Church Planting School – An update

There is less than a month left to go in our inaugural church planting school cohort in Cebu, Philippines, and all our students are excited about graduating and putting everything they have learnt into practise!

They have had the opportunity to learn under a few different facilitators, from Bible School graduates to pioneering church planters who have recently been through what they are about to experience. Everyone has brought something new to the table and just the wide spectrum of knowledge as been motivating, eye opening and encouraging for this cohort.

One of the lessons that has left an indelible mark is FGA’s Senior Pastor Rhordan Wicks and his instructions on how to design and deliver a sermon. The students, on their own initiative, have taken it upon themselves to deliver a sermon to their classmates every other week, to practise the methods taught and to get used to speaking compellingly and confidently in front of an audience.

The students go out for street evangelism twice or three times a week, to both train their skills in communicating the gospel and to make disciples. The place of choice is Fuente Park, where students, working adults and couples gather after work to spend time relaxing before heading home. At this unassuming park in one of Cebu Cities main thoroughfares, more than 80 people have been reached for Christ by our teams. They recently held an informal life group/ bible study at the park, and some of the people they met earlier, attended, which encouraged the team greatly.

So far, the students have been taught practical ways to come up with the strategic church planting plan, which is their key assignment for this school. Lessons in theology of missions, evangelism, poverty and leadership and living by faith have been some topics that have been covered so far. In the few remaining weeks, they will have some training in mentoring, recruiting volunteers and using social media safely and effectively.

As they come to the end of the ten weeks of training, let’s continue to pray for them and encourage them in their mission. Some of these students have sacrificed much to be at the Church Planting School, and they need our prayers. We are so blessed to have met these servants of God and it has been a privilege walking this journey with them.

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Stories from Red Camp

The annual Red Camp for youth aged 12-18 took place at Choice Retreat House from 13-16 December last year. The theme of the camp was “Stop & Be Moved”, centred around the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. 
Camp teachings were shared by four familiar faces from the Surge team: leaders Tiffany Goh, Esther Teo, and Mervin Poh; as well as our very own youth member Faith Lee. For the three days, campers were challenged by a series of games along with learning points about showing compassion. On the third day, Senior Pastor Rhordan conducted a gruelling scenario-based game which introduced our campers and volunteers to the harsh realities of poverty in our world. That night, the annual Blessing took place as parents and church leaders gathered to pray and prophesy over the youth present. Everyone involved received encounters of the loving and faithful presence of God in one way or another throughout the camp.
Here are what some of our youth have to say about Red Camp this year!
“Red Camp was such an incredible time of fun, blessing and crazy laughs! I had the honour of being one of the camp speakers, and it was so amazing to see God’s word come alive behind the scenes over months of preparation, and then reach out to touch hearts during the camp itself. I was so moved during the Blessing, as I received multiple confirmations of the same word from various people. This entire experience has challenged me to prioritise others and see them as God does, and I’m already counting down the days till next year’s camp!” – Faith Lee, camper and speaker
“I was immensely blessed by Red Camp 2018! It was so heartening to see the campers embody the meaning of excellence, and I was encouraged to have watched everybody come together during the games and the sharing sessions. It was evident that everybody had come with willing hearts and open minds to participate and learn. I was most of all blessed by the sharings that took place over the course of camp, where the speakers touched on what it means to truly love others like Jesus, and it was an issue so pertinent to everyday life that I thought it was something every camper could genuinely relate to. It’s truly been one of the most fruitful camps I’ve attended in my time at FGA, and I pray we’ll all take the lessons learnt from camp to heart as we delve into the new year!” Hannah Sim, camper

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The LOVE highway – Elder Paul Seow

v5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:5,6 NIV.

Here we have Jesus telling his disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” So why is there so much confusion about the way?  Obviously there is a lot going on. This is what we will be looking into, in this exhortation.

How can we know the way?

