“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)
Twenty-six years have passed since the inception of Gethsemane B-P Church. How graciously and wonderfully our loving Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, has nurtured and strengthened us! We must recollect His goodness towards us and praise Him. To help us to reminisce His goodness towards Gethsemane BPC, I have prayerfully written the following liturgy for today’s Thanksgiving Worship.
“Do all things without murmurings and disputings.”
We are dissuaded from engaging in two evils, namely murmuring and disputing. Interestingly, the apostle is concerned that some may engage in spiritual activities with murmuring and disputing. In other words, they practise religion without sincerity and joy. When God-given duties are done with murmuring and a disgruntled spirit, such service will be unacceptable. So, all Christians must guard themselves against such evil conduct. Both of those sins must be abhorred and avoided, if our services are to be effective and helpful.
True religion is never merely external observance of duties. Hence, Paul admonished, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings.” All our activities must be rendered cheerfully and willingly. Everything God has given us to do must be carried out with enthusiasm and readiness. Whether one does God’s work alone or with others, one must perform it with a genuine spirit of compliance to His will, coupled with diligence.
Some murmur against God and His servants, like the Israelites in the wilderness when experiencing a time of scarcity. In Numbers chapter 11, we read about them: “And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes” (vv. 4-6; cf. Exodus 15:24; 16:7-9).
Others murmur because they are discontented with and envious of the godly men and women whom God uses (cf. Numbers 14:1-4; 16:41; Mark 14:5). There are also some others who murmur because of their unbelief and their bigoted desire to spread their sedition (cf. Luke 15:2; Jude 1:16).
The spirit of murmuring is perilous. The Word of God cautions us, “Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer” (1 Corinthians 10:10). Murmuring is often the result of envy, discontentment, bitterness, pride and unbelief. It results in much evil deeds such as gossip, backbiting, slander, usurping of authority, defiance, sedition, dissension and schism. Murmuring is not just a dispute with man, but also with God! So serve the Lord without any murmur or dispute.
By the time you read this Pastoral exhortation, I expect to have been in Ethiopia already, to visit our mission churches and Rev Ephrem Chiracho, who has been unwell for some months. I am accompanied by my son, Andronicus, and, God willing, we plan to be back in Singapore by Tuesday (18 March) evening.
Today, I would like to report to you some of the Gospel mission outreaches we might be able to undertake in the near future. Just as Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 2:12), I am also glad to bring to you some tidings of new Gospel missions.
Bro Dennis Kabingue will share with you later in this bulletin his upcoming Gospel endeavours in the Philippines. He will be accompanied by some of our Filipino brothers and Preacher Donald from Pangasinan. But, first, I would like to share with you of a new Gospel frontier in Kuching, Malaysia, that we are invited to consider.
Recently, I was invited by Rev Lee Kim Shong (Calvary Jaya B-P Church, KL) to consider the possibility of starting a Bible-Presbyterian Mission Outreach in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia. There is already a Chinese mission outreach by Calvary Jaya. But now there is a desire to have an English outreach.
With our Church Session’s approval, I will be heading to Kuching on a two-day (31 March – 1 April) recce trip with Rev Lee. Our contact is Bro. Jeremy Teo, a brother whom I have met in 1991, when I was sent to Hope B-P Church, Adelaide, Australia, by the late Rev Timothy Tow for a two-month preaching stint. I received an email from Bro Jeremy a few days ago, welcoming me to Kuching; and it is published below.
Dear Rev Koshy,
Greetings in our Lord Jesus’ most holy Name.
My name is Jeremy Teo from Kuching. I heard from Rev Lee of Calvary Jaya that you will be coming to Kuching with him at the end of this month on 31 March. Welcome.
I remember you as I have met you many years ago at Hope B-P Church in Adelaide. You were a student at FEBC back then and I remember you were invited to preach at the church services and YAF camp.
I came back to Kuching in 1993 after my studies and joined a then-Sarawak government start-up computer company. I worked there for more than 2 years before my dad asked me to work for him in his auto parts company. I have been working here since 1996. I met my wife Niki in 1998 and we got married in 2001 at a local Methodist church. We have 3 children, Daniel, Samuel and Gabriel.
We started serving at Calvary B-P Church, Kuching, about 3 years ago, after being introduced to it by a friend, David Chua, who is also serving at Calvary Jaya. The church is supported by Calvary Jaya PJ and Calvary Sibu.
We look forward to meeting you and Rev Lee in Kuching.
May God bless and keep you.
My dear brethren, we rejoice always in every opportunity that God gives to preach the Gospel and to establish Christ-honouring, Bible-believing churches. Let us pray for God’s guidance and help in our exploration and eventual decision-making concerning a mission outreach in Kuching. Please pray for Rev Lee Kim Shong and me. “Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ” (Colossians 4:3).
