Boldness in Social Settings

Mary pushes “Send” and leans back contentedly in her computer chair. She has made all the necessary plans, the invites have been sent out on Facebook messenger, and the only thing left now is to prepare the food for the social gathering on Sunday evening. She is excited about the young adults coming over; she enjoys hosting and is comfortable conversing with people. If Mary were to complain, which she is very hesitant to do, it would be that she can feel overwhelmed at times. It seems like she always must do all the work for social settings. If she does not do the work of hosting, then who will? But she keeps these thoughts to herself and consoles herself with the fact that she is doing a good work, promoting unity and fellowship among the young adults of the church. Someday, perhaps, someone else will take over the work of inviting others to social settings.

What has been described in the above paragraph is a hypothetical scenario, not intended to call out any specific “Marys”, but to call to mind the idea of “social settings”. What are social settings? Who is to set them up? Should Christian young people feel obligated to RSVP positively to invitations to social gatherings? And finally, how can Christians be biblically bold in social settings?

A social setting is a gathering of people who   interact   with   each   other   with the purpose of enjoying each other’s company. They are not gathered with any explicit religious, political, or financial motivation. In other words, Mary is not having people to her home to worship God, nor to select the next ruler of their nation, nor to make money by working. Instead, Mary has arranged this social gathering in order that she might enjoy the fellowship and company of other people.

We who are Christians have an important motivation to be active in Christian social settings, because we believe God is a covenantal God who is jealous for fellowship with His people. The primary way God fellowships with His people is on the Sabbath day, in the official act of worship. But God’s fellowship with people is not limited to the Sabbath day; He lives in and with His people at all times.   2 Cor. 6:16, “Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people”. Immediately after giving the covenant formula, God gives a command that has important application for social settings: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord” (2 Cor. 6:17a).

We see that God’s word has important commands regarding fellowship with Him and with His people. But we also know that the devil goes forth as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. The devil will use any tool he can to prevent God’s people from speaking and fellowshipping with each other and with their heavenly Father. In the beginning, the devil used a lowly serpent as the means by which he pitted husband against wife and mankind against God. Let us examine several ways we can be biblically bold in social settings.

The first way we can be bold is by taking the initiative to host, or at least contribute to, a social event. Especially the young men do well to remember this. If Singapore is similar to America in this regard, then it is generally the young women who take the initiative in setting up social events. I am thankful for the young women’s willingness to do this. But young men, I encourage you, step forward. Prepare to be a leader both in marriage and in the church by being a leader now, taking a role in organising social events. Do not be not like Barak, who hid behind the skirt of Deborah while she led the men of Israel into battle.

Another way in which we can be biblically bold is by putting forth effort to attend the good social events which have been planned. If a man wants to have godly friends, then he must show himself friendly to godly people. Proverbs   17:18,   “A   man   that   has friends must show himself friendly”. The individual who lives on the edge of the church, rarely attending social functions with other church people, may not expect in return that the people of the church will go out of the way to be kind to him. If you want friends and the benefits of friendship, then show yourself friendly.

But there is another important aspect regarding the RSVP to social functions, and that is the ability to say “No” to ungodly invites. There are certain times when the child of God must be bold to decline an invite, because he knows that being in that social setting will tempt him to sin. When your secular work colleague invites you to come to the bar with him after work hours, ask yourself, “Is this something that the antithetical child of God should attend? Will it build me up in holiness? Will my eyes be tempted to lust after that which God has not given me? Will my hands be tempted to touch things that should not be touched?” The same questions must be asked as you consider joining online social gatherings. In today’s world, one does not even need to leave the bedroom to attend a social gathering; they can join groups and communities and games right on their smart phone. Say “No” to online invites that will tempt you to disobey God’s holy law.

But now you are at the social gathering, and the environment is a good one. Mary has sent out the invitation, the date has come, and the people have arrived. What does the Bible say about boldness at the event itself?

First, pray that the Lord give you boldness to set a watch on your mouth. Psalm 141:3, “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips”. The tongue is a little member, but it can work so great an evil. One particular way the lips can work a great evil is by being continually argumentative and schismatic at social gatherings. The cantankerous individual ceases not to complain, whether it be about politics, the weather, the minister, personal difficulties, or family struggles. Proverbs 18:17 calls such a man a fool: “A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes”. Before you go to the social setting, pray that God will give you boldness not to speak about contentious matters which only stir up strife and controversy.

Another way in which the lips can work a great evil is by gossiping. The gossiping individual is generally insecure in himself, so he consoles himself by degrading others. Sometimes he tells the truth, other times he does not, but always his stories have this intended effect: make the other person look worse, while making himself look better. The biblically bold Christian who is making plans to attend a social gathering must pray for boldness not to gossip or slander, but instead to speak the truth in love, to defend and promote the honour and good character of his neighbour, as much as he is able (H.C., L.D. 43).

If the thought of attending a Christian social function fills you fear and anxiety, then remember that true, biblical boldness is not natural to fallen man. Feelings of anxiousness at the thought of attending or hosting a Christian social function is quite normal. But what must not be normal is how you respond to the anxiety. Instead of responding by clamming up and refusing always to attend, respond by lifting up your supplications to God in prayer. Ask Him for a rich measure of the Holy Spirit, who is able to empower and comfort His people.

For those who tend to be more outgoing but who struggle to control their impulsive tongue, continue to seek the forgiving grace of Jesus Christ. We all are sinners, and we all behave at times like the impetuous Peter, who, in light of social pressure “began… to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man [Jesus Christ]” (Matt. 26:74). When we deny Christ with our words or our actions at social settings, and consequently we feel shame for our sinfulness, then be bold to go to God’s throne of grace. And as you confess your sins to God, be assured that He is faithful and just to forgive you your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Written by: Stephan Regnerus | Issue 45

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Public School Christian Organisations

While walking around my university campus recently, I noticed many posters promoting various events of campus para-church organizations (CPOs), such as teas, talks, and Bible studies. These posters flash titles like “God is Calling You”, “Permission to Dream”, and “Celebrate Christ”, with the hopes of attracting Christians from all denominations to their events. This situation is not unique to my university. Most of these CPOs operate branches in the other tertiary institutions in Singapore, and organise similar programmes for the students of those institutions.

If you are a student, you too may have been approached to attend a CPO activity, or even to join the CPO itself. Or perhaps you may one day be approached by a CPO. As Reformed Christians, what should be our view of these fellowships? Should we join them? Before we answer these questions, we must understand the missions and purposes of these CPOs.

Their Mission

For this section, we will examine the stated missions of some prominent CPOs in Singapore, including the Navigators, Cru (previously called Campus Crusade), and Varsity Christian Fellowship. While the precise missions will differ among individual CPOs, and we cannot analyse every single CPO’s mission here for lack of time and space, we can notice that at least among the few prominent CPOs, there are certain similar overarching messages that they wish to bring forth through their activities.

The one most similar goal among all CPOs is evangelism. Their goal of evangelism is advertised through statements such as “to know Christ and make Him known” and “reach, build, and send Christ-centred multiplying disciples who launch spiritual movements”. The CPOs hope to achieve this through events such as tea sessions, summer camps, and talks. Some also organize campus evangelism efforts like giving out snacks and offering to pray for other students. Some even try to be “a blessing beyond borders” by participating in overseas social mission trips.

