“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)
According to 1 Timothy 3:2, elders must be “apt to teach”. In Titus 1:9, elders are expected to be “holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” The Greek word translated as “exhort” (parakaleô) can also mean “encourage”, “comfort”, etc. Thus, the ruling elder’s teaching – though not formal or on a full-time basis like the pastors who are teaching elders – includes informal counselling and words of encouragement. The elder should also be able to “convince the gainsayers” by sound doctrine (Titus 1:9). The Greek word translated “gainsayers” (antilegô) refers to “those who speak against”. Hence, elders must acquaint themselves with the biblical doctrines and practices of the church, that they may give a sound response to those who object to the doctrines of the Word of God.
This, of course, does not mean that every elder must be equally knowledgeable and gifted to perform the task of teaching. It is abundantly clear that there are some elders (being pastors) who are specially tasked to “labour in the word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 5:17), while others focus mainly on ruling the church. However, every elder must be able to communicate sound biblical knowledge. To fulfil such an important duty, elders must have a constant, prayerful commitment to equip themselves with sound theological knowledge. They must equip themselves to teach efficiently in the Bible studies and to answer the inquirers wisely and adequately. They must labour to both propound sound doctrines and defend them for the purity of the church.
Elders are expected to rule well, and such are worthy of double honour (1 Timothy 5:17). As rulers, they are not to be lord over God’s heritage (1 Peter 5:3), but rather as fathers who rule their household (1 Timothy 3:4). They teach the Word of God (Hebrews 13:7), and labour to admonish the church (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:12). They watch for the souls of God’s people (Hebrews 13:17), and lead them by example (1 Peter 5:3; 1 Timothy 4:12). As men entrusted with responsibility for the wellbeing of the souls of the people, they will have to give an account to the Lord for them (Hebrews 13:17).
Elders ought to be in charge of the admission, spiritual nurture, and discipline of the members of the church. Their collective supervision as rulers of the church is crucial to maintaining the purity of the church. The special attention of the elders to catechise those who seek membership and to ascertain them to be credible followers of Christ is most needful. It is also their duty to admonish (with a loving and firm spirit) members of the church who walk disorderly. They are expected to carry out their roles as rulers with much diligence and labour (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:12).
The elders also have important duties to perform in the meetings of the Board of Elders and the Church Session. In those meetings, the situation and needs of the church will be considered, and the elders should confer together to find the best biblical way to manage matters at hand for the benefit of the church. Hence, elders must have a commitment to attend all such meetings and to participate in the discussions concerning the administration of the church with eagerness and patience. As the meetings of the Board of Elders and the Session cannot be held in a hurried or perfunctory manner, much forbearance, tolerance, endurance are expected. Elders must not think of themselves as mere advisers in the Board or the Session, but as colabourers together with the pastor to shepherd the flock of God. Elders must also be careful to avoid any misunderstandings, quarrels or alienation between them. Only when the elders – who are the rulers of the church – endeavour to work together in sincerity and faithfulness, in harmony and love, and with zeal and patience can the church be effective in bearing a glorious testimony for the Lord.
A List of Biblical Duties of Elders
When a person is ordained as an elder of the church, he is being entrusted with God-given duties to fulfil. His ordination is a public acknowledgment of his calling and equipping by the Holy Spirit to carry out the God-given duties of an elder. Below, some of the major biblical duties of an elder are briefly discussed.
In conjunction with the pastor (the teaching elder), the elders take the oversight of the spiritual and administrative matters of the church. Elders are exhorted in 1 Peter 5:2 to “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind”. The word “feed” translates a Greek word (poimaínō), which denotes the duties of a shepherd towards the flock. An elder is to be like a shepherd who cares for the flock of God in the local church where he is appointed to the office. His duty of shepherding means that he must willingly and readily “take the oversight” of the congregation. Exercising oversight (episkopeo) would mean that like a shepherd he cares for the nurture, protection and guidance of God’s people. The apostle Paul’s instruction to the Ephesian elders was: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers” (Acts 20:28). Every elder must co-labour with the pastor and fellow elders to provide the necessary spiritual and administrative oversight. He must work with genuine pastoral concern for the flock of God. He must know the affairs of the flock and oversee their spiritual well-being. As part of the board of elders (or presbytery), he must personally and jointly labour to watch over the flock of God. The wise words of Solomon are applicable to every elder: “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds” (Proverbs 27:23).
The oversight of the flock would include visiting the poor, the sick and the afflicted. The elder must be willing and prepared to attend to the spiritual and temporal needs of the needy among the congregation. In fact, Scripture encourages the needy to call on elders – “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14). As under-shepherds of Christ’s flock, every elder ought to manifest Christ’s compassion and care, with much love and tenderness to His suffering sheep. He may minister to the afflicted with an appropriate hymn, or the reading of a portion of Scripture, or a brief prayer.
He must also attend to the backsliding members of the church in order to correct them and nurture them back. Every elder must prayerfully work to avoid the spiritual decline of the congregation. He should admonish members who neglect the fellowship gatherings and sacraments, which are means of grace that are essential to spiritual growth and health. Without proper supervision, the members of the church can slowly slip into spiritual lethargy and degeneration. Every elder must labour to avoid having members of the church degenerate and fall away unnoticed. Though the pastor bears much of the responsibility of the pastoral care, elders are also called to share with him the pastoral supervision of the church.
