“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)
We continue the article on the order of worship in our public worship service. For your solemn consideration, the biblical reasons for each of those elements of our order of worship are provided below.
This first item in the order of worship is the reading of a short passage that records God’s call to His people to worship. For example,
The call to worship is meant to alert God’s people to the divine call in the Scriptures to worship Him. It beckons them to leave behind all their chores of life and focus on His great Person, attributes and work as their Creator, Redeemer and Provider. It is a call to respond to the divine ordinance of worship with faith, submission and adoration.
The call to worship should be wholly a divine call, not a human exhortation. Hence, it must be read out loudly from God’s Word. It must be heard by the congregation as the voice of God, though it is read by a human voice. People must hear it as God calling them to a worshipful relationship with Him, whereby they respond to His voice with praise and thanksgiving. The efficacy of worship is in that people respond to the hearing of God’s Word. So, the worship proper should always begin with the reading of a divine call to worship from the Scriptures.
Upon the call to worship, the congregation arise to render worship to God by singing hymn(s) or psalm(s) of praises and thanksgiving to Him. Scripture frequently teaches God’s people to sing praises to God – “Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise. For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth” (Psalm 33:1-4); “Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness” (Psalm 30:4).
Though the New Testament does not record choirs singing in the early church, Scripture tells us that it was an accepted practice in the worship service of ancient Israel. A group of Levites were appointed to sing in the temple (1 Chronicles 9:33; 15:16, 27; 25:1-8). The Lord has not forbidden the choir from singing. So, during the worship, choirs may sing for the glory of God.
However, they should not supersede the singing of praise to the Lord by the congregation. The Lord is most pleased to hear His people singing, for His Word says, “come before his presence with singing” (Psalm 100:2). Likewise, the prophet Isaiah envisioned the worship of God’s people as “the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion” (Isaiah 51:11).
The Bible exhorts His people to read and meditate on His Word – “give attendance to reading” (1 Timothy 4:13). The Ephesian church was also told, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19). To speak and to sing the Scriptures are our duties. Moreover, public reading of the Scriptures has been practised in the worship of God’s people. In Nehemiah 9:3, we read, “And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God.”
Indeed, in these days when the Word of God is made available in printed form to all believers, it is a great privilege to read His Word together in the worship service.
In worship, we call on the Lord through prayers. Hence, prayer is an important element of worship. In our public worship, we have several occasions of prayers, the first of which is referred to as “invocation”. It must be noted that “invocation” does not mean invitation. In this prayer, we are not inviting God to join us. In worship, it is not we who invite Him, but God who invites. Rather, it is a prayer to invoke (call upon) God to bless the worship. It is not a prayer for all the needs of the people or the church, but a prayer which acknowledges God’s greatness and mercy to bless His people as they gather for the time of worship.
While God greets us as we gather (in the salutation), we do not presume upon His promised mercy to us. We praise God for who He is. Notice that the elements of a prayer of invocation usually include things about which we have just sung or confessed. We earnestly ask God to use them as a means of grace to those who are present. In this prayer, we remember the Lord and His names that depict His relationship with us, and hallow His name by acknowledging His greatness and works and ascribing praise to Him. Upon praising God, we also seek His blessings on the worship service.
Several hymns are placed in the order of worship with clear biblical reasons. Every one of those hymns is chosen to be sung at certain points in the service so that the Scriptural purpose for psalms, hymns and spiritual songs may be performed. While the “opening hymn” is designed to be an appropriate response to the call to worship (whereby the congregation may rise to praise the Lord), the rest of the hymns are meant for the congregation to express their confession of sin, assurance of salvation, devotion to follow His will, readiness to hear the preaching of God’s Word, etc. for the honour and glory of God.
The closing hymn is chosen to help the congregation to have an appropriate response to the preaching of the Word, that they may humbly and joyfully yield to the Lord in faith and obedience to live a blessed life of boldness and service to Him.
Brethren, you must sing all the songs with great delight and real joy in the Lord. Singing is meant to be a God-appointed channel for His people to respond
to His call to worship. Singing provides you with the privilege to be an active worshipper during public worship. Your singing is your response to God who communicates to you through His Word and Spirit.
(More on this topic next Lord’s Day …)
Churches, like the Roman Catholic, Coptic, Anglican (which are mostly Episcopalian) churches, have adopted in their public worship certain forms, rituals and liturgy which are not warranted by the Word of God. Reformers and Puritans have rejected such forms of worship as unbiblical and unacceptable in the light of God’s Word. Sadly, today, many of the modern Presbyterian, Baptist and other congregational churches, being influenced by the Charismatics, adopt in their public worship many unbiblical and secular activities and programmes.
All the elements of a public worship ought to be fully focused upon the One whom we worship. The forms and elements of our worship services must direct our minds to the Almighty. The public worship entirely must be, first and foremost, in accordance to His will and for His honour, glory and pleasure. How we worship and whom we worship are integrally and inseparably bound. Even the music and instruments that are used in the public worship must not distract us from being drawn to God. Considerable care must be given to how the worship service is conducted, as defined by the Word of God. The content and order of worship must equip the worshippers to offer biblical worship to God. Only the truths set forth in Scripture by the Holy Spirit can guide us to offer an acceptable worship to God (John 4:24; cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17). As the apostle Peter said, we “are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
Undoubtedly, all of Christians’ lives and activities ought to be regulated by the Scriptures, whether by express commandment, prohibition, general principle, or godly example (Psalm 19:7-11; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:13-16; 2 Timothy 3:10). Even so, Christians’ public worship should also be regulated by the Scriptures. John Calvin, the great theologian of the Reformed faith said, “God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by his Word” (“The Necessity of Reforming the Church”).
True, the Scriptures do not provide us with a set of “worship order”. However, that does not necessarily mean that we can include any element in the liturgy or order of worship as we deem fit. We have many warnings in the Holy Scriptures against offering what pleases man as a form of public worship to God. Examples of God’s rejection of Cain’s offering (Genesis 4:3-8), the divine prohibitions codified in the first and second commandments with regard to worship (Exodus 20:2-6), the divine wrath against the worship of the golden molten calf (Exodus 32), the destruction of Nadab and Abihu who offered “strange fire” to God (Leviticus 10), God’s rejection of Saul’s claim of offering of a sacrifice that was not required by God, saying, “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22), Jesus’ rejection of Pharisaic worship which honoured the “tradition of the elders” (Matthew 15:1-14), the apostolic warning against the “will worship” (ethelothreskia) in Colossae (Colossians 2:23), all of these and more recorded in the Scriptures warn of God’s utter contempt for elements of worship that are not sanctioned by His Word.