At first glance, this may sound like an excellent way of fulfilling the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19, where Jesus commands “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations”. However, we must understand these CPOs’ bases for their evangelism efforts. For example, The Navigators quote 2 Corinthians 5:14 as their motivation, stating that “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that Christ died for all” (emphasis mine). This is a clear expression of the Arminian doctrine of universal atonement, in contradiction to the Reformed and biblical truth of limited atonement. While this does not necessarily mean that everyone in the CPO holds to an Arminian viewpoint, from the organization’s own statements, it   is   clear   that   the   organization’s efforts are founded on false Arminian teachings.

To be in a supposedly “Christian” organization that holds to doctrines contrary to the Reformed faith, especially contrary to a doctrine that is a cornerstone of the Reformation, is extremely dangerous for a Reformed young person, especially in his youthful years when he can be easily swayed by compelling mentors who disagree with the Reformed viewpoint.

In addition, one must ask if he can truly support the activities of an organization when they are clearly grounded on a basis that we cannot agree with. An evangelism effort grounded in Arminianism fails to give God the glory that is due, since it now shifts the emphasis to man’s work. If we were to join such an effort, would we not be – at least implicitly – supportive of this false basis?

Furthermore, let us not be tempted to forget the rest of Matthew 28:19. After “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” comes “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”. This demonstrates that the calling to evangelise is given to the church, because after preaching the Word comes baptism, and from there, church   membership.   An   individual can share the gospel, but he may not preach, and neither can he baptize. In their evangelism efforts, CPOs neglect the importance of church membership, choosing to focus only on the process of individual conversions, with no thought for what happens afterward. In addition, when CPOs think to convert men through their personal evangelistic efforts, they go against God’s will for man to be saved through the preaching of His Word in the worship service, through the ordained minister.

Another common mission of these CPOs is to foster growth and maturity among their existing members. They seek to “help believers mature in their relationship with God so that they can in turn reach the lost and help others mature in Christ”. Bible studies, quiet time sharings, prayer meetings, and testimonial sharings characterise the weekly sessions among the disciple groups (DGs) of the CPOs. Fellowship and fun are also encouraged through sports activities, potluck dinners, camps, and vacation training programs.

Once again, this sounds exactly like what is taught in Scripture. Does not Proverbs 27:17 say that “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend”? Surely, this must mean that we must help our fellow believers along in their walk with God. In fact, even our own CK/CKS constitution states a similar purpose: “To assist the young people as they grow in the knowledge of Christ to be godly, Reformed men and women, integrated into the organic life of the church.”

However, we must note that the attendees of the CPOs’ activities include Christians from any church and denomination. Unlike in CK/ CKS, where we have a common doctrinal ground, in the CPO there will be those who hold to erroneous teachings including common grace, universal atonement, the conditional covenant, pre- and post- millennialism, or even charismaticism and tongue- speaking. When people from such diverse backgrounds come together for a Bible study, it is inevitable that differences in scriptural interpretation will surface. Who, then, has the right interpretation? Is it not very confusing for a young man or lady to come to a Bible study and hear several different explanations of the same text, and leave without knowing which is the right one? Or worse, adopting the wrong explanation? This is no help at all to the growth of a fellow believer.

The other alternative, as some might advocate, would be to go the way of   having   “no   creed   but   Christ”, an attractive proposition that in reality preaches tolerance rather than the defence of the truth. To avoid confrontations   with   others   in   the group who hold to different beliefs, a Reformed Christian in a CPO may be tempted to keep silent in the face of incorrect doctrines, choosing simply to bury the differences and enjoy the company of fellow Christians, rather than incur the ire of the group by speaking out.

Our Differences

These organizations proudly announce that they are inter-denominational. They welcome Christian youth from all churches, all distinctives, and all beliefs. They encourage each other with their mutual love for Christ and evangelism.

Here is where we ought to be careful of the dangers of a false ecumenism. In our earlier discussion about the Bible study sessions organised by CPOs, we have highlighted how the differences in our doctrines could make it difficult for us to have truly fruitful meetings. By welcoming Christians of every background into one big fellowship, despite the differences, CPOs really leave no choice except to send out this message: it does not matter if we differ on doctrine. As long as we love Christ, let’s come together and do things together.

This is in contradiction to Scripture, which asks the question: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). What basis is there for unity if we cannot agree, especially on such important things as doctrines? If we choose to persist in remaining in a CPO, chances are we will choose to remain silent, rather than defend our faith and offend.

While unity is important, the basis for unity is founded solely on the truth – the truth taught in Scripture and expressed in our confessions. We do not seek unity at the expense of the truth, covering it up and smoothing out the sharp edges so that it will not offend.

To join or not to join?

So, should I join my campus’ Cru or Nav? While there are no hard and fast rules, perhaps a young person should consider some of these factors when deciding whether to join a CPO.

Firstly, what is your purpose for wanting to join a CPO? Are you joining to make friends? If you are, then remember the words of Amos 3:3. It is not wrong to be friendly to people, including those who participate in CPOs, but there is no true unity if you cannot be agreed. Are you joining to share the Reformed truth?

While that may be a noble motive, you would do well to reflect if that is the best way to do so, considering you will be severely outnumbered by those who do not share the same views. Perhaps it would be more fruitful to use your time to privately share the Reformed faith with those who show interest, rather than attempting to fight for change in an entire organization.

Secondly, consider that our time and energies are limited. While we are called to serve God and His kingdom, this is primarily through membership and service in the local church. Will your participation in a CPO cause you to become so busy that you no longer have time to attend CK/CKS or other church programs? Will you be so burdened with your duties in a CPO that you cannot serve on committees in the church? Or will you end up with no time even to meet and commune with the saints in CERC? If your membership and participation in a CPO is causing you to neglect your church, then you should seriously reconsider if you should be devoting that much time to the CPO over the church.

Finally, while we may generally disagree with the purpose of CPOs, there are nevertheless lessons which we can learn from them. For example, their zeal for evangelism is one trait that we can emulate, albeit in the correct, biblical manner. God is pleased to use His church as the means to call His people to Him, and as a church we would do well to be zealous in promoting the gospel. We may also learn from how the members in the CPOs take great interest in communing with and encouraging   their   fellow   members. As brethren, we too would do well to remember that our Christian walk is not done alone, but that we ought to lead each other along, because “iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Prov. 27:17).

Written by: Isa Tang | Issue 45

CKCKS Retreat: The God of Zion’s Youth

The annual CK/CKS Retreat was held this year from Thursday to Saturday, 22-24 June, at the newly renovated Changi Cottage. The theme of the retreat was “The God of Zion’s Youth”. It was a bit of an extension on this year’s church camp’s theme, but focused mainly on the youth of the church. The theme verse was Psalm 48:14: “For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death”. The theme song, Psalter #134, was a versification of that psalm.

The committee who organized the camp consisted of Joseph, the camp master, as well as Yang Zhi, Deuel, and Nichelle. I thought that it was encouraging to see some of the youth step up and do things for their first time. It was the first time Joseph and Deuel were on a camp committee. Deuel and I led discussions, and Nathaniel and I chaired speeches for the first time.

