How To Pray?

I remember as a young Christian, being very nervous about being asked to pray before a meeting or even saying grace before a meal. Today, although I am used to praying in public, it can still be an unnerving thing to be asked to do it suddenly. On the other hand, we all have heard before how important it is to have a healthy private prayer life. 

However, we still struggle to pray regularly. Perhaps we remember to pray right after we lie down at night in bed, but end up falling asleep before we can say, “Amen.”

There is something about prayer that makes it difficult for us to take up naturally. For most people, I think it is the fear of not knowing what to say or saying the wrong things, due to a lack of confidence in one’s own ability. As for private prayer, we sometimes do not know what to pray for, except to petition about our own needs. This is expected, because prayer is an activity that is unnatural to the old self. Nevertheless, prayer is crucial to continuing in the Christian life (Rom. 8:15).

In the Gospels, Jesus taught that prayer is not to be used to impress others of one’s piousness (Matt. 6:5–6). If we are called upon to pray in public, our attitudes should be the same as if we are praying in private. We should not be anxious about what other people think. Jesus also taught that it is wrong to pray lengthy prayers with the hope that it will manipulate God into answering them (Matt. 6:7–8). When we pray, we ought to be trusting our Father to hear us, rather than our own eloquence or fervour. 

The best way to improve our prayers is to be immersed in the Word. The Psalms is a good place to learn how to pray. It contains not just prayers of praise and thanksgiving, but prayers of lament as well. Of course, the Lord’s Prayer is a good example of how we ought to pray.

Regardless of how “well” we pray, the Holy Spirit must intercede because we are weak and without discernment. He prays on our behalf that which is in perfect accordance with God’s will (Rom. 8:26–27). Therefore, my friends, please go forth and pray confidently without hesitation. The Holy Spirit is here to help you, even without your knowledge.

Dn. Mervin Lin

A Tribute of Praise to All Our Mothers

The abuse of women in the family is a manifestation of the sexual illness of our society. We live in a sex-diseased society that has developed multi-fold ways to debase women. Movies and TV focus on rape, violence, and “use” of women. One fourth of all the sex images in “cybersex” involve the torture of women. Virtually everyone agrees all this is terrible, but no one does anything, and “good” people still take part. 

Christian must separate themselves from such “entertainment” and from such treatment of women. As Paul said, it “must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” (Eph. 5:3). 
   
It is time for Christians to speak strongly for justice of women. Christian men have a responsibility to support all women, single or married, without being patronizing in the process and without turning the responsibility into an opportunity for sexual exploitation. As such, I am convinced that we must not only speak up for them, but we must also honour them especially on such an occasion as the Mothers’ Day.
   
I read recently in our Straits Times about a wonderful woman who quit her job to take care of her daughter who suffered from a neuro-muscular disease and was not expected to live beyond twelve years old. 

With tender care and a mother’s unconditional love, Madam Yong raised her daughter beyond all human expectations.  Madam Yong, who got divorced when her daughter, Vivian was just three, said, “I am with her every minute, every second. I’ll shower her with love and make every day a happy one so that she can live longer in this world.”  Yes, what a fantastic mother! 

What a refreshing and challenging story! She deserves to be praised and honoured by all Singaporeans! I wonder what if the roles of the mother and daughter were reversed. Or for that matter, what if you have a mother who is totally bedridden, would you take good care of her? Like Madam Yong, would you say, “I will shower my mother with love and make every day a happy one so that she can live longer in this world”? 

I wish all our mothers and grandmothers a blessed and joyous Mothers’ Day. We thank God for your labour and sacrifices of love to bring us into the world and nurture us to be decent and honourable citizens and above all to teach us in the ways of the Lord.

Rev. Mark Tay

The Face of Kindness

Do we have it? How do we show it?

Conflicts, disagreements, and differences are unavoidable. Of course, they occur not only in godless societies but also in every community of faith.

The issue for the Christian who wants to follow Christ is: What should our reaction be? How should we respond?

The apostle Paul enjoins us to be “Be kind and compassionate to one another” (Eph 4:32, NIV here and after). 

The adjective “kind” here ranges in meaning from “fit for use, useful, mild, pleasant, benevolent” (Thayer). The verb form is used in 1 Corinthians 13:4 in relation to the subject of love: “Love is patient, love is kind.”

This latter reference puts the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the Christian to show himself or herself to be “mild, kind, or use kindness” (Thayer)

Jesus taught more elaborately on this.
In Matthew 5, he says this: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (v. 23-24).

