Rejoicing and Weeping Together (III): At Home

To have empathy in the church, we must practise it in our covenant homes.

1 John 4:20, which we quoted earlier on, applies to our covenant home. We are called to love our spiritual brothers and sisters in the home — father, mother, and siblings. Not expressing that love in empathy taints our love for God. Again, let us take heed to this stern warning from God’s Word and strive to deal with each other with empathy.

Children of covenant homes are called to have empathy. Our catechism brings out this calling, instructing children to “patiently bear with [their parents’] weaknesses and infirmities” (Q&A 104). “To bear” starts with acknowledging our parents’ struggle with sin. Remember that weeping with those that weep means we take the person’s sorrow over anything — including the sorrow from struggling with sin — and put it on ourselves, so that keenly feel the burden of that sorrow.

Youth, God calls you to feel the struggles of father and mother over their sins. That consciousness will lead you to pray that the Lord would preserve and sanctify your parents through those struggles. Doing so may seem bizarre; but love for your parents will lead you to pray for your parents, even as our High Priest intercedes for us out of His love for us.

As youth, we show empathy also by showing an understanding for our parents’ earthly struggles. Think of father as the employee — working in the day; coming home to help mother with the chores; preparing for a Bible study or a committee meeting. Think of mother as the manager of the home — laundry, dishes, ironing, and groceries are no small tasks. Think of the fatigue that sets in by the end of the week and the pressures they face at home or at work.

Our actions can be used to show our parents that we are aware of their struggles. Being aware of their struggles, you do your part at home — helping in the chores, controlling your time playing phone games on your own, and learning your catechism are some ways. When we want our parents’ attention for things — phones, clothes, etc. — we do not demand these things from our parents. Rather than a disrespectful demand, we bring our request in a respectful way: Ma, may I have a new phone? I know you and Pa are busy, so I’m not asking for it right now. But when you have time, could you and Pa think about it, please?

Children are also called to have empathy towards their siblings. One of the best opportunities is when we help our younger siblings. Di-Di (younger brother) needs help with homework. Ma is busy. You look at the question. Would this roll off our tongues: “So easy, this one you don’t know?” Perhaps some teachers in school said such a thing to us: But is that empathy? Not quite. Something like this is more empathising: “Let do this together. Don’t be discouraged; you just need a little more practice.

Empathy is a high calling for children, and it is a calling to be nurtured by parents.

So we turn to husbands and fathers. Husbands are to empathise with their wives. 1 Peter 3:7 calls husbands to “dwell with [their wives] according to knowledge…as unto the weaker vessel”. The knowledge a husband has of his wife is the knowledge that she is a weaker vessel. The husband must acknowledge her spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical needs. He must make it a point to talk to his wife, so that she pours her needs to him. When his wife does so, the husband must respond with empathy. There should be no “Can you stop sighing? I am so tired from work; could you say something more encouraging instead? That is not empathy. As husbands, we must put away the day’s fatigue to bring to our wives the Word that strengthens her. That is called “looking not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Phil. 2:4).

Husbands, as fathers, are to empathise with their children too. This is implied in Ephesians 6:2, when Paul calls fathers not to provoke [their] children to wrath. (The verse also applies to mothers, who are under the headship of the husband.) One way fathers provoke wrath is criticism. Think of the child does something wrong but not sinful — perhaps spilling a cup of water. The father does not understand the child if he merely lashes out, “Can’t you be more careful with what you are doing?” In such impulsive anger, the father does not pause to empathise with the child—that the child most likely did not mean to make that mess! The empathising father does not ask, “Can’t you be…,” but considers, first, the reason behind his child’s mistake and addresses it appropriately. Much of this is discussed in Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart, a great read for couples of all ages.

Empathy is a high calling for husbands and fathers…and for wives and mothers.

They are to empathise with their husbands. Going back to 1 Peter 3:7, we find two phrases that imply this calling. The first phrase is “heirs together of the grace of life”. Husbands and wives live as such heirs only if they consciously rejoice together in the joy of their salvation. As the husband leads the wife in devotions daily, and the wife brings herself under his leadership and studies the Word with him; together, in this way, they live as heirs.

The second phrase is “that your prayers be not hindered”. Husbands and wives pray together. As they live together, they face joys — the conception of a covenant child; discussions about the Word of God and the causes of the kingdom; the provisions of God for their earthly lives. At the same time, there are many sorrows — having no children; sins committed against each other; financial struggles. What would the married couple do with these joys and sorrows? They bring it to the Lord — the joys, by thanking God; and the sorrows, by supplicating for patience, contentment, and help. Husbands ought to take the lead in these prayers; very clearly, Peter directs the phrase to husbands. But wives play a part in such prayers; when wives rejoice with husbands and weigh themselves with the sorrows of the home, husbands will find it much easier to bring these matters to the Lord in prayer. If wives are indifferent to such joys and sorrows, husbands will find little reason to pray about such things; and soon, husbands cease to find reason even to pray with his wife.

Every member of the home is called to rejoice and weep with each other.

The covenant home is the classroom where God teaches us to have empathy for others.

God teaches us, so that we may teach others. There are saints who come from spiritually broken homes, homes that never showed empathy. When we rejoice and weep with such saints, they will see the love of Christ as our High Priest who is touched by the feeling of our infirmities (Heb. 4:15). What comfort that love would bring to their hearts!

To all that are given covenant parents; to all that are covenant parents; to all that brought into God’s covenant and church — rejoice and weep with one another.


Written By: Lim Yang Zhi | Issue 51


A Reflection on Christian Liberty (II)

Desiring Unity in the Church

I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.

Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together.

Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD.

For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.

Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.

For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee.

Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.

(Psalm 122)

Beloved readers, do we desire the unity of our church? To what lengths shall we go for unity? In the psalm above, the deepest expressions of longing for the peace of the church are found. We would do well to meditate on them and make those words our own. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee! Remember also that Jerusalem here represents the Church, which is really the body of Christ. We are really saying and desiring, “Peace be within thy body, Lord Jesus!” How many rifts are healed, disagreements healed and friendships saved, if this is truly our desire!

Last article, we covered some of the “what” – basic principles of Christian liberty: that liberty is used not for ourselves, but for God and the neighbour. Our use of liberty, moreover, must not stumble the brethren. Third, Scripture’s guidance is relevant even for activities not specifically listed. In this article, let us also consider the effect of our use (and abuse) of liberty on church unity, recognising also the closely related danger of legalism.

