Silent Worship

Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. –1 Cor. 11:14,15 NIV.

 

My first visit to a church was probably when I was about 6 years old – some nearly eighty years ago.  My mum would have a veil on her head and so would the other ladies in church.  When I grew up it gradually changed.  Some women would wear hats or scarfs instead of veils, I suppose in keeping with the times. The Apostle Paul says that the long hair is given to her as a covering.  How much things have changed today! Few churches nowadays will require their women to wear some kind of head covering when they go to church.

In the last exhortation we were talking about women anointing Jesus’ feet and the wiping of his feet with their hair.  What caught my attention in the verses above (1 Cor. 11:14,15 NIV) were the words, “ . . . but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?” To be sure the apostle Paul was not talking about fashion, possibly not even about the covering of our heads physically with a veil but about headshipor leadership! Let me just restate the NIV version with what the Message Bible says:

13-16 Don’t you agree there is something naturally powerful in the symbolism—a woman, her beautiful hair reminiscent of angels, praying in adoration; a man, his head bared in reverence, praying in submission? I hope you’re not going to be argumentative about this. All God’s churches see it this way; I don’t want you standing out as an exception.  Have you thought of a woman’s hair as “something naturally powerful”, “reminiscent of angels”?  Let’s just go along with the other translations (NIV, KJV, ESV, NAS . . .) that a woman’s hair “is her glory”.

Interestingly enough, there were two women in the Bible both referred to as “Mary”.  Both had anointed the feet of Jesus and have wiped Jesus’ feet with their hair.   The first Mary(from Galilee, the Pharisee’s house, Luke 7) was thought to be Mary Magdalene.  But contrary to common thought, she was not Mary Magdalene.

The other Mary (from Bethany) was recorded by three of the Evangelists – – John 12:1-8, Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9.  They refer to the same person – the sister of Lazarus and Martha.  Jesus loved all three of them. Lets gather the pieces of information from John and Matthew together, so that we may get a better picture of her.

 

Mary from Bethany – at the leper’s house:

John 12 NIV:  Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, . . . 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor . . . 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Matthew 26:6 NIV:  Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, 7a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table.

Summary:  Both passages tell us about the place – Bethany.  But only John tells us when the event has taken place.  It is “Six days before the Passover.”  But it is Matthew who tells us more about the host of that dinner. He is “Simon the leper”.  Keep these pieces of information at the back of your mind.  They are important and we will revisit them a little later.

Mary’ from Galilee – at the Pharisee’s house:

In Luke 7 we find another story of another woman anointing Jesus (washing Jesus’s feet with perfume), but it took place in Galilee not Bethany. When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.– Luke 7:36-38 NIV.  Incidentally we learn from Jesus the name of that Pharisee when He says, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” – Luke 7:40 NIV. But we are not told the name of that woman.

Some older commentaries say that the woman is Mary Magdalene.  But this is not the case.  The commentator Wiesler says that it is in Nain, others say it is Magdala because they assume the woman to be Mary Magdalene or Mary from Magdala. But this cannot be.  You see, in the very next chapter (8), Luke introduces Mary Magdalene as a new character: “After this (the anointing at Bethany), Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God . . . 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out . . . These women were helping to support them out of their own means. – Luke 8:1-3 NIV.

Summary:  What is clearly common in the two stories is that, in each case a woman has anointed Jesus with perfume from an alabaster box. But only one of the women is named Mary.  The two women are clearly different persons.

But curiously, as it happened, both hosts of that somewhat similar event; concerning the anointing of Jesus were called by the same name, Simon.  Let’s try to get to know the Simons a little better.

 

Bethany – Simon the leper:

In those days, the name Simon was quite common in Palestine.  Simon was the Greek form of Simeon.  You would find at least nine Simons in the New Testament – Simon Peter possibly is the best known among them. Apparently Jesus must have healed Simon the leper.

Simon the Leper therefore knew how great a blessing it was to be a beneficiary of Jesus’ work of miracles.  Simon was naturally very excited when Jesus raised Lazarus from death to life.  So, Simon the leper threw a dinner with Jesus as the guest of honor to celebrate the event.

 

Galilee – Simon the Pharisee:

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. – Luke 7: 36 NIV. I don’t know about you.  But I am quite impressed by the host, Simon the Pharisee. Instead of sitting cross-legged around the table for dinner, as has been the custom of the Jews, Simon’s guests recline on a divan as the Persians, Greeks and Romans do.  So, Simon the Pharisee seems quite well to do!  I think he wants to know more about Jesus, the man with extraordinary deeds of miracles.

The two anointings

Throughout the New Testament we read about what Jesus has done for the Jews, the gentiles – – for all of us.  But the two anointings are about what the two women have done for Jesus. You see, when the women use their hair to wipe Jesus’ feet, they are really putting their glory at His feet. What seems powerful about the women anointing the feet of Jesus is this image, this picture. This is a great picture of worship – worship without words, silent worship!

