On Word and Prayer

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. 

“. . . guided by the Holy Spirit, they followed a course which provides a solution .. and also enable them to priorities the work of prayer and preaching…”

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
 

Church Anniversary - A Time Of Praise and Thanksgiving

Indeed church anniversary is a time for reflection and an occasion for thanksgiving for God’s steadfast love and kindness upon us. As we look back, we should try to learn from our past; trust God for the present and looking ahead to the future.  We should not rest on our “laurels” so to speak, nor wallow in the mire of regrets, keeping in mind that what we do now, we are doing it for the future generations. We must stay relevant, vibrant and healthy so that we could be “sincere and without offence till the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10b). In order to do that, we should abound in the following practices: 

   1. Pray for one another. A praying church is a powerful church. The church at Philippi was born out of prayers. Their first two converts came to Christ through the power of prayers (see Acts 16). They became Paul’s faithful prayer partners ever since. 

   2.  Encourage. Paul believed so strongly in mutual encouragement to the extent that he exhorted the Thessalonians believers three times in his letter to them (1 Thess. 4:18, 5:11, 14). Of course, there are many ways that we could encourage one another. We could do so by words, simple acts of love, or empathizing with one another.    

   3. Support. When we encourage, we are also giving support. However, support usually shows itself in more concrete ways than encouragement. James gave an example of some people who gave words of encouragement, "Go in peace, keep warm and eat well," but “do not give them what the body needs, what good is it?” (Jas. 2:15-17 see also 1Jn. 3:17). Faith without works is dead. 

   4. Accountable. As a community of believers, we need to be one another’s keeper. We are not to be our brother’s “policeman” but we should be his or her keeper. In other words, we should be accountable to one another. We should look not on our own things, but also on the things of others (Phil. 2:4). 

   5. Serve.  Finally, we should serve one another with love. Instead of envying and criticizing one another, we should bear one another’s burdens and in so doing we fulfil the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). Jesus set the supreme example by washing his disciples’ feet (see John 13). 

In this way we show to the world that we are truly His disciples.  May God help us to be that kind of church even as we continue to be his living “stones” and “epistles” in this world. 

Rev. Mark Tay

WHY MUST WE ABIDE IN CHRIST AND WHAT BENEFITS ARE THERE TO GAIN? 

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” - John 15:1-4 (ESV)

Jesus asserts that He is the “light of the world” (John 8:12) and whoever follows him will not walk in darkness.

The Reformers in the late 16th century adopted a slogan, “Post Tebebras Lux”, (Latin for “After Darkness, Light”). This captures the crowning success of the Reformation movement, that of uncovering the gospel of Jesus and brought it back into the light.

Here in the text in John 15, He commands us to “Abide” in Him in order to be fruitful.

First note, this command is given to those who are already in HIm. Before we are in Him we were in nature (our understanding, will, affections reside in sin), and therefore, in death. To be in Him is to be in grace, which raises us above nature, purifies us and directs us to a proper end.

In nature, the “flesh” is influenced and governed by the body, its appetites and senses, and as the apostle Paul says, under the influence of “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2).

We must obey this command to abide in Jesus to come under the Spirit of Christ and come His influence and government.  

The principal benefit of abiding in Christ is He will abide in us. He abides in us:

  • By His word, teaching, instructing, directing, strengthening, supporting, encouraging, comforting us (Rom 15:4).
  • By His Spirit, in His witness as a Spirit of adoption, and in His fruits, which are “love, joy, peace,” etc. (Rom 8:15; Gal 5:22-23).
  • By the efficacy of His body and blood (John 6:56-57).
  • By His indwelling presence, as our “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” (1Co 1:30); and,
  • By permitting us to have fellowship with Him (Rev 3:20).

Pastor Robert Chew
 

What has the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector got to do with The Reformation?

Today is Reformation Sunday. The Reformation movement started by Luther called the church to repent, to return to the gospel, to return to the supremacy of scripture, and to accept that salvation is by grace alone, faith alone, and Christ alone. No cooperating work by man is needed for him to be made righteous before a holy God. 

Indeed, scripture makes this declaration: “the gospel .. is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes .. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Roman 1:16-17)

This parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector is abundantly rich with spiritual truth – it contains the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus spoke this parable to those “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous” (Luke 18: 9).