And in Matthew 18, “If your brother or sister (fellow believers) sins (against you – in some manuscripts), go and point out their fault, just between the two of you (v. 15).

The significant implication is the teaching that whether you are the offending party (as in Matthew 5) or the offended party (as in Matthew 18) you take the initiative to go and seek reconciliation. 

On Matthew 5:23, Adam Clarke commented that “A Christian, properly speaking, cannot be an enemy to any man; nor is he to consider any man his enemy.” 

The ancient “fathers” of our faith taught this:
A gift offered to God is not acceptable unless the giver puts aside his or her anger and becomes reconciled to the brother (Chromatius). One who hates is akin to a murderer (Theodore of Heraclea). Jesus does not receive the sacrifice of worship without the sacrifice of love. Not before or later but precisely while the very gift is lying there, when the sacrifice is already beginning, he sends you to be reconciled to your brother (Chrysostom). One who does not love one’s brother does not love the Lord (Cyril of Alexandria). Let brotherly peace come first, before one approaches the altar (Jerome, Augustine)

This is the way we show the face of kindness.

Pastor Robert Chew

Do you understand what you are reading?

It is often assumed that Bible reading, and Bible study are the same thing. On the contrary, they are really very different. Bible reading goes through a number of verses or even chapters for a general sense of what the Scripture contains. Bible study requires one to pause and reflect on the text. A deeper level of engagement is required to understand what is going on in the passage. 

Another difference is the requirement of resources apart from the Bible itself to help us understand the historical and cultural context related to the passage. I know some Christians who disagree with this. They make the claim that they rely only on the Spirit for understanding as they interact with the Word. Indeed, it is true that without the Spirit, we cannot understand the Word (Acts 16:14). However, the Spirit has also worked in the lives of many people who have dedicated their careers to develop expertise related to the Scriptures. As a result, they have produced all kinds of study Bibles, commentaries, concordances and Bible dictionaries to help us. We may not be able to get the same level of insight from a passage as someone who has spent decades working on it. It is my opinion that the Spirit can guide us through the expertise of others.

In Acts 8:26–40, the Spirit led Philip supernaturally to the Ethiopian Eunuch to guide him in understanding Isaiah 53:7–8. The Eunuch was mediating on this text probably for a very long time. He knew what it was saying, but he could not understand what it meant. Despite all the supernatural acts happening before and after this incident, the Holy Spirit still used the ordinary means of a human teacher to help the Eunuch. Philip himself, was someone who had previously been taught by the Apostles about the fulfillment of the Old Testament by Jesus our Lord (Luke 24:44–45; Acts 5:42). Therefore, we should not ignore the fact that God has given us teachers to equip us for the ministry and build up the church (Ephesians 4:11–12).

Are you studying the Bible today? Why not join the Sunday Bible Classes that start at 11:15am and begin to store up His word (Proverbs 2:1, NIV)? For “then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:5, ESV) 

Dn. Mervin Lin

A dialogue between the senior devil, Screwtape and a junior devil, Wormwood

(inspired by C. S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters)

My Dear Wormwood.. 

I see that Moriah is growing and people are stepping up to focus on their walk with the Enemy… We have to stop them.. here is our strategy again. 

Celebrate Consumerism 
Let them compare, from music to message to ministry.
Let them despise what they already have in the church.
Let them abuse the term “universal church”; so long as they remain in the “universal church”, it does not really matter which local church they worship and serve in. Let them believe that. 
In fact, if there is a way for them to downplay the church membership thing, make them think that there is no real need to be part of a local church membership. That way, it remains easier for them to leave when the “going gets tough”!

Cultivate Callousness
When they do stay in this church, let them just worship and go home. 
Encourage spirits of indifference, nonchalance and coldness towards everything in the church. 

Starve them of the Enemy’s instructions, that is known to revive their hearts. 
Let them misunderstand “salvation by faith alone”. No work equals no service!  
When they are approached to serve in the ministry, make them think that they are not good enough, that they are too old, too young, too busy, that they are focusing on their family, anything to make them say no. Because if lesser people are serving, the slower they will grow. We need more to suffer burnout so the church remains weak. 
You know what, let them understand “waiting on God” as sitting and not doing anything, this will keep their service at bay.

Create Confusion
If all else fails, let them serve and let them treat ministry as the ends. 
Make them focus on ministry alone and neglect Christ. 
Help them focus on numbers, activities and events and neglect the people. 
Every time they serve, help them to serve out of convenience and comfort. 
When they do see success, make that about themselves, don’t stop them, make them proud and make the ministry attractive and desirable. Cause the leaders to fight amongst themselves for credits. Cause them to be divided on non-issues. 

