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I believe … in the Church

Recently at church camp, the speaker mentioned about the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of A.D. 381 in his discussion about the mission of the church, where it states, “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” Traditionally, these have come to be known as the Four Marks or Attributes of the Church. As we explore the Book of Acts, particularly the life of the early church, it is worth considering what each of these attributes mean for us and the church.

Firstly, “one” suggests a sense of oneness in the body, the Church, through what Christians have in common. The song “People of the Lord” which begins, “There is one body” (from Eph. 4:5-6) reminds us of the unity we are to preserve as we proclaim His praises, for the sake of Christ. Are we as churches guilty of building up our own little kingdoms, instead of building up the kingdom of God? Is our love marked by unity, so that others see us as disciples of Christ, bearing His image and reflecting His character and glory in our lives and ministries?

Secondly, “holy” reminds us that we are set apart for His purposes and called to be holy, even as He is holy (Lev. 20:26; cf. 1 Pet. 1:15-16). What if we come to realise that God has created us not just simply to be happy, but to be holy? The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins with the question, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer follows, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” Are our personal lives marked by holiness, and do we as a church reflect His majestic power and awesomeness through our reverence and worship of our Creator and Saviour God?

Thirdly, “catholic” (from Greek katholikos, meaning “general” or “universal”) reflects that the wholeness of the Christian faith is proclaimed to all people without exclusion of any part of faith or group of people. The Lausanne covenant includes the phrase, “evangelisation requires the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world.” Being on mission with God requires men and women in the body of Christ to rise up and step out to be gospel ambassadors for the fulfillment of the Great Commission laid out by Christ. Is our church poised with open doors and ready feet to share God’s good news to the world at our doorstep and across our shores?

Lastly, “apostolic” describes the Church’s foundation and beliefs rooted in the traditions of the apostles, not in the sense of lineage or succession, but in preserving their original teachings. Many would pride themselves in this aspect, acknowledging that in the Reformed traditions, the priority and centrality of God’s word is one of our distinctives and strengths. One preacher once said, “God’s word does not transform lives. God’s word applied transforms lives.” Do our lives truly exemplify God’s word applied, and do we focus on listening to God speak through His Word, and to honour and obey Him in loving response? Not just head knowledge, but heart change? Do our churches not only have a high regard or emphasis on the Word, but also work out our ministries and church life with clear biblical convictions and driving principles?

May God by His Spirit and His Word equip, enable and empower us to be His one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church for His glory and kingdom forever!

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Today marks exactly 10 years in total that, by God’s grace and enabling, I have served the Lord in full-time ministry. The journey began earlier though, since May 2003, when I first started out as a ministry staff in my home church. In the span of the past 15 years, apart from the 10 years in ministry (including close to 6 years as a pastor), I have also studied for 3 years and graduated from bible college, gotten married and became a parent to 4 children, and served mainly in missions, youth & young adults, and Christian education in both church and parachurch environments. Looking back, it sometimes feels like a lifetime since it all started, but it also seems as though time has flew by quickly. Here are some reflections and lessons learnt along the way.

1. Serving the Lord (ministry) is demanding.
The first aspect has to do with time and energy. Perhaps coupled with the rising reality of age catching up (I was 30 when I graduated and married, and now in my early 40s), ministry has increasingly been time-consuming, energy-draining and at times mentally, emotionally and spiritually challenging. You reach the highest of highs, but also the lowest of lows, there are intense periods of stress and pressures, requiring loads of prayer and perseverance. What has helped through all this is the support of friends, colleagues, spiritual mentors and fellow-sojourners, as well as making a conscious effort to retreat, rest and reflect. Also, I find that church members tend to have an impression that the pastor or staff is always busy or never has time for them; this needs to be addressed or corrected, as it might lead to a false perception either on our part that to be busy means we are successful, motivated or seen to be getting things done; or on others’ part, they might always find us never approachable or willing or able to be there for them in their times of need.

2. Serving the Lord (ministry) is messy.
The second aspect has to do with people. Someone once said, “I love God and serving Him; it’s the church I can’t stand.” As much as working with people can be fun, joyful and exciting (especially when they are nice and friendly, and there are no problems or issues), there are and will be times where problematic individuals, either due to personality, sin, or just being plain difficult, will get you down, or try your patience and limits. Part of the solution is adjusting your own working style or approach, or compromise on non-essentials in order to move forward together, or even just humbly recognizing our own shortcomings and accept others as they are (flaws, weaknesses, rough edges and all). If you are in a position of authority, seek God and godly counsel for wisdom, and find ways and opportunities to speak the truth in love, which might even call occasionally for gentle rebuke or admonishment to correct, hopefully with the receiving person(s) being open and teachable to constructive criticism. At the end of the day, we need to just simply come before God, acknowledging that we all sinners saved and in need of God’s grace.

