About one year ago, a group from the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore began publishing a bimonthly periodical designed to provide “a platform for youths to read and write Godly Christian literature. It is to encourage youths to make the study of God’s doctrine a personal priority and a common activity regardless of age.” They have expressed a desire for support from Beacon Lights and would like to work together to promote our publications. In an effort to minimize shipping and printing costs, they are publishing an electronic copy which you can receive by contacting Josiah Tan (firstname.lastname@example.org). They receive an electronic copy of Beacon Lights for distribution in Singapore.
Their fourth issue, September 2010, featured an anniversary celebration of “23 Years of the Grace of God.” In an effort to draw us closer together as young people of Reformed faith, we include here a sample of some of the material found in their publication called Salt Shakers. Below is a brief introduction to their new publication.
The magazine committee in the past week has decided on our magazine name which is Salt Shakers based on these following texts:
Joel 3:16 KJV: “The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.”
Mark 9:49-50 KJV: “For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltiness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.”
Matthew 5:13, 14, 16 KJV: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. … Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Leviticus 2:13 KJV: “Every oblation of thy meat-offering shalt thou season with salt, neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat-offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt,”
Luke 14:34-35 KJV: “Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear”
The objectives of the magazine can be summed up by our magazine objective statement: “Salt Shakers is a platform for youths to read and write godly Christian literature. It is to encourage youths to make the study of God’s doctrine a personal priority and a common activity regardless of age. Ultimately to provoke us daily to seek God, love Him and love His people.”
That would be a short summary of what Salt Shakers hopes to carry out.
It is great to once again be able to share with you the Word of God, and His testimonies through our lives, by way of this publication, Salt Shakers. It is indeed a privilege to write for our Lord. Nothing we say or write in this life, however wise, will ever be remembered for years. But when we put down in words our confession of the truth and power of God’s Word, we speak and write things that are for eternity. Without doubt, the writers and servants of Salt Shakers are blest. We pray, and hope, that our Lord blesses you as much as He has us, as you read and meditate on the articles contained in here.
This issue is released in conjunction with the 23rd Anniversary of Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church. It is a joyous occasion as we reflect on how our Lord has led us through all these years and also wonder about the great things He has in store for us as a church. I would like to share from Ezekiel 16 as we look back at the amazing grace and mercy that God has shown to His church and look forward to its glorious adorning and perfection.
We were pathetic beyond words, and it is difficult to express it in better terms than the prophet Ezekiel. As individuals we were brought out of darkness into light and made alive from being dead in sin. Even now, we struggle with the old man in us and daily increase our debt to our Lord Jesus Christ. As a church, we also constantly fail to be the witness that we should be. We struggle with doctrines because we are weak and do not understand many things. But God is merciful, and His unfailing love covers our nakedness. We were so unlovable, that no one would offer love. But, even if someone offered, no common love would have been sufficient, as only His love could fully cover the extent of our nakedness. It was an impossible situation. God’s grace was our only hope, and so we are of all men most blessed, as those who are in the gracious Covenant of God.
Celebration for its own sake profits little, especially if it is man-centered. As we celebrate how far we have come, we should also remember the great debt that we have been forgiven of. In this frame of mind, our service to God becomes more and more acceptable as we say with John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Another useful application, as we remember how much we owe, is that which we can draw from Matthew 18:21-35. We have been brought from an extreme of poverty—owing more than everything, to an extreme of riches—owning more than everything. How do we behave then? The parable shows us that it is simply unreasonable if we fail to forgive those around us! Of course there are many human obstacles that would prevent us from forgiving others. We might be unwilling to show forgiveness because we feel that the other person owes us too much. We might be unwilling to forgive because the other person has not begged us enough. We might even be unwilling to forgive in false holiness that forgiveness would show we have compromised on our high Christian standards!
Whatever our weakness is, God knows, and he still tells us “seventy times seven.” The only reason we need for forgiving our brother is that we were forgiven of so much more. The focus is not on our unwilling hearts, or on the debt owed to us, but on the cross of Christ. If you, often times, run there to beg forgiveness from your Creditor, then you must forgive your brother.
Do you know of someone you have told yourself that you would never forgive? Forgive, and tell him or her that the only reason is because Christ has forgiven you. Should our Lord Jesus use this to bring a lost sheep into the fold, it will truly be cause for celebration!
