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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Effective Hearing

“Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth (1Sa 3:9-10).”

‘Hearing’ is one of the most important things we must do. One of the Lord’s oft repeated statements is, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear (Mat 11:15).” Hearing, in a broader sense, does not only mean receiving audio signal. It can be a figure to an attitude toward the word of God. The Lord also says, “Take heed therefore how ye hear (Lu 8:18).” Effective hearing, therefore, is very important. Samuel teaches us three qualities of effective hearing. Each of these qualities built upon the one that comes before it.

Paying Due Respect to God

Samuel had a proper respect for God. This is the first and most basic quality of effective hearing. He acknowledged God as Master and his position as a servant. “Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth.” There can be no reverence for God without humility. Part of that is the constant awareness that we are nothing without God. Christians may say with Paul, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28)” but easily forget that and live like we have only one master – ourselves.

We show reverence for God primarily in our attitude toward His worship and His word. When our minds are prepared every time we assemble for worship, we are showing Him reverence. When we study His word, expecting to apply what we learn, we are showing Him reverence. Reverence for God is indispensable if we are to effectively hear what He is saying to us.

Attentiveness

Samuel was attentive. When in bed, he was still alert to a voice calling his name. Even though he mistook it for Eli calling him, it shows the kind of attitude he had.

He was humble and ready to be of service. Eli was like a father to him, and he accorded Eli the respect due to his own father.

Twice he jumped out of bed, without complaint, and hurried to Eli. When a person learns to fear God, it influences his relationship with other people. When Eli advised Samuel what to do when he heard the voice again, Samuel paid attention and did as he was told. He was attentive to what God was going to tell him.

To hear effectively, we must obviously pay attention. This attention is built on a foundation of reverence for God. When someone is speaking to us and we allow our attention to drift, it shows a lack of respect to the speaker, doesn’t it?

While the way the memory works and habits like taking notes play a part, the more common reason is not disciplining our minds to pay attention. Attentiveness is a mental discipline that gets better with practice.

Readiness to Respond

Samuel was attentive to the voice but very importantly, he was ready to respond. He ran to Eli the first two times he heard a voice calling. How would we respond if we were Samuel?

The danger of becoming hearers but not doers of the word is because of this lack of readiness to respond.

James describes such a person:

“For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was (James 1:23-24).”

We may think this man is foolish, and so he is. But so are we if we are not ready to respond to God’s word.

We have so many examples in the Bible of people responding to God’s word, and also many examples of people rejecting God’s word. The 3000 in Acts 2:37 are among the positive examples. They heard the word and were cut to the heart. They responded in obedience. The Jews in Acts 7:54 heard the word and were cut to the heart as well, but they murdered Stephen.

Effective hearing makes us better Christians. In fact, it is indispensable if we were to be sensitive to the will of the Father and be ever ready to do it.

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Upside Down Morality

In this age of media frenzy, our senses are constantly bombarded with stimulation from without. The amount of opinions flooding the social media, telling us what to believe and how to live is unprecedented. A generation ago, we could hardly have imagined this happening. Facebook, Tweeter, Pinterest, Instagram and so on are now the platforms for people to speak their minds and even air dirty linen in public.

Is this necessarily a bad thing in and of itself? Not really. Social media can be a useful tool. But when we consider that it is used so effectively by the enemies of Christ to disseminate their evil influence, Christians should sit up and take notice that we might not allow it to affect our integrity. The godless have never been shy to shout their defiance of God from the rooftops. Social media provides them a perfect avenue to publicise their corrupted morality.

With the increase of the influence of the media, we find a corresponding increase in the number of the younger generation mimicking the behaviour of celebrities. Values have changed over time; much of what was held sacred is today considered obsolete and embarrassing.

Old-fashioned’ notions of marriage consisting of one man as husband and one woman as wife are challenged vehemently or dismissed for an ‘enlightened’ understanding that genders are merely incidental as long as two persons are happy with each other. The unborn child in the womb is regarded as nothing more than a piece of flesh in a woman’s body and completely at her discretion to keep or abort.

