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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Overcoming Bitterness

Danny Leong

The biblical character of Joseph in the Old Testament period is a classic example of one who was repeatedly being mistreated by others. During the first thirty years of his life, Joseph probably experienced more injustice than any biblical character other than our Lord, Jesus Christ.

In Genesis 37, we would remember that Joseph was mocked and rejected by his older brothers when he sincerely followed his father’s instructions to find out how they were doing at Shechem. Moreover, Joseph was also physically abused by his older brothers and they orchestrated an evil plot to sell him as a slave to the Midianite traders.

Besides that, we would also remember the account of how Potiphar’s wife tempted Joseph to commit fornication with her as well as how Joseph was falsely accused of sexual harassment. Specifically, Joseph was unjustly removed from his high-ranking position in Potiphar’s household and put in prison for doing the right thing (Genesis 39).

Furthermore, the Bible also tells us in Genesis 40 regarding how Joseph correctly interpreted the dreams of the two high-ranking officials of Pharaoh, namely the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, only to be forgotten by the former whom he had helped and encouraged the most.

As we ponder on the life of Joseph, we would agree that Joseph knew first-hand what mistreatment really was. How painful was it for Joseph to be betrayed by his own family members? How unfair was it for Joseph to be falsely accused and eventually be imprisoned for doing the right thing? And how disappointed and depressed Joseph would have felt when he was forgotten by the man whom he had helped?

These are some of the negative thoughts that would inevitably surface in Joseph’s mind as he grappled with the painful circumstances in his life. Nevertheless, we can learn two important principles regarding how Joseph dealt with bitterness and injustice.

Principle 1 – We must not allow bitterness to wither our souls.

For most of us, someone at some point in our lives might have done something that causes us to feel mistreated. It might have involved a family member, a teacher, a friend, or an employer. It might have happened at home, at church, in school, or at the workplace. And it might have involved harsh words, rejection, a rumour, physical abuse, false accusations, or unjust criticism. Such mistreatments which we experience in our lives would have resulted in much pain, anger and bitterness in our hearts.

In such circumstances, one may easily fall into the temptation to lash back or seek revenge on the person who has mistreated us. But let us be wise and take heed to what the Bible says in Ephesians 4:26-27, “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” In this regard, it is important for us as Christians to realise that unresolved anger will lead to bitterness in our hearts and cause one to sin against God.

Brethren, besides sinning against God, we also need to be mindful that bitterness and an unforgiving spirit are intensely self-destructive, and in the process hurting not only other people, but also hurting ourselves as well.

Bitterness affects us emotionally when we repeatedly replay the painful episodes in our minds. This can take the form of voicing our anger on social media platforms. Moreover, our physical health would be negatively affected due to the onset of symptoms of depression and high blood pressure caused by prolonged bitterness in our daily living.

Most importantly, bitterness will seriously affect our spiritual relationship with God because it creates a high barrier between Him and His children. When Christians choose to harbour an unforgiving attitude towards others, the Scriptures make it very clear that God’s children would receive no forgiveness from their transgressions unless they purposefully change their hearts in repentance (Mark 11:25-26; Colossians 3:13; 1 John 4:20-21).

Principle 2 – We must not allow ourselves to turn against God; rather we must turn to God even more.

It may be the case that Christians who are being mistreated by others may allow their bitterness to be directed against God. In these circumstances, they may put the blame on God for allowing such mistreatments to happen in their lives. Now, let’s take a moment to consider all the mistreatment that Joseph had experienced. Why was Joseph able to handle these incredible and persistent mistreatment so well?

As a human being, Joseph is not perfect and I perceive he would be tempted at times to blame God for the unjust treatment that he had encountered in his life. However, what is admirable about Joseph was that he did not allow himself to turn away from God despite the trials and tribulations in his life.

Rather, Joseph grew in his relationship with God. He put his trust in the Lord to help him endure and overcome the crisis and challenging life situations. In this respect, we can take comfort in the Bible when we read Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

As the family of God at Jurong, we can learn much from the Old Testament character of Joseph on how he had overcome bitterness in his life. No matter what the emotional or physical pain, we must not allow ourselves to become bitter toward God; for if we do, we will only compound our problems.

Let us, therefore, learn to depend on God for strength and wisdom to help us overcome a heart of bitterness and an unforgiving spirit when we are found wanting in our daily Christian living.

