Whether you’re a parent, student or a team member, we have a unique lane to run in that belongs to us. You have a role that only you can perform!
Think of it in terms of driving: There will always be better drivers around, but if we’ve been given the keys to a car and have been licensed to drive – we need to get going. Or if you’re a guitarist and you’ve been asked to play, don’t let the fact that there are better guitarists out there paralyse you from playing your part.
There will always be someone better than us, but the show must go on. We need to guard ourselves against our need to compare ourselves with others.
“Ah, you’re looking at the car beside you again.” How did he know?
It’s silly now that I think of it, but it wasn’t obvious to me when I was a trainee driver, overwhelmed by all the things I needed to look at – that I was slowly veering out of my lane.
But isn’t that what happens when we compare ourselves with people around us? We get less satisfied with where we’re at, with what we have or who we are, and we move away from the centre of our lanes.
Comparison holds the danger of disqualification.
Mr Chan, my favourite driving instructor, was fond of repeating his mantra: “Always look further ahead. Don’t only look at the car in front of you or beside you.”
Look further ahead to who you could grow to become. Keep driving in your lane till you get where you need to be. We won’t win the race if we show up at the finish line in the wrong lane.
Ever had thoughts like these? Comparison is one way for us to gather information about ourselves and our value when we don’t have an objective standard.
But it’s shaky when we determine our value by comparison, because our value isn’t in our capability or utility to others.
That kind of value is fragile compared to the inherent value in each of us. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything to you that there’s never going to be anyone just like you, but your inherent uniqueness tells you something about your value.
You’re not just any other person. You have a lane to run in and something to accomplish with your life. If you believe anything else, you are shortchanging yourself and being robbed of your destiny.
“So, what do you do?”
It’s hard to believe that a person’s “value” is raised or diminished just by their answer to this simple question. That’s the sad reality of the world we live in, and is what a lot of us do: We like arrange ourselves in a pecking order based on our job titles, salaries, or whatever else we can find to compare.
William Irvine, a professor of philosophy at Wright State University, calls the comparing of ourselves with others a “social hierarchy game”.
The goal of that game is to provoke the most envy from others; the way out of social hierarchy is to quit comparing. Because when we refuse to play that game, we start seeing one another as people – not our rivals. Suddenly the value of life is no longer tied to the amount of “likes” we have or the kind of brands we can afford.
Comparing ourselves with others pits us against them and it becomes a competition.
Have you ever met someone and got so hung up over the fact that they can do something way better than you can?
And it may not even be something that you like or want to do! Well, I have. I’m familiar with the feeling of making everything a competition and it’s tiring. It’s why I found a lot of comfort and wisdom in the saying, “I’m not interested in competing with anyone. I hope we all make it.”
That frame of mind makes the world a much better place. We can start with encouragement. If we see someone doing well in their field, running well in their lanes – give them a compliment. Call someone out for doing a good job, instead of wondering why we’re not as good as them.
If we compared less and built relationships more, we would reach the finish line in a better shape and more fulfilled at the end.
We all have our own lanes to run in. Each one of us are threads in a grand tapestry being woven together.
I sometimes catch myself staring at the candle in a restaurant, but also at the loud flames devouring paper and incense in the massive furnace across the street where I live. Both flames dance, but for different purposes.
Once in the courts of Babylon, angry flames danced in a furnace that was heated seven times hotter than usual, at the command of Nebuchadnezzar II who was king of Babylon at that time.
The king was enraged by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who had disregarded his command to worship the golden statue he made. He sent for some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up the three men before throwing them into the fire.
Well, things escalated quickly, but the three men seemed prepared. Renouncing their faith was not an option, even as they faced the furnace.
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18)
Why so serious, right? Couldn’t they have just followed through with the formalities but tell God they didn’t mean it? God, I may be bowing to their gods on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside! You look at the heart, right?
But that’s no way to talk to God.
“You shall not make other gods [to worship] besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make [these lifeless idols] for yourselves.” (Exodus 20:23 AMP)
Their situation made it impossible for them to please the king without disobeying God. Therefore they chose to enter the furnace because they found it better to obey God. They would rather have faced death and go to where God is than live in disregard for what He had said.
And that revealed something about their relationship with God – they must have understood God’s heart towards them.
The most practical thing we can do in this life is to obey God.
I imagine this one thought going through their heads – not just in that urgent moment before the most powerful king that ever ruled Babylon – but consistently in their everyday lives: If God commands us to do something, it is good for us to obey.
The three men – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – were clear about two things: God was able to deliver them from the fire, and God didn’t have to deliver them from the fire.
None of it made practical sense – they were risking their lives over a statue. But perhaps that’s the lesson: The most practical thing we can do in this life is to obey God.
Obedience is the place where the mind and will agree in faith, that God works for the good of those who love Him.
The story played out in a miraculous way, as God answered Nebuchadnezzar’s taunting question: “What god is there who can rescue you out of my hands?”
Watching the furnace, the king saw four men walking around in the fire, free from their ropes, and the fourth looked like “a son of the gods”.
Sometimes we might think that it’s just a good story – until we are bound in ropes we cannot get ourselves out of, or come face to face with fierce fire. Will we have the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego with us then?
But what was meant to threaten the three men only proved their faithfulness to God, and the greatness of their God who not only freed them but also met them in the fire.
Obedience is the place where the mind and will agree in faith, that God works for the good of those who love Him.
Sometimes we encounter fire that could well destroy us, but if we surrender ourselves to God, He can use the fire to refine us.
Moments of testing reveal what we’re really made of. Sometimes we have to go through the fire if we want to come out refined and pure as gold.
Fire is scary, but not when we trust in God who is able to deliver us. He works for the good for those who love Him. What god walks with us in the fire so we come out as gold? The God who saves.
Maybe you don’t actually want to give up, but you can’t help thinking about giving up: On a dream, a job, or a friendship. It gets so tiring, doesn’t it? And it doesn’t help when the voices in our head tell us that we’re lame, or even pathetic, to feel the way we do.
Let’s look down for a moment. Maybe a bunch of fears have gathered in knots too messy to work through, and you don’t even know how it got this bad. And your vision is so clouded from the tears you’ve been crying.
So let’s change the metaphor. If there’s something you just can’t seem to deal with, or is paralysing you with fear – picture it as a 500-pound gorilla that is rattling away in a cage in front of you.
And the best way to deal with this threat is to swing open the door and face it.
“As unique as we all are, an awful lot of us want the same things. We want to shake up our current less-than-fulfilling lives. We want to be happier, more loving, forgiving and connected with the people around us.” (Brené Brown)
It should be illegal to compare our struggles; we do it ever so often even though it is zero percent beneficial. Our struggles never look the same, so why do we have to be pitted against each other?
Perhaps the law of life is that the things we want are on the other side of a struggle – the fact that we do struggle doesn’t point to ineptness or defect – it simply means a better place does exist.
The good stuff is on the other side of a struggle: We have to struggle with vulnerability in order to learn what love looks like, in order that we look more like love. And sometimes there are 500-pound gorillas to face-off with as we move forward.
Nobody is perfect – and that knowledge is grace in itself. There are gorillas to face, but there is also grace to carry us through.
If I had projected the trajectory of my life solely based on past experiences, I don’t know if I would have kept on hoping, or even kept on going.
And what about faith? A lot of life is lived in faith – complete trust or confidence in someone or something – even if we don’t necessarily identify as people of faith.
We make holiday plans, better ourselves, look forward to the future, and try to make our lives count – but none of us know when it’s all going to be over for us.
The absence of faith will be crippling, and we can’t move forward without it – a sense of trust in the unknown future. And a sense of adventure, I’d add, even if past experiences have given us every reason to stop in our tracks.
“The distance a man has got on his journey is of less consequence than the direction in which his face is turned.” (Alexander Maclaren)
I experienced journey-fatigue very early on, and I wondered from time to time if the things I had gone through just in the first twenty years of my life were “normal” or were they “a bit much”.
But who could I compare my journey with? Who can say what normal is? Is there a sovereign arbiter of justice I can trust?
Life can feel like a long, long journey. But if we’ve learnt to trust the wisdom of those who have gone before – it is short. A mist. A mere breath. Here today and gone tomorrow.
But it isn’t meaningless if we have hope. Real, fruit-bearing hope you can taste and see.
If I had projected the trajectory of my life solely based on past and bad experiences, I don’t know if I would have kept on hoping, or even kept on going.
We need a plan to cut through the momentary fog when the future overwhelms us more than it excites us.
The nature of the future is hiddenness – it is always a “not yet”. It can be frustrating but it can also be incredibly freeing to know that.
What matters is how we walk into the unknown. If we embrace the future and the potential it holds for freedom, we can release the old, battered wagon that carries paralysing memories of failures and sins.
Holding onto them coerces us onto lesser paths broad enough to accommodate our mistakes yet are ever taking us further away from where we want to be. Watch out for these paths on your map of life: Self-condemnation Road, Hopeless Street, Failure Avenue etc.
“Let the sense of our own weakness ever lead to a buoyant confidence in what we, even we, may become if we will only take the grace we have.” (Alexander Maclaren)
Take the grace we have. Against all odds, tomorrow is a new day. Let’s begin with the premise that this is what we want as people: We want to be happier, more loving, forgiving and connected with the people around us.
Some days are going to be harder, and some days we are going to need help. We need a plan to cut through the momentary fog when the future overwhelms us more than it excites us.
Aim for a moment of clarity and sheer belief – what dare I do if I believed in myself? How dare I love if only I believed I am loved.
It’s a new day tomorrow. And if it’s still looks cloudy from where you stand, I think it’s cloudy with a chance of real breakthrough.