There were two speeches, one on “The Joy of Zion’s Youth” and the other on “The Security of Zion’s Youth”. Rev. Lanning was the speaker, speaking to us via video from Michigan, where he was attending the PRC’s Synod. The first speech showed us how God is our guide, what is true joy, and the judgments of God. The second speech was about the defences of Zion and the next generation. We were edified by the messages, and afterwards we had fruitful times of discussion related to the speeches.

For the final night we had a steamboat dinner. We also had a special night that included a prayer meeting. We split into our devotions groups, small groups of seven or eight people. We shared a little bit about ourselves and then prayed for each other. It was nice to learn about each other and be able to pray for each other. I thought it was a good way to end the camp.

The retreat was well planned and had a good mix of spiritual activities, physical activities, and free time. We could tell the committee had worked hard to make it a good retreat. We had a blessed time at the camp, fellowshipping and learning about Zion and her youth, and we are thankful to God for the time we could spend there.

Written by: Eric Lanning | Issue 45

Scripture’s Covenant Youth (VIII): Samuel

In our last article I introduced you to the family into which Samuel was born. It was not really such a strange family as it would be nowadays, for it was on the whole a godly family which went, in obedience to the law, once a year to worship God in the tabernacle. By today’s standards, it had several weaknesses,   however:   Elkanah   had two wives, which was rather common in the Old Testament but forbidden in the New. One wife, Peninnah, had children, but did not seem to be a very godly woman, for she is called in Scripture the adversary of Hannah, who was the other wife of Elkanah, but who had no children (1 Sam. 1:6). Hannah was a truly God-fearing wife and bore the taunting of Peninnah patiently. But it was difficult for her because her husband did not understand why she was sad. He thought that if he loved her more than Peninnah and gave Hannah more presents than he gave Peninnah, she would be sad no more. Elkanah didn’t understand that Hannah wanted nothing so much as children, because she wanted to be a mother in Israel and having children gave her a part in the coming of Christ. She longed for Christ, and that was her sorrow.

One year in their annual visit to the tabernacle, Hannah took the opportunity to pour out her heart to God. She cried with such fervour and anxiety that Eli, the high priest, thought she was drunk and he sharply reprimanded her (1 Sam. 1:10-14).

In Hannah’s prayer, she vowed to the Lord that if God would give her a son, she would return him to the Lord all his life as a Nazarite (1 Sam. 1:11). And when Eli heard from her that she had prayed in the anguish of her soul for a son, he blessed her. God heard Hannah’s cry and vow and also heard the blessing of Eli, and he answered her prayer: he gave her a child.1

Eli’s blessing was not the mere expression of Eli’s wish that Hannah would have a child, but the blessing of the high priest who stood in the place of Christ Himself who earns all blessings for his people.

Hannah’s vow is the striking event in this narrative. That vow God heard and that vow Hannah kept. She named him “Samuel”, which means “asked of God”. And so after she weaned him (probably sometime between Samuel’s 2nd and 4th birthday), she returned him to the Lord. She did this by bringing him to the tabernacle where she “lent” him to the Lord (1 Sam. 1:28). This passage is a crucial one. The word “lent” does not mean, “give him to the Lord for a little while and then demand his return”; it could more accurately be translated “granted” or “returned”. She received him from the Lord; she returned him to the Lord. She considered him as belonging to the Lord and to be the Lord’s possession and not her own.

I already said that Samuel came the closest of any other person in the whole of the Old Testament to hold three offices: prophet, priest and king. And therein lies the importance for us.

Samuel was a prophet because God spoke to him when he was still a child and he brought the word of God to Israel.2 He was a priest because he brought many sacrifices. In fact, he made a circuit of Israel frequently to make sacrifices in different places. Samuel was not, strictly speaking, a king. But he was considered a judge along with all the other judges. He did rule over the people when they brought him their disputes for settlement and when he anointed both Saul and David to be king.

After him, there were prophets who were also priests, and there were prophets who were also kings.3 But there were no men who were both priests and kings. Samuel was in this unique position as a child when he first brought God’s word of judgment to Eli (1 Sam. 3:11-21).

Only after Christ completed his work here on earth, went to heaven and poured out his Spirit on his church, were there people who held all three offices. These people are you and I – and all the saints in the new dispensation. We all are prophets, priests and kings (See Lord’s Day 12, Q&A 32). Samuel was such from childhood on; so are we.

It is true that our childhood and youth are times of spiritual preparation for the day when we make confession of faith and assume full responsibilities in Christ’s church. Samuel did have such preparation; so ought we. We are prepared mostly in the home. Our parents are given God’s children for we are given to our parents. They always belong to God not to us.

The second reason why Samuel is important as an example to us is the fact that his mother, when asking the Lord for a male child, made a vow that she would consecrate him to the Lord. To consecrate to the Lord means to set aside for the service of God in one’s entire life. Hannah did this in a very literal way by putting him in the tabernacle to do the work of a priest. This was Samuel’s time of preparation for his greater work in Israel.

When our parents answer the questions asked of them at the time of our baptism, our parents do the same thing Hannah did. They consecrate us to the Lord. This does not mean that parents give their children to the Lord by giving them as ministers, elders, deacons and Christian school teachers. But it does mean that our parents give us to the church as Hannah gave Samuel to the service of God in the tabernacle. It means that from the time of our baptism to our confession of faith we are being prepared by the home, the church, and, God willing, by the school for full service in the church.

The church must be the centre of our lives, the most important institution in which we live. All we do is, in all our life, for the benefit of the church and for the glory of God. We love the church; we will do anything to advance the cause of the church; we will sacrifice for the church; we will be faithful to the church. It is the only institution in our lives that will last forever and ever, for it is the very body of our ascended Lord.

We are consecrated to the Lord and prepared in our early years to fulfil that calling. It is the essence of all our calling in this life.

 

1 It is interesting and important to note that Hannah specifically asked for a son (1 Sam 1:11). If she had no more children after her first child, a son alone could preserve the family name in the coming generations.

2 This was a very interesting event in Samuel’s life. We are told (1 Sam. 8:1) that the word of God was precious in those days. The meaning is that the Word of God was scarce in these days. God did not speak to Israel, neither through dreams or visions, nor through prophets, nor through angels. God was silent. It was a bad time in Israel’s history. When God spoke to Samuel, he did not even recognize it as the voice of God. And when the high priest, Eli, told Samuel to say in answer to God’s voice, “Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth” (1 Sam. 3:9). Samuel did answer, but he omitted the word “Lord:’ “Speak, for thy servant heareth” (1 Sam. 3:10).

3 David, for example, was a king who also wrote many of the Psalms.

Written by: Prof. Herman Hanko | Issue 45

Working Smart and Working Hard

Preamble

Students need to manage their school work ever more these days as compared to the past. The ever piling up of work from school does not seem to end. The student cries out for more time to finish his work. How about their other responsibilities to church and family? How about time for themselves? School work has become an albatross round your neck that almost consumes your time, leaving little time for other commitments.

It is prudent to consider making your life simple by taking note of how you do things. You can come up with a plan or system to make things more manageable, and therefore not be stunned by all the tasks needed to be completed each day. With time management you can do more even with hectic schedules. By working smart you can get more things done within the allocated time frame or even with less time, and working hard sees you through what you have planned, never to give up quickly in the face of obstacles like hardships, frustrations and failures.