We too can serve and be of service to Jesus.  You see the anointing of the two women are acts of worship. The perfumes are precious to the women personally. If you have ever struggled about making a love gift to Jesus through your church, remind yourselves how these two women put their treasured best – their perfumes and themselves at the feet of Jesus.  Make no mistake.  The whole room must have been filled with the fragrance of that perfumed worship.  The fragrance (that act of worship) will stick onto the clothes of those present (the guests) and that fragrance will surely follow each of them when they get to their homes.  Real worship has a ripple effect.  I believe its fragrance will begin to latch on to all those around us.

 

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Healing Revealed In A Dream – A testimony

Rebecca Hum is a partner of FG and attends a life group for young women. This is her testimony of God’s miraculous healing power and His comforting love for us.

I was struck with a strange ailment on the 3rd day of CNY (19th of Feb). My left ankle started swelling and I had tremendous difficulty walking with a swollen ankle, barely able to exert pressure on my foot. It was my first time experiencing such swelling that occurred without any trauma or stress to the ankle.
Prior to the swelling, I was having rather bad muscle tension at my hip and back which GPs had no concrete answers to. They prescribed muscle relaxants and chalked it up to my rigorous exercise regime.

Right after CNY, I went to see my regular GP and she suspected that it was gout and ran a blood test. For more than a week before the blood test results were out, the swelling did not subside and had started to affect the right ankle. I was in much distress as I could not exercise at all and was eager for a diagnosis to the strange condition of my physical health. I was greatly dependent on anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the pain.

When the blood test results were out, there was no indication of gout, SLE or Rheumatoid Arthritis. Just a minor sign of infection but there was no indication of the source of infection.
Due to my family’s history of auto-immune related diseases, I was referred to see a rheumatologist in TTSH. Further blood tests was done and, proved inconclusive as the results were normal, just a sign of infection detected. I was then prescribed with a non-steroidal medication that addressed the swelling of my ankles, and the pain and swelling subsided. However there was still an infection detected in my blood test result on the 2nd consult. There are side effects to taking this medication and I had to review on the effect the medication has on my body as I would likely be taking it long term to keep my condition under control.

One night on the 24th of April, 1 week before my 3rd appointment with the doctor to follow up on my condition, I had a dream. In my dream, my back was covered with black leeches. I felt no fear in that dream despite leeches looking black, slimy and kind of disgusting.

When I woke up, I was curious and decided to do an Internet search on what it meant to dream of leeches. My initial search result said it indicated that something was sapping my energy. That didn’t feel quite right, so I decided to share this with a close friend who was journeying with me on this walk with God. She told me to pray about it. One day, as I was just praying to God about this, I felt led to search “the medical use of leeches”. One of the websites revealed that, “Since the time of ancient Egypt, leeches have been used in medicine to treat nervous system abnormalities, dental problems, skin diseases, and infections. Today, they’re mostly used in plastic surgery and other microsurgery.” At that moment, I knew in my spirit that I am completely healed.

At my 3rd consultation with the specialist, my blood test results were fine and there was no sign of infection detected! Hallelujah! God had healed me miraculously.
When I shared this to most believers, their immediate response is “God healed you in your dream!”. Ever since Elder Charles gave his sermon on “I dream a dream” on the 10th of March 2018, God has been giving me dreams.

I hope this testimony will encourage you to have faith in a God who is so personal – yes, he is with each one of us. I was in great distress without an answer to my situation; I had doubts and worries about my health condition as what I was going through was abnormal for a person my age. In my struggles within my inner life and the anxieties, I felt that God comforted me with His peace that this episode will pass., that I will not be under the generational curse of the conditions linked to my predecessors. God is kind and faithful, He forgave my sins and gave me a miracle healing. I hope you are encouraged to seek God for the healing you need regardless of the circumstance you are in, even if it makes no sense rationally, seek the answer in the Almighty one.

Also, may this testimony encourage you to ask God to speak to us through dreams as it says in Job 33:14.
“For God does speak—now one way, now another—though no one perceives it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds”.

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Church = Family

Not too long ago, God put some thoughts in my heart about the idea of family. I am so grateful that family is His idea, and that He has spent the last five years of my life restoring me to my natural family. I have grown to love and honour my father and mother like never before, even to desire harmony and relationship with my grandmother, my sister, cousins, uncles and aunts. And this has blessed our family tremendously.

But recently He asked me to think about a different family – my church. “What does it mean to see your church as your family?” He asked. And the more I thought about it, the more I realised how crucial it was for me to understand this. How I view my church ultimately directs the way I regard its people.

For instance, I could view it as an organisation that is responsible for feeding me spiritually, and all I need to do is receive? Or, I could view it as an institution that I come to and ‘pay my dues’ so that I can have a safe and good afterlife? Thirdly, I could view it as a business, where operations must run smoothly and efficiently in order to please and wow the members so that they will keep coming back?

As we wrapped up the English sermon series It Runs In The Family, I reflected on the five important qualities of family as per God’s original design. They are so applicable to growing and strengthening the church body as a family, too. Here are some suggestions as to how can we apply this in a church context and I hope this will start you thinking about how we can build our church community further.