Righteousness is an issue Jesus spoke on often. He wants His hearers to understand their utter inability to be righteous enough to attain the kingdom of heaven. Accepting this truth is essential to understand His mission on earth, which was to save those who could not save themselves.

The Pharisee in this parable thought his own goodness was so good that he is acceptable to God. He is the epitome of one who is self-justifying. Going to the temple to pray with the condition of his heart as it was, he might as well have stayed home. Such a “prayer” is not heard by God and neither will he be acceptable to God.

Unlike that Pharisee, the tax collector stood “afar off”. Tax collectors, because of their association with the hated Romans, were seen as traitors to Israel and were loathed and treated as outcasts. This man’s posture spoke of his unworthiness before God. Unable to even lift his eyes to heaven, the burden of his guilt and shame weighed heavily upon him, and the load he carried had become unbearable. Overcome by his transgressions, he beats his breast in sorrow and repentance and appeals to God for mercy. 

The prayer he speaks is the very one God is waiting to hear, and his attitude is exactly what God wants from all who come to Him.

It is Christ’s righteousness we need, not our good works. For it is by Grace Alone, Faith Alone, and Christ Alone that we are made righteous. In that way, all glory goes to God .
 
Pastor Robert Chew

Here I Stand

After nailing his ninety-five theses on the church door at Wittenberg in 1517, Luther did not answer for his propositions immediately. He had to wait until 1521, when he was summoned to appear before Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor at the Diet of Worms. It was a very dangerous trip to make, as it could have been a trap devised to capture him. However, Luther decided he needed to take the risk and obey the summons. 

When he arrived, he was not given any chance to make his defense, but was ordered to recant on the spot. Luther asked for some time to think about it and was given the night. He did some very serious soul searching before he was ready to face the authorities again. He tried to start a formal speech but was cut off with a demand again to simply recant or not. Luther replied:

Since then your serene Majesty and your lordships seek a simple answer, I will give it in this manner, neither horned nor toothed. Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the Pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. May God help me. Amen.

By God’s grace, Luther did not die at Worms, but was permitted to return home. But as soon as he left, Luther was declared an imperial outlaw, making him a target for an arrest. Before he made it back to Wittenberg, his party was beset by a group of armed and masked horsemen, who snatched Luther and led him away. They were agents of Elector Frederick, Luther’s patron, who, seized him secretly and hid him away at the Wartburg castle. Luther remained there in hiding, directing the reform from a distance.

Luther became a witness before the authorities of his day. He knew the truth and even after some struggle, followed through on it. May God give us the courage to be witnesses to the truth of the Gospel, even under the threats of this world today.
 
Dn. Mervin Lin

What I learned from the 16th century Protestant Reformers 

Semper Reformanda means “Always Reforming”. More accurately, it speaks of the need of always being reformed according to the Word of God”. “Always Reforming" should not and must not be used to justify unbiblical contextualisation or promote reductionist mentality or the compromise of our gospel message to “keep to the times” but rather it should remind us to let the word of God rule and renew us continually. 

The Reformers adopted a high view of Scripture and allowed God to challenge their "status quo" (i.e. practice of a religion which has no power to save, subject to the authority of the pope etc). They could not remain indifferent. Their consciences were so bound to the authority of the Bible that it was never an option to stay silent. John Calvin once said, “I would be a coward if I saw that God's truth is attacked and yet would remain silent”. 

It was such sensitivity to God’s word that moved the reformers to give their lives for the pure gospel which ultimately resulted in the divorce from the man-centred and work-based religion in Roman Catholicism in the 16th century. 

Does God’s word still move you?  When was the last time you "mortify" a habitual sin through a conviction from the scripture? Would others around you say that you are continually changed by the word of God? 

For the Reformers, "Christ Alone" wasn't part of song title, it was their motto, the engine of the Reformation movement. Christ is all that is needed for one's salvation. There was no need for anything else; no amount of "indulgences" can secure God’s forgiveness and no sacraments can rescue us from eternal damnation. Only Christ and Christ alone can satisfy God's wrath by His once-for-all death and resurrection. Christ is our only surety and hope. 

Is Christ enough for you? Is Christ THE security for you or is He one of your “insurances”? Are there other things which you are doing now to make yourself more “saved”? Is your security in Christ visible in the way you serve and interact with fellow believers in the church ministries? Is there anything else which is replacing Christ as the anchor? 