Hence, there has been a great necessity for proper study of the sound theology of worship in the Scriptures. It is such a theological contemplation that led the Reformed, Presbyterian churches to follow a doctrinally sound order of worship. Reformed and Presbyterian order of worship that we follow today in Gethsemane B-P Church is based on the truths that God has revealed in the Scriptures, so that we may not worship Him according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the propositions of Satan. Our “Order of Worship” consists of the following: (i) Preparation for Worship, (ii) Call to Worship, (iii) Praise and Thanksgiving Hymn, (iv) Invocation, (v) Scripture Reading, (vi) Hymns of Confession / Assurance, (vii) Collection of Tithes and Offerings, with Doxology and Thanksgiving Prayer, (viii) Hymn for Mutual Edification, (ix) Pastoral Prayer, (x) Sermon, (xi) Baptism / Lord’s Supper, (xii) Closing Hymn and Prayer, (xiii) Benediction. These elements in the “Order of Worship” are warranted by the Holy Scriptures, and hence constitute an acceptable way of worshipping the true God, instituted and prescribedby Himself in His Word. Their biblical warrant is briefly mentioned below.
Our preparation to worship God on the Lord’s Day does not begin 10 or 5 minutes before the service. From Monday to Sunday we must prepare to be at the church for worship, for the Lord said, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). He does not want us to forget even for a second that we are to worship Him on the appointed day. So, He made it a moral duty of all His people to congregate and worship Him. He commanded that we keep the day of worship “holy” (which means “separated unto God”). In other words, we must separate the day unto Him for His praise, honour and glory. This is every believer’s duty, not just the pastor’s (or preacher’s) and the worship leader’s (elder’s and deacon’s) duty. Not to sanctify the day of worship in our minds and prepare to worship Him is a great sin, just like idolatry (cf. Isaiah 58:13).
The LORD’s words through Moses – “Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes, and be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai” (Exodus 19:10-11) – instruct us how important it is for us to come to His presence for worship with great preparation of heart, mind and body. For this special occasion, God gave Israel two days to prepare. It is recorded in Exodus 19:14 that Moses went down from God’s presence to the people and sanctified them. The people obeyed and prepared themselves for worship.
We too must prepare by sanctifying ourselves by reading God’s Word, remembering the greatness of our God, repenting of our sins, renewing our trust in Him and consecrating ourselves in prayer to worship and serve Him with sincerity and holiness.
How have you been coming to worship God? Come early to church with prepared and sanctified hearts. Be seated 10 minutes before worship begins and quieten your hearts. Avoid talking with others in the sanctuary. Look at the bulletin and ponder on “A Word on Worship” (the brief exhortation on worship) for a couple of minutes. Then go over the “Order of Worship” and pray for the Spirit’s preparation of all those who are ministering during the worship service. If time permits, consider the hymns and Scripture passages that will be used.
(More on “Order of Worship” next Lord’s Day …)
Worship in our church must reflect utmost reverence for the most High and Holy God (Leviticus 19:30). In times of worship, we come before the Almighty God who commands us to gather to worship Him. It is not merely a mutual meeting of God’s children; worship is conducted in acknowledgment of the presence of God to whom we gather (Psalms 27:4; 48:9b; 63:2; 77:13; 135:21). From beginning to end, the public worship of God must be characterised by total reverence for His greatness, holiness and glory, and by humility before God that yields repentance, faith, submission and service unto His glory and truth.
God instituted His worship by His people, so it ought to be conducted according to His revealed will. Public worship on the Lord’s Day must reflect the biblical truths about worship, as made known in God’s Word. Everything about the worship service must be God-centred and theologically sound for it to please and honour God. As a result of the Corinthian church’s irreverential and inappropriate partaking of worship and the Lord’s Table, Paul pointed out that “many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (1 Corinthians 11:30). Concerning worship, he sternly admonished: “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). Only scripturally warranted activities can be permitted in the worship (Deuteronomy 12:30-32; John 4:23-24), which must be in accordance to truth as revealed in God’s Word. Nothing unscriptural should be introduced in the church worship service; it should only consist of divinely sanctioned elements of worship. It must also be ensured that all the scriptural elements and orderliness affirmed in the Scriptures are not neglected. Only then can we be sure that we are led by the Spirit to worship God.
Paul has laid down much-needed principles for orderly worship services. Sadly, the Corinthian church had been conducting their worship services as they felt best – a kind of free, spontaneous worship service, where any individual could sing a hymn, prophesy or speak in tongues. However, Paul sharply rebuked such a disorderly, chaotic conduct of worship, and instructed the church with some guidelines. Paul insisted on orderliness and purpose in the church’s public gatherings, as attested to in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40.
1. Worship must not consist of free-for-all, spontaneous activities: The Corinthian church had not maintained order when they gathered for worship. Apparently, everyone did as he liked – hence, Paul asked, “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying” (v. 26). Our conduct should not distract other worshippers from truly worshipping the Lord in spirit and truth.
2. Worship services must be edifying: Everything done during the public worship must be intended to bring about the building up of the church. Promoting spiritual growth and maturity of the church must be the chief concern of all in the worship services. Nothing should be done with personal promotion or prominence in view, but with others’ edification. “Let all things be done unto edifying”!
3. Worship services should not be haphazardly put together: Even if there are several people who are equipped with the same spiritual gifts in a local church, Paul did not permit all of them to exercise their gifts. Paul urged that each service element should not be haphazardly thrown together with no order, but with meticulous deliberateness so that there will be no confusion (vv. 29-33). We are reminded that “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.” Disorganised services can distract the worshippers from fully focusing on God. Those who plan the worship services must be deliberate in what they include and how they order them.
