Jurong Outreach

"whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ."

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Lesson from a Pagan King

The account of Joseph is a favourite not only among children in Sunday School but also among many adult readers of the Bible. It is an awe-inspiring story. The faith of young Joseph in the face of almost insurmountable odds encourages us to keep fighting the good fight of faith. His moral integrity when tempted by sensual lust exhorts us to do the same. The forgiving spirit of Joseph toward his treacherous brothers reminds us of the tender, merciful heart of our heavenly Father.

In an episode of the story, Joseph was falsely accused of attempted rape and thrown into prison (Genesis 39:7-20). Notwithstanding the terrible conditions of an Egyptian dungeon, the Lord blessed Joseph and it wasn’t long before he was placed in a position of trust by the prison warden (Genesis 39:21-23).

After some time, the chief baker and chief butler of Pharaoh were also imprisoned for unspecified offenses. They each had a dream and Joseph interpreted their dreams with the help of God. The interpretations came true for both the chief baker and chief butler – the former was hanged and the latter was restored to office (Genesis 40).

How quickly the chief butler forgot and poor Joseph was left languishing in prison for two more years! It was at this time that Pharaoh was perplexed by two similarly disturbing dreams. Seven fat cows devoured by seven scrawny ones that came after them, and seven plump ears of grain swallowed by seven thin ears (Genesis 41:1-7)

All the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men could not interpret Pharaoh’s dreams for him. Just as it seemed that Pharaoh would never find an answer, the chief butler suddenly recalled the Hebrew young man in the prison who interpreted his dream for him. Joseph was summoned before the king of Egypt (Genesis 41:8-14)

The Lord gave to Joseph the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams and Joseph unraveled the mystery. Egypt would have seven years of bountiful harvests followed by seven years of famine. The famine would be so severe the people would quickly forget the years of plenty (Genesis 41:15-32)

Joseph also provided the solution to Pharaoh. Pharaoh was so pleased and impressed he immediately promoted Joseph to Prime Minister, bestowing upon him power over all Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself. Joseph was also tasked with the project of preparing Egypt for the seven lean years (Genesis 41:33-43).

I would like for you to direct your attention to Pharaoh. Here was an unnamed, pagan king who turned to magicians for answers into the mysterious. He was ruler over a then mighty nation. Why should he take the words of a Hebrew slave seriously? Yet he readily did and was pleased to adopt Joseph’s proposal and appoint him as the man to carry out the monumental task.

Compare this Pharaoh to another who came generations later. The later Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to listen to Moses or acknowledged the power of Jehovah. This Pharaoh recognised that Joseph’s interpretation came from God (Genesis 41:39) and did not hesitate to believe.

The God who gave Pharaoh the warning of imminent disaster and the way of escape is the same God who warns us of a coming judgement and the way of escape.

“…God…now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)

“…the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10)

Friend, is your heart ready to acknowledge the warning of God and take the escape route He has provided for you in the Gospel of Christ? Or are you still dithering on the razor’s edge, undecided? But unlike the case with Pharaoh, we do not know if we have seven years to prepare or even seven minutes!

“Careless soul, why will you linger, wandering from the fold of God? Hear you not the invitation? O prepare to meet thy God! Why so thoughtless are you standing while the fleeting years go by, and your life is spent in folly? O prepare to meet thy God! If you spurn the invitation till the Spirit shall depart, then you’ll see your sad condition, unprepared to meet thy God!

“Careless soul, o heed the warning, for your life will soon be gone; O how sad to face the judgment, unprepared to meet thy God!”

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Trust in the Lord

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” (Pro 3:5-7).

This is a much loved passage. It often brings comfort to souls wearied from the buffeting of life. It is also a passage that beautifully sums up how we should walk on this earth. Our Lord Jesus leaves us the example of how He walked, that we may follow in His footsteps. “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” (1Jn 2:6).

Jesus trusted in His Father. His mission was to do His Father’s will. “Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.” (Heb 10:7). He was obedient even unto death. “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Php 2:8).

This is the example of our Lord. Proverbs 3:5-6 teaches us how we may follow the Lord in the path of trust and obedience.

