Jurong Outreach

"whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ."

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Christian Encouragement

Danny Leong

Encouragement is a common emotion needed by human beings to progress well in the area of work, education, sports, relationships, and religion. No one can, indeed, discredit the importance of the role that encouragement would play in the various aspects of our lives, and that includes Christian encouragement. As we examine the Scriptures we would come to the knowledge that the Word of God contains many passages both in the Old and New Testaments which talk about the idea of encouragement.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; he shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)

But exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13)

Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

In the light of the above-mentioned passages, we can infer that God puts a lot of emphasis on the biblical concept of spiritual encouragement in His Word because He desires His children to understand that encouragement in the body of Christ is necessary to our spiritual journey with God. In fact, our Lord Jesus forewarned His followers that they would encounter troubles and tribulations for standing firm in their faith, but He encouraged them by declaring that He had overcome the world (John 15:18-21; 16:33). What a comforting word of assurance and encouragement from our Lord Jesus!

Truly, all of us would encounter difficult periods at certain points of our lives when we feel so overwhelmed by the challenging circumstances, which may cause us to be shaken in our faith. The events of our everyday lives can cause us to feel discouraged. We may experience feelings of fatigue, frustration, fear and failure in our day-to-day living, and these negative emotions when they are left unchecked for a prolonged period of time would eventually cause members of the Lord’s church to become distracted and discouraged. In a very real sense, discouragement is a common human experience and living the life of a Christian without encouragement would be a difficult and burdensome journey.

Nevertheless, thanks be to God for He has provided us with His Word and we also enjoy the privilege as His children to come before His majestic throne in prayer, whereby we can cast our cares, burdens, worries, anxieties, and disappointments on Him, knowing that He cares for us and believing that He will help us overcome the low points of our lives (1 Peter 5:7). Besides accessing spiritual encouragement from the Bible and through prayer, God also calls us to encourage one another on a regular basis within the church because He understands that living a faithful Christian life is not going to be a bed of roses.

Therefore, as members of God’s family in Jurong, let us come to the realisation that encouragement was, and is, and will continue to be an essential way of extending support to each other within the body of Christ, the church. Just as a close-knitted physical family devotes time, effort and energy to build the relationship bonds amongst family members, a supportive spiritual family is one that would be concerned about the well-being of one another on a regular basis, rather than only just on Sundays.

The Care Group Ministry is currently into its second month, and this is a congregational initiative that has been established with the purpose of fostering stronger and deeper relationship bonds amongst individual members of the family of God at Jurong. Having mentioned this, the overall progress and success of the Care Group Ministry really depends on the participation and involvement of individual Christians. Although this ministry is in its infancy stage, it is through our regular participation and active involvement that would enable us to develop closer relationship ties with one another, and able to lend a listening ear or a helping hand to a brother or sister in the church during times of need. In essence, we need the mutual support and encouragement of brethren during both good times and during times when we encounter difficulties, struggles and disappointments in our daily walk with God (Galatians 6:2).

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The Christian Sense of Security

Every one of us needs a sense of security. This is so obvious we need no argument.

Money ranks high as a means of security. It is not printed bills or minted coins but rather what we are able to purchase. With money we can ensure, at least, food on the table and clothes on our bodies.

A roof and four walls protect us from the elements and people who might want to harm us or take away our possessions. A bigger residence, preferably one with CCTVs or security guards, provides an increased sense of security for some.

Yet we do not want to settle for the barest minimum of what money can buy. We want more of it so we can buy more, own more, do more and enjoy more. With money, our material lives become much easier and once we have tasted luxury long enough, it is hard to relegate to a lower standard of living.

This need for security goes beyond the physical. It includes the mental and emotional as well. Power is widely accepted as another good means of security. With power, there is the ability to do things we otherwise are unable to. With power, we are placed on a higher pedestal than others.

Pleasure brings a sense of security. It tells us everything is going well. But over indulgence in pleasure degrades into a form of emotional and psychological drug to lull us away from our frets and worries. At least for a while, anyway.

Some find security in scientific and philosophical knowledge. Through these, they decide they have an answer for the intricacies and mysteries of life. It gives them purpose and meaning. It fills a void within, which all men and women experience instinctively.

Having someone to love and to be loved by is undoubtedly the top means to security. All the money, power, pleasure and knowledge in the world can never fulfil the need to love and be loved.

But which of these means for security is infallible and fool-proof?

Paul says, “…I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day (2Ti 1:12).”

Christian, do you remember in whom you place your confidence? Who is your security against that day when you have to give an account (cf. Romans 14:12; 2Co 5:10)?

One might argue that faith is ‘blind’. One might mock that you, a Christian, hold to something as flimsy as things hoped for but not seen. But then, not seen does not necessarily mean not real, does it?

Children believe in the trustworthiness of their fathers and not that of a stranger. Can anyone see an abstract thing like trust? Of course not. But children can see their fathers’ manifested trustworthiness. That is why they believe.

The Lord never tells us to trust in Him without manifesting His trustworthiness. So many times we read of the Lord Jesus performing feats of great power. These are signs pointing to His identity and credibility.

“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name (John 20:30-31).”

Peter, on the day of Pentecost, pointed out the irrefutable fact that the Lord Jesus is who He said He is by the signs He gave them.

“Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know (Acts 2:22).”

The above stated means of security are not wrong or evil in and of themselves. Living in this material world, we have need of food, shelter and clothing. And having people to love and to love us is surely one of the greatest blessings we cannot do without. We rejoice and are thankful for them.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning (James 1:17).”

While we rejoice and are grateful for these blessings, we know the Christian’s security is founded not in any of the created things of God. It is not anchored in blessings and gifts. It is firmly rooted in Jesus Christ.

“My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand.”

