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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Adding the Ceiling and the Roof

Some activities have pleasing side effects. We start jogging to lose weight and find that it also relieves tension. We invest in IRAs to avoid taxes but end up with a tidy retirement. We stop to help a family whose car is broken down and end up converting them and becoming friends. Prayer is like that. It has side effects – and they are all pleasant. These are not answers that God gives to prayers, but are extras He throws in to praying churches (cf. 1 Kings 3). You could say God tops off His answers to prayer with additional blessings. In the analogy of building a house (church) of prayer, these crowning blessings are the ceiling and roof.

A Praying Church Will Have Fewer Rebellious and Unruly Members.

Jesus spent more time in prayer than any man in Scripture, and it is not coincidental that He was also God’s most submissive Servant (Matthew 26:39; John 5:30; 6:38; 12:28; 14:31; Romans 15:3). When we pray as He taught us, Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth, and forgive us our sins (Luke 11:2-4), we come away without the baggage of pride, which is the fuel that starts church fires. Our perspective is better on our knees. We come to see ourselves as beggars needing what only God can give (cf. Matthew 5:3). We can better see the big picture when we are small in our own eyes. God is in heaven; we are on earth. God is infinite; we are finite. God sees the future; we have trouble understanding the present. God on His worst day is better than we are on our best day (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:25). The more we pray, the more we recognize that we are impotence kneeling in the presence of Power and need holding a hand out to Supply.

The more time we spend thinking about God, the less likely we are to rely upon ourselves. Jesus, when He was one of us, expressed man’s position: I can of mine own self do nothing, I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me (John 5:30). Job was a man of prayer, and he learned to submit to God whatever the circumstances. At the death of all his children, and the loss of all his property, he still said, the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD (Job 1:21). David spent much time at God’s throne, and came back with the attitude, behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him (2 Samuel 15:26). When Israel saw their true condition, they prayed, do thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto thee, (Judges 10:15). Even though the message was against him, Eli said, It is the LORD: let him do what seemeth him good (1 Samuel 3:18).

If preachers taught churches to spend more time in prayer during the week, there would be less arguing with his sermons on Sunday. If elders led their flocks into meaningful prayer, they will have fewer of them disputing their decisions. If we went back to praying as Jesus prayed, there would be no rejecting of God’s Truth for innovations He never put a stamp of approval upon. God tops off the efforts of a praying church with peace and a submissive membership.


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God Grants Churches Wisdom in Answer to Prayer

How many churches are trying to live down the mistakes of past elderships and preachers? Some are boxed in be-cause they did not have the wisdom to buy enough property; others have properties not conducive to growth because they are so out-of-the way visitors must have directions to find them. Some store up money as if the church were a bank while missionaries and good works go unsupported; others pay interest on hundreds of thousands while missionaries and good works go unsupported. Some have built great sprawling facilities they can never pay for with their membership base; others built too small and had to add on before they got it paid off. We’ve not practiced church discipline and now the church is weak and worldly, or we’ve practiced it with poor judgment and split the church (cf. 1 Corinthians 5; 2 Thessalonians 3). Preachers with poor business and ethical judgment have ruined the influence of the church in the community (and then moved on). Some have preached hard and mean and turned away those who were not yet ready for meat (Ephesians 4:15; Hebrews 5:12-14; Mark 4:33); others have set the church up to be led astray by never preaching on the issues (2 Timothy 4:1-6). Churches have invested in missionaries and Christian education without sufficiently checking the soundness and/or work ethic of those involved and hurt the Cause instead of furthering it.

Churches need wisdom much more than they need money or members. If we have wisdom, we will eventually get money and members. And without wisdom we will likely lose the money and members we now have. Solomon wrote, The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools (Proverbs 3:35) and, there is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up (21:20).

How do we keep from making serious mistakes? Pray for wisdom! James promised God gives it freely in answer to prayer (1:1-6). Paul told the Ephesians, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him (1:16,17). He also prayed that the Philippian church would have judgment to approve things that are excellent, (1:9). He told the Colossians that he did: not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding (1:9).

