Worship at Home

Lately, I’ve been sewing face masks for our church van outreach that’s being planned, and with this quiet time I’m having, there are some thoughts that I just would like to share. With the quick spread of Covid-19, our health officials have advised everyone to be careful, thus limiting social activities, staying home as much as possible, etc., and governments around the world have implemented necessary measures to make sure people do their part in preventing the spread of the virus. In this situation, church buildings find themselves relatively empty, and pastors and church staff around the world are doing their best to host online services for their members.  

And on that note, church members (or should I say “Christians”) find themselves sitting in front of a TV or whatever gadget you happen to have, worshipping with others who are also watching the services like you’re doing. That is not altogether wrong, and I’m glad we’re able to do these things with the technology that we have now. (*) I’m not judging anyone who’s ‘attending’ online services, because I do the same thing—my husband and I sit in the living room, with our Bibles and notepads ready, and we watch every online service our church does during this time that we can’t physically be ‘in church.’  

So what’s my point? I don’t really have one. 

I just wanted to tell you a story.  

The first time I sat in our living room to watch our church’s online service, I was thinking, “This is not the first time I’ve had to have church at home.” It wasn’t because of government prohibiting gatherings. And it wasn’t because I was sick either. Growing up in a miltary family that was always on the move, having to do ‘church at home’ became pretty familiar. One main reason was that we couldn’t find a solid Bible-believing church in the area. (Mission area idea, anyone?)  

We had church at home. 

How did that work? Saturday night, my dad would let us know what time we would start our ‘service’ the next morning so we would have time to plan for the next day, the day most Christians schedule as ‘go-to-church day.’ We would wake up with plenty of time to have breakfast together, and get dressed for the day. We dressed in our Sunday clothes, fixed our hair, put our nice shoes on, even though we never left the house that day. Usually by 8:30 in the morning, Dad would tell me to start playing the piano, or if we didn’t have one where we were, he would just start singing from a hymnal that we would always have wherever we’d go. Then we’d sing as much songs as we could, or at least until what seemed like ‘I-can-feel-my-throat-get-scratchy.’ Buuuut, that was a lot of fun! Then we’d stop singing, and my dad would start asking each of us what we were thankful for. Sometimes mine would be the most basic things, sometimes I felt like not giving a praise, but I would always end up with something to thank God for. After a time of praising, we would pray, either led by Dad or my brother, and then Dad would share what God laid in his heart. Sometimes less than an hour, sometimes more, but they were all blessings. He would preach and teach as if there were more people than just his family in the room. I personally think it was the Holy Spirit working in him. I kept notes as faithfully as I would if we were with a church, and my brother would try to do the same. And like she would do at church, my mom would occasionally ‘give us a look’ if it seemed like our minds were off somewhere else and not paying attention. Afterwards, after our ‘closing’ prayer, we would scramble to help prepare Sunday lunch. Or we would go out to eat. We did this during the times we didn’t have a church to go to. Eventually, other Christians who were also looking for a church joined us, and we had good fellowship. And food.  

But why am I sharing this with you? I truly believe that worshipping with other believers is a must, but what if you only have your family, or you’re alone? This is when we realize that worshipping God is not confined in church, not scheduled to a few hours a week, not dependent on others to lead you. It comes from a heart that truly has the desire to give God praise, and He is all the more glorified if we do it more often during the week. But in light of the current situation that we’re in, I’d like to encourage you to set your mind, even the day before, to worship and ‘attend’ the services online. Pray for the pastors who have to look at a camera instead of your faces; only the Lord knows how hard it is for them to communicate God’s word with you and you’re not there. Pray for the musicians and those that lead in singing; from a musician’s perspective, it’s a lot easier when you hear others making music for the Lord too. Pray for the other brethren who also have to stay home; it’s a challenge to keep your focus in the service when you’re in your comfort zone and nobody else sees you. Set your alarm so you wake up with a purpose. Prepare your body—have breakfast and get dressed to worship. I honestly think there is less chance for us to get distracted if our we would have taken care of ourselves first. And just as most of us get dressed for specific purposes, you might also want to dress up for the ‘service.’ Close your eyes and pray when they pray. Sing when they sing, even if you don’t think you sound good. Take notes, turn the pages of your Bible, and try to get as much as you can. Then if you can, have a chat with others about what you learnt. Trust me, God will bless your efforts.  

Worship God at all times. 