So long as we can keep them fighting, they will be distracted from their mission... and many will be isolated .. and when they are alone… they will be easy targets for us. Now go get them!

Your Uncle, 
Screwtape

(This week's article has been contributed by Dn. Gideon Loh) 
 

Pastoral letter - 15 April 2018

Dearly beloved of the Lord, members and friends who worship at Moriah and Sembawang, greetings to you in Jesus’ most majestic Name.

I write to urge you – members and friends - to take the time and make the effort to come and attend the church’s annual congregation meeting next Sunday 22 April 2018, which will start at 12.30PM.

In our busy lives, we are easily tempted to view our attendance as unimportant because it’s just another dull and mundane statutory routine. I would like to dissuade you from this view (if indeed it is your view), and strongly urge you to attend. 

There are three reasons why I am doing so. They are:

       1.  For both friends and members: it is for you to receive the annual report and be made aware of how God had blessed this church over the year. On a week to week basis, it may be easy for us to miss the not-so-visible blessings that God had showered on us. He is working and we are working – we have new developments, new areas of ministry, and a sense of revival and direction to share with you that will impact our future. What is important here is for you to review these with us and prayerfully seek God of a role in which you can be an active participant to minister God’s grace one to another.

       2. For members: It is the (re)election of elders and deacons to serve in the church. Here, it is your godly duty to exercise your right to vote for leaders to serve you. The apostles showed us in the book of Acts that this was an exercise they entered into solemnly, and with prayer, and full participation of the members of the early church. We should not do less or be flippant about this matter.

       3. The budget: It is for the general body to receive and approve the annual budget. The church’s proposed budget is by its nature, a statement of intent – ministry intent – where resources are allocated and what they will be used for. This is of importance to you and you have the right to be heard.

With the grace of God we can together aim to mature and attain to the fullness of Christ here in His church.

Sincerely in Christ,

Rev. Robert Chew

How we can approach the election of leaders for the church

As our Annual Congregational Meeting (ACM) is around the corner, I am thankful that several members from our Moriah congregation have stepped up to serve as elder and deacons. At that ACM, they will be presented for election. I am thankful because this shows that God is working in our three congregations to provide leadership and care for His church.  Though our membership is small compared to the mega-churches, yet God is not looking at the quantity but the quality and health of the body of Christ. For our church to be vibrant and dynamic, she must have good people to take the lead. 

The importance of leadership succession was underscored to us recently by the way our present government identifies suitable candidates to lead Singapore into the next generation. Likewise our church should not take leadership succession for granted. But what are some basic qualities that we should look for in our leaders? 

   The Apostle Peter gave us a few to look for in 1Peter 5:1-4:
   1. They must be willing to lead - “not under compulsion, but willingly”
   2. They must be eager to serve - “not for shameful gain, but eagerly”
   3.    They must be an example to the church - “not domineering… but being examples”   
   
As an incentive, they will receive their reward if they do well, “And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

Therefore, I would urge all members to come and give your support to those who have willingly stepped forward to serve in their respective capacity as elder or deacon. However, I also urge you to pray earnestly for each one of them. 

The author of Hebrews asked the church to pray for him and his team: “Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things” (Heb. 13:18). Sometimes when we are in need, we expect our leaders to come and pray for us immediately. Somehow we think that our leaders are spiritual giants and do not need our prayers. But we are wrong. Leaders need our prayers too. In fact we should pray more earnestly for our leaders so that they will be able to do God’s work with great power and effectiveness to the glory of God.


Rev. Mark Tay

Hallelujah! The Lord has risen!

God is the creator, giver and sustainer of life; the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead affirms this truth.

According to Jesus, His resurrection was the “sign from heaven” that authenticated His ministry (Matthew 16:1–4) and the proof that He had authority over even the temple in Jerusalem (John 2:18–22). The resurrection of Jesus Christ, attested to by hundreds of eyewitnesses (1 Corinthians 15:3–8), provides irrefutable proof that He is the Saviour of the world.

Today, with joy and thanksgiving we celebrate Jesus’ victory over death! His victory witnesses and confirms these truths:

  • The immense power of God Himself
  • That Jesus is truly the Son of God and Messiah
  • That He was sinless and He is fully God
  • It also validates the Old Testament prophecies that foretold of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection.

Jesus is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). In other words, Jesus led the way in life after death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is important as a testimony to the resurrection of human beings, which is a basic tenet of the Christian faith.