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A Friendly Dialogue on Faith

Faith is something frowned upon in these postmodern times. It is considered obsolete, a relic of the past. It is a psychological and emotional crutch for the fragile and superstitious. Advancements in the areas of science, technology, medicine and education are touted to have triumphantly phased out faith. Man has evolved.

Who needs faith when we have science? Faith is blind; it is not based on careful research and observation. You cannot contain it in a test tube or reproduce its effects consistently in a laboratory.

Such a broad dismissal of faith is, frankly, rather shallow. It is surely the consequence of misunderstanding the nature of faith; an assumption that faith must not be based on facts and reason.

Science is wonderful. But science works on the material whereas faith is abstract like emotions, poverty, justice, speed, etc. So of course we cannot contain faith in a test tube or reproduce its effects consistently in a laboratory.

Faith is, in fact, an everyday occurrence. Not too long ago I overheard a discussion between a Christian and a young man. The latter wanted to know if the former has any good reasons for his belief in God.

The Christian proceeded to briefly share the cosmological, moral and ontological arguments for God’s existence with his young friend, after which he made the following simple observation.

He asked the young man why he did not bother to examine the chair he was sitting on before he sat on it. The young man quickly got the point. He replied that chairs are made for sitting, thus he could safely assume the chair could bear his weight.

The Christian pointed out that such safe assumption was based upon good reasons. Their faith in chairs was not blind but rather reasonable.

The young man acknowledged the fact but insisted that religious faith is a different matter altogether. Religious faith is no more than mere superstition. When asked, he affirmed that he does not believe that God exists.

The Christian asked the young man to restate his position, this time in the positive. After all, both the positive and negative statements were two sides of the same coin. The young man readily agreed and said, “I believe God does not exist.” The Christian then asked the young man to furnish evidence for his belief in God’s nonexistence.

Credit to the young man, he admitted that he had not previously given this much thought. He confessed that he has always thought of his position in the negative sense. It was the first time he had expressed it positively and realised that he, like the Christian, ought to furnish evidence for his belief.

Both men agreed that faith in God was not quite so blind after all. However, the young man then put forward the age-old argument of the problem of pain/evil.

Recognizing that this was a topic that would require quite some time to go into, the Christian offered the young man a food for thought since time was not a luxury they could afford then.

He asked the young man if he had ever heard of any satisfactory answer to the problem of evil from atheists and agnostics, whereupon the young man said no.

The Christian then asked the young man how logical it was to simply assume the nonexistence of God because of a lack of satisfactory answer for pain and suffering, while at the same time ignoring the prima facie evidence in favour of God’s existence.

He further suggested that such an assumption was actually arrogant because it assumed that man must be omniscient, otherwise he has every right to reject God’s existence. If God does not exist, the notion of good and evil, meaning and purpose would be totally redundant.

The dialogue ended on that note. I wished the two could have the opportunity to further their discussion. Only by open, honest discussion can we search for the truth. May the Lord bless the young man in his quest.

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32).”

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Turning the Mind unto God

Romans 8:28 is easily one of the most beloved verses in the New Testament. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28).”

This verse and its immediate context in Romans 8 is a constant reminder of the love and care our Lord has for us, His children. It is also a reminder for us to keep Him constantly in mind, especially when we are lashed by the stormy waves of life.

We recall the story of the disciples caught in the storm when they were crossing the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). They panicked even though the Lord was with them in the boat. Were they ignorant of His power? Of course not.

They knew He could work wonders, though they didn’t imagine then that “even the wind and the sea obey him”. They should have known, as we can safely infer from the Lord’s rebuke. “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”

Now, let’s turn the lens back to us. Are the words of Romans 8:28 just words? As much as they may sound comforting, what we want to think about is whether we do, in fact, experience the power of these words in our lives.

There is so much in this life we know nothing about. For instance, who among us can say with utmost confidence how our lives will pan out in the next ten years? Or perhaps five? We will be wise to say as James counsels us: “For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that (Jas 4:15).”

David did not expect his men to turn against him. The Amalekites had invaded the city of Ziklag, razed it, and took away the women and children as spoils of war (cf. 1Sam 30:1-5).

His men were so upset they were ready to revolt and stone him. That added no small amount of grief to David. But what happened next was something we ought to pay attention to. “…but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God (1Sam 30:6).”

The expected thing for him to do would be to try to figure out a way of escape, but David turned his mind first unto the Lord and took courage because he knew the Lord was with him.

The Bible gives us more examples of David taking courage in the face of almost insurmountable odds because he made certain his mind never wandered far away from the Lord.

“I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about (Psa 3:6).”

“The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies (Psa 18:2-3).”

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid (Psa 27:1)?”

David certainly knew the power of these words, “All things work together for good to them that love God.” We believe the truth of these words. The trouble for many Christians is that, unlike David, somehow they do not seem to experience the power.

Is it not because their minds get caught up in fear and wild imagination when problems arise? The next time some bad experience happens to you, seize yourself in that moment and check where your mind instinctively runs to.

If it is running in the opposite direction away from God toward resentment and complaints, pull it back and focus on the sovereign God who is in control. He knows your predicament and will provide a way of escape (cf. 1Co 10:13).

“All things work together for good to them that love God.” A key phrase here is ‘that love God’. The promise is conditional and wonderfully so, for those who strive to live obedient to God will quite naturally turn their minds to Him.

This brings us to the very important subject of developing a Christian worldview. How we view and interpret our experiences is very much influenced by the worldview we hold. A carnal worldview that places its faith and trust in the ways of men cannot look into the eternal where God dwells (cf. Isa 57:15).

Only when we develop the Christian worldview that sees the world through a scriptural lens will we be able to see that all things work together for good to them that love God, and thus, like David, to encourage ourselves in the Lord.