John 14 says – “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” – John 14:3 NIV. Jesus came down from heaven to earth.  He was with his disciples for 3 years. Jesus tried to alert his disciples many times that he would return to heaven.  Now he assured them that he would come back and take you(them)to be with me (him) but they must have missed the point. I like Thomas’ candid approach. He was not at all apologetic that he did not get it.  He asked questions.  Thomas asked Jesus, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”– John 14:5 NIV. You see in Chapter 13 Jesus had already told them, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” – John 13:33 NIV. It was then that Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” – John 13:36 NIV.  Peter asked “Lord, where are you going?” and Thomas voiced that same concern, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”– John 14:5 NIV.  

You know the way to the place I am going:

Let us connect their two thoughts. Now, these five chapters (Chapters 13 to 17) represented the last teachings of Jesus before he was crucified.  So they must be important.  The disciples had been following Jesus for some three years. And they were willing to follow Jesus for the rest of their lives.  You know the story of Lazarus who was sick and dying.  Jesus wanted to return to Judea to heal Lazarus. But his disciples objected, they said, “. . . a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” – John 11:8 NIV.  But Thomas said to them,“Let us also go, that we may die with him.” – John 11:16 NIV. Bravo Thomas!  And here Peter said,“I will lay down my life for you.” – John 14:37 NIVYes, a kudo for Peter!So, why would Jesus want to leave such faithful followers? 

Let us see if we could figure them out – – “Lord, where are you going?” – John 13:36 NIVand “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”– John 14:5 NIV.  Just one verse earlier Jesus said to Thomas, “4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”  And here one verse on (verse 5) Thomas said “so how can we know the way?”  You would notice the relationship of Chapter 13 and Chapter 14. In Chapter 13 Jesus and his disciples were in the upper room celebrating their Passover meal – the last supper. Judas was about to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that Peter would deny him three times before the cock crowed. The disciples wanted to know who it was among them that would be the greatest in the kingdom of God. As Jesus had pointed out, the disciples were all over the place – they were about to betray him,deny him, arguing about who is greatest!These were guys who had been with Jesus (followedhim) for three years. These had to be troubling signs and the disciples were troubled! 

How can we know the way?

Jesus showed the disciples what to be great meant when he washed his disciples’ feet. Jesus explained, The greatest among you will be your servant.– Matt 23:11 NIV.  No wonder chapter 14 started with Jesus telling them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms . . .”– John 14:1,2 NIV.  

My take, Jesus was telling them not to worry – let not your heart be troubled. Why?  Because they were on the wrong track!  What then was the right track –  “You believe in God; believe also in me.”  This was key, because to follow meant tobelieve in God and tobelieve also in me (Jesus) Unfortunately, this happened to be our failure too.  If we believe in God we would trust him and Jesus would know the way.  All we needed to do was to follow Jesus.  Jesus is the way.  How more clearly could Jesus have put it than to say, “I am the way. . .” Only Jesus knew the way to his Father’s house!  So just follow Jesus.  Didn’t we all understand that? Of course, but now Jesus was telling them that he was leaving them, that worried them.  There was really no reason to worry because Jesus also promised,“I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”– John 14:2 NIV. Next question, “ What were they supposed to do when Jesus was away?”

By this everyone will know:

If the disciples had followed Jesus closely enough, they would remember that Jesus had not just told them but had shown them the way. In fact it was in the form of a commandment: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  –   John 14:34-35 NIV. So Jesus did not just tell them, Jesus commanded them.  The way that Jesus had pointed them to – it was the way of LOVE. He framed it as a commandment because there was no other way.  Take note that Jesus pointed to himself as the way – “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.Jesus’wayis the wayof love.  Love had to be the way – the way Jesus had loved them –  “as I have loved you.”  That was the only way, the way to his Father (to God’s house).  

The LOVE highway:

If you read the Gospels carefully, you would notice that it was the Gospel of John that most emphasized Jesus to be God.  It was the apostle John who clearly stated the fact that, “God is love.”  And, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:8NIV. It’s that simple!

When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, the scene was dramatic.  Mt. Sinai was covered with smoke in fire . . . the whole mountain trembled violently – Exodus 19:18,19 NIV. And there was the sound of trumpet.  But when Jesus gave them the new commandmentthere was no smoke or tremblingof the mountain or the sound of trumpet. All these things happened with Moses because the Lord descended on the mountain.  