What does Christian liberty have to do with unity in the church? Properly used, the use of our liberty is edifying and powerful. The New Testament church is given the spiritual maturity to approach all areas of life in faith, to perform all things to God’s glory, no longer needing the Old Testament types and shadows to dictate every aspect of believers’ lives. Areas of liberty are therefore often open topics for us to have spiritual conversations about, thereby encouraging and sharpening each other. As these conversations take place and members are encouraged to holy living, the unity of the church is greatly enriched.

The abuse of liberty on the other hand, cuts like a knife through the unity of the church. It is not hard to see how, and it can happen in several common ways. In the last article we have covered how liberty can be abused as a cover for serving one’s own lusts and for the covering up of worldliness. Under the guise of liberty, one may claim all manner of worldly activity as legitimate, while really serving one’s own flesh. One who lives this way also often begins to accuse the other members of being “holier-than-thou” and legalistic. As the lives of church members are so closely entwined, others in the church are soon encouraged to do the same. Worldliness pours into the church, with controversy and strife following closely. But legalism does the same thing. Dead orthodoxy takes the place of worldliness – controversy and strife following also.

The Danger of Legalism

The flip side of abusing liberty in the covering up of worldly living is the abolishing of liberty in legalism and the multiplication of laws. Last article, we used the example of sports and recreation – let us use another everyday example: money. How we use our money is clearly a matter of liberty, and there are ways of spending money today that will never appear in the language of Scripture. We are called to be good stewards of our resources, giving freely to the causes of the kingdom, and not to be covetous or lovers of money. But what exactly does this mean with reference to my travel bill or my taxi fare? There is clearly room for two different individuals in the church to arrive at two different conclusions, and that is a beautiful thing if one thinks about it. One brother might say to himself: “I could never spend such and such a night on a hotel room when I travel; that would be excessive. It would be against my conscience to do so and I would not be exercising good stewardship”. Yet to another brother with the same means of living who also gives generously to the causes of the church, the same bill could well be legitimate; that brother enjoying the good gifts of God to him without affecting his conscience. The Bible does not give any advisories on acceptable hotel rates.

The problem of legalism arises when one begins to say that $x or $y or $z a night is a sinful use of one’s money, and begins to make a rule about it in the church. Or, it is sinful to spend such and such amount at a restaurant, or to own a car costing this or that figure. Individuals or churches may well begin to have laws about what is allowed and what is not, laws which claim to have scriptural origin but are really man-made. To believers and churches horrified by the worldly excesses around them, the temptation to form such rules can be great. But soon the members begin to look sideways at each other, judging one another, and the unity of the church is broken (they also begin to believe that their righteousness is founded upon their keeping of those rules). But we must look closely at ourselves. Do we unconsciously have such rules in our minds by which we pharisaically judge our brethren?

The word pharisaical is derived from the title of Pharisee, which was a sect of religious teachers held in honour among the Jews in Jesus’ day. They are especially known today for their blasphemous treatment of Jesus, and their legalistic laws and practices around ritual purity. Today if one were to call someone else a Pharisee, the person on the receiving end would likely be very offended. In the time of Jesus’ ministry however, if you were to walk up to a Pharisee and ask: “Sir, are you a Pharisee?” He might stand a little taller, look at you in the eye and say, “Why, yes I am”, probably pleased that you noticed. The Pharisees had many rules that they claimed were derived from Old Testament Scripture, particularly the laws given to Moses.

Outwardly, the Pharisees kept the law to perfection. A vivid illustration is mentioned by Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:24 where he says that five times, he was whipped by the Jews “forty stripes save one”. The Pharisees were so eager to show their adherence to Moses’ law not to exceed more than forty stripes in a judicial punishment (Deut. 25:3) that they took one off just to make sure it never happened. They added and extended other rules such as the washing of hands, cups and bowls to show that they were not just merely keeping the law but went even further, making them appear extra holy. But Jesus condemned their practice and teaching, declaring that their worship was vain in that they taught the commandments of men and not of God (Mk. 7:3-13). By so doing they led the people in an unholy way and divided Israel.

Beloved readers, let us mark the dangers – let us pray for the grace not to abuse liberty in the covering of our worldly lusts, nor abolish it in the multiplication of legalistic laws. When Christ’s people desire to live holily unto Him in all that they do, encouraging one another with their Bibles opened, the church of is strong and the church is one. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee!

Next article, Lord willing, we look at what it means in not stumbling one another in the exercise of our liberty.


Written by: Chua Lee Yang | Issue 51

The Christian in the World (I)

By God’s grace, the desire to help people was a start to my journey to becoming a counselling psychologist and helping people with struggles such as depression and anxiety. My journey continues as I help people within the church and counsel from a scriptural perspective. I am grateful to God and to the people such as my beloved husband, my dearly missed late father, and various mentors whom God has used to provide me with guidance in my vocation (Pro. 11:14 says, “in the multitude of counsellors there is safety”).

I faced several challenges as a Christian in my vocation when people challenge me with questions such as those below. These questions, in turn, made me dig deeper into God’s Word in order to determine the most important perspective for me (Ps. 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path”).

“Do you learn about evolution in psychology?”

 Yes. During my studies I learned to put on scriptural lenses and Reformed antennas, and rely on the Holy Spirit to remind me of God’s truths. By God’s grace, the study of psychology was a constant evidence of the depravity of man, which reaffirmed in me the need for God’s irresistible grace.

“Why study a Master’s Degree when the woman’s primary calling is to be a mother?”

 A master’s degree was a prerequisite to be a qualified psychologist in Singapore. For both my husband and I, we are prepared to become parents in God’s perfect will and timing. Thus while waiting, I am thankful to God for the opportunity to become a psychologist, and in so doing, be a good steward in my vocation (Matt. 25:14-30).

“Why not study for a PhD?”

It is clear to me not to pursue further studies as it is not my imminent calling. I have other colleagues who intend to pursue further studies, but personally for me I think I find it extremely hard to pursue a PhD, as well as have my family as my main priority.

I am thankful to God for allowing me to be a testimony to many people whom I have crossed paths within my journey (Matt. 5:14-16, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”).

Christian girls’ home

 During my attachment here, I provided the residents with psychological therapy and counselling in order to enable them to work through their trauma and problems arising mainly from child abuse concerns. I was able to pray with a teenager who acknowledged that her perception of not being loved by her family contributed to her association with negative peers from where she derived a sense of self-worth.

