PASTORAL PERSPECTIVE

Are you a harvester – or a consumer? Before you answer the question, we need to look at what God is doing in our world today.

 

The Spirit of the Lord is indeed at work in our world – a world that is desperately in need of God. Whether it is in a city in China, a village in Africa, or a mountain community in Lima, people are coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Communities are being transformed by the grace of God. God is at work. The results can be seen wherever God’s people realise what God is doing and offer themselves wholeheartedly to work with Him.

 

Jesus invited His disciples to see the world in a radically different way: “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” (Jn. 4:35). When He said this, Jesus had just demonstrated how to harvest the field. He had spoken to the Samaritan woman who, as a result, came to faith in Him. Following her immediate testimony in her town, many of her fellow townsfolk crossed the line to stand with her in expressing faith in Jesus. Who would have thought a town full of Samaritans would find favour with God and that they would believe in an itinerant Jewish teacher?

 

But it happened! God is indeed a God of surprises and continues to provide a harvest where nothing much is expected. Is not God able to create pools out of hard, dry desert rock? (Ps. 114:7-8). Was not the cross of Christ, a stumbling block to the Jews and a scandal or foolishness to the Gentiles (1 Cor. 1:22-25), also the very religious symbol that turned the ancient world upside down? (Acts 17:6) Was it not God who brought about explosive growth in the Church in China when everyone least expected it – after missionaries were expelled from China, and the struggling and lonely church there went through great difficulties?

 

God often sees what we cannot see. He is the Lord of the harvest and He brings about redemption and transformation of human life in the most unlikely places. The key is whether we are in step with the Lord of the harvest. There are a few principles we can learn from Christ Himself in this account in John’s Gospel.

 

Firstly, the harvest is accomplished through individual personal relationships. Jesus engaged in a redemptive conversation with the Samaritan woman and led her to eternal life. The disciples proved that they were just spiritual novices and had a long way to go before they played an active role in the harvest. When they went into the town to find food, leaving Jesus at the well, they must have passed the woman who was on her way to the well (Jn. 4:7-8). Truth be told, they probably ignored her. After all, she was just another of those Samaritan women. They were too busy in their mission to find food that they failed to participate in the harvest. They did not realize that here was a woman who was in need of the Messiah, that she needed to have her soul-thirst quenched with the life-giving water of the Gospel. She needed to become a true worshipper of God, but all they were thinking about was lunch.

 

Secondly, the personal relationships through which the harvest is done are to be rich in word and deed. In other words, sowing must be done, through word and deed. When there is no word, harvesting is difficult or impossible. Often an apt word that is spoken at the right time is used by the Holy Spirit as spiritual seed that eventually bears fruit.

 

John Wesley (1703-1791) was returning home from a service one night. On the way he was robbed. The thief found that Wesley had only a little money and some Christian literature. As the disappointed thief was leaving, Wesley called out, “Stop! I have something more to give you.” The surprised robber paused. “My friend,” said Wesley, “you may live to regret this sort of life. If you ever do, here’s something to remember: ‘The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin!'” The thief left in a hurry, and Wesley prayed that his words might bear fruit. Years later, Wesley was greeting people after a Sunday service when a stranger approached him. To his pleasant surprise he learned that this visitor, now a believer in Christ and a successful businessman, was the one who had robbed him years before! “I owe it all to you,” said the transformed man. “Oh no, my friend,” Wesley exclaimed, “not to me, but to the precious blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin!” Indeed, our words can fall like seed in the hearts of people.

 

Deeds are also an important aspect of the seed that is sown. That Jesus, a Jew, a man, and the sinless Messiah spoke to the sinful Samaritan woman was a significant act. Jesus had built bridges across several barriers to bring redemption to her. The woman must have been touched by His kind and radical act. It certainly left a lasting impression. In God’s kingdom, godly and compassionate acts, no matter how small, can have greatly significant implications (Mt. 25).