As we celebrate this momentous event, the 500th Anniversary of the 16th century Protestant Reformation, would you ask God to renew your mind with the word of God and anchor your heart in the Word of God? 

Dn. Gideon Loh

Philip Melanchthon – The Gentle Lutheran

He was not the kind who started revolutions, but the kind who brought order to the ensuing chaos. His mentor, Martin Luther, was brash, impulsive, and forceful. But Philip Melanchthon was a timid, sober-minded unifier. Luther, by his own admission, was “substance without words,” while his brilliant young disciple was “substance and words.”

Luther had little concern for precision or guarding against misconception; Melanchthon made nuance his forte. Luther said he used a spear, while Melanchthon used pins and needles. Luther was a pioneer, hacking his way through centuries of superstitious brush with an apostolic machete. But Melanchthon, like Bullinger in Zurich and Calvin in Geneva, played the part of the calm, collected systematic, grading the Protestant path for generations to come.

He was “the quiet reformer” — and a fitting complement to the loud, boisterous Luther. But not only was Melanchthon known as quiet and peaceful, but on occasion he demonstrated an explosive temper. And not only was he relentlessly curious, and a master of many subjects, but he also was strangely superstitious. Like every sinner, he was his own inconsistent blend of virtue and vice, and God was willing to work with that.

A child prodigy, Melanchthon studied the classics in Heidelberg and Tubingen, and arrived in Wittenberg in 1519, at age 22, just as the Reformation was heating up. That same year, he accompanied Luther as an aid to the Leipzig Disputation. By 1521, he published the first edition of his Loci Communes (“basic concepts”) which started as a commentary on Romans and sought to tie Christian theology, inspired by Luther, to the biblical text, rather than the philosophical categories of medieval scholarship.

As the fires of reform raged, Melanchthon was there at Luther’s side in 1529 at Marburg, and there in Luther’s stead in 1530 at Augsburg, where he represented the Lutheran cause — and even drafted the Augsburg Confession — since Luther was an outlaw and unable to attend.

In the final tally, Melanchthon became the intellectual leader of the Lutherans. Not only was he the first systematic theologian of the Reformation, and one of its most significant figures, but he designed educational systems that gave Lutheranism staying power not just in his unstable days but in the even more turbulent times to come. God put Melanchthon’s gifts, quirks, and even inconsistencies to good use to reinforce Reformation theology as a world-changing force.

Excerpt from “The Gentle Lutheran” - BY DAVID MATHIS

THE INFLUENCE OF JOHN CALVIN ON THE SCOTTISH REFORMATION

October is “Reformation Month” – a time set for Reformed Christians to reflect on the great 16th Century movement that brought the truth of the gracious gospel out of the darkness of blind legalism. This month, our bulletin articles will focus on themes related to the Reformation.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to John Knox of the Scottish Reformation and Calvin’s influence on him.

Calvin and Knox first met in 1554. Knox, like other Protestants in England, had taken refuge in Switzerland during the reign of Catholic (“Bloody”) Mary Tudor. 

Calvin described Knox as a “brother … laboring energetically for the faith.” Knox, for his part, was impressed with Calvin’s Geneva, calling it “the most perfect school of Christ that was ever on earth since the days of the apostles.”

For a time, Knox pastored the English congregation in Geneva, where he soaked in the orderly Protestant theology of Calvin’s famous Institutes (first published in 1536 and enlarged throughout Calvin’s lifetime). Thus Calvin, via Knox, gave Scotland the rudiments of its Presbyterian system of church government, its Bible-centered love of learning, its concern for strict morality, and its ceremonial, sermon-centered worship.

One secular historian described Knox as “Calvin with a sword.” Indeed, John Calvin, the great theologian and leader of the Reformation in Switzerland, gave Knox his theology. But in one significant respect, Knox outpaced his mentor.

When it came to the relationship of the Christian to the state, however, Knox was more radical than his mentor. Where Calvin merely permitted disobedience to an ungodly ruler or immoral law, Knox championed armed rebellion—a type of Calvinism that made religious revolution in Scotland possible.

John Knox was a man of many paradoxes, a “Hebrew Jeremiah set down on Scottish soil.” In a relentless campaign of fiery oratory, he sought to destroy what he felt was idolatry and to purify Scotland's religion.

