The Vine Press – October 2020

Hi all,

Shalom! At our PJEFC Leaders’ Retreat in September 2020, one unanimous decision reached was “we will offer both the physical (Onsite) and live streaming (Online) Sunday services. However, we want our people back at the Onsite Service.”

Since we resumed our Onsite Service on 18th August, the average Sunday attendance hovered at 100. This is less than 20% of our pre-lockdown numbers and half of our seating capacity of 200 (SOP-compliant).

The reasons are varied. Some are barred by SOP from attending, some are comfortable with the good quality online version, and so on.

For those who can attend, your leaders want you back onsite.  There is a strong biblical basis for this.

The longing for people to gather together physically in a community is not new. This need is real.  This lockdown exposed what we have always known and needed.

In the Old Testament, this longing to go to the house of the Lord is a very earnest, strong and deep emotion; a yearning desire of love, joy and happiness.

In Psalm 84: 1-2, 4, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.”

And in the New Testament, face-to-face interactions are very much encouraged.  The early church was a persecuted church. Believing in Christ and meeting to worship Christ may mean arrest and possibly death. Yet, they risked the dangers to meet face-to-face. Why?

John wrote, “Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 12). “Stoma pro stoma” literally means “mouth to mouth”, is the Greek phase translated “face to face”. The idea is two or more persons communicating without any barriers or distance.

John’s writings would be the inspired, infallible words from God. Yet, he would rather put aside his pen and opt to meet face-to-face. Face-to-face communicates something more that writing could not. The joy of fellowship is incomplete from a distance. Face-to-face completes it.

In June, my father-in-law who lived in PJ was called home to be with the Lord. My brother-in-law who lives in Singapore could not be physically present although he exhausted every means to do so. But we were able to live stream the funeral and burial services to his family. Yet, his physical absence was deeply missed by everyone in his family. Somehow it was just incomplete without him. He missed not being able to touch and bid goodbye to his father one last time.

Social distancing means less joy.

Paul expressed his longing for physical meetings throughout his letters. He said, “I long to see you” to the Romans, the Philippians, the Thessalonians, and Timothy.

Paul wrote, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you – that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (Romans 1:11-12)

Not only would Paul’s presence “strengthen” the believers in Rome, they, including Paul, would be “encouraged” in a way they could not be otherwise.

Closeness matters. Love is meant to meet.  Online service alone is not enough. The desire to see each another physically in your small groups and in church is a good longing. But the joy of fellowship is fuller when we worship God corporately Onsite. 

Having attended the Onsite services since 16th August, Suan and I can testify how much more spiritually uplifting these experiences are for us, compared to the Online Service.

So, brothers and sisters, I hope to see you face-to-face on Sundays so that your joy and my joy may be complete.

Elder Chow Chee Yan

Discipleship: The Cost is Convenience

Following Jesus and making disciples will cost you convenience. We intuitively know that an essential part of discipleship is to build relationships – to invest ourselves in others and journey with them. However, the level of commitment required for intentional discipleship is often incompatible with modern culture.

What do I mean by that?

Urban environments like the Klang Valley encourage a lifestyle that is always ‘on the move’ with busy people and shallow relationships. We often lead a very private life and choose only what we want to share (usually the good bits), perhaps out of fear of how others might perceive us, e.g. we do share on social media, but just not personal things that really matter to us.

The busy and private lives that we are so accustomed to is contradictory to the culture of discipleship. To make disciples, we need to slooooooow down, because it is all about intentionally investing our lives in another person over a looooooong period of time. We must be willing to open up and talk about our own lives and issues, to be involved in another’s life. This usually involves their problems and struggles. Real people are flawed, and real relationships are messy affairs.

When we walk with another person, we walk; we don’t sprint. We don’t go at 30 miles/hr; it is a 3 miles/hr discipleship journey. It is a slow (and at times somewhat uncomfortable) journey, but I can guarantee you that it is totally worth it to see the transformation of another toward Christlikeness in the end.

The truth is this: it is often inconvenient to invest your life in others. Those whom you are walking with will demand more time than you think, more energy than you have, more prayer than you can imagine, and more love than you can muster. But out of obedience, love for God and for others, we will prayerfully and faithfully invest ourselves in people, trusting that God will do wonders through us so that His name will be glorified!