Turn your face towards the sun. Feel its warmth. Even in the darkness, know that the sun will rise again tomorrow. That’s what the grace of God is like: Life, hope, and strength for another day.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Two men were discussing politics after a controversial death in the capital.
They were upset because things hadn’t gone the way they had hoped. They had long believed Jesus would be the one who was going to rescue them from the tyranny of the Roman rule.
What’s going to happen to us now?
“Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” said one of the two men, Cleopas.
It was a lot for him to take in. People like Cleopas had hoped that Jesus would rescue His people, but Jesus was sentenced to death instead. Cleopas was distressed by the tragedy he observed in his world, and devastated by the apparent death of the solution. Chances are, there’s a bit of Cleopas in all of us when we experience unexplainable suffering.
If there is a God, and if He is good, then why are things so bad?
If your heart has even the slightest longing to know God and have what He promised us (John 3:16), you can take comfort in Cleopas’ encounter on the road to the village where his eyes were eventually opened to see that Jesus had been with him all along.
He is with you in the darkness, even when it seems like nothing is going according to plan. Here are four truths to reassure you so.
4 WAYS GOD’S PLAN IS STILL WORKING
1. Don’t be discouraged if you do not understand at first
With no hope in their hearts or on their faces, Cleopas and his friend tried to explain the things that were happening. They were men who were simply looking at circumstances without considering Scripture, until Jesus came along to explain everything to them:
“He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.“(Luke 24:25-27)
As Jesus walked with the two men on their journey, he gave them insight into what they had read about Jesus Christ but did not believe – it was no longer just plain text on paper. They felt the Word of God come alive within them (Luke 24:32) as their minds were opened to understand the scriptures (Luke 24:45).
God is sovereign. His ways are above ours but He has not left us searching for Him in the dark.
He is with you in the darkness, even when it seems like nothing is going according to plan.
2. Ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand
Even if we pore over every word in the Bible – like the two men – we need divine help to understand Scripture (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Before Jesus left the disciples, he asked them to wait for the Holy Spirit who will come to them. God is 3-in-1: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Having the Holy Sprit’s presence and power upon our lives is essential because God’s work has to be done in His presence.
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”(John 14:26)
“What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (1 Corinthians 2:12)
The Holy Spirit is our only chance at gleaning insight and wisdom from the Word of God.
3. Go back and encourage others
“And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together.” (Luke 24:33)
They had just gotten to the village of Emmaus on foot – they must have surely been tired. But they got up again and went back to tell others what they had just experienced. They didn’t wait till the next day.
The town of Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified must have been rife with rumours. Mockers would have jumped at the chance to scoff at those who believed: “Is the Messiah dead? How is he going to save you now?”
… we need divine help to understand Scripture
But the Lord had risen indeed, and He had even appeared to Simon. The disciples and the people who heard of the Messiah needed to know that everything was going to plan: Christ would suffer and die – but rise again on the third day from the dead (Luke 24:26).
4. Participate in the plan
After Jesus appeared in their midst again, he told them: “You are witnesses of these things.”
He then opened their mind to understand what had been written in Scripture about His suffering and resurrection, and reiterated the message He had given to his disciples before He died: Proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sins in my name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
The plan hasn’t changed, and God’s mission to reconcile people back to Himself is now ours too.
The time will come when we will understand everything completely; but for now, class is not yet over and the God is still teaching us, guiding us, and speaking to us through the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes you feel it in the pit of your stomach, other times it creeps up like an ache in your soul. It can sometimes feel like a tumour that cannot be excised – a pain that cannot be fixed with a reset button.
But pain is merely symptomatic. I believe it reveals a longing for friendship.
Adulthood seems to be the grave where friendships come to die. It depends how we look at it. With less free time on our hands, it’s natural for us to be more selective about the people we spend our time with. But if we understand why we’re investing in friendships, then adulthood doesn’t have to be a grave for the friendships we do care about.
Friendship is a function of love. Besides wondering who’ll care about us, we also need to ask ourselves who will we care for? Who will we remember to cheer on when they are starting a new job? Who will we check in on to see if they are doing okay? Who will we love so they know they are loved?
Friendship is also a function of space and time. For friendship to be real and to flourish, we have to create space and make time for it. It starts with asking ourselves this question: What kind of friend do I want to be?
Friendship is a garden we need to tend to
We make space for the people we treasure by remembering them and giving them access to our lives.
A friendship takes up space because it is a shared universe made up of memories, conversations, laughter, and the remembering of each other’s fears and dreams. Support is the glue that holds it all together.
But friendship is also a space where mistakes and misunderstandings arise. I don’t suppose there are perfect friends – who never say a wrong word – but friends who forgive are the next closest thing.
“All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness. Without tolerance and mercy all friendships die.” – David Whyte
Forgiveness allows a friendship to continue to grow. A “spacious” friendship, one that gives room for each other to change and grow, is a balm for the soul and creates a safe place for people to be understood, loved and held.
Friendship is a garden we need to tend to – bring flowers, sunshine, and healing words as often as possible. We might be able to survive on our own, but we would do well with others around us.
Dr Andrea Bonior, author of The Friendship Fix says, “We don’t have to go out and spend every minute of every day with a rotating cast of friends.”
We don’t have to launch into an overdrive. If you feel like you’ve been missing out on people that you care about, start somewhere. Think of one, two or three people who you care about – initiate conversation, and get to know how they are doing. I’ve found that the practice of “checking in” on my friends once in a while works for me.
It could be as simple as sending someone a funny gif or a cute sticker to let them know you thought of them. It could be as simple as asking a honest question like, “How has life been for you?”
If we really mean to catch up with someone, we will make it happen.
Take photos if you see something that reminds you of a friend, send a link to a story you think they might enjoy – ask them out for a meal when you can. A good way to ensure “let’s catch up” happens is to whip out your phones and look at your calendars immediately when you say that to a friend – a thought becomes real when you put it into your calendar.
If we really mean to catch up with someone, we will make it happen. As our friendships grows, put some effort into understanding how our friends feel supported. Some of us have friends that are more “low maintenance” than others, but don’t take it for granted.
Take time to listen to one another speak about the things on their hearts. That’s what really grows a friendship.
Time tests all friendships.
Some friendships don’t last quite as long as others, or follow the trajectory we expect. David Whyte says that friendship is the privilege to have walked with someone, and “sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.”
Some friends are seasonal while others last the distance. Being a friend is first a matter of identity before it is responsibility. If we don’t first see ourselves as a friend, we’ll weigh ourselves down by the “work” that we have to do to service friendships and maintain relationships.
“Friendships help us stave off loneliness but are often harder to maintain across the lifespan,” says Chopik. “If a friendship has survived the test of time, you know it must be a good one — a person you turn to for help and advice often and a person you wanted in your life.”
Some friends are seasonal while others last the distance.
Apart from just being an antidote to loneliness, learning to be a friend teaches us to ask an important life question: How can I be a blessing to this person?
I ask myself this question when I wonder if a friendship is “worth it” or if someone doesn’t seem to care very much about the friendship. When I begin with this question, I find the friendship terrain easier to navigate, and disappointment doesn’t seem to find me that easily.
We can’t invest our time and energy in everyone, but we can always ask ourselves: How can I be a blessing to this person? It’s wonderful when people reciprocate and precious friendships are developed in the process. But when that doesn’t happen, we can take comfort in knowing that at least we’ve been a blessing to someone.
by Senior Pastor Benny Ho, Faith Community Church | 25 July 2018, 12:00 PM
Have you ever tried to discern God’s will for your life?
One of the biggest struggles that the average God-fearing Christian faces is trying to discern the will of God in a certain situation. Everywhere I go, I find Christians crying out, “If only I can find God’s will for my life. Then I will not feel so lost. But how can I find God’s will for my life?
However, the Bible tells us that God is a loving Heavenly Father who desires the best for us and does not delight in playing hide-and-seek with us.
Robert Hudnut once said, “All we have to do to hear God’s call is to do what we are already doing … All the Bible people did to hear God speak was to do what they were already doing. Then the call came.”
We need to recognise that there are two aspects to God’s call: There is a primary calling, and there are secondary callings.
Our primary calling is a call to be. It is a call to be someone – not something or somewhere.
“And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:6)
Our primary calling is a call to a Person – not a purpose. It is a call to fellowship with Christ. It is a call to be followers of Christ.
Jesus’s disciples were just going about their daily chores when the call came to them. Peter and John were merely fishing in the Lake of Gennesaret when they were called by Jesus to be His followers. Matthew, a tax collector, was simply sitting at a tax collection post when he was called to follow the Lord.
The first time we answer a call from God is at conversion, when we are called out of the kingdom of darkness into His marvellous light.
Our primary calling is a call to a Person – not a purpose.
What is God calling me to do?
Our secondary callings can take many forms, whether it is to be a teacher, lawyer, doctor or homemaker. They are callings rather than a calling. And our secondary callings matter only because the primary calling – to follow Jesus – matters most.
So how does God call us? How do we know if God is calling us into something?
It starts with living life.
As we live life, stuff happens. We experience go through more and more events where all sorts of things happen – good, bad, ordinary. When enough of these events have accumulated, we reach a point where we cannot remain as we are.
Changes need to take place; decisions have to be made.
Then we reach a listening point. We come to a point where we have to listen for what God is saying, because so many things have happened.
If we make a correct response at the listening point, it becomes a call for us and we move onto the next thing that God is calling us into. But if we do not respond correctly at this point, we can go on a detour – what we sometimes term as a “wilderness experience.”
However, God is good. When we are in this detour, God will, in His grace and mercy, bring us back to another listening point. More events will happen to bring us back there to make a fresh response. If we respond correctly, it becomes a call. And if we don’t, we experience another round of detour.
We know that it is a call when our soul comes alive – when it is awakened. Suddenly we realise that this is what we are supposed to do.
