Missions Sunday: three congregations, one shared focus on missions

This 2019 Missions Sunday brought together the English, Mandarin and Deaf congregations together. It was a pleasure to see the three congregations together. I was proud of the co-operation and effort each congregation put in for their presentations of their mission work. the presentations were interesting and later pastor Thomas Tan, the speaker made the observation that all three congregations have works involving outreach to Myanmese people groups.

DFF congregational pastor Barnabas Phua sharing about deaf missions.

One of the highlights was seeing the deaf congregation pastor Barnabas sharing about the great need of the deaf people in South East Asia. He has been involved in missions trips in Myanmar, Laos, Indonesia and Malaysia.

A second highlight was to hear Jean Lim share about her passion to work with the Thais and Myanmese in Maesot area in Thailand. I am thrilled to see young people venturing by faith to serve in missions.

I left feeling wonderful about this first time combined missions Sunday. We ought to have done this years ago. It’s a regret. Nevertheless, we can start a new tradition henceforth.

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Preaching Psalms 95

How do you preach the Psalms faithfully? The Psalms are prayers that are sung. Some call it the prayer book of Israel. They are Hebrew poetry and is designed to move the heart. Although there are wisdom psalms that may be more logical and cognitive in impact, most of the psalms touch our emotions and desires. How can I preach it and reproduce a similar impact? I find this difficult. I find myself dissecting, and analysing by breaking down and then synthesising and re-organising the material in didactic, conceptual and systematic. And what is meant to move the heart loses its power and fails to move the heart. In a way, it misses the mark.

A case in point, on Sunday I preached Psalm 95. It is a psalm that celebrates God’s greatness as King, Creator and Shepherd and why he deserves to be worshipped appropriately. It is punctuated with shouts of joy, and notes of “come let us”. Then it suddenly shifts into a poignant warning to about what true worship really is – a surrender to God’s will and voice. From joyous exaltation and call to worship to an unexpected warning to listen and obey.

However, the setting explains that sudden shift. The Psalm was to re-assure the Israelites in exile that God is great even as they ended up deported to Babylon and the Temple laid in ruins. It was meant to explain that they ended in this state because like the generation in Moses time, they too had not listened and obeyed God’s voice. Very hard-hitting and sensitive issue. It should anger the hearer, raise defensiveness or produce repentance. The question is how do you preach this text in such a way that it had the same impact that it originally wanted to achieve? True exposition should not merely bring out the real meaning of the text but to also seek to reproduce the original impact intended.

Here is the Psalm 95 in ESV:

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”
11 Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest.”

I came up with a title (GOD IS WORTHY OF WORSHIP) and an outline that was more targetted to the mind than the heart:

  1. We worship because God is worthy. (He is our King, our Creator and Shepherd).
  2. We worship with praise and adoration. (Expressions of praise: sing, shouts of joy, thanksgiving. Expressions of adoration: kneel, bow down, prostrate. We move from praise to adoration – which includes a loving reverence that obeys)
  3. We worship together. (The fivefold repetition of phrase “come let us”)

How do you think this could be preached to have the same impact on emotions and conscience that the psalmist originally intended? I would love to hear your opinion.

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Galaxy Note 9 suits pastors

It came down to Galaxy Note 9.

When it came to changing phones, for me there were two things that were “must have”. One was that the new phone must have a good camera. I needed it for social media, for travel, for keeping memories about events and people. I have given up all my SLRs and compact cameras. They were all lying on the shelf, neglected and hardly used because they were bulky and heavy. So I gave a few of them and sold one away. Most times the best camera is the camera you have on hand, and for me, it is the mobile phone.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 pearl white

The second “must have” is some kind of note-taking, organising capacity. As a pastor there are many notes to take. Names and faces to remember. Sermon ideas to note before it disappears. Sermon notes of fellow preachers. Things to do lists. Notes of books others borrowed from me. Sermon illustrations and stories which I can keep in a folder. It’s so convenient to have this note taking and keeping ability in a phone.

Outside my master bedroom overlooking Jurong East shopping belt – nice night shot
Deaf congregation pastor Barnabas Phua sharing about the challenges of reaching the deaf in SE Asia.

So while I was attracted to the fact that currently the Google Pixel 3 takes the best pictures, I simply could not let go of the Galaxy Note 9 selling over the Chinese New Year season at a very special price. So I bought it with a plan and am happy with the pictures it takes and with the note taking abilities. I especially liked a new feature they added – the S Pen acted as a trigger for the camera via bluetooth. Very useful. The bokeh effect is easily obtainable and looks quite natural and the night shots are reasonably good too. Not as great as the Pixel, but I am satisfied. Especially with the S Pen and the other familiar capabilities that I am used to in my Note 5.

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