As some of you may know, we’ve been spending a few months now visiting different churches throughout Perth. Since the start of the year, we have made a more concerted attempt to settle in a home church so for the last couple of weeks, we have started going to Faith Community Church (FCC) to absorb a little of the culture there.
Because it’s a church full of South-East Asian migrants, the congregation has been at about half strength. This week, Pastor Benny Ho returned to the pulpit after a three-week break.
The service was extraordinary. We liked FCC at half strength, but today the worship was pumping and Pastor Benny hit the sermon out of the ball park.
I’ll get to the sermon a bit later, but one of the things we have been looking for in a church is a strong sense of the presence of God in worship. Now, apart from the manifest presence (e.g. cloud, gold dust, unusual miracles etc, which seldom happens now within a contained Sunday service in the Western church, except maybe at somewhere like Bethel Church in Redding), I appreciate that it is very difficult to gauge the strength of God’s presence in any church setting. There are many different things that trigger that “sense” in you, and what does it for me may not do it for everyone. But I’m wired a particular way, and the elements in FCC’s worship today simply pushed all the right buttons.
I was completely engaged and I can say that it’s been a while since I’ve been able to just jump and close my eyes (not at the same time of course, as that would be dangerous) and just focus on God. At the end of the worship, I realised my car keys had flown out of my pocket onto the floor 2 seats away!
Here’s one of the songs they did that really spoke to me: Here in Your Presence by New Life Worship:
After the worship, Pastor Benny preached on “Realigning Your Relationship with God” from the following passage in Luke 10:38ff:
Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Now, before I talk about the sermon further, I want to make a quick comment about sermons these days. Recently, I attended the Influencers Conference. Now, I only went to two night sessions and I also heard a Sunday message streamed from Paradise Church on Sunday. Whilst the types of messages I heard were really inspiring, I found that they were almost devoid of Scripture. There might be one starting passage, and then one keyword becomes the springboard for a number of tangential thoughts the preacher may have. A lot of what ends up being shared are great life principles which could just as well have come out of a motivational book. Now, I’m not saying this is necessarily bad, but what I’ve found is that I am personally more inclined to more Bible-based teaching.
Joseph Prince is a brilliant example. Whilst he is sometimes controversial, and I don’t always agree with everything he preaches, no preacher I know uses as much Scripture as Joseph Prince. That is comforting because if he errs, he is less likely to err spectacularly.
So back to FCC. What I’ve always admired about Benny Ho is his ability to combine both Scriptural exegesis and personal application with inspiration, conviction and a good smattering of humour as well for good measure.
Opening with the text in Luke 10, Pastor Benny said that most people interpret this passage to suggest that waiting on God is superior to working; that Mary’s example ought to be extolled above Martha’s. But Pastor Benny refused to believe that, so he studied the Scripture further and he concluded that in fact, the passage doesn’t teach that one is better than the other. Instead, the passage is about the many things that distract us; the some things that are necessary for us to do; and the one thing that is needful.
The one thing, being a strong devotional life, helps us determine what the some things we need to do are so we are not distracted by the many things. Wow, what a great reading of this passage.
It is out of a strong devotional life that ministry is released, i.e. ministries are not built; they are released.
In that context, it is possible to be completely rested even whilst we are working because resting is not a physical posture, it’s a condition of the heart.
I loved how Pastor Benny illustrated the point by flipping the story on its head: imagine Martha serving out of a place of rest; joyfully cooking, greeting guests etc. Mary may be sitting at the feet of Jesus, but if she is not at rest, she might start to criticise or resent Martha in her own mind. Who is at rest in that scenario?
Pastor Benny makes the point: “I like Martha before dinner, and I like Mary after dinner!”
Pastor Benny then concluded his message with a powerful prophetic word from Genesis 2:10-15:
A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris [Hiddekel]; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Eden (meaning “pleasure”) was the place God had planted Adam and Eve to work. There can and should be pleasure in ministry! But the streams that feed the river are significant.
- “Pishon” means increase;
- “Gihon” means to burst forth;
- “Hiddekel” means powerful and strong; and
- “Euphrates” means fruitful.
This resonated with me with the theme of this year preached by Joseph Prince at New Creation Church: in the year of drought, we will experience unceasing fruitfulness. But not only that, it’s increasing fruitfulness that bursts forth and is replete with the power of God.
The key is a strong devotional life, or as Joseph Prince says, godly meditation for good success. I am challenged to build a strong devotional life, so that Godly empowered ministry will flow from me for the edification of others! This year is going to be a great year!