As we celebrate our 23rd Anniversary, may we never forget where we came from, and remember the forgiveness of our brother we owe to our Lord.
Christ regardless, Paul
Letters to CERC
Rev. Daniel & Sharon Kleyn
Protestant Reformed Foreign Missions—The Philippines—Rev. Daniel Kleyn P.O. Box 1173, Antipolo City Post Office, Antipolo City, Rizal 1870, The Philippines. Phone: 011-63-2-284-5603; Email: email@example.com.
Dear Youth of the CERC, Greetings from the Philippines!
It is a joy to extend to you, from just a relatively short distance away, my congratulations for this your church’s 23rd anniversary. We join you in thanking the Lord for blessing you with and in the truth of His Word, and for His faithfulness in preserving you in that truth. It is our prayer that you may continue to experience these blessings from above.
I know from my own observation through our recent visit among you that the Lord has blessed your church with a large group of godly young people and young adults. We see in this the evidence of God’s covenant faithfulness. He has fulfilled and is fulfilling His promise to save and gather His church in the generations of believers and their seed.
At the same time we realize that you, the youth, are the future of the church there. Thus you are crucially important for the church’s continued existence. Under God’s blessing, you will be the future fathers and mothers, and leaders and office-bearers in the church. With this in mind it is my prayer that you youth will remain steadfast and immovable in the ways of God.
Perhaps this is difficult at times, also because of the reality that you are a relatively small and isolated church in Singapore and in Southeast Asia. But be assured that you do not stand alone. This is true, first of all, because the Lord is with you. But it is also true because of fellow believers here in the Philippines who, with you, also love and confess and defend the glorious truths of the gospel of God’s sovereign and particular grace. May this be an encouragement to you, as I know it is to the believers here when they hear of you and of your commitment to God’s truth. May God be pleased to provide ways in which we are able to continue to encourage each other—even in person, the Lord willing.
Again, thanks very much for enabling my wife Sharon and me to visit this past June. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with you all in Singapore and at the June Camp, and came home here with many good memories.
Congratulations and God’s blessing to you all. “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (II Thess. 2:15).
Prof. Herman Hanko
Congratulations on this significant milestone in the history of Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church. Your existence today as a congregation is solely due to the mercy and grace of our covenant God. In a certain way I am almost as aware of this as many of you are. I, along with Rev. Van Baren and our wives, did participate in the activities of CERC from the time of its organization. I well recall the organization of the congregation, the installation of its first office bearers, and the ordination of its first pastor. It all took place in the Kampong on River Valley Road, and the pictures of that event have a treasured place among our many pictures of our travels abroad.
I, with Prof Dykstra, was in Singapore when the congregation was meeting in its own place of worship on Tessensohn Road. I preached for the congregation and spoke various times in that building; I and Prof. Dykstra met with the Session in the upper room. This was the one time I was in Singapore without my wife. When Mrs. Hanko and I were in Singapore for six months from October, 1999 to March, 2000 we spent many happy hours with the congregation when it was meeting in the Bible House. We were there frequently to preach, and remember well the times of fellowship we had.
In the last two or three years we have been in Singapore four or five times. You will all remember how I told the congregation, early in these visits, that we would probably not see each other again until we met in heaven. How little we knew then of God’s plan and purpose for us in our lives. And now we hope to see you all again shortly, if the Lord wills it. But the history of CERC is not only one of moving about for places of worship and visits by me and my wife; it is also a history of considerable trouble. The Lord has led the congregation through many difficult times. It was difficult when the congregation had reluctantly to bid farewell to Pastor Mahtani because of serious incompatibilities. It was surely a very trying time when the Lord took from the congregation its shepherd, Pastor Cheah. But indeed in the memory of most of you the most grievous event was the sharp disagreement with many in FERC over the question of divorce and remarriage. That brought about a necessary but sad breach with others who had been one with you in the household of faith.
All these difficulties have this result that today there are now only a few members who were members of CERC when it was first organized. But the congregation was preserved through all these troubles and today stands as a monument to God’s faithfulness in preserving a Reformed witness in Singapore. Not all the struggles are over and not all the difficulties have been overcome; but you may be confident that the Lord who has preserved you up to this point will surely continue to be your strength and help.
