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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Peace with One Another

Name one thing the world desires and it would be ‘peace’. Nations at odds with each other all claim to want peace—whether with one another is something else altogether. Songs have been written and many more will be written about peace.

It is true also on a personal scale. Just about every one of us desires to live in peace. No one really enjoys a conflict just for the sake of it. Anyone who does is probably suffering from some deep-seated emotional or psychological issues.

Mankind has been on a grand quest for peace for the longest time. Philosophers and religionists have for millennia been exploring the question of how to acquire peace. Countless lives have been lost on this quest; blood spilled in violence for the sake of achieving it. Every soldier on the battlefield puts his life on the line for this elusive peace.

Living in this world with its sad state of affairs, Christians are to do our part to alleviate its pain by proactively working for peace. “Follow peace with all (Heb 12:14)…”

“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men (Rom 12:18).”

Peace begins with God. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8).” Without the initiative from God to restore peace, there would be no hope for mankind.

The practice of peace, therefore, must begin in the household of God, the church. “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another (Rom 14:19).”

Peace is fragile in the sense that it can be easily damaged. We have to nurture and cultivate it, cherish and treasure it. Peace is not passive. From the words of Scriptures we learn that a peace-seeking person is one who actively works for it.

“For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it (1Pe 3:10-11).”

Peace has often been jeopardized due to a lack of self-control over one’s emotions, especially anger. When blood rushes to the head and anger takes over, clear thinking is almost non-existent. Cruel words and sometimes actions are unleashed which hurt and endanger even the closest relationships.

We have no excuse when that happens. Christians know we ought to “put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking out of your mouth (Col 3:8).” God tells us the proper response to take. “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger (Pro 15:1).”

Young children are egocentric. To them, they are the centre of their little universe. As they gradually grow they learn the virtue of putting others before self and caring for the needs of others as they do their own.

Adults behaving selfishly, on the other hand, are unbecoming. When we insist that self-interest must come first at the expense of others or of the greater good of the whole, conflict usually follows.

“In love of the brethren be tenderly affectioned one to another; in honor preferring one another (Rom 12:10).”

Promoting peace in the Lord’s family is every Christian’s duty. When we love the church as the Lord loves us, we will do all that is necessary to pursue peace in His name. Disagreements inevitably occur as they do in every family but we will find a way to work things out in peace.

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others (Php 2:3-4).”

In dealing with hurt and conflicts, a common instinct is to retaliate, to return hurt for hurt received. This may be the way of the world but in the family of God, this is against the ethical conduct of Christians.

Rather than returning evil for evil, we are to return good for evil.

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:19-21).”

In the church, we have different personalities, background and upbringing. What works for one may not work for another. It is good to practise patience with one another and to seek first to understand than to be understood.

The Lord gave us the principle which makes for peace: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets (Mat 7:12).”

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Still, it takes some real effort on our part to accord unto others the same respect, consideration, kindness and patience we almost take for granted is our right to have.

Peace must begin in the family of God. The Lord said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35).”

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Sober Living in a Twisted World

So much of what we read in the news these days expresses the moral climate of the world we live in. Certain ideas and actions which used to be censured are lauded today as human rights, and for a person to continue to censure them is to risk being labeled ‘intolerant’.

Take the so-called LGBT movement, for instance. Many social activists and politicians are pushing for homosexuality, transgenderism, bisexuality and transsexuality to be accepted as legitimate, mainstream alternatives to heterosexuality.

It is strange to read about how in certain developed countries—which boast of religious freedom—the expression of one’s belief in religion is aggressively persecuted while atheism, agnosticism and hedonism are applauded as enlightened beliefs.

When morality becomes subjective, a plaything to be moulded to one’s fancy and discarded when it doesn’t serve one’s purpose, mankind is on the slide to deeper morass of social ills.

In just such a setting, Christians can be sucked into the whirlpool and lose our influence. It becomes even more urgent for the church, the pillar and ground of the truth (1Ti 3:15), to carry out the Lord’s command to let our light shine.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Mat 5:16).”

The apostle Paul was fully aware of the moral degradation of the Roman lifestyle. In his letter to Titus he reminded his protégé of the moral duty of Christians to uphold a standard vastly superior to that of the world.

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Tit 2:11-14).”

Christians are to live sober lives in contrast to a world drunken in sin. The dividing line between one who lives for self and sin and one who lives for the glory of God must be distinct and precise.

Christians are called upon to exercise a sound mind, to practise self-control and not give in to the impulse of illicit pleasure. It can be a challenge given this environment we live in. All the more so we need to be vigilant.

