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06.04 “Go to Dark Gethsemane”

Go to dark Gethsemane,

Ye that feel the tempter’s power;

Your Redeemer’s conflict see,

Watch with Him one bitter hour.

Turn not from His griefs away;

Learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

This sharing is not the usual excerpt from Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan, but rather, a personal reflection on this song that pertains to Good Friday. In light of the theme of this newsletter – spiritual lethargy – the writer of this hymn has much to encourage us to put off our fatigue and procrastination. He urges us to consider the agony of Christ as He approached the Cross, and how He suffered greatly for us.

If at this point you still have no idea on how to battle spiritual lethargy, I ask you to picture this in your mind – imagine Christ in Gethsemane, praying, and sweating as it were great drops of blood. Was Christ relaxing? Certainly not! Do you then think that you can get rid of spiritual lethargy without a fight? Certainly not! It is a struggle, a battle, an intense fight against the temptation to be sluggish. If you are determined to get rid of this sin that often besets us, and wastes away the most precious hours of our time, then we must be ready for a fight. We must “watch and pray” – as Christ asked of the disciples to do as He was in great agony.

As though expecting many to do so, the writer of the hymn cautions us “turn not from his griefs away” – so many of us turn away from this fight! We cannot battle with our slothfulness, our lethargy, or laziness simply because we are not ready to fight! And what is the solution to this problem? It is but one – to pray, and to ask God for strength to fight. “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7). Here, Christ tells us to ask for what we want, according to His will. So we must ask, and it will certainly be given to us.

The only question remaining is… do you have such a desire? Do you have the desire to rid yourself of spiritual lethargy? We must hate sin, and hate sin so greatly, that nothing will stop us from casting it aside – only with such a heart will we be ready to fight against sin, and fight against spiritual lethargy. Keep praying! 

(Lyrics of Go to Dark Gethsemane by James Montgomery; article written by Joan Loo)

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05.06 The Life of David Brainerd

Before reading this article on the life of David Brainerd, you may have a few questions in your mind – who is David Brainerd? Why is he important? What does he have to do with Christmas?

Firstly, David Brainerd was called by God as a missionary to the American Indians in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. His ministry to the Indians met with considerable success, as seen in his journal writings, where he describes his everyday work. For example, he writes on September 1, 1745,

“Preached to the Indians here from Luke 14:16-23. The word appeared to be attended with some power, and caused some tears in the assembly. Afterwards preached to a number of white people present, and observed many of them in tears, and some who had formerly been as careless and unconcerned about religion perhaps as the Indians. Towards night discoursed to the Indians again, and perceived a greater attention, and more visible concern among them than has been usual in these parts.”

Such descriptions of God’s working in the people were not uncommon – yes, people with tears in their eyes, with great sorrow for their sins! But such power in preaching did not come easily. We must observe and learn from how closely Brainerd walked with God, if we ourselves desire such power in prayer, and power in preaching!

“Longed with intense desire after God; my whole soul seemed impatient to be conformed to him, and to become ‘holy, as he is holy.’ In the afternoon, prayed with a dear friend privately, and had the presence of God with us; our souls united together to reach after a blessed immortality, to be unclothed of the body of sin and death, and to enter the blessed world, where no unclean thing enters. O, with what intense desire did our souls long for that blessed day, that we might be freed from sin, and forever live to and in our God! In the evening, took leave of that house; but first kneeled down and prayed; the Lord was of a truth in the midst of us; it was a sweet parting session; felt in myself such sweetness and affection in the things of God. Blessed be God for every such divine gale of his Spirit to speed me on in my way to the new Jerusalem! …”

Have we ever longed for God with such intense desire? Have we ever kneeled before God in prayer with such focus? O, that we might learn the ways of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the saints that have gone before us, that our lives may not be wasted!

So, at the end of it all, what does David Brainerd have to do with Christmas? Christmas is a time for us to reflect on the love of God, and as we do so, it must move us to renew our love to Him. Have you done so? Would you ask God to place in your heart a great desire for the things of God, for service, for prayer, and for fellowship? With only one week left to the end of 2012, let us be fervent in prayer, and devote our hearts and souls to Christ completely.

(Written by Joan Loo, with excerpts from The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, edited by Jonathan Edwards)

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05.02 A Sharing on Christmas

Christmas – it’s that time of the year when shops and retail outlets have big sales; that time of the year when you start to see hot chocolate, egg nog, Christmas-themed Starbucks drinks and Christmas-themed candy everywhere; that time of the year when Christmas trees seem to magically grow overnight, and Christmas lights line streets and houses.

In those regards, Christmas is pretty much the same both in Singapore and in Canada. And even though there are differences (e.g. in the way Christmas is celebrated, the general mindset towards such a festive occasion, a greater involvement nation-wide amongst both the saved and the unsaved), there is one great similarity – Christmas is very much just another holiday that has somehow found a way to remove Christ from the picture (much like how Easter is more about the Easter bunny than it is about our Lord fulfilling his great promise). Christmas is just another Christ-less holiday where a good portion of the population is ignorant of its meaning, and use it as an excuse to eat, drink, make merry, and basically to indulge in the sins and pleasures of this world in a sinful and Christ-less manner.

At the time of writing this letter, I am reminded of one verse in particular:

“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:” (Ephesians 2:12)

What a sad reality it is, and yet a joyful one at the same time! Sad because it reminds me of the state of the world – the state in which all those who have yet to know Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour are in, described as “having no hope”. Joyful because it reminds me of God’s marvelous saving grace, who would send his one and only begotten Son – humbled, beaten, crucified – to save a wretched sinner such as I.