(more on this topic next week)
(A Mission Request from Sujith Samuel from India)
Bro Ravi has finished reviewing the Telugu translation of the Gospel tract – “An Appointment to Keep” – done by Bro Priya Kumar. He commented that Bro Priya did it well, and I was happy to hear that. During his FEBC vacation, Bro Priya will try to translate some selected Bible Witness issues, such as the recent one on “Charismatism’s Errors” which is much needed here. He also promised to translate “365 Daily Exhortations from God’s Word” written by you.
I am sure the efforts we put to translate to Telugu will not go wasted. Telugu is spoken by 76 million people. It is the third most-spoken language in India after Hindi and Bengali. Even the whole Tamil-speaking population in the world is less than 70 million. Telugu has more speakers than those of languages like Korean and French. (Other Indian languages like Kannada, Malayalam, Odiya, etc. have only half the number of Telugu speakers – i.e. around 33-38 million.) These statistics may not be exact. However, they are taken from credible census. Hence, I am sure that there will be many, many readers of the translated tract if we print and distribute it. Here, most of the people prefer to read and speak in Telugu rather than in English.
the tract to Odiya. I will get the help of a translator from Asha Kiran Hospital to proofread it. This hospital (about 200 km from Vizag) is a mission hospital started by Christian doctors from Christian Medical College, Vellore. They provide treatment facilities for the tribal people at a very affordable rate. Many well-qualified Christian doctors work there for very low salary. They also have outreach ministries and translation work. Currently, the director of the hospital is a Malayali doctor.
Hindi is another language into which I hope our materials can be translated. Most people in the north of India speak Hindi and their local languages. I am trying to find a person to do it. Pray that God will lead us to the right person.
I would like to request that the Session allocate some funds for the printing of our translated materials.
Pastor, I know you specially like the hymn, “O for a thousand tongues to sing”. I also like it very much. There will be greater beauty if the thousand tongues from different language groups would sing our Saviour’s praise. May God help us to reach out to people who speak different languages like Telugu, Hindi, Bengali, Odiya, Malayalam or whatever language. Now we are placed in this Teluguspeaking area with easy access to Orissa and Hindi areas. So, we should try our best to produce at least basic Bible study materials in Telugu and Odiya.
Following today’s worship service, we shall hold our Annual Congregational Meeting and the Election to the Church Session. The candidates to the Church Session (2017-2019) are all men who have been serving as elders and deacons. The only change among the candidates in this election is Dn Francis Lee’s nomination to the office of eldership. His nomination has been approved by the Board of Elders upon prayerful examination of his doctrine and life.
It is important that we understand the biblical necessity, nature and importance of ruling elders in our church.
In the apostolic times, when the Gospel spread through Judea, Samaria, Asia Minor and in other regions, churches were formed. Their proper spiritual and administrative care became a great concern to the apostles. Paul then wrote to Titus what should be done for the proper management of the church – “thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee” (Titus 1:5).
The apostolic instruction is that the appointment of elders as church officers is vital to an orderly, well-managed church. The ordaining of elders is an imperative. It is on no account to be omitted. Paul’s admonition was that Titus would go through city by city and ordain a body of elders in each congregation (cf. 1 Timothy 3, where Paul also mentioned the appointment of deacons, who are to be assistants to the elders). The elders, then, are to rule and organise the church.
The basic biblical pattern for the proper organisation of a local church is that elders (plural in number) ought to be ordained from within the congregation, in accordance with the biblical requirements of abilities and standards of behaviour. This is corroborated by Acts 14:23 – “And when they (Paul and Barnabas) had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”
Elders ought to be men of sound moral and spiritual character. Their qualifications are plainly laid down in the Word of God, as attested to by Titus 1:6-9, “(being) blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”
A similar requirement of conduct is also given in I Timothy 3:2-7. “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”
The passages quoted above lay special emphasis upon high morals and sound spiritual abilities and character. So, every man who is considered for the office of eldership ought to be blameless in life and steadfast in the faith. He should be a man of wisdom and discretion. Neither riches nor wealth nor social position can qualify a man to be a ruler in God’s house. Holiness must characterise his pursuit of life so that he may be an example to the flock. Devotion to God – piety – should characterise every ruling elder. He must be a godly, spiritually-minded man. His piety is the measure of his strength. All his duties require godliness, and without it, all his skills and capabilities are of little use in the government of the church. If he is truly godly, then he will truly influence the church for the glory of God. It is the godly influence of the elders that direct the proper conduct of the church.
alification. Not every church member who is devout is qualified to be an elder of the church. A candidate to the office of eldership must also be a man of intelligence, practical wisdom, experience, and administrative capacity. The best and wisest godly men in the congregation should be selected. From time to time, the board of elders will have to deal with matters of utmost gravity and also grapple with perplexing problems. In such situations, the ablest of minds and the most knowledgeable of men are to be found among the rulers of the church. Men who lack excellent mental capacity would not be able to handle such duties. While we thank God for capable men whom God has given to us, let us also pray for more competent men for the eldership. The apostle also insisted that an elder should be “apt to teach”. This is not necessarily a reference to public and official instruction, for ruling elders are not those who are called to labour in the Word as teaching elders (cf. 1 Timothy 5:17). There must be, however, the ability to communicate and defend sound doctrines of the Bible. Elders must take every opportunity available to them to increase in the knowledge of God’s Word. They should be diligent and faithful students of God’s Word so that they may teach in the Bible class, and guide worshippers and inquirers in the wisdom of God’s Word. The role of elders is of vast importance in preventing the church from departing from the truth of God’s Word and defending the church against errors of all kinds that will creep in through false teachers. So, the apostle Paul instructed the Ephesian elders, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
God willing, I will address the topic of the ruling elders more next week. Meanwhile, I urge you to prayerfully cast your vote today. May the Holy Spirit help us to recognise and support everyone whom He has called to the offices of the elders and deacons in Gethsemane BPC.