Singapore boys’ home

During this attachment, I conducted violence prevention and anger management programmes and therapies for the residents who committed crimes. One of the residents in the programme observed that certain things which I discussed with him seemed to have came true. By God’s wisdom, I replied him by saying that I do not have such powers to prophesy, but I know that the God I believe in is the only powerful one (Rev. 22:13).

Christian classmates & lecturers

I am thankful for my Christian classmates and lecturers whom I had edifying conversations with about trusting God in our studies and lives. We continue to give all the praise and glory to our Lord most high.


Written by: Beverly Tan | Issue 50

The Care of this World

A parable, when used in the gospel, is a method of instruction to illustrate things concerning the kingdom of God. In the parable of the sower, our Lord Jesus illustrates the reaction to the preaching of the Word in the hearts and lives of those who hear. We know that the preaching of the Word is a savour of life unto life for God’s elect, and a savour of death unto death for the reprobate. This truth explains the different reactions in the hearts and lives of those who hear the Word of God preached. Henceforth the good soil represents the hearts of the elect, whom God has prepared to receive His Word and to have their lives bear fruits (Mark 4:20). The other three kinds of soil (hard, rocky, and thorny) represent the hearts of reprobates, who reject the gospel and have lives which are not bearing fruit (Mark 4:4-7).

However, the parable can also be applied to the children of God when their hearts manifest as bad soil hearers. The three spiritual enemies of the children of God, which are the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh (old man), can sow evil seeds, which produce thorns that choke the growth of God’s good seeds. One of these evil seeds is the care of this world (Matt. 13:22), which is the focus of this article.

What is “the care of this world”?

 “The care of this world” is an attitude of constantly letting your mind and heart be filled with earthly concerns. Such an attitude can also be escalated to anxiety, worry, and even depression. Like other young people, your earthly concerns can be the school homework, tests and exams, relationship issues with your family and friends, your physical appearance, or your personal image. For those who are working, you can be burdened with the demands of your job.

As children of God, you are to be a good testimony in your earthly callings as students and employees, but how do you not let these earthly concerns become the cares of your life on earth? Sometimes we ignore the wisdom and power of God’s Word. Instead, we find relief from the cares by seeking worldly devices. For example, you may be constantly at your computer and handphone games or other forms of entertainment to find relief from these cares. A young person who cares about his or her physical appearance and personal image may look up to worldly stars and learn their lifestyles and their fashion to make himself or herself “look good”.  These ways can only lead you to greater bondage and invite more cares into your life.

Why must you not harbor the cares of the world?

Luke 21:34 says, “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with …. cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares”. The Word of God here warns you to be watchful of letting your heart be overburdened with the cares of the world, lest you become unprepared for the Lord’s return. All the children of God are to be prepared for the Lord’s return.  We are to be faithful servants to bear good fruits while waiting for His return. We are eager to show forth our fruits to Him, not to merit rewards, but to show our thankfulness to Him for the salvation He has purchased for us.

How shall you overcome the care of the world?

The way to overcome the care of the world is to imbibe the Word of God. This is done by meditating on the Word and asking God for His wisdom to help you deal with your earthly concerns so that they will not become thorns that prevent the seed of His Word from bearing fruits.

Here are some applications of God’s truth that help me deal with the various kinds of cares in my personal life.

Rejoice in the Lord

 Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice”. The keyword is ‘alway’. It means that no matter what the circumstances are, I can rejoice. For my greatest trouble (the wrath of God) in life has been taken away. There can be nothing worse than this trouble because if God is for me, what else can be against me? All other things are but servants of my salvation (Rom. 8:28). If I find it hard to rejoice in the Lord in the midst of much cares, I ask myself if I am expecting things to be the way I want. And this truth in Romans 8:28 reminds me that I am saved for His glory (purpose), and not for my glory (purpose). So I have to, by His grace, deny my sinful self and submit to His will, because He is the God of all goodness and I have to put my trust in Him.

 Pray and commit your cares to the Lord

 Philippians 4:6-7: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”. God promises me peace when I bring my cares to Him in prayer. I thank God for all these difficult circumstances in my life and confess that I am unable to handle them on my own. But He can, so I have to leave them with Him to handle.  God will and can establish my thoughts (not a mind that is tossed to and fro) when I “roll my burden over” to Him (Prov. 16:3).

Delight in the assembling of the saints

Hebrews 10:25: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching”.

I believe, as a Christian, a sign of being prepared for the Lord’s coming is a love to be with God’s people and to have sincere care for them. Our heavenly Father calls us to commit our cares to Him and focus our time and strength to diligently study and meditate on the Word of God and to serve the saints in the church. We can encourage each other with the Word of God on the Lord’s Day, during the Bible studies, and when we help the saints in church who are in need.

Beloved children, take heed to God’s Word, and you will experience His grace and power in taking away your cares of this world.


Written by: Jean Lim | Issue 50

Called to Be Saints

Dear brethren in Christ, our Christian life is a calling, a high calling of God. As we walk our earthly lives, we must continually press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14).

During my daily devotions, as I meditate on the Word of God, I am intrigued by the constant occurrence of the words “called” and “calling”, revealing that in all of our Christian walk of life, our sovereign God is continually working out all circumstances of our lives, preparing and sanctifying us, until He leads us to His eternal kingdom and glory.

In this article, I would like to share my musings and understanding of our Christian calling.

Calling of election (2 Pet. 1:10)

We are Christians in the first place because it is God who has called us before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). From eternity, God foreknew and predestinated us; in due time, He called and justified us; and in eternity, we shall be glorified by Him (Rom. 8:28-30). What a wonder!

Called out of darkness into His marvellous light (1 Pet. 2:9)

Without Christ, we were in bondage to sin, Satan, and self. We were children of   disobedience,   under   the   wrath and condemnation of God. We were inclined to the lust of our eyes, the lust of our flesh, and the pride of life. But, praise to be to God, through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, He redeems us out of our slavery and adopts us as His covenant children. He gives us the dominion over sin by the power of His Holy Spirit, who dwells within us. We can begin to live the new spiritual life, walking in His light. We learn more and more to walk in truth, in love, in wisdom – walking in His Spirit at all times.

Called to fellowship with God in Christ (1 Cor. 1:9)

What a privilege! We, earthly beings, can have the privilege to commune with our living God! We can partake of Him. He dwells in us and we in Him. He is our bread of life, our living water, our light in this world, our good shepherd, our resurrection and our life (John 4-15). We abide in Him when His words abide in us. If we keep His commandments, we abide in His love. We can pray to Him without ceasing. We commit all our ways and cares of life to Him. We delight ourselves in Him.

