Features, Highlights

GYM members learn what it means to be ‘Above Sacrifices’

Group reflection: Participants break into groups to reflect on the speaker’s message


PENANG – The TRAC Board of Seniors Ministry held a five-five-day GYM Convention 2008 in Penang from June 30 to July 4 with the theme “Above Sacrifices – The Marks of Genuine Maturity” based on 1 Sam. 15:22.

There were 96 participants who travelled by car, bus or plane to and from Penang. The Rev Ong Hwai Teik, President of TRAC Malaysia, was the convention speaker.

On the first day, the Rev Ong used King Saul and his actions to show us the paramount importance of obedience and the disastrous consequences of disobedience.

King Saul began as a humble God-fearing man; but he became impatient and conducted sacrifices at Gilgal. He became arrogant and did not destroy utterly the Amalekites that he captured and he became desperate and consulted witchcraft (which he had banned himself) at Endor.

Did the Lord take great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as seeing the people obey him? “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.” (I Sam.15: 22-23).

On the second day, the Rev Ong used King David and his mistakes, schemings and repentance to show us our propensity to sin and our need for repentance via a broken spirit.

King David, despite being a man after God’s own heart, (1 Sam. 13:14) tried hard to conceal his sins of adultery and murder. When confronted by Prophet Nathan, he straightway confessed his actions, repented his sins and expressed his broken spirit through Ps 51.

This psalm shows King David’s understanding of the nature and the reality of sin, his appeal to God’s unfailing grace and tender mercies to cleanse him from all his sins.

He understood that this thorough cleansing and purging would restore him to wholeness and joy of salvation. God’s presence through the Holy Spirit would create in him a clean heart, inner truth and wisdom, and would prove in him the necessary conditions to minister to sinners.

“For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart – These, O God, You will not despise.” (Ps 51: 16,17).

On the third day, the Rev Ong used Prophet Hosea and his actions to show us God’s unquenchable love for ungrateful, unfaithful and rebellious Israel.

As a prophet of God’s love, he married Gomer, a whore who continued to be adulterous and unfaithful. Hosea had to redeem her for himself, confined her to stay with him and he showed his love for her. This marriage relationship shows that there is no true love without pain and no real pain without love.

It also shows God’s mercy, loving kindness or steadfast love for Israel, despite the latter’s apostasy or spiritual adultery.

“For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hos 6:6).

Indeed, our response to this love and mercy from God is well expressed in Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O man, what is good, And what does the Lord require of you: But to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?”

After each talk there was a time of group reflection. On the last day nine questions were considered and their reflections shared among all. Among them were:

1. How would pride and disobedience be manifested today in our personal, church community and wider social life?

2. What for you would be a key trait or characteristic of a “broken spirit”?

3. If you were Hosea, what would your feelings or reactions be if you were told to marry Gomer, a “woman of whoredom”?

4. What elements, factors or reasons would make it difficult for you to be merciful, especially to “undeserving” people?

5. How can the Christian and church be more merciful and compassionate in Singapore?

6. How would you rate GYM in terms of obedience, “broken spirit” and being merciful?

All participants came away with a much better understanding of the convention theme “Above Sacrifices” (obedience to God, experiencing broken-heartedness, being merciful). They also came away with a stronger willingness to transform their own personal lives from being self-centred to God-centred by being just and merciful and by walking humbly with God.

Chan Kai Yau, a member of Barker Road Methodist Church, is a member of the TRAC Board of Seniors Ministry.


GYM Board members performing at Talent Nite