The election to the Church Session (2017-2019) will be held along with the Annual Congregation Meeting next Lord’s Day (24th September) at 1.45 pm. All communicant members are advised to attend the ACM as it is our constitutional duty.
As it was mentioned before from the pulpit, the Board of Elders has decided that all the present members of the Session will be nominated to serve for the next 2-year term of the Session. The BOE has also approved the proposal to nominate Dn Francis Lee to be an elder of the church, having interviewed and determined his calling, giftedness and biblical qualifications to be an elder. All other candidates are also assessed according to the Scriptures and our Church’s constitution.
Information on the candidates’ prior service is published below. This information is not exhaustive. In fact, all of them have been actively serving the Lord in our midst, both as members and leaders, for many years. We thank God for their faithfulness in their appointed areas of service in the past and for their readiness to continue in the service to which the Lord has called them.
Let us continually pray for them and their families to remain faithful, humble and diligent in their lives and ministries. Please join this Tuesday night prayer meeting, as we will be especially praying for the ACM, election and for each of the candidates.
Candidate for the office of Pastor and Chairman of the Session
Candidate for the office of Elder & Session Member
Candidate for the office of Elder & Assistant Clerk-of- Session
Candidate for the office of Elder & Session Member.
Candidate for the office of Elder & Clerk-of-Session
Candidate for the office of Deacon & Session Member
Candidate for the office of Deacon & Assistant Treasurer
Candidate for the office of Deacon & Session Member
Candidate for the office of Deacon & Treasurer
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
I thank the Lord for helping me to be in Vizag for the last three months. I was totally new to the city. But God helped me to slowly settle down here. There are many difficulties, but God is sovereign and He is guiding. Through this report, I like to update the church regarding the work here.
When I came here, I did not have a place to stay. I stayed in a hotel. After searching fruitlessly for a place myself and also through my contacts here, I thought I would not be able to get a place to stay. Many house-owners were not giving rooms to single persons. Every time I make a call to a flat-owner, he would say that he would rent out only to families. After much enquiry, I saw an advertisement about the current flat in a rental service website, and the owner who is staying abroad was willing to give the place for me to stay. Thank God for His provision. There are many restrictions though. I cannot conduct meetings or religious activities there; but I am thankful to the Lord that I got a place at least to stay.
Almost every Sunday, I attended Sunday meetings in a fellowship group affiliated with the Free Presbyterian Church. There are four families attending these meetings regularly. All of them are very supportive and very friendly to me. They regularly pray for me and encourage me. The pastor of the group is very passionate about mission work and he preaches very well. He will be out of India for some weeks. Please pray for safe journey (to and fro) for him and his family. They also gave me opportunity to share from God’s Word in their meetings on some Sundays. I thank the Lord for preserving such a small group in this city.
I had the opportunity to be involved in prison ministry in Parlakhemundi (Odisha) for some weeks before the jail authorities stopped the meetings and I am not going there anymore. (I request your prayers for the authorities to give permission to re-start the meetings.) Bro Henjit who was involved in prison ministry there, started coming down to Vizag to learn theology in English. Though he had studied theology in a fundamental Baptist bible college in the Odia medium, he is very much interested in learning theology in English. Thus, I started teaching him Systematic Theology. Another person from the outskirts of Vizag also came for some classes. Please pray that these brothers will continue to come to learn from God’s Word. Since the prison bible-study is stopped, Bro Henjit is trying to start a bible-study in his home. Pray that he will be able to get people to continue his work in that small village.
Some weekends, I visited some rural Baptist churches in Vizag. I went with a Christian doctor who goes for rural evangelism almost every weekend. He practises in the clinic from Monday to Thursday; and from Friday to Sunday, he will go out for weekend evangelism. His grandfather had planted some churches in the outskirts of Vizag and also in hill stations like Arakku. He will visit those churches. During most of my visits, I was given opportunity to preach, while this doctor would translate my messages from English to Telugu.
I also received opportunities to visit some “Naxalaffected” (i.e. by far-left radical communists) areas in Orissa. The Christians there live in much fear. They are very poor and even mobile coverage is very limited. In many parts of Odisha, persecution is quite severe, but yet many Christians continue to remain faithful to the Lord. There are a lot of small churches in Odisha and in the border-areas of Andhra Pradesh. But most of the pastors do not have formal training. They are also not well-educated in English. Worse, good Christian resources are not available in English or in the local language. Thus, there is a need to educate these pastors and supply them with good resources so that the people under their care may benefit. If we can translate and publish some basic bible-study materials in the local languages, that will be very useful for them.
In order to continue the work here, we need to get a place which allows freedom of worship and also we need to get legal registration with the government. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” I thank Gethsemane B-P Church for your prayers and support. Please continue to pray for me and the work here.
Dear Pastor Koshy and brethren in Gethsemane BPC, Singapore,
[dropcap]G[/dropcap]reetings in the blessed name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
I want you all to know that I am now in Cebu, the Philippines and currently studying as a full-time student at Gethsemane Bible Institute, Cebu. The Lord has been so good to me here. I am truly grateful to the Lord for how He has arranged for me a place to stay. I am staying now at Sister Ophelia’s place. Sister Ophelia is one of the members of Gethsemane BPC, Cebu.