Your role as a covenant student is not merely studying for your own sake, because you are aware that you have to walk worthy of your calling (Eph.4:1), doing it heartily as unto God (1 Cor. 10:31). For you are accountable to God on the day of Judgment (Rev. 20:12).

Working Smart:

God has given man 24 hours a day. He has designated everything with a season, time and purpose (Ecc. 3:1). And He makes time fluid such that when it is passed, it is gone. There is no way to rewind the clock. Thus, it is necessary that you manage your time well.

Managing   time   well   is   working smart because you get the important things done. This is the key to time management. The benefit of managing time effectively helps to reduce stress and you could do more things each day.

Time management is essentially how you plan and organise your time for the tasks. The emphasis is on quality rather than quantity. It does not mean getting more things done quickly.

Here are some suggestions to help you develop good time management skills.

1. Cultivate good study habits

a. Set aside time to study or do homework each day so it becomes a habit. Turn off your phone and do not respond to calls or texts when you work. Do not check your email or surf the net unless you need them for work.

b. Find a good study area where it is quiet and free from distractions.

c. Be mindful of pockets of time. Your time spent waiting for appointment, taking the train or bus could be the extra time. You could take advantage of that time to review your work or get something done.

d. Find a productive time of day when you would be more efficient in your work.

e. Mark down in your yearly calendar the important fixed dates like scheduled exams, school breaks, holidays, projects, and meetings.

2. Make a to-do list everyday

List out the tasks you want to do for the day. It could include your routines, assignments, errands and study time. Flag the important ones which you need to do first.

3. Don’t be afraid to say NO!

It is OK to say ‘No’ to your friend who asks you out when you have an important task to do. Postpone it to another time when available.

4. Set priorities

a. Budget your time since there is a constraint. Tasks or activities with high priority should be allotted time, such as family, church, spiritual and personal life.

b. You have to determine how much time you have before you add any commitments.

5. Overcome procrastination

Procrastination is one that is difficult to overcome. You may justify yourself by saying: “I work better under pressure.” Usually this is an excuse to put off the task. Beat procrastination with effort and start achieving.

6. Study methodology

a) It is necessary to adopt a method of study that is most helpful to you since every student has different leaning styles.

b) Understanding is the key to study (Pro.4:5). It enables you to apply, analyse, synthesize, and evaluate facts and When learning is enhanced, it becomes meaningful, the information committed to memory will be retained for a longer time. Understanding makes learning stick.

 

Working Hard:

As you will discover, the easy part is learning the skills but the hard part is doing them.

Working hard is to ensure that you follow through with the plan. You would set out to do what you have planned even when there are setbacks. Managing time can be a grind, becoming tedious, stressful to a point of being discouraging.

Let me share some facts about ants (Pro.6:6-8). We can see many parallels in the ants to draw inspirations.

1. Proactive

Ants live in colonies consisting of millions of individuals. They do not have leaders, moms or dads. Although there is a queen ant which does tell the other ants what to do, every ant knows its own roles and carries out its tasks faithfully.

2. Self-motivated

Ants are able to work together effectively because they all have the same goal. They work for the good and unity of the colony. Although most of the time the larger ants will do the work of a worker ant, they are more effective for fighting. They are self-motivated and purpose-driven. They never quit.

3. Diligent

Ants are industrious – they spent their entire life working. They are always on the move. They take on different roles. A new worker ant spends the first few days of its adult life caring for the then move on to digging and other nest work, and later to defending the nest and foraging. When under attack, more soldiers will be summoned to the defence, leaving their worker roles for the more urgent task.

4. Planners

Ants plan for the future. In summer time they gather food, bring it back to the nest and use it for daily meals. They make sure to store food for winter also.

5. Team spirit

Ants work in teams to move extremely heavy things and to capture prey. Ants can lift 20 times their own body weight. If a worker ant finds a good food source, it leaves a scented trail so that other ants in the colony can locate the food.

Encouragement

To walk worthy is to walk circumspectly, redeeming the time (Eph. 5:15-16). To redeem the time is to walk in Christ. Walking in Christ certainly impacts everything you do – your motivation is Christ, you see your goal in Him, use your gifts and abilities for His glory, and your relationships with others demonstrate empathy, understanding, meekness, and care.

God not only calls, but He also strengthens you and supplies all your needs so that you can fulfil His calling (Phi. 4). Do not fret about the tall order because God through Jesus Christ will see you through until the end of life (Isa. 43:2). He will strengthen you with all might according to His glorious power unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness (Col. 1:10-11).

Written by: Patricia Wee | Issue 44

Media Addiction

History of Media

Media (noun) – A way to communicate information from person to person.

Media is a tool to communicate information from person to person. It can come in many different forms in our day and age. In this article, we shall limit media to the press, audio, and video.

Media with storage and transmission began   many   years   ago:   from   the carving of God’s ten commandments on stone tablets to the invention of the Gutenberg Press in 1450, which God was pleased to use to aid the Protestant reformers in the spread of God’s truth when Luther’s ninety-five theses were copied   and   circulated   in   Europe. The arrival of the Gutenberg Press introduced the era of printed mass media communication that we have today. Unlike the press, television and radios did not begin their development until the 1800s. Radios and televisions enabled audio and video information to be transferred far and wide. The early use of the radio was mainly to maintain contact between ships out at sea in Morse code transmission. However, in 1920, the first public radio broadcast took place. And just two months after the first   public broadcast, KDKA aired the first religious service in the history of radio. They also continued with regular Sunday evening service broadcasts through 1962.

The Danger of Media

Media is a tool. And when tools fall into the wrong hands, there can be devastating results. Media is engaging and appealing to our human senses. To top it all off, it has pleasures that please our old man of sin. Satan knows of this great tool, a perfect weapon that can be used against Christians. He has been using this tool to attack and tempt Christians. He holds this weapon in his hand, prowling around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8b). An example would be the release of the novel and film Fifty Shades of Grey in recent years. This novel/film is notable for its explicit erotic scenes. Despite the nature of the novel and film, the books have been sold in family-oriented bookstores. The movie posters were widely distributed and could be seen from the many bus stops and malls in Singapore. This is but one of the many attacks of Satan.

Media Addiction

Addiction (noun) – The state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

Satan does not just stop at empowering the media with attractive sins that appeal to the lust of the flesh. He also lures unsuspecting victims into media addiction so that the user will forsake his Lord and be a slave to sin.

To be addicted to the media means to be enslaved by it. The addicted person spends a large amount of time with the media at the expense of other callings in life. The user takes pleasure in it, and he cannot do without the media despite the disruptiveness of what excessive media can do.

Media addiction is a serious problem, because usually the users are addicted to media that are sinful in nature, ranging from dramas that are filled with violence and sexual scenes to secular music that promotes immorality.

Those who are addicted spend their days on earth indulging in these media, and they find it hard to stop. They are not able to redeem the time that God has given to them because they are bound by the shackles of the media. Their worldview is shaped by the ungodly media and not by the word of God. They will not be good friends, as they care only for their own pleasure. They cannot fulfil their callings as fathers and mothers because they care more about their TV shows than spending time with their children. And their children will care for the things of the world rather than things that are in heaven.

