Money

Take a look around your house, flat, or condo. Probably everything you see was bought with money. Money is something necessary in life. It probably would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that we would die without money. God gives us money to buy everything we need to live. If we have no money, we have no food or water, no clothes, and no place to stay.

The Bible mentions money in a few places. In Bible times money was measured in mites, farthings, shekels, and talents. Naaman wanted to give money to Elisha to heal him (2 Kings 5). Solomon’s kingdom was very rich (1 Kings 10). In Bible times, if you did not have enough money to pay debts, you could be forced to pay with your children.

As Christians, we need to be careful with how we view money. We should not view money as the world does. For many people, their main goal in life is to get a successful job and earn as much money as they can. They mistakenly think money brings happiness. Sometimes they judge people by the wealth that they have. A sad practice in the world today is for parents to put their children in daycare so that the mom can go to work and earn a few extra dollars. They neglect their children for money.

On the contrary, we as Christians should not have our main goal in life to be the pursuit of earthly wealth, but instead the pursuit of spiritual riches. We have to be careful not to make money an idol and love it more than God. In fact, our wealth should not even be a major concern in our life, as God provides for our needs. Matthew 6:31-32: “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things”. We should be content with what God has given to us. “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain” (Pro. 30:8-9).

1 Timothy 6:10 tells us that the love of money is the root of all evil. That does not mean that without money there would be no evil, but that the love of money leads to all different kinds of evils. Some of the sins it leads to are greed and lying, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus because he loved money. He was given 30 pieces of silver to betray Christ (Matt. 26:14-16). A couple other evils the love of money can lead to are usury and receiving bribes. When Jesus rose from the dead, the elders of the city gave money to the soldiers as a bribe to say that the disciples had stolen His body (Matt. 28:11-15). Psalm 15 speaks of those who may dwell in God’s holy hill. In the four verses listing requirements to abide in God’s tabernacle, two of those requirements have to do with money. We may not put out our money to usury (loan it at excessive interest rates) or take bribes (“taketh reward against the innocent,” vs. 5).

However, money does not always lead to these sins. It can be used for very good purposes. Every Sunday we put some money into the offering bag to support the minister, our missionary, our seminary student, and the poor, as well as to pay for our church activities. We can do this even if we are poor and do not have enough money, as Christ teaches us in Mark 12:41-44, in the story of the widow who cast two mites into the treasury, although that was all she had.

We should give cheerfully, as 2 Corinthians 9:7 says: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver”. We should give generously, remembering how much God has given to us. In 2 Corinthians 8:9 we read, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich”. He has given us all spiritual riches, and one way in which we show thanks to Him is by giving liberally for the causes of His kingdom.

We are called to be good stewards of the money God has given us. God has given us many things, and we should use them wisely. He is the owner of all things (Ps. 24:1; 50:10-12) and has committed some of it to us for our care. He commands us to be faithful with that which He has given to us (1 Cor. 4:2). Popular activities in the world are betting, gambling, and buying lottery tickets. These are examples of bad stewardship, of an unwise use of the money God has given to us. One way to be a good steward is to save our money for things we might need later in life. We do this realising that God is in control of our future, but we may plan ahead for things that may happen in His providence.

A popular gospel today is the health and wealth gospel, which says that God blesses us with health and earthly riches when we are good Christians. This is a false teaching, as God does not give wealth to reward us. Our hope as Christians is not that we become healthy and wealthy, but that we have spiritual riches and an eternal inheritance. We must not forget that although money is important, it cannot pay for everything. Only Christ’s blood can pay for our sins and give us salvation.

Written by: Eric Lanning | Issue 44

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

Scripture’s Covenant Youth (VI): Moses

An elder with whom I was speaking to said to me in the course of our conversation, “When young people come to the consistory to make confession of faith, all I want to know is whether they love Jesus and sincerely confess him as their own”. I was a little taken aback by this and insisted that this was not enough. I told him that I wanted to know why a person wanted to make confession of faith “in this church”. I pointed out to him that if a prospective member wanted to make confession of faith and all he had to do was say that he believes in Christ, then he could make confession of faith in nearly any church around. He would be accepted anywhere on the basis of such a confession.