4. Worship services should be led by those who are in the church leadership: Women in the church are advised to submit to men of leadership and not to speak in public worship (vv. 34-38). Paul’s principle of prohibiting women from questioning their leadership applies to all the leadership realms of the church, especially as it relates to the worship service. Neither men nor women in the worship should challenge or disrupt the church leaders who lead the worship service. Public worship services and other activities of the church must be planned and led by church leaders, and all the worshippers and members should respect and submit to their authority regarding the worship service.
5. Worship services should be Word-focused: In vv. 36-38, Paul emphasised on the declaration of God’s revelation. Today the divine revelation received through prophecy is complete and is given to us in the Bible. So, the declaration and practice of the Word in the church worship service are paramount to God-honouring worship service.
(Rev Reggor recently visited our mission stations in Bohol and Anda to encourage and minister to the brethren there. He has provided some photo updates for us here.)
Home Visitation and Bible Study in Anda
Children in the Bohol Mission Church
Cebu Youths in fellowship with Pastor Reggor
Our worship service today is a thanksgiving to God for the 15 years of Gospel advancement among our Chinese-speaking parents, relatives and friends. What began as a small undertaking to minister to just a handful of people is now expanded to a worshipping group of more than thirty believers every Sunday. The Chinese ministry also reaches out through the Gospel ministry at Lions Home for the Elders on Sundays, Gethsemane Seniors’ Ministry on Thursdays, as well as Gethsemane prison-ministry on Sundays. Moreover, Pr Daniel Lim regularly ministers God’s Word to several Mandarin ministries in Malaysia and Singapore.
Our hearts are filled with great thanksgiving to the Lord when we think of the salvation of many souls and the extended ministries of the church through Gethsemane Chinese Service. The apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 1:3-6 are most apt to express our sentiments this day before the LORD God Almighty: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”
We salute all our brethren in the Chinese congregation as they join us today for the Combined Thanksgiving Worship Service. May the Lord be gracious to bless your soul-winning efforts and your gatherings on Sundays and Tuesdays for worship, Bible study and prayer. Be faithful and fervent in your Christian walk.
Public worship of God is never to be disregarded or abandoned by preferring private worship. Both public and private worship of God have their own significant places in Christians’ lives, and they both should be appreciated and cherished. Though both are necessary and ought to be highly prized, a careful consideration of the Scriptural facts will show public worship as more advantageous to the Christian in his spiritual life. In this article, the greater value and usefulness of public worship is briefly explained.
In fact, when God appointed a place for the gathering of His people for worship, He wanted them to know that their gathering to that place for worship was of utmost importance. He spoke of His great love for His communion with His covenant people who gathered at the appointed place for worship. The following portions of the Scriptures highlight this truth.
In the New Testament, though God has not given one fixed place of worship such as that under the Mosaic dispensation, the assembling of the redeemed for worship in local churches is highly esteemed and enjoined. In Hebrews 10:25, we are told – “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” The early New Testament churches in various cities and towns had meeting places where they gathered for their worship and fellowship meetings. These gatherings were seen as their coming together before God, in the presence of angels and God’s people, namely the saints, as corroborated by Hebrews 12:22-24: “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”
Here are some of the advantages that public worship has over the private worship:
While some assert that public worship is not necessary, yet others – including those who affirm it as a biblical requirement – take it very casually and join infrequently and even frivolously. Then there are also those who say that public worship is not as important as private worship.
But every sincere, careful student of the Scriptures knows that true believers, both in the Old Testament and New Testament periods, have been instructed to gather together and render worship to the LORD God Almighty. The very
purpose for which the LORD brought the Jews out of Egypt by the hand of Moses was that they might worship Him with sacrifices and service (Exodus 3:18; 4:22, 23; 5:1; 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3, 9). The Law that God gave them clearly instructed them on how they ought to gather together for public worship on divinely instituted days and feasts.
Consider the following examples of public worship in the Old Testament:
The Jewish practice of worshipping in synagogues seemed to have begun from at least the time of Ezra. Congregations of Jews meeting for worship and instruction of God’s Word in many parts of their land are mentioned in the Scriptures (2 Chronicles 17:9; Psalms 74:4, 8; 83:12). The authenticity and necessity of such public worship gatherings were endorsed by our Lord Jesus Christ by His participation and involvement in such gatherings of worship – whether it be in the temple or in the synagogues (Matthew 4:23; 12:9; 13:54; Mark 1:21, 39; 6:2; Luke 4:15, 44; 13:10; 19:47; 20:1; John 18:20). In the early part of the Christian ministry, the Apostles also attended the public worships in the synagogues and preached Christ there (Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:42; 13:14-15; 14:1; 17:1, 10; 18:4). And when the temple in Jerusalem and the Jewish synagogues everywhere rejected the Apostles and the early Christians, God’s people started to meet in houses and other places for worship (Acts 2:46; 5:42; 12:12; 20:20; 28:30; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19).
Our present obligation of public worship is founded upon both precept and pattern found in the Scriptures. No person who acknowledges the authority of the Scriptures can question the believers’ solemn duty to be committed to public worship of God in His providentially appointed places of gathering. Jesus said, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (John 4:23).
The Lord God has always instructed the leaders of His people that they ought to be loving and faithful shepherds who tend His flock. The leaders of His people are required to lead the people according to His will and purposes. They are exhorted to be men of spiritual and moral integrity with a wholehearted devotion to the Lord, their “Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4), and a deep love for His people and His work.
Moses’ prayer to God for a future leader for His people, recorded in Numbers 27:16-17, comprehensively describes the shepherding job of the leader: “Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.”
Moses prayed that God would “set a man over the congregation” to shepherd them. The shepherds of His people must be those who are called and appointed by God to watch over and lead the people. Paul iterated, in his conversation with the elders of the church in Ephesus, that “the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God…” (Acts 20:28). When the Lord calls them and equips them to be shepherds of His flock, they will have all the spiritual qualities (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9), spiritual abilities (1 Timothy 4:6; 11-16; 5:17; 2 Timothy 1:5-6; 2:2, 15, 24-26; 1 Thessalonians 5:12) and spiritual concerns (Acts 20:24, 28-31; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2; 1 Timothy 6:11-12, 20; Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 5:2-3) that characterise God’s choice shepherds.
