Jesus’ mission to earth had its “ups and downs.” There were the multitudes who flocked to hear Him preach the Kingdom of Heaven, repentance from sin, and the love and forgiveness of God. He gave healing to the sick, the lame, the blind, the lepers and the demon-possessed. Crowds followed Him everywhere He went. But there were detractors as well, and strong opposition from “the powers that be” in the form of the Jewish religious establishment. Sadly, too, some earlier followers got disappointed when His preaching proved too strong and forthright for them and “many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him” (John 6:66).
Jesus saw from the start the route and goal of the mission to which He was sent by the Father, and He was determined to carry it out to the end. And “when the time was come that He should be received up, He stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). This refers to His impending arrest, trial and crucifixion, which He knew He had to undergo, to give His life as “a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45), in fulfilment of His mission “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). His disciples tried to dissuade Him from going. In the garden of Gethsemane He struggled in prayer, if it were possible, for the Father to remove “this cup” of extreme suffering from Him –till His sweat rolled down like “great drops of blood” (Luke 22:42-44). But, He had already “set His face” towards the goal of mankind’s redemption and there was no going back.
There was the sublime moment on the mountain top, shared by disciples Peter, John and James, when Jesus was “transfigured” (transformed in appearance) with white, glistening clothes - and there appeared Moses and Elijah – two of the greatest men of God in the Old Testament – in conference with Jesus, on the mission He was to accomplish at Jerusalem. It was such a glorious moment that Peter wanted to set up camp for them to stay on! (Luke 9:28-37).
But the disciples were “brought back to earth” by the reality that awaited the Saviour, as they came down to the “valley floor” - to an immediate need and task at hand, and more to follow.. to the “grime and grind” leading to the Cross. And how He wept over Jerusalem: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38).
Yes, “I want to live above the world, Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled.” At the same time, “Down in the valley with my Saviour I would go, Where the storms are sweeping and the dark waters flow.” May God grant us grace sufficient for both.
Elder Phua Chor Kok
Today, 4 March 2018 is the third Sunday of Lent. Both Exodus 20:1-17 on the Ten Commandments and John 2:13-25 on the Passover are offered as lections for our reflection.
I’d take only the Exodus passage for consideration; the first 6 verses are:
And God spoke all these words: 2“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3“You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (NIV)
The Ten Commandments was God’s direct address to Israel: “God spoke all these words.”
This is important for an appropriate understanding: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
This opening word accomplishes at least two things:
- It keeps the commandments personally oriented; “I am the Lord your (singular) God.”
- Obedience to the commandments is relational; these are words given to you by your God.
The law is a gift of God who has redeemed you. The law begins with good news about what God has done on behalf of “you” as a member of the community of faith. God’s saving actions have drawn you into a new kind of life and blessing, to which the you must respond by ordering your lives accordingly.
Verse 3: “You shall have no other gods before me” introduces the commandments and gives shape to all the others; idolatry is the focus.
But how will we define idolatry?
It commonly refers to material images; the story of the golden calf comes to mind. But “no other gods” could also include any person, place, or thing that we hold to be more important or as important as God. These “other gods” could also include money, property, fame, power – the list can be long. The command is to be absolutely loyal to God.
Our relationship with God today should be governed by this rule: “no other gods.”
Pastor Robert Chew
The building of walls for protection and security is not a recent phenomenon. In ancient times, the Romans and Chinese had walls and fortifications to keep the invaders out. Today the reasons for building walls are more for other reasons than for the security of one’s borders.
In an effort to keep themselves free from spiritual and moral contamination, the Jews had built a dividing wall in their sacred temple. In his The Jewish War, the Jewish historian Josephus describes the wall separating the Court of the Gentiles from the inner courts of the temple:
When you go through these cloisters, to the second temple, there was a partition made of stone all around … declaring the law of purity, some in Greek and some in Roman letters, that “no foreigner should go within that Sanctuary …”
In fact, in the last century archaeologists discovered two stone inscriptions – warning signs in Greek that once stood in the wall of separation which read, “No foreigner may enter within the barrier and enclosure round the temple. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.”