A Gospel team, comprising Bro Julius Del Rosario, Bro Jomart Tindaan and myself, is leaving tonight for the Philippines on a one-week Gospel trip. Our first stop is Davao City, where we hope to evangelize the siblings, relatives and friends of Sis Juvy Baybayanon and Pr Donald dela Cruz, who are residents there. Pr Donald dela Cruz will make his way from Pangasinan and is expected to arrive there just before lunchtime on Monday morning. We plan to stay there from 17-19 March 2014.
The Gospel meetings will be held at the home of Mr Joel Baybayanon (brother of Sis Juvy). Pray that God may gather His elect and open their hearts to the Gospel of His Son Jesus Christ. Pray that this visit will pave the way for more Gospel meetings in the future. Truly, the need in this city is great. Davao City is the Philippines’ third most populous city and the largest in terms of land area, which is three times bigger than Singapore. It is located in the southeastern side of the Mindanao archipelago and is home to more than 2 million people.
After Davao City, we plan to visit three more places. We will drop by Cebu City to visit Gethsemane B-P Church, Cebu, as well as the 3-yearold nephew of Bro Norefel Resuma’s wife, named Raja Villagracia (who is currently undergoing treatment for leukaemia). Pray for God’s grace to share the Gospel with him and his parents. Pray for their salvation and his healing.
The following day (20 March), at about 6am, we are scheduled to take a domestic flight to Tacloban City, Leyte, where I came from. I hope to visit my relatives and friends who have survived the super typhoon Haiyan. Pray for opportunities to preach the Gospel. The main objective of our visit is to exhort the church where Rev John Pagliawan is pastoring. God willing, I shall be preaching on the Lord’s Day (23 March) on the theme “The Grace of God Wherein We Stand”, taken from Romans 5:1-5.
After the worship service, we will fly to Manila for our final stopover. Some of our brethren in the Gethsemane Filipino Fellowship are from Manila. Others may come from other provinces but most of them have relatives and friends living in Manila, which is the capital and home to more than 12 million Filipinos. Pray that God may provide opportunities for us to get acquainted with and talk to some of them during our few hours there. May the Lord bring us back to Singapore safely, on 23 March.
First of all, we are warned of the danger of covering our sins – “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper.” But how does one cover or conceal his sins? One may cover his sins by putting the blame on another, like Adam who pointed his finger at Eve, or Eve who pointed her finger at the serpent (Genesis 3:12-13; cf. Job 31:33), or Saul who blamed the people (1 Samuel 15:24). Some hide their sins by pleading ignorance and dissociating themselves from any responsibility, as Cain did after killing his brother, Abel (Genesis 4:8-10). There are those who impersonate someone else when committing a crime and then run away from the scene quickly, like Jacob who fraudulently snatched his brother’s blessings from his blind father (Genesis 27). There are yet others who use religious involvement and zeal to cover their sins, like King Saul who claimed it was for sacrifice that he brought back the Amalekites’ cattle which God had expressly commanded to destroy (1 Samuel 15:13- 23; cf. Matthew 23:25-28). There are also those who deny their sins outright with an impudent face (cf. Jeremiah 2:22-23). More stories of man’s inclination to cover his sin are found in the Bible (e.g. Rachel, Joseph’s brethren, Peter, Ananias and Sapphira).
Nonetheless, nothing is hidden from the view of God. He, who refuses to acknowledge his sin before God, betrays his foolish thinking that God has not seen it. There is no wisdom in hiding one’s sin. He is also warned that he shall not prosper. Let not the one who conceals his sin think that he will progress. In Psalm 32:3-4, David spoke of the misery he experienced while he covered his sins – “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.” What a dangerous thing it is to cover our sins!
Secondly, we are told of the blessing of those who would confess their sins to God in repentance. “But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” One’s sin must be quickly confessed as an offence committed against God (cf. Psalm 51:4), and must be fully forsaken. Then he will be forgiven. Divine love and mercy are greater than all our sins. Confession of sin leads the contrite sinner to the refreshing and renewing mercies of God. Turning away from sin with repentance will direct a man to the wonderful experiences of God’s never-failing compassions.
I am very thankful to God whenever I notice the presence of children in our church. I see them on the Lord’s Day at our worship services; I also see them sitting on the front rows of chairs on Tuesday nights for our Bible Study cum Prayer Meeting. I always have a surge of joy in my heart when I see them. How pleasing is their singing of hymns! They are ever eager to sing their choices of songs with the congregation. Their close proximity to the pulpit gives me the pleasure of hearing their enthusiastic singing. I rejoice when they hurriedly come to join me to pray. I also thank the Lord that they listen to the preaching of the Word attentively. Whether it be on the Lord’s Day or other days, it is wonderful to see many parents making every effort to bring their children along to the Lord’s House!
Nonetheless, I am also concerned that some other children are afforded very few opportunities by their parents. Fathers and mothers must provide as many opportunities as possible for their children to be involved in the church activities. Do not let your undue concern for their secular education and other activities deprive these young souls of their great need of spiritual nurture.