The fruits of discipleship

We rejoice at the salvation of Tilak, Chadani, and Raj, and celebrate together with them in their baptism in September 2020. Do continue to uphold them in your prayer as they grow closer to Jesus. We also thank God for Elder Kong Weng for allowing us to conduct the baptism at his farm, and bro. Shan-Ting at his home. To God be the Glory!

Pastor Jeremy Lim

Ordination transfer

I walked into PJEFC for the first time one Sunday in April 2016. It was by divine appointment that I met my former MBS lecturer Rev Loh Soon Choy at the entrance of the sanctuary.

I am privileged to have Rev Loh conduct the ordination transfer ceremony together with PJEFC’s oversight led by Elder Chairman Chee Yan and Rev David Tan of EFCM. I thank the church board and the EFCM council for endorsing my 2June 2012 ordination by Miri Gospel Chapel. I also thank all PJEFC members and my Taman SEA 1 CG members for their continued support in prayer and partnership in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As I mentioned in my appreciation on 6 September 2020, I wish to affirm to all at PJEFC my ordination speech made to the local church in Miri. I have always held on to my role as a pastor by the words of Jesus in Mark 10:43-45, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  As a professing and practising disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ, I am merely a servant to love, care and speak the truth from God’s Word. May we continue to run the race together as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Rev Dicky Wong

Walking with people with anxiety and depression

In our daily lives, there are many events that cause us to feel emotions such as joy, sadness, anger, excitement and fear, among others. For example, when we face an upcoming exam or a job interview, it is normal to feel nervous or anxious. Or when a family member passes away, we feel sad and grieve. So how do we tell whether we are having a normal reaction to a particular situation or are experiencing anxiety disorder and depression instead?

There are a few things that help us indicate whether a person has depression or an anxiety disorder. The first is, their daily routines and work are affected. For instance, they have no appetite, having sleeping issues and suffer from breathlessness. Second, if the duration exceeds the normal range such as having unexplained depression for at least 2 weeks (WebMD) or anxiety for at least 6 months (verywellmind, 2020) Third, observe whether there is a huge contrast in personality or behaviour. For example, a person with a carefree personality under normal circumstances suddenly becomes isolated or reserved. If you observe at least two of these changes in a person, it is a good idea to seek professional help.

“8 – 12% of the population or about 3 million Malaysians are estimated to suffer from major depressive disorder in 2013.

The global estimate of the prevalence of anxiety disorders is 24.9% among adults. This would mean more than 7 million Malaysians suffer from a type of anxiety disorder.” – Relate Malaysia

It is quite common for someone with anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa. Some symptoms of depression and anxiety can be similar – for example sleeping issues, irritability and difficulty in concentrating (  Sometimes, it can get complex as depression and anxiety disorders do come together.

If you would like to find out more, come and join us in the next Stretcher Bearer sessions in October.

By Shirley and Joash Pak

Meeting Together

One key aspect in the life of discipleship involves the gathering of Christians from the very beginning. When Christians gather together, they encourage each other, to pray together, to ponder on the words and teachings of our Lord. That is when church happens. Indeed, the writer of Hebrews mentioned this:

“Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:25

The early church would go on to heed this command, risking even torture and death when they gathered together. In recent times, the church faced a difficult decision regarding the command to meet together. Because of COVID-19, meeting ‘together’ happened online as church and cell groups operated on platforms such as YouTube and Zoom. This raised a new question: Is it possible to heed this command by meeting online? Does this mean we do not need to meet in person any longer?

IMPACT (PJEFC’s youth ministry) like many other ministries transitioned to an online platform during the pandemic. However, over 6 months, it was clear that the biggest challenge we faced was not engagement or content related. The biggest challenge was this: it was impossible to build new relationships online. This was a huge problem for us, as IMPACT is a relationship-based ministry.

We believe that our young people learn about Christ better when they have authentic friendships with their peers and facilitators.  Furthermore, the younger ones who did not manage to experience key relationship-building events like camp began to drift further apart. It was apparent when we organised a Form outing, where the youth met together in person for the first time, that something was very much missing when we met online. This aspect of face-to-face fellowship is something that we have missed for many months when we were unable to meet physically.

We do recognise the importance and convenience of technology. After all, it was meetings via Zoom that allowed IMPACT to maintain its existing relationships. But it is clear that Christian fellowship needs to be done in person whenever possible. IMPACT has currently made the decision to meet physically each week starting from 25th September. It is our goal and vision that the Saturday meetings form the catalyst and ecosystem for our youth to encounter the living God, through the fellowship that we have with each other.

Pastor Tan Yu Yong

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