So how do we know that it is a call?
We know that it is a call when our soul comes alive – when it is awakened. Suddenly we realise that this is what we are supposed to do.
When your soul is awakened, you begin to experience God’s pleasure in your life. But this does not mean that our circumstances become better. There may have been times when our circumstances actually got worse, yet we stayed in these situations because we knew it was the right thing to do.
After answering a call and experiencing God’s pleasure, we go back to living life. As we live our lives, some more events will accumulate and the cycle goes on. And so, secondary callings are happening all the time, moving us from one thing to another until we fulfil our destiny in God.
In this regard, everyone is called! The call is not a destination but a journey. While there are many listening points in critical junctures in our lives and many callings into the next phase, there is only one ultimate destiny – to follow Jesus whole-heartedly.
A call is a call obeyed. So if you did not obey, you did not hear. A call has an ability to awaken the soul. So don’t miss the listening points in daily life because we are too preoccupied with our own circumstances or value action above reflection.
To find out more about “Discerning the Will of God”, Pastor Benny Ho’s book on the topic, visit his resource page to find out more.
What do you do with the mad that you feel When you feel so mad you could bite? When the whole wide world seems oh so wrong … And nothing you do seems very right? – What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel, Fred Rogers
From 1968 to 2001, Fred Rogers hosted a children’s TV programme called Mister Roger’s Neighbourhood. It was important to Rogers that his young viewers (aged 2-5) were shown care, and taught that every person deserves to be loved.
Rogers’ message is one that even adults find difficult to hear. You deserve love. What happens to children who were bullied – who were never told they are loved? Well, they become adults who struggle to accept and receive love.
The absence of love leaves a lot of room for fear to grow. And perhaps it’s not said a lot, but we all have fears. Some fear the dark, some fear dying unaccomplished, some fear being alone forever.
Fear is real, but so is love – even in the midst of all the problems we face in life. Love is the great displacer of fear. How is it that love – a word so overused and underused at the same time – holds the key to so much in life? Yet it does.
“Fear was so important, because fear left untreated becomes anger, and hatred, and resentment, and all the toxic things we have,” said Morgan Neville. Neville directed Won’t You Be My Neighbour, a 2018 documentary about Fred Rogers’ legacy.
… when the tide of negative feelings rises beyond our level of control, we need to know that it’s okay to hit the “stop” button.
A child once asked Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister, what to do with the “mad” that he felt. We’re people, and we feel things – anger, sadness, happiness, hurt, envy, brokenness – but what do we do with it?
Rogers turned the child’s question into a song to help children know that their feelings are both “mentionable” and “manageable.”
It’s great to be able to stop When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong, And be able to do something else instead
“When you grow up, you mask your feelings, hide your intentions, you become cynical and have no patience for any of that,” continued Neville.
I realise it’s counterintuitive for us to slow down to “catch” our feelings, to think of what we should do with them – these things don’t just come with age. So when the tide of negative feelings rises beyond our level of control, we need to know that it’s okay to hit the “stop” button.
So it’s not ridiculous to pause to take a few deep breaths, to examine our anger, and to displace some of those feelings with love – for yourself and for those you’re angry at.
And think this song: I can stop when I want to Can stop when I wish. I can stop, stop, stop any time. And what a good feeling to feel like this And know that the feeling is really mine.
Mister Rogers called it “the good feeling of control.” It belongs to us. He wanted to help children to understand how to understand themselves, to give them the tools they needed to engage with the world we live in.
Who was the person you dreamt of becoming when you were younger? It’s not too late.
When the whole wide world seems oh so wrong and nothing you do seems very right, take a deep breath and hold good words to heart.
Know that there’s something deep inside That helps us become what we can. For a girl can be someday a woman And a boy can be someday a man.
Who was the person you dreamt of becoming when you were younger? It’s not too late. We’re all on this journey of becoming who we can be. And we’re not all that different after all – none of us has all the answers.
Wherever we go, we can carry in our pockets a little bit more compassion, and a little bit more forgiveness – both for ourselves and for the person we’re sitting across the table from.
“And where is this voice in our culture today?” Neville asked. “Where are the grownups in our culture? He (Rogers) was the consummate grownup voice I’d been craving. There was nothing in it for him. He was empathetic, he was looking out for our long-term well-being.”
The road is long, but the road is worth taking. Make it to the glorious end. Because at the end of our lives, I hope we will be able to look back and see that we grew to become grownups who looked out for the long-term well-being of others – just like Mister Rogers.
We can make the whole wide world a little better just by caring for someone.
Last month, I boarded a bus not knowing where exactly it was going to take me, or what to expect over the next 3 days. I had signed up for a church camp in China almost 4,000km away from home.
I second-guessed my decision a lot, and would probably have backed out if my air tickets hadn’t already been booked. Then I remembered an old, bookmarked, back-of-mind thought that I’d once entertained: “What if my faith didn’t work overseas?”
Surely God is not limited by neither geographical boundaries nor language – but what if I was? What if my faith and my understanding existed in a bubble that would not survive outside of the Church community I was comfortable with?
Years ago, I met a lecturer who wrote a paper about how music and a carefully-engineered atmosphere combined to manipulate converts to join the Christian faith – it’s all in the emotion.
He was the same lecturer who first taught me that correlation does not always mean causality – emotional music and a great atmosphere are not the enemy – but I think if I’m not careful, I can limit my faith to emotion and familiarity.
On the bus journey to the campsite, I began to feel the gap in our cultures through the conversations taking place around me. And it took much mental effort to bridge that gap to process words, humour and slang from a culture I was not used to and a language I had not mastered.
But I figured I would just try: Cultures can be bridged, seas can be crossed and differences can be worked out with willingness. I would learn it’s not impossible, the man seated behind me demonstrated that to me.
Fred praying over one of the China church brothers at the water baptism.
Fred* is a Singaporean who, for many years, has taken up the task of loving the people of China and building the Church there for the last 8 years. I didn’t envy his task, imagining that it must have often felt lonely and trying.
The next day, I was around the meeting hall when I saw a crowd gathered outside the building, around a very small inflatable pool.
They were getting baptised! In Christianity, water baptism symbolises the believer’s acknowledgment and total trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. As the believer goes in and comes out of the water, it is a symbolism of their identification with Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.
A young boy who was in his early teens had just stepped out of the pool that was a tad too small for him, and Fred prayed over him in Mandarin: “Help this boy to escape from the selfish desires that so often traps our youth.” He was praying from 2 Timothy 2:22 where the original Greek word for desires (epithumia) means a great desire to do something – a strong longing directed at an object. These desires can run along the fault lines of impatience, love of arguing and/or unrestrained lust for anything the soul craves.
… emotional music and a great atmosphere are not the enemy, but I think if I’m not careful, I can limit my faith to emotion and familiarity.
“The heart wants what it wants” is an anthem for young people who have yet to be acquainted with the dangers of these desires. Such selfish wants wage war against a person’s soul, and that’s why it was such a beautiful sight to see Fred pray that prayer of freedom over that young boy.
And as Fred prayed, his words stirred something in my own heart. I saw his task in a new light: What a privilege it is to be able to pray for others – the next generation especially – to live life knowing that they are loved by God and to pray that they come increasingly free from the trappings of selfish desires that sink them into conflict.
When I deemed Fred’s task unenviable, it revealed my heart’s reluctance to be committed to such a task. And in that moment, I found myself a little more free from the trappings of what I thought a good life looked like.
The China church gathered around to pray and worship together after the water baptism.
As I left my bubble of familiarity, I found God and His people in places I had never been before. There is a fullness – and I’m only just scratching the surface – in walking together with God, no matter where it is, as long as it is where He is.
When I worried that my faith would not work, I forgot that God is infinitely greater than what I can comprehend. But more importantly: God is good to His people. And because of that, my faith and confidence in God can stand.
If you’ve wondered if you should go on a trip somewhere to contribute to church-planting efforts or just to tell someone about the love of God, you might find that the trip will do more for you than what you think you can do for others. I found it helps not to limit what God can do.
The 39-year-old American actor is the winner of this year’s MTV Generation Award, which acknowledges significant contributions to film and television. You may know him from the sit-com Parks and Recreation, or blockbuster films like Guardians of the Galaxy and most recently, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
Pratt’s acceptance speech has been viewed over 40 million times on Facebook. Titled “9 Rules to Good Living”, Pratt – an outspoken Christian – delivered a speech that was not what you might expect to hear in an MTV program. Yet it’s refreshing to hear someone accept responsibility as an elder in good humour, especially someone who has millions of teenagers and young adults as fans of his movies.
What struck me was that though he was speaking to a large audience at the award show, and later to the world through social media, Pratt seemed to be aware of the individual in the crowd. He was speaking to the one person who might have needed to hear it.
His first word of advice: “Breathe. If not you’ll suffocate.” Infallible on more than a physiological level. Life is beautiful but it is also complex and we deal with a lot of challenges: Relationship problems. Family problems. Work problems. People problems.
Some days, we tread through valleys and other days we are on top of the mountains. We learn to be quiet by the waters so we can study our reflections. And once in a while we pause in wonder of even just a cloudless night, or a mesmerising evening sky – wondering at the awe and mystery of life.
Nobody is perfect.
It sounded like the advice we might expect to hear from a favourite uncle – or advice we wished an older adult would give us.
And no matter how old we are, or how far we think we’ve gone, we need guidance to go further than where we’re at now. The heart of the message: “Nobody is perfect. People will tell you that you are perfect just the way that you are, you are not! You are imperfect.”
Nobody is perfect. It’s not a popular message but it may be the most liberating thing we need to hear. When we accept that we are imperfect, we find congruence with the reality of life and with what we feel in our hearts – it’s not perfect. Then it can go two ways – we can be held hostage by the futility of growth or be fired up by the possibility of it.