Sexuality is no longer an innuendo in the entertainment business. It is flaunted without shame to openly entice the weak-willed to succumb. Explicit sex scenes, scantily clad performers, suggestive dance choreography and languages so foul it will make our grandparents’ faces turn beet red now flood our TV, cinema and computer screens. Premarital and extra-marital sexual relations are the new normal.

It makes one to wonder where have all the ‘Josephs’ in the church gone when many of our young and old not only enjoy these displays of immorality but condone it as just a little harmless fun. Hedonism, or the pursuit of pleasure as a predominant lifestyle, has made a successful comeback. But then, has it really left at all?

The immorality of the world is a stark reminder of why the Son of God took on human flesh over two millennia ago. Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21). He gave His life to save mankind from the upside down morality pervading this world, and to reconcile us to the holy God, in whom we find the true authority for morality.

So can we imagine what it is like for God when His people, redeemed with His Son’s blood, look back over their shoulders at the upside down morality of this world and begin to dabble in it, and gradually to condone and indulge in it again? Any earthly parent will feel the intense pain when a child veer off the right path into a life of vice. How much more the pain of our heavenly Father if His children were to return to sin?

History informs us that this actually happened. Isaiah was sent to speak on God’s behalf. He told a parable of a farmer who lovingly and painstakingly cultivated his vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-2). But for all his effort, the vineyard did not produce good grapes. There was nothing more left to do but to utterly destroy it (Isaiah 5:4-6). The prophet revealed that “the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry (Isaiah 5:7).”

Part of Israel and Judah’s sins are revealed in this pronouncement of judgment: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight(Isa 5:20-21)!”

All who reject God are wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight. This is basic to their unbelief. Their upside down morality is a reflection of their unbelief. But if the people of God turn aside from holiness and call evil good and good evil, they have returned to the fold of the world.

For the people of God, the course is clear. Hear the words of Scriptures:

“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:1-4).”

We have nothing more to do with the upside down morality of this world. We have found the true source of morality in God. Let’s keep to the divine pattern He has given us, and endeavored to save those who are still caught in the sin of unbelief.

 


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God Our Refuge

Let’s take a trip across Bible history and revisit three famous characters in the Old Testament. We shall begin with David. The first book of Samuel, chapter 30, tells of the account where the Amalekites attacked Ziklag and took captive the families of David and his men. The distress was imaginably tremendous, so much so that “the people spake of stoning him (David), because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters… (1Sam 30:6)” They blamed their leader for the loss of their families. The next statement revealed, however, the spiritual mettle of the future king. “…but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.”

The next person we shall visit is a descendent of David: Hezekiah. He followed in the footsteps of his celebrated ancestor. “And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did (2Ki 18:3).” Hezekiah was a young man when he began to reign, only twenty-five years old at the time (cf. 2Ki 18:2). But in the fourteenth year of his reign, a great national crisis struck.

Sennacherib king of Assyria led an invasion of Judah. It was only less than ten years ago when he sacked Judah’s northern neighbor, Samaria, and forced into exile all the survivors of the war. Out of fear Hezekiah groveled before Assyria and paid tribute (cf. 2Ki 18:13-16). Still the king of Judah had not learned his lesson. He later formed an alliance with Egypt against the might of Assyria; an alliance which God disapproved of (cf. 2ki 18:21, 24; Isa 30:2-6).

The Assyrians returned with their armies and laid siege to Jerusalem (2Ki 18:17). Driven to desperation by the hopelessness of the situation, Hezekiah finally awakened. He turned to the God of heaven, whom the Assyrians foolishly insulted and blasphemed. “And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up into the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD… (2Ki 19:14-15).”

We now turn to Nehemiah. He was serving in a trusted capacity in the court as the king’s cupbearer but had never forgotten his roots or Jerusalem, the capital of his people and the city of God. He was distressed when he heard news from some Jews who had just made a trip to Judah. “And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven (Neh 1:3-4).”

Nehemiah resolved to return to Jerusalem to do something about the dire situation there. When the king saw his troubled expression and asked him about it, Nehemiah was frankly terrified of making his request to the king. “Then I was very sore afraid (Neh 2:2)…” But before he spoke his mind to the king of Persia, he sought the favour of the King of kings. “Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven (Neh 2:4).”