Social Media Addiction

In recent years, a new form of media addiction has surfaced due to the prevalence   of   mobile   devices   and the ability to connect to the internet wherever we are. That is social media addiction. Social media has become increasingly popular among children, youth, and even adults. Many are caught spending their free time browsing through the different social media platforms that are offered on the web instead of doing something else productive. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,   Instagram,   and   Snapchat are some of the popular social media networks in Singapore.

I vividly remember a scene when I was out for dinner with some of my colleagues after a long day of work. After making our way to the eatery, we settled down into our seats around the table, and almost immediately all of my colleagues started to whip out their mobile phones. They were all engaged on social media; they were either tweeting, Facebooking or VLOG- ing on Instagram. Unfortunately, no conversations were made around a table of eight people, and we had dinner quietly for the rest of the night with everyone’s eyes glued to their phones.

The Cure to Addiction and how to Prevent it

The effects of media and social media addiction can be very detrimental to the church. Addiction is like a poison that enslaves us, and only our Lord Jesus Christ, the Great Physician, has the cure. In order to free ourselves from addiction, we have to forsake our pleasures and acknowledge that Christ is our only Lord and we will serve only Him. We were in bondage under the elements of the world, and God has redeemed us (Gal. 4:3). “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 4:7). In addition, 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us to be sober and to be vigilant. To be sober means that we have to be conscious of the different media that are exposed to our lives. With a clear and sober mind, we discern the good and the ungodly media with the word of God. When we come across ungodly media, we have to say in our hearts and minds that it is wrong. Not only do we have to say that it is wrong, we have to stay away from it too. This is what it means to be a vigilant Christian –   always keeping a careful watch for possible dangers. Fellowshipping together with your church friends can help in dealing with media addiction as well, for they can watch over you. There is strength in a multitude of godly counsel. “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise” (Prov. 13:20a).

Dear friends, let us pray for God’s grace to help us to manage media in our lives. Remember, every day requires prayer! (ERP!)

Written by: Paul Ong | Issue 44

Conflicts in Friendship

This string of articles on friendships is about to reach its end—but not without one final word. One young reader, keeping up with the previous articles, suggested the title that you see above this paragraph. So, we will say a few things under this title.

All of us have had conflicts in our friendships. They do not all start the same way—a harsh criticism of your error, or an indifferent response to your sorrow. Neither have they all lasted the same time—some, less than twenty- four hours; others, for days; still others, left unresolved.

However they start, however long they are, conflicts are always ugly. Knowing how ugly they are, we want to resolve them—or do we?

Whether we want resolution or not, God calls us to end all conflicts with our friends in the church we belong to. The church, God through Paul says, must “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1). Conflict is opposite of unity and peace. Letting conflicts with our friends continue breaks the unity and disturbs the church’s peace. Letting a conflict go on, fester, and deepen, then, is disobedience to God.

Briefly consider, then, the matter of conflicts in friendships: their Triggers, Purpose, and Resolutions.

Triggers

In a sense, there are many things that can trigger conflicts between friends. All of us can easily remember words spoken or actions done by our friends that have ticked us off. Perhaps it was a time, when you casually shared a thought with your friend, but that friend, without letting you finish, jumped in with what he thought— well, he sure wanted to listen to what you had to say! Perhaps it was a time when you confided in your friend about a certain problem, but your friend…first laughed. She probably did not laugh to mock you—oh, but it sure felt that way! Or perhaps, you and your friend have grown up, but now he has a girlfriend, or she has a boyfriend; and you see him lesser during the week, or you find that she spends less time with you. The friendship grows cold; both of you talk less to each other; and soon the blame goes to…

In our experience, many things can be an occasion for conflicts.

Yet, the Bible does not first of all pay attention   to   these   “many   things”. The Bible pays attention, firstly, to the heart—no, the evil of our hearts. And so, when we want to know from Scripture what starts a conflict between friends, we will find that it is sin.

Turn nowhere else but to Proverbs, first. Hatred stirreth up strifes: (10:12a). When your friend steps on your toe, and you bear a grudge against him for that one action, you have stirred up strife. He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife (28:25). When a friend comes to us with problems, but we brush them aside because we think they are weird and the problems are small, we are stirring up strife. When God calls us to love our neighbour as ourselves, but there is hatred and pride, there will be conflict.

Then turn to the conflicts Scripture records. The very first conflict between two   humans   was   Adam and   Eve. When God confronted Adam with disobedience, Adam said proudly, “It was not my fault; my wife at the fruit first! It’s her fault!” Adam was too aloof to admit he was at fault; and there, he set a conflict with his wife. There was Abram and Lot, too. Lot, jealous of Abram’s riches, brought his conflict between his herdsmen and his uncle’s. Eventually, Lot chose a greener pasture and separated himself from Abram. His jealousy started a conflict between Abram and Lot.

The one trigger to all conflicts between friends is sin.

Worse still, sin not only triggers conflicts, but it also prolongs them. Hebrews 12:15 speaks of bitterness— hatred that is kept in our hearts. When I am angry with my friend, and I do not get rid of that anger; that anger, like roots gripping the soil of the ground, grips my heart, so that I will not stop thinking of that anger when I look at my friend. Or look back to the times when we had conflicts with others: Were we the first one to say, “Let’s talk about this”? Or were we too proud, thinking that he should have made the first move? Or when the words “I’m sorry” had been spoken to us: Did we still bear that anger in our hearts? How pride—how sin—triggers and prolongs conflicts!

Purpose

Horrific as it may be, conflicts have a purpose, as God is in control of the conflicts in our friendships.

Briefly, God ordains conflicts to sanctify us and our friends. Think back to the conflict between Euodias and Syntyche: The Lord ordained that quarrel, so that he may teach the church of Philippi—including Euodias and Syntyche—to “be of the same mind in the Lord” (Phil. 4:2). Likewise, as sin sows discord in our friendships, the Lord uses it to teach us how we ought to live together as friends in the church. How the Lord does so is by showing us from His Word how to resolve those conflicts.

Resolutions

How does God want us to resolve conflicts?

There is our attitude, firstly. Do we want to resolve the conflict? However, realise with me that we are wrong to start with that question. When are we to think first of what we want; is not what God wants more important? Does God want you to resolve the conflict? God declares the ceasing of strife to be honourable (Pro. 20:3). Let us, then, desire resolution.

There are also certain actions that can help us when there are conflicts. Let us list a few here (in no particular order):

1)       Listen. Be ready to hear what your friend has to say about the conflict. Maybe there are some things you did not know you have done that hurt your friend. Often, you will not know these things until you stop talking and let your friend share his part. After all, doesn’t God listen to us when we speak to Him in prayer?

2)       Examine     yourself.     Ask yourself: “Have I done anything wrong that has started or continued this conflict?” We already know how depraved we are; therefore, we must not leave ourselves out when it comes down to “Who started the conflict?”

3)   Have   a   face-to-face conversation.   Not   by   the   phone, or by Whatsapp. With your fullest attention, talk to your friend. Such conversations tell your friend that you are not afraid to settle the conflict, even   if   it   means   admitting   your own sins to your friend. Also, using indirect means of communication (Whatsapp, phone calls) may lead to more misunderstanding. Writing out your thoughts may be helpful, but it may not convey all your thoughts to your friend. Meeting directly with your friend gives you the time and space to speak your mind out and clarify things. After all, doesn’t God want us, His friend-servants, to be in His presence?