 

Words and deeds become seed when they are experienced in relationships. Relationships are the key to harvesting. If the harvest is to take place, more people need to come forward to develop relationships that lead to a spiritual harvest.

 

Thirdly, harvesting is the result of team effort. Jesus spoke of the sower and the reaper, both at work (Jn. 4:36-38). In the same way, Paul wrote about those who plant the seed and those who water it (1 Cor. 3:6-9). It takes a team (harvest force, if you like) to make the harvest possible. In the story in Jn. 4, sadly the disciples were hardly team players. They missed the opportunity of telling the woman about Jesus and bringing her to him. They also missed the opportunity to plant the seed in the hearts of the people of the town when they went there to find food. No sowing was done. How then can there be a harvest?

 

We find Jesus having to work alone. In the case of the woman, He did both the sowing and the harvesting. But then, in the case of the town’s people, the newly converted woman joined her Master in the work of harvesting. She went into the town to sow the seed through her words of testimony (Jn. 4:28-30). Later there was a great harvest in the town because of the words of Jesus (Jn. 4:40). Interestingly, the woman proved to be a better evangelist and disciple than the disciples themselves. She actually participated in the harvest.

 

Fourthly, harvesting calls for single-minded passion. When the disciples returned with food from the town, they urged Jesus to eat something. But he pointed them to a different hunger – soul hunger, and soul food; “I have food to eat that you know nothing about…My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.” (Jn. 4:31-34). This is the passion that is required of us if we want to participate in the harvest – to obey God and to complete the task He has entrusted to us. The disciples were too distracted about food and material comforts to join Jesus in His harvesting mission. They were like many modern consumers who only think about their own comfort, security, and prosperity and miss out participating in the great harvest.

 

What about you, dear reader? God is at work in the fields that are ripe for harvest. Some of these are in the places in which MMS is working. Jesus is looking for people who are willing to personally sow the seed through word and deed, be part of harvest teams that will work with Him, and who have an undivided heart that seeks to obey Him and please Him (Ezek. 11:19).

 

So, are you a faithful harvester or a distracted consumer?

Dr Robert Solomon
June 26, 2022

Attacks! Battles! Crises! Disasters! Exploitations! How do we feel when we are faced with these? We are discouraged! We are disillusioned! We are distressed! We are despaired! We are at a loss as to know what to do. We are oftentimes perplexed! We are puzzled! We are powerless! How do we stir up ourselves again? How do we handle many uncertainties which come our way? We begin to wonder where and when things would turn around? Darkness seems to fill the space around us. Do we not desire to see the light shining through? Breakthrough! Break free! Baffled by all these unpleasant things happening around us, we feel helpless and intrigued.

 

Who can help us in times of trouble and need? We know that we can only turn to the Almighty God to deliver and rescue us. He has graciously provided us with the invincible Word of God and the Holy Spirit of God to lead and direct us. We cannot rely upon ourselves but upon God. We should “seek the LORD and His strength.” (Psalm 105:4a). We are weak but He is strong. God will provide us with His strength. We should “seek His presence continually.” (Psalm 105:4b). God’s presence means God’s power and God’s providence. When we seek His presence, we would be blessed and encouraged. So, we cannot afford to be shy in approaching the LORD of our life! We also cannot afford to be shy in serving the Shepherd of our soul! Shyness hinders ministry but boldness enhances ministry. We must allow the Word of God to minister to us and to assimilate into every facet of our life, but we must be willing to be humble, obedient and teachable. To handle the uncertainties of life, we must turn to the invincible Word of God. In Joshua 1:9, we were instructed with these words: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Be strong is not enough. Be courageous is not enough. We need both. We need to be strong as well as to be courageous. Let us, therefore, be strong and courageous when we are faced with adversities and atrocities. The most wonderful thing is that we are assured of the presence of God with us wherever we go.

