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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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05.05 Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne

(This hymn was written in 1864)

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:9)

Emily Elliott was born south of London, in the little holiday town of Brighton on the English Channel, in 1836. Her father, Edward Elliott, was pastor of St. Mark’s Church there. His invalid aunt – Charlotte Elliott, well-known hymnist and the author of the invitational hymn “Just As I Am” – lived nearby.

While working with children in the church choir and the local parish school, Emily, then in her late twenties, wanted to use the Christmas season to teach them about the entire life and mission of the Saviour. As she studied Luke 2:7, she wrote about this hymn. The first and second verses speak of our Lord’s birth, but the third verse describes His life as an itinerate preacher. The next stanza describes His death on Calvary, and the last verse proclaims His Second Coming.

Emily had her hymn privately printed, and it was first performed in her father’s church during the Christmas season of 1864. Six years later, she included it in a magazine she edited called Church Missionary Juvenile Instructor.

Several years later, Emily inserted this carol into her book of poems and hymns entitled Chimes for Daily Service. “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne” first appeared in the United States in The Sunday School Hymnal, published in Boston in 1871.

Emily devoted her life to Sunday school work, to ministering to the down and out in Brighton’s rescue missions, and to sharing the message of Christ through poems, hymns, and the printed page. Another of her carols was widely used for many years during the Christmas season, though it isn’t well-known today. The words are ideally suited for the children Emily so loved. This carol, too, encompasses our Lord’s entire life and mission.

(An exerpt from Then Sings My Soul, written by Robert J. Morgan)

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05.04 When was Jesus born?

Today, we are living in the period called AD (ie, Anno Domini, “in the year of the Lord [Jesus Christ]). The period before AD is called BD (“Before Christ”). On the basis of the terms BC and AD, people think that Christ must be born in AD 1. This is wrong. Christ could not have been born in AD 1. Matt 2:1 tells us that Christ was born at the time when Herod was king. But by AD 1, Herod the Great was no longer living; he died in 4 BC. Moreover, Luke 2:2 tells us that Christ was born at the time when a census was being conducted by Cyrenius. This census occurred in 5 BC. Jesus thus was not and could not be born in AD 1!

Christ was born in 5 BC, and not AD 1. How did this discrepancy come about? This discrepancy was due to Dionysius’ (a Scythian monk) miscalculation when he prepared a standard calendar for the Western Church. In Dionysius’ calendar, Jan 1, 754 AUC (Anno Urbis Conditae, ie, “from the foundation of the city of Rome”) became AD 1. This became a problem because later research showed that Herod the Great (cf Matt 2:1) died in 750 AUC, ie, 4 BC. How could Jesus be born at at time when Herod was already dead? This contradicts the historical records of Scripture which tell us that Jesus was born when Herod was still alive. Thus, Jesus could not have been born in AD 1 (so Dionysius), but sometime before Herod’s death (ie, 4 BC) according to the Scriptures.

Now, exactly when was Jesus born? Jesus must have been born within 2 years prior to Herod’s death. This we gather from Matt 2:7 which tells us that after Herod had ascertained the time of the star’s appearance, he commanded the execution of all the baby boys 2 years old and below (Matt 2:16). Thus, Jesus must have been born sometime between 6-4 BC. We know that John the Baptist was conceived in the womb of Elizabeth 6 months before Mary became pregnant with Jesus (Luke 1:36). The difference in age between John and Jesus was only 6 months. Luke 3:1 tells us that John began his ministry in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Tiberius became ruler in AD 11. The 15th year would bring us to AD 26 as the inaugural year of John’s baptismal ministry when he reached the age of 30. In keeping with Luke 3:23, Jesus would also be about 30 years old that year since he was only 6 months younger than John. This would thus make 5 BC the year of Christ’s birth. (Note: there is no BC or AD 0.)

(Taken from Rev. Jeffrey Khoo, The Life of Christ Part 1 (Singapore: FEBC), pg 25-6.) 

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05.03 Why did the angels sing?

Why did the angels sing? In the passage for our consideration today, we see a magnificent sight of the heavenly host singing a grand song of praise: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” What prompted the angels to proclaim these wonderful words of praise?

The last time we read of the angels rendering such songs of praises to God was when they witnessed God’s creative power manifested when He created the heavens and the earth (Job 38:7). The next time we would hear of the angels singing a grand song of praise is when they behold the Lamb of God sitting upon His throne, who is worthy to open the book sealed with seven seals (Rev 5:11-13). This event then recorded for us in Luke 2:8-14 must be a most glorious event that the angelic host would praise God in such a manner.