A strand of our Presbyterianism came from Scotland. So, we should thank God for men like John Knox.

Pastor Robert Chew

(With information from the Christian History Institute) 

Are We One In the Bond of Love?

We live in a world where the menace of terrorism and the rhetoric of war by totalitarian regimes are a frequent occurrence and are serious threats.  In recent months our government has called on our people to be vigilant and united in facing the threat of terrorist attacks.  

In some ways like us today, the Philippian Christians were also facing threats and dangers from their immediate surroundings. Besides the imperial Roman Empire, they had an invisible and more powerful enemy – Satan who is the god of this world and prince of the power of the air - waging a spiritual “guerrilla” warfare against the Church at Philippi. 

Hence while in prison, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to instruct and encourage them to fight the good fight of faith. In Phil. 1:27 - 30, he called them to unite together against the enemy from without. He reminded them of who they are – ‘citizens of the heavenly Kingdom’. And as such they are to live life according to their status. Because they are fellow citizens of heaven, they should stand united in heart and purpose for the gospel’s sake. Paul knew the tactics of the enemies. They would intimidate and frighten them to submit or to flee in fear. 

However, the Philippians could take courage that God had promised them final victory! In fact, He will vindicate them either in this age, or in the age to come. Paul reminded them, “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). The word, “conversation” in the original means “citizenship.”

Our suffering is both a privilege and calling. We as believers should consider our suffering for Christ, in whatever form they take, as a privilege and honor. We are not to court ‘martyrdom’ for martyrdom’s sake. But at the same time, when we are called upon to suffer for Christ, we should count it as our privilege and calling because we are soldiers of the Cross. 

While we thank God for a good government and a peaceful and prosperous society, we must at the same time be vigilant and diligent to maintain “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” in our church (Eph. 4:2). We should not wait for some devastating “crises” to hit us before we take positive steps to maintain peace and unity for the gospel’s sake and to the glory of God. 

Let us follow the famous maxim: “In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. In all things, charity.”

Rev. Mark Tay

If This Is Our Father's World, What Are We Doing About It?

Would you be surprised if I tell you that centuries before our time, the poet of psalm 148 had already raised the issues of social and ecological responsibility? In bringing our awareness to the environment, the psalmist grounds it on creation’s relationship to her Creator. Simply put, the psalmist views this world as belonging to God, not to human beings alone. In fact, God takes pleasure in and loves His creation in all its marvellous, beautiful, intricate and interconnected variety. Thus, according to Psalm 148, God will be praised by nothing short of a cosmic congregation consisting not only of people but also of all creatures and all inanimate features of creation. 

In this universal symphony of praise, there is a tacit acknowledgement of the equality of all constituents that make up the whole creation. Thus all creation is call to praise God and to show forth His glory with greater clarity. However, nature’s praise was muted or distorted by the ways humankind have exploited, polluted and destroyed Nature’s resources, all in the name of progress and development for whatever human benefits and reasons. Indeed, the current environmental crisis is receiving tremendous attention today in the scientific world, the media, and the business community - and rightfully so!

However, for believers, we are called to care for the entire earth in all its features not for our sakes, but for God’s sake. This is where Christians have distinguished ourselves with the world’s “go green” campaigners. 

What the world needs is precisely what Psalm 148 calls us to do: recognize God’s sovereign claim upon the universe which in essence is both a worshipful act as well as a lifestyle. Praise in worship involves our conviction that God, not us, rules the world. Praise as a lifestyle involves living out what we affirm in worship – that is, living in such a way that acknowledges and preserves the value and integrity of all people, all animate and inanimate creation. 

While one of the primary concerns of Psalm 148 for today may be ecology, it has another equally important concern, namely, the interdependence and interconnectedness of human community. If we believe in the inherent equality of all humanity, then we must show our solidarity with our community by lovingly caring for the poor, the unemployed, the marginalized, the weak and homeless or simply by a healthy sense of neighbourliness and community. In this way, the solution to the present human crisis begins with our faithful response to the invitation of Psalm 148, “Praise the LORD!” It is because of this conviction, as Christians, we must engage the world through the caring of our environment and the good work of social enterprise for our community. 