 

The apostle Paul instructed the Ephesian believers to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” (Ephesians 6:10). We gather up our courage because of the faithfulness and goodness of our God and Lord. In the LORD, we can be strengthened and sustained. In the strength of His might, we similarly will be firmed and not be shaken by anything around us. We are confident that God will provide us with the necessary power needed to overcome the issues of life. He has not left us as orphans (John 14:18a) but has given us His Spirit to dwell within us. The Holy Spirit is the Helper. (John 14:16, 26; John 16:7). He is also the Spirit of Truth. (John 14:17; 16:13).

 

The LORD encourages and strengthens us with this Bible verse: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). We are strengthened by the peace of Christ. Only in Him, we shall have His wonderful peace. The moment we turn away from Christ and look to the world and follow the ways of the world, we will face with troubles and woes. When we turn to Christ and look to Him for His deliverance and rescue, we will encounter His perfect peace. He encourages us through and with this truth that He has overcome the world. Likewise, with and through Christ, we shall overcome the issues of life which we may face. Let us, indeed, take heart, for Christ has overcome the world. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). How wonderful it is to know that when we are in God’s favour, we need not be fearful of anything or any harm or hurt! We are also assured and comforted that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37).

 

God has called each one of us into His ministry and service. He has provided us with His spiritual gifts. Let us discover and know our spiritual gifts so that we may serve according to the spiritual gifts which He has graciously given to us. Let us know that He has a wonderful purpose for each one of His beloved children. He wants us to anchor our hope in Him alone and not in the people around us nor in the things of this world. As we anchor our hope in God, we are being strengthened in our faith in God and in our walk with Him. As we serve God and His people, let us serve with the strength which He supplies. (1 Peter 4:11b). In all that we do, let us “do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

 

The more we focus on God, the more our faith in God is being strengthened. The more our faith is being strengthened, the more we grow towards spiritual maturity. In our spiritual maturity, we shall discern the will of God for our lives pursuing and doing those things which please Him and glorify Him. Henceforth, we shall bear the fruit of the Spirit too. Let us, therefore, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Through this, we shall live a victorious Christian life to the glory of God. Amen.

Preacher George Ang
June 19, 2022

The world is changing and more so with the COVID pandemic. What would missions look like post-COVID? Moving from face to face to virtual interactions was much easier for countries with internet access. Now that the borders are re-opened, what does face to face interaction look like as we venture into the frontiers of closed countries?

 

Today, there are fewer and fewer countries that will process missionary visas. Hence, we look to creative – access platforms; they are God-given means for providing workers in the field the opportunity and relational basis to effectively carry out the Great Commission.

 

Far from a “cover” for covert activities, these platforms are a basis for living among, interacting with and communicating the gospel to those around us with a sense of integrity. Paul’s “tentmaking” model has survived throughout the ages of missions. He was a tourist, philosopher, lecturer, fund-raiser, prisoner and tentmaker, and in 1 Cor. 9:22 he said: “[we] become all things to all men so that by all possible means [we] might save some”.

 

How are we to be God’s ambassadors in the different parts of the world, especially where Christians are persecuted for their faith? How can we continue to do kingdom work in these “creative – access” nations?

 

Churches need to get out of their “professional missionary” mindset and enter the real world of marketplace witness — the modern-day version of the Apostle Paul’s world. In my recent trip to a creative – access nation, I witness the persistent tension between time spent on “work” versus time spent in “ministry.”

 

Tentmakers must be convinced that their work in the company is an act of worship to God as well as a witness to the people. While they should strive to do well in their work, they do not forget that their purpose there is ministry in the marketplace. There must be an intentional effort to develop authentic friendships and through their conversations and deeds of kindness, they can point others to Jesus. What tentmakers do in the mission field should not be very different from what we do back home in our own offices.

 

Some seek out overseas jobs or positions as a strategic means to provide a legitimate reason for living and working among a particular people group. More often than not, this approach is less favourable as the tentmakers may be seen as taking over the rice-bowls of the locals.

 

The better option would be to enter the country as an “entrepreneurial tentmaker” who through the conduct of business will value add both economically and socially to the local community. Here’s where the missionaries can provide employment to the locals and at the same time serve as a witness for the gospel in the way they manage and lead the company. These strategically viable platforms can lead to life-changing relationships.