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer, treating the repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. We, too, have broken parts that need mending. And that’s part of our journey towards becoming who we were meant to be.
“And grace is a gift.”
What is grace? Grace is found in the breath in us, in the awe we feel deep in our souls, in the golden lacquer that glides over our past mending us whole – in the freedom to have a future. It is a gift from God.
“And like the freedom we enjoy in this country, that grace was paid for with somebody else’s blood. Do not forget it. Don’t take it for granted.”
Freedom is not free: Not a country’s freedom, or a soul’s peace. How often do we feel the turmoil of desires battling within us, the upheaval screaming for a better future? There’s an answer to that deepest cry. There is a God in Heaven who cares for us and has collected our every tear. Maybe you’ve felt it too.
His response to us comes as grace in the form of a Saviour – the person we’ve been looking for all our lives. His name is Jesus Christ and His forgiveness runs along the fault lines of our human imperfection, meeting us where we fail and need.
“Sometimes people put up walls, not to keep others out, but to see who cares enough to break them down.” (Mahoko Yoshimoto)
At the heart of that sentiment is perhaps this question: Will anyone care enough to do what it takes to know me?
The walls that Yoshimoto refers to are “test walls” we set up just to see if someone would care as much as we’d like them to. It’s a false wall built out of insecurity.
Without proper boundaries and rules for our decision-making, we live on shaky ground. Establishing boundaries – our protection walls – is a necessary process in our lives because we exist in a culture that shifts ever so often. Our emotions go up and down, so we need to stand on solid ground.
Will anyone care enough to do what it takes to know me?
Who am I and what am I worth?
These are some of the questions that come up as we define our boundaries, because our boundaries reflect what we think about ourselves. What will I not allow in my life? What will I walk away from? If we rightly understand our value as a person, we can set up strong boundaries with confidence and self-respect.
From beyond our usage of the term today, boundary walls have been a symbol for protection and security for a long time, from the ancient Romans to the Chinese.
A nation or city is distinguished by its boundaries. Its walls show you that it’s not just any unwalled village. A city with walls around it is guarded, worth protecting and governed. And in knowing your own boundaries, you learn to respect other people’s boundaries too.
You have great worth.
So think of yourself as a city: You’re worth defending, you’re valuable and your boundaries are valid.
Do you really believe it? It may not come easy, especially for those who have been neglected or abused. It’s a confusing process to have to fuse what you may know in your head (that you have great worth) with what you feel in your being. But persevere.
Even if we have gone through devastating attacks on our self-worth in childhood or adulthood which have damaged our self-esteem – we can rebuild. We might struggle with worthlessness but we can rebuild. When our self-worth goes down together with the boundary walls that were supposed to protect us – we can rebuild.
The most important wall we need to rebuild is our “spiritual wall” – our relationship with God.
When we place our faith in God – that He exists and rewards those who seek Him – then He becomes our strong wall of security. We can walk through life knowing that Father God is our Father.
The moment we acknowledge God in our lives, our self-worth and security can be tethered to what God says and no longer to the culture or circumstances of our lives. God becomes our wall of protection and all who run to Him is safe.
“Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (Psalm 62:2)
A long time ago in the time of King Artaxerxes of Persia, a man named Nehemiah wanted to rebuild his city’s wall in Jerusalem. It was destroyed and in ruins. A city without a wall was no longer a city, so he rallied people and resources to rebuild the wall.
“… when we rebuild our relationship with God, we need to be fully engaged – all in.”
The repairers of the wall carried materials and did their work with one hand, and held a weapon in the other to defend themselves in the face of an invasion.
“They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’ But I prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands.’” (Nehemiah 6:9)
Likewise, when we rebuild our relationship with God, we need to be fully engaged – all in. Know that God loves you, know what He says about you and be prepared that tests will come.
Pray like Nehemiah did when the work of rebuilding your life upon God’s truths feels too overwhelming. Be immovable like Nehemiah was when you are being threatened – whether by fear of failure or by memories of the past. Hope in God like Nehemiah did when he asked that God would strengthen him.
I remember being surprised with my first experience of heart-wrenching pain. Amidst the torment, I was surprised to find that heartbreak matched the word so well.
The experience of disappointment and pain comes to us all, at some point in life. Some of us seem to have it worse, but no one is immune to it.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
In a world filled with suffering and sorrow, Jesus Christ is the only hope for a people threatened by darkness. But the funny thing is, I was never a Jesus type of person growing up. When I was young I associated Churches with the brown tourist sign more than I associated it with a place where freedom is found.
I did step into a Church, eventually. But I only found freedom because Jesus Christ found me. It has little to do with a building or a programme, but much more to do with how we respond to his invitation to know God our Father, through him.
God is our Father in heaven who we can trust in, who gave his son Jesus Christ for us (John 3:16), such that our hearts need not be troubled anymore.
There is a story about a man who left his father’s home to squander his inheritance away. He reached a point where he was so hungry he ate with pigs. Finally, he came to his senses one day: “Why I am starving to death when my father has plenty to spare at home?” So he went home.
“So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”(Luke 15:20-24)
Because of his mistakes, the man in the story didn’t think he was worthy to be called his father’s son anymore – but he was wrong. God is the sort of father who would run to welcome a wayward child back home. He is unthreatened by our messes; He extends forgiveness to his children.
In a world filled with suffering and sorrow, Jesus Christ is the only hope for a people threatened by darkness.
We can never fathom the vastness and greatness of God, but the kindness of God is near and available to us. It is a tangible thing.
There is life at the hand of our Father who lavishes us with love that overflows. Surely it is not because of what I’ve done that I can call God my Father, but because He first saw it fit to welcome me home as His child.
“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
It is His grace to me that I came to my senses one day and knew my desperate need to return to my Father. And I still need that grace every day.
Take the words of Jesus Christ to heart today, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
James Giam (51) has been jailed 19 times over the span of three decades. And in the nine years he spent away from home, his wife and two young sons, James was all alone.
He slept in parks and in the void decks, borrowing money from the few friends who would still acknowledge him. He had almost nothing left to his name but the clothes on his back.
“The problem was with my lifestyle, my mindset, and my drug addictions. Things were no longer within my control. I tried changing but I just couldn’t find a way out – I felt trapped.”
It all began with glue-sniffing around the age of 17, which opened the door to darker paths and more dangerous drugs.
“I did think of going back, many times. But I couldn’t. ‘Face’ was one thing, but the second thing was that I had already given up. I’d given up on myself, given up on my family … I didn’t want to pick myself up again.”
So, he lived a vagrant’s life. And when it got too much to bear, he would try to get himself arrested and sent to prison – where there was at least food and shelter.
With all the time he spent in prison – whether for drug-related offences or for petty crimes – James saw his share of things.
James saw sons visit their fathers, fathers visit their sons – but he had also seen sons and fathers locked up in the same prison. He wondered if he would have to visit his son in prison one day, too. Or if they would end up there together.
So one morning in prison, James thought of his son. “Sean, who should have been in secondary school at that time, came to my mind. I became rebellious at that age … and I wondered if he would become rebellious too.”
James had grown up without his parents, and he saw himself then in his son. After all, Sean was only seven when his father stopped coming home one day.
He saw sons visit their fathers, fathers visit their sons – but he had also seen sons and fathers locked up in the same prison. He wondered if he would have to visit his son in prison one day – or if they would end up there together.
“I happened to read a book about prayer, so I wrote a very long [prayer for my family]. Day and night, I prayed that prayer.”
James didn’t know if God was going to answer his prayer, but it was the only thing he could do for his sons from behind bars, so he kept at it. He prayed for his family every day.
And after he was released from prison, James asked to see his sons to which their mother agreed.
“One day, my mum told me that my dad wants to come and find me. I was thinking, after so many years … Why now?”
Sean was hesitant to meet the man who was little more than a stranger to him, but agreed when his mother told him that the conditions she had set were that James wouldn’t come into the house, and it would only be for an hour.
“When he came over, the conversation didn’t turn out the way I expected. We talked about a lot of things. We talked about how he was in Church, and how I was in Church also.”
James told me he remembered thinking then, “God really answered my prayer.”
He had been praying that God would surround his son with Christian friends, that someone would bring would bring Sean to Church, so his son would know Jesus.
“He answered it completely,” said James. Both father and son discovered that they had both been attending the same Church.
“I was quite shocked,” said Sean. “It couldn’t be a coincidence. That was when I was reassured that God was pulling me back to my dad.”
But forgiveness was still something Sean had to learn.
“When I told my mentor about this situation, he encouraged me to meet my father more. I was quite hesitant. But in the end I just tried to meet him more.
“As timed passed, I learnt from my mentor to forgive. At the end of the day, when I see how I’m forgiven, I think I should learn to forgive as well.”
But a few months down the road, Sean was tested when James ended up in prison again.
“When I heard from my dad that he made a mistake again, I was quite shocked that I wasn’t angry … I didn’t condemn him and I didn’t scold him.”
Sean took his mentor’s lessons on forgiveness to heart, and God gave him strength to help his father pick himself up again.
” … At the end of the day, when I see how I’m forgiven, I think I should learn to forgive as well.”
“Sean’s forgiveness to me was a new revelation of God’s character, and a new side of my son I’d never seen,” James said. Neither father nor son thought their present outcome was possible – James freed from his bondages; Sean having a father.
But Sean wasn’t the only one who had to learn how to forgive. Having grown up without his parents, James also had to learn how to forgive them.
“Unforgiveness made my life very painful. Because without forgiving them, I also didn’t know how to forgive myself. As I prayed … I also forgave my parents. And because of that, I am able to receive God’s forgiveness, and my children’s forgiveness.”
In the end, forgiveness from God was the key that opened the door for James to walk out of darkness and back into his children’s lives.