Rev. Mark Tay

You Are The Light Of The World

Jesus refers to Himself as the “light of the world” (John 8:12). He also says that you are the “light of the world” (Matt 5:14). And He promises that whoever follows Him “will not walk in darkness” but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

What does He mean? What are we to understand by this? What is the light?

The city of Ephesus was the seat of satanic practices and all manner of occult activities when Paul first visited it. To this citadel of evil and idolatry, Paul went to “give light to those who [sat] in darkness.” 

When he wrote to the Christians there he referred to them as “light in the Lord” and encouraged them to "walk as children of light." This light is revealed in all goodness, righteousness, and truth. This is the light others should witness in us. 

Goodness, righteousness, and truth – each of these three terms covers a different aspect of our witness.

Don’t forget Jesus encourages you to “let your light shine before others” (Matt 5:16)  

Righteousness conveys legality. Psalm 119:172 defines righteousness as keeping the commandments of God, thus righteousness implies conformity to law. It indicates uprightness and a manifestation of justice. It can literally mean being right. Therefore, righteousness should be a characteristic of a Christian. He is fair and just in his dealings with others, plays by the rules and respects others' rights and possessions.

Also, in Ephesians, Paul makes mention of deceit, things done in secret, and the hidden things of darkness. "All truth" is their opposite. The character of the life of the Christian is without deceit. Nothing is hidden, underhanded, or dishonest; nothing smacks of hypocrisy or pretence. The life of those walking in the light will be open, above-board, and transparent; it has nothing to conceal and never pretends to be something it is not.

“Goodness” in the New Testament can mean either the act or the intention motivating the act. It can be gentle or sharp, but the intention of the good person is always the well-being of the recipients of his goodness. An English word that covers some aspects of the Greek word is "benevolence." This is the inclination to do good which seems to be Paul's intent. 

When Jesus says He is the light of the world, He is giving us a perfect example to follow. 

And He invites you to follow.

Pastor Robert Chew

Fresh Perspective On Citizenship

Our nation just celebrated her 52th national day on 9th of August and we should be proud and grateful for what our nation has achieved thus far. However as Christians what should be our perspective on citizenship and what is the connection between our earthly and heavenly citizenship? 

From Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees in Mark 12:13-17 regarding taxes, it is clear that he based the idea of citizenship on our relationship to the Sovereign Creator of heaven and earth. When Jesus remarks, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's,” he is not saying that what belongs to Caesar does not belong to God. Instead, we should interpret Jesus’ words to mean that as citizens we owe honor and taxes to government (Caesar), but we do so as part of our total obligation to God. In short, Caesar deserves taxes, but God deserves everything, including our service to Caesar.  

We should also recognize another important principle: that Christians hold a citizenship in two realms. This is where the connection between earthly and heavenly citizenship comes in. Just as a child born in an earthly family can, at the same time, belong to the family of God, so the same can be said about our earthly citizenship. Fulfilling our civic responsibility is a duty owed to God as well as to our fellow Singaporeans. We who acknowledge God’s rule must learn to do our civic duties as to the Lord. In a complex society like ours, one of the most important ways to live as a citizen in God’s kingdom is to pursue justice for all our neighbors in our community. 

Singaporeans can indeed be proud of our country and government. But we must not forget that we are also citizens of another realm. Paul in his letter to the Philippians reminded them of this: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ … But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:27; 3:20). Paul’s appeal to the privilege of citizenship was particularly poignant to the Philippians because as Roman citizens they prided themselves on their elite status. Against this preoccupation with the coveted Roman citizenship, Paul interposes a counter-citizenship whose seat of power is not in Rome but in heaven; whose guarantor is not Nero but Christ. Philippi may be a colony under Lord Caesar, but the church at Philippi is a personal people of  King Jesus, the Lord above all (Phil. 2:9-11). 

While we celebrated our National day with joy and pride, let us not fail to live up to our higher and greater calling as citizens of heaven. In essence, Paul is saying, “You are citizens of heaven; therefore live accordingly, in a manner that is worthy of your King.” Are you living worthily of your King - our Lord Jesus Christ?


Rev. Mark Tay

Turn The Other Cheek?

No matter what source we get our news from, regular or social media, we are constantly bombarded with stories of seemingly wanton atrocities – acts of naked hatred – committed by one group of people against another. The latest is from Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, where a rally of “white supremacists” turned violent, resulting in death and injury to the innocent.

