Year: 2017

Why Attend the Watchnight Thanksgiving Worship Service?

Dear BPCWAians, This year, December 31st falls on Sunday. This means that for many of us who are reading this, you have come for the morning Worship Service. So, you may wonder, why then should I come again for the Watchnight Service? After all, I have already worshipped God today – what’s the difference between that and the Watchnight Service? Why have a Watchnight Service? Watchnight service is said to have begun back in the 1700s as a service to have Christians renew their covenant with God with the New Year around the corner. As individuals and as a church, we enter into a covenant with our LORD to serve Him and to obey Him. We covenanted with Him that the LORD would be our God, and that we would walk in His ways and be His holy and peculiar people (Deut 26:16-19). This is a serious covenant that we must live up to every day of our lives. The Watchnight Service is intended to be with 1) Thanksgiving and 2) Reflection of the year past, as well as a 3) Looking forward to the year ahead. 1) Thanksgiving. As we look upon the past year, we reflect on God’s goodness to us. We look back with thanksgiving, remembering His protection and care over us. Some may have walked through deep valleys and shadows over the past year. It may be illnesses, farewells, difficulties, trials, losses, or what seemed like bad news in some way or other. God has covenanted with us to be our God. We reflect on His faithfulness in fulfilling His covenant. And when we see His Providential Hand working in our lives and answering our prayers, we praise Him with grateful hearts. 2) Reflection. Next, we must also reflect on our part of the covenant. In

The Birth of Christ, the Lord

Dear BPCWAians, Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Christmas is a day which Christians set aside to remember and tell others about the birth of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. Today, we look back on a period more than 2,000 years ago when Christ was born. We celebrate Christmas not because we believe Christ was born exactly on the 25th of December. We do not know for certain the exact date He was born, and it may likely not even have been in December. However, that day has certainly been marked in eternity’s history. That day, the Almighty God took on human flesh to be Redeemer for lost mankind. This is what we seek to remember and rejoice for on Christmas day. Promised from the beginning. With man’s fall into sin, God promised our first parents in Gen 3:15 that one day, the seed of the woman shall bruise the head of Satan. With this promise, God showed to our first parents the means by which redemption would come – through death and shedding of blood of a substitute. The LORD God killed an animal, made coats of skins, and clothed Adam and his wife with it. This was the first gospel, showing to mankind God’s plan of redemption. Even then, God had already planned for a day when God’s only begotten Son would be given, that He might be killed to be the sacrifice for man’s salvation. The gracious God had provided mankind a way of salvation through His Son because we could no longer obey Him perfectly. The Covenant of Grace had begun. Only by grace alone could man be saved. Holy, Just and Righteous, the Gracious God had to provide for Himself the

Recapturing our 2017 church theme

Dear BPCWAians, This week, we will close up on a relook at our theme for the year. Philippians 1:27 “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel”. Steadfastness in service. It is sometimes said that it is easy to begin something, but seeing it through is often the more difficult part. Children burst out in spurts of energy, but may not be able to have the endurance to sustain through difficulties and challenges. Talk is easy, but walking in it is hard. And so, as a church, we must be committed workers for our Lord’s work. We live in an age where commitment is a rare virtue. It is every man for himself, and if something isn’t going our way, we bail out. But spiritual work will never be easy, and instead, it often gets harder and harder as God may see fit to put trials in our way to test our perseverance for Him in the face of hardships. These difficulties will be part of our spiritual growth, as we depend upon Him and we do not give up on doing what God wants us to do. As a church, we may find the spiritual ground of hearts getting harder, more enraptured with the world. Interest in spiritual things may wane as many get caught up with chasing the glitter of the world. It is easy to get distracted or discouraged, but we must continue to remember this lesson to stand fast. Unity in service. But in God’s service, we are His spiritual house. God gifts His church with spiritual

Recapturing our 2017 church theme

Dear BPCWAians, As we come to the end of 2017, it is good for us to recapitulate our theme for the year taken from Philippians 1:27 “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel”. What God desires for a church. “Only” emphasizes the bottom line principle that the Apostle Paul wanted to emphasize for the church in Philippi. “Conversation” alludes to the life of citizens who belong to a country or city and how they are conforming its laws as they enjoy citizen’s privileges. So, whether he was able to see them again, or even if he could never meet them in person ever again, the only thing he hoped to hear is that they, as members of the Philippi church with their heavenly citizenship, have been living lives befitting the gospel of Christ as a church. The reputation of every church on earth testifies for Christ. Very often, to those who do not read the Bible, what they know of gospel of Christ is what they hear about the church. A city has a reputation based upon what it stands for according to its laws and practices. Moreover, its citizens are its best ambassadors. In other words, what the church holds to and how its worshippers live testify for the gospel of Christ. BPCWA as a church and its worshippers must always remember the great honour placed upon us to uphold the message of Christ. The church and each one of us has a significant impression on what others think about the kingdom of God. Our stand and practices can