I am also thankful to God for leading my path here in GBI, Cebu, where I have enjoyed studying His Word. I thank God also for providing me lecturers who love God and love His Word. I thank the Lord for His provision of books and computers for GBI. I also want to thank God for the support I am receiving from the mother church, Gethsemane BPC, Singapore.
With all these provisions and goodness from the Lord, I take it as a double confirmation of His will for me. I can truly say that it is indeed His will for me to come here, for I can see and experience His cooperative will at work.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, please continue to uphold me in your prayers. And please continue also to remember Gethsemane BPC, Cebu and Gethsemane Bible Institute, Cebu in your prayers.
Thank you and all glory be to God!
Though the Bible predicts perilous times in the last days, Christians are urged to live with the hope of glorious experiences of heaven which their Saviour has promised them. They might live through many troubles and sufferings in this present world, but they can live in the hope of a glorious eternity. Every Christian can say confidently, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
The apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 8:24 that “we are saved by hope … But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Romans 8:24-25). Our salvation that we have received by faith also kindles within us an undying hope. We hope in the promise of Christ concerning our eternal heavenly home – “then do we with patience wait for it.” We wait, not as criminals for execution, but as a bride for the wedding! The joy is sure to come. So, we eagerly and patiently wait for His return. He will surely come to take us to His glorious home.
A Christian’s real possession is not what he can see. Suppose God prospers him and he has riches: let him be grateful, but let him confess that these are not his treasures. All the wealth of the world gathered together cannot be compared to the glory that awaits all those who are saved by the blood of Christ.
Paul speaks of “the glory which shall be revealed in us”, and he tells us in another place that it is “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”. He then said, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17- 18). What great hope Christians possess! It is glory! Glory shall be ours, even ours, poor sinners as we are. Grace is sweet, but what must glory be? And it shall be revealed in us, and about us, and over us, and through us, through all eternity.
Scripture has the following descriptions for the hope that we have received through our salvation in Christ:
A blessed hope – Titus 2:13 says that Christians must live their lives by “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”.
A good hope – 2 Thessalonians 2:16 tells us that “our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father … hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace”.
A lively hope – 1 Peter 1:3 tells us that “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”. We have a lively hope, a vigorous, active, operating hope! It lives for ever. Our hope shall never die.
It is worth waiting for the fulfilling of our hope, for it is certainly a blessed, good hope, which is imperishable.
In his first epistle, the apostle Peter exhorts the believer to “hope to the end.” He wrote, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). Here Peter mentions three duties of every true Christian. It is interesting to note that in the Greek text, only the last verb is an imperative or command; the first two verbs are participles. In other words, the first two verbal expressions explain to us how we can keep our hope in focus.
The first expression of hope is to “gird up the loins of your mind“. To understand the expression, “gird up the loins“, we must take our thoughts back to the time and place of Peter. In those days people wore long robes which often constrained them from moving freely and fast. So whenever they needed to move quickly, they would gather up their robes and tuck into a belt. This action of girding up the cloth around the loins is often used to represent one’s preparedness for action. The people of Israel were told to eat the first Passover “with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’S passover” (Exodus 12:11). So when Peter told his readers to “gird up the loins of your mind“, he was telling them to be mentally prepared. Our minds must diligently study the prophecies of Christ’s second coming and enthusiastically await His coming. We cannot let our minds wander into the things of the world and conveniently forget the promises of His return.
The second expression of hope is to “be sober“, which gives us further understanding as to what it takes to hope for Christ’s return. The Greek word translated as “be sober” carries the idea of alertness or vigilance against dangers. Hope involves not only mental preparedness but also spiritual alertness against the snares of the devil which may keep us trapped in sin at His coming. We must keep a wakeful spirit amid all the narcotising conditions around us. The apostle Paul also calls us to be sober as we hope for Christ’s return – “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8).
Finally, “hope to the end” is the ultimate expression of genuine hope. The words, “to the end“, comes from the Greek word (telios) which means “perfect” or “complete”. We must set our hearts on our ultimate hope – the Lord’s return.
We look forward in steadfast hope for God’s grace towards us to be fully realised at the revelation of Jesus Christ on the last day. Then His grace shall accept us to our eternal home while the great wrath of God’s judgment will cast the unbelievers into the eternal hell. This grace has already been coming to us since the day we received Christ into our hearts. When our hope is fully set on the final appearance of His return, we will continually receive a greater portion of His grace in our trial-filled journey in this world, that we may complete our journey and receive the final gift of God’s grace, i.e. our glory.
Gethsemane Young Mothers is a special ministry of our church that ministers to the spiritual needs of the young mothers in our midst. But it is also attended by other Christian young mothers. One of them is Sis Chui Yin. She worships in Calvary Pandan BPC together with her husband, Jack and their two little children. Both Jack and Chui Yin are medical doctors. However, in order to fulfil her biblical role as a wife and mother (Titus 2:4-5; 1 Timothy 5:14; Psalm 113:9; Psalm 128:3) she became a homemaker. Recently, her pregnancy led to a severe medical condition and the loss of her child. The testimony of God’s help in her trial was published in Calvary Pandan weekly; and it was brought to my attention by Sis Low Hui Lin. For the glory of God and for the edification of all the young mothers in our midst, I publish the WhatsApp message I received from her on Friday and also her testimony below.