But, I added, I want to know why an individual wants to make confession of faith here, in this church, and not elsewhere. The applicant for membership in the church must answer this question: “Do you acknowledge the doctrine . . . taught here in this Christian church to be the true and complete doctrine of salvation?”

If one who is baptized as an adult also makes his confession of faith, he too must answer in the affirmative, “Dost thou assent to all the articles of the Christian religion as they are taught here in this Christian church according to the Word of God. . . ?

What Hebrews 11:25 calls Moses’ choice for the people of God is Moses’ confession of faith. It was more an action than a verbal confession, but the action showed clearly that in his heart he had made a decision concerning the burning question: To what people do you wish to join yourself? To Israel or to Egypt? That is, to the church or to the world? That is what confession of faith is all about: the church of Christ or the world? Where do I belong?

It is profitable to compare our confession of faith with that of Moses. We will compare the two by following the order of the questions that are asked of those who make confession of faith in the PRC and their sister churches.

Moses made his choice when he “came to years”. The same is true of us. When we “come to years” we are mature adults, no longer dependent on others (parents, teachers, elders) to teach us what is true; we have reached the point in our lives when we are able to make our own decisions. So it was with Moses. He was older than us, but circumstances were different now than then. Moses was in the courts of Pharaoh for forty years and we do not know if he had any contact with the Israelites during those years. But he knew enough about both Israel and Egypt to make his choice.

Moses expressed his choice by “refusing to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter”. He had to make his choice known in some way to those in the court of Pharaoh and to God’s people. He found what he thought was the ideal way to do this when he killed an Egyptian who was fighting with an Israelite. Our confession of faith is a vow that we publicly make before the church of Christ. Both are confessions of faith. Hebrews 11 tells us that very thing: By faith Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter… Our confession is a confession of what we believe by faith and how we will be faithful to what we believe.

A vow is a promise before God to do something. We say, as it were, if we do not keep this vow we make, may God bring His wrath and judgment on us. It is my judgment that this vow is more important (as it was for Moses) than the vow I make at marriage and the vow I make when I bring my children to the church for baptism – although, of course, every vow is important.

Just as we do, Moses expressed the fact that he believed all that God had said in His word. Moses was the very first to write part of the Bible, and so he knew the truth only through the tradition of a people who cherished it. The people of God had preserved that tradition through the flood, through the disruption of the people on earth at Babel, through the lives of the patriarchs, and during the four hundred years Israel was in Egypt. It was a miracle of the preservation of the truth through the traditions of God’s people.

At the heart of that tradition was God’s promise to His church to send the seed of the woman who would crush the head of Satan to deliver His people from death and hell.

So we confess our faith in the Scriptures; we confess that the Scriptures are true in all they teach, and that the Scriptures in their entirety give us a portrait of Jesus Christ as the only one through whom we have salvation from sin and death, and who will surely come to save us.

Moses was deeply conscious of the fact that the truth of Christ came to him by tradition. While it did not come in the form of written creeds, it did come to him as the one faith all the people of God confessed since creation and those revelations of God in creation. That tradition was constantly enriched by additional works of God: the gospel preached after the fall (Gen. 3:15), the murder of Abel because he looked to Christ when he sacrificed a lamb, the flood, the new creation after the flood, the division of the people at Babel, the call and obedience of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the miraculous birth of Isaac, and all the revelations of the truth given before Moses’ time and preserved through tradition.

So it is when we make confession of faith that we too confess the truth as held by our fathers since Pentecost and contained in our confessions. We confess that we believe that the truth is contained in the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene creeds, the Symbolum quicunque, sometimes called the Athanasian Creed, the Creed of Chalcedon, and the Three Forms of Unity.

It is at this point that the confession and vow which we make becomes very particular: we also confess that we believe the doctrine taught in “this Christian church” as the true and complete doctrine of salvation.