As shepherds, they are exhorted to “feed the flock of God” (1 Peter 5:2; cf. John 21:15-17; Acts 20:28). The Greek word that Peter used for “feed” (poimaínō) indicates the care, guidance and protection which a shepherd extends to his flock. When Jesus exhorted Peter in John 21:15-17 to “feed” His flock, He used this same word (poimaínō) one time and another Greek word (bóskō) two times, which has to do with causing animals, particularly pasturing animals, to eat. So the Lord’s expectation of His under-shepherds is that they will tend His flock like a genuine shepherd who is committed to nurture, protect and lead his sheep.
It is important to take note that the Greek word which the Apostle Paul used for “pastors” (poimenas) in Ephesians 4:11, means “shepherds”. Paul clearly referred to them as “pastors and teachers”. They shepherd the flock by “labour(ing) in the word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 5:17;). Faithful preaching (cf. 2 Timothy 4:2; Colossians 1:28) and teaching of the Word of God (cf. 2 Timothy 2:2, 24) nourish the souls of God’s flock. Pastors ought to be able and faithful ministers of God’s Word that they may adequately and appropriately teach the flock of God, so as to nourish and guide them.
Pastors are also to watch over the flock that they may not be misled or destroyed by “ravening wolves” that would suddenly appear among the flock. They are the flock’s camouflaged enemies. Much vigilance and courage will be required to ward off these adversaries of God’s flock. Jesus warned, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15; cf. 2 Peter 2:1). Likewise, Paul warned the Ephesian elders, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” (Acts 20:29-31). So Paul’s counsel to the under-shepherds was to “take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers” (Acts 20:28). Those who come to destroy the church will try to influence the church with unbiblical doctrines and unholy practices (cf. 2 Timothy 4:3-4; 2 Peter 2:1-3). Paying careful attention to guard the flock against false teachers is a major task of every pastor and elder overseeing His flock. This is certainly not the most pleasant or easiest of work one would like to do. It would require much boldness and confidence in the Lord. Like David, who fought with a lion and a bear while tending His father’s flock in order to deliver the lamb from their paws, pastors and elders must be ready to fight a good fight of faith to protect the believers from unscrupulous men who creep into the church (1 Timothy 1:18-20; 6:3-5,11-12).
God’s flock are characterised by certain unmistakable spiritual characteristics, which distinguish them from the rest of the world. Those distinguishing marks also help to prove that they are not wolves in sheep’s clothing that have crept into His flock unawares. These spiritual qualities are also helpful and necessary to keep the flock together under the supervision of the under-shepherds whom the Lord has made overseers.
The sheep of His flock will follow the voice of the Lord. Jesus said about His sheep that “they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). This is a definite, distinct characteristic of all the sheep of His flock. Jesus earlier said in John 6:37, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Upon hearing His voice, whoever goes to Him shall be among the flock of His pasture. Jesus said again, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Every sheep of His flock is delighted to hear and follow the Shepherd’s voice. Today, they hear the voice of the Shepherd through the Word of God being preached and taught by His faithful under-shepherds. So God’s flock are admonished in Hebrews 13:7 to “remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation” (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:13).
All the obedient sheep who follow the Lord shall be brought together “and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). They will be united under His voice. Thus they shall rejoice together in His presence, and worship Him as their Shepherd (Psalm 80:1), saying, “So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations” (Psalm 79:13).
At times, this world may be very daunting for His sheep. They would have to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4), which is filled with all kinds of enemies and evil. However, like the psalmist, they can say, “I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). Our Shepherd gently assures us, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). He will never forsake us till He brings us to our eternal home. “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:11). Finally, our wonderful Shepherd, who came as the Lamb of God to suffer and die to redeem His flock, shall receive us into His glorious, comforting and joyful presence that we may for ever be with Him – “For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17).
The church is depicted as “the flock of God”, to specifically emphasise God’s great love and care for the church. As Shepherd of His flock, God not only owns the church, but also tenderly leads, feeds and protects her. Like any flock of sheep, the church is weak and defenceless without her Shepherd. She is also prone to wander and lose her way without His supervision. It is only because of His constant tender shepherding that she is safe and sound in a world that is filled with “ravenous wolves” seeking to destroy her.
The Lord God has always been the Shepherd of His people; the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, points to this picture of His relationship with His people. The Lord has been the “Shepherd of Israel” (Psalm 80:1; cf. Psalm 78:52; 79:13; 95:7; Isaiah 40:10, 11; Ezekiel 34:11, 30, 31), with His people responding to Him, saying, “Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3).
When the Lord Jesus Christ came to this world, He proclaimed, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14), and referred to the church as “my lambs” (John 21:15) and “my sheep” (John 10:14, 26, 27; 21:16, 17). The church is Christ’s flock because His Father has given them to Him. Christ acknowledged this truth when He prayed, “thine they were, and thou gavest them me” (John 17:6). He also affirmed in that prayer that the church belongs to the Father and Him: “…for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine” (John 17:9, 10). The Lord Jesus Christ shepherds the church, the flock of His Father. The church belongs to both the Father and the Son; and the Holy Spirit effects the divine love and care for the flock through the appointment of godly men as elders of the church (cf. Acts 20:28).
Christ has proven His loving ownership of the flock by giving His life for them that they may be redeemed from sin and eternal damnation. He said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). He gave His life for the sheep that He may purchase them for Himself. It was not for His own defence that He shed His blood, but to pay the ransom for whom He came to save. Hence, in Acts 20:28, the Apostle Paul referred to the church as “the flock, …the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood”. Through His sacrificial death, Christ has proven Himself to be “the Good Shepherd” and also “the Great Shepherd” of the church (cf. Hebrews 13:20). So the Apostle Peter said to Christians, “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25). The church’s True and Chief Shepherd is Christ (1 Peter 5:4).
Christ, the Shepherd of the church, knows every sheep of His flock. He knows whom He owns. He knows them collectively and individually. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep” (John 10:14). He knows them by name and “he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out” (John 10:3). He calls them out from their fold and leads them by His voice (through His Word) to “green pastures” and “still waters” (Psalm 23). Jesus illustrated His role of the Shepherd when He said, “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice” (John 10:4). Jesus also said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Today, His sheep hear His voice through His Word and they obediently follow His counsel.