Called to walk worthy (Eph. 4:1)

As a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, and a peculiar people of God, we need to walk worthy of His calling moment by moment, day by day. To do so, we pray that God will strengthen us with might by His Spirit in the inner man. We pray that we will be filled with all His fulness. God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us (Eph. 3:16-20). We are sustained by faith, love, and hope. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). Love is the bond of perfection (Col. 3:14). Knowing the hope of His calling and the glory of His inheritance in the saints should motivate us to walk worthy of Him in all aspects of our life.

Called to holiness (1 Thess. 4:7)

We are exhorted to be holy, even as our God is holy (1 Pet. 1:16). We are to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1). To be holy is to turn away from all unrighteousness and sin and to be wholly consecrated and devoted to God. We count ourselves as being dead to sin and alive unto God. We yield the members of our body as instruments of righteousness unto God. We are not under the law, but under grace. Therefore we yield our members servants to righteousness unto holiness (Rom. 6:13-19). We abound in our love towards God and towards one another. We conform to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ to reflect our God of truth, righteousness, and holiness.

Called to press toward the mark of His high calling (Phil. 3:14)

The Christian life is a life of trials, afflictions, sufferings, and all kinds of pressures. The world under Satan hates Christ because their lives are full of darkness, while Christ is the light and exposes the darkness. Satan knows that his time is short and is determined to flood the world with temptations of wealth, honour, pleasures, etc. When Christians do not love the world and the kingdom of Satan, Satan seeks to tempt and persecute her in various forms. Thus, as God’s people, we are to endure hardness as soldiers of the cross (2 Tim. 2:3). We are to fight the good fight of faith (2 Tim. 4:7). We are to resist the devil, and he will flee from us (James 4:7). The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). In this world we shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).

Called to His kingdom and glory (1 Thess. 2:12)

What great glory! We must reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed (Rom. 8:18). The world shall pass away, but only those who abide by the will of God will abide forever (1 John 2:17). God has prepared for His people an everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:11). In His kingdom, God shall create a new heaven and a new earth. There shall be no more death, sorrow, or pain. We are the bride of our Lord Jesus Christ. He shall dwell with His people forever (Rev. 21).

Wherefore, my holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, let us consider our Great Apostle and High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 3:1). Let us walk in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for the coming of the day of God (2 Pet. 3:11-12). Let us build up ourselves on our most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, and keep ourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life (Jude 20-21).

Written by: Daisy Lim | Issue 48

Rejoicing and Weeping Together (II): In the Church

The church is family. As every earthly family   and   its   members   experience joys and sorrows, so the church and its members experience joys and sorrows. Previously, we considered what our attitude ought to be towards these joys and sorrows. Our hearts must have the attitude of love towards one another, expressed in the way of rejoicing and weeping with one another.

How are we to rejoice and weep with one another?

The points that follow are more of suggestions than imperatives for us to consider and discuss in our fellowship.

The first two suggestions consider what our initial responses towards our joyful brother or grieving sister should be.

  1. Explicit Joy

Towards our brethren who rejoice: respond to their joy with joy! Do not give a dull response to a brother or sister that exuberates with joy. It may be hard for us to imagine what such a response looks like; but the LORD gives us illustrations of a joyful response, starting with himself. Recall that the LORD calls our attention to His face, that it shines upon us in grace and is lifted up as the expression of peace (Num. 6:25-26). Simply by the look of God’s face, we know His thoughts of love, joy, and peace towards us. So also, by a warm smile or a gentle gaze, we express the same thoughts to our brethren.

Not only facially, but also verbally, we can rejoice with our brother. Think now of John, the apostle of love, who wrote that he had “no greater joy than to hear that [his] children walk in the truth” (3 John 4). A colloquial way to read the verse is: “I am extremely happy to hear that all of you believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ and live in thankfulness for that gospel.” Simple phrases such as, “That’s good to hear” and “Thank God!” go a long way to tell our brethren that we rejoice with them in the joys the LORD has given them.

If the LORD’s own countenance and the apostles’ words are insufficient illustrations, then consider the covenant mother that smiles to her infant; or to the covenant father that exclaims “That’s wonderful!” when his child rambles along about his Sunday in church. The infant that sees his mother’s cheer and the child that hears his father’s enthusiasm knows immediately that his mother and father are happy with them.

  1. Don’t Be Quick to Criticise

Towards the grieving sister (or brother), there is one thing we can consider. Don’t criticise first. That is, when our fellow saint approaches us with a certain sorrow or trouble, do not be quick to criticise that the person is spiritually weak, carnal, impatient, doubtful, etc., so that he or she is merely murmuring about what the LORD has given them. If the first thing we always say is, “Brother/Sister, you are wrong…” more often than not, we turn the brother or sister away from the help and comfort we may bring to them. They will think, “All he ever does is criticise!” Of course, criticism is not our only intent, but it is the impression given.

While there may be a particular weakness involved that affects our brethren spiritually, we must not be so quick to focus in on that weakness. The circumstances our brethren face—the stresses of work, the financial strains of the home, the sicknesses of the body— are often the trigger to their sorrows. Patiently listen for the details of those circumstances. Ask questions to draw out the troubles of the heart. Knowing these circumstances, we can shape our advice to address both the weakness and the proper way to respond to those circumstances that affect our brethren.

  1. Maintaining Confidentiality

The third suggestion considers a specific yet common situation. The brother tells you of a financial crisis he is facing; or a sister tells you of a conflict with another person in the church. You do not know what to say; however, only you know about it. The brother (sister) has told no one else. What may you do?

Confidentiality must be maintained. Solomon’s counsel is the principle to follow: “He that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter” (Pro. 11:13b). The aggrieved person has told you only. He or she (probably) does not want others to know. In other words, the person trusts that you will keep it a secret. Even if the brother or sister has not explicitly told you to keep it a secret, we fall on the safer side to assume that it is not meant to be told.

Furthermore, the nature of our tongue is poisonous; it is full of deadly poison (James. 3:8). If anything, the Bible’s diagnosis of our tongues should have us think twice of breaking a secret.

There are serious consequences when confidentiality is broken. The brother who has confided with us will not trust us. The sister will not share anything else about the matter, even when the matter   becomes   spiritually   harmful to her. The brother or sister, though sinking into spiritual destruction, will not tell you anything.