Though this wall was meant to preserve the Jewish people from moral and spiritual corruption, it soon became a divider that alienated the Gentiles, who were meant to receive God’s blessing through the Jewish nation (Gen. 12:2, 3; 26:4). The Law and the sacrificial system had marked God’s path of holy living for the Jews. Yet Gentiles stood outside the gate, aliens to the promises, foreigners to the covenants, and dejected outcasts from the knowledge of God. All of that changed when Christ tore down the wall and began building a new temple (Eph. 2:14; 21-22). What a glorious truth! Christ alone is peace personified. In Christ, every believer shares a common union of peace with each other: whether Jew or Gentile; male or female; black, white, Asian, or Hispanic; rich or poor; educated or uneducated; strong or weak; low or high caste. The racial, ethnic, political, social, and economic dividers that cause so much conflict in our world fade into oblivion when the Son of God brings spiritual peace and reconciliation.
Having known this truth, are you living like it? Are you building on the foundation Christ has laid? Are you doing the hard things, like making peace with people with whom you’ve had conflicts, providing for the needs of people you may not know, or nourishing the faith of people you may not particularly like? Are you building the old “dividing wall” again which Christ had demolished? No, we must learn to live in harmony and love with other believers, which includes learning to like the unlikeable and even love the unlovable (Eph. 5:1, 2)
Rev. Mark Tay
What has the Chinese New Year got to do with the Fifth Commandment?
First, a quick word on the Fifth: Honouring our parents is one way we honour and love God. (Exod 20:12) Honouring parents was tied to the promise of a land that would belong both to parents and their descendants. For Old Testament believers, living and flourishing in the Promised Land was contingent upon obeying God's commandments. Children were included in God's covenant with Israel thus they too were called to obey God in order to live in the Promised Land.
A popular Chinese proverb says: “When you drink water, remember the source.” This reflects the deep respect that many Asians traditionally have for their parents. This plays an important role in Chinese New Year’s observance.
Love and respect for parents are important to Christians. The divine counsel is: “Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” (Prov. 23:22).
The Bible also speaks highly of holding family gatherings. (See for example Job 1:4 and Luke 15:22-24). But the Lord God commands us not to practise “divination or tell fortunes, or make inquires of the dead.” (See Deut. 18:10-12)
Why this prohibition? Because the Bible reveals the true condition of the dead:
For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun. (Ecc 9:5-6)
Since the dead “know nothing” and can “no more share in all that is done under the sun” they cannot help or harm us. So out of love for God, Christians should avoid any customs that involve the worship of family “spirits” or seek to gain their protection.
On the other hand, Christians should honour “the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” (Eph. 3:15)
Hence, when considering Lunar New Year customs, we do well to ask: How does God view these customs? Do they have his approval? “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)
A blessed time to one and all.
Pastor Robert Chew
Through the work of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Christians have been given every necessary spiritual blessing. The Apostle Paul describes this wealth in one long sentence in Ephesians 1:3-14. But the sad part is, we scarcely realize or are too ignorant of our wealth. We have been chosen by God the Father to be his spiritual children. In Christ, our sins have been forgiven, and we have been given an inheritance that this world knows nothing about. In the Holy Spirit, we have been sealed in Christ, made secure until our final redemption when we will see the Lord face-to-face. Clearly, the magnitude of these blessings escapes us, or else we would be more consistent in living for Him than we are now. That is why Paul ends Ephesians chapter one by praying for us that we might understand the meaning and magnitude of the blessings- our hope, our riches, and God’s glorious power.
Could it be that we are too easily pleased by this world’s alluring pleasures, possessions and power? C. S. Lewis in “The Weight of Glory”, wrote:
“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
During the Chinese Lunar New Year, when Chinese meet each other, they will spontaneously wish each other with phrases like: “May the New Spring Bring You Happiness,” “Wish You Success in All Matters,” “Congratulations to Your Prosperity” (Gong Xi Fa Cai)! The Chinese people are not the only ones who desire or wish for happiness, peace, and prosperity. This is a universal pursuit. Sadly many seek it at the wrong place or in the wrong way. True peace, joy and blessings can only be found in Jesus Christ who is the Way (to God), the Truth (about God) and Life (of God) (Jn. 14:6).
Let us not be satisfied with things on earth. Let us set our sights on things above where Christ is now seated at God’s right hand (Col.3:1-4).