After World War II a great cry arose because the Allies never bombed the railroad tracks which led to Auschwitz. Although they knew hundreds of thousands of Jews and Slovaks were being transported along these tracks to death camps, the Allied forces never bombed the tracks. They had the power but refused to use it. What about us? Are we less to blame if a congregation and individual Christians are dying and we could help stop the process? Do we use the prayer power available to us to change evil into good? Do we use prayer as a weapon against the things we complain about in our world or even in our congregations?
Let’s have a word of prayer.


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What Happens When the Church of Christ Prays?

A very timid woman wanted to participate in the visitation program of her church, but was petrified by the thought of actually visiting somebody. The preacher, sensing her anxiety, recommended that she pray before each visit. He noted God’s promise to give peace which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6). A week later the woman was walking on Cloud Nine. She jubilantly told the preacher, You were right – prayer works! Before each one of my visits I prayed that the people wouldn’t be home, and they weren’t! Her prayers worked against the best interests of the church. What about mine? Do they work for the church? What could happen in the local congregation if I prayed?

God Increased Love Within a Congregation in Answer to Prayer.

For what is the church I attend best known? That’s the church that doesn’t use pianos. That’s the church that believes in baptism for salvation. That’s the church whose members think they are the only ones going to heaven. That’s the church that doesn’t have Sunrise services at Easter or Cantatas at Christmas. That’s the church that doesn’t call its preacher, ‘reverend.’ These are all good things for the community to know about us, but are any of these the thing for which Jesus would want His church best known? Wouldn’t it be better if they said of us, That’s the church that loves each other (cf. John 13:33,34)? Or, that’s a church that really believes in prayer? A loving, praying congregation will outgrow an unloving, prayerless one every year. Love shows the community that these are Christ’s followers in a way sermons never could (John 13:34,35). How do we get our members to love each other? Several ways, but one is to pray for it. Paul said, And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more, (Philippians 1:9).

God Unites a Congregation in Answer to Prayer.

Some churches seem to believe in prayer about as much as a ship’s captain caught in a storm. When it was evident that the ship would not survive a storm, the captain called out to his crew, does anyone here know how to pray? One volunteered with, Yes, sir, I do. Good, the captain replied. You pray while the rest of us put on our life jackets. We’re one short. Congregations need an all for one, one for all attitude. Jesus would never have prayed, for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me (John 17:20,21), if it were not possible for unity to come about through prayer. The early church continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, (Acts 1:14). Is your congregation or a congregation you know of suffering from disunity? Are brethren biting and devouring one another (Galatians 5:15)? Pray for them. Churches grow in love’s greenhouse, but die in a freezer.
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The Praying Church – Part 4

God Empowers Us Through Prayer.

We are heirs of an earth-shaking tradition. When Jesus died, the earth shook (Matthew 27:51); when He was resurrected, the earth shook (Matthew 28:2); when the church began, the earth shook (cf. Hebrews 13:26,27); when the disciples prayed, the earth shook (Acts 4:31); when Paul and Silas prayed in prison, the earth shook (Acts 16:25,26). God gives His people power in answer to prayer. We cannot dismiss this by saying, Well, that was when the church was more exciting, and God won’t give us power today. It is true that God does not give out miraculous power today (1 Corinthians 13:8-10), but untrue that He does not dispense providential power today. Paul wrote, Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power (2 Thessalonians 1:11). Jesus said, and all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive (Matthew 22:21; cf. Mark 11:24). A prayer-less church will be a powerless church. A prayerful church will be a powerful church. Jesus told His disciples, “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38), implying that they would receive strength to fight temptation by prayer. If churches prayed more, they would sinless. Sin is the greatest hindrance to growth, for it causes God to withhold His blessings, and sinners to be turned away.

God Enables Us Through Prayer.

There are four ways to affect church growth: convert lost sinners (bring them in the front door); keep weak members from falling away (going out the back door); restore erring members back to service; and lead unfruitful saints to fruit-bearing (John 15:1-5). Genuine prayer helps in each area. We can, and should pray for ourselves to be stronger (Matthew 6:13; Luke 11:4). (Remember a stronger church begins with me.) Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!” And God granted him that which he requested (1 Chronicles 4:10; cf. Psalm 121:7).