Parents, have mercy on the souls of your children! They may be little ones, but they are precious souls. The care for their souls must far exceed the care for their bodies! Have compassion on their poor souls! They are drowning day by day into the “miry pit” of anxiety for worldly success. The world is always seeking to ensnare their souls. No Christian parent can afford not to be diligent in nurturing them with the most excellent Christian environment. Their participation in the church activities is far more important than their school or other extra-curricular activities. If you only care for their earthly success, you are being irresponsible of your God-given task to nurture their souls.
From my experience of bringing up three children with my beloved wife, and having given 20 over years of my efforts to the pastoral supervision of the children in our church, let me appeal to you sincerely and candidly that nothing is more helpful and profitable in the nurture of your children than providing them maximum (not minimum or occasional) opportunity to participate in soul-nurturing activities of the church. Whether worship services, prayer meetings, children’s programmes, evangelism sessions, camps or retreats, let us not second-guess their great profitability in the nurture and protection of their souls.
Regular participation in church events with children would mean concerted discipline and commitment on the parents’ part. Notwithstanding all the troubles of taking them to church activities, you would have done the most vital duty of guarding and guiding your children’s souls. Please do not fear weariness. The troubles that you bear to ensure the spiritual nurture and fortification of your children’s souls will not be in vain. With much prayer and thanksgiving, make every effort to bring your children to our church activities. Jesus admonishes us, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven“ (Matthew 19:14).
would also like to encourage all those who labour in the children’s ministry to remember that you are dealing with precious immortal souls. Children are priceless in the sight of our Saviour. Their salvation and sanctification are His concern, and therefore the concern of everyone who ministers to them on Christ’s behalf. Pray earnestly for their repentance, salvation, spiritual growth, fruitfulness, etc., for Jesus says, “Feed my lambs” (John 21:15).
“But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” (Luke 11:28)
Jesus spoke those words in response to a woman who loudly acclaimed the blessedness of Mary, His mother. Her words about Mary were, “Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked” (Luke 11:27). Jesus neither denies her words, nor reproves her for what she said. In fact, His words “yea, rather” infer that He agreed to the woman’s suggestion that Mary was blessed to bear and suckle such a child (cf. Luke 1:27–28, 42, 48), and also wanted to pronounce something more joyous than the honour and privilege of bearing and suckling the Holy Child. Jesus wanted them to possess the greatest, noblest and purest joy that transcends all other rejoicing of man.
Have you realised that there is no greater blessedness than hearing and obeying God’s Word? Jesus said, “Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it.” True happiness belongs to those who hear and obey the Word of God. This is a greater blessedness than being physically related to Jesus. He wanted all to know that more than an earthly relationship with Him, they should seek a spiritual relationship that leads to ultimate joy.
True loving relationship with Christ is one’s faithful allegiance to His Word. On another occasion Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). We must not only hear His words, but also obey them diligently. As James wrote in his epistle, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22, cf. James 1:25).
Where there is high regard for His Word, there His love, cheer and blessings will flourish. His promises of blessedness to those who hear and obey are repeated in the Scriptures. Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” Revelation 22:7 assures, “Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.”
Even if you give assent to His Word with your nods, it would be of no avail unless you hear, believe and put into practice. Blessedness belongs to those who hear and obey His Word. He who hears to believe, and believes to do His Word shall be blessed.
The struggles of a church leader are seldom fully understood by those who are around him. Paul has captured the troubles of the church leaders the best, when he wrote, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
Some in the ministry have been so plagued by problems that they allow their souls to plunge into self-pity and many other sins that accompany anxiety, worry and fear. Some leaders have used their needs, loneliness, problems to excuse their sins of greed, theft, sexual promiscuity, abusive behaviour, etc. They would say, “Nobody understands my problems. Nobody seems to care that I also have to take care of my family’s needs. It is such pressure that led me to steal.” Or “Nobody else seems to feel for me in my loneliness the way she does. If any of them knew what I was going through in this leadership role, they would understand why I need this kind of embrace, why I need this kind of ‘unconditional acceptance’. I have borne enough of the burden of being everybody’s spiritual example; I can’t take it any more. And I don’t care if they don’t approve.”
Self-pity is a subtle sin; and it is packed with deceptive power. It looks so meek and weak. But underneath it is pride. Self-pity is a blind leader of proud men, which guides them into pits of sins.
Every leader must learn to find his strength, wisdom, courage and provision in the Lord. The Lord—and He alone—must be our portion, or we will give in to self-pity and all the sins that accompany it. We must seek the presence of God where there is “fulness of joy” and “at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore”. Let us learn to draw near to God when all kinds of troubles arise before us. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2).
“For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica. . . .” (2 Timothy 4:10). Demas was a fellow labourer of Paul in the work of the Gospel (cf. Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24). Paul mentioned him along with the early church leaders like Luke, Marcus and Aristarchus.