Dear Pastor Koshy,
Thank you for your concern. I’m doing fine, resting at home and waiting on God for full recovery of strength and health. All these weeks that I have been confined to the bed whether at home or in hospital, I have been greatly blessed by being able to tune in to the live streaming of Sunday worship service of Gethsemane B-P Church. While seeking God’s will for me and my baby, I remembered the few messages I heard at Gethsemane Young Mothers’ meetings, especially about God’s gift of children with disability, and also about bearing the death of children. I thank God for your faithful service in teaching us how to bear these trials in motherhood. It was by God’s grace that I could have attended those meetings earlier in the year. I look forward to being able to join Gethsemane Young Mothers again when I can.
At 6am on 17 June, I had to be rushed to KK hospital, where investigations confirmed that my water bag membrane had ruptured, and I was leaking amniotic fluid from the water bag. I was in my 18th week of pregnancy.
Doctors advised that the prognosis was grim. My womb was susceptible to infection and prone to pre-term labour. Baby would be extremely premature. Even if by some miracle the pregnancy could be sustained for many weeks more, the baby would most likely be born with multiple problems of prematurity and chronic lung problems.
Doctors advised for termination of the pregnancy in view of the poor outlook. We declined and started on the long journey of waiting on the Lord, hoping that the pregnancy would be sustained. I was admitted to the hospital for complete bed rest, rigorous round of antibiotics and regular monitoring.
At that time, I had not fully understood what was to come. All I knew was the precious promise in God’s Word that all things work together for good to them who love God, to them who are called according to His purpose. Amidst all the uncertainty, these precious words brought peace.
The difficulties of the path ahead soon revealed themselves. I was fearful of moving as I didn’t want to worsen the leaking. Enforced bed rest was also a difficult adjustment. I lost my physical freedom, the comforts of life, my “modesty”. I needed to depend on nurses to help me with all my basic needs. I had always been the main caregiver of my 2 older children, and was frustrated that I could not take care of them, and frustrated to see how my family members had to struggle to take care of them, and shuttle to and from the hospital to see me.
Doctors advised that there was nothing they could do to save a foetus at this gestation age. The baby was deemed pre-viable. The pregnancy had to be sustained till 24 weeks minimum for there to be any hope for this baby.
At that time, in the 18th week of pregnancy, 24 weeks seemed like an impossibility.
I felt discouraged and frustrated by the helplessness I felt. Clinging on to those precious words that all things work for good, we trudged on, and I soon realized that it was to be a season of rest and waiting on God. The enforced bed rest gave me much time to read and reflect on God’s Word. I started to read the Psalms. Psalm 4, a psalm of David, verse 4: “Stand in awe and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still…” encouraged me to persevere in the adversity, and to purpose in my heart to not have a sinful response, but to be still before God. Several psalms later in Psalm 22:10, another psalm of David, where he proclaimed unto God, “thou art my God from my mother’s belly…” – these words brought me much comfort because they reminded me that God is the God of the baby in my womb, and He will watch over him.
In this first hospitalization, there were many other problems. For the first 2 weeks, Jack still had work commitments, including 24-hour overnight shifts and the care of the children would be a problem. But truly, day by day, God’s grace was sufficient. And we had no lack. There were times where at the last hour, Jack would be relieved of his night duties and released to go home at 6pm. His subsequent night calls were also assigned away to other colleagues so he only needed to go in for the day’s work, and could return home in the night to manage the children, and even bring me some supplies from home. Some time back he had already planned to clear long leave for the entire months of July and August and this worked out perfectly, enabling him to take care of the children.
Day by day God provided everything that we needed, and we truly experienced the sufficiency of His grace.
At this time, I was greatly encouraged by 1 Peter 4:19, “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” I rested in God’s faithfulness, and slowly counted the days as they crawled by…
With much prayer, God sustained us for 5 weeks, and I even managed to be discharged home for 2 weeks for a short reprieve from the hospitalization. We were hopeful as we approached the 24th week – the golden age of viability.
In the wee hours of the morning of 24 July, at 23 weeks and 6 days of gestation, at the brink of foetal viability, I was awakened by contraction pain and bleeding from the womb. We went back to KK and I had to be hospitalized in preparation for a possible premature delivery. The neonatologist came to see us, and advised that while baby was at an age where it was medically acceptable to resuscitate him, severe neurodevelopmental deficits would be expected in the babies that do survive. He advised that the outlook would be much more favourable if the baby could make it to 26 weeks of gestation.
Medically, it was a tumultuous week. I had recurrent episodes of contractions and was sent to and from the labour ward for monitoring for the onset of labour and imminent delivery of the severely premature baby. Many of these episodes happened when I was alone, sometimes in the dead of night when there was no one I could turn to for help or support, because close friends, and husband were asleep. Spending many hours at the labour ward also meant no visitors except for my husband who came when he could, no proper rest because of the constant monitoring and frequent doctors’ rounds.
It wore me out physically, and emotionally I felt defeated.
After 4 trips down to the labour ward within the first 72 hours of admission, I had a final blow that required me to be sent down to the labour ward for the 5th time that week.
I was back in the general ward and was taking a quick shower when I started feeling giddy and close to losing consciousness. I felt helpless but thankfully, I did not lose consciousness, and managed to dry myself and get back quickly to bed.
Because of this near fainting episode, investigations were performed and revealed an abnormal heart rhythm, and I had to be sent down to the labour ward again for close monitoring and a cardiologist review. I lay there for many hours watching the cardiac monitor which displayed long runs of an abnormal heartbeat which I could feel as a discomfort in my chest. I recognized that I had been having these abnormal sensations for the past months of pregnancy, but had not recognized that it was abnormal.