Christ the Shepherd is a tenacious defender of His flock. He is not like the “hirelings” who have no commitment to protect the flock against the vicious forays of the enemy. Christ did not mince His words in describing the hirelings thus: “But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep” (John 10:12-13). But Christ the Good Shepherd, in order to deliver His sheep from their adversary, laid down his life for them (cf. John 10:11), with this comforting assurance: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28).
Christ, as the Shepherd, is the church’s redeemer, provider, protector and guide.
It is with great joy and encouragement that I read the article entitled “Beware of Partial Perception” in the Mar-Apr 2018 issue of Bible Witness magazine.
I readily confess to countless instances of partial perception, which can only be rectified by the continued and repeated reading / meditation of God’s Word – accompanied with prayer in seeking the Holy Spirit’s illumination through God’s grace and mercy. There is no other way to be taught by God. This is also true for the larger ministry of the Holy Spirit in the “church age”, in the sharing of God’s Word by His church.
Without prayer for the teaching by the Holy Spirit, I believe one could not perceive what God says in spirit, and at best one will perceive only partially, with the peril of falling away into unbelief.
The hazard of “partial perception” is very real for all who endeavour to read God’s Word, and to date I have not read any article on “partial perception” and wish to praise God for this article’s reminder to all who would come to Christ to learn “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24b). Thank God for Pr Kee How’s article. It is what I needed most at this time. Praise God for the labour of love for our Saviour Christ!
Since coming to GBPC, the riches of Scripture “opened” through the preaching and teaching I’ve received, as well as the “treasure trove” of articles published, have truly been the work of the Holy Spirit. What a joy to see this manifestation in GBPC and its missions!
Joyously in Christ,
Our Urgent Need for $700,000: Last week, our Building Fund has just crossed $4.3 million [Funds received ($3.2m) + Remaining payment from sale of present CRC ($1.15m)]. The building which we are now aiming to buy would cost us about $4.55 million, including GST, stamp duty, lawyers’ fee, and other miscellaneous expenses. Additionally, we would need about $500K for renovations, equipment, furniture, etc. So, our present shortfall is about S$700,000. By the end of July (i.e. within next two months), this amount is needed.
Our Urgent Need for Permits: The building is purchased under Gethsemane Bible Witness Ltd. (GBWL), a Company Limited by Guarantee (CLG), which has been registered to carry out the commercial and/or industrial activities of Gethsemane Bible-Presbyterian Church. GBWL will be applying for URA permit to rent out a “Multi-Purpose Hall” (as per URA’s guidelines). GBWL will also be applying for GST registration, which will result in the return of the GST we will have to pay for the building. In addition, applications for renovations also need to be submitted. (In this regard, we must also pray for a good contractor for the renovations.)
Very weak and disadvantaged we may be. But at this point, we must not let anxiety and doubt prevail among us. Inaction and quitting aren’t for us, who have set out to do all things for the furtherance of the Gospel. We have garnered much, by the grace of God, in bringing many out of their miseries, in restoring many shattered lives, and in guiding many to pursue a renewed life in Christ. All these through tireless efforts to spread the Word of God through so many different means, whether it be social (TGCM, Seniors’ Ministry, etc.), or media (BW magazine, BW Media Ministry), or internet (several websites, BW web radio, etc.) outreaches. Our increasing need for larger premises to conduct all these operations is very acute. So, we must press on – but how?
Fast and Pray: Our church had on several occasions sought the Lord regarding new projects, needs and problems, by fasting and praying. This we did, firstly, for His strength and wisdom to remain focused and accomplish the tasks before us, and secondly, for His provision and help. He has always directed us forward and helped us with all our needs. Our experience has been as it was written in 2 Chronicles 14:7, “Therefore he said unto Judah, Let us build these cities, and make about them walls, and towers, gates, and bars, while the land is yet before us; because we have sought the LORD our God, we have sought him, and he hath given us rest on every side. So they built and prospered.”
Believers of all ages sought God with fasting in their time of need. Men of faith in the Bible, like Moses, David, Esther, Daniel, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, Anna, the Apostles, the early Christians, and many more fasted and prayed. Even our Lord Jesus fasted and prayed (cf. Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-4).
How do you view the spiritual exercise of prayer, even with fasting? I wish that you are not among those who despise fasting. John Calvin, the great Reformer and theologian, recommended that Christians practise fasting as a private and public spiritual discipline. Read Calvin’s statement below:
“A holy and lawful fast has three ends in view. We use it either to mortify and subdue the flesh, that it may not wanton, or to prepare the better for prayer and holy meditation; or to give evidence of humbling ourselves before God, when we would confess our guilt before him. The first end is not very often regarded in public fasting, because all have not the same bodily constitution, nor the same state of health, and hence it is more applicable to private fasting. The second end is common to both, for this preparation for prayer is requisite for the whole Church, as well as for each individual member. The same thing may be said of the third. For it sometimes happens that God smites a nation with war or pestilence, or some kind of calamity. In this common chastisement it behoves the whole people to plead guilty, and confess their guilt. Should the hand of the Lord strike any one in private, then the same thing is to be done by himself alone, or by his family. The thing, indeed, is properly a feeling of the mind. But when the mind is effected as it ought, it cannot but give vent to itself in external manifestation, especially when it tends to the common edification, that all, by openly confessing their sin, may render praise to the divine justice, and by their example mutually encourage each other.
Hence fasting, as it is a sign of humiliation, has a more frequent use in public than among private individuals, although as we have said, it is common to both. In regard, then, to the discipline of which we now treat, whenever supplication is to be made to God on any important occasion, it is befitting to appoint a period for fasting and prayer…” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV, xii, 15).
It is time, once again, for a special season of consecration and prayer with fasting, that we may humbly seek the Lord for help. I call on all Gethsemaneans to gather on Tuesday evenings to fast and pray for the Lord’s guidance and help in our present urgent needs. Starting this Tuesday night, we shall set aside our evening meals and pray.
Rise and Build: Like the people of old, who rose to build their nation, their city and its walls, and the house of God, (cf. 2 Samuel 2:7; 1 Chronicles 11:10; 19:13; 2 Chronicles 14:7; 32:5; Ezra 6:22; Nehemiah 2:18-20), let us also rise and build in our time. During the building of the temple in Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s time, some gave generously, while others did whatever they could in the construction – “And some of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the LORD which is at Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God to set it up in his place: they gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand pound of silver, and one hundred priests’ garments. So the priests, and the Levites, and some of the people, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, dwelt in their cities, and all Israel in their cities” (Ezra 2:68-70).