(*) Please do not think I’m against online services. I truly appreciate the effort all the pastors make to share what God has laid in their heart, and I love being able to sing with the brethren that are leading the worship songs. If you are one of those who make these possible, whether in front of the camera or behind the scenes, I thank you, I thank God for you and for giving you the ability to do these things. It’s not easy, but the services have been huge blessings.

Depart and Draw Nearer

“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee…So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him.” ~Genesis 12:1,4a

If the Lord had told you to leave your country, your family and friends, without telling you where to go, just so you’d know Him better, would you go? Imagine leaving the comforts of home, the security of family, the love and joy of friendship, literally everything and everyone you grew up with and have become familiar with. Deciding to follow God to the seemingly unknown (God knows it) is no small matter, and actually doing it is not an easy task. But here we see that Abram did exactly that.

He left his country, bringing with him his wife, Lot, and all their substance that they had gathered. (Genesis 12:5) He obeyed God, but he took all his wealth and riches, his cattle, and pretty much everything he owned. Abram still could not let go and leave all that he had, so the Lord was gracious enough to let him bring all his baggage. But as he went on with the journey, God did something in Abram that loosened his hold on everything and everyone he held dear in this earth, so that he would know God in a more personal way.

That doesn’t mean Abram had it perfect every step of the way; he had his share of trials and temptations. When they were in Egypt, he became fainthearted and told Pharaoh that his wife, Sarai, was his sister. He did this because he thought his life was dear, and he didn’t want to die. But perhaps this incident in Egypt taught him that although he thought his life precious, he didn’t have to be afraid of what would happen. Abram had to learn to give the job of keeping his life to God.

Then with the issue they had about Lot’s herdsmen and his, he had to let go of the pride and prestige of having the best cattle in the area. The fact that he let Lot choose the place where his cattle would graze meant that he no longer cared for that. He could have used his position as the elder, the uncle, and insisted on getting the best grazing place, with Lot getting the not-so-good area, just so he can maintain the status of having the best cattle. But no. It didn’t matter to him anymore if he had the best or not. Going where the Lord would lead was more important.

His final test would have probably been that time when God asked him to give up his son, Isaac, to be a sacrifice. Can you imagine giving up the dearest person to us and sacrificing them to whatever God wanted them to be? Think of the person you love the most, and imagine giving them up, against our will, so that they would fulfil what the Lord led them to. It would be hard for us, but most especially for Abraham because this was his son, the promised son, the one he had waited for so long!

He went through with the journey, with all its testing and trouble, and in the end, God blessed him for it. “He believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.” (James 2:23) For him, the journey was not only in obedience to God–it became the process of learning to let go of the things that Abram held dear, the things that were holding him back from knowing God in a more personal level.

If the Lord calls you to depart just so you can learn to draw nearer to Him, would you go? Even if it meant leaving the comforts of home, the security of friends and family, and everything else you know and love? Even if it meant risking your life for the sake of truth and the gospel? Even if it meant you have to let go and lose all your material/physical blessings so you would know what really matters, and be content in just whatever God gives you? Would you do it even if it meant that you would lose someone dear to you, whether a family member, or your best friend?

Such thought-provoking questions, but if it was part of the process of knowing God in a more intimate way, would you do it?

Be More Ready to Hear

“Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.” ~Ecclesiastes 5:1

When you step inside the church doors, do you really go there with the intent to worship God? Or do you just go out of habit, because it’s a part of your weekly schedule? Do you come in with an expectancy to see the Holy Spirit work in your life and others? Or is it just another reason to hang out with your friends? Do you come in ready to hear the pastor as he preaches the word of God, or is it just something to listen to and then forget the minute you leave the church parking lot?

You see, the idea of “keeping your foot” when you go to the house of God is to consider if you are indeed ready to hear. In other words, we need to take a moment to reflect within ourselves if our motives of going to church is right. We all know that there are times when going to church seems obligated, but that should not be the case. We need to ready our hearts to listen, if we are expecting blessings from God every time we sit under the the preaching of His word. We need to be just like Ezra, who prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it. Because if not, chances are, what we do at church will just be a sacrifice of fools, and we’d only do it because we have to.

