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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Redeeming the Time

Time is our most precious resource. Once it passes, we will never get it back. Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, once said, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.” There is great wisdom in that.

Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time (Col 4:5).” In our modern speech, we might express the same verse this way: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.”

The apostle adds further to this instruction in his letter to the Ephesians.

“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).”

To walk circumspectly is to be careful how we walk. This of course has reference to how we live our lives, especially toward those who are outside of Christ. Christians are to walk in wisdom as opposed to the foolishness of this world.

What does it mean to walk in wisdom? It is to understand the will of the Lord. We are not meant to walk according to the cultural values of this world. Christians live by a higher, divine standard.

John has famously said that we are not to love the world or the things in the world. He draws a clear dividing line between those who love the world and those who love God. “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1Jn 2:15).”

Part of living carefully among unbelievers is to make the best use of time. A reason Paul gives is because the days are evil. A cursory glance at the headlines of most newspapers is a stark reminder of the godless age we live in.

Time is running out. When the Lord returns, He will bring with Him judgement for all nations (cf. Mat 25:31-33). We shall have to account for how we live, i.e. how we spend our time and what we spend it on.

There is a fact which will do us much good the earlier we become aware of it. We often plan and live as if we will go on living forever, or at least, we will live for a very long time.

The wise man said, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest (Ecc 9:10).”

Spending our time in constructive activities is good practice. Gainful employment is one such example. It is a scriptural mandate that we should work. “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat (2Th 3:10).”

Using part of our time in service to the Lord and the community, improving our proficiency in various areas of our lives, spending quality time with loved ones to build meaningful relationships are further examples of constructive use of time.

The opposite of that is to waste time in too much recreation or worse, unwholesome activities.

It has become a common sight in public to see the majority of people with their eyes glued to their mobile devices. A quick glance will reveal that most of them are watching dramas, playing games or on some social media like Facebook and Instagram.

Some recreation is good and necessary but over indulgence can become a snare. How about using the time in public transport to read the Bible or a good book, memorizing scripture, or even pray?

This may escape notice, but we can waste time too in improper use of the mind. Paul says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Php 4:8).”

When we spend our time brooding over some real or imaginary slight, or fantasize over the impossible or improbable, building castles in the air, we waste precious time. We are to love the Lord our God with our mind (cf. Mark 12:30). This calls for discipline on our part.

Brooding over past mistakes or sins can also become a time-eater. If there is anything in our lives that are not in peace with God, let us immediately repent and confess; God is faithful to forgive.

Once we have been forgiven, let us move on to better things. Paul said of himself, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Php 3:13-14).”

The biggest time-eater perhaps is simply laziness. We know what we ought to do; we know the longer we drag our feet, the more time we waste and we will never get it back. Yet we procrastinate and prefer to do something else—something pleasurable.

Keeping in mind that this age we live in is evil and that we are to walk in wisdom, let us “gird up the loins of your mind, be sober (cf. 1Pe 1:13)” and redeem the time. Do we love life? Yes, of course. Then let us be careful how we use this most precious of resources.

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What is Your Decision?

Decisions. We make them every single day. Most of our daily decisions are thankfully not life-and-death ones. But now and then we are faced with extraordinary decisions with serious consequences. These are the ones we cannot afford to be careless about.

Israel was presented by Joshua with the most important decision in their thus far short existence as a nation, a decision central to their survival and prosperity.

Joshua declared to Israel the word of Jehovah their God, reminding them of what God had done for them (cf. Joshua 24:1-13). He followed that with an exhortation.

“Now therefore fear Jehovah, and serve him in sincerity and in truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, and in Egypt; and serve ye Jehovah (Jos 24:14).”

The aged leader understood only too well that this was a decision that each and every Israelite must make for himself and herself. As much as the people loved and respected him, he could not decide for them.

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve Jehovah, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah (Jos 24:15).”

The people, perhaps because of the solemnity of the occasion or the euphoria of conquest, gave a resounding answer.