Especially when the trouble causes great spiritual hurt to our brethren, we must be wary of these consequences. The growing trouble of spousal abuse is a real example, of which Prof. Engelsma writes:

Lack of confidentiality is a grave weakness of consistories in the matter of abuse as in other serious, sensitive matters. That elders or the pastor divulge[s] consistorial matters, especially those of a sensitive   nature   involving   sin and suffering of members of the congregation, to other members of the church, including their wives, is destructive of the pastoral work of Christ by means of the consistory and harmful to the abused woman. The abused woman will not turn to the minister or to the elders for the help she needs. The gossip of the consistory hinders the work of Christ.1

Though other matters may not bear a severity equal to spousal abuse, dealing with these matters uses the same principle: Keep it confidential. Between office-bearers and their wives, as Prof. Engelsma implies, there must be a mutual understanding that certain matters may not be disclosed; likewise for husbands who do not hold office and their wives; and likewise for friends who hold a closer bond. For the sake of the weeping saint, do not have the secret broken.

Is there room to ask others for advice for secret matters? Yes; but we need not share the details with others from whom we ask for counsel. And if the matter deems it necessary for details to be shared, they ought to be shared with the person’s consent. Scripture’s principle does not change.

But if the person would not have us utter a word about the matter, even for advice, what then?

  1. Pray

Make it a point to call upon the LORD for what our brethren need. As we pray, the LORD will grant to us wisdom to counsel and advice the grieving saint according to his Word. As Solomon received wisdom through prayer (2 Chron. 1:11), so we will receive wisdom by the same means.

Prayer towards our brethren that rejoice should not be neglected either. Our example is Paul, who always thanked the Lord when the New Testament saints experienced the spiritual joys of salvation (Eph. 1:16; 1 Thess. 1:3). By such prayers, the LORD will enable us to rejoice with our brethren to a greater extent.

“Practice makes perfect”, by God’s grace. Conscious effort must be placed into practising the proper way of rejoicing and sorrowing with others. As sinful creatures, we habitually practise indifference, over-criticism, gossiping, and worldly-wisdom; but, graciously, God has given us Christ’s Spirit to sympathise, bridle the tongue, and speak wisely according to the Word.

At the same time, if practice makes perfect, practice needs to start from the home. If we want to practice it in the MPH on Sunday mornings, we have to first practice it in the living room of our flats. We cannot expect ourselves to be sympathetic, faithful secret-bearers, and wise, if we behave coldly, unfaithfully, and foolishly at home towards our spouse (or parents) and children (or siblings).

More on the home next time, DV.

1           “Questions and Answers Regard- ing the Speech on Spousal (Wife) Abuse” by Prof. David J. Engelsma (https://www.drop- questions%20and%20answers%20-%202017. docx?dl=0). Accessed 24 January 2018

Written by: Lim Yang Zhi | Issue 48

The Pressure of Busyness on the Covenant Family

There are evil forces at work in the world today. These powerful forces are bent on the destruction of that which is so beautiful and precious, to God and us: the covenant home.

The forces of evil are the great, spiritual triumvirate of the devil, the unbelieving world, and our own sinful natures. The prince of darkness, together with his hellish hordes, has the covenant family in his crosshairs. He wants nothing more than to see marriages explode and families leveled. The wicked world, open ally of the devil, is also intent on the destruction of the Christian home. And then there is your and my old man, the enemy behind the lines. Without intending, the sins we commit against one another in the home work to weaken our relationships and can lead to their destruction.

These enemies are so interested in the destruction of the home because it too is a powerful force in the world, a power in the hands of God that stands in the service of the advancement of His kingdom of light. Weaken and destroy the covenant home and you weaken the church.

The covenant family faces attacks from every side. The list of pressures that are placed on the family could go on and on for many pages. This list certainly would have to include such things as the pressure of being earthly-minded, the pressure of world-conformity, and for some even the pressure of persecution.

I want to focus in this article on just one of those pressures. This is a pressure that is easy to overlook or minimize. And yet it is a deceptively destructive pressure that eats away at the foundation of our homes.

That pressure is busyness.

Busyness: A Reality

Busyness is a reality for a family. In fact, some might wonder if you open the thesaurus and search for the word “family” you will find the word “busyness” there. And I trust that this is true not just in North America, but also in Singapore and in other parts of the world.

There is busyness for the newly-married couple. They do not have children yet, but they live a hectic, fast-paced life. The husband works long hours at his office job over here, while the wife works long hours in a clinic over there. Sometimes one works days, while the other is on the night shift. They are like the proverbial two ships passing in the night. They rarely see one another, and when they do they are so tired that they can barely keep their eyes open.

If possible, this busyness increases with the addition of children into the home. Feeling the burden to provide for his growing family, the husband works even longer hours. Perhaps he also serves on the board for the school association. Or he serves on some committee of the church. Or he serves in the special office of deacon or elder. Many nights he comes home from work, wolfs down a quick supper, throws together a quick report, and flies off to his meeting, and does not return home until late into the night. The mother also is extremely busy as she does the important work of caring for her children in the home. She rises with them before the sun is up, and she is up with them long after the sun has gone down. Her day is filled with dishes and laundry and dirty diapers. She is out to the grocery store and the doctor’s office and the clothes department. Because of the lack of a Christian school, some might also have the enormous responsibility of running a homeschool.

It seems unimaginable, but the busyness multiplies as the children get older. Not only do you have the busy schedules of dad and mom, but now you add in the busy schedules of teenagers and young adults. They are gone for university studies, for work, for time with friends, for sporting events, for music lessons, and the list goes on and on. Rare is the night when the family is all together at home.

Busyness is a reality.

Busyness: An Anomaly

From a certain point of view, the busyness of our families is an anomaly. I say this because we have so many things that make our life easier than ever. Consider all the advances in technology that make our lives easier. Instead of keeping food in an ice chest, we have refrigerators and freezers that store months’ worth of food. Instead of lighting a fire to cook our food, we can use ovens and microwaves to have it ready instantly. Instead of growing our own food, we can get all we need at the grocery store or the restaurant. Instead of hitching up a horse and buggy to travel somewhere, we can hop in the car or grab public transportation and get wherever we would like with great ease. Instead of writing a letter, we can send a text message or fire off an email in seconds. These things were inconceivable just a few generations ago. Our life is so much easier because of these advancements.

And yet, our lives are so much more hectic than the lives of previous generations. Their lives were so much simpler, and things moved at such a slower pace. Why is this?

The culprit for this busyness is, strangely, the very technologies that make our life so much easier. Advances in transportation make it possible for husbands to work far from home and for children to participate in so many activities outside of the home. Advances in technology make it possible for us to take our work home with us at night and to have so many distracting pings and dings coming from smartphones, laptops, and tablets.