All this while the struggle had been for the survival of my baby, but this new diagnosis that there has been something wrong with me was a great blow. And I understood how frail and weak I was. It was the final blow to an already very battered confidence.
At this time, I drew comfort from the words in the hymn “How Firm a Foundation”, for the hymn reflected the words from Isaiah 43:1-2, “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”
God was teaching me not to be afraid.
With those events, the 24th week slowly and painfully went by. And we continued to wait on God, and prayed to reach 26 weeks.
On 10 August, at 26 weeks and 2 days of gestation, things took a drastic turn for the worse. I developed a high fever, and had regular contractions. Womb infection was the likely cause and it was clear that it was time, and the baby would need to be delivered quickly.
I underwent an emergency caesarean section and our baby was born that night. His scores were very poor at birth, but God preserved him in the initial 12 hours of his life while I struggled to recover from the general anaesthesia and post operative blood loss and pain. I managed to go and see him in the ICU. Soon after, he succumbed to overwhelming infection and had massive bleeding in his brain and lungs and he passed away. I managed to see and hold him as he took his last breaths.
When he died, I was deeply saddened but I had peace in my heart. What I went through in the preceding weeks of seeking and waiting on God’s will and timing, pleading in prayer for this baby, contemplating different permutations of bad outcome, and reflecting on the hand of God in our lives, receiving comfort and instruction from God’s Word and receiving God’s goodness and grace day by day, and the eventual unspeakable peace that God gives, has led me to the undeniable conclusion that this is God’s will and His will is perfect.
The testing was severe, but the journey has been blessed in many ways. God had provided wonderfully along the way and I have so much to be thankful for. I have no time to go into the details but God was with me, and we truly had no lack.
He knew my weakness and gently led me and provided for me each step of the way. He took away all the crutches I had in this life, whether material comforts, personal freedom, solace from family and friends, health and life itself, and led me to the lowest point, so that I could see clearly, and experience the fullness and sufficiency of His grace and love. And today I can say to you: God is love. He gives peace. His timing is perfect. He knew everything. His will is perfect.
To my dear family and friends, and especially my brother Ern, I know many of you grieve with us. Take heart, for we do not grieve as those who have no hope. For the Bible tells us that his soul is with God, and though we do not have a chance to be together in this transient earthly life, we will see him again in heaven for all eternity. This child has been spared the toil of this earthly life, and he is in the presence of God.
To brethren who are facing fearful uncertainties, I want to encourage you not to lose heart and not to be afraid. We are fearful because we do not know what lies ahead, but God knows, our paths have been determined and His will for our lives is perfect.
To brethren who are suffering while waiting – When I look back at the past events, I can see how they have been orchestrated so well, every single step.
Our baby was born at a time when we had the full support of our family. God provided for Jack’s long leave these 2 months (which was planned way before anything happened), and my parents who had an unplanned travel cancellation exactly in this period and have been available to help. As someone who is usually slightly obsessive with planning, I am truly humbled by how impeccable God’s timing is. And so I want to encourage you to be patient and wait upon God’s timing. His timing is perfect. I have truly experienced this.
To those of you who do not know Christ – I believe with all my heart that there is a God who created us, and who holds our lives in His hands. And He gives peace and security amidst the storms of life. And I hope that everyone can experience this too.
When I left KKH on Tuesday, after 8 tumultuous weeks, I had peace in my heart. I thank God for everything that He has given us, even life itself, health and strength, being able to get into the car and go home, being able to sit at the table to eat, seeing how the 2 children have grown in my absence, how God has preserved them, and me.
All we have is by the grace of God and He has given me new eyes of thankfulness.
We didn’t have a name for the baby when he died, and only named him after. I wanted to name him wen xi – for 喜乐. Joy, for the joy that he brought us, and the joy he has in the presence of God right now.
But we changed it to 文悦 – 悦 for 喜悦 which has the same meaning of joy. Most of you know our two older children by their English names, but their Chinese names are actually 文杰 and 悦祈. So Wen Yue has one character from each of his siblings’ names. He will always be a part of our family, and the memory of him will live in our hearts.
This child was a precious gift from God. Even though he did not live long, 26 weeks and 2 days in the womb, and 2 days in the world, his short existence has shown me how God’s will and timing are perfect, and a powerful reminder of God’s grace and tender mercies. I will never forget these past 8 weeks, all those days and nights I struggled and waited, where for me and that little baby in my womb, we had no one and no help but God alone.
His life was not given or lived in vain. My child has now been promoted to glory, and my faith in God is strengthened.
All glory be to God.
No one should ever barge into any area to serve God. God is the One who calls Christians and puts them in particular areas to serve Him. He endows every member of the church with spiritual gifts, “dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Corinthians 12:11), so as to serve Him. Since God is the One who has given to each Christian a particular area to serve Him, Christians must therefore remain faithful in service till the end. Christians must be unwavering and steadfast to the work that God has given. God requires every Christian to have a constant and loyal commitment to the tasks appointed by Him.
The quality of being faithful in service unto God has always been important, all the more so today, as it is very common to see people giving up serving God. Full-time workers of churches who have been serving God for many years quit. Bible-college students give up studying before their graduation. Christians who are on duty rosters grow tired in their service and find excuses to give up. These people may once be full of enthusiasm and excitement when they first started to serve. However, they lose their zeal and passion over time and finally, they leave the stations that God has given to them.