When Jesus gave them the new commandment God was already with them – no need for the smoke and fire or sound of trumpet. The important point to note was this.  The new commandment to love clearly was not to replace the Ten Commandments.  The Ten Commandments were a part of the Law of Mosesbut when Ezra opened the book . . . 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read. – Neh. 8:8,9 NIV. So, the upshot, theLaw of Moses was the Law of the Lord – one and the same thing.  This meant that the new commandment to LOVEwas the sum total of all the Ten Commandments put together. The new commandment did not replace or supersede it.  You see, if the Ten Commandments had been replaced, there would be nothing to prevent us from stealing, cheating, dishonoring our parents or perhaps, to commit adultery! 

The truth and the life:

A command as you know is mandatory not optional. So how much do you value the commandment to LOVE?  This is how King David sees God’s commands,“127Because I love your commandsmore than gold, more than pure gold,128and because I consider all your precepts right,. . . 142Your righteousness is everlasting

and your law is true.– Psalm 119:142 NIV. Do you love the new commandment to love more than gold?  I tell you, it is worth more than pure gold because, God’s laws are righteousand everlasting.  Take it from King David.  It is true. The Word of God is law – righteouseverlastingand is true. And Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1), the WAY the TRUTH and the LIFE!  

I like the way the apostle John himself has put together what we have talked about.  Here it is. Read it carefully and see if you will agree with me –

4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God is truly made perfect. We know that we are in Him by this— 6 whoever claims to abide in Him must walk just as He walked.1 John 2:4-6 Tree of Life Version (TLV) – that is, to way in LOVE!

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The Soul of your Feet

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.– Luke 7:44 NLT.

We had taken a look at the sinful woman (Luke 7) washing the feet of Jesus. The Pharisee (Jesus’ host) had failed to extend the traditional courtesy to provide water to wash Jesus’ feet.  Jesus himself said, “You didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet but she has washed them with her tears.” The conversation might be seen to be about the soleof one’s feet but there is more to it. The soul of your feet is not at the base of your foot but where your heart is. In John 12 we find Mary of Bethany taking an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. In the very next chapter (John 13) we find Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.  We find this event recorded by Matthew (26:14-39) and Luke (22:24-17) as well. So what was the big deal about the washing of feet?  At first sight, we might say that Jesus himself had highlighted the issue when he told Simon: “You didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet . . .” You see, we walk with our feet, taking us to places.  In the days of Jesus, people wore sandals.  The dust and the dirt along the way would contaminate our feet. So it was about where we walk as well. It was not just about the sole of your feetbut about your soul and your feet.

 

Blessings about the soul rather than the sole:

If Simon were a caring host he would have offered Jesus water to wash the dust from his feet.  Water cleanses and refreshes.  Where the sinful woman (Luke 7) has succeeded when she washedthe feet of Jesus, the righteous PhariseeSimon has failed to even provide Jesus with water. Here’s what the prophet Isaiah tells us what the Lord has to say, “For I will pour water on the thirsty land,and streams on the dry ground;I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,and my blessing on your descendants”.– Isaiah 44:3.  This is an important connection between the pouring of wateras it is compared to the pouring of God’s Spiriton your offspring,and my blessing on your descendants.  My take, to wash the feet with water is about the soul of our feet.  It is about our walk with the Lord.  It is about the spiritual soulrather than the physical soleof our feet that needs to be washed, cleansed and refreshed!

 

Water, a proxy for the Spirit of God:

God’s Spirit is compared to water for it’s cleansing and purifying effect upon all who seek His righteousness. In other words, water is a proxy for us to better understand the Spirit of God. Ezekiel establishes the relationship between water and the Spirit of God with great clarity, ”I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols 26I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” – Eze 36:25-27 NIV. Jesus himself made the connection between waterand the Spiritthe pivotal issue concerning our salvation.   The heart of flesh is a servant’s heart.  The Pharisee Nicodemus came for an interview with Jesus.  Jesus talked to him about being born again.  “ . . . How can a man be born when he is old can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born . . . Jesus answered . . . Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”– John 3:4-6 KJV. Born of water is about a natural birth.  But what about born of the Spirit?  You see when you are washed by water you are only physically clean. But what about your inner person your spiritual being? Listen, natural water cannot clean your spirit.  Only the Spirit of God can.  I guess, Nicodemus must have thought that, as a Jew (a Pharisee) who keeps the laws, that itself is his ticketto heaven.