Demas left Paul and the ministry after he fell in love with this present world. What is it about the world that leaders like Demas in particular are tempted to love?
In Luke 8:14, Jesus cautioned, “. . .when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” Our Saviour mentioned three causes that could lead a man away from being fruitful in the kingdom of God. They are cares of this life, riches of this world and pleasures of this world.
Demas’ motive for forsaking Paul might have been his love for worldly ease, safety, comforts and disinclination to brave danger with Paul.
Anyone who sincerely serves the Lord would soon find that he needs to sacrifice all his desires for the comfort, pleasure and glory of this world. Anyone who entertains an immoderate love for this material world, its gain, pleasure and glory, will not be able to serve God fervently and faithfully. He will soon wilfully abandon the cause of the Gospel because of his love for this material world.
The best protection from this pitfall is to always set our mind on the glory of God and His kingdom. Paul said, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14). The spell of sin’s fascination is broken when the superior pleasures of God’s presence becomes the preoccupation.
If we love the Lord and His work, then we must also remind ourselves that “the friendship of the world is enmity with God” and “whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). Think long and hard about those who have fallen so painfully and drastically, having drunk the deadly poison of worldliness.
Church leaders are not free from the temptations of sin. They need to be always on guard lest they be suddenly overtaken by the deceitfulness of sin. My prayer, as I write this article, is that the Biblical expose of the deceitfulness of sin that surrounds church leaders will further intensify our vigilance and prayer, that we might keep ourselves pure for the work of the Lord.
The Apostle John wrote about an early church leader who walked into this pitfall. “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not” (3 John 9). It is not at all uncommon that the behaviour of certain men in the church leadership degenerate into one of self-assertiveness and self-glory. A sense of immunity from accountability and authority fills their minds. They act as though they are above everyone, and even above the demands of morality and charity.
Like Diotrephes who opposed and sidelined the Apostle John and other leaders of the early church, some of the present church leaders also act highhandedly. They become domineering. They become bossy. These men love the prestige and power of leadership so much that they care for none but themselves.
They forget godly men whom God has used to nurture the church. They slander good men and promote those who are just like them.
Let us protect ourselves from this sin of pride by colabouring and submitting ourselves to godly men who love God’s truth and righteousness and serve before Him humbly, faithfully and diligently. The Apostle Peter advises the leaders, “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). And later he wrote, “Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:5-6).
Submit yourself also to a council of Biblically-minded, spiritually-wise advisers. “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established” (Proverbs 15:22). The Bible makes clear provision for rebuking an elder who persists in sin (cf. 1 Timothy 5:19-20). No one is above reproof. Everyone ought to be accountable. Let every one of us who serves in the leadership remind himself that God expects us to be humble, submissive and accountable to one another.
The Apostle Paul cautions, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Many who expressed a passion for God’s truth at the beginning of their ministry have succumbed later to the popular notions and expectations of the people around them. The love of truth is weakened by the love for recognition and admiration; and soon integrity has no leg to stand on. Every manner of rationalization and compromise to meet the demands of the expanding audience takes over. Doctrines are not emphasized; moral purity is not pursued after. The audience is to be entertained — the itching ears are to be scratched. Why? Otherwise, he would have to face the unhappiness of the crowd; and he is afraid that people would desert him. So immunity from objection and opposition is created with a heavy dose of relational ethics. The language of love, forgiveness and acceptance abounds — but for those who have eyes to see, it is a camouflage to cover up the abandonment of love for God’s truth.
In order to protect ourselves from such perilous compromise in the ministry, we should cultivate an unflinching commitment to “preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2). Remain fully dedicated to proclaim the truth, even in its smallest details, and turn a deaf ear to the desires of men to have their ears scratched. Compromise with falsehood often begins in small things.
In order to be a brave and faithful preacher of the Word, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). In the ministry of many leaders, the Word of God has taken a back seat to storytelling, social analysis, family discussions, psychological diagnoses, etc., which begin to usurp the authority of the inspired and preserved Word of God. Loose and sloppy handling of the Scriptures eventually leads to loose and sloppy living of the leaders and the congregation. Let all leaders protect themselves and their congregations through a disciplined study of God’s Word and faithful preaching.
The Apostle Paul very emphatically advised that leaders should “be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly (Titus 1:6; cf. 1 Timothy 3:2, 4, 12). It is tragic that many leaders have failed to give careful attention in the nurturing of their own children in the ways of God. Therefore, Paul challenges us, “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:5).
Our loving treatment of our wives ought to be the reflection of Christ’s wonderful love for the church. The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:25-27, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Let every church leader remember that his treatment of his wife is reflective of how greatly he thinks of the Lord’s loving dealings with the church.
An adulterous church leader is a disastrous testimony before the church. He does not portray the Lord’s faithful and true love for the church. The Apostle Paul teaches us in Ephesians 5:31-32 that Christian marriage is a token of the mystery of the relationship that Christ has with the church. “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Adultery is an appalling desecration of the image of Christ and His church.