Moses made that his confession of faith when he cast his lot with Israel and was willing to suffer severe persecution for the sake of that truth. He turned his back with a shudder on all the treasures of Egypt.

Today it is somewhat different, for there are many, many churches, and among those are to be found churches in which there are also people of God and where the truth is still preserved in some measure. That part of our confession that speaks of the truth as taught in the church of which we are a member really makes us sit up and think.

To confess this means basically to confess that the church in which we make confession of faith teaches only the truth and teaches it in all its fullness and purity. This church (along with other churches who believe what we do) in which I make confession of faith is the true church of Christ and the purest manifestation of Christ’s body found in the world. One says, as it were, “I believe this church is the clearest and purest manifestation of the body of Christ in the world, and I want to be faithful to what I confess in Article 28 of the Belgic Confession, namely that I must in obedience to Christ the head of the church, join myself to that church, even though the edict of princes oppose it. Other churches may have the truth in part, but the error(s) they hold will develop into worse errors.

That is what Moses confessed when he chose to cast his lot with the people of God.

Finally, he promised to be faithful to that people and to reject the treasures and pleasures of Egypt. We can’t have both, you know. It is always one or the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. The child of God who believes the truth taught in his Christian church must live an antithetical life. He must say NO to the world and YES to God’s people.

Faithfulness! That is our confession! So faithful that if I err, I will submit to the government of the church. That too I vow before God. The church is my mother. When that church tells me I am wrong, I hear the church as the word of Christ Himself to me. That mother feeds me with heavenly bread. That mother shelters me from the storms of life. I am taught by that mother all my days. And when I do wrong, that mother chastises me to teach me to be faithful.

I pray for the faithfulness of the church in which I confess my faith, because I want a true church for myself, my spouse, my children, my grandchildren and my great grandchildren until the Lord Himself returns.

Written by: Prof. Herman Hanko | Issue 43

The Sin of Silence

Ezekiel 3:17 Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.

18 When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

19 Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

20 Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling-block before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

21 Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.

Dear Covenant Youth,

Although this passage concerns the calling of the watchman or the minister of God’s flock, it is not contrary to the principles of God’s Word that I apply this Word of God to your lives, for all of God’s people are called to be “watchmen” over the lives of our brethren or to be our brother’s keepers (Gen. 4:9), and even to admonish them if we see that he is overtaken in a fault (Gal. 5:1-2).

Whenever I come across this passage of God’s Word, it never fails to bring a chill to my spine, and I am sure you will have the same reaction. This is perhaps one of the most serious, frightening, awesome word of God in the whole of Scripture. This text together with the title of the article has to do with our awesome responsibility in the sight of God.

What is it about this text that causes one to sit up and pay attention to the message? It is this: we are responsible for the blood of our brethren if we do not bring the Word of God to warn them when we know they are walking in sin.

God does not allow us any excuse for not bringing a word of warning from His Word to them. Perhaps, we say in our hearts, “oh, they ought to know – no need for me to remind them”, or “I don’t wish to rock the boat and cause my brethren to dislike me”. This Word of God does not allow us to be delinquent in our duty.

There is not a more straightforward and direct word of God than this text. What does this text teach me? First, it is our solemn responsibility to warn those who belong to the instituted church of God who sin against Him. In it, there are both the wicked and the righteous – who have departed from the way of God and live a wicked life outwardly. Then, there are those who seem to be righteous but have been overtaken in sin. Both of these groups belong to the household of God. To both groups, we must warn them of their sins and waywardness. Then, it is a fearful thing that God in sovereignty places a stumbling block in the lives of the wicked. Such a stumbling block causes one to fall and sin. It is the result of God’s judgment upon the person who has hardened his heart and refuses to turn from his sins.

Whatever is the situation, our calling is to warn him of his sins, and if he repents from his sins, we have not only saved a sinning soul from death but also our own soul. But, second, if we do turn a blind eye to his sin and fail to warn him of his sin, then when he dies in his impenitence, we are responsible for his sin, simply because we have failed in our duty to warn of his sin. Third, if we warn him of his sin, and he ignores the warning, then our soul is saved but the one who refuses to listen to our admonition will be damned.