Mrs. Hanko and I have been very close to the work of CERC in the last few years. You were never far from our thoughts, and many were the prayers we made for you in our own devotions and in congregational prayers in the churches of our denomination. You have become dear brothers and sisters in the Lord and we have that sense that the cause of CERC (the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ) is also our cause as well as yours.
May our God who has preserved you all these years, also preserve you in the years to come. May you grow in grace and the knowledge of the great truths of the Reformed faith and may your witness in Singapore and in SE Asia become more widely heard that you may be an instrument of Christ to gather His church in your part of the world.
To God alone be the glory! May it be His will that we see each other in a few weeks.
Looking Back and Looking Forward
Being personally part of the history of Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church (CERC) for some 15 years, and having read its history since its institution in 1987, I must say, as the prophet Jeremiah spoke of Judah in her captivity, that “it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).
I do not intend to pen down a lengthy reflection on the entire history of the church (I think that should be reserved for the occasion of the church’s 25th anniversary in 2012, God willing, and perhaps it would be more meaningful and appropriate to get some founding members of the church to author this), but just share some brief thoughts with regards to how I have seen God lead CERC over the past few years.
The past five years has undoubtedly been a trying time for the church. We went through our first ever doctrinal controversy in the denomination. In the early stages of that period, the Lord took home our then-resident minister, the late Pastor Cheah. This “double-trial” tested the unity of the church severely. There was tension and uncertainty in the air. Many members were unsettled and undecided as to what to do. Fellowship was strained and spirits were downcast. All, young and old, were discouraged. The vitality and zeal of the church diminished. A flock without its shepherd at a time of doctrinal controversy seemed destined to be scattered. But the Lord carried us through.
Behind His frowning Providence, the Lord has His perfect plan. He provided another resident minister for us in Pastor Paul Goh, as well as new elders and deacons. Over time, new members settled down and gradually but surely, the life of the church returned. The church took on a new character and “face,” with renewed love and zeal for the truths of sovereign, particular grace and the doctrine of the covenant. In this regard, I am especially thankful for the coming of Professor Hanko over the past two years to help us and reinforce these truths through his clear and powerful preaching and teaching. The heightened interest in these precious truths among the young people of the congregation was also evident as they initiated the study of Reformed doctrines in their meetings and Covenant Instruction classes. The publication of this very magazine is testimony to their desire to learn, apply and spread the Reformed faith!
The Lord has preserved CERC through one of the most difficult times in her history. It was painful and wearisome during the period of the controversy, but looking back, I would say: “we were better for it.” We have developed a greater appreciation for the truths of sovereign, particular grace and the unconditional nature of the covenant. The church has become more united in the truth, in our fellowship and in our mission to preach the gospel of sovereign grace. The Lord would have the church purified in the crucible of the doctrinal controversy. As we emerge from the controversy, may we not forget the lessons we have learned. It is my prayer that God would imbue in each of us a passion to know, maintain, defend and develop the precious heritage of the Reformed faith that He has entrusted to us. May He make CERC a pillar and ground of the truths of sovereign, particular grace and of the unconditional covenant in our generations.
What does the future hold for CERC? I do not know what tomorrow may bring, but I know God holds tomorrow. He has gone before us. He is already there. No doubt there will be more difficulties, challenges and perhaps controversies, but our confidence must always be in the Lord. For He is the ever faithful One, Whose love never changes. Through every mountain and valley that He would lead His church, He will never leave her nor forsake her. “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me” (Isa. 49:16).
Now and always, our confession remains “Our help is in the Name of Jehovah, Who made heaven and earth” (Psa. 124:8).
Elder Kong Wee
Desiring the Office in a Reformed Church
It is the joy of every godly parent to bring up god-fearing covenant children, and greater joy it is to hear that their sons desire the office in a reformed church. It is therefore my delight to advise a young man desiring the office because he desires a good work. One of the first questions in this young man’s mind is whether it is God’s will or whether God is calling him to the office. Is that desire an indication that God wants him to be in such offices? I hope he will find here some principles which will guide him to answer those questions.