In the same letter to Titus, Paul gave a series of instructions for the church. Christians are people who live with a purpose; we are not drifters tossed to and fro by the fads of this world.

“That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded (Tit 2:2-6).”

Again we see the apostle exhorting the church to be sober. He spelt out the details of what it means to live soberly, to have a clear mind. It requires us to give careful thought to our conduct and the influence we might have on those around us.

There are things which are serious, like the matters of one’s standing with God, righteous living, honesty and self-control. The godless of this world jest about these things. Where people used to blush at religious jokes, it’s not uncommon to hear it from our pulpits these days.

Sober living requires us to also give careful thought about what we believe and why we believe. The faith of Jesus Christ is not built upon wild imagination or a weak psyche as many detractors allege. It is built on the word of God with sound evidence and reasoning.

Having a deep reverence for God’s word and His worship is an indispensable component of sober living. Christians search the Scriptures deeply to discover the will of God, and once we discover it, we joyfully obey it.

In all things Christians who live soberly keep the Lord in mind. His glory is our foremost concern; we carry His name—‘Christ-ian’—and constantly remember we must be careful not to bring His holy name into disrepute.

Sober Christians love the Lord’s church with fervency worthy of the Lord. He loves His church and gave Himself for it (Eph 5:25). Likewise we who make up His church must fervently love the brotherhood and the Lord, who is the Head of the church (Col 1:18).

“This world is not my home”, we often sing. Yes, this is a world twisted by sin. Its allurements try powerfully to pull us over to partake of its forbidden fruits. Sober Christians, like Moses, choose “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season (Heb 11:25).”

The Lord has promised us an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us (1Pe 1:4). This is the home and final glory we aim for. To inherit this great blessing, let us live soberly in this twisted world.

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Gratitude Robbers

The church is made up of grateful people. Grateful for the grace of God; grateful for the salvation He gave us in His Son Jesus. Grateful for the spiritual blessings we have in Christ and the inheritance He has prepared for us.

This gratitude must be expressed. The apostle Paul says, “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 5:20).”

In 1The 5:18 he adds, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

But there are three things that can possibly rob us of this sense of gratitude. These three things are common enough; but precisely because they are so common they sometimes escape our attention.

The first and most common is pride. This is the attitude that says, “Nobody ever gave me anything, I worked hard for everything I have.” For years we have studied and laboured and now it is finally paying off.

With this kind of attitude, we feel that the chief credit belongs to us. We may have certain individuals in mind to thank but they take secondary spot to us. This is the mindset most promoted in the world: “Fulfill your own destiny; awaken the giant within!”

Taking responsibility for ourselves is a good and necessary thing but if we are too haughty to listen to reproof or suggestions, we are setting ourselves up for a fall.

The Bible has much to say about pride. “A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit (Pro 29:23).”

A highly accomplished scholar with multiple PhDs and awards was visiting the countryside and wanted to cross a river. He offered money to an old fisherman to ferry him across and they got on the fisherman’s little boat.

While they were on the way, the scholar started a conversation with the fisherman. “Tell me, sir, have you studied the classics?” The old man smiled and shook his head. “Ah,” the scholar said. “Then you have wasted a quarter of your life!”

The scholar asked again, “Tell me, sir, do you know thermodynamics?” Again the old man smiled and shook his head. “Ah,” the scholar said. “Then you have wasted another quarter of your life!”

The scholar asked once more. “Tell me, sir, do you know how to read and write?” The old man smiled and shook his head. “I’m afraid, sir,” the scholar said sadly. “You have wasted three quarters of your life!”

Just then a sudden storm overtook them and capsized the boat. The men were thrown into the water. The scholar was struggling desperately to keep his head above water.

The old fisherman then asked him. “Tell me, sir, do you know how to swim?” The scholar, coughing and spewing water, cried, “No!”

“Ah,” the fisherman said. “Then I’m afraid, sir, you are going to lose ALL of your life!”

The wise man says, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall (Pro 16:18).”

Another attitude that robs our gratitude is a critical spirit, constantly complaining about people and things. This is the opposite of gratitude and contentment. If we are content and grateful for the blessings we enjoy, there won’t be much to complain about.

The problem with ancient Israel in the wilderness was because they were ungrateful and discontent. Paul warned us, “Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer (1Co 10:10).”

A critical spirit doesn’t show itself only in complaining. It also shows itself in being a busybody, poking our noses in other people’s affairs, criticising and judging others for what they do or do not do.