1. Love (Part 1)

“I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.” ~ John 13:34-35 (AMP)

Have we actively shown love to each other in the church? Every week, ministries work together to plan and run weekend services. As we serve alongside each other, do we treat our areas of serving as tasks to be completed, or do we use these moments to build relationships with each other and bless each other in love? Have we spent time and effort to identify the love languages of our church friends and ministry teams, so that we can best make them feel loved? Serving truly transcends the task itself. If we pull off great services but do not grow in love towards one another, perhaps we are missing the point.

 

2. Communication (Part 2)

The beauty of our church is its diversity. In FGA, there are four different language campuses, and we are home to people from many nations and walks of life. The diverse cultures paint a lovely image of the Kingdom, and at the same time, this provides us with the beautiful opportunity to learn to accept people who are different from us. Communication is not just about conversation and getting our points across. In the sermon, Angie mentioned that “healthy communication = active listening + life-giving words”.

James 1 reminds us to ‘be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger’. We have no knowledge of someone else’s story unless we seek to listen and understand without judgment!

I also feel like we can never have enough of life-giving words. Each individual being is created with the likeness of God, so of course, you can always find something amazing about that person to call out. Praise in public, speak life into people and encourage individually and corporately. I believe that this will build up people to be more confident that they are walking according to their calling when they serve one another.

 

3. Trust (Part 3)

This may be just my opinion, but at times, I feel that we don’t give each other enough credit and trust to do outstanding and great things for the Kingdom. We sometimes seem hesitant to trust people to get a job done ‘well’, because they haven’t met the standards that we’ve unknowingly placed over them. Rhordan spoke about how trust is usually earned, but if we tried giving trust, we may be surprised by the outcome.

Remember that Jesus entrusted Peter to feed his sheep and lambs (John 21:15-17). This was after Peter denied him three times. Jesus didn’t wait for Peter to get ‘up to standard’ to give him the task of building the very first church in history. He simply trusted Peter to do it. If you read the book of Acts, you will see what eventually happens. In fact, you and I are here because of the efforts of Peter and the other apostles.
All because a simple fisherman with a glib tongue and rash behaviour was trusted and empowered to do great work for the expansion of the Kingdom.

 

4. Faith (Part 4)

In this sermon, Angie stressed upon the importance of demonstrating and passing our faith on to the next generation. The primary space for this is within your family. This month, we also prayed to become a church that constantly teaches the next generation about God, and how to walk with Him in relationship.

Our church is constantly reminded to be a people who ‘make disciples who make disciples’. Even if we do not have children of our own, we can demonstrate our faith to those we disciple. The way that we walk out our faith will be observed by those we lead. Are we helping them grow in their faith by being a living testimony to the goodness of God? Are we offering them Godly advice when they come to us with their problems? Are we having regular conversations about God with them?

And if you are not discipling, or being discipled, can I gently suggest that you start? Just ask someone if they will walk in discipleship with you and take it from there. You can talk to our pastors and leaders for some resources that will help you get started. We are not all called to be apostles, teachers, prophets or evangelists, but Matthew 28:18-20 does call us all to be disciple-makers.

 

5. Resolving Conflict (Part 5)

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” ~ Matthew 18:15 (NIV)

In the Singaporean culture, we tend to shy away from conflict. Based on the Menti survey we took as a congregation over the last weekend, most of us prefer to stay away from confrontation. We would prefer to keep the peace rather than rock the boat.

But I believe that we can learn to be a church family that communicates differences and manages conflict well. Pastor Rhordan broke down conflict management in a few steps:
#1: Address the matter as soon as possible
#2: Decide to take initiative
#3: Own your part of the issue
#4: Check your motives
#5: Speak the truth
#6: Speak it in private!
#7: Forgive

I have to confess that I used to hate dealing with conflict. I was one of those who would prefer to keep the peace, stew inside, but I found myself drifting away from the people who hurt me because I ended up judging them rather than clarifying the matter with them. Things changed when I realised that God’s design is for the church to be united as one, and it is the enemy’s grand scheme to try and divide us – first by creating the fear of confrontation the opinions of others, and then using that fear to create distances between each other, usually culminating in a whole lot of unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness.

 

So, let’s aim to be bold, loving and honest in our relationships within our church family. Let’s chase relationships with each other. Let’s make it our priority to close the distance and become one. “By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.” (John 13:34 AMP) When we treat each other like family, we will be an unstoppable force, and we will reflect God in His full glory to the world.

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Behind the scenes of Cool Camp 2018

If this picture was presented to a primary school student during an English oral exam, the child might describe it as: An image of 2 children running across neatly patterned black and white tiles, zooming past a lady who is wearing a cap and laughing as she sits cross-legged on the floor.

But is that really all there is to this picture? What if there was more to it?

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Cool Camp is FGA’s annual stay-in camp for children aged 4 to 12 years old and it was recently held from 1 – 3 June at Changi Cottage. Every year, the children in Spark Kids, the children’s ministry of FGA, eagerly look forward to Cool Camp as the year’s highlight. With 3 full days of fun games, delicious food and interactive lessons learning more about God, it’s hard to imagine why children wouldn’t be excited!

