Pastor Eddy Writes… : The Worship Service (I)

In this and subsequent PEWs, I would like to explain to the congregation the various elements of the Worship Service, so that as a church, we will have a common understanding of why are we doing what we are doing, and we will worship God together in unity of hearts and minds. Let me begin:

How we begin our Worship Service is extremely important. The beginning of the Service sets the entire tone for the entire worship event. The beginning of the Worship Service is usually referred to as the Call to Worship. It should be God-centered. We come to worship our Lord and praise Him for His greatness. The focus of our worship is the transcendent God and we have come to worship Him. He is worthy of our praise and worship. The Call to Worship turns our attention to the glory of the living Lord. Focus on Him!

There are basically two ways to do a Call to Worship. We can do it verbally, i.e. read a portion of the Scripture, or musically, i.e. get a choir to sing the Call to Worship. The whole idea is to call ourselves to attention and begin worshipping God.

2. THE OPENING PRAYER or Invocation.
The opening prayer or invocation usually follows the Call to Worship. It should be a brief prayer “invoking” – calling upon God, or acknowledging God’s presence in the Worship Service and sensitizing us to His presence. An invocation is not a pastoral prayer and it should not be lengthy.

The reading of Scripture has been an important element of worship since Old Testament times. Nehemiah 8 is one very good example. Ezra read the Scriptures to the people of God. It was a significant event. The reading of God’s Word had a strong impact on the people.

In the New Testament, Luke 4:16-22, Jesus went to the synagogue for worship. The central focus of the Service was the reading of Scriptures. Jesus read the Word of God and then discussed it with the people.

Apostle Paul exhorted Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:13, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture…” The public reading of Scripture has long been a central element of worship in the Christian church. This is the reason why we have asked the Scripture reader to stand in front of the congregation and read God’s Word from the pulpit.

May God help us to have common understanding as we gather together every Lord’s Day to worship Him, in spirit and in truth.

Pastor Eddy Writes… : The Lord’s Supper

Today being the Sunday set aside for Holy Communion, I would like to use this PEW to talk about the Lord’s Supper.

Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper on the eve of His crucifixion, commanding His followers to continue to observe it until His return (cf. Matt 26:26-29). Of course the issue at hand is this: What is the meaning of the Lord’s Supper? There are basically three distinct views: the Roman Catholic view, the Lutheran view, and the Rest of Protestantism view.

1. The ROMAN CATHOLIC View is called Transubstantiation. It simply means “a change of substance.” The Roman Catholic teaches that a miracle takes place at the Mass in which the elements of the bread and wine are actually changed into the literal body and blood of Christ. This happens at the moment the priest says “This is my body.” Thus in Roman Catholic teaching, the participant actually partakes of the literal body of Christ, and they claim that this is the teaching of John 6:32-58. We do not subscribe to this view and interpretation.

2. The LUTHERAN view is called Consubstantiation. Martin Luther rejected the RC view of the Lord’s Supper, and yet insisted that the phrase “This is my body” had to be taken in some sense as a literal statement. His conclusion was not that the bread actually becomes the physical body of Christ, but that the physical body of Christ is present “in, with and under” the bread of the Lord’s Supper. The example sometimes given is to say that Christ’s body is present in the bread as water is present in a sponge. The water is not the sponge, but is present “in, with and under” a sponge and is present wherever the sponge is present.

Both transubstantiation and consubstantiation views are literally “feeding upon the physical Christ” views. We do not subscribe to the above two views. We subscribe to the third view.

3. The Rest of the PROTESTANTism (i.e. Reformed; Presbyterian) teaches a symbolic and spiritual presence of Christ. The bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper did not change into the body and blood of Christ, nor did they somehow contain the body and blood of Christ. The bread and wine symbolized the body and blood of Christ and they gave a visible sign of the fact that Christ Himself was truly present. On the night of the Lord’s Supper, Christ was physically present with them at the Supper, but He was not physically present in the sacramental elements. In the sacramental elements, His disciples received a spiritually communicated benefit. That is what the Scripture teaches – Christ is not in any way physically present in the sacrament but He is present spiritually. Hence the bread and wine symbolize the body and blood of Christ and they gave a visible sign of the fact that Christ Himself was truly present (spiritual presence).