In each of these three accounts, we see our heroes were distressed and fearful (cf. 1Sam 30:6; 2Ki 19:1; Neh 2:2). Yes, even heroes of the faith experienced these situations we might find too embarrassing and ‘unheroic’ to admit. In life, it is inevitable that we will encounter circumstances that test our nerves and fortitude. In this we are no different from those who came before us. These men did not put on an act and pretend to be tough or at least nonchalant, as we see so many (and we ourselves, if we are honest) today do.

It is in the response of these three men that we can draw a most useful lesson. We see a characteristic common in David, Hezekiah and Nehemiah. They turned to God when faced with challenges and fears. “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going”, so the popular saying goes. For the saint, when the going gets tough, he gets on his knees before his almighty God.

It might take Hezekiah a while before he realised to Whom he should have turned to earlier on instead of relying on his resources and a futile alliance with a godless nation. It would certainly have spared him much fear. Of course, we may fall into the error of judging Hezekiah a little too harshly if we did not see that we are very much like him. How often have we tried to work out our own challenging situations by our own devices or seek the counsel of those who know not God, rather than turning to Him at the very first instant?

What happened when these men threw themselves at God’s feet? In David’s case, God assured him of victory against the Amalekites. “Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all (1Sam 30:8)”; Hezekiah received the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah: “For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake (2Ki 19:34).” Nehemiah received a favourable answer to his prayer. “And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me (Neh 2:8).”

David sang, “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God (Psa 62:5-7).”

Turn to the Lord whenever you encounter a tough situation. It is not the degree of difficulty in your problem but the strength of the Lord that counts. Our God is infinitely more powerful than anything this world or the devil can throw at us. Fear not, saints of God. Take hold of the promise of the Lord Jesus. “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (Matthew 28:20).”


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How Shall the World ‘See’ God Today?

God is a Spirit, the Lord Jesus told the Samaritan woman by the well (cf. John 4:24). Physical eyes simply cannot behold Him whose substance is spiritual. Unless God manifests His presence in some form (and indeed He has on multiple occasions in the Scriptures), the eyes of man simply cannot see Him. It is as futile as trying to see the wind. We see only its effects, but not wind itself.

But the greatest miracle happened. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-4, 14).

The second Person of the Godhead “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men (Php 2:7)” in order to pay the price we could not pay. The Holy Spirit revealed that “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he (Jesus) also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” (Heb 2:14-17).

Jesus Christ is “the brightness of his (God’s) glory, and the express image of his person.” (Heb 1:3). He said to His disciples the same night He was betrayed, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” (John 14:9). In the person of the Lord Jesus, men have seen God! Truly this must be the greatest miracle.

After His resurrection, Jesus ascended to heaven and “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Heb 1:3). Before His departure, He gave the Great Commission to His disciples (Mat 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-48). Though He may be physically here no longer, His body remains to continue His work of seeking and saving the lost (cf. Luke 19:10). This is no contradiction, for the Scriptures expressly tell us that the church is His body (Eph 1:22-23; Col 1:18).

Now, no man shall see God who is a Spirit. But the world does and still sees the body of Christ, His church. It is with this in mind that the Lord instructed us, “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. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Mat 5:13-16).

It has always been God’s way to show the world His glory through the holiness of His people. In the wilderness of Sinai after Jehovah rescued Israel from Egypt, He told them, “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation…” (Exo 19:5-6).

Forty years later, before the army of Israel marched into Canaan to take hold of the Promised Land, Moses reminded them, “Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?” (Deu 4:5-8).

It is the same today for the church of Jesus Christ. Peter tells us: “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ…But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light…Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1Pe 2:5, 9, 11-12).

How shall the world ‘see’ God today? The world sees the Lord in us, His body. We do justice to His name by holiness and faithful obedience to His commands. Let us live as the glorious people of God that the world may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. He is pleased when He watches His children doing our utmost for Him and delighting to do His will. It is surely the wisdom of God that it is so, for actions do speak louder than words at the right moments. Let the world see the power of the gospel to save and sanctify men and women through our holy living.

May the Lord continue to bless His people, who are called by His name, that we may live worthy as children of God.