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The Value of Your Soul

“And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels (Mark 8:34-38).”

Jesus called His disciples and the multitudes together and delivered to them one of life’s supreme consideration: the value of one’s soul.

Most of us probably like to think we know what matters most. We like to think we can tell the difference between what has true, lasting value and what has not. The Lord does not make any such assumption. He wants everyone to give a long hard think about it.

So what really matters ultimately? We can sense from the words of Jesus that this is not a subjective matter.

One might argue thus: I’m not a Christian so why should I care? To such persons we invite them to consider with an open and honest heart the many evidence for the existence of God and the reliability of the Bible, which are easily available online.

Supposing God exists (and He does) and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (which He is) and the Bible is the breathed-out Word of God (which it is), we can see that the challenge by Jesus to consider the value of our souls is unavoidable. To refuse to consider is itself a decision to live in denial and escapism.

God made mankind (cf. Gen 2:7); He is the Creator and life-Giver. The value of our souls is determined by Him, not us. But ultimately, a wrong decision on our part can jeopardise the value of our souls and plunge us into a tragic state.

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.”

The choices are placed openly on the table. There is nothing ambiguous about it; nothing to conceal. The Life-giver wants us to trust Him with our lives.

A long time ago a friend who was a life-guard explained to me the basics of rescuing a drowning person. If the person is conscious and struggling, the rescuer should try to communicate with him and assure him that the rescuer is here to help and that he should trust the rescuer.

If the person panics and begins to drag the rescuer into the water, the latter is to push the person a short distance off rather than to be pulled down and drown together. Verbal assurances must be constant. Until the person calms down sufficiently to trust the rescuer, it is hard to pull him to safety.

The person in distress must ‘let go’ and trust the rescuer. Jesus wants us to quit trying to be our own saviour and do it His way.

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Jesus points out that the value of your soul is infinitely more than all the gains of this temporal world. Money can’t buy everything but whatever money can buy, it pales to nothingness in comparison to the value of your soul.

We may earn all the affections and accolades from the world but we bring none of it with us to the hereafter. None of the people we love or who love us can decide for us. None of them can help us if we made the wrong choice.

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 6:23).”

God is not a nasty old man looking over your shoulder to catch you doing something wrong and then punish you for it. He loves you and has freely given His Son to save you.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:16-17).”

Think about it. There really is no one to blame if we made the wrong choice. We cannot blame God because He has done everything possible for us to be saved. He offers the gift of eternal life to us in His Son.

You have the free-will (which is itself a gift of God) to accept or reject His gift. But so that we do not misunderstand—we do not get to decide the conditions and consequences. It is either His way or no way.

Imagine the drowning person demanding the rescuer to save him in the way he prefers, while continuing to splash wildly trying to save himself. It’s silly and unreasonable, really.

These words of Jesus were spoken not only to the public in general but to His disciples as well. “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them…”

Christians, please don’t take anything for granted. Never lose sight of the value of your soul. Never forget what it cost God to rescue you from the danger of hell. Never be afraid to profess your faith in righteous living and spreading the gospel.

“Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

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Joy by Walking

Ask the uninitiated what a church is and the answer often is that a church is a holy building where believers gather to worship. A friend once remarked to me that the ‘safest’ place must be a church because it is least likely to be haunted!

Of course, Christians understand that the church is not a building. In fact, the church is more than just a mere religious organisation. We patiently explain to any enquirer that the meaning of the Greek word ekklesia means ‘called-out’. The church is a body of people ‘called out’ by God by means of the gospel (cf. 2The 2:14).

The church is the body of Christ; He is the Head and all who have obeyed His gospel now constitute His body, the church (cf. Eph 1:22-23; Col 1:24).

Another way to describe the church is to call it a society of the redeemed. The apostle Paul also called it the household, or family, of God (cf. 1Ti 3:15). Think about the implications. As the family of God, we are the children of God and the brethren of Christ Himself.

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Gal 3:26-27).”

“…he is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee (Heb 2:11-12).”

Let’s ask ourselves: is the knowledge that we have God as our Father and Christ as our Brother a source of joy? Do we derive joy from the promise of our Lord in Hebrews 13:5, “I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee”? Does the promise in 1 Peter 1:4 of “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” provoke joy in us?

Joy is one of the spiritual blessings we receive in Christ. But it seems that it is also the blessing that Christians enjoy the least. We find ourselves hard-pressed on all sides by the cares of the world and concerns of this life.