When we partake the Lord’s Supper, we remember His sacrificial death for us, the affirmation of His love for us. We also affirm our unity as a body of Christ. As we partake our Holy Communion today, let’s be thankful to God for His sacrificial and unconditional love towards us and let’s affirm our unity as a body of Christ, in Hope Presbyterian Church congregation.

Pastor Eddy Writes… : A Godly Mother

Let me tell you a story of a woman with a difficult life. She was the twenty-fifth child in a family. Though brilliant, she didn’t have much education. Though strong-willed, she lived in a male-dominated age. She married an older man and bored him nineteen children. Nine of them died. Her house burnt up, her barn fell down and her health failed. She was Susanna Wesley.

Samuel and Susanna were married in 1689, began pastoring in a little town Epworth in 1697. They served there for forty years, enduring hardships:

Samuel’s salary was so small and he was incapable of managing it that he incurred debts and was thrown into prison, leaving Susanna to fend for herself.

They had disagreements even over Susanna’s ministry because Susanna’s Bible lessons drew more listeners than his sermons.

Susanna gave birth to a daughter during the election of 1705. The nurse who took care of her daughter was exhausted by overnight party that she slept so heavily and rolled on the baby and smothered it. Susanna herself was often bedridden because of her illness, so she had to delegate home duties to the children. But several of her children were so disobedient that she called them a “constant affliction.” Her brother, having promised to help her with a sizable monetary gift, suddenly disappeared and was never heard again. Finally on 21 July 1731, Susanna described an accident in which her horses stampeded, throwing Samuel from their wagon and injuring him and he was never well since that day.

A difficult life and yet she was the mainstay of the faith. You will recognize the names of two of her sons: @ Charles Wesley wrote several hundred hymns. You have sung them before I believe. “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” are two among many hymns written by him. @ John Wesley became the founder of Methodism.

These two sons, under God, brought revival to England.

Susanna Wesley had a tremendous impact on all England through her children! One of her spiritual discipline was this: She spent one hour each day and everyday shut up with God alone in her room, praying for her 19 children by name. She had such a positive influence on her children through her godly modeling.

The hope for the society rests on the next generation, and what that next generation will be like depends a great deal on the present actions and influence of godly mothers.

Mothers, God bless you all!
Have a blessed Mother’s Day!

Destiny’s Child

By Goh Yiling

During this past year, 13 firstborn babies have been born amongst my circle of friends and colleagues – seven boys and six girls. I’ve had the privilege of meeting some of these little ones in person and have seen adorable photos of many of them. As I looked upon these precious faces or played with their fingers, I often found myself wondering what each child would be like as he or she grew older.

While no parent nowadays can say for sure what the future would hold for their child, the Bible records the distinct accounts of at least two women who already had some idea of what would happen to their babies, even before their respective sons arrived. Hannah, married but childless, had prayed and vowed to the Lord that if He would give her a son, “… then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head” (1 Samuel 1:11). And so it was that her son, Samuel, was given to her and went on to serve his entire life faithfully as a prophet of the Lord.

Part of the role that God had planned for Samuel to fulfill was to establish kingship in Israel, including the anointing of David. It was through the line of David that the Lord would bring a most special Child into the world. When Mary, an unmarried virgin, was told of her impending pregnancy and the Son that she would bear, she was also given His name and the purpose of His birth: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father, David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:32-33). Joseph, who was to become her husband and help raise this Child, was informed in Matthew 1:21-22 that Jesus would save His people from their sins and that all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through His prophets of the Old Testament times.

The debate of “nature versus nurture” in shaping a child’s future has been going on for ages, and it still continues to this day. But one indisputable truth from the stories of these two babies is that God has a divinely-ordained purpose for every child that He creates. He does not create “blank canvasses.” He has a blueprint for each one (Jeremiah 29:11).

This Christmas, as we celebrate Jesus’ birth, may we remember that He was born, grew up, and subsequently died to save us all, including all those yet to be born. Knowing this, may we help one another – especially the children whom the Lord brings into our lives, directly or indirectly – to find, look forward to, and fulfill each of our God-given destiny.