It is always easier to point out the faults in others; always easier to tell others what they should and should not do rather than taking heed to ourselves.

Paul says, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee (1Ti 4:16).”

Peter adds, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters (1Pe 4:15).”

A third attitude that destroys gratitude is carelessness, or taking things for granted as if we have every right in the world to deserve God’s blessings.

One of the best inventions of the 20th century, in my opinion, is the humble air-conditioner. Imagine what it will be like for us in this part of the world without it! Yet it is easy for us to simply take it for granted.

The Israelites grumbled because they had no food so God miraculously sent them manna. Then they grumbled again because they were sick of eating the same thing every day. God gave them food and water but they were no longer satisfied.

Pride, carelessness or a critical spirit will prevent us from being truly thankful for all that God has given us.

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Profile of a Moral Weakling

Herod Antipas was a son of the infamous Herod the Great, who ordered the slaughter of children two years and younger in a diabolical attempt to kill Jesus, whom he reckoned as a threat to his throne (cf. Matthew 2:16-18).

As the fame of Jesus grew, word eventually reached Herod Antipas. Jesus was not just another itinerant preacher—there were many such preachers in those days—but He could attract multitudes numbering in the thousands by His supernatural ability.

This alone would be a matter of concern for the authorities. Anyone who could muster thousands, especially one of whom it was whispered that he might be the Promised One, would raise the red flag.

The authorities were constantly on the look-out for potential trouble-makers and insurgents. To keep his political power, Herod Antipas had to prove to his Roman overlords that he could keep the peace.

But when news of Jesus reached Antipas’ ears, his response was rather odd for a savvy politician who had no qualms in ruthlessly snuffing out anyone suspected of getting in his way.

“At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him (Mat 14:1-2).”

Imagine the quizzical looks on the faces of Antipas’ servants when he made such a strange remark. They were probably expecting him to convey instructions to keep a close watch on this Jesus of Nazareth; however, their boss compared this preacher with another preacher who died not long before.

Matthew and Luke both told us the cause of this strange behaviour.

“For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife. For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her (Mat 14:3-4).”

“But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison (Luke 3:19-20).”

According to the first century Jewish historian Josephus, Antipas met Herodias while he visited his half-brother Philip. Antipas and Herodias agreed to divorce their respective spouses and live together. They were therefore committing adultery according to God’s law.

John had boldly preached against Antipas and Herodias. Herodias demanded that John be killed, yet Herod was afraid to do so.

“Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly (Mark 6:19-20).”

Antipas did not hear John gladly with the intent to obey; he did not keep John safe out of respect and wanted to make amends for his sins. Antipas did all that because he feared a possible uproar by the people if he killed John.

So he tried to buy John’s silence by being kind to him, but without the slightest remorse. This was the wily politician at work, on the one hand staving off a public outcry which could jeopardise his political career and on the other hand trying to stop Herodias demanding for John’s head.

Herod Antipas, whom Jesus would later label a fox (cf. Luke 13:32)—a picture of his slyness and untrustworthiness—probably thought he was a brilliant political maneuverer. But it all came apart for him on his birthday.

He threw a birthday party for himself and invited his cronies and political allies over for a time of drunken debauchery, “when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him (cf. Mark 6:22).”

The sense was not lost that the lecherous Antipas lusted after the young woman who enticed him with her sensuous dancing. To impress her and his guests, he declared to her, “Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom (Mark 6:22-23)!”

After consulting with her mother, the young woman came back and said to the pompous king: “I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist (Mark 6:25)!”

Immediately Antipas’ countenance fell. The smugness washed off his face, replaced by a look of deep regret and helplessness. No, he was not sorry for John. He was dismayed at having been out-maneuvered. The fox was outplayed at his own game.

“And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother (Mark 6:27-28).”

This is the Scripture’s profile of a moral weakling, Herod Antipas. He had the chance to repent at the preaching of John but chose his life of sin. He could have opened his eyes to see the evidence of the signs Jesus performed but chose to remain morally blind with contempt.

“And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate (Luke 23:11).”

Herod Antipas hardened his heart against God. Like Antipas, many today have heard the Word. Like Antipas, many today are aware of the mighty works of Jesus. And like Antipas, many today harden their hearts and choose a life of sin.

What will it be for us? Obedience is not a one-time act. It is a conscious, conscientious and daily act. It is putting the glory of God before self-interest. Herod Antipas placed himself at the centre of his puny, vain universe. This was the reason for his moral weakness.