Plans go awry. Difficulties, both natural and man-made, can strike any of us anytime, anywhere. In such situations, how can we continue to experience the joy which is a heritage of the children of God?

The apostle John wrote in a letter to the church: “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full (1John 1:4).” John wrote to a church disturbed by false teachers seeking to lead astray the saints. False doctrines were causing confusion and distress, especially among weaker Christians.

John provided the church with the tactics on how our joy may be full. He reminded the church of who we are in Christ and the fellowship we have with the Father and the Son. Joy is a result of being in a right relationship with God.

How then are we to maintain and ensure that we are continuing in a right relationship with God, thereby reaping the fruit of joy? John said, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1John 1:6-7).”

The contradiction is clearly delineated. Light and darkness are incompatible and irreconcilable. The Lord Jesus has said: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life (John 8:12).”

Walking in the light is a figure of speech for obedience. It means we do not continue to indulge in any sinful habit we might have prior to our salvation. If we are indeed saved by the gospel of Christ, then it naturally follow that we must live according to the Law of Christ (cf. Galatians 6:2).

Luke, fellow-worker of Paul, used a less poetic expression to teach the same truth. He wrote: “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:42).”

The three thousand souls who obeyed the gospel on the first day of Pentecost after the resurrection of the Lord ‘continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.’ Please note that they were not continuing stedfastly in the Pharisees or chief priests’ doctrine, or anyone else’s doctrine for that matter. It was the apostles’ doctrine they persisted in.

It is logically impossible to walk in the light but not continue stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and vice versa. It is also logically impossible from God’s point of view to have fellowship one with another but not to walk in the light or to continue stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.

The word ‘obedience’ is meaningless without knowing what to obey. Faithful living must be based on sound doctrine for it to be acceptable to God.

One doesn’t have to believe in God to live according to conscience or high morality. As humans created in the image of God we have an innate sense of right and wrong. A common mistake is to judge a person as being right with God because he lives a good life but disregarding his religious beliefs and doctrines.

This sentiment is dangerous and a chief reason why so many are misled into thinking that religious beliefs do not matter quite as much as being a good man or woman.

It should go without saying that all of us want to enjoy the spiritual blessing of joy, and we rightly should. Our Lord bled and died to give us that joy that surpasses all that this world could give.

To bask in the joy of the Lord, let us continue to walk in the light, as He is in the light.

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What Will You Do with God?

I enjoy watching documentaries on nature, especially on the animal kingdom. It is amazing to see that this planet we live in is full of diversities of life. The mountains, oceans and the celestial body too are magnificent and wonderful. The beauty and power of nature are marvelous to behold.

Man has been fascinated by nature for the longest time. While not everyone will acknowledge that man has an innate sense to worship some higher being, it is universally accepted that man has been worshipping what he observes in nature.

Gods carved out of stone and wood or fashioned in metal usually take the forms of animals, human, or some monstrosity of wild imagination. Extraterrestrial objects are worshiped as well.

When man looks at nature, he senses that there has to be an explanation behind it all, and the most probable explanation is a supernatural being. This being is often simply called ‘God’. In fact, a man called David wrote a very long time ago: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork (Psa 19:1).”

Using sound logic, the apostle Paul reasoned with the Athenians.

“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things…Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device (Acts 17:24-25, 29).”

Whether or not one is religiously inclined, an observation we can make is that this ‘God’ must be immensely powerful. He has to be in order to bring this awe-inspiring nature into being.

A second observation can be made when we observe mankind himself.

Would you kick a poor dog or cat by the sidewalk? Would you take what is not yours when the owner is not looking? Would you stab someone just for the ‘fun’ of it? Perhaps someone might say ‘yes’. That is, until they are at the receiving end.

Well, that’s because we have a moral compass. We know right from wrong; good from evil. The war criminals at the Nuremberg trials were charged and found guilty of crimes against humanity. We can all agree that what the Nazis did were horrendous and inhumane.

We choose to be right and do good. At least, most of the time. How do we account for this moral compass? How is it that we have a conscience urging us to do what we believe is right? Culture doesn’t quite provide the answer. If evolutionists work backwards, they will come to a point where there is no culture to adequately account for human altruistic behaviour.

Again, the most probable answer at the end of the day is ‘God.’ If God is the Creator, then He must be the source of all that is good, upright and moral. God Himself must be a morally upright being and He must have given us our conscience and moral compass.

