying off social media, mobile phones, etc.

Why 40 days?

After his baptism, Jesus withdrew to the Judean desert and fasted for 40 days and nights. And when he was in a physically weakened state, Satan came to tempt him to try to frustrate His mission on earth. He didn’t fail us. So, by observing Lent, Christians are remembering the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Lent, sadly, is a little off our radar in our culture today, as it stands for things we have little time to think about.

You might want to spend the next few weeks praying more often than usual, attending church more often, reflecting more deeply on the human propensity to sin, and stepping up your efforts to be holy.

It is important however to keep in mind an important point: you don’t “do” Lent to earn grace or get more merit points of salvation. You do it simply to remember and appreciate more deeply Jesus’ sacrifice, and thereby, thank Him for all He has done for you.

How you observe Lent depends on how traditional you like your Christianity. However, let us choose to observe Lent as we should never want to stop being grateful to Jesus Christ for He“offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins” and is now “at the right hand of God interceding for us.”

Rev. Robert Chew

Are You Abiding In Christ?

In John chapter 15, Jesus spoke directly to the needs of His disciples who will believe in Him following His departure. His message touches upon the issue of discipleship which involves clear instructions for how they ought to live and survive among antagonistic Jewish leaders and suspicious Roman authorities. His definition of the Christian experience is often held in sharp contrast to those of our own.

To many of us, the Christian experience is simply about believing the right things about God. Or, it is a matter of living a Christ-like life. However, we often left out the most important aspect which is the mystical, spiritual, and internal dimension. I believe this is precisely what our Lord is talking about when He uses the image of the vine to illustrate the reality of the Christian experience.  

How do we know that we are intimately connected to Jesus Christ? Jesus Himself gave us three   practical ways.

First, a true disciple must be vitally connected to Jesus and His Word, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you …” (Jn. 15:7a).  To abide in His word practically means that Jesus’ words take root in the disciples’ hearts so as to govern their attitudes and actions. It is a growing absorption of Jesus’ teaching that will transform their lives.

Second, because of this growing conformity to Jesus’ teaching, His disciples will be effective in their prayers, since these will be uttered in accordance with God’s will, “ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (Jn. 15: 7b). Those whose lives are so in harmony with Jesus will find their prayers controlled by His word, and such prayers will be answered and bring added glory to God.

Finally, a true disciple will remain in Jesus’ love (Jn. 15: 9, 10). Here Jesus simply tells them, “Make your dwelling in my love” (v. 9b), that is, “Make my love for you be your very identity”. Who are you? You are those whom Jesus loved. This will always show in their love for one another (Jn. 15:12, 17).

The person who is thus attached to Christ in His Word, prayer and love will inevitably produce more and more fruits. Thus, the issue is not about fruit-bearing itself. It is about whether we are vitally and intimately attached to Jesus Christ, the True Vine.

There is no higher goal for us to strive for than this.

Rev. Mark Tay

A Report on Grey Matters Bonding & Training Session on Saturday, 23 February 2019

CARING WITH COMPASSION BEFRIENDING WITH LOVE

THIRTY-four Moriah BPC Grey Matters volunteers and our community partners - the South East Community Development Center (SECDC) and the Changi General Hospital (CGH) - met in the Mandarin Sanctuary for a time of bonding and training. Highlights of this session are:

- Sharing by various teams of volunteers on their experiences in meeting with and befriending their respective befriendees. Altogether nine teams have been visiting their befriendees and two more will start in March.

- Pastor Robert Chew gave a talk on Christian values in volunteerism.

- Cheryl, the community manager from the CGH gave a presentation on Depression - How to detect and handle it.

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Written by Ms Ip Lee Lee and Rev Robert Chew. Photos from Dn Kenny Khoo

Can God be angry with me?

God is love. God is gracious. God is merciful.

 

But there is also the other side. God is angry with our sins, angry with our disobedience and with our hardened hearts. He is offended, He abhors all our fornications and sins, His wrath is dreadfully provoked by them. Yes, God is love and full of grace but we take lightly the truth that He is also our Righteous Judge - One who will surely return to judge both the living and the dead.

 

Time and time again He has invited the sinner to repent.

 

Ezekiel 14:6 “”…. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices.””

 

Acts 3:19Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord”

 

Do we expect God to justify His actions? He has every right to let the fire of hell consume the sinner. The sinner stands at the very brink, hanging by the thread of his life, between the fire of eternal hell and eternal salvation.

 

Joshua 7:15He who is caught with the devoted things (idols) shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the LORD and has done a disgraceful thing in Israel.”

 

Are we disturbed by the wrath of God and the severity of God’s anger and punishment?  Our problem is that we don’t think that sin or breaking God’s covenant are such big deals. We cannot understand Jesus when He tells us we should be willing to go to the extreme to avoid sin. (Matt 5:29-30)

 

Our reflection then is “We must not take the wrath of God lightly”. So, be careful then as to how we should tread our paths, lest we anger God. We will do well if we heed this instruction in Galatians 5:16Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

Elder Handson Fu

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