In some ways these things make life easier, but in other ways they make life so much busier.

Busyness: The Consequences

Perhaps you’re wondering, “Is busyness really that big of a problem?” The answer is, “Yes, it is a problem!”

Understand that busyness is not inherently wrong. There is nothing sinful about being busy. In fact, we are called to be busy and diligent in serving God and His church and doing the work He has called us to perform.

But busyness can have damaging consequences in our homes and families when we handle it in the wrong way.

Busyness can have consequences on a marriage. Husband and wife can be so busy that they hardly have any time for each other. This fundamental relationship gets pushed to the sidelines because they are busy doing all sorts of other others. What can happen is that when the children grow up and move out, husband and wife realize they hardly know each other any more.

Busyness can have consequences on children. Many parents think they are helping their children by working long hours so that they can buy them nice things, but what they don’t stop to realize is that they are withholding from their children the one they need most of all: their time and attention. Too easily parents sin against their children by not being home with them enough and giving them enough undistracted attention. Children are also hurt when parents deal with their busyness by lazy parenting. Because they feel like they’re too busy to discipline properly, the parents either resort to impatient yelling and screaming or to not disciplining at all.

Busyness can have the consequence of pushing spiritual activities out of our lives. In many homes there is no time of family worship because family members are all off doing their own thing. And when they do manage to gather together, the family worship consists of a quick reading of a few verses of the Bible, no discussion regarding what was read, and then a hasty prayer, after which the whole family scatters. Everyone is too busy with other things ever to sit down, crack open a book, and read something beneficial, and too busy to attend a Bible study. The level of our busyness is often inversely related to the level of our involvement in spiritual activities.

Busyness: The Counter

What are we to do about this?

We might be tempted to throw up our hands in despair. We might be thinking, “Yes, busyness is a problem, but what can we possibly do to avoid it?”

On the one hand, we do have to reckon with the fact that having a family is going to be busy. There is simply no avoiding it: at times our homes are going to be hectic.

On the other hand, we can minimize some of the busyness in our lives. This is only possible when we radically and rigorously reorder the priorities in our lives. Things of first importance must come first in our lives. Worship and church life, quality family time, and spiritual activities must be top priority, and the time necessary for these things must be guarded jealously. The other important things in our lives are then ordered around our top priorities, and things of lesser importance may need to be cut out entirely. This may seem like a radical measure, but we should be ready to do so for the sake of the well-being and strength of our families.

Finally, recognizing the difficulties we face, we need the encouragement to look to God for the grace and wisdom to serve him faithfully in our covenant homes. “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it…” (Ps. 127:1).

Written by: Rev. Joshua Engelsma | Issue 48

The Great Flood

2017 saw increasing incidences of natural disasters – a volcano waiting to erupt in Bali, forest fires in Southern California, tropical storms in the Philippines… It might be tempting to dismiss these phenomena as climate change, or even put away newspapers to avoid further despair, but as Christians, we should not. While the world reacts in horror and fear, Christians can find comfort in these disasters. Let us put on our spiritual lenses and seek to understand them in light of the Bible.

The first and greatest natural disaster recorded in the history of mankind is the Great Flood in Genesis 6-9. Its scale of destruction is unparalleled, and only eight souls, seven of each clean beast, and two of each unclean beast survived. With the Flood, God set a precedent of how His people should view and respond to such happenings (Matt. 24:37-39).

God is sovereign

From the account of the Flood, it is stark that God directed the whole event, as He does with the entire world since its inception. From who would be saved and otherwise be destroyed, what Noah had to do to build the ark, how the wicked were destroyed by the furious water, to when it was the right time for Noah to leave the ark and so on, God was in full control.

These days, the intensity and frequency of natural disasters is increasing in diverse places all around us, but knowing that these all happen under the mighty hand of God, we need not be frightened. Furthermore, God has forewarned us that these will happen in Revelation 6 and Matthew 24. We are not at the mercy of chance, or a geoscientific process that we have to try desperately to prevent.

We might wonder why a sovereign God allows such calamity to befall the world in our day. The beautiful creation is torn apart – animals perish, men, even His beloved people, succumb to earthquakes and floods. How could a God of love and peace allow such unpleasantness? We then have to remember that God is a just God.

God is just

Being just, God cannot stand sin and has to punish man for sin. In Genesis 6:5-7, we learn that the Flood was executed out of judgment against the wickedness of the people, who were consumed in fleshly lusts and thought evil continually. As such, the Flood was sent to purge the wicked from the face of the earth.

Unlike the Flood which was sent specifically to destroy the wicked, the natural disasters in our present time occur due to a corrupted world. Just like how man was tainted with sin, the creation is inherently corrupted and no longer perfect. Extreme weather conditions, drought, volcanic eruptions and others all lie on a spectrum of natural dangers that cause much pain and risk to life, which would not have existed in the perfect creation before the fall.

While the natural world was ruined after the fall, this state was exacerbated by Man’s actions. Sinful man no longer used his dominion over the creation to serve God, but himself. We think of forest logging for profits at the expense of the ecosystem and the resultant floods due to rising river beds, burning inefficient fuel sources that is easier on the pocket, but emits more carbon into the atmosphere, causing global warming and rising sea levels. The catastrophes are God’s judgment on the corrupt world.

It is no wonder that the whole creation and the people of God wait for our redemption from corruption (Rom. 8:21-23). How can God’s people find comfort while we have to endure this?

God loves His elect

In God’s mercy, He will remember and redeem His people, like He did with His servant Noah. In His sovereignty, He had chosen to save Noah and effected his salvation from the Flood. In His justice, He sent Christ to die and wash away Noah’s and our sins.

Why   are   Christians   not   immune from   the   fury   of   disasters?   Even when Christians jointly suffer with unbelievers such ill, we know that what is to them a savour of death unto death is to us a savour of life unto life. We take comfort that our earthly suffering and death is not a punishment from God as our sins are covered by Jesus’s blood. Furthermore, just like how1 the high waters of the Flood lifted the ark nearer towards heaven, we rejoice at going to a better place, where we have communion with God forever. In the same vein, all the disasters, diseases, pain and struggles, are all part of a corrupt world. However, God uses these for the good of those who love Him.

What is our response then and what does God require of us?