Likewise, let us now arise and do all that the Lord has enabled us to do. May the work of the Lord be set forward for His glory!
By the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, my wife and I are able to attend this 13th Seniors’ Ministry Anniversary in the form of a retreat. We realise we need the Word of God for our spiritual blessing, and also the support for one another so that we will not be drawn into temptation and fall by the wayside.
First, I like to say what a joy it is to look forward to the Seniors’ gathering every Thursday, where we can have fellowship, pray for one another and most importantly, listen to the precious Word of God. I am particularly thankful for the people in our midst who work very hard to ensure that the seniors are cared for spiritually. They are Pr Daniel, Eld and Mrs Mah, Sis Gina, Sis May, Sis Stella and the two guitarists, Sis Kim Lei and Sis Elizabeth, as well as our ever so reliable driver, Pr Jeremiah, who without fail will fetch us from designated locations and also administer God’s Word to us. Many of us are in our twilight years, with some not being physically mobile or mentally agile, yet praise the Lord that we can share to take care of one other.
Thank God for His love and mercy that He did not forget me when I kept away from Him. I was a teenager when I attended Bethel Assembly of God Church, a charismatic church. I was faithful in attending Sunday services, visitations and Bible study during my youth. But when I started working, I kept away from church and busily devoted my time to work and other activities. I was “in the wilderness” for many years. My life was in a mess but the good Lord was gracious in bringing me back to His fold.
I have two daughters; the elder one and my son-in-law accepted the Lord as their personal Saviour in Melbourne, where they have settled down. My wife and I visited them quite often, during which time they brought me to church. I was surprised and touched that the church they are attending was also known as “Bethel”. I strongly believe the Lord was telling me that He still loves me and has not forgotten me, and wanted me to return to His fold.
Well, the Lord in His providence opened the door for me. By His grace, my daughter arranged for me and my wife to attend the Gethsemane Seniors’ Ministry meeting 3 years ago, held at Punggol. We were accompanied by Sis Patricia from Bethel BP Church, Melbourne, who had come to Singapore to visit her family at that time. From then on, we havebeen attending Gethsemane B-P Church. Since my return to the Lord, I have repented and asked the Lord for His forgiveness. I have found peace and joy in the gracious and merciful Lord. He has sustained me all these years.
The Lord has also been kind to my wife. We want to thank brethren-in-Christ who prayed for her when she was recently diagnosed with glaucoma in her left eye. This is an eye disease that affects the sight of the elderly. If left untreated, it may cause blindness. The Lord has a hand in getting her treated early as the doctor said that some of her optic nerves were affected. She underwent the treatment successfully, and praise God she can join us in this retreat. My prayer is that she will be saved and join me in worshipping the Lord.
The Lord is my Shepherd. He cares for each and every one of His sheep. I pray God will be merciful to us as we journey through this life in our evening years, and that He will not forsake us but give us the strength to
proclaim His wondrous love, mercy and righteousness.
Sis Jessie Ng
I thank God for another blessed year of thanksgiving for our Gethsemane Seniors’ Ministry. Truly, “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him” (Psalm 34:8). I count it my greatest joy each week to come together to study more of God’s Word and to enjoy sweet Christian fellowship with our seniors. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb 10: 25). In fact, I’ve always looked forward to seeing the smiles on our seniors’ faces when they arrive.
Thank God for faithful preachers like Elder Mah and Preacher Jeremiah. Through this ministry, I’ve learnt many biblical doctrines that are applicable to my Christian walk. God’s Word is powerful to chastise and rebuke me to show forgiveness, love and patience towards those who had offended me, just as how He has so graciously forgiven me of my own sins. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword … and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb 4: 12).
I’ve learnt to cast my eyes upon God whenever I am faced with trials, trusting He will carry me through. I only need to trust and rest in Him. Indeed, God never fails in His promises, and is always faithful to lift me up whenever I seek Him in humility. He grants me peace that passesth all understanding which people, money and fame cannot give, because He is our living God.
I praise Him for the privilege of having a full-time interpreter, Pr Daniel Lim. Without him, our Mandarin-speaking brethren will have much difficulty in understanding and receiving God’s Word. Being a part of this ministry helps me learn to be a patient and caring sister to other brethren. I thank Him for the wonderful opportunities to serve in whatever small ways and to reach out to those who are unwell.
Last but not least, I thank God for Sis Gina’s labour of love and patience in coordinating transportation for our seniors at different pick-up points every week. This is not an easy task as there are sometimes last-minute cancellations and changes. May God continue to sustain the Senior’s Ministry and we be worthy vessels to win souls for Him. I pray that He will continue to grant us much strength and grace to seek Him first in our daily walk with Him, and to grant us much wisdom to spend our time wisely until Jesus comes again.
As the Gethsemane Seniors’ Ministry commemorate 13 years of God’s faithfulness, love and care upon this ministry, we rejoice in echoing the words of the psalmist in Psalm 105:1 – “O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people.” Indeed, may the Lord’s name be magnified and glorified.
This year, we are thankful to hold our first Seniors’ retreat at Tropical Inn, JB, Malaysia in conjunction with our 13th Thanksgiving Anniversary of Gethsemane Seniors’ Ministry. Joy overflowed from the hearts of our seniors, who had earnestly looked forward to this 3 day-2 night retreat. Unknown to most, behind the scenes were lots of laborious effort and logistical arrangement, as well as much planning put into the organisation by brethren who truly laboured with much love. Thank God for the smooth execution of the entire retreat.
When the day arrived, we made our way with joy and excitement to the Woodlands train station, where we took the train to Johor Bahru Sentral Railway Station, Malaysia. From there, some brethren walked to the Tropical Inn whereas the rest hailed down the cabs. We sought the Lord for protection throughout our travelling, as majority of the brethren in this group are elderly folks. Praise God for His divine help to bring us safely to the hotel as well as for our return to Singapore after this retreat. Truly, this calls us to our remembrance the apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 4:6 – “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God”.