BPCWA Children Holiday Program and You (Yes, you)

Dear BPCWAians, We are going to have the Children Holiday Bible Program (CHBP) in two weeks’ time (18 – 20 December, 8:45 am – 12 pm). Before you think it is a children’s program and will not be interested, please read on. It is good for us to understand why we started this program so that you can do your part to support its spiritual purpose. Purpose of CHBP. There are 2 key aims. The first is based upon Prov 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Hence in CHBP, we teach the children key topics which aid them in their spiritual growth and walk with the Lord. Many Christians remember fondly such programs that they went through during their holidays when they were young. Some lessons learnt made a key impact which remained in their lives as they grew up, keeping them from certain sins, and even drawing them back to their Lord when they backslide. It is certainly no surprise, because it is God’s promise in Prov 22:6. This is a great encouragement for this work, and for the Sunday School work as well. This passage in Proverbs must be even greater motivation for parents who spend far more time with their children than any program can in church. Topics are specially chosen to help them know God better and also to deal with the areas which they may struggle with even at a young age. At the same time, the Gospel of salvation is always a key part of CHBP. We cannot assume the children attending our church are saved. Since it is also evangelistic, we do open CHBP to friends outside of BPCWA. Some Christians also remember how they got saved

The Reformation and Music: Music is Next to Theology (Part 4)

Dear BPCWAians, Over the last 3 weeks, we saw the Protestant Reformation’s influence on church music. To summarize, the Reformers ensured that church fulfilled its teaching purpose, which meant it must be theologically sound. They re- established congregational singinvg instead of just choirs. Words of the songs were the focus, not the accompanying music. We saw how music was meant to support the songs, not distract the worshipers from them. Music compositions and playing styles avoided frilly embellishments to avoid drawing attention to the music itself. So while the counter-reformation turned church music into a concert performance to draw the crowd, the Reformers remained steadfast to the Biblical purposes and principles for music. Last week, we saw how today the music in many churches have stepped back, instead of continuing in the Reformation tradition. Music in many churches are little different from concerns, serving to entertain the congregation. Instead of music helping as a teaching function by supporting the words sung, it is instead elevated above theology. Any form of music accepted without cautiousness Instead of the strict harmonic rules and the orderly laws of classical form that governed the music of the Reformers, harmonic music is de-emphasised today. Many church musicians and modern song writers adopt the musical styles of jazz, pop, and rock genres. It is often asked what is wrong with these genres for church music? It must be remembered that Reformation hymnody music was of the genre broadly known as classical music. The world began to take this form of music, changing and distorting its composition rules, and breaking away from classical conventions and structures to form these other genres with their own carnal styles for the worldling’s consumption. But the Christians adopted these worldly genres into churches because it appeals to and hence brings in

The Reformation and Music: Music is Next to Theology (Part 3)

Dear BPCWAians, Today, we will continue to see how the church’s view has changed since the Reformation in 2 particular areas. How music and worship has changed today Music above theology While many would propound Luther’s saying that “music is next to theology”, what they likely mean in effect is that music – not the theology put to music – is key. This phrase has taken on a new meaning of putting music on par with theology. But nothing should be thought to be on par with God’s Word. The Reformers emphasized sound theological music which served a didactic purpose. God never intended the church to entertain, but to edify, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col 3:16). And Biblical edification is always and only when the mind is engaged with understanding. However, the highly popular Christian genre known as Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) today features songs that are often shallow or even unsound in theology. Repetitive phrases and words leads the mind to a trance like state rather than to a conscious understanding of Biblical doctrines. Moreover, the focus of the songs is often man-centred. Unlike the Reformation, the focus today is predominantly on music as a form of entertainment. Sadly, in CCM, it would seem that music component is the typical focus rather than the theology. Most worshipers are drawn more to the music itself. You can tell from the fact that tunes of hymns are often replaced with contemporary pop style compositions. Concert rather than worship  In many churches today, performers and their instruments take centre stage, like in a concert. The pulpit is often moved to the side of