 

While a closed country is not necessarily closed to other interests like tourism or business, official missionary activity is off-limits. For this reason, missionaries will go to these places as tourists, humanitarian workers, business entrepreneurs, but not officially as missionaries. “Closed countries” does not mean they have no place for the advancement of God’s kingdom. God is still very much at work in those countries. We continue to send missionaries in the capacity of tentmakers to closed countries because men, women, and families are still in need of the gospel. Even though the official government says “closed”, by the power of the Spirit, the hearts of the people will remain open to the gospel.

 

It is estimated that there are at least sixty countries in the category of “Creative – Access Nations”. So when there is an opportunity for missionaries to enter these places, they must be “creative” in using their training and expertise to contribute in the areas of medicine, education, or business.

 

In addition, God has given many of us opportunities to reach people from traditionally closed countries because they are right in our own backyard due to globalisation and migration. Our world has become more connected and people are more transitory. If we cannot easily go to the nations, then God brings the nations to us.

 

If you happen to be a business owner, or have a specialised degree or possess a certain type of training, consider serving in a “creative – access nation” where it is difficult for traditional missionaries to do so. Should you be interested, I suggest you contact Ps Edwin or members of the mission committee to find out more about such opportunities.

Rev Tan Cheng Huat (Non-resident missionary to SQ)
June 12, 2022

These two Sundays, being Mission Sundays, our focus intentionally turns to the harvest field. We had just met our missionaries virtually during the Zoom Prayer meeting last Wednesday. It is so heart-warming to hear what they have been doing in the field and we hope that they have been encouraged by our prayers for them too.

 

Let’s not get too technical about the definition of missions. Some say we must cross national boundaries or serve in a different culture before we can say that we are doing missions. If the Lord should lead us to follow in the footsteps of our missionaries, let us respond with an obedient heart.

 

Otherwise, let us be faithful to the Great Com-Mission that we have been entrusted with (Matthew 28:18-20) where Jesus gives us a command to fulfil a mission which is to make disciples of all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (where we are), to Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

 

In fulfilling the Great Com-Mission, we have to go, and then to baptise and then to teach people to obey all that Christ has commanded. Going can mean going to another country but going can also mean walking across our classroom to speak with a friend or across the pantry to speak with a colleague or across the corridor to speak with a neighbour.

 

Such conversations may begin with anything under the sun and not proceed beyond that. However, we pray that while we make the effort to make conversations and cultivate friendships, there will be opportunities for us to engage our classmates, colleagues and friends in a deeper manner so that we move from the superficial “hi and bye” to offering words of encouragement, discussing theology in a very casual manner and eventually, sharing the gospel with them.

 

In the recent population census, though the percentage of Christians in Singapore has increased marginally from 18.3% in 2010 to 18.9% in 2020, the worrying trend is to see a rise from 17% to 20% of those surveyed (15 years and older) choosing to be atheists. Within this group, the highest jump was seen among those from 25 to 34 years of age (from 19.9% to 26.2%) who said that they had no religion.

 

Therefore, there is still a lot of work to do where the sharing of the gospel is concerned. The harvest at our doorstep is indeed plentiful, especially when we include the many foreigners who are living and working among us in our offices, schools, housing estates and homes.

 

But some of you may ask, “How can the harvest be plentiful when people are not interested in hearing the gospel, or they may have heard it so many times over yet they have not responded to the call to become Christians?”

 

We might initially have been very excited about sharing the gospel but after being rejected by friends who stared daggers at us, or shunned us as if we have a contagious disease, we have decided in our hearts that it is either not working or it is not worth the while for us to take such risks.

 

When our Master, Jesus, walked on the face of this earth, even though he stood out as a preacher among other religious leaders, not everyone accepted his message. If he was being rejected, how can we, his disciples, expect to be treated otherwise? However, we can take heart that there were those who listened intently to Jesus; likewise, there will be those among us who are genuine seekers.