Rev. Mark Tay
A two-week lecture on the Book of Romans by Dr. Thomas Schreiner. He is the James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Professor of Biblical Theology since 1997 and the Associate Dean of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He holds a Doctorate from Fuller Theological Seminary and is the author of 10 books including exegetical commentaries.
To register, email ABTS coordinator Vincent Ho at email@example.com or by phone at 6776-3007 or 9121-4347.
We would like to share with you the website of our good friend, John A. Beck. (www.johnabeckauthor.com)
John earned his PhD in theology (Hebrew and Old Testament) from Trinity International University in 1997. In the years that followed, he has taught courses in Hebrew, Old Testament, and geography of the Holy Land at various colleges and universities. He is currently an independent scholar and freelance writer living in Germantown, Wisconsin.
However, he seems most in his element walking the backcountry of the Holy Land pointing out various species of plants, talking about the impact of topography on culture, and giving insights into familiar Bible stories which had eluded long-time Bible readers.
He spends a portion of each year teaching in Israel for Jerusalem University College as well as offering seminars throughout the United States and the world, speaking on the value of cultural-geographical literacy for Bible readers.
“Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” - John 8:11 (ESV)
The story of the woman caught in adultery recorded in John chapter 8 is a revelation of God’s mercy toward sinners.
I find the setting very suggestive: Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, He was on Mount Olives (olive oil was used for anointing); the height of the mountain indicates the height of our Lord’s benevolence and mercy.
There, the Jewish leaders brought a woman caught in adultery to Him. They sought her death according to the law. Jesus was confronted with the dilemma of whether or not she should be forgiven, thus putting his adherence to the law to the test.
By his response, Jesus maintains both justice and meekness. Without uttering a word, Jesus’ actions condemn her accusers as he writes on the dusty ground, which bears more fruit than her accusers’ hearts of stone. They are condemned by the very law by which they accuse - a law written by the same finger of God that now writes in the dust before their eyes.
Before Jesus stood the woman - condemned to death by the law. The scribes and Pharisees who dragged her there said, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”
The law could not save her, but Jesus could. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” All the accusers fell short of the glory of God. Convicted of their own sinfulness, they left one by one. Only the trembling, guilty, repentant woman remained.
Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
The condemned sinner was forgiven and placed under grace, but then she was obligated to henceforth keep the law - to “go, and from now on sin no more.”
To be saved by grace does not relieve anyone from the duty of obedience to God’s law. Grace takes away the condemnation of the law, but it does not do away with the law.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus .
Rev. Robert Chew
Think about the last time you earnestly prayed for somebody. What did you ask for? Did you pray for God to deliver him/her from trials? To rescue him from an illness? To help her through a tough financial crisis? To enable him to find a job? To see her through a marriage breakdown?
When we compare our prayers on behalf of others with Paul’s prayers recorded in Philippians 1:9-11 or Ephesians 1:17-19, most of us cannot help but feel ashamed.
I believe Paul was a man who really knew how to pray. You cannot read about his prayers without catching his deep and heartfelt passion. How could we pray like Paul? Praying like Paul means that we must abandon the “prayer jargon” and “vain repetitions”. It means opening our hearts before the Lord, abandoning pretence, focusing on Him. It means truly believing that we enter into the very presence of God, who is listening to our words just like any person with whom we have a conversation during the day.
In the book of Philippians, Paul demonstrates to us how to pray, what to pray for, and why we pray.
First, Paul believes in the power of prayer. Hence he always prays for the Philippian church.
“… always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy” (Phil. 1:4).
Second, Paul prays specifically for his converts (Phil. 1:9-11). He did not utter vague and general prayers.
Third, Paul prays that instead of worrying (Phil 4:6, 7), instead of running here and there to seek help, we are challenged to look to God in prayer.
Finally, why should we pray? We pray because we have a risen Lord and Saviour Who hears and answers prayers (Phil. 2:9-11). And we pray because God uses the means of prayer to meet our needs.
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:” (Matt. 7:7).
Let’s resolve in our hearts to be a people of prayer that God could use us to unleash His power and glory in the world.
Rev. Mark Tay
One night Jesus told Nicodemus that for him to see the kingdom of God, he must be “born again.” Poor Nicodemus. Of course he didn’t understand this utterly out-of-this-world-statement of Jesus. Jesus clarified it for him: “no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”
This leads us to understand that to be born again means to be "born from above."