After our sumptuous dinner that first evening, our service began at 8pm with the elderly raising their voices to praise God with their singing. Thereafter, we had our first message on the topic, “Biblical Doctrine on the Elderly”, where Pastor Koshy preached from Psalm 71:9 to exhort us to trust and seek God in prayer. After the service, we had fellowship over our refreshments, encouraging and exhorting one another in the Lord.
On the second day of the retreat, we had our second message in the morning at 9am. The topic was on “Godly Living by the Elderly”; Pastor ministered to us from Psalm 71:17-19 and taught us to be prepared always to declare the Gospel and God’s marvellous works to the people of this generation. We truly thank the Lord for these two messages, which not only assured and strengthened us, but further reminds us that as God’s children, we have this incomparable privilege to declare His truths, as well as seek refuge in Him. When we proceeded for our refreshments, we saw some seniors attempting to put into application what they were taught by Pastor by sharing the Gospel with the unbelievers in our midst. All glory be unto God for such zealousness of these seniors to evangelise!
We also want to thank the Lord for Eld Mah and Pr Jeremiah Sim who ministered to the seniors in the morning and night devotions. In addition to these meetings, we had a prayer meeting. It was a joyous moment to hear many of our seniors interceding with thankful hearts for various items. On the last day of the retreat, we gathered in the morning and gladly sang spiritual songs led by Pr Jeremiah. That was followed by testimony time, where 6 seniors, namely sisters Jessie Ng, Miriam Wong, Lily, and brothers Mickey Lee, Francis Tan, Lee Jong Lee, gratefully testified of the Lord’s grace and mercy upon their lives. Their encouraging testimonies have indeed stirred the hearts of many elderly to give glory and honour to God too. After our lunch, we checked out from the hotel at 12 noon and arrived back, safe and sound, at Singapore around 3pm. Certainly, we thank the Lord for His protection throughout in our travelling. All praise be unto God!
Thank God for the fruitful 3 days of retreat. The Lord has been gracious to us in granting us good health and strength, enabling us to attend this retreat in JB. I would like to thank the Lord for faithful preaching of God’s Word, as well as the Seniors’ Ministry committee and all who have helped in one way or another, that we may come together to learn and be reminded of how we ought to live for Christ in our old age. May the Lord continue to use this ministry mightily, that we may “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Hebrews 10:24).
Personally, I would like to thank the Lord for the provision of such a ministry in the church, where brothers and sisters in Christ can come together to study God’s Word, pray, sing hymns of praise, and worship God. For it is written in Hebrews 10:25 – “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” May the Holy Spirit work a good work in us, that we may understand and do God’s will. God willing, now that I am retired, I hope to attend the Seniors’ Ministry regularly, serving God and living a life pleasing unto Him.
All glory be to God!
(More testimonies next week…)
Every Christian student must enter his secondary and tertiary institution as an ardent witness of Christ. In order to fulfil that goal, he must, primarily, be spiritually prepared. An ill-prepared and unresolved youth who enters the campus will quickly fall prey to the many spiritual and moral evils that lurk in the modern educational institutions. This situation will undoubtedly render him utterly unfruitful as a Christian. What a colossal waste of 3 (or 4) years of opportunity to live for Christ! Why waste your time on the campus by sinning and causing others to sin, without testifying for Christ?
Dear youths, take heed to the exhortation of God’s Word: “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). Every Christian’s life principle must be that he conducts himself as a wise child of God because of the limited opportunity to bear fruit for the Lord due to the hostility and snares of the evil one around him. Therefore, my young friend, consecrate yourself in prayerfulness and take a resolute stand for Christ. Make the most of your time on the campus to be a good witness for Christ.
To support the students of our church, our preachers have come forward to meet with them at least once a week, wherever possible. We have special campus ministries for youths of various institutions. This effort is apart from the Gethsemane Youth Fellowship held fortnightly. There is also the Fundamental Christian Ministry led by Calvary Pandan B-P Church in several campuses. We thank God for many of our students who join these ministries to enhance their spiritual growth and witness for the Lord. But a stern word of caution from Scripture to those who neglect these ministries made available to you – Be “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
Stephanie Ow Jia Min
My name is Stephanie. I am 22 years old and currently a student at NAFA (Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts) School of Music. I was born and raised in a non-Christian family. Most of my family members are Buddhists/Taoists or free-thinkers. Yet I did not believe in the existence of any Supreme Being who created the universe and everything that dwell in it. To me, everything existed on its own. I followed my family to the temple to worship whatever they believe to be gods or to worship our ancestors during the Qing Ming festival, Hungry Ghost festival and death anniversaries of any of our late relatives. I heard bits and pieces about Jesus Christ from friends who are Christians, and also from some of my family members who spoke of Him as a “god” of the Western religion. Therefore, I did not really take this to heart. I was raised with this concept that I am a Chinese, so I must worship the Chinese gods and not the Western “god”. But deep down inside, I craved to know more about Jesus. Who is He? Why is everyone telling me that Jesus loves us?
Thank God that when I started my secondary school education, one of my teachers shared the Gospel with me. I decided that maybe I should open my heart to let Christ in to be my Lord and Saviour, though I knew not what I was doing at that time. I did not fully surrender to Him and His will. I called myself a Christian but I still wanted to be in control of my own life. I clung to the concept of most people today: “No one controls my destiny except me.” For the past 7 years, I drew further and further away from God after I began to be more recognised by people as a musician who plays the erhu, a Chinese two-stringed fiddle. Opportunities for me to perform began to knock at my door. I was subsequently accepted as a musician of the Singapore National Youth Chinese Orchestra, granted a scholarship by Deutsche Bank to pursue my music studies, and I became one of the first musicians to join the Purple Symphony when it first started in 2015.
Yes, I know God has given me all these, and I am truly grateful and feel really blessed to be given such opportunities. Yet I never thought to acknowledge Him. The people I acknowledged were my family (who brought me to music lessons when I started learning music at the age of 14), my conductor, my music teachers, and my friends who stood by me and who never ceased to encourage me. I forgot about Him in the midst of the so-called peaks of my life. But the Lord has never let His sheep wander off far or long. He reached out to me whenever I hit my lowest points in my studies or in my personal life. He has sent Dorcas Koshy, my senior in NAFA, into my life and she invited me to attend Bible study with her, together with a few other Christians and Pastor Koshy. (I have never been to a church as my family is concerned about me going to the wrong church with the wrong people, especially since what had happened in City Harvest Church.) Without hesitation, I took this opportunity to go as I felt this is what I need – to learn about God’s Word and pray for one another.