4)       Forgive. When sins have been confessed to each other and regret has been acknowledged, you must be ready to tell your friend, “I forgive you”. Read Q&A 126 of the Heidelberg Catechism.

5)       Bear with it! Do I tell my friend that I forgive him, when he does not think he is in the wrong when he clearly is? If our friends do not acknowledge their faults in the conflict, then we must be ready to bear with those faults for some time. To bear with faults can be expressed this way: “He doesn’t know where he is wrong: But that is fine. Maybe he needs more time to realise his fault; why he needs more time, I do not know. I will just give him that time he needs. Meanwhile, I will pray for him, that the Lord shows him his error. All I want for him to know is that I love him and am ready to forgive”. Does the Lord patiently bear with our sins that we are not conscious of? Have we seen Him lash out at us in eternal fury? Never. In time, He gradually makes us discover a new depth to our depravity and brings us to confess the sins we have grown conscious of. Even as God has shown us patience, so we must be patient with our brethren, and bear with their weaknesses.

6)       Doing the same thing in the home. If we do not practise forgiving our parents and siblings in the home, we must not expect ourselves to be able to forgive and resolve our conflicts with our friends.

Conclusion

More can be said on conflicts between friends in the church and on dealing with these conflicts. Yet, one point must never be left out: How we deal with our friends is how God deals with us. Has God ignored us when we sinned? Has God ever said, “I forgive you”, but make us sense that he is still angry with us? Has God looked at us, only to bear thoughts of anger and hatred? Never, from eternity to eternity!

That is our pattern, my dear friends.

Written by: Lim Yang Zhi | Issue 44

Scripture’s Covenant Youth (VII): Samuel

Among all the many faithful people in Israel of whom Scripture speaks, and even among all the covenant youth that are mentioned in Scripture, Samuel is unique. He was unique in several respects, but the most important characteristic of this great man of God was that he alone came closest to holding all three offices in Israel: prophet, priest and king, something no man ever did in Israel, in fact, might not do. He was prophet to whom the Lord spoke and who brought the word of the Lord to the nation. He was priest and often sacrificed for the people – as he did, for example, when he went to Bethlehem at God’s command to anoint David king in Saul’s place. But he was not king. Yet he was numbered among the judges who fought for the nation and judged them while Israel did not yet have a king. Samuel even served in that transition period when God gave Israel a king to take the place of judges. Saul was deposed from office by God himself for the sin of disobedience. Saul was the choice of the people; David was God’s choice.

You probably know the story of his birth. His mother Hannah was the wife of a man named Elkanah. But Elkanah had two wives, and was, we may conclude, a rather prosperous man. But, as was always the case in families where a man had more than one wife, in this home too, there was trouble between the two wives. God tolerated families with multiple wives during these Old Testament times, because godly marriages are a picture of Christ and his church, and because the picture was dim, blurred and unclear in the time when Christ had not yet done His great work of making His bride a pure and holy bride. God no longer will tolerate such marriages for Christ has come and He has one wife and one only, the church. He loves her and none other (1 Tim. 3:2, 12). Nor can He love any other for He died only for His bride.

The spiritual condition in Elkanah’s home was not the best. It is true that Elkanah did take his family to the tabernacle once a year to make their sacrifices to God as the law required. And it is also true that Elkanah loved Hannah in preference to Peninah (1 Sam 1:4-5). Hannah was the God- fearing wife of Elkanah. I doubt whether Peninah even loved the Lord, for she provoked Hannah “sore” because God had not given Hannah children (1 Sam 1:6), while Peninah had sons and daughters (1 Sam. 1:4). She mocked Hannah’s longing to have children.

Hannah was very sad that the Lord had not given her children, but Elkanah, it seemed, did not understand what was the reason for Hannah’s sadness. He thought that extra gifts to Hannah would cure her of her sadness. But, it seems, he was too lacking in any real spirituality in his inability to understand that Hannah’s sorrow was not so much the mere fact that she could not have children, but that she could not share in the blessing that most godly mothers possessed: to be a part of the nation of Israel and so to have a part in bringing forth the Christ, the Seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent and bring deliverance from the tyranny of sin (1 Sam. 1:8).

How do we know that her inability to have children was her great sorrow?

The answer is the fervency of her prayer for a child along with her promise that if God would give her a child, she would dedicate the child to the Lord (1 Sam 1:16-18). And even more powerfully, the song that Hannah sang when the Lord gave her a son (1 Sam 2:1-10) has many similarities to the song that Mary sang when she knew she was pregnant with Christ (Luke 1:46-55). It seems to me that Mary had Hannah’s song in her mind when she sang the song recorded for us in Luke. It was as if Mary, in her astonishment that the Lord had done what he said he would do, spoke in her song of and to all those godly women in the old dispensation who eagerly longed   for   the   coming   of   Christ, and found their joy in bringing forth children of the covenant who would bring into this world of sin the Christ himself. Mary collected all these songs and prayers of covenant mothers and said, as it were: God is faithful. I am to bring forth the hope of Israel’s mothers.

And so it is yet today even though Christ has brought salvation.

Throughout the entire new dispensation, the church of Christ has been blessed with such mothers as Hannah. These mothers live and die with two great truths in their hearts that lead them to understand Hannah’s sorrow in not having children.

The first is this: They are given the blessedness of bringing into the world God’s elect, for God’s promise is that he will save his church from believers and their seed. These covenant mothers bring forth the church of Christ itself.

Second, they know that Christ will come only when the last elect child is born and brought to faith in Christ. They have a part in bringing about that glorious day when Christ, the hope of the church, will come to take His people to glory. It is as if every covenant mother has her eye on and her heart aching for her Saviour who shall presently come to take her and her children to be where Christ is. They understand Hannah’s prayer. They will say when they stand before Christ: “Here am I, Lord, and the children thou has given me (Isa. 8:18, Heb, 2:13)1.

I know I have not yet written about Samuel, but I will – in the next article, God willing; but all these things are necessary background. Samuel was, in the words of Hannah, lent to the Lord as the living expression of Israel’s hope. This so permeated Samuel’ life that all his work was to bring Israel to a stronger hope for the coming of their Saviour.

 

1 We must not conclude that Christ must wait to come again until godly mothers have had their children as they planned to have them. The date of Christ’s coming is eternally fixed. But because the text from Isaiah that I quoted above is applied to Christ himself in Hebrews 2:13, the glorious idea is that Christ assigns to each covenant mother what children of God’s covenant they must bring forth, and to them He gives this great privilege. Christ determines His “children.”

 

Written by: Prof. Herman Hanko | Issue 44

Media Piracy: A Dire Temptation of Our Day

Introduction

Piracy originally was used to describe something that happened at sea and involved the robbing of ships, but the word has taken on another meaning in today’s context. Today, piracy is also used to refer to the unauthorised use or reproduction of another’s work. For this article, we will be limiting the scope of our discussion to digital piracy, which basically refers to the illegal downloading and usage of games, software, videos, music, etc.