In the first place, I am convinced that he is to prepare himself for the office without first asking or knowing if God wants him in it. God does not call a man to office by some mystical internal call known only to him. There is only one way that God calls a man to office—through the church. But how does the church know who to call? The Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Day 21 Q&A 55 summarizes God’s calling to every believer within the church when it says, “…that everyone must know it to be his duty, readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, for the advantage and salvation of other members.” It speaks of ‘employing his gifts.’ There are no gift-less Christians (Rom. 12:6) but there are three types of gift users. Those who use them for the salvation of others, those who use them for themselves and those who do not use their gifts. It is when the young man performs his duty that the church will recognize God’s calling for him and extend the call to him.
The use of gifts must not be equated with being active in church activities. While it is a good thing, it is not necessarily a good measure of a man’s qualification for office. It is a common mistake to nominate men who are “active in church”. Active members often stand out in the crowd but the church must look out for members with the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and who use such gifts for the salvation of other members. An example of such gifts is being apt to teach. For both pastors and elders, the ability to diligently study the Word of God is necessary. The form for the ordination of elders says this about the need to be apt to teach: “…for the performance of which [watching diligently against the wolves] the elders are duty bound diligently to search the word of God, and continually be meditating on the mysteries of faith.” The young man ought to be able to do such before he is in office as entering the office will not make him suddenly knowledgeable in the word of God. The church needs men who are able and willing to defend the faith, not great organizers or people with abilities to lead it forward in the next lap.
Until the young man is already diligently using his gifts for the good of members in the church, which is his basic Christian calling, he is outside the radar of the church’s search for office bearers.
The qualifications have been expounded by many at great length and I must insist that these qualities are not opinions or words of wisdom but scripture prescribed requirements. Except for that of ruling one’s house well, being apt to teach and not being a novice, all the qualities listed are to be expected in every regenerated child of God. More so, it must be true of office bearers so that they can be an example to the flock. These requirements must not be compromised for the sake of filling vacancies.
This is not to say that only a perfect man will do because then no one would qualify in this life. The Lord uses the weak things of this world to do His work so that all glory goes to him alone. It is a true saying that “…when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). The qualifications of the offices are qualities given by God as He sanctifies us, so that in our service to God we can only say “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil 4:13). Therefore, the church must look out for men “full of the Holy Ghost,” that is, men who are evidence that God sanctifies and chastens because the Lord only sanctifies whom He loves. The evidence of God’s love in the man is his love for the brothers, the members of the church (1 John 4:21).
It must be remembered that this whole matter is first and foremost about the Church and not about the person. The local church, as part of the Universal church, is a very special entity in this world. She consists of those called out of this world to be members of the body of Jesus Christ. Unlike membership in an earthly organization where members voluntarily join for some benefits, Christ saves us into the church. None of the true members of the church would have joined voluntarily and no heavenly benefits would have enticed sinners dead in sins except God had chosen them before the foundation of the world and given them faith to believe. So the young man must remember that the church consists of sinners saved by grace who in this life continue to struggle with the power of sin and the weaknesses of their flesh. As a member in this imperfect body of Christ, he seeks her good with every gift that God gives him. More than just desiring the office, he cannot allow himself to neglect the apple of God’s eye bought with the blood of Christ. He is duty bound to prepare himself to be ready to answer when called to serve in the special offices.
Furthermore, desiring the office is equivalent to desiring the work of Jesus Christ in the church. Every child of God, without exception, must be a servant of Jesus Christ but some, the Lord calls to be chief among us. To these, the Lord says, “whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matt. 20:27). Faithful servants do not lord over God’s heritage but use their gifts to serve them. A faithful and diligent servant “will purchase to themselves a good degree” but mediocre servants put the church at risk of having its candlestick removed (Rev. 2:5).
Considering the Call
How should you consider a call that the church extends to you to serve in one of the offices of Christ? This call means that the church recognizes that you have been faithful in the office of believer and now calls you to a specific office. It is not a promotion but a call to already faithful servants to take up a specific and honourable task.
Such calls from Christ, through His church, must be considered with all due diligence. Throw false modesty out of the window when the Master calls. As I said in the beginning, you should have prepared yourself for it before and, with few exceptions, be ready to give the answer “Lord, send me.” We have to humbly accept that there are times when the Lord does put us in difficult circumstances in life when it will not be advisable for us to be in the office and it pains us to have to say “no.” If, after much prayer, you have to reject the call, a substantial reason must be given. To be godly is every man’s calling but not every godly man is ready for the office.