Let every church leader remember that God expects him to prove his faithfulness as a leader in his own home first. Remind yourself repeatedly that your marriage is a living testimony of Christ’s relationship to the church. We simply must recover the wonder of this truth. Marriage has to do with Christ, not just two people trying to seek fulfilment. It is a mission whereby God’s love is to be portrayed to the world. It is an extraordinary calling.
(continued next week…)
In Second Corinthians, Paul records for our learning how the brethren in Macedonia were motivated by love to spend and be spent. This record has an interesting background. While Paul was making his way through Europe, he made some effort to collect money for the hurting believers in Jerusalem. When he reached Macedonia, he announced the need of the fellow Christians in Jerusalem. What adds to the significance of this whole episode is that Macedonia was already an economically depressed area. It would be like encouraging some of the mission churches in poorer areas of the Philippines to support those in Ethiopia. This would be a strange appeal today! (Please read slowly and carefully the following words of Paul. Don’t skip even a word!)
“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; how that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
From the above report of Paul about the Macedonian believers, we can learn some important lessons about how we should practise giving:
Sacrificially: Macedonians gave sacrificially because they were giving out of their own poverty and not out of wealth. Take note of Paul’s report of their financial state when they gave towards the need in Jerusalem – “in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.” The Macedonian Christians did not even have enough to feed themselves, when they decided to put together whatever they could find in order to support the needy Jerusalem Church.
According to Paul, “beyond their power they were willing of themselves” to support the brethren. What else could this be but their sacrificial love for the need of the Jerusalem Church?
Generously: Have you noticed Paul’s words about the Macedonians that they “abounded unto the riches of their liberality”? The word, “abound” means “overflow”, and thus a reference to their availability to help and bless the needy. Theirs was not a stingy giving. They were not calculating, to say “Look, we are already poor, and moreover we have to give to our own church. So don’t expect us to make another big gift to Jerusalem.” There was not a penny-pinching man among them. On the contrary, they were liberal in their giving. How amazing!
Voluntarily: Though Paul announced the need of the Jerusalemites, he did not twist their arms behind their backs. Paul wrote: “I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.” It seems that Paul was so stunned by their liberality that he was unwilling to take their exceedingly generous gift. So they resolved to persuade Paul to accept their gift. They were very happy that they could minister to the need of the saints.
A little later in the same letter, Paul encouraged this spirit of voluntary spontaneity in our giving: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Selflessly: When they gave, they were not giving to make a name for themselves. In fact, no name is mentioned in this passage. Paul did not even mention which of the Macedonian churches contributed to the need. A great proof of Christian giving is anonymity. Unselfish giving does not seek publicity, but prefer to remain anonymous. Jesus said, “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth” (Matthew 6:3).
Obediently: The final lesson we learn through the Macedonian churches is that giving is a matter of knowing God’s will and obeying it – “And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.” According to the Apostle Paul, such an unexpected contribution was the result of the Macedonians’ sensitivity and obedience towards God’s will.
The reason why some people groan and moan when it comes to giving is that they are not keeping close to the Lord to know His will. When a need in the Lord’s work is announced, they argue against it and express their unhappiness over such a call even before they take time to consider the matter and pray about it. On the other hand, those who keep close to the Lord and constantly seek to know and do His will, will joyfully make contributions to God’s work. This is not only true in monetary gifts but also giving oneself in service.
What an inspiring testimony David bears here! He tells us how he handled his dilemma of being in a horrible pit of sin and its dire consequences. He responded to his peculiar trouble by waiting patiently for the LORD.
He was in a very distressing situation. He described his situation in verse 2 as “an horrible pit … of miry clay”. It was a picture of helplessness and despondency experienced by David which those words grimly painted. He was sunk in deep and dark depression. No one (least of all himself) could deliver him.
Though there was no help in sight, he knew that there is help with the LORD. So he cast himself and his situation completely upon the Lord as the only possible way out. He cried out to Him in prayer. It is all that he could do, and he did it with utmost earnestness and eagerness.
When David “waited patiently for the LORD”, He was not passively sitting down and muttering fatalistically, ‘O, the LORD has deserted me. There is no one to deliver me.” Instead, he waited patiently for the LORD. His waiting consisted of crying to the LORD. Prayer is the channel that God has ordained for His afflicted people to receive His deliverance and help in times of most distressing situations.
David had always been a man of action, especially in the midst of adversities. He was not one who feared adversity. In his youthful days, he bravely acted to deliver the lambs from the mouth of a lion and a bear (1 Samuel 17:34–36). Who does not know of David’s exploits such as his victory over Goliath who had struck paralysing fear on the army of Israel? (1 Samuel 17:39–51). However, in this particular situation, he, who had overcome many an adversity, finds himself being buried under insurmountable problems.