On the other hand, although many Christians may remain in service unto God, they start to cut corners and give less quality work. Being faithful does not also just mean remaining in service, it includes maintaining a high quality of the service too. Christians who are faithful to God in their service will not do a slipshod job but will complete their work to the best of their abilities. If one remains in service but produces careless and lowquality work, it will not please God at all.
The book of Malachi was written especially to priests who were serving God. God was very displeased with the priests during the time of Malachi. This is because the priests dishonoured God in their service by not offering to God the best. The priests offered to God “polluted bread” (Malachi 1:7), which was food unfit to be offered to God. It was either not made of good flour or not made the way God designated it to be (Leviticus 24:5-7). The priests also sacrificed animals that were blind, lame and sick (Malachi 1:8a). God expressly commanded in the Mosaic Law that animals with any imperfections must not be sacrificed (Deuteronomy 15:21). They offered unto God what they would not even offer to their governor (Malachi 1:8b). By their actions, they poured contempt upon God. In response to their unfaithful service, the Lord sent Malachi to confront them. God wanted them to know what was unacceptable by highlighting the characteristics of the unfaithful servants (Malachi 3:13-15). As we look at this passage, let us examine ourselves to see if such characteristics are found in us.
Being bold to go against God
Unfaithfulness begins when Christians lose the fear of God in their hearts. Christians start to be unfaithful by daring to go against God. Like the priests during Malachi’s time, unfaithful Christians are bold enough to use words that are “stout” against Him (Malachi 3:13). They are not afraid that God hears the strong words that are uttered against Him even though they know that God is omniscient. God may not react to the complaints directed at Him at first, but it is all due to His mercy. Instead of repenting, some may even grow bolder in their words against Him.
Furthermore, the priests during Malachi’s time who were bold to go against God did not fear to take a further step by denying what they had done. When confronted, they said, “What have we spoken so much against thee?” (Malachi 3:13). Instead of confessing their faults, they justified themselves.
One sure way of checking if we have been unfaithful to God in our service is to reflect on the words that we say about our service. Have we been expressing thankfulness to God for counting us worthy to serve Him in the area that He has placed us in, or have we been complaining about our God-given duties? If we had expressed unhappiness regarding our service, it is very likely that we have not given God the best in our service, or we may have already abandoned it. If we have not left our area of service, it is just a matter of time. Also, when godly men confront us about our lack in our service unto God, do we put up a defence even though we have been blatantly wrong?
Being covetous of earthly rewards
Besides having the boldness to go against God, unfaithful Christians look for earthly reward or selfgain for their service. The priests said in Malachi 3:14, “It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?” The priests saw no returns for serving God even though they mournfully served the Lord in tears. Instead of being enriched, they became impoverished or disadvantaged. They measured the returns for their service in terms of material gain.
Furthermore, the covetous priests also envied others who were more prosperous even though they did not serve God. They regarded the proud people who did not submit to God as blessed, and the wicked people as well-established. They cried foul over the undeserved deliverance of those who went against God (Malachi 3:15). To the priests, their service to God had not paid off at all.
For unfaithful Christians, the motivation behind service is self-gain. They may be looking for recognition and praises from others, or perhaps some form of monetary rewards. There is some selfish ulterior motive behind serving God. If such rewards are not received, their service unto God will wane or stop.
Christians must not demand such earthly gain from God when they serve Him. For God is faithful and He would accordingly reward in the manner that He deems best. Hebrews 6:10a promises Christians who serve Him, “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name”. And even if you give a cup of cold water in His name, you will not lose your reward (cf. Mark 9:41).
Therefore, let us serve God faithfully by having the fear of the Lord in our hearts when we carry out our duties. May God be gracious unto us so that we can “serve (Him) acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28). For we serve an awesome and great God who is “a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). Even when no one may notice or praise us when we serve God, He will remember our labour that we render unto Him. Colossians 3:23-24 read, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.”
(Previously published on 9 March 2008)
With a view to a more careful adherence to the Biblical model, which I have showed you last week, I would suggest that children who are in primary 4 and above – though there need be no arbitrary distinction as some younger children might well be able to be present at an earlier age – should be present in the public meetings of the church (especially on the Lord’s Day). I would also suggest that parents consider bringing children to midweek prayer meetings, as much as possible.
The children should sit quietly and attentively, endeavouring – to the best of their ability – to participate reverently and intelligently in the various exercises of worship. To attain such a goal requires that parents be diligent and thorough in preparing their children for attendance at and participation in the public meetings. In order to help parents and the church accomplish their Biblical responsibility, please consider the following guidelines, which I hope will act as an aid to such preparation. (The ideas reflected in the following sections are not entirely mine. I have adapted some from various books and articles, with changes to suit our congregation.)
The Lord calls out to all our children, saying, “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD” (Psalm 34:11). “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts” (Isaiah 28:9). Parents, come with your children to worship the Lord!
(Previously published on 2 March 2008)
This topic has been a great concern in my heart for a long time. As I have recently mentioned in the church, I strongly believe that we must let our children join the main worship service with the adults as early as possible. There is no biblical warrant for separating children from the main worship, especially those who have grown beyond their toddler stage. I sincerely think that there is great godly wisdom in integrating our children into the main worship, especially those who are 8 years old and above. (In fact, most children can be trained to sit through the main worship service from the age of 6, and some even earlier.)