What role does the Spirit play in this regeneration?
There are two ideas about the role the Holy Spirit plays in the “new birth.”
● First, there is the idea that man is so spiritually dead that only a miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit can produce regeneration. This majority view asserts that the Spirit must operate directly -- even irresistibly -- on a sinner's heart in order to burn away the sinful nature which keeps man from accepting God's will. The direct operation of the Holy Spirit precludes His use of any medium or agency to convert the sinner, such as the word of God.
● Secondly, there is the view that the Spirit converts through the medium or agency of the word of God. Operating through the word, the Spirit accesses the hearts of men, convicts them, and causes them to come to Jesus by obeying His gospel.
Now, please be aware that the omnipotent Spirit of God could use either of these means if He so desired. It is not a question of what the Spirit has power to do – it is what He actually does.
The Scriptures teach that the Spirit operates through the word of truth which He has revealed. In every instance of conversion in the New Testament, the Spirit and the word are never separated. The word of God was taught to every person who was converted to Christ. Certainly, some miracles were performed, and there were outpourings of the Holy Spirit. Yet, each case shows that the Spirit's word had to be believed and obeyed for salvation to take place.
On knowing this, we must give ourselves to:
Hear the word, study the word, share and teach the word.
It is the means to the new life!
Pastor Robert Chew
We are already two weeks into 2018. As one journeys on, what expectations and hopes does one have? What are the memories one wants to carry forward from 2017, and which would one rather forget or do over?
Sadly, in many cases moving from one year to the next demands a lot more than turning the page on a calendar. It sometimes involves feelings of regret, even remorse. So, as we hope for good things to come, how do we deal with deeds or circumstances we wish we could undo, or at least remove from our memories? God’s Word gives us some helpful principles to consider:
Don’t let the past be in control. Realizing we have not yet “arrived,” that we still have dreams to pursue and goals to achieve, we cannot move forward by continuing to concentrate on the past. The apostle Paul wrote, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” Phil. 3:13, 14. Perhaps it is the inability to let go of past success and fame and the pressures to achieve perfection that led to the suicide of singer Kim Jong Hyun from K-pop boyband, SHINee.
Our future does not need be a carbon copy of the past. We can learn valuable lessons from the past, including our failures, but then we must not get “stuck” by giving them too much attention. Prophet Isaiah reminded his people of God’s promise, “Remember not the former things nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isa 43:18, 19).
Trust God’s power to transform. “New and improved” is a popular promise for many products. Sometimes that is what we desire for ourselves. We do not want just a minor ‘make over’ but a thorough going transformation. Paul reminds us in Romans 12:1, 2, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:1, 2).
By applying the above principles to our lives, our days ahead will indeed be filled with praise to the glory of God! .
Rev. Mark Tay
Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
- Psalm 96:1-2
What a joy it is to be here, gathered together for worship on this the first Lord’s Day!
On this day, I’d like to invite you to focus on just one thing as we journey into 2018 together. And perhaps, keep this focus for the rest of the year?
The thing I’d like for you to focus on is: Praise.
Samuel, the last of the Hebrew Judges and the first of the major prophets, tells us that “the LORD .. is worthy to be praised” (2 Sam 22:4).
He is right of course. Praising God isn’t just for God’s benefit, it’s for ours.
God doesn’t need praise because He’s insecure, we praise God because we are insecure.
There are benefits (to us) to praising God.
Praise changes the spiritual climate.
When you’re in a bad mood, begin praising God. You’ll be amazed at how the atmosphere changes. When Paul and Silas were in prison, they praised God and an earthquake freed them (Acts 16.25). A negative turned into deliverance.
Praise fulfills your primary purpose as a created being.
After Jesus performed miracles, the crowd began praising God. The Pharisees wanted to rebuke them, but Jesus said, “if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40). It is basic for creation to praise the Creator. If you don’t, you’re worshipping something else.
Praise empowers you to great deeds.
After the Apostle Peter named Jesus as the Son of God, Peter moved in astonishing power (Matthew 16.16). His great exploits began after his declaration of praise. Praise empowers you to do the same things Peter did.
Praise crucifies your pride.