We also hear of the increasing intensity of hate activities against those who profess faith in Jesus from countries closer to home – persecutions, kidnappings, oppressions, and so on. 
Because of this, I thought about what Jesus taught in Matthew 5:39 – “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

What does He mean? Is Jesus urging Christians to become passive victims? Are we to suffer in silence and refuse to seek legal protection?

To understand this, we have to know the context of his statement, as well as his audience. Jesus prefaced his statement above with, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth'” (v.38). He was referring to Exodus 21:24 and Leviticus 24:20. The “eye for an eye” retribution mentioned in those scriptures was properly administered only after an offender had stood trial before the priests and judges who weighed the circumstances and the degree of deliberateness of the offense. (See also Deuteronomy 19:15-21.)

Over time the Jews distorted the application of this law. The “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” was used as grounds for revenge, which were often carried to the utmost extremity. More evil was often returned than what had been received. The law of God never permitted this.

Jesus’ teaching in his Sermon on the Mount reflects the true spirit of God’s Law to Israel. Jesus did not mean for his followers to offer one cheek after being struck on the other. In Bible times, as is often true today, a slap was not intended to injure but intended to provoke a reaction or a confrontation.

Evidently, then, Jesus’ meaning is to avoid retaliating and causing a vicious circle of rendering evil for evil. 

The Apostle Paul in Romans also teaches this principle – “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all”

Pastor Robert Chew
 

Jonathan Chen’s Mission Trip Reflections

Together with Pastor Mark, Tina, Dn. Bob, Kian Hwa, Mei Ling and Helen, I embarked on a mission trip to Myanmar from 21 to 24 July. During the brief time, we were touched by the lives of many people. They taught us by their lives what it meant to simply cast their cares on Him and to rejoice in Him always.

One thing I found myself reflecting upon during the entire trip was just how blessed and happy the people were despite their very trying circumstances. Many of them are struggling to make ends meet, yet they praise and acknowledge Him as their Savior and give ever so readily and heartily.  

What kind of giving am I referring to? Their warm hospitality is one of that, ferrying us with joy from place to place even when they had to use their own cars at their own expense. Providing shelter, food, education, and parental comfort to orphans is another. Every time we visited an orphanage or kindergarten run by one of these godly caregivers, our hearts rejoiced at how they had brought up the kids to trust and rejoice in Him. They love to sing and their singing is always from the heart, their joyful and radiant faces bearing witness to that. The older children are mature beyond their age, taking care of the younger ones like a parent would. While the children were singing and receiving gifts from us, you could feel a deep sense of peace and blessedness on the part of the caregivers who have a burden to minister God’s Word to those in need and have adopted these children in faith, committing their upbringing to the Lord. There seems to be no limit to the selfless love and generosity exhibited by our brethren in Myanmar. 

Similarly, as recorded in Matthew 19 and Luke 18, when a certain ruler asked Jesus how one can inherit eternal life, Jesus instructed him to sell all that he had and distribute to the poor. 

Besides, we have an example of how the early church in Acts 2 did so: as one big community, they shared all things, sold their possessions and distributed the proceeds to all according to the needs of each person. I am convinced that we too ought to share and give in the same way, dying to all our own needs and considering the needs of others.

I thank God for this valuable lesson that I learned on the trip. May we all be encouraged to follow the example of Jesus to live a life in service to others, by giving not just our money but our whole lives for the edification of God’s community and the salvation of those who are still outside the fold. Only then will we be able to sing praises and glorify God together as one voice! 
 

Having A Kingdom Perspective

It is my belief that the central reality of the Bible is that God is King over all of His creation. 

We see this reality quite clearly in Psalm 145. The psalmist begins with a personal resolve to praise “my God, O King” (Ps. 145:1).  He ends with a call, “let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.” (Ps. 145:21).Why did the psalmist direct our focus to praise the work and person of God the King? I believe one of the reasons is that Israel needs to have a kingdom perspective in order to live up to her holy calling.   

When God delivered His people out of Egypt, He led them to Mt. Sinai to renew His covenant with them (Exo. 19:5, 6). They were to be God’s special people, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation to the surrounding nations. But Israel had failed miserably. What about us? Do we have a right perspective of our calling as a kingdom of priests (Rev. 1:6)?