I was asked to write a letter / article about what Christmas is to me, or how different Christmas is in Canada, by a certain someone ;) I didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t do both! However, the trade-off is that my article would have less of a focus, and would be more “all over the place” – and I’m sorry if I failed to adequately address either, or both aspects of this task.

At this time, I would just like to ask a quick question that has no real answer to it: “How are you going to spend your Christmas?” It is one question that seems to follow me everywhere I go… For most of you, the Christmas break is a month-long holiday starting in December as soon as school ends. For me, my Christmas break begins only when my exams for this semester are complete – and this year, it means that I have a 2-week break before school starts again. Turkey? YF Camp? Caroling? Canata? Whatever it is that you have managed to do, and are planning to do, I pray it has been and will be a blessed and fruitful time. But let me also take this time to share with you how I am going to spend my Christmas!

Beside the fact that I will be going on a trip with Joel Chang, I also plan to fulfill 3 R’s: Rest, Relax and Remember (to reflect on how God has been good to me, including all the people in my life He has blessed me with, and to recall the areas of my life wherein I have failed).

To end off, I’d like to remind all of you of the words of The Preacher:

Ecclesiastes 3

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

Yes, there is a time for festivities, and a time for Christmas. As you go about your Christmas this year, my only hope is that you will take time to think on your life, but more so on the lives of all the others out there who have yet to embrace God’s wonderful gift – Jesus Christ. It is something I don’t recall ever doing at this time of the year (or even if I did, it must have been really unproductive in order for me to have forgotten), but definitely something that changes your perspective and reminds you of the realities of this life and world that we live in, and the urgent need for the gospel.

I also echo the words of the Apostle Paul when he wrote in Philippians 1:3-11,

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,

Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,

For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.

For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.

And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;

10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.

11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

Till we meet again :)

Love, in Christ,

Zheqian

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04.03 A Sharing on Leadership

Sis Eileen Chee approached me some time back to write a reflection as ex-President of the YF for this edition of the YF’s newsletter. I am honoured to be given this opportunity to write, and I pray that the Lord will use it to bless both the reader and the writer.

As I looked back on my time serving as YF President in 2009, I couldn’t help but recall the time when I first started attending YF. It was back in 2001, in Calvary Jurong BPC, when I was 15 years old. I remember looking at the then-President, Adrian Poh (now worshipping in Calvary Pandan BPC) and thinking to myself “wouldn’t it be nice if I led the YF one day?” At that time I was spiritually still very immature and did not know the heavy responsibility of being a spiritual leader. By God’s grace He sustained me through the busy schedule of school and judo trainings, even allowing me to attend YF regularly and many opportunities to serve Him.

In 2001, I was clearly nowhere near ready to lead the YF, even if I really wanted to do so. It was through the years of serving and sanctification that the Lord caused me to grow. Until the time came in 2009, which was also my final year in the YF, that God called me to serve in the YF as the President. It was indeed not easy being in the “hot seat” for each Exco meeting, having to make decisions and set the spiritual direction of the YF. Truly it was a very daunting task, one that was done with much toil, labour and even tears. Then at the blink of an eye, the year was over, all the labour and toil as president came to an end. I was no longer in the YF and Jocelyn has taken over until now.

You may find that this is such a weird reflection, and not much said about my time as President in the YF. Well read on…

As I was thinking back on the short one year (the other two president in Truth YF’s history definitely served longer than a year), I could not help but be reminded of the words from Exodus 36:6,   “And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing.” The background of Exodus 36 was that the people were building the tabernacle of God, and they were to bring free-will offerings for the things that are needed. However, so much was given on a daily basis such that Moses had to command the people to stop giving! Imagine one who struggled in his heart for the first few days on whether or not to give his precious items (e.g. gold and silver) – when the commandment was given in Exodus 36:6, even if he wanted to give unto God, it would not be possible.

As I look back on my years in the YF, we are all in a similar situation as the people in Exodus 36:6. All of us have a role to play in the YF, and every generation/ age-group will one day be called to lead in the YF. There will also come a point in time when it is too late to serve God in the YF, especially when you are unable to be a YF member (due to the age limit). I thank God for working in my heart, to grant me the faith to take on the leadership role when His time for me had come, back in 2009. If I did not do His will and serve, it would have been too late now, just like the people who wanted to give after Moses “gave the commandment” to stop.

Dear YFer, and all who are reading this, let us bear in mind that our time on this earth is short, but God does give us the opportunity to serve Him and to do much for Him. The problem is never found in God, it is usually found in us. Of course, I am not saying that all YFers should be nominated into the Exco for 2013, but do consider very seriously your role in the YF at this point in time. I believe the Lord used that first 8 years in the YF to mold and prepare me to lead in 2009; spiritual growth does not happen over night. I urge you to seriously consider how best you can serve the Lord during your time in the YF. You have not many years left in the YF, even if you think you are still young. Soon we will hear the words of Moses “… Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary…” Your hearts will surely be filled with regrets if you do not serve Him right now. Yes, serving the Lord is very tough work, especially in positions of leadership, but this is the only right way to live for the Lord (i.e. submitting to His will in all things). We will never know when will this opportunity be simply taken away from you.

(Written by Emerson Ang)