We tend to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. But praise humbles us. Hebrews 13.15 calls it a “sacrifice of praise.” Sacrifice always costs us. The Apostle Paul said he died daily (1 Cor. 15.31). Praise helps you die daily so God is raised.
My prayers and good wishes to one and all for a blessed year of praise!
Pastor Robert Chew
I’m utterly amazed how quickly I’m arrived at the door of 2018. I’ve hardly blinked. But here I am, about to get a tad wiser.
At this time I usually recall Joshua 13:1
Now Joshua was old and advanced in years, and the LORD said to him, “You are old and advanced in years, and there remains yet very much land to possess.”
What an amazing thing for God to say to Joshua.
When Joshua assumed the role of leading the people to the Promised Land, the job had not been finished when he was “old and advanced in years.” God took note of his condition and came to tell him so. But God also indicated that His work cannot stop: “there remains yet very much land to possess.” His work must go on.
I ask myself, “How well have I spend my time?”
Psalm 39 gives me some perspective. In David’s complaint to God, he said, “You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you” (v. 5). He meant that to an eternal God our time on earth is brief. And He doesn’t want us to waste it. When we do, we throw away one of the most precious commodities He gives us. Each minute is an irretrievable gift — an unredeemable slice of eternity.
How shall we then wish to see each day marked with usefulness?
It is too late to mend the days that are past. The future is in our power. Let us, then, each morning, resolve to send each day into eternity clothed in love that is patient and kind; without envy, boasting or arrogance. And oh, don’t forget not to be rude, nor always insisting on your own way, nor being irritable or resentful; and not rejoice at wrongdoing, but instead rejoice with the truth.
If I learn to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things, God will be with me after I enter door into 2018.
May the grace of the Lord be with you in the coming year.
Pastor Robert Chew
And the angel said to them,
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
And suddenly there was with the angel
a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace
among those with whom he is pleased!”
- Luke 2:10, 13-14
The “good news” announced to the “shepherds out in the field” was made by one (“the”) angel—and it was good news for “all the people.”
After the sign (a swaddling-wrapped baby lying in a manger) was given to the shepherds, the angel was joined by “a multitude of the heavenly host” to praise God. This was when a further detail was added to the original announcement: there will be peace on earth among those with whom he is pleased.
What is this peace? And are “all the people” announced by the angel the same as those “with whom he is pleased”?
What is this peace?
Peace is fleeting for all the people now on earth. In fact, the opposite is true. Our lives are filled with stories of an absence of peace: wars, conflict, divisions, and all manners of oppressions.
The words that follow “on earth peace” are crucial: among those with whom he is pleased. This is not a peace that everyone on earth can experience but only those with whom God is pleased. So, with whom is God pleased? It is only those whom God has chosen to set his love upon and save through faith in his Son.
This is Christmas. This is your Christmas. It is yours when you embrace Jesus by faith – that and that only brings peace with God.
May His peace be on you all this Christmas.
Pastor Robert Chew
WHY did Jesus come? Who is Jesus? And What does He offer?
The Apostle Paul, when he wrote to the Christians at Colossae, in the very first chapter, laid out the theological perspective that answers these questions.
In first century Colossae, there were two groups of people who have departed from the truth of the gospel. One group was the Gnostics; they believed matter is evil, that flesh is evil, but spirit is good. So, their emphasis was on the supernatural rather than natural; that is, they tried to make everything more heavenly than earthly, more spiritual and less physical.
The second group were the Judaizers, who wanted to impose Jewish law on others, including Christians. Their focus was on the law and not on grace. To them, Jesus was not enough and people still had to earn their way into heaven despite Jesus' work on the cross.
So, you have a situation where people denied the deity of Jesus Christ because they deduced that because: He came in the flesh, He must be evil; therefore, He could not be from God.
Many in Colossae discounted the story of the first Christmas, because they couldn't understand God coming in the flesh. But, we do.
The Judaizers emphasized religiosity and rituals, and their skewed beliefs eventually morally bankrupted the integrity of a church.
Today, just like the people in Colossae, there are many people who are floundering. They are searching for significance. They are floundering for faith, for some type of ultimate meaning in life. They turn to psychics. They turn to astrology. They turn to anything (other than God) to find some type of direction.