Please don’t come to church with the wrong motive; don’t view it as a sacrifice. If you ever think that the time you spend at church could be spent doing more important stuff, let me tell you: nothing and no one is more important than God. Yes, I plead with you, as much as possible, come to church, but please come with a ready heart. Going to church with no intent to know more about the Lord, to worship Him, and to be a blessing to others, is utter foolishness. There is nothing more disappointing to God than when a Christian leaves the church building with nothing learnt, with his soul not fed. On the night before a church service, pray that God will help the preacher, and that everyone who will be coming to church (including you) will be ready to hear. Before you drive out of your garage, pray that your heart would always be inclined to worship God in all His greatness. And before you even open the church doors, pray that you might have willing hands to serve the Lord and the brethren.

Consider your motives; come ready to hear.

Take-Aways on a Full Notebook [2]

Once upon a time, I never bothered to take down notes. True, I always had a notebook with me, but that was to draw pictures with. I did not realize how much I could learn through the art of taking notes. (Besides avoiding dozing off during sermons and lectures, that is. 🙂 ) But, for the past three years, I have done my best to write down things I’ve heard from preachings, and guess what? I have learnt, and have been blessed. My first notebook is full and I have already shared bits and pieces here.  The excerpts I have written below are now from my second notebook, and I sincerely hope and pray that you too will be blessed as I have been. (And perhaps, you may be encouraged to start writing down notes too. :-))

“Yes, God is faithful to forgive us our sins and trespasses, but there are still consequences.”

“If we prepare our heart to honor the Lord, it is Him that will work.”

“Are Christians spoken of in the whole world for the faith that they have?”

“It is the love of Christ that compels the Christian to tell of what his Saviour has done.”

“From the examples in the Scripture, it is evident that God can use young people to do His purpose.”

“The rich young ruler preferred his possessions more than the glory of following Christ.”

“Before one can be saved, he must admit that he has sinned against the holy God.”

“Many times God will allow trouble to come your way, not to show you who He is, but to show you who you are.”

“You don’t get saved to get to heaven; you get saved to have the righteousness of God to make you righteous enough to be in His presence.”

“Anyone who can only go through life doing what he wants to do is a miserable person.”

“The devil’s philosophy–do as you please; God’s teaching–do as you’re told.”

“The only thing God requires is faithfulness; the greatest temptation is to just quit.”

“We should always think that God is holy so that our judgments may be excellent, sincere, without offence, and filled with the fruits of righteousness.”

“If your concept of God is faulty, your decisions may also be faulty.”

“Your knowledge about God is reflected in your life.”

“We become so engrossed with great Christian authors, but simple writing by Christians, who have been touched by God, can also bless us greatly.”

“In this age of grace, God gave us only one blessing–Jesus Christ.”

“No one has ever been in patient continuance in well doing.”

“God never intended us to live a life aside of a spiritual one.”

“If you want a new revelation everyday, read the Bible.”

“If your ministry does not include saving souls, consider what ministry you have.”

“When confronted with the will of God, are you willing to follow?”

“Watch out when you muse, watch out what you choose, and watch out when you lose.”

“The Gospel is free, but not cheap, because it has its cost–the precious blood of Christ.”

 

 

Encouraging Biblical Missions

“Some are missionaries,

some are moochinaries,

some are vacationaries,

and some are stationaries.”

 

David Livingstone, William Carey, Adoniram Judson, C.T. Studd, William Grenfell, Hudson Taylor, John Paton, Jim Elliott, George Muller…the list could go on and on. We could cite the names of Christian men whom God used in the past to bring His word to people ignorant of His love. We admire how God performed miracles to open the eyes of the sinners through the lives of these men, yet they lived in the years gone. Yes, there are still Godly men who yield themselves to God’s calling to step out from beyond their comfort zones, share the Truth and start churches, and I could name a few of them. Oh, but a few! Hardly have I heard of Christian young men who are ready and willing to be of service to the King in becoming a missionary. Perhaps God has already given many of them the burden for sharing the Word in a strange land. But why do we see and hear of only a few?

 

Is it because in their childhood they were not introduced to the fact that there are people who do not know of God’s saving grace? Yes, men like Adoniram Judson and David Livingstone knew when they were but little boys that they would become missionaries. However, George Muller never had an interest in missions when he was young, and much less in God, but after he believed that Christ’s sufficient work on Calvary was enough to save him from his sins, he became burdened for people who knew nothing of what he believed, and he prayed that God would use him as a missionary. Well, he hardly set foot on some heathen land, but God called him to work with the orphan children of Bristol’s streets, thus giving them an opportunity to know of God’s love.