And it was the same for Sean: “Since God can forgive me for what I’ve done… I can also forgive my father.” Sean planted the seed of forgiveness in faith, not knowing what would come out of it. But three years later, his act of obedience to God – to honour his father – is reaping fruits.
“When my mother sees me accepting my father, she can also let go of the past and accept him, to the point that she’d let us go out with him and invite him back home for reunion dinner during Chinese New Year.
“Seeing my mum happy and my dad happy gives me a sense of relief.”
As we prepared for the final questions of the interview, there was still some time before filming began. So James and Sean sat shoulder-to-shoulder on a ledge, talking casually about school, camera equipment and the imminent rain.
If you didn’t already know their story, they look like any other father and son pair. As the interviews concludes, Sean emphasises this one thing repeatedly: No matter what happens, he’s got his father’s back, and he will always support his father together with his younger brother Paul.
From the look on James’s face, you could tell he knew his son meant what he said. Though Sean is only 18 this year, his choices reflect love and wisdom beyond his years. It reminds me of something Jesus said to his disciples:
“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47)
I believe the key to Sean’s capacity to love and forgive is this: The knowledge that he too has been forgiven much by his Heavenly Father.
Forgiveness helped James and Sean to step out of darkness and brokenness into light. It looks a lot like God’s forgiveness, who first forgave us. Love is never far from where forgiveness is dispensed.
“And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4:6)
A Father’s heart is always turned towards His children.
Jacob is a Hebrew name which means “he grasps at the heel.”
Many understand it to also mean “deceiver.” So Jacob’s name was an emotional and factual reminder of the deception that had always marked his life.
When Jacob famously wrestled with God (Genesis 32:22-32), he was on a 20-year-long run from his brother Esau whom he deceived and stole from. Jacob was “in great fear and distress” (Genesis 32:7) because Esau had vowed to kill him.
His story is incredible, but some parts are relatable: Jacob grew up in a family that practiced favouritism, had a track record of lying, and made mistakes he couldn’t erase – mistakes which haunted him for decades.
Even if you haven’t, it’s likely we’ve all done things that we’re not proud of. We might never mention it to another person, but our memory never stops reminding us of our mistakes. It latches on. Our mistakes become a part of our identity: A failure, good-for-nothing, hopeless, useless … unwanted.
But we don’t have to wear these labels. There is a wrestle that we must engage in if we are to walk in a new God-given identity – blessed.
“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” (Genesis 32:24-26)
If you’re exhausted from carrying the burdens of your past, or feel overwhelmed by the fears facing you, maybe it’s time to wrestle with God.
Jacob entered the wrestle as a man who relied on his smarts, but he walked out as a man redeemed from his wrongs and blessed by a God who loved him. In that wrestle, the kindness of God met the persistent faith of Jacob and it resulted in a blessing beyond Jacob’s imagination.
If we do not pray, we might miss the wrestle. And if we miss the wrestle, we also miss the transformation.
“It takes time in the secret places to get the full revelation of God. Little time and hurry mar the picture.” (Edward M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer)
Jacob confessed that he was “unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness” that God had shown him, but he also remembered God’s promise to him (Genesis 32:12) and that was the basis of his faith.
If you’re in need of a touch from God, tell that to Him. Meet God on His terms and allow Him to change you, knowing that His plans are far better than those that we have for ourselves.
Only then can we let every other go; free to pursue the eternal things of God. So would you pray as Jacob prayed?
I don’t remember if I ever asked my parents about them, but for most of my early life, I didn’t know where they went. But I had some theories of why they weren’t at home based on what I overheard from the adults’ conversations.
I had an idea of what I wanted my grandfather to be like – someone dignified. I wanted him to be someone who carried himself well, someone who cared for others, someone who could be my role model.
Based on the clues I had overheard, it was likely that my grandfathers were never going to live up to the image I had created for them in their absence. So I decided that it was better that I didn’t know about them.
I was afraid that I would find nothing about them that was worth celebrating, so I summarised them simply as the grandfathers I never had.
But one day, I did get to meet one of my grandfathers again before he passed on.
Both our meetings happened at the hospital, where I seemed like little more than a stranger to him – just as he was to me. He remembered my nickname from when I was a toddler … but nothing more than that.
I managed to say ah gong (grandfather) with a smile. I tried to hold back the tears from feeling so unknown to my own grandfather.
By our second meeting, he had tubes inserted into his body and he was in a lot of pain. His strength was fading and it was evident that it might well be our last meeting.I spoke as much as I could to him, trying to rememberthe way he looked and the sound of his voice. He couldn’t say much anymore, and I never got to tell him about myself. Or ask him about the last 20 years.
But at the end of that encounter, I was glad that I did get to meet him. I am grateful now for those 30 or so minutes that we spent in the same room, and for what I witnessed that day.
Because that was the day I began to give up being mad at him. I began to think of him as human, too. Who knows if he also grew up without his grandfather? Or his parents?
As I listened to the sound of the ventilator breathing on my grandfather’s behalf, and to the warm tones of my mother telling him not to worry anymore, I left aside my pride and my ideals of a picture-perfect grandfather.
Forgiveness was taking place.
At the end of his life, he seemed flustered, as if he still had a lot to say and worry about.
But he calmed down as soon as he heard he could hand his burdens over to Jesus. He began to be at ease when he heard that Someone would take his hand, he wouldn’t need to be alone.
He was hearing the sound of forgiveness – perhaps for the first time – and it began to silence his fears because it was forgiveness from God Himself. Forgiveness with the power to redeem and cancel out years of hurt and pain.
His strength returned for a few minutes and I heard his voice clearly for the first time ever as he said the Sinner’s Prayer, slowly and carefully. I saw anxiety release its hold on him; he found peace with God.
Then his speech began to slur again, only this time he looked peaceful. At ease, my grandfather had let go of his past as he was about to pass into eternity.
Forgiveness with the power to redeem and cancel out years of hurt and pain.
I never heard much from him, but the last words I ever heard my grandfather say was a prayer, and it made all the difference.
Because He accepted Jesus as his Lord and Saviour, I know that I’ll see him again one day. And we’ll have time then to talk about everything in a perfect world.
It’s a special kind of tragedy when a rich inheritance is left unclaimed because no one looked at the final will.
The tragedy isn’t in the inheritance’s loss of value over time – it’s in the life that could have been.
Our ability to talk to God through prayer is our rich inheritance. It was prayer – communication with Father God in heaven – that made all the difference in Jesus life and ministry. So it must be the same for us.
“He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” (Luke 22:41-43)
Jesus prayed much and prayed often, even up till His final hours before crucifixion. He spent that night in prayer to his Father, and He was strengthened because of it. He yielded Himself to the will of His Father in just 18 words. His submission was the result of a life spent in prayer and communion with the Father.
Jesus asked that the cup of suffering be taken from Him, “If you are willing, take this cup from me” – but He didn’t end the conversation there. In the next breath, He acknowledged the sovereign will of God and yielded Himself to it, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Jesus showed us the intimate relationship he had with his Father through prayer. It was intimate enough that He could be totally honest before Him, and that Jesus would do anything for His Father.
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Hebrews 5:7)
Without prayer, we wilt and wither waywardly.
Human history could have gone down a different path if Jesus had not shown reverent submission to his Father in prayer.
Do we believe that we need prayer to align our lives to the Father’s will? A life led by our own will can be a good life – by the world’s standards. But if you believe there must be more than this to life – that we were made for communion and intimacy with God – then we need to pray for His will to be done in our lives.
“Many people will pray when they are required … by the anxiety caused by troubling circumstances. Those with a genuinely lived relationship with God as Father, however, will inwardly want to pray and therefore will pray even though nothing on the outside is pressing them to do so.” (Timothy Keller)
Often, I’ve found myself praying only because I was anxious. I prayed only when I needed God – when I couldn’t handle something on my own. Self-sufficiency was the thing I built my life around and I couldn’t see that it was all a sham.
No man is self-sufficient. I am not self-sufficient. I need God.
Where did I learn otherwise? We don’t just need the occasional gifts from His hand – all of life is a gift from Him – we need fellowship with His very person.
And that’s only developed through prayer. Without prayer, we wilt and wither waywardly.
“But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” (Jude 1:20-21)
Our job is to build ourselves up in faith by reading His Word (Romans 10:17) and pray unceasingly (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We need the Holy Spirit to help us with that.
Think of how Paul prayed for the Ephesians, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:16-17a).
Prayer gives us the strength to yield to our Father God – just like Jesus did. If you don’t know what to pray for, you can never go wrong praying this: For His will to be done in our lives, here on Earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:10).
So pray much, pray often, and pray more than you did yesterday. He is coming soon, but until He does, our race is not yet over. If you want to depend on God’s power to lead a life that pleases Him – you need prayer like you need oxygen.
Having my birthday in the middle of May means that it’s never far from Mother’s Day.
I treasure the proximity of those two dates. They are a reflection and reminder of the relationship I have with my mother as her only child — we have always been each other’s.
When I was about 3 or 4, I told my mother over the phone that I knew how to spell “mummy” and I spelt it for her: “M-u-m-m-m-m-e”. I didn’t get it right but I remembered her laugh — she was proud of me anyway. “M-u-m-m-y”, I later repeated after her.
When I was 8, I accused my mother of forgetting that my birthday was just around the corner. What I didn’t know, was that the world didn’t revolve around me and I wasn’t the one who suffered massive blood loss and risked her life to birth a child. So there was no way my mother could forgotten such a day.
“May your father and mother rejoice; may she who gave you birth be joyful!” (Proverbs 23:25)
When I was 10, I received an award in school. I don’t remember what the award was for anymore but I remember how surprised I was seeing my mother in the audience. I remember her red lipstick, how she smiled at me and how proud she was.