However, Jesus Christ alone offers us that significance. Your life is not a meaningless journey to nowhere. Just as every thread in a tapestry has a function, so God has a plan for your life. His plan begins with you turning your life over to Jesus Christ.
So, only Jesus offers us salvation based on His work and not ours. There have been several religious leaders who have died a martyr's deaths, but only Jesus Christ died a substitutionary death for us on the cross.
The Apostle Paul said it well, when he called on us to give thanks to the Father for Jesus’ coming “qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col 1:12-14)
It doesn't do us any good for Jesus to have been born in Bethlehem unless He is also born our hearts.
Rev. Robert Chew
As I was thinking about the Christmas season, I was reminded of God’s work in the lives of Eunice, a believer and Amy, a pre-believer.
Amy, a housewife in Batam, recently expressed her desire to become a Christian. A few years back, her husband had fallen into deep financial troubles which forced him to run from his creditors. Abandoned by her husband, she worked as a private taxi operator in order to make ends meet. A friend introduced Amy to Lilian. Over the months, Amy drove Lilian around to do visitation work in her taxi. Having observed Lilian’s life and coming in contact with Lilian’s friends and church people, she was convinced of the reality of Jesus Christ. She told Lilian that she wanted to become a Christian. Please pray for Amy that she will soon come to know the Lord.
The other person is Eunice who lives in Tanjong Balai with her older sister and family. Eunice was raised in a Christian home. Her parents, came to know the Lord in the 1980s. From young, Eunice and her siblings followed their parents in the Christian faith. Recently she came to know a young man who seemed to show interest in the gospel. He attended Eunice’s church regularly. Over time, they got to know each other and seriously considered marriage. One day the young man arranged for Eunice to meet his parents who were ancestor worshippers. Her future parents-in-law told her that once she is married to their son, she could not go to church anymore but she is expected to follow their customs and worship their ancestors etc. When her turn came to speak, she told the boy’s parents that she will not under any circumstances stop worshipping Jesus or stop going to church. Though she may come from a poor home, yet she had never gone hungry or had to beg. The Lord always provided for them. With that answer, she called off the marriage. What a bold witness for Christ! The young man’s parents could never get away with such a testimony. Eunice’s radiant faith showed them what it means to love God so supremely that she is willing to give up marriage for her Saviour! The above testimonies underscore two reasons why Jesus was born.
First, He came so that Amy and others like her may come to know Him and have eternal life.
Second, Jesus came so that Eunice and others like her could show the world that Jesus Christ is worth dying for.
Let us during this season of Advent, point the world to our Saviour who was “Born that man no more may die/ Born to raise the sons of earth/ Born to give them second birth.”
Rev. Mark Tay
Some Christians insist that Christmas has pagan origins and that we should not celebrate it.
So, why do we?
The first Advent Sunday this year falls on today – December 3, 2018. “Advent” comes from the Latin “Adventus Domini” which means “arrival of the Lord.”
I have a personal story to share with you as we begin this season of Advent.
Several years ago, I got a phone call from an earnest Christian family; both husband and wife wanted to know more about our church and the Christianity we practise. They had heard that I was an ex-Catholic turned Reformed Protestant pastor – and they wanted to know more; they themselves were disenchanted former Catholics.
The initial call was followed by a series of telephone “interviews” and a face to face meeting. All this led to them and their two children coming to worship and fellowship with us.
One and a half years into their fellowship with us, they confronted me with a strong objection: I should not allow Christmas to be celebrated in our church. (“Strong” is a bit of an understatement here, they were in fact very adamant about it.)
They proffered the “standard” arguments – the tree, Santa Claus, the 25th, and the “fact” that Christmas has pagan origins, etc. – to support their objection.
Well, after many unfruitful hours of pastoral discussions, it was clear that they were not about to change their minds. So, they left, and we continue to prepare for Advent and to celebrate Christmas.
So, why we do celebrate Christmas?
First, let me say that I do empathize with some of their objections, especially some “celebrations” carried on by unsaved people. But that itself should not prevent us from celebrating God’s great gift intended for our salvation.
True, neither Jesus nor the apostles commanded that we celebrate the birth of Christ. We are given only two ordinances by which to remember Him: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. However, Jesus also never told us not to celebrate His birth.