 

Think about your own water baptism.  You are immersed in water.  You witness to the fact that you rise up from the dead (from your sinful self) and emerge as a new person.  The water represents the Spirit of God that has cleansed you from your sins – – washed by the blood of the Lamb as it were. Just as water cleans your body of its dirt, the Spirit washes your soul from all its dirt – the sin within us!

 

The sole of the soul:

Let’s get back to the bottom (the sole) of sinful woman saga.  There, Jesus remarked, “You didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet but she has washed them with her tears.”  In other words, the host Simon had not extended the courtesy of receiving Jesus into his house. It would have been appropriate for Simon to personally wash Jesus’ feet but he did not even get his servant to give Jesus water for his feet. The washing of the feet here represents a welcome of a guest into his house. So whose house was Jesus going to welcome the disciples to when he washed their feet? Here was what Jesus himself had said, My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you . . . 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me . . .” – John 14:2-3 NIV. Wow, It was about the mansions in “My Father’s house” in heaven?

 

Cold feet:

Take note of the time sequence when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.  It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. – John 13:1 NIV. This was clear without your having to read the whole chapter (John 13 NIV).  Just read the sub-headings:

  • Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet
  • Jesus Predicts His Betrayal
  • Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

So, it was merely hours before Jesus would be brought to the cross to suffer great humility, pain and the cruelest of deaths. That was the same night Jesus was to be betrayed.  Jesus knew all about it.  If we were in that position we would certainly get nervous or frightened, having cold feet! But not with Jesus, even though he knew that he had to lay down his life.  Remember, Jesus was in the upper roomfor the Last Supper with his disciples. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” – John 13 NIV. The failure of Peter, his inability to grasp the great significance of what Jesus was about do – – in the washing of his feet, this was a telling moment.  So Jesus had to clearly explain and it doesn’t get more serious than this,“Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” 9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Peter had still failed to accept the extreme humility. Peter must have found it truly embarrassing. Wouldn’t your response be similar to Peter’s? My take, Peter was mindful of the physical, the sole of his feet being washed.  Jesus was on another dimension the spiritualand not the physical.  10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.  The betrayalwas about the uncleanness of the soulnot about the dirt on the soleof our feet. Jesus then  put together the significance of it all.  15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things you will be blessed if you do them. –John 13 NIV.

 

Feats of blessing:

So, do you want to be blessedthen, do them? Do what, wash their feet? Not really. It’s not about your feet. What you do is spiritually about your feat.  The physical washing of feet in spiritual terms is about being a servant, aboutwelcoming guests into your home – – about your soulrather than your sole!

 

Here’s what Jesus himself has to say, 40Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me . . . 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”Matt 10:40-42 NIVThese little ones’in the NLT is translated ‘one of the least of my followers’.  The Cambridge Bible translated it to mean young disciples who were babes in Christ. So, the washing of the feet was about being a servant; not just to the mighty but right down the ranks to “the little ones”, the young disciples or new converts or the children.

 

So let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good toward all—especially those who belong to the household of faith.– Gal 6:9-10 TLV.

 

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The Joy in Go

When I was a young Christian, I sat through a sermon about serving. I can’t remember the exact content, nor do I put any blame on it, but I know that when I walked out of church that day, my mind had formed a message about what it meant to be a Christian: God had already done a lot for me, and it was my duty in return to please Him through service.
 