This year’s theme was “FaceTime! Meeting God through His Word, every day.” Through lessons, videos, games, and an interactive walkthrough of a Tabernacle experience, the children learnt about how people in the past had FaceTime with God as they abided by strict orders throughout the Tabernacle, and how instead, today we can meet with the same holy God all the time, every day, because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

For all the 20 over years I have been in FGA, this year was my first spending some time at Cool Camp to help out. Before I arrived at the campsite, my expectation of the camp was that it was going to be all about the children. That’s what a children’s camp is, right? Being all about the children?

But after spending the weekend at Cool Camp, my eyes opened to how I had only been seeing the camp in just one dimension. I had only been seeing what was obvious at the surface. Cool Camp really goes so much deeper and is about so many other people of all ages and walks of life coming together as a church to throb in a synchronised heartbeat.

It really is like the picture I started off with. Yes it is true – the picture does show 2 children running across neatly patterned black and white tiles, zooming past a lady who is wearing a cap and laughing as she sits cross-legged on the floor.

However what is also true, but not shown, is when this moment was captured – the time of debrief at the end of day 2 where all the volunteers sat down in a circle, waiting to start going through the next day’s activities; What is also true, but not visible, is one group of volunteers enthusiastically pointing and shouting out creative directions to the 2 kids running about. “One run from the left!”, “One run from the right!”, “Ok wait, don’t run yet!”, “Ok, both run now!”. What is also true, but not displayed, is another group of volunteers giving modelling advice to the lady in the middle as she tried various poses and asked, “Where should I look?”, “Is this ok?”, “Should I put my hand here?” What is also true, but not seen, is the multiple takes that the photographer shot, then checked, then shot again, and the unending runs that the 2 kids had to (gleefully) repeat. What is also true, but not presented, is the proud verdict “it’s a wrap!”, announced by the photographer’s trusty assistant, and the collective praise for this winning shot as the camera was passed around.

Yes, the picture does show 2 children running across neatly patterned black and white tiles, zooming past a lady who is wearing a cap and laughing as she sits cross-legged on the floor, but there were many other people, many other actions, many other conversations that had to work together to create this captured moment in time.

In the same way, whilst it may be the most straightforward to think that Cool Camp is about the children, what is also true but not as immediately thought of is the army of people who have come together from all parts of FGA to create 3 full days of a precious experience for the kids. There was the group from the Nepalese campus, the Filipino campus, and the English campus, constantly in the kitchen chopping and stirring, columns of rising steam perpetually dancing around them as they cooked meal after meal for the children; there was the group of young men and women bent over and huddled out in the heat of the day and dark of the night washing, wiping, drying batch after batch of plates, cups and utensils; there was the group of full-time working parents who came to teach from materials that they had spent time putting together prior to coming; there was the children’s ministry team and volunteers, some of whom had taken leave to be at camp, surviving on a lack of sleep but still wholeheartedly running about their duties; and then there was the team from the Salt and Light ministry who helped in the heavyweight transportation of logistics back from the campsite on a Sunday night.

While it is true that Cool Camp is a children’s camp, I now see that the camp for children is merely a by-product of the church coming together as one, selflessly bringing whatever each can contribute to love the next generation. Cool Camp, when seen for what it really is, presents a picture of the church in all its glorious beauty. It is a picture of a body built on members who give of themselves without expecting anything in return. It is a picture of a patchwork of people understanding that what unites them is stronger than what divides them. It is a picture of overflowing response to what has been done for us at the Cross – that our children will know who God is and the mighty works He has done.

Whilst the above is one of the my favourite pictures from the camp, what Cool Camp is a picture of, speaks greater volumes than what pictures we have captured of Cool Camp.

My heart has been so full watching the church in motion at the camp. I am reminded that the church is truly a beautiful thing, there is nothing like it, and I am so glad to be a part of one.

 

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What other volunteers and attendees have to say about Cool Camp this year:

“I’m really touched to see especially the older guys in COOL Camp have understood and realised through this camp that God is actually working in their lives and calling them for something greater and for one of them, he is almost certain of what God has called him for.” – Zac Toh

“Four words sum up my experience about COOL camp 2018. God Is So Good. He is so good because He brought people from different generations to serve the next generation. Youth rise up to take care of the children and attend to their needs even late into the night. Older kids took care of younger one without anyone telling them to do so. Adults cooked late into the night so that everyone would be well fed the next day. People stepped in and helped whenever they saw a need. He is so good because He brought non-believers to the camp so that they may learn just a little more about Him and experience His goodness. Youths praying over the next generation as lives were touched, hearts were mended, souls were saved. He is so good because when weather forecast says its going to rain, He held back the rain so that kids could go outdoor to play. Everything is under His control. After six COOL camp, seeds have been sowed while some are already bearing fruits. And all praise and glory goes to Him for He is so good.” – Ng Hong Kiat, Camp Commander

“Observing them I learned how to be more childlike, and during the ministry time I felt the fierce jealous love of God for the children.” – Eugene Chia