Now, practically, what are the sins of our brethren? Let me name a few: not keeping the Lord’s Day holy, failure to attend to the chief means of grace in the preaching of God’s Word and partaking of the Lord’s Supper, living a double life, worldliness, materialism, spiritual adultery and others. It is important that our brethren turn from their sins because they will incur God’s hottest wrath and displeasure. God will not wink His eye at sin and let the sinner go. Our motivation to warn them is the love of our brethren and our desire for their eternal good and blessings to come upon them. Their good that we seek is greater than their displeasure and anger that we may experience from them as a result of pointing out their sin. Ultimately, our greatest motivation is to please God, to conform to His law, and to see to it that His creatures abide by His Word and reflect His glory.

The positive teaching means that in our lives we are always testifying about God – His honour, name, good pleasure, sovereignty, and will. However, whenever we see God robbed of His glory, we cannot be silent but must speak up. This is the reason why silence is sin when sin is committed, especially when we have witnessed it. If we could prevent sin being committed, we will by warning against it. But most of the time, we cannot not prevent it and are witnesses of the sin. Then, our calling is to call the sinning brethren to repent and turn from his wicked ways.

But, we must never admonish our brother is a haughty way, as if we are higher and know better. We could be the ones who have been overtaken in our faults. Thus, we come in the spirit of humility, realising that we could have fallen in the same sins. Furthermore, the timing of that admonition is also very important. We must pray that God give us the grace, wisdom and the humility to confront our brother with love.

Dear Father in heaven, forgive me for being silent when I ought to speak – to speak of your goodness, beauty, grace, and love. Forgive me of the fear of men – what they think of me but not concerned what thou wouldst think of me. Forgive me for the sake of Jesus, who died for my sins on the cross. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Written by: Paul Goh | Issue 42

A Reformed Man’s View of National Service

Introduction

God, in His sovereign counsel, has tasked Singaporean young men to give two years of their time to “National Service”. This article aims to give readers a brief overview of National Service, some of the struggles that the servicemen may face, and a Christian’s response to National Service.

Singapore is a young and tiny country that gained her own independence after separating from Malaysia on 9 August 1965. Singapore had to develop her own armed forces to maintain her sovereignty and to deter possible invasions. Thus, conscription was introduced in post-independence Singapore through the National Service Act of 1967. All Singaporean males and second-generation male permanent residents who reside in Singapore are required to undergo a period of two years of compulsory service when they reach eighteen years of age in either the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), or the Singapore Police Force (SPF). In layman terms, they will either be a soldier, a firefighter, or a policeman. National Service is compulsory and those who fail to comply will be seen as deserters, and will be severely dealt with in the military court. National Service is commonly spilt into three different phases – the Basic Military Training Phase, the Active Operations Phase, and the Operationally Ready Phase (ORD). All who go through National Service will have to go through basic military training in training institutes, which will range from 9 weeks to 30 weeks, before going into the active operations phase where they will be enrolled into an active unit and spend the remaining time of national service there. The serviceman will complete his two years of National Service in the first two phases, after which he will be finally declared as “Operationally Ready” and enters into the ORD Phase, where his National Service temporarily ends.

It Is Not Easy

National Service is not warmly welcomed even among Christians in Singapore. A life of routine and regimentation is not easy to get used to. However, God foreordains every unique circumstance in our lives and National Service is no different. National Service is a calling from God for every young man in Singapore. To be a soldier is not something foreign to a Christian, after all, for we have been trained as soldiers for Christ.