Worship the Lord

By Ps Daniel Lee

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” – Matthew 2:11

The birth of Jesus is God’s greatest gift to mankind. Most of us would want to proffer something back as grateful recipients. The generosity of our Church and the members within this community of faith is certainly commendable for their big-heartedness in giving to the Lord in terms of tithes and offering, supporting missions, serving in various ministries, evangelism, social outreach and even personal contributions in helping specific needs of the people they came to know.

Our giving back to the Lord is also an act of worshipping Him in acknowledgment of His priceless gift for us and attributing glory to Him because “every generous act and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17a).

When the magi (or wise men) saw the star in the east, they journeyed to worship the newborn baby who is the King of the Jews. Guided by a brilliant star, the wise men brought gifts to give to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

They brought him gold, a gift fit for a king. Frankincense, a perfect gift for a perfect priest. Myrrh, an unusual gift for a baby, which is a substance the ancients used to embalm their dead. Not exactly an appropriate baby gift, but in this case, it communicated a theological truth that reminds us that Jesus was born to die so that humanity might find salvation in Him.

This little child wrapped in warm clothing and laying in a rough-hewn feed trough would one day hang from a rugged cross and wear the sins of the world all because “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

In addition to these gifts, there is also another gift from the wise men – their act of worship, which is in fact the very first gift they proffered to the baby. The moment “they saw the child and the mother, Mary, they bowed down and worshipped him” (Matthew 2:11a).

Likewise, our offering is an act of worship, a sacrifice to God. We have a spiritual need to worship God, and through our offerings we are able to express our love and devotion for God in a way that is simple and sincere. The motivation of the giver is what counts most, not the size of the gift or the degree of benefit to the recipient (see Mark 12:42-44).

Mark Allan Powell profoundly expressed our offering to God as “acts of worship in which we are invited to express our heartfelt devotion to the God who is so good to us.” Just as the wise men articulated their deepest devotion to worship the newborn Jesus, let us “praise the Lord with all our souls and our inmost beings that His holy name be worthy of our praises” (Psalms 103:1).

The Pursuit of the Abundant Life

By Marianne Tan

John 10:10 has always been a favourite verse of mine. So many people drift through life carelessly without aim or direction, and make choices simply based on the majority. However, God has given us this life on earth as a gift, and it is not meant to be wasted like that. I like this verse because it contains a significant promise of the full life that God has for us.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

What is this full (or abundant) life that Jesus says He has come to give? For many years, I have defined it as a life with deep purpose; filled with joy and peace, and invested in meaningful relationships. Therefore, as someone who wanted to be a good Christian, I set about ensuring that I was living the abundant life. I got myself involved in church activities, made it a point to meet with people, organised programmes, and served in leadership – intentionally packing my life full with purpose. After all, doing this would help me live the full life that Jesus promised, right?

I worked hard at living this abundant life. As I strove more and more, my life did not feel “abundant” and what I found was the opposite – I felt bogged down by stress, difficult relationships, mundanity, change and confusion. Where was this abundant life that I was supposed to be living? Was I failing at it? What was I doing wrong? Why was it so different from what Jesus had promised? It seemed that the very thing Jesus had come to take away and replace with His life, was the very thing I was living. The thief was stealing joy, killing purpose and destroying peace.

Then, recently, I heard a series of sermons on “I AM,” which explored the different “I AM” statements that Jesus made in His ministry – where He was telling us about who He was, in order that we may know Him. John 10 has two “I AM” sayings – “I am the Gate” and “I am the Good Shepherd,” and John 10:10 is snuggled nicely between these sayings. It dawned on me then – the abundant life is not an ideal Christian state that is somewhere out there that we must strive toward. The abundant life is a Person – Jesus Himself. The Gate to green pastures and still waters is not a method or task to be finished, but Jesus is the Gate (and also the Way). Jesus calls Himself our Good Shepherd and therefore, we do not have to be in want; we are not striving. He makes us lie down, and all is at rest as we know His voice and follow Him – and here we find the abundant life He gives.

All along, I was pursuing the abundant life – pursuing a strong prayer life, pursuing meaningful relationships, pursuing purpose, pursuing joy, pursuing fruitfulness – when in actual fact, these are all just results of a life of knowing Jesus Himself. Remaining in Jesus, knowing Him and seeking Him is the abundant life – and everything else will overflow from that.

Let us rest in Jesus. For He is Life.