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.

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.

 

To Be Willing With a Perfect Heart

Too much time has passed since I posted an article here in Encouragement Corner. Writing down what’s on my mind seems to come naturally for me, but writing to encourage, to follow the verse that made me start this blog–“…and encouraged them to the service of the house of the Lord…”-[2 Chronicles 35:2b]–has not been so easy. Praise the Lord, we have the Bible where all the encouragement we need comes from! As I was reading through 1 Chronicles 29, the Holy Spirit drew my attention to a reminder that may add kindling to the waning fire in a Christian’s life.

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1 CHRONICLES 29:1-9

1Furthermore David the king said unto all the congregation, Solomon my son, whom alone God hath chosen, is yet young and tender, and the work is great: for the palace is not for man, but for the LORD God.

2Now I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God the gold for things to be made of gold, and the silver for things of silver, and the brass for things of brass, the iron for things of iron, and wood for things of wood; onyx stones, and stones to be set, glistering stones, and of divers colours, and all manner of precious stones, and marble stones in abundance.

3Moreover, because I have set my affection to the house of my God, I have of mine own proper good, of gold and silver, which I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house.

4Even three thousand talents of gold, of the gold of Ophir, and seven thousand talents of refined silver, to overlay the walls of the houses withal:

5The gold for things of gold, and the silver for things of silver, and for all manner of work to be made by the hands of artificers. And who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the LORD?

6Then the chief of the fathers and princes of the tribes of Israel and the captains of thousands and of hundreds, with the rulers of the king`s work, offered willingly,

7And gave for the service of the house of God of gold five thousand talents and ten thousand drams, and of silver ten thousand talents, and of brass eighteen thousand talents, and one hundred thousand talents of iron.

8And they with whom precious stones were found gave them to the treasure of the house of the LORD, by the hand of Jehiel the Gershonite.

9Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the LORD: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy.

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How many times have we heard, or even said, “To thee only, Lord, will I serve!” Yet more often than not, our attention have turned to some other thing, and we grieve the Holy Spirit. Only afterwards do we realize it was not with a perfect heart that we offered our service to God.

In the first verse, Solomon was chosen for the work of building the house of God. As Christians, we all are bidden to work for Christ until He comes for us in the Rapture of the saints. We are to edify, encourage and exhort fellow believers in the Lord. We are to bring lost souls into the fold of God. Solomon was young and tender, and the work was great, yet he was able to finish the task given to him. We also are tasked with a great work; yea, the harvest is plenteous and the laborers are few. Will we be able to finish with joy and rejoicing at Jesus’ feet?

We can only imagine how grand the temple that Solomon built was! Just think of the gold, silver, brass, and all kinds of precious gems that you would have seen had you been an Israelite living during that time! Much preparation must have been done for the work of such a glorious edifice, and only right for it was built as the palace “not for man, but for the LORD God.” In verse two, the gold for things of gold was prepared for the building of the house of God, and thus with the silver, brass, iron, wood, and precious stones. If our lives should represent the things used such as gold and silver, are we as Christians prepared and ready to work for the things of Christ?

If we are prepared, the next thing is to set our affection to the house of God. “Set you affection on things above, not on things on the earth…” Verse three indicates that the manifestation of having set our affection to the work that Christ has for us is, giving over and above what we have prepared. In the previous paragraph, our lives were prepared to do what God would want us to do. Giving over and above what we have prepared is giving our talents to serve Him. It may also be to let our family be an instrument to be used of God. Have we truly set our affection on things above?

As I was reading this passage of Scripture, the one thing that really made me stop and meditate upon was in verse five: “And who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the LORD?” Was I willing? Did I truly consecrate my service unto the Lord? Those were the questions that got a hold of my mind, and those are the same that you might even ask to yourself. That day, I read the verse and thought on it; the next day, I read the same passage and meditated on it some more. This went on for quite some time, for I knew I could not continue my Bible reading without settling it with my Lord. Not until He opened my eyes (they were probably stubbornly closed all that time) and showed me that preparation of my life to serve Him and setting my affection on the things of Christ was essential before I ever be truly willing to consecrate my service unto the Lord. If all these were done in us–the preparation and the setting of affection–we would have no doubt regarding our willingness to do the work unto the Lord.

The result of preparing to be used of God is being able to set our affection on things above. The effect of those two things then is, the willingness to serve. Following that is now the act of offering willingly our service to God. It ought not be the half-hearted obedience of what He would have us to do, but would be with a perfect heart. King Saul was rebuked, “…Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice…” because of his half-obedience to God’s commandment. He was actually not prepared; he came from the tribe of Benjamin, a tribe not chosen to be the one in which the ruling king would come from; he was not trained to lead a great, but stubborn, people. His heart’s affection was not even for God, during that time that he was rebuked; he chose to leave the best of the spoils of war alive, instead of killing everyone and everything, the act which would have had eliminated a nation that would cause Israel to sin. He was not willing to obey, yet he desired to serve the Lord by offering a sacrifice. Thus, the ending of his story was not a joyful one: God chose another man to lead his people Israel. Perhaps his life would have concluded in a different way, had he obeyed. I do not know how God would have done things if Saul had obeyed. But I know that it was written for our learning, and I know that all things work together in God’s hands.

Back in track, you can now probably guess what the outcome of offering willingly to the Lord would be. Verse nine–“Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the LORD: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy.” We ourselves would rejoice and be glad if with a perfect heart we offered willingly to the Lord. Since David is a type of Christ, our Lord would rejoice with all the host of heaven if we willingly served Him, with all sincerity and truth. Let us then be willing and serve the Lord with a perfect heart. May this be an eye-opener, a reminder, or even a part of the blade of the sword of the Lord to all of us.

“And who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the LORD?”

To Our “Judaea”

“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.”  —Acts 1:8 KJV

Have we been saved? Have we the inspired Word of God? Have we the Holy Spirit within us? Yes, yes, and yes! And if so, have we been witnesses of Christ in Judaea, in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth?

“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.”—These were the words of Christ to his disciples in Jerusalem, before He ascended up to the Father. It’s interesting to note that Christ’s disciples were first in Jerusalem, then they spread out to Judaea, then to Samaria, and finally to the whole earth. What is even more intriguing is that the early Baptists in America had begun the just about the same way: from one place, then to the neighbouring houses, then to the next village, and so on and so forth, you get the idea.

Now, we may not exactly get to witness and share the Gospel in Judaea and Samaria, but we do have our own “Judaea”. There are neighbours, friends, and family, right next to us, who are in need of the joy that we have in Christ. They need to know the truth of the Gospel, the death, burial, and resurrection, of Christ. They need to know that good works is not sufficient to save them from their sins, and they need to know about hell’s torments. They need to know that only in believing on the finished work of Christ at Calvary, and none other thing, is the remedy enough to save them.

Shall we be the witnesses God wants us to be? Let us go NOW to our Judaea and tell them that NOW is the day of salvation!