“And the people answered and said, Far be it from us that we should forsake Jehovah, to serve other gods; for Jehovah our God, he it is that brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and that did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the peoples through the midst of whom we passed; and Jehovah drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites that dwelt in the land: therefore we also will serve Jehovah; for he is our God (Jos 24:16-18).”

The wise old leader shook his head. These dear children were too quick to reply; they had not given due consideration. He could see they were caught up in the emotions of the moment.

“And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve Jehovah; for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgression nor your sins. If ye forsake Jehovah, and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you evil, and consume you, after that he hath done you good (Jos 24:19-20).”

But the people insisted: “And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve Jehovah (Jos 24:21).”

So Joshua held them to their words. Very well, since you insist you know what you are doing; since you make your decision with both eyes opened.

“And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you Jehovah, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses. Now therefore put away, said he, the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto Jehovah, the God of Israel. And the people said unto Joshua, Jehovah our God will we serve, and unto his voice will we hearken. So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a great stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of Jehovah. And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us; for it hath heard all the words of Jehovah which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness against you, lest ye deny your God (Jos 24:22-27).”

Israel was true to their covenant made at Shechem for as long as Joshua and his generation of leaders continued to lead them.

“And the people served Jehovah all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work of Jehovah that he had wrought for Israel (Jdg 2:7).”

But the history of Israel tells us of the tragedy that followed not very long after. Joshua died, and soon the other elders as well. The hearts of the people began to turn away from God.

“…and there arose another generation after them, that knew not Jehovah, nor yet the work which he had wrought for Israel. And the children of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, and served the Baalim; and they forsook Jehovah, the God of their fathers, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the peoples that were round about them, and bowed themselves down unto them: and they provoked Jehovah to anger. And they forsook Jehovah, and served Baal and the Ashtaroth (Jdg 2:10-13).”

Decisions. We make them every single day. “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” This decision Joshua presented to ancient Israel passes to every one of us of the spiritual Israel. The Lord says:

“No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (Luke 16:13).”

What is your decision? Who will you serve?

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What’s the Point of the Old Testament?

The Lord Jesus declared on the cross, “It is finished (John 19:30).” He has completed the work His Father has sent Him to do—to be the propitiation for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

“For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth (Heb 9:16-17).”

By His sacrificial death Jesus has fulfilled the covenant made at Sinai with the children of Israel and established a second, better covenant.

Today we are amenable to this New Testament established by the blood of Christ. No longer are we to keep the ordinances of the old. But even so the Old Testament scriptures remain an indispensable part of our Christian heritage.

The question often asked is: what purpose did the Old Testament, or the Law of Moses, serve?

Paul went to some length to explain to the Galatian saints.

“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made (Gal 3:19)…”

First of all, the law was given as an ‘instructor’ to teach what sin is. Paul explained the same point in Romans.

“…I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet (Rom 7:7).”

Second, the Old Testament law was never meant to justify anyone; rather, it condemned everyone as sinners.

“…for if there had been a law given which could make alive, verily righteousness would have been of the law. But the scriptures shut up all things under sin (Gal 3:21-22)…”

The same law cannot both condemn and acquit a person at the same time; that is a self-contradiction. Paul has made clear in Romans that both Jews and Gentiles are under sin.

“What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we before laid to the charge both of Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin…for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:9, 23).”

Thirdly, it is the faith, or the New Testament system, which alone can save.

“…that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith (Gal 3:22-24).”

The law acted as a guardian, pointing and leading the way to the system of faith which does save—the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Rom 1:16).”

Besides its purpose of explaining what sin is and pointing the way to the gospel, the Old Testament also helps to instil hope in us.

“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the scriptures we might have hope (Rom 15:4).”

How do the Old Testament scriptures instil hope in us? When we turn to the pages of the Old Testament we read about the many times God exercised His faithfulness toward His chosen people, Israel.

God did mighty works in their behalf—destroying the army of Pharaoh in the Red Sea, leading the children of Israel across the wilderness into the Promised Land, wiping out the Assyrian army that laid siege to Jerusalem.