“Personally, I feel that COOL camp 2018 has been a fruitful one as the teachings have impacted the kids in their own ways.” – Nathaniel Gan

“It was my first time being a volunteer. As a participant of cool camp I never realised how much effort went into planning and preparing it. The team behind it all is very admirable, because they had to devote so much time and effort into the camp, and although they were very tired they still managed to put in all their effort and do their very best in whatever they did .” – Chloe Lee

“I am very blessed to be a part of cool camp 2018 as i have witnessed the kids really learning and drawing themselves towards God! The kids have also lived out their Godly values during the camp which makes it very touching to see them having such values even at a young age! Personally i have also learned even through serving in cool camp that the impact given by the older generation to the younger generation is really important and i am encouraged too see the kids grow up!” – Jeriel Ng

Get the weekend service you want! (2)

Get the weekend service you want!

Let’s face it. We all have a different idea of what a perfect weekend service looks like. For some, it might be the songs we sing. We may like what is familiar, that we know all the words to. For others, it may be a warm and familiar atmosphere, so they will be comfortable bringing their friends and family to visit. For yet others, perhaps it’s the speaker and the message that is delivered.

“I wish I could have the ideal weekend service that I really enjoy.”

Well, I am happy to tell you that, actually, you can. Our gatherings on the weekend were always meant to be a participatory event, not a spectator one. So we all have a role to play in creating the weekend that we want to experience and enjoy.

Here are three thoughts that may help change the way we think about our weekend service.

1. Pray for the team and the speaker

Acts 4:31: After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Pray with expectation for what happens on the weekend. While the teams that are serving spend the week preparing for the weekend, they could really use your upholding them in prayer as well. When we pray together as a family, God can move, His spirit will bring His power into the house, and then.. anything can happen. Spend a few minutes sometime during the week praying for our teams and for our pastor/ speaker. They would be greatly encouraged to know that we are all lifting them up to the Lord.

2. Bring the worship

You may have heard our Pastor say, ”The team is going to lead you in worship, but don’t let them do the worshipping for you.” Now, that is great advice. Of all the activities that we do during service now, worship is the only thing that we will continue doing in heaven. Therefore, it really behooves us to bring our best, freewill sacrifice of praise to the Lord every week. So feel free to lift your voice, raise your hands, sing and dance before the Lord. He has given us a a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3) and it would be great if we put it on every time we gather!

3. Make new friends

When I visited FGA for the first time, I remember being quite blown away by how friendly and welcoming everyone was. And even today, our welcome and usher teams do a great job of welcoming people, remembering new faces and warmly shaking hands with everyone who walks through those doors. Think of the impact we would have as a church on newcomers and visitors if we all exhibited this kind of care and hospitality. So this weekend, make it a point to speak to someone you had never spoken to before. It can even be someone you have seen around church before, but never had a chance to say hi to. For all you know, they had been hoping to speak to you too!

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The Good Shepherd (Pt 5)

For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them… I will shepherd the flock…   Ezekiel 34:11, 16

Not too many years ago we used to drop our grandchildren at a Sunday School class.  Only one door to the Sunday School class would be left opened so that every child was properly accounted for.  On top of that, we would have to register ourselves, leaving our identity card number with the shepherd or the teacher-in-charge.  The data would be stored in a computer.  We would then rush to attend the evening service at that same church. 

Guardians were not allowed to take their child out after Sunday School without checking with the teacher-shepherd stationed at the only door to the Sunday School class. We would have to stand in the queue with other parents while waiting for our turn.  Although we could see our grandchildren in the room, there was no way that our grandchildren could get through that door to us – – not until we had our identity cards scanned, and our grandchildren called by name to the door.  Was this a cumbersome process? But not for us! For us, this was a caring church, a church that shepherded the flock under its care, fully accountable. No stranger could get his hands on the children in their care. The children were safe!

The apostle Peter encourages the shepherd to diligently and responsibly, care for his sheep.  He says,  “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing eager to serve.”  The language here is straightforward, easy to understand except that here in Singapore we have no sheep farms and no shepherds!  So our appreciation of that relationship between the shepherd and sheep, well . . .  lots of gaps possibly! Sheep flock together.  They follow their shepherd.  They are obedient –  compliant if you will.  Now these are rare qualities.  They are not found in other animals.  The general tendency for most other animals is that, they would have their own minds, a bit rebellious even! I often take morning walks with my wife.  We often meet people taking their dogs for a walk in the cool of the morning.  In some cases, it seems to us, that the dog is taking his owner for a walk, pulling away in a different direction. 

Sheep and lambs may follow you, but they do go astray.  Lambs that go astray may be preyed by wolves.  That’s where the shepherd comes in. He needs to make sure that his sheep are gathered together and they do not go astray.  Peter tells us that there is a reward for the conscientious shepherd:  4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” Note how quickly he shifts from the sheep metaphor to us, people (God’s sheep). In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” – 1 Peter 5:5 NIV.  The exhortation “you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders” is meaningful to me.  It is important that new or young Christians look up to older Christians.  Here, Peter establishes a two-way interaction.  Inasmuch as your shepherd-pastor has a responsibility to care for you the sheep, it is clear we need to respond to our shepherds. Peter expresses it as,” you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders.” Is this possible?  Of course, if “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” I remember a fellow pastorelder (shepherd) telling me that when we live closely to our sheep we smell like one.  He is right.  It needs humility to be a shepherd. You must be willing to leave the luxurious comforts of your homes  to be among your sheep. This is the reason for God to ask his prophet Ezekiel to prophesy against the shepherds of Israel.