We can also pray for other Christians to be stronger. Jesus told Peter: “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32; cf. John 17:9-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:3). Paul wrote, “Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest,” (2 Corinthians 13:6; cf. Philippians 1:4-6; Colossians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 5:23). John wrote, “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it” (1 John 5:16). We have far more need to pray that we may not do evil, than that we may not suffer evil. The apostle not only desired that they might be kept from sin, but also that they might grow in grace, and increase in holiness (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:1).

 


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The Lord Stands With You

One of the saddest passages in the New Testament must be the last chapter of Paul’s second epistle to Timothy (2 Timothy 4).  Paul there prophesied that in later days some brethren would turn away from the Truth, seeking false teachers who would tell them fables of what they “wanted to hear,” rather than the Truth they actually needed to hear.  He encouraged Timothy not to be swayed by the demands of those weak brethren, but instead to be a faithful “Gospel” preacher, both “in season and out of season.”  Or, as brother Marshall Keeble used to say, “that means to preach the Word, both when they like it and when they don’t like it.”

Paul then predicted that he was not long for the world (2 Timothy 4:6), but confidently affirmed that this was not troubling for him, as he was spiritually ready to meet the Lord and receive his reward for faithful service.  However, there is a note of distress and loneliness in the last half of the chapter as he wrote of Demas, who forsook him, of Alexander the coppersmith, who did him much evil, and of the fact that, at his first hearing before the emperor, all men forsook him as he stood alone (2 Timothy 4:10, 14, 16).

But then, in what may well be one of the most obscure passages found in the Bible, which gives encouragement for faithful Christian living, Paul shared the secret strength which kept him going on, despite the discouragement of weak and unfaithful brethren, who often let him down.  He wrote, “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:17-18)

If ever a man had the right to be discouraged and want to quit the Christian life, Paul did.  Whenever you are feeling sorrow for yourself because of the sacrifices you’ve had to make to be a faithful Christian, just flip over to 2 Corinthians 11: 22-28 and read of the tribulation Paul suffered—195 lashes at the end of a whip, 3 times beaten with rods, stoned and left for dead, frequently imprisoned, shipwrecked, robbed, hungry, and some of this at the hands of his brethren.  The brethren did let him down!  But Paul didn’t let the unbelief, the spiritual weakness, and the unfaithfulness of his brethren cause him to be discouraged enough to quit.  He said, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;  Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)

Oh, brothers and sisters, how we need to learn this secret Paul discovered to keep him going on.  He was converted to Jesus, and not to the brethren.  He understood that his commitment was ultimately to Jesus, not to the brethren.  And when the brethren forsook him, as the brethren are sometimes prone to do, he knew that Jesus was still with him.  He knew that, as long as the Lord still had a work for him to do, the Lord would deliver him, stand by him, and preserve him, until the Lord was ready to call him home to glory.  That knowledge kept him going on, despite the discouragement of his brethren.

Brethren are going to let you down.  It ought not to be that way, but that is reality, because the brethren are human. Human beings, even Christian ones, are weak, make mistakes, and sometimes will be unfaithful and will let you down.  If your commitment to the Lord hinges on the faithfulness of your brethren, you are in for a lifetime of heartache and disappointment.  Jesus said, concerning the way of salvation that leads to eternal life, “few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14) “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”, and thus it has always been the case that only the faithful few will be found doing the Lord’s work.

You must not let that discourage you!  Your commitment is to Christ, Who will never let you down!  You will work for Him no matter what anyone else does, because your relationship to Him does not depend on what others do, or don’t do.  If your work for Him goes unnoticed or unappreciated by others, so what?  It matters not, for you’re working for His glory, and not your own.  If, sadly, everyone forsakes you, and you have to stand alone, you’ll know in your heart, soul, and mind that you are not really alone, for the LORD STANDS WITH YOU!

Therefore, my beloved
brethren, be ye stedfast,
unmoveable, always
abounding in the work of
the Lord,  forasmuch as ye
know that your labour is
not in vain in the Lord.
(1 Corinthians 15:58 )