The Reformation and Music: Music is Next to Theology (Part 2)

Dear BPCWAians, Last week we saw the Reformers’ emphasis on the teaching aspect of songs by ensuring that 1) songs must be theologically sound and that 2) songs serve a teaching purpose, hence it must be understood. In their reformation of church music, they also 3) returned to congregational singing during worship. This made it even more necessary for the accompanying music not to distract but help focus on the words of the hymns instead of the music and musician’s style. This week, we will see 3 other areas the Reformers focused on. 4) Music must be fitting Both Luther and Calvin generally rejected the elaborateness of the music. Such fancifulness was already very common during their time. But this was not because they were musically illiterate. Luther would have studied music in his curriculum during his university days in Erfurt. Such study would have included the harmonic aspects of melodic composition, where it was thought of as “a study of the mathematical arts.” Luther’s understanding of music was more than that of a semi-skilled amateur. Music, Luther understood, followed strict laws, and his simple German Reformation hymns had the congregation singing in unison with the primary harmonic chords of the tonic, subdominant and dominant chords. In other words, it followed good and sound music composition principles instead of “free style” improvisations that were contrary to these principles. Though there was harmonisation, the music was not aimed at being the music of a professional presentation, but to be simple enough for the congregation to sing to. The lesson for us is – that no matter how skilled one is in music, the musician must exercise great restraint and impose limits on the music in church so as to avoid distracting the worshiper away from concentrating on the words. Only words

The Reformation and Music: Music is Next to Theology

Dear BPCWAians, As we commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation this year, I have condensed and adapted an article which I was requested to write concerning “The Reformation and Music: Music Is Next To Theology” for a commemorative booklet produced by Calvary Pandan Bible-Presbyterian Church. I pray that this article will help all of us at BPCWA to be alert to prevent contemporary music creeping into our church. The aims given for the article are twofold: 1) to discuss the emphasis the Reformers placed on music and worship, and 2) to discuss how have churches today have changed in their view of music and worship. Reformers on music and worship While the church was going through sweeping changes during the time of the Reformation, music – within and outside of the church – was also going through many changes. At that time, the songs in the church reached a point that it could not be understood by the people because firstly it was in a foreign language and secondly, the music was so elaborate that it overwhelmed the text. Furthermore, the congregation hardly sang in church. Only the church choir sang. Reformers wanted to correct these problems, and their changes influenced the church’s music in many areas. Martin Luther, a key Reformer, believed that music is God’s gift of creation, and that “music is next to theology because both accomplish similar results.” This is true in the sense that music does have significant impact on people and the church. Hence it is so critical that Ministers and the congregation understand this topic well, especially since Christian music has become such a major emphasis in many ways. The following are some important contributions of the Reformers to music in worship. 1) Music proclaims Theology Luther embraced a high view of

Motives And Attitudes Of Our Works

Dear BPCWAians, Continuing from last week, we will address a popular but erroneous concept of “good works” and also discuss our attitude in doing any work. 1) Market place good works.This is an increasingly popular but unbiblical concept. It is in effect works motivated by economic benefits. Promoted by what is known as the Faith and Work (or the Faith at Work) Movement, it began through the Christian Businessmen’s Committee and the Full Gospel Businessmen International and has developed beyond Scriptural principles. This is the “theology” of economics where one is encouraged to think about contributing value to the community through the product or service, integrating faith into life in the marketplace to make it more holistic. Ultimately, it is about the integration of theology with business and economics. The thinking is that “Christianizing” the workplace can bring God’s favour to the company’s business as part of a marketplace Christianity. God blesses them in the marketplace because they are obedient to Him. The workplace is the church, and even marketplace pastors or workplace-ministry consultants are hired. To cater to such popular notions, NIV has even published a “Faith and Work Bible”, and there are workplace email devotionals, all helping to tell stories of Jesus, the apostles and others in the Bible who had jobs. This is consumerism in a theological suit. 2) Works done for self promotion or selfish aims. Good works done with wrong motives are not good works in God’s eyes. These works may seem to be good on the surface and may indeed be good in itself. Christ condemned the Pharisees because they “draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” (Matt 15:8) Their outward profession, religiosity and their sacrifices were beyond reproach. But what

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