Still, David believed that the LORD would deliver Him. So he prayed unto the LORD, as he waited patiently for His deliverance. He waited on the LORD patiently, because He had confidence in the LORD. Great heroes of faith are men who wait amidst their troubles with unwavering faith and hope in the LORD. They wait on the LORD, even when there is no man to help. They never quit their faith and duty in trouble, but remain steadfast in faith.
In verse 2, David gratefully says, “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” Those were David’s giving of thanks to God for the deliverance and stability which the Lord has graciously provided. Are you mindful to remember and praise God for the deliverance He has given to you in your life? What has the LORD done for you? Recount the recent deliverance that God has granted you in answer to your prayers. Mention them before the Lord and praise Him for those answered prayers.
When one makes it a habit to recollect the goodness of the LORD that he has received, his deep affection for the LORD will also grow. On the contrary, when the LORD’s goodness is disregarded, his devotion and spiritual enthusiasm will also be adversely affected. This is especially so, when one is going through sore distress.
In our text, God’s delivering grace is gratefully reminisced in the most apt and beautiful emblematic language. The psalmist says that the Lord has lifted him up out of a horrible pit into which he has fallen, and set him upon a rock! What a vivid and moving depiction of God’s deliverance! How would you describe God’s deliverance in your life?
The psalmist’s description here sets forth the phenomenal change that the Lord granted him in response to his penitent prayers. He was being weighed down by his sins and their consequences. This, he explained later in verse 12, “For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.” So he cried to God, saying, “Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me: O LORD, make haste to help me” (v. 13). Also, in the midst of this psalm, with eyes of faith, he spoke prophetically concerning Christ as the Saviour (vv. 7–10). The New Testament cited these words as a predictive reference to Christ’s obedience to the Father in becoming a sacrifice for our sin (cf. Hebrews 10:5–10). The repentant sinner is thus made to stand firmly on the Rock of Ages, even our Lord Jesus! If you are sinking in your sin, cry out to Christ at once with absolute faith; He will surely deliver and sanctify you by His blood.
Dear worshipper, if you have received the LORD’s deliverance from your horrible experiences of sin, then testify, like David, His goodness before others. Many are sinking hopelessly in sin. Your testimony of salvation and blessing might help someone to seek Christ for his deliverance. So exalt Christ and declare His salvation readily.
In these days, Christians generally think that it is rather a shame for them to suffer affliction. They are often told by very popular, secular minded preachers that God would not let any of His children suffer. So they think that suffering Christians are an embarrassment to God’s name.
But the Apostle Peter exhorts us, “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:16).
Christians often have to endure the society’s rejection, ostracism, violence, and even official persecution The unbelieving world hates every genuine Christian. Jesus had forewarned, “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Mark 13:13; cf. Matthew 5:11; 10:22; 24:9; Philippians 1:29).
Should a Christian feel embarrassed or weakened or abandoned by the opposition and troubles he suffers? The verse for our meditation today tells us that the Christian who is afflicted has no reason whatsoever to be embarrassed, but has every reason to exult in God and praise Him.
All have troubles, but it makes a very great difference when one suffers for his faith in Christ. The man who bears sorrow for the Lord is an honourable man in the sight of God. He has no reason to be ashamed of his sufferings, because as a Christian his life is marked by devotion to Christ and His righteousness. He is not persecuted for the evil he has committed, but for the devotion to Christ that he exhibits.
Why is it that a Christian who suffers, should not be ashamed? Because his suffering proves that he is a lover of Christ, His truth and His righteousness. Because his suffering is not meted out for a crime that he has committed, but for doing Christ’s will. Because his suffering is inflicted on him not for a mean and damnable thing he has done, but for a nobler and blessed cause of exalting Christ, his Saviour.
Ironically, a genuine Christian often suffers for his actions, in spite of the purest motives that proceed from his love for the blessed Master. Nevertheless, in his suffering, he shall be the brightest of examples that others can imitate. So, the suffering Christian is exhorted to glorify God – “but let him glorify God on this behalf.” Even under suffering circumstances, a Christian’s duty is to glorify God (cf. John 21:18-19). He must rejoice and worship God, like Paul and Silas who sang and praised God in the Philippian jail (cf. Acts 16:22-25; 1 Peter 4:13). When the suffering Christian boldly clings onto his faith in His Saviour, and testifies of Him to those who ask about his faith, he glorifies God (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). He who remains faithful to God even in the midst of suffering, glorifies God (cf. 1 Peter 2:12; 4:14).
For your further meditation and encouragement in the midst of your afflictions, I list more relevant verses below:
1 Peter 3:17-18 “For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.”
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.”
Acts 5:41 “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.”
Romans 5:2-5 “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (cf. James 1:2-4).
Philippians 1:29 “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.”
Hebrews 12:2-3 “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”
Hebrews 13:13 “Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.”