Trust. That means placing our confidence in someone or something. A writer describes trust as the cross-section between competence and character. In many job interviews, the employer looks at the qualifications and experiences of the candidates in an attempt to gauge their competence. This is important because appointing a person to a role he is unable to perform would negatively affect productivity.

However, suppose a person is competent but he lacks character. He is dishonest and selfish. This will not do, won’t it? No one likes a person in charge who lies, cheats or steals.

What if a person is known to be morally upright but simply is not trained or equipped for the task? It is cruel and unfair to place on her the responsibility because it might be setting her up for failure and discouragement.

Now consider the one who we are to trust. He is the Lord. The all-powerful Creator and Sustainer of the universe. The One with the power to save and to condemn. The One before whose throne the angels bow down in worship and adoration. Mighty nations before Him are like a mere drop in a bucket.

He is not only all-powerful; He is holy and cannot be tempted with evil. There is goodness only because He is good. There is love only because He is love. The staggering amazement of His love for us is revealed in these words: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8). Yes, the Lord is worthy of our utmost trust.

The heart is a figure for the centre of a man’s being, the seat of his intellect and morality. Our reasoning powers and emotional affections are centred in the heart. We are to trust Him with all our heart. The greatest commandment is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” (Mark 12:30).

This is to love and trust the Lord with our entire being. Where is the reservation? There is none. “…lean not unto thine own understanding.” Human fallible wisdom fades into nothing in the bright light of His glory. The foolish man denies God (Psalm 14:1) to his own destruction.

Give the Lord His due. Render unto Him the reverence He deserves. Come to the assembly with your hearts and minds ready to worship. Lay aside all that distract and encumber. Turn off the mobile phones and focus on Him. There is only one object in our worship: the Lord Himself. Spend time daily searching His word and communicate with Him through prayer. Pour your heart out to Him. Why should it be easier to talk to your friends than your heavenly Father?

To reverence Him properly we must turn away from all that displeases Him. How do we do so? By acknowledging His lordship in all that we do. We are purchased with the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28) and so are His property. Our bodies are offered as living sacrifices, and not only our bodies but our minds as well. (Rom 12:1-2).

In all our ways do we recognise the sovereignty of God over us? Seek advice from godly brethren, go to the Bible for counsel; do not trust in the wisdom of this world. Serve to glorify God and not to please our own ego. Exercise humility to understand that we are but unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do. (Luke 17:10).

This world will not make it easy for us to trust in the Lord with all our hearts. It goes against the grain of what seems the sensible thing to do. But it is all right. Let the world strive for what it desires. The saints of God will continue to travel the appointed way to heaven with utmost confidence in the Lord and resting in His love and sovereignty.

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 Measure Twice, Cut Once

Exactly, Accurately, Diligently

Back in Secondary School, my favourite subject was wood and metal work. We got to design and make useful items out of wood and metal. Holding the finished product of my own handiwork never failed to bring a wonderful sense of satisfaction.

In the workshops, the instructors taught us the cardinal rule: measure twice, cut once. One careless mistake and it would be wasted time, wasted effort and wasted material. I have had to start all over again because somewhere along the line, my measurement was off, even by a few milimetres.

There is a spiritual application to this rule of measuring twice. The Scripture says: “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.” (Eph 5:15). ‘Circumspectly’ isn’t an everyday word we use in our times. What it means is “exactly, accurately, diligently”. The ESV reads, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.”

Ever wondered about the amount of pain we could have been spared if we had been more careful in applying this principle in our lives? How many of the mistakes we made were the result of not having carefully thought through our motives, desires and actions? This happens in almost every aspect of our lives. But in spiritual matters with regard to God and eternity, shouldn’t we be more careful?

The ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates, was attributed with the famous quote, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This is a true principle. Let us examine our ‘measurements’ (beliefs and doctrines) and make sure that our ‘cut’ (living) is exact, accurate and diligent.

How Do You Measure Your Beliefs about God?

The word ‘religion’ has almost become a dirty word, no thanks to the publicity and support given by the media to popular atheists such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. Folks (many of whom ironically consider themselves ‘intellectual’) flock to these ‘apostles’ of atheism and take in their every word.