When God’s people in the Old Testament were required to come together to worship the LORD in the hearing and exposition of the Law, the children came together with them. Children were neither excluded nor segregated from the adults who came for worship. The following are some examples of adults and children coming together to hear the Word of God.
At the renewal of the covenant in Deuteronomy 29, we are specifically told that the “little ones” were present together with all the adults and even dignitaries. “Ye stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: that thou shouldest enter into covenant with the LORD thy God, and into his oath, which the LORD thy God maketh with thee this day” (vv. 10-12). The word translated as “little ones” refers to little children.
Similarly, at the sabbatical year convocation, we are told that men, women, strangers and children were instructed to gather. “When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law: and that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it” (Deuteronomy 31:11-13).
Then again, in Joshua 8:35, we are told that “There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.” And again we read of similar gatherings during the time of Jehoshaphat – “And all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children” (2 Chronicles 20:13).
In Nehemiah 8:2-3, we read, “And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.” Here the phrases “all that could hear with understanding” and “those that could understand” were not referring to adult men and women, because they were already mentioned. So these would be children who were able to perceive what was being read from the Law and also the exposition.
In chapter 12 of Nehemiah, we are told of a thanksgiving service held in the house of God. Children are mentioned along with the adults as rejoicing before the Lord – “Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off” (v. 43).
Just imagine all these happened long before the day of cushioned pews and air-conditioned sanctuaries!
What’s more, in the New Testament, during the ministry of Jesus and the apostles, we see no segregation of children from the adults when people gathered to hear them preach or for worship. The entire family would worship the Lord together. When the people gathered to hear our Lord, the young children were usually present too (cf. Matthew 14:21; 15:38). On one occasion, we are told that the people began bringing their young children to the Lord to be touched by Him (Mark 10:13). For some reasons, the disciples tried to stop them. They even rebuked the parents. “But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14).
There is little doubt that the practice of having children in the worship service was the norm in the early church. This is corroborated by the fact that the apostolic epistles, which were read during congregational worship in the early church, addressed the children directly (cf. Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20; 1 John 2:12; etc.). In general, the biblical pattern is that the Christian family ought to worship together.
In many churches today, bringing children into the full session of the main worship is postponed as long as possible. After Junior Worship, children are provided with Teen and Youth worship services. All these are held separately from the main worship services. As they grow up, they are rather unwilling to participate in the Scriptural form of worship. They look for fun and entertainment, such as what they were given in their Children and Teen worship services. They dislike the solemnity of biblical worship, and prefer a light-hearted and entertaining worship service.
Today, we may be considered radical for suggesting that children go to “big church”. Some would surely consider it to be an impractical thing. I will not be surprised if we also would receive such responses. Over the past 50 years, the church has been encouraging parents to be segregated from children during worship time. In many churches, children are left at home alone, while parents go for prayer meetings.
By the grace of God, in Gethsemane we have seen the blessings when parents encourage their children to join the main worship and even prayer meetings. Though there are difficulties, it is possible to overcome them if we (parents and the congregation as a whole) are willing to train the children to worship our sovereign God with patience and forbearance. Can we teach our children to worship God as we teach them to walk, talk and tie their shoelaces? Certainly. But first, we must see it as a biblical pattern which we must be committed to.
God willing, I will discuss more of the practical aspects of “Children and Worship” in the next article. Let us continue to pray that our children would grow up to be a generation that will worship the Lord in spirit and in truth.
On 6th August, three elderly folks from Lions Home for the Elders (Bedok) will be baptised. They turned to Christ upon hearing the Gospel brought to them by those who serve in the Gethsemane Lions Home Ministry. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
We praise God for the commitment and zeal of all who serve in this Gospel outreach ministry, led by Pr Jeremiah Sim. “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15b).
Sometime ago, I saw a report that said, “In 2005, one out of every 12 Singaporeans was aged 65 or above. By 2030, they will number one in five” [Committee of Ageing Issues 2005, Report on the Ageing Population (Singapore: Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports, 2006)]. Today, many elderly are decrepit, lonely and shut up in their homes, in nursing homes, or in old-folks’ homes. Through your visits to the elderly, you can bring the Gospel to the unbelieving, and be a channel of Christian fellowship and cheer to the believing old folks. Sunday afternoons and evenings can be a good time to visit old folks. How wonderful it would be if more of such ministries to the elderly in our society can be carried out! “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10)
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e then that are strong” says Romans 15:1, “ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” It is God’s design that we strengthen and edify one another through mutual care.
The first counsel that Paul gives in our text is let the strong help the weak. “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak”. Paul’s use of the word “ought” (opheilo in Greek), which means “owe” or “be a debtor”, suggests that the strong ones must feel an indebtedness to God to help His weak children. The word “bear” (bastazō in Greek) has meanings such as “carry”, “endure” and “support”. Hence, it is the duty of every Christian to bear patiently with the weaker ones around him and help them to walk and grow along with him. He who is spiritually strong should neither despise nor neglect those who are weak. Instead, he graciously renders himself available to support and help them. “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye” (Romans 14:1). In 1 Corinthians 12:22-24 we read, “Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked”.
Paul’s second counsel for Christians is “not to please ourselves”. A Christian should not be self-centred if he is to help others as God expects. A person’s spiritual maturity is evidenced in his willingness to give up his rights so that others may be helped. We must be willing to deny ourselves if we can promote others’ happiness in doing so. Our conduct should not be motivated by our personal happiness or gratification, but rather by the welfare of others. We must, like Paul, be able to sincerely say, “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more… To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:19, 22).