When I was 13, my mother sent me to school every morning even though it meant that she had to wake up before dawn and drive long distances for me. Whether it was a strawberry-flavoured Polar Swiss roll or a bowl of instant porridge, she made sure I had food in my stomach before I went to school.
When I was 17, I drew the curtains one day and discovered a little stone tablet by my window sill. Decorated with painted flowers, it also had these words engraved on them: “Day by day, love for a daughter only grows.”
My mother never mentioned anything about that little stone tablet, and neither did I.
But I knew she placed it there. And that gesture cracked something open within me. Reading those words that I had never heard in person — my heart began to warm to the idea that my mother loves me.
It’s a strange kind of tension: I know that my mother loves me very much, especially when I look back on precious moments over the years. But I did feel as if there had been a gulf created by unmet expectations and certain disappointments.
I am 24 now. And in all our years together, there have been no few hurtful words I’ve said to her and many more nice words I should have said but never did … I was too shy or too afraid.
I’m celebrating another birthday in a few days’ time — right after Mother’s Day. And when I look back on my 25th birthday, these are some things I hope I’ll be able to say:
When I was 25, I told my mother that I love her.
I put aside the fear that I will never match up to her or do her proud, and simply loved her.
I bought her flowers even though she said that she’s not a “celebration” kind of person.
I wrote her a card even though I’m not used to expressing my affection to her.
I wish I had the courage or the wisdom to realise this earlier: That I need to take responsibility for my life and words, and steer it in the direction God wants it to go.
I want us as daughter and mother to truly reconcile and walk along paths of love and forgiveness. I am choosing healing for us.
“May your father and mother rejoice; may she who gave you birth be joyful!” (Proverbs 23:25)
I used to think that my mother would be happier if she had a different daughter – someone smarter and more capable. But that thinking isn’t beneficial, and it doesn’t help me be a better daughter. Only I get to love my mother the way I can. And by God’s grace I do and will.
Mummy, a thousand thank-yous won’t even begin to scratch the surface of what I owe you, but I’ll just have to start with gratitude and hope it makes a difference.
When I sit across the table from someone going through the process of divorce, or whose parents are considering a divorce, it’s hard to find the right words to say. “You can’t tell me what to do – you’ve no idea what I’m going through.”
I can see how sometimes, divorce seems like the most viable option for an unhappy marriage. Statistics show that while the number of marriages drops each year, the number of divorces is on the rise.
Things change, feelings fade, and sometimes even good people become monsters in a marriage that feels like it has become diseased. And divorce looms as a remedy: Let’s just remove the tumour.
When it’s come to that stage, it’s almost as if we look on divorce with the same rose-coloured glasses that some of us look at marriage with in the first place: “It will make everything better.”
DIVORCE IS THE DISEASE
But marriage is not the disease. The real disease is the lie that divorce is a solution.
It may not feel that way when you’re deep in daily arguments, cold wars, tears that have run dry. In desperation, we grasp at any illusion that paints us a better reality than the one we have right now. But the mirage is dangerous.
After interviewing 200 separated or divorced persons, psychologist and counsellor Diane Medved – herself a former divorcee – concludes that “the process and aftermath of divorce is so pervasively disastrous that in an overwhelming number of cases, the ‘cure’ that it brings is surely worse than the marriage’s ‘disease’”.
Don’t throw your marriage away, even if it hurts right now, even if it’s going to take a lot of work to restore life to it. Because the end of a marriage will hurt far more.
Dr Medved had originally set out to write a book to de-stigmatise divorce, believing that people who suffer over an extended period in unhappy marriages ought to “get out”. She wanted to strike down taboos about divorce.
We have fewer taboos about divorce now, and it feels easier than ever to get one. But don’t throw your marriage away, even if it hurts right now, even if it’s going to take a lot of work to restore life to it. Because the end of a marriage will hurt far more.
There can be healing for your marriage – and for you – if you would fight for it.
FIGHT FOR YOUR MARRIAGE
Even though it feels like no one can fully empathise with what you are going through, you can get through the ordeal without getting out of the marriage. The marital vows themselves acknowledge this truth, but reminding us to commit to someone for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do you part.
We don’t vow to hang around only in good times.
No one is perfect. The vows of marriage are not validated by perfection, but renewed every day by the commitment to be each other’s even in the face of all the things that would separate two people. All that truly holds them together is this vow to stand by the other.
Marriage vows are not an insurance against imperfection in your partner or yourself, but a reminder that you have made a promise to love and to cherish – especially when the other needs it from you the most.
“Instead of applying energy to dismantling your marriage, put the same amount of effort into fixing your divisions” – Dr Diane Medved, The Case Against Divorce.
When you’re fighting for your marriage – you’re doing exactly what you vowed to do. And there is no shame in that.
I’m sorry if it feels like you’re in a lonely and uphill battle to love your spouse right now. Or if you find it hard to find the strength to even just look at your spouse in the eye again. I’m sorry if you haven’t heard a loving word in your house in a long time.
But it can get better. I hope you’ll find the strength to fight for your marriage and your partner.
It’s terribly hard to be the first one to reach out to say something nice, to give in and forgive – but this is where the true fight is.
And if you have children – you fight also for them when you fight for your marriage. And it will always be worth it.
FIGHT FOR YOUR MARRIAGE
As a child of divorce, I received an inheritance of fear when the fallout happened. I didn’t know it then, because I was trying to grow up, be understanding, and beat the odds by being the kid that was “okay” with her parents’ divorce.
I thought that was the mature thing to do, but in my acceptance of my parents’ divorce as a way out of an unhappy situation, I dug a deeper hole for myself. I feared relationships and I feared marriage because I learnt very early on in life that people leave; wedding vows are nice but they don’t mean a thing – because people leave.
It’s one thing to have statistics tell you about divorce in a time like ours, and it’s another to have your own parents show you what divorce is. I’ll never have the chance to look upon my parents’ marriage as an example for my own. I didn’t need theirs to be shiny or perfect, I only needed theirs to be intact.
Proportion of divorces by length of marriage in 2016. Source: Department of Statistics, Singapore.
If you’re thinking about a divorce, hear it from the child of divorce who once thought it was “okay”, and hear it from the child who has grown into an adult but who is still picking up the pieces within her: Don’t get a divorce.
It’s not worth it. You might be happier in the short-term, but you won’t be as happy as you would be if you stayed and fought for your marriage. Leave your children an inheritance of love, not fear.
It’s never too late or too foolish to honour the promise you have made.
The division of matrimonial assets in a divorce reflects the violent separation of what had been joined together. Emotionally, the damage is often harder felt. It is taxing to a nearly unbearable degree.
Dr Medved suggests focusing the energy in the right direction. “Instead of applying energy to dismantling your marriage, put the same amount of effort into fixing your divisions. The results will mean the world to your children, and can make your world one with far less to regret.”
TO THEE I MAKE THIS PROMISE
You’ve made a promise to your spouse at the altar of marriage. Would you make another one to yourself today?
“Dear self, today I remind you that you are more loved than you can ever imagine, no matter how your situation with your spouse looks like now, or what has been said about you. I remind you about the commitment you made to love and to cherish at all times. The situation is challenging, but I promise that fighting for your marriage will be worth it.”
When we make the decision to marry and to love, we also give up our right to forsake and to walk away. We do this for a sweeter and greater love that teaches us what Love is like whether in despair, in joy, in pain, or at all times. Marriage is for life, and there are sorrows and squabbles to sort out, but there are plenty of joys on the way too.
The vows of marriage reflects God’s promise to us: He will never leave us nor forsake us. If you need strength to love, find it in God’s everlasting love foryou – even at your worst, His heart is not to leave you in that position, but always to restore.
Do you regret something bad that you did or said recently? What would even make your list of “bad things?”
I don’t suppose our lists look the same – everyone holds themselves to different standards. There are obvious things like murder and adultery that we know are definitely wrong, but what about the convictions we must decide on for ourselves?
Will I use vulgarities?
What’s my view on sex before marriage?
What kind of spouse will I be?
What’s my most important goal in life?
But we don’t really talk about such things anymore. In a world where anything goes, many of us aren’t absolutely sure about a lot of things or our decisions.
So we just go with the flow, we just let it be – not realising how dangerous that sort of spontaneity can be. But it costs to be careless about the way we handle our self, relationships, and money. And the most important, most costly decision we’ll make is in how we relate with God.
Our view of who God is and who we are to Him must dictate all of life’s decisions. The most important thing we can do for ourselves is to align our life and will to His (Romans 12:2).
If you’ve ever asked who the “real you” is – your Creator God has the answer (Psalm 139)
If you feel like you just don’t know what to do anymore – your Creator God has the answer (Psalm 86:11)
If you don’t know how to surrender your life to God – your Creator God has the answer (Matt 16:24-25)
When our desire is to be right with God, we are freed to know and follow Him.
“So we make it our goal to please him… For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:9-10)
Do you know what we’re born for? So many spend their lives chasing the wind. We make it our whole life’s goal to bring God pleasure.
Pleasing God is not the same as pleasing a superior at work, or blind subservience to a narcissistic control-freak. It is a winning strategy in the war against a real enemy who schemes against us.
Pleasing God delivers clarity to the decisions we make. The more we know and spend time with God and His Word, we more we will find out what pleases Him. After all, when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us (James 4:8).
Are you pleasing Him? It was said to the believers in Rome that those “in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8). The goal of pleasing God brings to light our sinful selves and all the ways we are naturally at odds with Him.
“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent,’ he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.” (Martin Luther)
When was the last time we repented of doing something that wouldn’t please God?A life of repentance sounds like a hard and tedious one. But it’s a blessed life: Repentance takes the burden of sin off us (1 John 1:9) – a gift of grace that we might live free.