Sheep are all important to God.  Leaders are God’s under-shepherds.  They are charged with the responsibility to care for the sheep.  It is important that the sheep submit to their shepherds.  In the Old Testament God portrays Himself as a Shepherd. This shows how much God cares for his sheep, Israel.  The Bible also portrays Jesus as the Lamb of God that has come from heaven to redeem us. Jesus (our Shepherd) has to suffer the indignity of being exposed to the stench of sin among His sheep, Israel. The Word of the Lord came through Ezekiel showing God’s concern over His sheep, “6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.”–  Ezekiel 34:6, NIV.

Applying this to our times, we are God’s sheep too, lost in sin. God sends Jesus to look for us.  Those among us who are pastors and elders have to make sure that our sheep (our church members) are not scattered and left wandering over all the mountains. So, what happens when the leader or undershepherds of Israel fail? 

God lovingly steps in.  For this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep.
I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered…
I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and
I will bring them into their own land.
I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel…
I will tend them in a good pasture,…
I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down,
I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.
I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak,
I will shepherd the flock with justice. – Ezekiel 34:11.

You will find no less than ten “I will…” statements above. Note the emphasis and determination in verse 6, “I myself will search…” Not “I shall” but the emphatic future tense “I will…
When God says, “I myself will…” it is even more emphatic.
It denotes that it is a personal matter with God. It is all-important to God. Now we find another string of I will… that God has promised. You see our Shepherd is faithful. God loves His sheep. God will search, rescue, bring them into their own land where they belong, pasture them, tend them and shepherd them.  So the list of God’s good shepherding continues:

I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered.
I will judge between one sheep and another.
I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.
I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them…
I will make a covenant of peace with them…
I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing.
I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.
– Ezekiel 34:22 – 26 NIV

In verse 16 God says, “I will shepherd the flock.”  Not only that, in verse 23 God promises to place over them one shepherd the son of David on the throne. God will send them a Good Shepherd.  Shepherds are pivotal to God’s plan.  With this as background why don’t you read John 10?  It’s a great exposition by Jesus himself concerning the Good Shepherd.  That’s our topic for our next exhortation too. 

Meanwhile,28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. Acts 20:28 – 31 NIV.

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Don’t sing false promises to God.

 

 

 

“Christians don’t tell lies – they just go to church and sing them.” – A. W. Tozer

We walk into church every Sunday and lie to God. In fact, we blatantly lie to Him over and over again, sometimes not even knowing what we are saying.

It’s harsh, but more often than not it’s the sad truth.

 

The songs that we sing in a weekly time of worship are powerful, challenging mindsets and provoking introspection, and sometimes tears. But there is still danger in this simplest of actions: “You can have it all”, we sing, countless times over. But in our hearts there is still selfishness. There is still sovereignty of self. No way are we really going to let God have it all.

About a month ago I remarked during the worship debrief that it was really nice to hear the entire congregation singing You can have it all together. A thought came to me and I added, “I hope they meant it.”

Do we mean it? Maybe in the moment, with the music playing and everyone singing the same thing in unison. But the moment service ends, our actions cry otherwise. We go back to living for ourselves, forgetting all the lines we just sang. And then it’s reduced to nothing but a nice tune. Well, until the next week, when it’s sung again. And the next week.

Obviously this isn’t something done intentionally, but it happens nonetheless. So how can it be different?

The first step is to understand the meaning of the words we sing. This doesn’t have to be a huge in-depth literary analysis. A few examples: it can be something as simple as taking a moment to ask: Okay. So what does it mean for God to have it all? Am I really sincere in saying that God can have every part of my world?

Do I really want God to let me walk upon the waters wherever he calls? Would I really be ready for that?

Have I really given God my heart and soul? Is it true that I live for Him alone?

These are scary questions to ask.

Sometimes it feels easier to just sing a nice tune and space out during worship.

 

But these realisations shouldn’t shame us; rather, they should help clear a path for liberation.

Once we realise what the words we are singing truly mean, and whether our own hearts are in sync with the song’s message, we can ask further introspective questions. 

What is currently holding me back from following through with what I am singing?

What can I change in my own life so that next time I can sing with all sincerity?

Something that I personally feel is that it is okay to NOT sing. This parallels with refraining from taking communion if you do not truly understand its significance. I believe that if I am not yet ready to identify with certain lyrics, it is perfectly acceptable to refrain from singing and instead search my heart to find out what is restraining me.

But also, if I know deep down that I don’t feel it on that day, I can make a decision to sing it into reality. For our words have power, and when we utter declarations of God’s promises, it is part of the exercise of faith. (Likewise, this applies in the area of uttering words of agreement with what is not from God. Let’s be mindful of what we give power to!)