The Word of God guarantees the believer’s resurrection at the coming of Jesus Christ for His church at the rapture. Such assurance results in a great song of triumph as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 

The resurrection is the triumphant and glorious victory for every believer.

Hallelujah! The Lord has risen!

When Jesus Christ shed his blood on the cross, 
it was not the blood of a martyr; 
or the blood of one man for another; 
it was the life of God poured out to redeem the world.
- Oswald Chambers 

Pastor Robert Chew

About The Lord’s Supper and How to Approach It 

In the Last Supper – a Passover celebration – Jesus took a loaf of bread and gave thanks to God. As He broke it and gave it to His disciples, He said, “’This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’” (Luke 22:19-21). He concluded the feast by singing a hymn (Matthew 26:30), and they went out into the night to the Mount of Olives. It was there that Jesus was betrayed, as predicted, by Judas. The following day He was crucified.

The Lord’s Supper was ordained for us to “do ... in remembrance of me.” There are no specific instructions regarding how frequently we are to do this, except for the apostle Paul’s advice to do it “often” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

In that epistle Paul also warned believers not to eat and drink the Lord’s Supper unworthily:   

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Cor 11:27-29)

The Lord’s Supper was instituted by Jesus Himself during the age-old celebration of the Passover on the eve of His death. Thus, He instituted a significant new fellowship meal that we observe to this day. It is an integral part of Christian worship. Its purpose is: to cause us to remember our Lord’s death and resurrection and to look for His glorious return in the future.

We may ask what it means to partake of the bread and the cup “in an unworthy manner.” It may mean to disregard the true meaning of the bread and cup and to forget the tremendous price our Saviour paid for our salvation. Or it may mean to allow the ceremony to become a dead and formal ritual or to come to the Lord’s Supper with unconfessed sin. 

So, in keeping with Paul’s instruction, we should examine ourselves before eating the bread and drinking the cup.

Pastor Robert 

Jesus' Death: Victim or Victor?

As we come to the week of Good Friday and Easter, let us take time to think of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Did He die a victim of his circumstances? Was his death an accident, a humiliating defeat? A theologian once said, “He who understands the Cross aright … understands the Bible, he understands Jesus Christ.” 

On the surface, Jesus suffered not only death, but a humiliating one at that! He experienced a type of execution reserved only for notorious criminals. It was a slow and painful death. Add to this ignominy, we have the mockery and taunting by the crowds, the abuse by the religious leaders and the Roman soldiers! His status as a prophet was challenged before the high priest: “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?” His kingship was mocked by the inscription put on the cross (“The King of the Jews”) and by the taunts of the soldiers. His priestly role was challenged by the scoffing remarks of the rulers: “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God … “(Lk. 23:35). Thus the crucifixion was a contradiction to everything he claimed for himself. 

Evil seemed to have triumphed: the powers of darkness appeared to have defeated Jesus. Death seemed to be the end of his mission; he had failed in his task. No longer would disciples heed his teachings and obey his commands, for they all left him. His voice was stilled, so that he could no longer preach and teach, and his body was lifeless, unable to heal, raise from the dead, and quiet the storms. But is that so? 

If we look closer at all the circumstances surrounding his last hours on earth, we will get a picture of a calm and composed figure who is in absolute control of his entire situation. From the start of the week before his crucifixion, Jesus demonstrated that he was on top of his circumstances. He directly ordered Judas the betrayer, "What you are going to do, do quickly" (Jn. 13:27). To Pilate, Jesus said, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (Jn. 19:11). Finally on the cross, Jesus cried out, “‘It is finished,’" and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (Jn. 19:30). This is a cry of victory in the hour of defeat!     

No, the cross is not a symbol of defeat or tragic death of an innocent victim! It is by his death that Jesus conquered sin, death and the devil for us. Paul sums up it well, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col. 2:15). Let us approach Good Friday with thanksgiving and reverence as we celebrate the triumphant death of our Lord Jesus Christ .

Rev. Mark Tay

Mountain Top Serenity, Valley Floor Reality

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

What should we think about on this the 3rd Sunday of Lent?

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 Great Divide or The Great Unite?

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

My Thought for You for this Chinese New Year

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

Are We Too Easily Pleased?

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

Asia Biblical Theological Seminary's Scholar Series

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 vincenth@abts.asia or by phone at 6776-3007 or 9121-4347.

Schreiner Singapore Flyer 2018-1.jpg

Making Bible Geography Meaningful

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.

From Grace to Works: A Story

“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

How To Pray Like Paul

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