The things that please God are worth contending for. We can either gratify the desires of our flesh and live in careless disregard of who God is – or live in His forgiveness and love as pleasing sacrifices.
“To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness…” (Ecclesiastes 2:26a)
God desires to lavish wisdom, knowledge, peace, love, joy, and every other good thing upon us. As our Father, He does not want to withhold any good thing from us. If we align our will with His and desire to please God, our choices will reap rewards for our eternal souls.
We are accountable for every choices we make. At the end, we have to give an answer for the kind of life we lived and all the things we did.
Thank God for His mercy – that He would help us today by guiding us (John 16:13).
I had about 15 seconds to spare as I stood by my kitchen sink, waiting for my water bottle to fill up. It doesn’t take long for my mind to switch to its usual preoccupations. I was thinking of work.
Not the work I immediately had to do – 15 seconds wouldn’t be enough to sort that out! – but work in general. My job. My career.
In my wandering mind, I likened my life to a garden. There I saw an area overgrown with weeds – the corner of the garden marked out as “work”. The more I compared my career with others, the more the weeds of worry seemed to grow.
Their gardens seemed to be flourishing with fulsome, blooming varieties of financial security and career progression, while mine felt sad in comparison. I don’t even know how long my current job arrangement will last, and if I am cut out for the job.
When I looked at other gardens, I only saw how bad mine looked in comparison.
I came to realise that should I spend time comparing myself to others, I would neglect tending to what I had in my garden. Instead of thinking of ways to grow my skill sets, I would cease to take pride in my work. I lamented yet remained passive, and that nurtured a worrisome heart.
I thought that I might appear more successful if I had a full-time job instead of holding on to contract jobs. I thought that if I would be more fulfilled if I could have something more substantial on my resume – a “conventional” job arrangement so I don’t seem like a failure.
A worried heart is fertile soil for half-truths and flat-out lies. Whether waiting for my water bottle to fill up (or for the green man to appear on the traffic light), I found myself entertaining such thoughts over and over again.
“I don’t think God cares about what’s going on in my life. He’s too big for that.”
Even a quick examination of that accusation against God would have deflated the argument; but I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to do that. Somehow I found myself special enough that God would overlook me – just me.
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26)
Am I not of value to my heavenly Father? In response to such a magnificent truth, my grumbling and self-doubt had to give way to a careful evaluation of the way I was living. And then I realised that my main gripe wasn’t really about my job or what I was doing – but whether it all mattered to God.
What I realised, then, was that I had a responsibility to my job, whatever the title was and however long it was I was doing it for. I have a purpose, and it is to honour God with the work of my hands. This matters to Him.
The more I sought clarity on my goal – that He be glorified through me – and remembered His love for me, the less I doubted His heart towards me.
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15)
It may have been more practical to pray for a different job when I was feeling anxious about my future or career prospects. But I didn’t. Instead, I held on to a little prayer I had whispered under my breath more than one year ago.
Back then, I prayed that He would help me become a useful person – it was my moment with God most High and I knew that He heard me. I prayed that I’d be useful wherever I work. That prayer remains.
When I forget my value, He calls me to look at creation and rest in the knowledge that He is my Father and provider. And in that rest I find strength again to ask that He uses me – everything I offer – and makes me fit for every work that is set before me.
I just have to be faithful to tend to what is in my garden.
In a world of choices, what is the one thing you seek?
by Jason Chua, Burning Hearts House of Prayer | 12 April 2018, 10:24 AM
As a “borderline millennial” born in the late 80s, I decided to ask my wife – a true millennial – about the way they think.
Our conversation flowed into the realm of “sense” and “purpose” and “reason for existence”, as she pointed me to the tip of the pyramid in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where “self-actualisation” sat – the need to fulfil one’s purpose.
Many of our millennials were born into a world where their basic needs have been met, and that’s why they’re constantly in search of purpose.
In fact, I see these young people going from place to place in their pursuit of purpose; some are even willing to take on low-paying jobs because they find it worth the cost. And because of this sense of need for self-actualisation, they’re a little more free-spirited, adventurous and hungry.
I find that it is this characteristic of theirs that make them good candidates to become missionaries.😜
TEACH THEM TO PRAY
In the past five years of leading young people and even in my own journey as a young person, I notice that we don’t tend to think of “young people” and “prayer” together. But I don’t think that young people find prayer unimportant – we know that it is fundamental to our faith and part of our connection to God.
Instead, I’ve come to realise that perhaps young people don’t pray or find prayer “boring” because they don’t know what to say.
In Luke 24, a time shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion, two disciples were on the road to Emmaus when Jesus Himself appeared and expounded the Scriptures to them. And it was only at the end when He broke the bread that their eyes were opened – though by then He disappeared from sight – and they said this to themselves: “Did not our hearts burn within us?”
“Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24 31-32)
The “burning heart” experience is what happens when we interact with Scripture – with God’s Word – and allow it to create a spark within us and keep us burning.
He wants to put His desires into the hearts of men, which will fuel their hearts to fulfil what’s in His heart.
The key to set young people on fire for God are the very words in the Bible. These words aren’t just dry black letters on thin paper – there is a Man behind those words: He wants to put His desires into the hearts of men, which will fuel their hearts to fulfil what’s in His heart.
As we teach our young people to pray and respond to God’s Word in the Bible, they will grow in their depth of knowledge of God, their biblical language, and their capacity to pray and understand God. And the Holy Spirit will create a new world in them, just like how He formed the world in the days of creation.
If our young people don’t know how to pray, we must guide them into a life of prayer and as the Word forms in them, so will a spark be formed.
THEN SEND THEM OUT
I lead a praying community of young people and we have a prayer room that is inspired by the Moravians, who were known for their prayer and evangelism.
For over a hundred years, members of the Moravian Church in Germany started a round-the-clock prayer watch. At home and abroad, on land and sea, their intercession reached the Lord. And by 1791, 65 years after they began praying, the small Moravian community had sent 300 missionaries to the ends of the earth.
We have been discipling young people in the ways of prayer, getting them into a place where they have conversations with God, by praying with and through Scripture. The centrepiece of our prayer meetings is not issues we are facing but rather who Christ is. This has cultivated an environment where young people learn to pray.
They pray in their hearts, pray in small groups, pray in what we call “rapid-fire prayers” as they line up and pray for the nations that the Word of Jesus will be manifested around the world.
Their inward motivation is now to go to places where He is not worshipped, where He is not loved, where His name is not yet known.
And after spending four or five years coming to our prayer rooms, some of our young people have prayed so much that they don’t want to stay praying in a room but to take prayer out of it. I think they have begun to see a facet of Jesus’ world, that their inward motivation is now to go to places where He is not worshipped, where He is not loved, where His name is not yet known.
It’s in this place of prayer that God incubates His heart for the nations. And at Burning Hearts, we’re creating a type of greenhouse where young people can grow up in, with values and systems that will help them see Jesus’ worth in the midst of all these different things they face and experience.
Our prayer room is a space for young people to pray with Scripture, to stand before God, to look at His beauty, to meditate upon who He is and engage with Jesus and His Word. And it is our hope that they will one day say that Jesus is worth it all and give themselves to whatever He wants them to do.
MY HOPE FOR A GENERATION
We need to create an environment that emphasises values rather than forcing young people to a method. If we want them to move into a place of cross-cultural missions, the “ang-ku-kueh method”, where we simply put them into a mould, won’t work and they’re just going say that they are not interested.
But if we were to create a safe environment for them to grow – a greenhouse infused with biblical DNA – no matter where you transplant them to, their roots are going to remain and they can flourish where they are.
Our young people want to express the creativity and dreams within them, and we need to help them grow deep, healthy roots that will keep them anchored. Then they will be able to express themselves the way God has made them to be – in their true, original design.
Jason Chua will be speaking at The One Thing Gathering 2018, which will see hundreds of young adults unite with the International Houses of Prayer across the world to behold the majesty and beauty of Jesus.
Happening from July 19-21, 2018, for the first time in Asia, the gathering calls for young people who have purposed in their hearts to live with abandonment and devotion to Jesus, to do His work, be His voice and see His transformation in the nations.
I’m in that life stage where everyone around me is taking turns to walk down the aisle.
Meanwhile the only aisle I’ll be walking down anytime soon is the supermarket aisle. I’m not bitter about it … Envious? Yes, a little. But I’m also conscious of the hard, hard work a relationship demands. After all, it’s marriage. Till death do us part.
And as I reflected about that, I came to this conclusion: Before even thinking of loving another person, we should take some time to look at the man in the mirror.
So to save us from heartache and frustration, here are three things we can consider before jumping in.
3 CHECKS BEFORE LOVE
1. Do you have something to hide?
“I’m gonna catch you!”
The two-year-old toddler I was playing with knew exactly what she needed to do – hide. So she closed her eyes and plopped face-down onto the sofa. Her reasoning probably went something like this: If I can’t see them then they can’t see me too.
It’s endearing to see a chubby baby do that. But it’s excruciating when adults choose to handle problems that way, believing that if we just ignore the problem then it becomes less real.
If there is something in your life you feel you must hide – whether you’re afraid to be judged or scared of the pain – then it still has power over you.
A healthy relationship is when two, whole individuals move in the same God-given direction.
The things you hide don’t disappear just because you’ve buried them long enough. You cannot receive forgiveness for something you refuse to confess – you cannot solve the problems you don’t acknowledge.
So whether it’s an anger problem, an addiction to pornography, a pride issue, or a memory from your past that haunts you – would you be honest about it to yourself and others you trust? That’s the first step to healing.
If you hide it now, it will definitely resurface later. Hurt people hurt people. But God can mend any brokenness when we bring it to Him – only He can help us truly love another person.