First, we have to beware of spiritual complacency. We, like the sons of God in Noah’s day, are not immune from spiritual   apostasy   and   adulteration. If we are attracted to things of this world, let us remember that the things of the world are temporal, and will be destroyed by fire in the last day (2 Pet. 3:6-7); only the Word of God and our soul will go beyond the grave.

Second, we have to maintain a lively faith in God. Noah’s faith in God is a great example of the extent to which we should place our faith in God – it cost him his reputation. He was likely ostracized and mocked by people for preparing for a deluge when there was not a drop of rain since creation. This faith was borne out of a close walk and obedience to God. Do we often find ourselves an unpopular minority in our faith? Let us remember that God’s approval is our goal, not man’s (Gal. 1:10).

Third, we have to live out our faith in full obedience to God. When Noah entered the ark, he was forsaking his worldly possessions for God’s cause. He had to bear with the confinement in and inconveniences of the ark, in order to be preserved for a new world. So let us remember Christ’s command for us to deny ourselves in sufferings, and devote ourselves to the service of His Kingdom.

The world that we live in is becoming more and more like the world before the Flood. Let us learn from Noah, to walk with God and obey His commands, that we may find grace in the eyes of the Lord in final judgment.


1 Matthew Henry Commentary on Genesis 7:18.

Written by: Lisa Ong | Issue 48

Book Review: Little White Farmhouse in Iowa

This book was written by Carol Brands, a Protestant Reformed mother and grandmother in the state of Minnesota. It is a biography of Katherine Kroontje, whom Carol met when Katherine was an elderly woman. It tells of the story of Katherine’s first ten years and the many experiences she had as a child. This book is one of three books that Carol Brands wrote telling about the life of Katherine.

Susie Kroontje gave birth to Katherine in the middle of a stormy night during the Great Depression in the United States, when families were very poor. The book traces the time Katherine swallowed kerosene as a toddler to the time a blizzard swept through the United States when she was ten years old. We read about the times when Katherine’s family visited her Uncle Will and Aunt Ann to bring them food in the nearby state of North Dakota during the Great Depression.

In chapter nine, we read of how Katherine and her older brother Willie went   to   school   in   North   Dakota during the time they were visiting their uncle and aunt. It was a one-room schoolhouse that was painted a light beige colour and had a wide porch in the front. Katherine kept the four books for each of her subjects: arithmetic, writing, phonics, and music. I thought it was very interesting to learn about what subjects they had in 1935, though we still have the same subjects today!

Katherine’s family was very hard-working as they tended cows on the farm, got water at the pump, grew their own crops, cleared the table, and dried dishes. This is a good model for us to follow in our own work. It teaches us that we must work hard in the callings that God has set before us.

Throughout the book, we read of how Katherine’s family often read the Bible, followed by prayer. Devotions always made Katherine feel secure, as she knew that God’s blessings were always upon her on that day. Katherine often prayed short prayers on her own as well, to thank God or to ask Him for patience and calmness. This is a good example of how we must often pray little prayers to God, whether it is asking Him for forgiveness of sins, calmness, patience, joyfulness in a time of sorrow, or thanksgiving.

Even though there are many differences in culture between living on a farm in the United States in the 1930s and living in Singapore today, I still recommend this book to you. This is a very enjoyable book for children to read, but adults would also enjoy getting a glimpse of a godly family that lived in Iowa. This book is available on for those who would be interested in reading it!

Written by: Emily Lanning | Issue 48

A Letter to My Unforgiving Self (II)

Unforgiving self, let us continue our meditation   on   forgiveness.   In   the last letter, we saw that having been forgiven by God, you are to forgive your neighbour even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you (Eph. 4:32). We saw that some of your excuses for being unforgiving cannot stand up to the model of God’s forgiveness for you – unconditional, not based on what you did, but what Christ did; initiating, by approaching you first; embracing, by drawing you to Himself. Self, let us continue our reflection in this letter by examining two more of your excuses in light of God’s forgiveness of you. Next, we consider how you can grow in your forgiveness of others, and finally, some practical ways of forgiving your neighbour.

My Feeble Excuses for Being Unforgiving, Examined (Continued)

“What she did to me was so spiteful; even though she has already apologised, I’m going to be cold and distant towards her for a while, to let her realise how much she hurt me.”

You don’t actually say that, do you, self? You soothe your conscience by telling yourself that you’ll forgive eventually.

You make this excuse sound a lot better by focusing on the immense difficulty you face to forgive. Yet what makes it difficult for you to forgive? Is it not pride, that sin which thoroughly infects you? Is it not an excessive love of self, that values your own feelings so highly that any infringement against them is deserving of tenfold retribution? You know, self, even in those very moments when you justify being cold to your neighbour, that you illicitly harbour an unforgiving spirit.

Let’s see how God forgives you, self, so that you may also learn to forgive others in the same manner. What is God’s response each time you turn to Him in sorrow after sinning against Him? A cold, dismissive wave of the hand? No! As the loving father who embraced his wayward son and restored him to sonship, God forgives you the moment you turn to Him in repentance (Luke 15:20-24). How often have you crawled to the throne of grace and experienced God’s forgiveness as you began to confess your sins before Him? Having experienced such forgiveness, self, you may not withhold forgiveness from your repentant neighbour.

“I will forgive him, but I’ll never forget what he did towards me.”

Self, perhaps you think that it’s impossible to ever forget how your neighbour has hurt you. At the same time, you also know that God forgives you by forgetting your sins, as He says in Isaiah 43:25: “I, even I, am he that blotteth   out   thy   transgressions   for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (emphasis mine). There are a couple of things that you need to know about forgiving and forgetting, self.

First,   forgiving   by   forgetting   does not involve having no memory of the neighbour’s sin. When God Himself forgives, He does not simply lose the knowledge that we have ever committed sins. After all, He is omniscient, and will judge us out of the books where all our deeds are recorded (Rev. 20:12). Furthermore,   when   Joseph   forgave his brothers, he said, “I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt” (Gen 45:4b, emphasis mine). Joseph evidently remembered that his brothers had sold him into slavery – how could he ever forget that? – yet this was compatible with his forgiving them.

Second, if forgiving by forgetting does not involve wiping your memory, it does involve wiping clean your brother’s slate against you. God removes our transgressions from us as far as east from west (Ps. 103:12), so that there is none to be found on our slate (Jer. 50:20). He counts all our sins on the person of Christ, and none remains on our account. Likewise, when Joseph brought up his brothers’ infractions, he did so with no bitterness in his heart, desiring that his brothers come to live with him in prosperous Egypt. He had wiped their slates clean.