The Law

In order to identify digital piracy correctly, we must first understand what the law says is wrong. And what the law says is wrong will also play a part in what we consider as stealing. Singapore has in place a Copyright Act, which was revised in 2006. Whenever someone creates and expresses a piece of original work in a tangible form (such as in writing or recording), he enjoys copyright protection without the need for registration. An original work means that there is a degree of independent effort that was put into the creation of that work. With copyright protection, the author of the work enjoys certain privileges such as deciding how to distribute, sell or use his work. The author may also choose to sell or give the copyright to another party.

Copyright infringement occurs when one or more of the copyright owner’s rights are violated. This happens when someone copies or distributes all or part of the copyrighted work without permission from the owner. Note that even if it was never viewed or used, just by obtaining a copy of the work without permission constitutes an infringement.

The Problem

The problem today is that proof of infringement lies with the copyright owner. He has to show in court not only that he is the owner of the material, but also produce evidence that the other party has copied his work without permission. This is done to prevent a misuse of the law but the flipside is that this makes it a relatively hard and tedious process for copyright owners to protect their work. Most copyright owners feel that it is not worth their effort and there is also the risk of a public backlash as well.

This, combined with the advancement of the internet and technologies that make use of the internet, has made digital piracy so common today. The law cannot effectively regulate what the general public practices. The chaotic and anonymous nature of the internet has made it such that it is practically impossible to put a stop to digital piracy.

But what does all of this that mean for the Christian? When society practices something that is at odds with the law, how is a Christian supposed to react? What are the principles that we should base our decisions on?

Lord’s Day 42

Q. 110. What doth God forbid in the eighth commandment?

A. God forbids not only those thefts, and robberies, which are punishable by the magistrate; but he comprehends under the name of theft all wicked tricks and devises, whereby we design to appropriate to ourselves the goods which belong to our neighbour: whether it be by force, or under the appearance of right, as by unjust weights, ells, measures, fraudulent merchandise, false coins, usury, or by any other way forbidden by God;, as also all covetousness, all abuse and waste of his gifts.

Q. 111. But what doth God require in this commandment?

A. That I promote the advantage of my neighbour in every instance I can or may; and deal with him as I desire to be dealt with by others: further also that I faithfully labour, so that I may be able to relieve the needy.

Lord’s Day 42 in explaining the eighth commandment on stealing touches at the heart of our discussion and sets forth the principles that we should follow. In Q&A 110, the explanation given is that not only outright stealing is forbidden, but also all other forms where we short-change the neighbour. To put in the words used by the Heidelberg Catechism: “whereby we design to appropriate to ourselves the goods which belong to our neighbour: whether it be by force, or under the appearance of right”.

The Heidelberg Catechism was written in a time where the common form of stealing would be at the market, through the use of something like false weights or coins. Times have certainly changed since then. Today, there are much more sophisticated forms of stealing, some of which can even seem legitimate. Nevertheless, the principles that are laid forth in the Heidelberg Catechism still stand. Digital piracy is basically still stealing because we are using or viewing something without giving due compensation to the creator, thus short-changing the neighbour.

Technologies that enables Digital Piracy

We first need to be aware of some of the technologies that have made digital piracy so easy today. The underlining technology is the internet. The internet has allowed people to download illegal content easily with a high degree of anonymity.

But there are some specific uses of the internet that has enabled digital piracy to become so common. One such use is by something called BitTorrent. What BitTorrent does is to allow the easy sharing of content, be it software, games, videos or music. All it takes is for one person to upload the pirated content and everyone who wants to download will share it with others as well. This P2P (Peer to Peer) technology that is used by BitTorrent requires those that download the content to automatically upload and share it with others. From a legal point of view, torrenting is against the law as one not only makes an illegal copy but also shares that copy with others. There are legitimate content that can be downloaded through BitTorrent but most of the content available is pirated.

Another way is through streaming which is used for videos and music. The content is generally hosted on a website where others are able to view. Once again there are content that can be viewed legitimately through steaming, but other content actually constitutes digital piracy when viewed. We will discuss more about this later in the article.

Software and Games

Digital piracy can take many forms. For software and games, that is a little more straightforward. Using a software or game without paying for it when it is supposed to be paid for is digital piracy. We are stealing from the developer of the software or game when we use their work without paying them. Of course there are those free software which can be used without paying but it is digital piracy if we deliberately find ways to use them for free when we know that it actually requires payment. It sounds very straightforward because it actually is! But because it is relatively easy to get a pirated copy and relatively hard to get caught, using pirated software and games becomes almost a norm today. Once again, we need a reminder that just because everyone does it does not make it right. It is not right in the eyes of the law but more importantly, it is not right in the eyes of God.

Video Streaming

For the sake of simplicity, when videos are referred to in this article, it would also include all movies, TV shows and music. This article does not go into whether it is right for a Christian to consume such content in the first place and only focuses on whether it is digital piracy.

A video that is downloaded without the permission of the creator is digital piracy because we have obtained an unauthorised copy of the video. But when we stream a video, one might argue that we are not actually downloading the video and we are just watching it online. But actually, when we view pirated videos through streaming, our computer stores a temporary copy of it on the hard drive and this is illegal according to the law because we are still making an unauthorised copy of the video.

One of the one the most familiar platform that does streaming is YouTube. Content that is placed on YouTube is generally legal because YouTube actively removes pirated content. But there is bound to be some illegal content, which we must be careful of. Other streaming sites do not police what is uploaded as much as YouTube does and as a result, much more pirated content can be found.

There are legitimate ways to watch videos through streaming. Platforms that require a monthly fee to access paid content are one legitimate way. There are also creators that allow their videos to be watched for free so that they gain publicity or earn through advertisements. Some signs which can help us to identify illegal videos are when we realise that we are paying nothing to watch content that we know should be paid for, or if the video was not uploaded by the original creator.

The Difficulty

The problem is that sometimes it can be very tricky to differentiate between what is legal and illegal. One such example is something like though a software called Popcorn Time. What this software does is to allow one to watch all sorts of paid content for free. On the surface it mimics legal platforms that require a monthly fee, but it relies on P2P technology to offer the content for free. It is basically torrenting, as was described earlier, but done in a very subtle way. When you watch the content, it is downloaded through P2P and stored in a secret folder on your hard drive. This content is automatically deleted on a system reboot.

Technology is constantly changing and the world is getting better at making something illegal seem legal. But when we consider what the Heidelberg Catechism says in QnA 111: “That I promote the advantage of my neighbour in every instance I can or may”, it helps us to see though their schemes. By using the software, game or video in such a way that the creator is not properly compensated, we are not promoting the advantage of our neighbour.

Because digital piracy is so common and could very well be considered to be a norm today, we have not really been forced to consider this issue carefully. We might also hesitate to consider this issue carefully as it could have deep implications on the activities we enjoy. It might even mean more trouble for us, as sometimes obtaining a legal copy could prove difficult or almost impossible, while an illegal copy is just a few clicks away. There are excuses that we might give, such as “I only want to try it out before buying”, or “everyone is doing it”, or “the company is already earning so much money”, or “if I like it after I use it, I will buy more” and others.

Christian Stewardship

We need to consider if what we do is pleasing to God, when we look at it in light of what the eighth commandment really means. The principle of Christian stewardship is that God owns everything. God has given to each person his share of earthly possessions and our calling is to use them wisely and for the glory of God. Part of it is to be contented with what with have and not steal from our neighbour.