Worship in song is one of the most powerful ways to commune with God, but it’s so important to mean what we are saying, thus speaking out declarations of life and truth into the spiritual atmosphere. If we can all truly believe and follow through with what we sing in church, the seeds for revival will flourish into a full-blown wildfire that much sooner.

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Preparing For Your First Mission Trip

I took my first missions trip when I was 20 years old. I’d always heard about missionaries and missions trips before but had never been on one myself. The life of a missionary was pretty fascinating to me.

The memories are foggy, but I can vaguely remember jumping on a bus with my church on a 7 hour road trip to serve an orphanage in Tecate, Mexico for one week. Our mission? To do something as simple as supporting the long term missionaries there, helping them build a new roof over their kitchen, praying for the sick and inviting those in the community for a special Jesus Film night. What we did seemed insignificant at time…but looking back now, the power of a group of people sacrificing their summer vacations to serve those in need was priceless.

Nothing really could prepare me for the experience I was about to have though. The amount of poverty I was exposed to was alarming, and an environment of great need was not something I had ever seen before in all my years of growing up in my comfortable American suburban life. The trip grew my heart for those less privileged, and drew me closer to God’s heart for the nations. I remember a group of us praying for a blind man to be healed and seeing Jesus touch his life. I remember seeing one of my backslidden teammates have a powerful encounter with Jesus on the trip, leading him to radically rededicate his life to Jesus. The trip was an eye opening trip for me, and showed me that the world was greater than my own, and its needs far greater reaching than what any well meaning group of people could ever provide for. While some of the most meaningful moments were the simplest moments, the trip left me wondering if I could do more.

Since this trip the Lord has grown my heart for missions tremendously and called my husband and I to a lifelong calling to missions. Throughout the years I’ve been on various “missions” trips (long and short) and each one has been different from the last. Each trip has taught me something new each time.  “Christian mission” is the act of going into a different culture other than our own, and sharing the good news of Jesus with others.  It was modelled to us through His very life: John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God sent Jesus into our world so that we could hear the good news.

Missions is not something we do because it’s sounds like a nice thing to do. As one of the last things Jesus said while here on earth, Jesus actually commands us to go into all the world to make disciples of the nations. (Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”)

So if you’re planning on going on a missions trip soon, what are some good ways to prepare for a missions trip?

1) Prayer: It’s important to root everything we do in prayer. Our goal as Christians on this earth is to be extensions of Jesus, to be His hands and feet to those around us. This is no less true when we go on missions trips. We want to reflect Jesus. As short term missionaries, we are representatives of Jesus…so it’s a good idea to represent Him well.

How do we represent Him if we don’t communicate with Him first about what He wants to do on the trip and what He wants reflected?  John 5:19 says “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” If we want to be like Jesus to the people we are reaching, we have to tune into His wavelength.

Spend time preparing your heart, and hearing His heart. Ask God what He wants to do on this trip. How does He see this trip? Ask for His eyes. Is there a word He’s given you about what this trip means for you, or a word you will be sharing with the people you will be meeting? Is there a name, or a face He’s highlighting to you of someone you are to meet? Matthew 7:11 says “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” If we ask the Lord to speak to us and whisper His desires and plans to us, His desire is to come through and speak to us.

2) Go with a humble, teachable heart:

Learn about the culture: We don’t have to be able to speak the same language to communicate with others of a different culture, but we can certainly take time to learn about their culture before embarking on our journey. Over the years I’ve found that one of the best ways to connect with locals is to show them we are genuinely interested in their culture and that we want to respect it. Nothing is more off putting than having foreigners come in to your culture with a proud “we know better than you” or “our culture is better than yours” mindset. I’ve noticed this instantly close doors to peoples’ hearts. In order for people to want to receive anything you have to say, build bridges, not islands.

Before we can embrace any culture, we have to learn about it. Take some time to read up about the culture you will be visiting in advance. Just because something is okay to do in our culture, doesn’t mean we can assume it is okay to do in the next culture we will be visiting. For example, while women wearing shorts and tank tops might be acceptable in this country, in another country, wearing these same clothes may give off the wrong impression to men. Women going out past a certain time period at night may be misconstrued as impious. Handing money to a cashier with the left hand instead of the right hand may be acceptable in this country, but totally offensive in the next. Taking time to learn basic customs, basic words, and proper behaviour/greetings can go a long way. It can reveal your desire to want embrace their culture, which in turn, can open up amazing doors to share the gospel.

Take time to sit with the locals, smile at them, share a meal together and allow Jesus’ heart to shine through you.

Submit to leadership. No matter how much you think you might know better, always choose a posture of humility and yield to your team leaders or long term missions team on the ground. After all, they have gone through the training necessary to prepare them for this trip, or lifestyle of missions if they are long terms. They may be more familiar with the people group you are visiting from the training received or their extensive time they have spent there, and may be aware of issues with the locals or government you may not be aware of. This is for your own safety, and also so that the mission is not compromised. I have seen compromised missions come in various forms…but ultimately some of these can be avoided just by simply submitting to leadership.