What is this event? The Bible declares that it is the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. What is so special about this birth? Thousands of babies are born every day; hundreds are born every minute all over the world, but the angels do not sing in those happy but ordinary occasions. So why do the angels sing here? Why did the angels declare: “glory to God in the highest?”

The Bible tells us it is because it is not the birth of an ordinary child, but it is the birth of the “Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (v.11). The Lord Jesus Christ is the anointed Messiah – the word “Christ” means the “anointed one.” He is the anointed Prophet, Priest and King being spoken of in the Old Testament as a sign to God’s people (Isa 7:14). He is the Saviour, for He came to save His people from their sins (Matt 1:21). He is the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity. He is God incarnate; God was manifested in the flesh (1 Tim 3:16).

This greatest event that the Almighty Son of God, the one who created all things by the Word of His power, the one to whom all is subjected to, whether things in heaven or things in earth; the eternal Living Word, He became man. What a great and glorious thing.

But the question is, what is so glorious in Christ becoming man? It is great and glorious because it is God’s gift and because of His wonderful love for us. All man should die because of our sins – all we have transgressed God’s law, we have fallen short of His glory. But God has a plan of salvation for us all. This plan rests in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as a man for us all. As a man, Christ can represent man; as a man, Christ can die for man; as a man, Christ when he rose again from the grave became the firstfruit of all who will rise again. Thus the angels have to sing at this great event.

The reason for the angels’ song is also found in the song itself. In the coming of Christ, the Anointed One, He brings true peace when by His life and death, He reconciles sinners to God. Christ the Prince of peace brings peace (Isa 9:6). Christ is also God’s gift of love towards man. Thus He is the expression of God’s good pleasure towards man (the word “good will” also means “good pleasure”).  There is no reason for God to be pleased with man, except through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Why did the angels sing? Because it was the birth of the Christ. Today, as you think of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, do you also rejoice? Do you rejoice in His marvelous work which He has done for you? This is why the angels sung. Will you also praise the Lord with this glorious song?

(Written by Pr. Joshua Yong)

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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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05.01 Editorial: What if there was no Christmas?

While this question is posed on a tract to non-believers, it is also something for us Christians to think about. I tremble to think of the many consequences that would come about if truly there were no Christmas, because to have no Christmas is to have no Jesus Christ at all.

  1. God would not be the same God whom I know now. God is my Heavenly Father who is ever ready to help me, support me and take care of me. Without Jesus Christ, I cannot call God my Father. God will only be my Judge and I will only want to run away from this fearful and terrible God. God would also not be a God of love, grace, mercy and peace because without Jesus, it would mean that He does not care about me; He is content to let me perish in my sins.
  2. God would also not be a faithful God. All His prophecies about a Saviour would be nothing but lies. His Word would not be true and I would never find delight in His laws. I would pity all the heroes of the faith who suffered and died for His Word.
  3. God would also not be a powerful God. Satan and his minions did not want Jesus to come and save us, and so they did all they could to prevent His coming. If there were no Jesus, it would mean that Satan is more powerful than God. I would laugh at anyone who tells me to trust in a God who cannot turn the hearts of kings, feed the sparrows and clothe the lilies of the field.
  4. To have no Christ would be the most miserable thing in my life. He who was to be my Sun and Shield, my Saviour and Lord, my Husband and Friend, had never come for me at all. He would be one who loves His glory above so much that it was unthinkable to Him to be made a man. He prefers to stay in Heaven and mock at us.
  5. Every man on earth, in every age and time, would come into this world absolutely helpless and hopeless. Everyone would be on the road to hell, bearing his own load of sin and forever cursed by God. God and man would be so far apart that there is no way of reconciliation at all. God would always look down on us with wrathful eyes while we pitiful mortals only choose to turn our backs on God continually.
  6. There would be no joy in our hearts. Our lives would be meaningless. Eating, drinking and making merry are just drugs to numb us from being reminded of a dreary life and the doom that should come. Everything we do is tasteless. Fathers and mothers will despair to bring any child into this world. I would wish I were never born into this world.
  7. I would never enjoy any interaction with church-goers. I would not care whether you die or live. Everyone lives for his own. I would not forgive anyone who gets on my nerves, much less sacrifice my time and energy for others. There would be no worth and value in toil and labour.

Enough said. Thank God for Christmas; thank God for Jesus Christ. I really owe my life to Him more than I can ever repay. All of us have a debt to pay. This makes me want to share the Good News of Jesus with lost souls even more. I confess my heart has been cold-towards Jesus and towards the untold millions. This Christmas season began with deep remorse. Thank God for giving me strength to renew my long-lost love for Christ. How about you, my dear youth? Do you still love Jesus? Will you love Him even more?

2012 has finally come to an end, but may it also signal the end of our wasted lives.

(Written by Eileen Chee)

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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)