So whenever I was asked to serve, I said yes. But not because I was happy to serve. I said yes because I thought that there was no other option if I wanted to please God. (It sounds soooo biblical, right? Well, read on…)
 
Then one day, I was tasked to serve in an area which I was not very proficient in. Needless to say, I made a couple of mistakes. I buckled under the condemnation from not getting it right. Another time, I found myself saying yes to another task, but silently resenting myself and the person who asked me. I felt fake. I asked God if this was what it was all about, this… Christian life.
 
Oh, but God was about to teach me a couple of new things.
 
  1. God is already pleased with me.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Romans 5:1 (ESV)
 
It was a hard truth for me to accept, because growing up in Singapore’s meritocratic society I have learned that favour, standing, and love, must all be earned. We believe we must work very hard in order to deserve something good. We cannot be lazy, uneducated, or inefficient, or we will not receive much.
 
Thankfully, because of Jesus’ work on the cross, we already have right standing with God. It is by His grace, that we can come into an intimate relationship with Him, and He is more than happy to welcome us.
 
In one of my favourite books, The Happy Intercessor, the author Beni Johnson says this:
“We can feel like we need to do for God so that He will approve of us. We think by doing this God will accept us more and maybe love us more. I’m telling you, you don’t have to do a thing for God, and He will love you no less. So many of us have believed that we need to labour and perform for God so that we can gain an identity, so that we might be accepted… The Kingdom God doesn’t work that way. God is not sitting up in Heaven waiting to love you if you will do something for Him. He is more interested in our entering into His love and rest.”
 
What a delightful piece of truth that I am so greatly loved, even before I have done a thing for Him.
 
  1. It’s pointless to work for God if I have no relationship with Him.
In the Old Testament, there are countless scriptures which reflect God’s intense, passionate love for His people. He longed to have them close, and though the law was set in place for the Israelites to be able to come and be in right standing with Him, God said that He cared nothing for the rituals and offerings because their hearts were not in the right place.
 
“I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
    your assemblies are a stench to me.
Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
    I will have no regard for them.
Away with the noise of your songs!
    I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river,
    righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
Amos 5:21-24 (ESV)
 
“For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
Psalm 51:16-17 (ESV)
 
God doesn’t want us to serve and work for Him without the relationship in place. It is pointless.
 
The fact that He sent His only Son to die for us on the cross just so that we no longer need to go through these rituals, goes to show that He prioritises a close relationship with us. That is how much He longs to be with us! And it’s not a one-sided thing. God knows that when we are with Him, we too, will be filled with joy, and experience what it means to be truly, deeply loved and complete for all eternity.
 
  1. Jesus wants His joy to be full in us.
“But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” 
John 17:13 (ESV)
 
Jesus was all about a ministry of joy. In fact, Isaiah 61 is a clear indicator that He was anointed to bring joy and restoration into the world. 
 
In the book of Matthew, He actually talks about how it is through joy, that we will be motivated to then work for His Kingdom.
 
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭13:44‬ ‭(ESV‬‬)
 
Note the order:
Discovering the kingdom -> receiving joy -> making the necessary sacrifice for the kingdom
 
Jesus wants us to receive the joy that He had come to bring to us. He knew that it is through this joy, that we would be able to count the cost and serve Him, because by then we would know how worth the while it would be to do so.
 
But this joy cannot be achieved if we do not even take the time to seek Him and remain in Him!
 
Am I saying that we don’t need to serve or work for the Kingdom? Far from it. Faith without works is dead, and any revelation from God always demands a response and an action from us. 
 
But my persuasion today is for you to take the time to discover the joy in being with our Father, and knowing Him, and being truly known in Him. 
 
Before I say yes to the Great Commission to Go; before I say yes to serving anywhere – I want to have a revelation of Him. To know God the Father and to be His daughter, I can feel safe and secure. And then from a full heart, I can go and pour myself out into service.
 
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:4-5 (ESV)
 
I can give my very best and my most authentic self to my church and to my community when I am giving from a place of joy and fullness, that comes from abiding in Him.
 
My challenge to you today is this: As we position ourselves to GO for Him, will we be willing to first GO deeper withHim, so that we can be filled with the joy that will fuel our GO?

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?

***

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.

 

**

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!

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

info@fgasingapore.org

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