Outfield operations and exercises are the bread and butter of a serviceman, especially those who serve within the SAF. Often, we would hear that they are required to be away for extended periods of time to train in camp or to be overseas for exercises. It is not uncommon to hear that these trainings and exercises take place multiple times a year and as a result cause many Christian young men to miss church and Sunday worship. This can be frustrating because they usually have no say in their training or exercise schedules. If they were given a choice, they would definitely not want to train and work on Sundays, but frequent the house of God and worship Him on Sundays. In frustrating times like these, we have to remember that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isa. 59:9), and be wary and not allow discontentment to breed in our hearts due to the unhappiness we experience for being away from church, and then turn into unmotivated workers. God dislikes discontented and unmotivated workers, for He reminds us in the Bible, “whatsoever we do, we do it heartily as to the Lord and not unto men” (Col. 3:23). Our God is a great and all- knowing God. He knows what we need more than we think. Therefore, His ways are far higher than our ways. We also confess that that “He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1). We are God’s children and He watches over us as His own, so much that without the will of our Father, not a hair can fall from our head, and this applies to us during our National Service as well. All things (including National Service) work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28).

Remember the Sabbath Day

Through the course of National Service, it is inevitable that servicemen will miss church and Sunday worship. God commands us to remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy, and this command has one of the greatest importance. He created the heavens and the earth in six days and rested on the seventh day. He designated the Sabbath Day for His people to rest (Deut. 5:14). The Sabbath Day was also given as a covenant sign to identify those who are the people of God. Exodus 31:13 says, “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you”. After knowing all these, the important question that we have to ask ourselves this: can we keep the Sabbath Day when we are not in church worshipping God?

Even though we may be away from the church, we are still called to remember and keep the Sabbath Day and preserve our identity as a Christian with great care and consciousness. Being away from church and in an environment that does not promote the sanctity of the Sabbath Day, we should be even more mindful and diligent in keeping the Sabbath Day. We fail to keep the Sabbath Day when we forget the Sabbath Day itself. Therefore, it is crucial to remember the Sabbath Day, and to keep it holy (Ex. 20:8). That day is important and precious to a Christian. To keep the Sabbath Day holy means to consecrate the day to the worship of God. So, remember your devotions! The Word of God is life! Read the Bible whenever you have the opportunity to or even talk to your fellow serviceman about spiritual topics. Text a church brother or sister or tune in to the online sermons on your phone if possible. Let all these be to the honour, glory and devotion of God. Nevertheless, all these are only possible with time. But more often than not, we know that most of the time it is not so. Therefore pray for grace to remember the Sabbath Day even when you are busy. Remember the Lord even on that day, and do all things to the worship of His holy name. God is our helper. He will sustain our soul (Ps. 54:4). Crave and long for the day when you can be back in God’s house worshipping Him together with your brothers and sisters in Christ again.

Friends Matter!

Not only will the young Christian men be away from church, they will also be placed in a godless environment where the majority of their peers will be of a different faith. They speak a different language, they think and behave differently. This calls for great attention as you young men will be spending a large amount of time with them and potentially be influenced by their ungodly beliefs and behaviours.

We do not want to sit “in the seat of the scornful” (Ps. 1:1b) unknowingly. The Bible warns us: “He that walketh with wise (men) shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Pro. 13:20). Therefore, we have to exercise our wisdom in the choice of acquaintances we allow into our lives because once we allow them in, it will be hard to get them out. Serving in National Service is not easy and one may also say that inevitably some form of comradeship will be formed after going through thick and thin together. This can be true. However, the Word of God reminds us that we are a holy people and may not be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14). This is a command for us as Christians to live antithetically, a life of spiritual separation from the wicked world. We do not have to physically separate ourselves from our non-Christian servicemen but it all boils down to saying “no” when sin is involved. And when you have time, spend it with your church friends! “He that walketh with wise (men) shall be wise” (Pro. 13:20). Church friends are a great source of spiritual support when your spiritual life is challenged. They are able to give wise counsel from the Word of God because they know and love God.

Conclusion

National Service is a path our Lord has ordained our young men to go through. They may experience varying good or challenging times. Let us always seek God in prayer to aid and preserve our spiritual brothers in Christ in these times. Do not be discouraged for our God is good! Press on! Remember, Everyday Requires Prayer! (ERP!)

Written by: Paul Ong | Issue 42