It is not the purpose of this present article to argue against the claims of atheism; that has been done by able apologists. If one would do a serious and honest study of both sides of the arguments, one would see that atheism is self-contradictory in its assertions – without scientific evidence, in spite of the atheists’ claim – and so cannot be maintained rationally.

Do visit the church library and speak to the friendly librarians about books on such topics, or visit apologeticspress.org.

God does exist. And since He exists, we ought to find out exactly and accurately who He is, what He has done and is doing for us, what He requires of us, and to diligently do it.

How Do You Measure Your Time?

“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Eph 5:15-17).

We live in evil days. Just read the news headlines and I’m sure you will agree. Making the best use of time in these evil days is what the Lord wants us to do. Time is our most precious commodity but yet the one we waste most. As every second ticks away, His return draws closer. The point is not when, but rather if we are ready when He returns.

Living carefully includes making the best use of the time we have, readying ourselves every moment for the Lord’s sudden return. A little mental exercise will help us along the way. Imagine the Lord returns right this very moment. What do you want Him to see you doing? What thoughts do you want to be entertaining?

Will He find your relationships are in order? Will He find you a wise and faithful servant or an evil servant? (Mat 24:46-51). Will He find you like the five wise virgins or the five foolish virgins? (Mat 25:1-13). Will He find you a profitable servant or unprofitable? (Mat 25:14-30). Will He find you ministering to the needs of others or selfish? (Mat 25:31-46).

Carpenters Under The Chief Carpenter

Our Lord Jesus was a carpenter during His time on earth. Without doubt He must have been an excellent carpenter. All the woodwork He made was exactly and accurately measured before the final cut. We are also like carpenters in this sense. We, too, are called to ‘measure twice, cut once’ like a good carpenter.

So, my fellow ‘carpenters’, let us get our tools in order and get to work.

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Shallow Roots

Every congregation throughout the history of the church has experienced weaknesses and strengths. Strong churches overcome their weaknesses and weak ones are overcome by weaknesses. It takes awareness for a church to work on its weak points. Doing nothing about them and hoping things somehow will become better is a lie. Ignorance is not bliss; it is danger.

The Weakness of Shallow Roots

When is a church weak? When the members are weak. The church is not a building but a special class of people (cf. 1Pe 2:5). Oppositions are common in the Bible. We read about persecution of Christians in Acts and the epistles. Do oppositions make a church weak? Not necessarily so. Oppositions expose the weakness of saints in a church. The Lord points out this fact to us in The Parable of the Sower.

“And he that was sown upon the rocky places, this is he that heareth the word, and straightway with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but endureth for a while; and when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, straightway he stumbleth (Mat 13:20-21).”

It was not tribulation or persecution that makes him weak; all it does is to expose his weakness. What is the problem? His roots are shallow.

Deep Roots are Tough

But just as opposition can break down those whose roots are not deep, those with stronger or deeper roots dig in their heels. When the going gets tough, the tough gets going. Consider the church at Smyrna.

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These things saith the first and the last, who was dead, and lived again: I know thy tribulation, and thy poverty (but thou art rich), and the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews, and they art not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Fear not the things which thou art about to suffer: behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death (Rev 2:8-11).”

The Smyrna church was physically poor, but financial difficulties do not necessarily make a church weak. But if the church does not know or abide by the Lord’s teachings on money, problems may arise.

Of course, we can do more with more money but the question is: are we good stewards with what we have? And if we have more, what are we using it on? Sometimes I wonder if having less will help open our eyes to our richness in spiritual blessings (cf. Eph 1:3).

‘The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Mat 26:41)’ is misused often as a convenient excuse whenever a Christian gives in to temptation because then we can avoid facing up to the uncomfortable possibility that our roots might not be as deep as we’d like to think.

The Lord encouraged the Smyrna church not to fear but rather to remain faithful even to the point of death. The Lord Jesus was confident in the deepness of their roots! He was saying to them: you can do this. A great reward awaits you.