In a world where suffering and violence abound, we need a clear vision of the kingship of God who is almighty, eternal and benevolent. If we have this awesome perspective of God, then and only then will we be able to live up to our true calling. How does having this perspective impact us? 

First, it will encourage us to trust Him even in the midst of tribulations. Paul encouraged his Gentile converts to trust God in the midst of tribulations because this is what it means to be God’s Kingdom people (Acts 14:22). 

Second, this perspective of God as King will constrain us to become the answer to the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom come”! It is one thing to pray, “Your kingdom come,” but it is another thing to put the prayer into action. Are we willing to be the hands and feet of God in this world?   

Finally, having a kingdom perspective will help us put all our troubles on earth in their proper perspective. Let me explain with an illustration: “Charles Ellis was a tremendous sports fan. When he is not able to be present at the sporting events, he would record them. When he had the time to sit in his easy chair and view the game, unlike most people, he didn’t start at the beginning. Instead he fast-forward to the end to see who won and who lost. If his team lost, he’ll stop watching, but if his team won, he’ll start the game at the beginning, get some snacks, and watch the whole game. Some say this method can’t be much fun. But for Charles, he loved it. No matter how bad things look for his team, he don’t have to worry because he knows the end of the story.” 

That’s how we might think of our own situation. No matter how bad things look for us, we don’t have to worry because we know the end of the story. In the end, everything will turn out all right. If it is not all right, it is not the end.  

Rev. Mark Tay

The Great Symphony Of Praise

Last Sunday, our Moriah congregation celebrated her 19th anniversary of God’s goodness and His steadfast love.  

As I meditated on God’s goodness, I was reminded of how the psalmists praise and thank God in the Psalter. 

Ps. 150: 6, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!” and “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! . . . and forget not all his benefits” (Ps. 103:1-2).

I could quote many more verses (see also 147:1; 146;1, 2; 107; 95:1,2; 96:1, 2; 98:1; 100 etc.), but I am sure you got the point: God is worthy of praise, and we must never forget all His benefits.

But how should we praise God? And what should be our attitude when we praise Him etc.? Why should we worship Him? 

I believe Psalm 145 answers these questions.  Being an acrostic psalm (each verse begins with a Hebrew alphabet), Psalm 145 expresses a totality and complete praise of the LORD.     

First, the psalmist begins with his resolve to praise and bless “my God, O King” (v. 1). This reveals a deliberate and determined vow to praise the Lord. And how long will he praise the Lord? “I will bless thy name for ever and ever” (vs. 1, 2). His praise of God is not a momentary whim, quickly offered and soon forgotten, but a fixed resolution that will be carried out forever.

Second, the psalmist praise of God is his daily lifestyle. He was determined to praise God, “every day.” Every day whether in good or bad times; no matter how dark and difficult the day may be, there is always something for which he can praise the LORD.  We should do likewise. In fact, now is the time for us to rehearse our praise of God in preparation for the grand choir in heaven! I agree with Spurgeon who said, “Praise is the rehearsal of our eternal song”!   

Finally, from verses 3 to 20, the psalmist persuades us with four powerful grounds to praise the name of God the King: the greatness (vs 3-7); goodness (vs. 8-9); glory (vs. 10-13); and mercy of God (vs. 14-20). 

With such an awesome picture of God as King, we are to bless Him daily, give time and energy each day to being alone with Him, reading His Word, bowing in prayer, rising in praise and reminding each other of how great He is, and call upon Him. He is honored when we trust Him, and when we give Him the opportunity to vindicate Himself and so prove to be God. In this way we praise Him as King, live vitally in His Kingdom and pray confidently: “Thy Kingdom come”, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Matt. 6: 10; Rev. 22:20) Amen. 

Rev. Mark Tay

Pastoral Letter on Moriah B-P Church's 19th Anniversary

In the glorious Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and on behalf of the Session of Sembawang-Moriah B-P Churches, it’s my privilege to invite you, whether you are worshipping with us here in the Moriah sanctuary today, or whether you are worshipping the same merciful God in the sanctuary in Sembawang, to join us in thanksgiving on this special Lord’s Day.

The special day, of course, is the church at Moriah celebrating her nineteenth anniversary. She is doing so with a baptism and thanksgiving service.

I recall with fondness when Sembawang branched out to found Moriah in Simei, we were a church with about 50-60 communicant members; and with regular worshippers, we numbered no more than about 90 worshippers on each Lord’s Day. We can truly thank God when we look at where we are today!