We read also of the times God took care of individuals who trusted in Him and obeyed Him. The heroes and heroines of the faith, some of them unnamed, are all examples for our learning straight out of the Old Testament scriptures.

We are reminded time and again of the power and faithfulness of our God. Truly, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps 46:1).” Through the scriptures, we find the hope we need to carry on with our pilgrimage to our eternal home in heaven.

The Old Testament also serves as needful warning for us.

“Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted…Now these things happened unto them by way of example; and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come (1Co 10:6, 11).”

The Old Testament not only gives us examples to emulate but also examples to avoid. Along the Christian journey we find traps and pitfalls laid out for us. Not all of our predecessors in the faith successfully navigated the minefield which is this world.

The Old Testament scriptures remind us of the children of Israel in the wilderness, how so many of them never made it to Canaan because of their rebellion and unbelief. Truly we need to pay attention to these tragic examples.

We are today amenable to the New Testament of Jesus Christ. But let us remember the Old Testament forms part of our complete inspired scriptures from God. There is so much we can learn from the beauty that is the Old Testament scriptures.

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God Hates Divorce

Divorce remains one of the greatest social ills. The Statistics on marriages and divorces for 2016, released by the Singapore Department of Statistics on 18 July 2017, reveals that divorce in Singapore is at a 10-year high.

Among the reasons given for this increase in divorces are infidelity, money woes, lack of communication, irreconcilable differences and—would you believe it—weight gain.

Whatever the reasons given for divorce, it is hard to deny that divorce brings with it terrible ramifications. It destroys families, hurt the innocent (especially children), leaves psychological and emotional wounds that take a long time to heal, place massive stress on finances, etc.

While divorce has been a social norm for a long time, God’s attitude toward divorce remains steadfast and unchanged. The people of Israel wanted to know why God rejected their offerings and petitions. He explained through the prophet Malachi one of the reasons.

“Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks a godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously (Mal 2:14-16).”

God hates divorce. Surely the increase in divorces is a sure sign of the growing godlessness of the society we live in.

The church is the salt of the earth (Mat 5:13). But as the Lord says, if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

It is our task to voice out against this appalling social ill. In the short course of our national history we have been blessed bountifully. But let’s not take it for granted that God’s blessings will continue if we allow our morality to plunge.

“Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people (Pro 14:34).”

But doesn’t God allow divorce as Moses in the Law had made provisions?

“When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favour in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and send her out of his house (Deu 24:1)…”

The Jews apparently had been abusing this text to divorce their wives for just any reason, much like today’s society (weight gain? Seriously?).

The Pharisees thought this would be a thorny issue to challenge Jesus, so they came to Him one day and asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason (Mat 19:3)?”

A root of the problem is the understanding of what Moses meant by “found some uncleanness in her.” Jesus began by correcting their erroneous thinking that God approves of divorce.

“And He answered and said unto them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this reason a man shall leave father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So then they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate (Mat 19:4-6).’”

Referring to Deuteronomy 24:1, the Pharisees tried to press their issue. “They say to Him, ‘Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away (Mat 19:7)?”

Jesus expounded to them the scripture. First of all, Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of the people’s hearts against the ordinance of God on the sanctity of marriage (v. 8). The Lord goes on to explain what Moses meant by “found some uncleanness in her.”

“And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery (Mat 19:9).”

The only acceptable reason for divorce is fornication, which is illicit sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons or two persons not married to each other. Anyone who divorces his/her spouse other than for sexual infidelity and remarries is guilty of adultery. And anyone who marries the one guilty of fornication is likewise guilty of adultery.

Jesus explains what Moses meant by ‘uncleanness’. It is fornication. There is no contradiction in the scriptures. It is men who twist the word of God to gratify their inordinate desires.

God hates divorce. Just because He allows it due to the hardness of men’s hearts does not mean He approves of it. In Rom 1:28 we learn that “God gave them (the wicked) over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting”. It does not mean God either condones or approves of sin.