 

We don’t know who these people are but if we take Jesus’ Great Com-Mission seriously and we love the people enough to warn them of an eternity without God, and we love them enough to inform them of the eternal life they can have the moment they put their faith in Jesus, our love for God and for the people whom he loves should compel us to come out of our comfort zone to continue sharing our faith.

 

As long as there are still 81.1% of those residing in Singapore who are not Christians, the harvest field in our Jerusalem is still plentiful. May the workers not be few because we fail to respond to the call of Jesus to be his gospel bearers.

 

Let us take heart that we are never fulfilling the Great Com-Mission alone. Jesus has promised to be with us always and that reality comes about when his Spirit indwells us the moment we acknowledge him as our Saviour and Lord. Today, we commemorate the Day of Pentecost. We know that with the descent of the Holy Spirit upon us, we have Christ’s power and authority to continue his salvific work until he returns.

 

At the end of the day, it is the Holy Spirit who convicts and converts as the gospel is shared. We don’t need to put pressure on ourselves; we only avail ourselves as his mouthpiece. 

 

Even as the church opens up, we will continue with our outreach efforts! We are still patiently encouraging the believers to return for on-site service; at the same time, we want to keep sharing the good news with the unbelievers.

 

Our worship services are evangelistic in nature in that when your friends come to worship with us, they will get to hear the gospel through the songs we sing, the sermon we preach, the communion we share and the concrete love they experience when we greet and welcome them.

 

We have just concluded our Alpha Class and we are going to start another round of ASK class in the second half of the year. Gospel Sundays are a constant feature and whenever we have community engagement activities, the organisers will always weave in the gospel component in creative ways. But these outreach programmes are not going to serve their purpose if no non-Christians attend them.

 

Let’s do our part. We can use a two-pronged approach. First, let us be sensitive to the Spirit and let him guide us to people whom we can reach out to in our workplace, school and neighbourhood. Let us cultivate friendships with them and take interests in their lives. See where our conversations with them will take us and be ready to share the good news as the Spirit prompts and inspires.

 

If you sense that they have a need, offer to pray for them there and then. Usually, they will welcome prayers even if they are not believers. Of course if you can meet their need, don’t hesitate to do so for action always speaks louder than words!

 

Second, when there is the opportunity to invite our friends to church for evangelistic programmes or even worship services, do so accordingly. Don’t be too quick to dismiss this approach, thinking that they will not be interested. If you never ask, you will never know. Even if they reject you the first time, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will reject you forever. And even if they continue to reject you, maintain the relationship because Christ’s love requires us to do so.

 

As you begin each day, you can utter this prayer, or the equivalent, to the Lord:

 

Gracious heavenly Father

As I begin a new day

Make me a channel of your grace

So that through my words and actions

I can point others to Jesus

Fill me with your love

The fruit of your Spirit

So that I can be your faithful gospel worker

For the harvest is really plentiful!

Rev Lee Kien Seng
June 5, 2022

Yesterday our neighbours cooked chicken and shared some with us. It was a precious meal given the current situation. Chicken has become a precious commodity after Malaysia recently announced that it would ban the export of chicken to Singapore from 1 June to combat soaring prices and domestic shortages. This was done in response to measures put in place by other countries like Indonesia and India to ban exporting commodities like palm oil and sugar. There is a growing worldwide concern about food insecurity due to various reasons – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the rising cost of food due to climate change.

 

What happens beyond the shores of Singapore has consequences all the way to our iconic Chicken Rice, Nasi Lemak and our very own kitchen. The authorities have announced that there is no need to panic and advised people to buy only what is needed. But really, how much does each one need? There is panic buying in Singapore and the shelves are being emptied quickly. As of Tuesday, some wet markets have apparently raised the price of fresh chicken and they expect the price to soar in days to come. Some stalls are solely dependent on supplies from Malaysia. Although authorities have given the assurance that there is enough frozen chicken to go around, many have lamented that the taste of frozen and fresh chicken is very different. I totally agree. One suggested that meanwhile, the nation must lower the expectation till things improve.