3) Have healthy expectations: Sometimes it’s easy to have big expectations for the entire village to get delivered, healed and saved, after a 1-week trip. I pray that these kinds of breakthroughs happen every trip, but the reality is, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes God just wants to use us to be the seed sower. From John 4:38, “I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor…” we see that God sends some to be sowers, and some to be reapers. It’s okay if your trip isn’t a reaping trip. Sowers are just as important as reapers are!

It’s a really good thing to desire and pray for transformational things to happen in a community, but oftentimes, these kinds of things take time. That’s why our church strategically partners up with long term missionaries who can carry on the fire our missions trips have helped catalyse. It’s good to keep our expectations in check so that when grand things don’t seem to be happening, our worlds are not “wrecked.” I’ve been on trips where I went with low expectations – because I had no grid for what “should” happen on a missions trip – and came out sweetly surprised. I’ve also been on a trip where I expected grand things to happen and was sorely disappointed when those things did not work out as planned. No matter what happens in the end, God works beyond our human limitations. God’s story for the people you will be reaching is so much grander than what you could ever hope and imagine. He just asks us to be obedient and “go!”

As we go on missions, let’s be prayerful, humble, teachable, expectant people who reflect the love of Jesus!

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The Small Step To A Greater Journey

“I’m not good enough.”

“Maybe I should wait till I know more about the Bible.”

“What if I can’t answer the questions they ask?”

“But I’m already serving in other ministries!”

Those were just some of the few thoughts and doubts that went through my head when I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to serve in the Girls’ Home ministry (under the Salt and Light ministry). Honestly, I allowed these thoughts to win, and didn’t think about the next steps. It was not until I received a few more prompts from God, and started to feel a bit unnerved about not responding to them, that I eventually went about finding out how to serve.

I love that God knows me better than anyone else does. He knows that I am the type that needs to see the big picture, and so He helped me to understand that my obedience to saying yes to serving in this ministry is just a small step in the journey He wants me to go on. God waits patiently for us, until we are ready to tell our doubts to go away.

I’m not saying that those doubts will magically go away once you say yes. Trust me, I still find those thoughts popping up in my head – more often than I would like them to. However, I’ve learned that it is not about being good or “holy” enough. It’s about my heart of obedience, and allowing God to guide me to say the right things when in the midst of the girls I am serving. It’s never about me. I’m merely a vessel for God to use to speak to them, to be their friends, and most importantly, to be the light and show them God’s love.

So here’s a note of encouragement for you: Don’t ever tell yourself (or God) that you are not good enough, because the truth is – we will never be. That’s how we learn to depend on God.

 

If you are keen to serve in the Salt and Light ministry, speak to Shawn Lim.

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FGA Responds: Keep The Flame Alive

Valentine’s Day is often commercially associated with romance, flowers, candlelit dinner, and many other lovely things that make your heart warm and fuzzy. But behind the flutter of lovey-doveyness we know that love is often much more than a feeling in the moment. It is an act of will, just like to choosing to love and follow Jesus. We have to want it. Valentine’s Day only takes place once a year, it is up to us to choose our partners for the other 364 days – for better or worse.

As a single and unmarried individual, I decided to seek the wisdom of married couples with a very important question:

What is the secret to keeping the flame alive in your relationship?

Here are their answers…

 

“Making time for dates, keeping regular communications with each other face to face, creating fun memories and doing little things for each other that the other person will love and appreciate.” – Joshua & Angie Sundram

“We are thankful that we both have the opportunity to serve God together in the church and in a way we become more aware of each other and we are able to love and serve one another much easier in spite of our differences.” – Cris & Cheral Aparente

“The oil of intimacy and love keep the relationship burning.” – Emmanuel & Josefa Firmacion

“The secret is quite simple actually. Keeping the other person alive. No life, no relationship, no flame. So practically I would say, learning CPR, how to clean bullet wounds, and staying away from cliffs. But really, it’s choosing to always see the best in the other person.” – Tham Mun Yang & Evie

“I cook.” – Dennis Low (married to Alicia)

“Laughing together.” – Mark John & Huis Hariman

“Intentionally doing things together, listening more, keeping communication open, and praying for each other. Hug and kisses everyday! Lastly, appreciate the similarities and respect the differences.” – Vincent & Jennifer Toh

“For us, it’s making it a point to hang out with each other after the kids have gone to bed and share about our day. It’s when we get to learn about what is on each other’s hearts and see how we can support each other. Knowing, like really knowing, each other’s concerns and intentions really helps us stay in-tuned to each other. It also helps that our love languages are very similar!” – Kevin & Aarika

“Being adventurous to take on new experiences together!” – Ian & Grace Lee

15 Playfair Road, FGA@Playfair, Singapore 367987
6339 1317     6334 6694

info@fgasingapore.org

MRT - Tai Seng (circle line), exit at Harper Road

Buses - Tai Seng MRT: 22, 24, 28, 43, 58, 62, 70, 70M, 76, 80, 93, 158

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