In a Reformed Church
The young man desiring such office must be an example of submission to the rule of the elders. In the Reformation, God returned to the church such offices and the truth of the plurality and equality of elders so that there is no hierarchy where one elder or pastor rule above others. There is only the rule of Christ in the church and it is through the rule of the elected elders.
Any church that calls itself reformed but is dominated by an elder or pastor denies the rule of Christ and is far from being reformed. I doubt an office in such a church is desirable or worth consideration because they essentially deny Christ. In fact, my advice to the young man would be to come out of an apostate church because by continuing in her, he bears the corporate responsibility of her errors and is guilty before God for propagating her errors.
Finally, office bearers are mere men, unable of themselves to do the work; but like us, they can do all things through Christ Jesus. We pray that God may replenish them with gifts of wisdom, courage, discretion and benevolence so that they may take heed in doctrine and life, keep out the wolves, reprove the disorderly and comfort the poor with the Word of God. We also pray for ourselves, that God will give us grace to submit to their rule, that His holy name may be magnified and the kingdom of Christ may be enlarged.
Remembering the Lord’s Day
On 11 May 2010, the Reformed Reading Book Club met to review and discuss the pamphlet on “Remembering the Lord’s Day” written by Prof Engelsma of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. Though this is only a ten page pamphlet, Prof Engelsma has concisely pointed out the essence of keeping or remembering the Lord’s Day.
In his introduction, Prof. Engelsma equated the Lord’s Day to the dikes in The Netherlands that keep back the threatening seas and preserve the Hollanders from destruction by the seas. In his analogy, he explained that the Lord’s Day holds back the raging waves of materialism, earthy-mindedness and pleasure-madness that threaten to engulf the Church and the Christian.
In the subsequent three sections, Prof Engelsma stressed and elaborated the one and fundamental truth of Sabbath observance: As of today, or in the present time, and according to the Fourth Commandment, Jehovah God still sets apart one day of the week as a special day and requires His people to remember this day by ceasing from their secular work and play, in order to devote themselves to worship Him. He also gave both the Biblical and confessional proof to show that remembering the Lord’s Day is the will of God.
In the last three sections of the pamphlet, Prof Engelsma gave some ideas on how we can go about remembering the Lord’s Day.
Prof. Engelsma emphasized the urgency of remembering the Lord’s Day and he gave three reasons for his emphasis:
- First, keeping the Lord’s Day is a commandment that belongs to the first table of the Law.
- Second, the ‘Lord’s day’ belongs to the risen, glorious Lord Jesus Christ. It is not our day.
- Third, by the Lord’s grace, we receive the greatest benefit of rest, by remembering the Lord’s Day, because the Sabbath was made for man.
In our discussions, we asked ourselves these questions:
- What does the Lord’s Day mean to you and me?
- Does keeping the Lord’s Day still apply to Christians today or is it only valid in Old Testament times?
- Does keeping the Lord’s Day require Christians to cease from work and play on that day?
We concurred with Prof. Engelsma that the Lord’s Day is still applicable to Christians today, and of the importance and urgency of keeping the Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Day is a sacred day, out of the seven days of the week, set aside for God and for our spiritual rest.
The Lord’s Day is a day where we come to meet God, worship Him, sing praises to Him and enjoy fellowship with the saints. The Lord’s Day is a time when we hear the preaching of the Word of God as we have been hearing the preaching of the world and the lies of the devil for most of the time during the week. As faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom 10:17), we come to receive the Word of God on the Lord’s Day. Through receiving the word of God, we will learn more of God, understand more of His will for us and be reminded of the blessing of the forgiveness of sins. The Lord’s Day is a place where we can have a foretaste of heaven; entering into the heavenly kingdom and having a glimpse of heavenly worship. While most of the time in the week, we are subject to the unrest in the world, the Lord’s Day brings us into His sanctuary where we can find peace and rest in the presence of God.
As those in the office of believers, we are always on the receiving end on the Lord’s Day; however, for the office of the pastor, instead of receiving, he gives the word of God to the people through the preaching from the pulpit.
Lastly, we all recognized that to be in church the whole day on the Lord’s Day takes effort. We can do our part by encouraging each other, out of love one for another and love for God, to keep the Lord’s Day Holy, as a whole day.
Bro. Seow Thong