The Lord has been pleased to permit us to plan for the 8th Bible Witness Retreat. Dn Lok Kwok Wah is the coordinator of this retreat and he will be assisted by Bro John Peh. Dn Lok has secured Pulai Springs Resort, Johor, a very conducive and pleasant resort for our retreat. This was the venue of our very first Bible Witness Retreat, and we still have fond memories of that retreat.
I would like to exhort you to join this retreat. Bible Witness retreats have been a time of spiritual renewal and physical rest for many. You will have an excellent opportunity to be in the presence of God to hear His Word, and also to be in the company and fellowship of Christian brethren. If you are bringing children with you, they will have their own special programme conducted by Sis Carolyn Koshy.
The theme for the upcoming retreat “I Have Somewhat Against Thee” (Revelation 2:4). There is a great need for the members of the Lord’s church to know why He would say that He has somewhat against the church. Why would the Lord speak such severe and punitive words against the church? You should not miss this opportunity to hear why the Lord is so displeased with the church. You will also have an opportunity to meditate on Revelation 2:1-7 like you never had before. Don’t miss this opportunity. It is better to hear Him say “I have somewhat against thee” now, and not later at His coming. Now you have an opportunity to know and correct your errors. At His coming, it will be too late to amend your ways.
Sign up quickly. Your early registration would help us to plan and co-ordinate well. Moreover, there are only limited places.
The years that I have spent in the Children’s Choir are indeed precious and wonderful. I really enjoy singing, as well as learning new songs. However, simply singing in the Children’s Choir without actually seeking to learn more spiritual lessons, either from the choir teachers or from the songs we sing, does not make anyone gain anything. Therefore, I would like to share some things which I have learnt through the years when I sang in the Children’s Choir.
To begin with, we are all members of the body of Christ, so working together to sing well in the Choir is important in serving the Lord.
Also, the discipline to come for the Children’s Choir practice must not be hindered by obstacles, such as the struggle to get up early in the morning or having to travel a long distance to church.
Furthermore, when we do something wrong, we must learn to accept correction and rebuke from our teachers, as well as learn from our mistakes.
To end my testimony, I would like to thank God for my teachers in the Children’s Choir – Aunty Stefanie, Aunty Melissa and Aunty Seong Yeng – for having the dedication and patience to teach us. I also appreciate Jie Jie Carmen and Aunty Seong Yeng for playing the piano, and for being longsuffering even when we made the same mistakes while singing. Above all, I am grateful to God for teaching me to serve Him with joy through my time in the Children’s Choir – “Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing” (Psalm 100:2).
Lok Qian Ning
I want to thank God for enabling me to join the Children’s Choir, and for all my experiences in the Children’s Choir. In the beginning I was very scared to join, but by God’s grace, I’ve been in the Choir for about two to three years now. I also want to thank God for our teachers, who not only taught us to sing hymns and spiritual songs, but also to behave well and be good Christian boys and girls.
I enjoy singing in the Children’s Choir and praising the LORD with all my heart. I like to encourage other children to join the Children’s Choir. May I share a verse with you – “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High” (Psalm 92:1).
I join the Children’s Choir because I love God and I like to sing hymns and songs to praise Him. I also get to fellowship with other children in the Choir.
I want to thank God for the opportunity to be in the children’s choir. Training and practising in the choir can be very challenging at times because we must work very hard and stand for prolonged periods. But I still enjoy singing praises for the LORD so that I can share the Gospel with others through my singing.
I pray that God will continue to help me to serve Him joyfully in the choir.
I thank God for the precious opportunity of singing and praising God in the Children’s Choir. I also thank God for granting me the voice to sing hymns and Scripture in song. I am very grateful for the teachers who taught me how to sing and praise God joyfully. In the process, I learnt to be more disciplined and to sing better for the Lord’s glory. I hope this coming new year, that the truth of God’s Word in Psalm 96:2 may be fulfilled in my life – “Sing unto the LORD, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day.”
O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation” (Psalm 95:1). I want to thank God for the privilege to sing in the Choir. I would like to thank God for my teachers – Aunty Stefanie, Jie Jie Melissa, Aunty Seong Yeng and Jie Jie Carmen – for their service to God.
Praise God for them as they teach us new songs, and guide us through many practices. I have joined the Choir for 2 years already and this is my 3rd year. I pray that God will help me to continue to sing for Him. Praise the Lord!
Thank God for giving me the grace to sing throughout my two years in the Children’s Choir. I also want to thank God for the strength and wisdom He has granted me for all my presentations. There were times when I was sick, but the Lord saw me through the presentations. I thank God for helping me sing for Him. Thank God for His goodness and mercy.
But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).
Being part of the Children’s Choir has given me many wonderful blessings.
Firstly, I have been touched by Jesus’ love for me when I first sang the song, “Blessed Be The Name”, with the Choir. It tells me that God loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son to die on the cross for our sins, and so save us from eternal destruction.