 

Is it because they do not feel capable enough to start the work on their own? In our AVPI class Biblical Missions, we learnt that God calls and enables them to the ministry. Perhaps the feeling of not being capable enough to do it is another side of being too comfortable in our present situation. When God calls them, He sees them as ready to do His business. As for being on their own, Apostle Paul, on his first missionary journey, called a friend to accompany him, but on his later journeys, he traveled alone. Well, not alone; God was with him. So you see, God calls, He enables, and He is with them every step of the way for His Spirit indwells every believer.

 

Is it because they need to be affiliated with a certain church, Bible college, or even with the government? Well, the Bible gives no particular instruction on starting mission churches. The important things that a Christian man, called to become a missionary, is supposed to know: 1) the rule of the church, and 2) the ruin of the church. To rule a church is not to exercise lordship over the members; to rule is to feed, guide, and sometimes, rebuke the flock God has appointed them to. There are also strict guidelines for men who are to rule God’s people, as it is said in I Timothy 3, some of which are: they are to be blameless, the husband of one wife, sober, apt to teach, one that ruleth well his own house, etc. As for the ruin of the church, they need to know of apostacy of the church, the apostate people, and corruption in the church and what a believer must do, so that they will be guarded from the deceiving wiles of the devil.

 

Whatever the reasons may be, if God is leading certain Christian men to go and serve him, remember: there is no better place to be than in the center of His will. We need to be praying for those men whose hearts God touched. For those who know that the Lord has called them but still hesitant on how to do it, pray that they would begin preparing themselves for the ministry, and for those already serving Him at home and abroad, pray that God will mightily use them for the glory of His name.

 

For all of us Christians, our mission field does not have to be on foreign soil; when we exit our door, there lies the mission field. You might be a young person, but God can use you. You may think you’ve become too old, but it’s never too late for you to serve God. You might reason that you’re uneducated, but the Lord will enable you for the task. And you might think it necessary to be supported by the government, church, or school; well, why don’t you give God the opportunity to show his greatness by provision? You see, there is no reason whatsoever for any Christian to shirk from what God wants us to do. We all are given the word of reconciliation, and to be given that means that we are entrusted in the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, it is our duty as ambassadors for Christ to plead with the unbelieving sinners to be reconciled to God. We all need to plead with them in Christ’s stead. That is the Great Commission of an ambassador for Christ.

 

There is a Generation…

“There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.

There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.

There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up.”

—Proverbs 30:11-13

Around the world, we see rebellious children disobeying their parents; we see churchgoers, thinking of themselves as separated from the wicked, yet overlooking their own sins; we see puffed up men and women, proud of whatever they have, abilities, fame, wealth, name, etc. As I had been thinking, and you might be too, “I’m not part of this class you just described!”

Well, we’ll see.

There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.

“Ouch.”

“Are you speaking of me?”

“Do you think I’m part of that generation?”

Those are just three of the many reactions you encounter when you tell that to people, children, teenagers or grown-up adults. Hardly anyone would admit that they cursed their father, or did not bless their mother. It would just be very demeaning to say that to anyone. Maybe you did not do it the way the world would have done, but you certainly did that, unaware. (By the way, the act of rolling your eyes is a subtle rebellion, which in turn can become habitual rebellion if it’s not corrected soon.)

Let’s think opposites for a moment: the antonym of ‘curse’ is ‘bless’. How do you bless someone? Most would say it would be by praying God’s favour on them, but to bless is also by honouring and thanking them. So, put it this way:

“There is a generation that does not pray God’s favour on their father, and does not honour and thank their mother.”

Ha! There goes an arrow piercing straight to the heart! You know, another way of not blessing your parents is by not helping them? They’re not getting younger and their strength is diminishing (though sometimes they refuse to believe it), but we’re becoming more and more capable of doing their work—especially around the house— ourselves. Sometimes when they get worn out accomplishing things they just don’t have enough strength to do, do we just sit around and let them get things done? I should think that’s another side of cursing your parents. (I’m not just talking to you; I’m talking to myself so don’t get mad.) A good way we could honour and bless them is by lightening their load, and I’m sure it honours God.

Did we ever pray that God would grant wisdom and guidance to our parents? Did we ever pray that He would give our fathers strength as he does the work to provide for his family? Did we ever say, “Thank you Lord, for a caring mother, that is virtuous and submits to her husband”? Are we part of this generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother? Or will we be a generation who, by the grace of God, will honour and help them? Let us be a generation that will be said to have done right in the eyes of the Lord, and of man.