Daily Tests of the Depth of Our Roots

The apostle says, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might (Eph 6:10).” God is all powerful. While we cannot rely upon ourselves, we can rely on Him and rest our confidence in Him. We can overcome as Christ overcame. This is a promise from our Lord.

“He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne (Rev 3:21).”

To be strong in the Lord, we need to deepen our roots. Paul told the elders of Ephesus that the word of God’s grace is able to build us up, and to give us an inheritance among all them which are sanctified (cf. Act 20:32). To be strong in the Lord, to deepen our roots, we don’t need any self-help, popular psychology. We have the Word of God.

We keep reminding ourselves of 2Ti 2:15, to be diligent to be approved unto God and to rightly handle the word of truth. We all know we have to study the Bible and pray every day. But as the saying goes, “The test of the pudding is in the eating”.

We are very blessed in that we are spared major tribulation and persecution but the little irritations we encounter daily can also test the deepness of our roots. How easily discouraged are we when things don’t go the way we want? How do we resolve conflicts between us and others? What do we think about and how do we respond when people misunderstand us or speak lies about us? What do we do when the going gets tough?

We Can Do All Things in Christ.

Paul shared with the Philippian brethren his experience of learning how to be content in whatever circumstances he was in. And then he made this powerful statement: “I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me (Php 4:13).”

Paul developed strong and deep roots. We can do it too. When every one of us has strong and deep roots, the church is strong. We can be strong, but only in the Lord, and only if we are willing to pay the price of hard work.

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Hearing without Understanding

Distractions in the Holy Place

The disciples of the Lord Jesus came to Him and asked Him why He taught the multitudes in parables after He taught them the Parable of the Sower (Mat 13:3-9). His answer revealed a deadly condition of the human heart.

“Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them (Mat 13:13-15).”

He went on to explain the first condition described in the parable: the seed that fell by the wayside.

“When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side (Mat 13:19).”

We can hear (or read) without understanding. It is not that we lack an adequate command of the language but because our minds are not focused. Our minds are ‘switched off’. When this happens, almost nothing gets in. Hearing and understanding must go together.

We live in a world filled with distractions. So many things are clamouring for our undivided attention all at once.

Going through the motions of sitting through a Bible class or sermon without focus is to hear without the understanding. We have temptations today unknown to previous generations of Christians. The convenience brought to us by technological advancement also brings with it the habit of surfing the net on our smart phones and tablets.

Social media has invaded the holy place. Almost without thinking, we check updates on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We carry on conversations with friends on Whatsapp. We look up the latest news or reply to unimportant emails. These activities take place even while the lesson or worship service is going on.

It is also not unknown for a member or two to walk out of the assembly to take phone calls. Others were busying themselves with activities like chatting with their neighbours. Still others are more interested in the style or appearance or other minor details of the preacher than the message he was preaching. They readily critique the preacher for his lack of fashion sense, his accent, his speed of speech, etc. but remember almost nothing of the message from the Bible.

The purpose of hearing is easily lost in this fog. Why do we attend worship on the Lord’s Day? Why are we here? Are we more excited to meet and catch up with friends than with our heavenly Father? Are we ready to listen to what His Word says?

Preventing Dull Hearing

Preventing dull hearing shouldn’t be difficult but it does require a dose of self-discipline. Reminding ourselves of the purpose of worship and Bible class is a good place to start. When we allow ourselves to forget, anything has the potential to become a distraction.

How about switching off the phones altogether? Yes, we are reminded to turn our phones to silent mode but often it is not the ringing of the phones that are distracting. It is the easy accessibility of the phone when it is on, isn’t it?

Taking notes during lessons ‘forces’ us to pay attention. I might argue that I do not need to take notes, I focus very well just sitting there listening. Fine. But say, half an hour later you ask me what the major points of the lessons are and I most probably will struggle to recall them. That’s not really very good listening, is it?

Hearing with the understanding is indispensable to our growth in the knowledge of the Lord, and it doesn’t have to be difficult or daunting. All it takes is the willingness to hear and the discipline to do whatever helps us in becoming the kind of hearers that profit from the Word.