Without God, it is senseless to condemn the Nazis or any other cruel and evil behaviour, for there would be no standard of morality. There is nothing we can judge as objectively good or evil.

We observe from this something else about God. He must be a personal being. God is a person like you and me. It is impossible for an impersonal force or power, like electricity perhaps, to be moral.

It makes no sense that an impersonal force would be concerned about right and wrong, good and evil. It makes even less sense that such a force could be the source of morality and all that is good. So God has to be a Person with His own personality.

There is still a further observation we can make of this personal God. He must be a communicator. Think about it. By His creation of the universe He tells us of His immense power. By giving us an innate sense of right and wrong and a conscience to tell us to follow the right and reject the wrong, He tells us of His morality.

Why does He tell us all this? Because He is communicating with us. He does all this to get our attention. He wants us to know about Him. He wants us to be aware of Him. He wants us to know that He knows us.

Now we can make a fifth observation of this immensely powerful, moral, personal, communicative God:

He cares for us.

All the other observations we have made point to this great fact. God is reaching out to us because He cares. Deists believe in an impersonal God who is incapable of caring but this theory goes against all that we have observed of God.

God cares for us so much He wants to tell us who He is, what He has done for us and how we must respond to Him. He does all that through His word, the Bible. We may choose to ignore Him and His word but where will that leave us?

God has given us everything we need to know Him and respond to Him. The question now remains: what will you do with God?

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Christ is the Message

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us) (1Jn 1:1-2).”

What is the gospel all about? Or rather, who is the gospel all about? It is about Jesus Christ.

It is not a social program to make this world a better place. It is not another way among many ways how people can find peace of mind. It is God’s plan and message unto our salvation. It is the blueprint, the pattern, the instruction manual for our life in Christ.

Jesus Christ is the central figure; in fact, He is the message of good news. Without Him and His finished work of atonement we can forget about salvation and heaven. Precisely because He is the central figure, what we believe about Him is crucial to our salvation and our life as new creatures in Christ (cf. 2Co 5:17).

The apostle John began his gospel account by stating the awesome truth of the incarnation of Christ—God made flesh.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth (John 1:1-3, 14).”

Jesus Christ is the message the apostles proclaimed. They experienced something so wonderful—the Word of life made flesh—that they could not help themselves but preach Christ incarnate.

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty (2Pe 1:16).”

“For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel (1Co 9:16)!”

Let us be clear about this: what we believe about Jesus Christ is crucial to our salvation and our life as children of God. We can begin by asking ourselves a series of searching questions.

Do we believe correctly about the Christ and His gospel? Are we able to prove from the Bible the doctrine we have received?

At the very least we all should know where in the New Testament we can find direct commandments, necessary inferences and approved examples of what we must do to be saved.

We should know how from the scriptures to direct people to find the true church the Lord has built. We should know how from the scriptures to explain to others which covenant we are presently amenable to.

Let’s continue with our series of searching questions. How mindful are we that the gospel comes to us by divine authority? The Lord declared before His ascension: “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth (Mat 28:18 ASV).”

Because the gospel comes by divine authority, it deserves and demands our utmost attention. Where, then, does it stand in our hierarchy of important things?

Another point of our awareness of the gospel’s uniqueness is the question: How does knowledge of the truth affect the way we live? The Hebrews writer says:

“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will (Heb 2:3-4)?”

The apostles declared the gospel with boldness, conviction and urgency. We have inherited the same mission. We have something important to declare, the most important news everyone needs to hear—the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What importance and urgency do we attach to declaring the gospel that comes by divine authority? How does it help our confidence knowing that at the back of the message is the authority and power of God?

We are beneficiaries of those who brought the gospel to us. Now we have the same privilege of doing the same for the lost. Life in Christ involves passing on the gift of God in Jesus Christ—the gospel—to others so that they too may be saved.

“Millions are groping without the gospel,

Quickly they’ll reach eternity’s night;

Shall we sit idly as they rush onward?

Haste, let us hold up Christ the true light.


“Souls that are precious, souls that are dying,

While we rejoice our sins are forgiven;

Did He not also die for these lost ones?

Then let us point the way unto heaven.


“Into our hands the gospel is given,

Into our hands is given the light.

Haste, let us carry God’s precious message,

Guiding the erring back to the right.”