 

Years ago, there was a report about a corrupt official in India who hoarded grain in a storage. When the officers raided the granary, they found out that all the grain had rot and could not be consumed. It was shocking because millions were and are starving around the world. How much can one keep and hoard? How much chicken can we keep and eat?

 

The current scenario brings to mind what happened when COVID first hit us. Many commodities were emptied of the shelves quickly. Noodles, sanitizers, toilet rolls, rice etc disappeared quickly. A year later, a neighbour gave us a bag of rice. Apparently, the mother bought a lot of rice because she was afraid that would be no more rice. She realized she couldn’t finish it by herself and started giving it away before it “gets spoilt”.

 

The Singlish word “kiasu” (afraid of losing) sums up the attitude of many people. Many are afraid of losing or missing out on something. This fear of missing out (FOMO) is not new or unique to us. Long before the words FOMO and Kiasu were coined, this trait had already reared its ugly head in garden of Eden. The serpent told Eve that if she ate the fruit, she would be like God. What if she doesn’t eat it? She wouldn’t be like God! Does she want to be like God? Yes. She was kiasu and took the fruit. Adam was also kiasu and ate the fruit. The rest is history.

 

This FOMO and kiasuness worked then and is still very much at work today. Believers are not spared either. We are still driven by this desire to be in control, where we don’t have to depend on others or someone. In our quest to achieve independence for ourselves, we ultimately remove God who is the ultimate one to satisfy us.

 

As we preach through the book of Ecclesiastes, we have been reminded time and again that all these pursuits in life are meaningless outside of God. If they become the end in itself, it will bring misery to us and to others. The results are plain for us to see. The actions of many nations today are a result of wanting to protect and safeguard their own nation, people first. But when we really look at it, if all nations keep their products to themselves, will they survive? The answer sadly is no. Given God’s economy of things around the world, we are dependent on each other whether we like it or not. If Covid has taught us anything, it is the fact that no one is safe unless everyone is safe. A stall owner said he hopes the government will look into it. While the government can surely do something about it, one nation’s government is not enough to combat such global issues. The answer in fact lies in God’s economy of things contained in the Lord’s prayer which Jesus taught us.

 

Give us this day our daily bread (not chicken)” (Matt 6:11)

 

In teaching us to pray this prayer, God is reminding us that we need not be kiasu because He is the provider, not just for Singapore but for us all over the world. If He has caused food to grow and nourish people for centuries, from Adam and Eve to us today, we can be rest assured that God will take care of us. And if He has given some of us more, God would want us to share with those who don’t have. Afterall, even the Preacher in Ecclesiastes observes that when wealth is hoarded, it harms the owner and calls it ‘evil’ (Eccl 5:13). The Lord’s prayer also contains a phrase, “Deliver us from evil.” (Matt 6:13). If we pray this prayer and expects God to deliver us from evil, we cannot hoard and keep things to ourselves.

 

Like many commodities today, the Israelites were given manna which lasted only for 1 day. Those who hoarded it realized that it was useless the next day. Today it is chicken, another day it will be wheat or toilet rolls. Whatever shortages may come, God has promised to provide us the essentials. He has promised to give us bread – not cake or chicken. God will continue to provide what we need.

 

Jesus tells us in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” If we have Jesus, we have everything and we need not fear anything- anything for that matter. While we may still struggle and battle with many fears, may we learn to fear God so that we need not fear other things. May we not lose out eternal life in Christ by chasing after things that will leave us empty at the end of the day. May we choose the better fear- fear of God like Lazarus who gained eternal delight in God. The rich man feared missing out on riches. He was kiasu and ended up on the wrong side. (Luke 16-29-31)

 

May the words of our Lord Jesus keep us grounded as the nation prepares to go with frozen chicken or even no chicken for the time being.

Pr Loliro Sani
May 29, 2022