For me personally, I celebrate – usually very quietly – because I am thankful to God for His faithfulness in fulfilling all His great promises regarding the “arrival of the Lord”. And I praise Him for the “mystery of godliness”
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. – 1 Tim 3:16
We celebrate because He was manifested, and we want gratefully to proclaim Him among the nations.
Pastor Robert Chew
From time to time I am reminded that church unity should not be taken for granted. In fact unity is not something that happens automatically. It is like a garden which requires much care and cultivation in order for the flowers and plants to grow and flourish. Unity is also very fragile; it could be easily undermined by little things like envy, rivalry, pride, selfish interests, murmuring, disagreements, gossips, criticisms etc.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians is a classic family letter. Like any family, disagreements, disputes and differences are inevitable. How does Paul resolve such disagreements in the Philippian Church? In Philippians 4:1 -3, we note Paul’s approach in handling disagreements of the two co-workers and leaders in the church.
If we want to be a healthy, growing and strong church, we must heed Paul’s instruction seriously and applying it consistently in our congregation.
Paul chose to appeal to them personally, directly and impartially (Phil. 4:2). He did not beat around the bush. He went straight to the point, in effect saying, “Hey, Euodia and Syntyche, get on with it, stop your bickering, be reconciled to each other and live in harmony.”
However, Paul did not stop there, he went one step further. He makes it clear that this discord cannot be viewed by the congregation as a personal matter. It needed the help of the whole church to resolve their differences (Phil. 4:3).
We must recognize that the task of being a mediator is not easy. We must not avoid intervening in the dispute simply because we are afraid of “meddling” or being called “busybodies.” We will bring glory to God, if we do it by bringing the parties involved to a face-to-face meeting and a heart-to-heart airing of grievances. Often it takes plenty of longsuffering patience and meekness before all the issues are resolved. Above all it requires a huge dose of God’s love that will bring about reconciliation and ‘cover a multitude of sins’ (1 Pet. 4:8).
Let us ask ourselves the following questions:
1. Are we striving to preserve the unity of our Church?
2. Are we peacemakers or troublemakers? Are we sowing seeds of peace and righteousness or seeds of discord?
3. Are we willing to forgive and ask for forgiveness? There is no unity without brokenness and humility. .
Rev. Mark Tay
I recently came across an article in The Banner of Truth (a Christian organisation dedicated to publications to promote, advance, and disseminate knowledge and understanding of the history and doctrines of the true Biblical Christian Faith.)
Below is an extract of an article, entitled Word and Prayer, first published in August 2013.
Regrettably, human ingenuity has, to a large extent, made the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church unnecessary, and the Bible expositor redundant . . . Because the teaching office has become so undervalued, an increasing number of contemporary churches are searching for administrators rather than expounders of the Word. In a growing number of cases, the church has become a business enterprise, sometimes big business. Head counting has become more important than the healing of souls. Financial income is a greater priority than faithfulness to the doctrines of the Word of God. Material prosperity appears to testify to success more than increased godliness among church members.
In the book of Acts, we saw that due to the rapid expansion of the church after Pentecost, problems arose. There was murmuring about partiality in the distribution of alms to widows. The apostles, who were responsible for the administration of all church affairs at that point, were required to take immediate remedial action to prevent the unrest escalating.
While no area of legitimate activity in the life of the church was to be neglected, nothing was to detract from the importance of preaching, with the prayerfulness necessary to produce it and sustain it.
In order to comprehend the logic behind the apostles’ actions, we need to understand the nature of the commission they had received from the Saviour. Before his ascension, he had directed them to go ‘into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature’ (Mark 16:15). It is obvious from this that preaching was intended to be the apostles’ full-time occupation. Their preaching, however, was not to be modified according to the particular environment in which they might find themselves. Jesus was specific when he sent them out in his name: ‘Go . . . and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world’ (Matt. 28:19, 20).
This sacred commission, with the Redeemer’s promise to continue with those who faithfully discharged it, obviously made such a deep and lasting impression on the apostles that they were determined to let nothing interfere with their ministry. They felt the burden of the ministry on their spirits, believing that they must devote themselves to it, without reservation.
The Lord’s praying people need to plead with God to give the church, not just able preachers, but praying preachers.
Pastor Robert Chew