Self, you need to emulate God in forgiving and forgetting. You may have a physical memory of your neighbour’s sin against you, accompanied by hurt, but this memory must be void of bitterness. And when this memory flares up, tempting you to spitefully remind your neighbour of his sin, bite that poisonous tongue of yours. Also, pray to God for strength not to let this memory fester within you as a grudge that you hold against your neighbour.

Growing to Forgive My Neighbour

Self, we have tackled two more of your greatest excuses about being unforgiving, by considering God’s forgiveness of you – immediate and forgetting. Now let’s explore how you can grow in your ability to forgive your neighbour.

  1. Growing to Appreciate God’s Forgiveness of Me

Self, you need to grow in your appreciation of God’s forgiveness of you. Oh, you know intellectually that you are totally depraved and that God sent His only begotten Son to die for you. Yet if you truly appreciated how much God has forgiven you, you would be willing to forgive your neighbour. If you knew that you have been forgiven of ten thousand talents (an unpayable debt!), then you wouldn’t be casting your neighbour in prison for the hundred pence he owes you. Self, keep growing to appreciate God’s forgiveness of you. Meditate often on how horrendous each sin that you have committed is, how you repeatedly and wilfully sin, and how, despite your numerous sins, God still bestows His forgiveness on you. As you grow in awareness of how horrible your sins are and how much God has forgiven you, then you will grow in your capacity to forgive your neighbour, by recognising how small in comparison your neighbour’s sins are towards you.

  1. Growing to Appreciate God’s Forgiveness of My Neighbour

Self, what are you saying when you refuse to forgive a fellow believer? That your neighbour is “worthy” of God’s forgiveness, but not yours? That God made a mistake in His wise counsel of electing your neighbour unto salvation and forgiving her sins, and that you know better than Him, to withhold forgiveness? You probably don’t mean it, but you sure act that way by your thoughts and actions! Self, grow to appreciate your neighbour as a sibling in   Christ   who   has   been   forgiven by God, and you will find yourself growing in your capacity to forgive your neighbour.

3. Growing in My Dependence on God

Self, perhaps you are utterly exhausted from wrestling to forgive your neighbour and have thought more than once, “It is impossible for me to forgive him!” There is a ring of truth in that statement. If forgiveness were dependent on you, it would indeed be impossible. Yet you are not alone in this struggle. Self, you need to depend on God, the source of all forgiveness, by whose grace you are empowered to forgive your neighbour. Do you earnestly wrestle with God, that He may grant you the strength to forgive?

Practical   Ways to Forgive My Neighbour

Self, let us now consider some practical ways in which you can forgive your neighbour. These considerations apply especially when you have a long- standing difficulty in forgiving your neighbour.

  1. Thinking the Best of My Neighbour

Perhaps you are embroiled in a bitter, long-drawn conflict where many hurtful words have been exchanged on both sides. New events only seem to exacerbate the existing issues. When you learn that the neighbour did this or said that, your immediate tendency is to flare up in indignation, and you begin adding to the mountain of grudge that you already hold, making it that much more difficult to forgive your neighbour.

Self, even while working to wipe clean your neighbour’s slate of a past wrong, do not continue to needlessly pile on fresh wrongs! How often do you hear a piece of news about your neighbour and immediately jump to an evil conclusion about her? Without knowing the full picture, how often do you fill in the gaps with your preconceived notions about your neighbour (“Oh, I knew she was like that”)? With only external information about the neighbour, how often do you assign a motive to what he did? Oh the deceitfulness of your heart, self!

Self, do not perpetuate your unforgiving tendencies by adding sin to sin. Instead, with a charity that “believeth all things” (1 Cor. 13:7), you must think the best of your neighbour. If you are not in a position to clarify what the neighbour did, assign the best possible motive to her action. Keep your mind focused on things which are true and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8), which will help you resist the downward spiral of evil thoughts.

2. Focusing on My Part to Play

It’s always easier to focus on what the neighbour did wrongly, isn’t it, self? You have on hand a long list of what he did, while what you did is easily forgotten or minimised. After all, you were provoked into doing what you did. Or what you did pales in comparison to what he did. Really, self? Who made you a judge over this matter? What business do you have deciding that your neighbour has sinned more grievously than you have? Yes, your neighbour has sinned greatly against you. Yet it is likely that you too have some part to play in this conflict, however great or small. Focus instead on that, self. Focus on how you have wronged your neighbour and are in need of his forgiveness. Set aside your pride and approach him to apologise. Do not make your apology conditional on whether he too apologises. Yes, you have a responsibility to ensure his repentance for sin; however, be more concerned about your own sin in the conflict. After that is settled, you can then bring up the sin of the brother, and not in a manner that excuses your own.

Seeking Forgiveness for My Unforgiving Spirit

Self, continue working on becoming more forgiving and seeking strength from God to forgive. While you do that, however, do not be too easy on yourself. No matter the difficulty you face in this process, no matter the pain you experience, this fact remains: your unforgiving spirit is a sin which you choose to cling on to, and even continue to nurse with your thoughts and actions. You, self, need forgiveness for your unforgiving spirit. You need forgiveness, from God first of all, and also from your neighbour. Make sure not only to pray for strength to forgive; pray also for forgiveness for being unforgiving.

Self, consider what you are doing by perpetuating   an   unforgiving   spirit: you are claiming that your sin of being unforgiving is less serious than the neighbour’s sin, whatever he did. You are presuming to take issue with your neighbour’s sin, while permitting and justifying your own. Does that sound familiar? Self, you are trying to take the mote out of your neighbour’s eye, while there is a beam lodged in your own (Matt. 7:3)! Do not do that, self. Do not be a beam-eyed mote-remover, but recognise the beam which is in your own eye before you presume to remove the mote in your neighbour’s.


Self, it is difficult to snap out of this cycle of an unforgiving spirit, for however long it has gripped you. As we saw, it is even impossible to do so on your own. Yet praise be to God, who empowers you to forgive by forgiving you, sending His only begotten Son to die on the cross for your sins. From the One who said of his murderers while hanging on the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), you have new life to break free of the chains of an unforgiving spirit, and nurture a forgiving spirit towards your neighbour. May the grace of our forgiving God be with you!


Key, Steven. “Forgiving One Another (12).” Loveland Protestant Reformed Church, Loveland, Colorado, July 12, 2015.

Baucham, Voddie. “Forgiveness.” Tabernacle Baptist Church, Ennis, Texas, August 9, 2013.

Written by: Marcus Wee | Issue 48