Secondly, I have learned that commitment requires discipline. Rising up earlier on Sundays takes discipline. Moreover, discipline is needed for me to memorise the lyrics. I thank God for Aunty Stefanie, Aunty Melissa and Aunty Seong Yeng who have been very patient to train us every week. That makes it a lot easier for me to remember the songs. I thank God for ‘Jie Jie’ Carmen too, who is our pianist.
Finally, may God help me to continue serving Him in the Children’s Choir “with clean hands and a pure heart”. My mama has constantly reminded me that singing in the children’s choir should not be looked upon as a chore, but rather as a privilege to worship and serve Jesus. All praise and glory be to God!
I like to sing in the Children’s Choir. In the Children’s Choir, I get to sing hymns and spiritual songs, I also get to learn more songs. At the same time, I learn many new words from the lyrics and make good friends.
Thank God for the opportunity to sing praises to Him!
I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:6).
I thank the Lord for the Children’s Choir. Firstly, praise God for providing us with good teachers in Auntie Melissa, Auntie Seong Yeng, Auntie Stefanie and Jie Jie Carmen. They have worked hard to teach us sacred hymns. Secondly, thank God for the opportunity to join all the five Reformation Cantatas and last year’s Christmas Praise. Thank God for helping me memorise all the songs. Thirdly, thank God for the friends I had in the choir who helped me whenever I needed their assistance. May the Lord continue to bless the Children’s Choir as we serve Him in the music ministry of Gethsemane Bible-Presbyterian Church.
Have you wondered why there is so much preaching in our church, whether it be in the Lord’s Day worship services, Tuesday night prayer gatherings, fellowship meetings, retreats, or camps? Why are we so occupied with the exposition of God’s Word? Should we give so much attention to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word?
As a church, we make no apology for being unabashed proclaimers of the truth of God’s Word. Our reason for giving primacy to the preaching of God’s Word in our church is to put the glory and majesty of God on public display. His Word is His self-revelation of His very eternal being, His plans, His purposes and His power.
There is a great need to emphasize the absolute necessity of robust, courageous preaching of God’s Word. Even in our church, some will become weary of the constant priority that we give to the preaching of God’s Word, just as Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:3, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.”
So in the coming 4th Missionary Conference (23–27 June 2014), we will take time to search the Scriptures on the theme, “Primacy of God’s Word in the ministry of the church.” This theme will be expounded by varying pastors and missionaries who will attend the conference. Please pray that the Spirit of God will empower the speakers of the conference to expound to us the teachings of the Word of God in a clear and convicting manner.
To whet your appetite for this very necessary and glorious topic, I would like to publish below an article that I recently wrote for the ‘Daily Devotions for 2014” in our church website.
When Apostle Paul and his team arrived in the city of Ephesus, they preached the Gospel to the Jews first. Paul went into the Jewish synagogue and “spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8). But some of the hearers “were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude” (Acts 19:9). He was forced to move out of the synagogue; and subsequently taught in the school of Tyrannus. Notwithstanding the hostility, Paul continued preaching the Word undaunted, influencing the Jews as well as the Greeks in that city and its surrounding region (Acts 19:10).
Another giant obstacle to the Gospel advancement was the city’s enchantment with sorcery and witchcraft. Ephesus was renowned for the statue of Artemis and her temple. The statue had mysterious engravings on the crown, girdle, and feet. Those mystic writings, referred to as “Ephesian scripts”, were considered to have magical power. Sorcery was part of Ephesian culture. Some of the Jews also practised wizardry. Acts 19:13 reports, “Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.” When seven sons of the chief of the Jewish priests, named Sceva, tried to exorcise a demon in the name of Jesus, they were violently attacked by the demonic man. This incident brought much fear among the people.
Nonetheless, the preaching of the Word of God turned many away from their diabolical practices. “And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver” (Acts 19:18, 19)! Mightily did the Word of God grow and prevail in that city, where once deep-seated unbelief and fierce demonic activities had stood in its way.
In our own day, many are dabbling in horoscopes, tarot cards, crystal balls, Ouija boards, séances, and other mystic and demonic activities, which are dangerous to their minds and emotions. If the church is committed to preach the Word faithfully and fervently, we will see some people being turned from unbelief and delivered from the enticement and enslavement of the devil. Assuredly, the preaching of the Word shall prevail over all demonic powers!
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]hank God for the provision of Sunday Live Broadcast. I was not able to be present in the church at last Sunday’s Worship Service, due to a freak accident that hampered my movement. However, I was not deprived of the privilege to ‘feast’ on His Word, as I was able to listen to it from home. I was blessed spiritually by the sermon, “Building with the Messianic Hope”, a timely message for the last Sunday of the year 2013. Sunday Live Broadcast is serving its purpose well, edifying the souls of the saints. May the Lord continue to bless the hands that have ploughed in this ministry. “Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure. Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul” (Psalm 103:21–22).
A thankful listener