While we are deeply grateful for all that God had done for us in the past, our prayer remains for God, by His grace, to continue to bless and guide us toward the future – a future that may see our witness grow stronger and more fervent as we continue to proclaim the excellencies of our Redeemer God who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. 

With abiding joy, I remember some words of scripture that befit an occasion like this:  

It was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the LORD, and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD, "For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever," the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, (2 Chronicles 5:13)

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:10-11)

Rev. Robert Chew

1 Corinthians 2:11-12 (ESV)

"11 For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 
12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God."

This passage holds an important principle that we would do well to adhere to – exercise compassion in our judgments.

In the last month, through my pastoral interactions with the people of God in our church, God again revealed to me that our human comprehension of spiritual matters is very limited. Also, our knowledge of the inner spirit of other people is severely nuanced by our own fallenness. That, I believe, is the idea behind Paul’s question in vs.11: “who knows a person’s thoughts…?”   

Without help, man knows very little of himself, still less of his fellow-man, and least of all, about God. This should teach us at least three things:

Exercise modesty in our judgment.
Generous dose of humility in our inquiries.
Confidence in the Word of God, for the Spirit knows all things. 

Remember the apostolic warning in Romans 2:1 -  “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”

What lies in man’s heart is not always knowable to others. It is this inner world that the Apostle Paul is thinking of here. Here’s the test: just think how many thoughts pass through your minds of which your nearest and dearest can never know.

The ignorance of the inner life of those around us should teach us to be charitable in our judgments and opinions of those around us. There is no way for us to penetrate the soul of our fellow-sinners, and know for certain what is passing there. So, beware of the fact that your judgments and opinions have a very high probability of being grossly incorrect or unjust. 

First Corinthians 2:12 teaches that when we receive the “Spirit who is from God”, we might understand the things given to us by God.

How is this possible? 
Only the Spirit of God has perfect knowledge and only He knows what is in the spirit of man. Hence, the things of God can only be known by him who has the Spirit.

How is this obtained?
We receive the Spirit by new birth – a gracious gift – that should be used to “serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10).

Pastor Robert Chew

A Fresh Understanding of God’s Call 

In last week’s bulletin, Pastor Robert urged us to pray for our youths who left Singapore to do mission work with our gospel partners in Cambodia.  Indeed, it is heartening to know that 18 of our youths from Moriah are working with other serious-minded youths in three churches— Phnom Penh, Smachdeng, and Kompong Som!   

It is my prayer that the Lord of the harvest would send more of our youths out into the harvest fields. This calls for a fresh understanding of God’s call.   

First, the call of God is primarily to salvation rather than to an occupation. In today’s society, however, a calling is synonymous with a person’s occupation.  But for Christians, our calling comes from our identity as children of God. We are first called to Jesus Christ and then called to do something for Him.  

Second, this calling is all-embracing since it includes work, service in church, family life, neighbourhood, civic responsibility, care of creation, mission in the world and personal holiness. Simply put, the Christian vocation is God’s call to live for the praise of His glory (Eph. 1:12, 14) and to serve God’s purposes in every context of life. 

Finally, in the Bible, there is only one call of God that comes to God’s people, but this call has three dimensions to it: (1) to belong; (2) to be and (3) to do. 

This is true both for Israel and the Church. In the OT, Israel was called to belong to God as a chosen people, live as a covenant community in holiness, justice and mercy, and serve God’s purposes in the world through missionary outreach and holy living.  

In the NT, God’s call is both individual and corporate. Individually we are called to belong to God through salvation, live holy lives and serve God. This means that each of us is led by God and called to live, work and minister to fulfill the grand purpose of God. 

Corporately, God’s call creates a community that belongs to Him and to one another. Together we live as a community that bears witness to our true identity and serves God’s purposes of transforming the world until Christ returns. This means that all Christians are called; all are called together, and all are called for the totality of everyday life.

In a sense, our youths are fulfilling the call of God by participating in the mission outreach of the church together with the youths and leaders of the three churches in Cambodia. What a joy it is for us at home as we do our part in praying and supporting our youths in their outreach!  

May our Lord grant us the grace and wisdom of the Spirit “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1) 

Rev. Mark Tay