I have actually read about campus ministries in other schools and wondered if NAFA has one. After joining the Bible study this semester, which was my first time ever being in one, I have learnt a lot in the process about what true Christian faith really is. I realised it is not just believing in a God who created the heavens and the earth. It is also about knowing and accepting what Jesus did for us on the cross in Calvary, which thereby opened the way for us to go to the Father through Him; as well as overcoming the world, sin and temptation. Frankly, I have not really read the Bible properly before I joined the Bible study; I did not see the significance of it. Fortunately, God touched my heart and opened my eyes, allowing me to see the beauty of His Word while we were studying it together as a group, especially when Dorcas found a soft copy Bible so that I can read on my device Braille Sense U2, which works like the computer. I believe it is the Holy Spirit’s work within me, for I started to pray and read the Bible more frequently and earnestly now. I feel that nothing else matters as long as I am in Christ and follow Him with all my being!
My mindset about the world has changed. I have been holding the world in one hand and God in the other. Now I understand the concept of “no man can serve two masters”. I will continue to pray for Christ’s salvation upon my family, and to be a good testimony for Christ. I truly thank Pastor Koshy and Dorcas for teaching me and being examples for me to follow. May the Lord bless them and keep them always. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen.
I thank God for the Tuesday Bible Study, which was introduced to me through Dorcas. It has been much of a blessing to me. I have benefited much from the faithful teachings by Pastor Koshy, and the fellowship with like-minded sisters (no other brothers in the group yet) in Christ, which are of great encouragement to me. Being a new student in the school, I am grateful for this ministry in that even in a school full of worldly influences, there is this “lifeline” which reminds us to push away the things of the world, and to hold fast to God and His truths. I thank all who have been praying for us in the campus ministry and pray that God may continue to use it powerfully, for the furtherance of His kingdom.
30 years of Gethsemane Bible-Presbyterian Church’s existence provide many things for any sharp-eyed person to evaluate and comment. We are grateful for both cheering and corrective comments from God-fearing and faithful Christians. Many believers whom the Lord added to the church in the course of the last 30 years also brought much joy and assurance concerning the church’s testimony.
You might be wondering what critical concerns about our church could there be? Are we not sound in our doctrines? Are we not making every effort to preach the Gospel to the unsaved, and also to edify the believers? Do we not have a biblical form of worship? Still, can there be some aspects of our activities and ministries that the Lord is very displeased with?
The leaders and members of the church should not become complacent to the extent of not checking our individual lives and our service to see whether we please Him always. Our private affairs of life, our attitudes, our relationships, our activities, our dependence on God, our obedience to God, and all else must be evaluated before Him. “No stone should be left unturned” in checking whether we are pleasing the Lord.
Having studied the first three chapters of the book of Revelation in our recent Sunday afternoon GBI classes, a deep concern fills my heart about what the Lord would say concerning the spiritual state of our church. Out of the seven churches, five of them were sharply rebuked by the Lord. Two of them (Sardis and Laodicea) were in grave spiritual danger of being wholly discarded by the Lord because of their sins. Only the churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia were not chided.
Consider the following words of the Lord’s rebuke to five of the churches in Revelation, chapters 2 and 3.
|Church||The Lord’s Rebuke||Sins|
|Ephesus||“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2:4).||Left its first love for the Lord and His people.|
|Pergamos||“But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate” (Revelation 2:14-15).||Embraced false doctrines, love for money and sexual immorality.|
|Thyatira||“Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols” (Revelation 2:20).||Allowing a wicked woman to be the church’s teacher/ leader, sexual immorality and idolatry.|
|Sardis||“… thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.… I have not found thy works perfect before God” (Revelation 3:1-2).||Sought man’s applause, though the Lord denounced their activities as dead.|
|Laodicea||“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.… (for) thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:15, 17).||Delighted in wealth and fame, while disregarded its members’ spiritual impoverishment and wretchedness. Christ was excluded from their fellowship; still He knocked at the “door”, that they may open unto Him (Revelation 3:20).|
It is instructive to note that churches like Ephesus, Pergamos and Thyatira also received commendation from the Lord for various things they did rightly in His sight. Ephesus was a church that was applauded for labouring earnestly and patiently, and for its uncompromising stand on doctrines. The church in Pergamos was praised by the Lord for enduring persecution and poverty in the service of the Lord with an uncompromising stand against false teachers. Likewise, the church in Thyatira was commended by the Lord for its works, charity, service, faith and patience. Yet each of them had specific rebuke from the Lord for failing in specific areas (which are mentioned in the chart above).
Thus, it is crucial that we do not ‘rest on our laurels’, if there is any at all. Our chief concern ought to be whether we please the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the church, in all aspects of our faith, doctrine, life and ministry. People may be very pleased with our church, but is the Lord pleased with us? Nothing should be of more significant concern to the church than what the Lord has to say about us.
But, how can we know whether the Lord has a word of rebuke against us? The Lord has given very clear counsel (at the end of every one of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3) as to how all the churches should take heed to what the Lord has to tell them. He said, “He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). Christ’s messages in those letters are for all the churches in all places and in all ages, and the Spirit of God will let the churches know of the Lord’s counsel specifically for them. The Holy Spirit is sent to us, that we may be instructed of the Lord’s will (John 14:17; 16:13; 1 John 2:27). Let us yield to the Spirit who would teach us through His Word. Let us also pray for the preachers and teachers of God’s Word that they will be enabled by the Spirit to admonish us faithfully according to God’s will. Like the apostle Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 2:13, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual”, may our teachers also be enabled by the Holy Spirit to teach us His will concerning us. Let us all, as a church of Jesus Christ, conduct ourselves at all times to please and honour our Lord, in all matters of life and ministry.
Let us remember, brethren, our church may be seen as having an excellent place of worship, running many well-organised programmes and even being economically sound. Yet, the Lord who searches our thoughts and motives may be very displeased. So, all leaders and members of the church must sincerely and earnestly seek to know the Lord’s estimation about us, that they may repent and renew themselves according to His admonition.