What we have discussed in this article is stealing. It does not matter if everyone does it and very few people are actually caught and punished. As long as it is against the law, it is stealing. And even if it is not against the law, as long as the neighbour is not properly compensated, it will still be wrong. The eighth commandment is very strict in its instruction. And one of the implications is that we are to consider the good of the neighbour and to deal with him in a way that we would wish to be dealt with if our positions were reversed.

Because of how quickly technology advances, it is impossible to discuss all the ways that digital piracy can take place. But by asking some simple questions such as:

  1. Is it against the law?
  2. Is the creator properly compensated?
  3. Am I using it in a way that is beneficial to the creator?
  4. Am I using it in a way that the creator intended?

We can accurately determine whether what we are doing is legitimate or is actually digital piracy. May God grant us the wisdom and the conviction to do what is pleasing to Him.

Written by: Deacon Cornelius Boon | Issue 43

Dare to Stand: Bold Against Asherah

Greetings, fellow young adult Christian Singaporeans! I recall with fondness the brief time I spent in Singapore almost two years ago, and I was glad when recently the Salt Shakers committee asked if I could contribute to your magazine. I thank you for this opportunity to communicate with you and pray that, if God wills, this article and the magazine as a whole may be blessing to you.

The topic at hand is biblical boldness. My intention is to write several articles on boldness, so a lengthier section in this article will be devoted to a broad, biblical introduction to the subject. True boldness may be defined as an unnatural confidence in the strength of Jesus that generally reveals itself in godly speech. Let us note several important aspects of this definition:

  1. Boldness is not natural to fallen man.
  • The natural man behaves like Peter, the close disciple of Jesus, who at the end of Jesus’ ministry “began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man” (Matt. 26:74).
  • The person who has confidence in his money or athleticism or good looks must hear the admonition of Scripture, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
  • Because boldness is not natural to man, we must wait on the Lord for strength. Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord”.
  1. The source of boldness is the strength of Jesus Christ.
  • Eph.     3:11-12     demonstrates that boldness is found in Jesus: “According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him”.
  • Satan and his demons might appear bold, daring even to enter the lair of the enemy. Job 1 tells us the devil marched into God’s presence and requested permission to persecute the upright Job. However, the devil is not truly bold, for his apparent bravery is motivated by abhorrence of Jesus, not love.
  • In the New Testament, Jesus gives boldness to all saints through His poured-out Spirit. Peter, who had earlier denied Jesus three times, was suddenly bold to preach as he received the Spirit of Christ (Act. 2:14ff). The crowds marvelled at such boldness: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Act. 4:13).
  • The person who does not have the Spirit of Christ is not bold but frightened, even afraid of imaginary troubles. “The wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Pro. 28:1).
  1. As a general rule, boldness reveals itself in godly speech.
  • “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings, and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word” (Act. 4:29).
  • For more examples of boldness in speech, one might look up Act. 4:31, Eph. 6:19, and Phil. 1:14. There are more!
  • There are exceptions. Joseph of Arimathea “went in boldly unto Pilate” to ask for the body of Jesus (Mark 15:43). But even here, the true character of Joseph’s boldness was not that he went into Pilate’s presence but the message Joseph delivered: “Give me Jesus”.
  • Oftentimes, bold speech takes the form of preaching. Jesus preached with boldness: “For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the Scribes” (Matt. 7:29). The apostle Paul desired boldness in his preaching; “[Pray] for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the Gospel” (Eph. 6:19).
  • At other times, bold speech takes the form of prayer. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
  • The devil hates godly speech, for “he is a liar, and the father of it”. He will use whatever means possible to prevent bold speech, for “he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth” (Jn. 8:44).

Now, let us look more closely at how we might be bold in an age of sexual immorality. To do this, we will look at a familiar Old Testament figure: Elijah, a powerful and Spirit-filled prophet (Lk. 1:17). Most of us have heard the story of Elijah on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18), where Elijah held a “competition” with the prophets of Baal. The rules of the competition were simple. Both Elijah and the false prophets were to prepare an altar, but neither side was to light a fire under the altar. Then, Elijah and the false prophets would each pray to their respective gods, and whichever god sent fire would be recognized as the true God.

What is less commonly known about this account is that the 450 prophets of Baal were not the only false prophets who participated in the event on Mt. Carmel. Also present that day were “the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table” (1 Kings 18:19). The “prophets of the groves” were those prophets who worshipped Asherah. Asherah was the goddess of sexual pleasure. Worship her, and she would fulfil the base desires of man’s heart in the way of sexual promiscuity, in adultery and whoredom and even same-sex relationships.   Asherah’s followers were jealous for the goddess; she alone was to be worshipped. Her faithful adherents brought her images into the house of God (2 Kings 21:2-3 & 23:4), so that instead of worshipping the holy Jehovah God, Asherah alone would be worshipped!

In 2017, Asherah is not dead. And her followers have no less shame in worshipping her. From my experiences in America, I can testify that one does not have to look hard to find the goddess Asherah. She displays herself with the bright lights on the billboards and in the flashing images of TV programming and commercials. Asherah has become well-acquainted with social media, using Facebook and the “Featured Stories” of Snapchat to keep her followers faithful. Asherah’s worshippers are jealous that she alone be worshipped. To fulfil this desire, they have taken her into God’s house, and many churches now place their blessing on pre-marital intercourse, divorce and remarriage, and even homosexuality!

The prophet Elijah, in response to the widespread worship of Asherah (and Baal), was bold to confront the enemy. Ahab accused Elijah of troubling Israel, but Elijah replied with bold words to wicked king: “I have not troubled Israel, but thou and thy father’s house!” The altars of the contest were set up, and the false prophets went first, praying to their god for fire to come down. When nothing happened, Elijah was not afraid to show their utter folly in worshipping a false god: “Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud, for he is a god, either he is talking…or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked!” (1 Kings 18:27). After several hours had passed by and no fire consumed the altar, it became evident to all who were watching that Asherah was not god, nor was Baal.

But who was the true God? And would that God be bold to demonstrate in front of the crowds of people that He was the God? Elijah, filled with the Spirit, went boldly unto the throne of grace and prayed for help in time of need. He prayed to God that He would “let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant…and that thou hast turned [the Israelites’] heart back again.” The faithful Lord heard Elijah’s bold request, and He sent fire from heaven, consuming the wood and stone and even the water in the trench surrounding the altar. The people responded with one voice, “The Lord, He is the God!”

Let us be like Elijah, emboldened by the Spirit to confront the immoral Asherah. When Asherah deceives the young man so that he thinks he can resist by his own strength, let him be warned! “For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her” (Pro. 7:26). Like Elijah, we depend on God’s divine intervention to refute Asherah’s seductive advances. If Asherah has already broken down your defences and made you spiritually sick, even addicted, then “call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over [you], anointing [you] with oil in the name of the Lord” (Js 5:20). Asherah and her demons are no less progressive today than they were in Elijah’s day, but at the same time, Christ and His Spirit are no less powerful and faithful. Seek Christ’s strength in time of need, “so that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:6).

Written by: Stephan Regnerus | Issue 43