3. Serving the Lord (ministry) is fulfilling.
The last aspect has to do with satisfaction and calling. This to me has and is the key motivation that has kept me going all these years. When ministry challenges (time, energy) and people problems creep in, or seem to overwhelm, I fall back on remembering what led me to full-time ministry in the first place – God’s love for me, and my response of love for Him and desire to serve Him wholeheartedly with all my life. When Jesus went to the cross and died, what were His reasons? Many would say, and the Bible tells us, that Jesus died for the sins of the world, because He loved the world, or us His people. True as that may be, His primary reason was out of love and obedience to His Father and His will. That is why when we are called to emulate and follow Jesus, not all (hopefully none) would be called to do something such as die on the cross for the sins of the world (there is only one Christ, we are not the Messiah!), but all of us are called to discover and pursue God’s will and calling for our lives. It has to be our love and obedience for God, that will enable us to ride the waves of ministry, anchoring our souls and aligning our life decisions and direction to His kingdom purposes.

A special thanks firstly of course to my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, without whom all this would not be possible. Secondly, a big kudos, appreciation and affirmation of my wife of 11 years, who has stood by and journeyed with me all the way since I entered into ministry. Lastly, I remember my mentors and peers who have supported me with advice, prayers and spiritual friendships through the years – thank you for walking alongside, fellow sojourners and co-labourers in the Lord.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord , knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Cor. 15.58)

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This is love

As we commemorate Father’s Day today, and as we give thanks and remember our earthly fathers, at the same time I pray that we would reflect on our relationship with our Heavenly Father, particularly His great love for us. 1 John 4:10 tells us,

This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

As much as we might know of God’s love in His Word, at times our own positive or negative experiences of love from or with our earthly fathers could possibly affect our view or experience of God’s love. Jesus exhorts us, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35).

What can we learn from Christ’s teaching here? Firstly, God’s love for us involves sacrifice – His own Son had to die a cruel death on the cross for the sins of the world.

Secondly, what was new about Jesus’ command was that the Great Commandment was worded “love your neighbour as yourself,” whereas here Christ encourages us to love as He loved us. What a difference that makes, when in this day and age, many young people, if not other pockets of society, struggle with self-love, loving ourselves in a healthy and godly way. How do we love others when we might not even love ourselves? The new paradigm then is that we need to experience first Christ’s love for us, in understanding and receiving the gospel message, repenting from our sins and trusting in Jesus alone for salvation and eternal life. We can then be liberated to love others even as Christ’s love overflows in and through our lives.

Lastly, our example of loving one another shows Christ to the world, as we reflect Him and show ourselves to be His disciples. John explains this further in 1 John 4:12, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.”

May all fathers have a blessed Father’s Day, and may we affirm and honour our earthly fathers, looking to God our Heavenly Father for His perfect example of love for us through His Son.

… discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come … Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.
1 Timothy 4.7-8, 12
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Don’t stop believing

For those unaware, earlier this week, apocalyptic news sites began reporting of a claim by numerologist David Meade that the end of the world was going to be ushered in tomorrow (23 April) by the appearance of a mysterious Planet X (see related banner here). In case you might assume this is part of a comic-book superhero movie plotline, think again. A quick Google search will confirm that this is not fake news; but it could well be a fake speculation again, being that this is actually the sixth time Meade is claiming this since 2003.

Mark 13 aptly records Jesus’ teachings about the signs of the end times, and that no one except God the Father knows the day or hour when Christ will come again, ushering the end of the age (v. 32). Jesus reminds His disciples to watch out, to be on guard, and to stand firm.

I am preaching a sermon series at our youth ministry entitled “D is for Disciple,” focusing on growing in spiritual discontent or hunger for God and the things of God, nurturing our minds in spiritual discernment, and challenging our commitment to spiritual disciplines. In this day and age, with pervasive false teachings through pseudo-church groups or cults, floods of fake news on the Internet, and all forms of humanistic, post-modern and twisted philosophies and worldviews, our young people truly need discernment and wisdom from the Lord through His Word and Spirit.

Romans 12:2 reminds us not to follow or be conformed to the world’s pattern, but to be transformed by renewing our minds, testing and approving God’s good, pleasing and perfect will. Let us focus on the author and perfector of our faith, Jesus Christ, who is the only Way, Truth and Life. Whether the world ends tomorrow or not, we can have the full assurance that our lives are in God’s hands, God is sovereign, and we are to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.

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