2. Are you waiting for someone who will understand you completely?
Being able to finish each other’s sentences isn’t a sure sign of a successful relationship.
We must communicate our needs. If we don’t communicate what is important to us, we can’t expect others to understand. You must be willing to help others understand you.
If you struggle with feeling worthless, you will never solve that problem by finding worth in another person or a relationship. Don’t believe the myth of two halves coming together to make a whole.
A healthy relationship is when two, whole individuals move in the same God-given direction.
3. Do you think you deserve to be loved?
I’m sure you’ve heard of this famous quote by Steven Chbosky: “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
When I asked some of my friends if they feel deserving of love, I didn’t think that many of them would hesitate to answer. I didn’t realise some actually feel they don’t deserve to be loved.
So I wonder how many others also feel unworthy of love? When did they internalise that feeling?
The things we struggle with growing up – fears of abandonment, rejection, or failure – tend to be the same ones we war with in adulthood and bring into our marriages. Deep down, we are afraid that the same things we’ve experienced in the past will happen again.
You cannot receive forgiveness for something you refuse to confess – you cannot solve the problems you don’t acknowledge.
Maybe one of these experiences made you feel unworthy of any love. I once felt that way. I spent too many years believing that lie.
Love aside, what we actually deserve is death. As wretched sinners, we were doomed to die as enemies as God – but He saw fit to save us. He turned us from enemies into His children. That’s what Christians mean when they talk about finding worth in God.
So don’t believe a lie – we were deemed worthy of love. It doesn’t matter how your family looked like growing up – whether you had absent parents or toxic relationships. It also doesn’t matter how well you’re doing at school or in your career.
God’s love will always be enough – and it’s right there for you.
The way God sees us takes some getting used to. I can’t wrap my head around it, but He looks at us with kindness and mercy. He sent His only Son Jesus down to Earth and to die, so we could trade our sin for His righteousness.
God is infinitely bigger than a relationship or marriage – so a life centred on Him is one that is free from such striving. We are rescued from living a life where worth is found in relationships and abilities – where hope is pieced together from temporal, material things.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
We will never be able to fully grasp how great, wide and deep God’s love is for us. But yet we can call Him Father.
If you’ve been waiting for a sign – then this is it.
My friend, God is not hiding. Be still. Talk to Him and let Him speak to you. He’s waiting for you.
Missions under 30: I’m a millennial and I’m not bored
by Claire Carter | 9 April 2018, 4:01 PM
I wonder how many people think that millennials are bored in church? Or unwilling to go on mission trips?
Think of us as spoilt or fragile, but don’t write us off just yet. I’m a millennial and I want to live for something bigger than myself – and I know I’m not alone in thinking this way.
Having grown up in the age of information and at a time such as this, where we’re constantly exposed to human brokenness and injustice, my generation actually holds more potential for sending out missionaries than ever before.
As a millennial who has been going for mission trips since young and even organised them, perhaps I could share some perspectives on what millennials really want.
Once we are baptised in compassion and a love for the lost and the broken, it will start a fire that’s not easily quenched.
Firstly, I think we want to find our unique role in God’s redemptive mission. I believe we each have individual strengths, convictions, interests … And even our nationalities are uniquely designed for us to play a specific part of God’s building plan.
I think this predisposes us to seek out opportunities that are unique to us, in whatever areas we are placed in or feel in our hearts most strongly.
But the key is that we must have tasted and seen the goodness of God. We must find that He’s worth living for, and once we are baptised in compassion and a love for the lost and the broken, I think that will start a fire that’s not easily quenched.
If you find yourself in a capacity to influence and mould millennials, challenge them to a life sold out for Jesus. Help them rise up to that standard and see what that life looks like for themselves.
I know a friend who’s previously organised two mission trips to a village in Taiwan, where her grandmother is from. It is a village that has no churches and no Christians in the community. She sensed the urgency of the need and has led two separate teams to bring the Gospel to the children there.
You see, my friend has a unique ability to fulfil this specific call because of her ties to the land. As a member of the community, she’s accepted by them. Also, the circumstances she grew up in were pretty similar to the children, so they could identify with her story when she shared her testimony with them.
Maybe millennials do feel bored with pre-planned programmes that have been set up by churches or missions organisations, but it doesn’t mean that millennials are not mission-ready.
I think the Church would do well to encourage millennials to dig deeper and observe where God is placing us specifically and then provide the know-how and the guidance as we embark on these more unconventional forms of missions.
We want to take ownership of the Great Commission, too.
At my church, we have a global awareness team that sets up platforms to create awareness about stories from the ground to reflect what young people are doing to answer God’s call in our mission fields. These stories help us remember that we aren’t all that different and we can begin to do something where we’re at.
Whether it’s an overseas internship, an exchange or a gap year – we’ve heard stories about young people who have gone out to the nations to do something for God while still studying. People come back sharing these stories of how God has used them wherever they are.
Our platform of global awareness encourages young people not to see missions as a separate, compartmentalised part of their lives, but to see it as a lifestyle. And we can live out the Great Commission by using opportunities that are present within programmes we have in school, such as summer schools and overseas internship programmes.
Missions is exciting because God is exciting.
We want to mobilise this generation and the next because we have so many opportunities in front of us and it’s paramount that we see and remember God’s heart in all of these.
The antidote to short-lived excitement is to get us millennials closely acquainted with the person of God – the exciting character of God and His heart for His people. We must keep that fire burning.
If we make missions about a programme – we will come back from it seeing the power of the programme instead of the power of God. But missions is exciting because God is exciting. It is when we begin to feel and take on God’s heart for His people that we begin participating in something bigger than ourselves.
The greatest thing that you can do in life is be a part of God’s exciting mission to reconcile the world back to Him. And that’s the least boring thing in the world.
Only 21 years old, Claire Carter was the youngest panelist at the first GoForth Millennial Influencers Gathering, where she shared these thoughts on missions.
With an expected one billion people in Asia moving from rural to urban areas by the year 2030, the number of world city dwellers is expected to rise to 70% by 2050. There is an urgent call to the Church, especially as the majority of new urban dwellers will be young (under 25 years old) and live below the poverty line ($2 a day).
The GoForth National Missions Conference, happening June 21-23, 2018, will look at an array of diverse strategies to empower individuals and churches to reach and transform cities with the love of Christ. Visit their website to find out out more.
Suppose such a thought filled your mind one day: “What if I wrote a bunch of encouraging messages and gave it out to strangers?” Or you noticed that a classmate has been lagging behind in school and you wondered if you should offer him help. But you dismiss those thoughts quickly.
The things I’m talking about are things that require some semblance of sacrifice: Time, money, or a loss in “face”.
“Why would I do that?” is a practical question we might ask when we want to validate the spending of our resources on a person who didn’t ask us to help them, who might not appreciate us for what we do, or who might never be able to help us in return.
How would you answer the question, “Why would I?”
Would you say that it is the “right thing” to help other when we can? It is, after all, summed up in the Golden Rule, that we should “do unto others what we want others to do unto us.” (Luke 6:31)
For many of us, we might struggle with going the extra mile for others. Perhaps we have been taught by bad experiences that it doesn’t always pay to be nice – or feel restrained by a lack of time or energy. Or perhaps we are waiting for others to love us first.
What we want isn’t just to be a nice person, but to glorify God at the end of it all.
Yet it would be a waste if our struggle to love only ends in unwillingness or passivity. What if we would harness our struggles and let it challenge us to embrace the same attitude of humility and love that Jesus Christ had?
And if you find yourself in that place of “Why would I do that?” or “How could I do it?”, I hope you’ll find your answer in God’s enabling:
“…that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfil every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)
What we want isn’t just to be a nice person, but to glorify God at the end of it all.
Whenever you have a resolve for good – a desire to do good – that you find it hard to bring into fruition on your own, I pray that God will fulfil it in your life by His power, so that His name may be glorified through you.
And whenever you act in faith, I pray that God will complete your work with His power, that much is amounted to, so that His name may be glorified.
The next time you wonder, “Why would I do that?” and “How could I do it?” – consider these questions:
1. Will it glorify the name of God? 2. Will I ask for His grace and power to top up where I lack?
And as you serve and extend the love of God to others, forget not that you are also dearly loved by Father God, and you serve out of the desire to do what pleases your Father. If we will honour God – spending our life to serve God and His people (Galatians 5:14) – then God will also honour us (John 12:26).
As we count the cost of serving God, may we always arrive at the conclusion that we will gladly pay it, surrendering ourselves into the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ whose grace compels us to no longer live for ourselves (2 Corinthians 5:15).
Was it just going to be another day at this lonely corner, trying to avoid the authorities and hoping to receive enough sympathy to fill my stomach for the next few hours?
These were the thoughts I would have every day, although I now wonder why I even bothered thinking about the same thing. It had been this way for years ever since my parents had passed away one after the other, leaving me to fend for myself.
I also used to wonder if life would have been easier if I had not been born with a visual impairment. And because my family was so poor, we could not afford medical treatment or therapy to ease me into daily life. In the end, for most of my childhood, I stayed home with my mother and help her with simple chores.
I never learnt what caused my blindness, but I’d heard passing remarks from the people at the market that my parents must have done something bad in their younger days. This made me feel sad – my parents were the best people I knew. They were not very educated, but they worked hard and loved me very much.
My mother used to tell me: Better to be born without sight than without a good heart – that is all you really need.
When they passed away and I realised I had no choice but to beg in the streets when the neighbours could no longer help me – we had no close relatives either – it was the lowest point of my life.
Every morning I would make my way down to a corner of a bustling part of my neighbourhood. If I was lucky, someone would be generous towards me and give me a few dollars. Sometimes, people even offered to buy me some food, maybe even sit and eat with me.
“Please help me.” “Have some pity for the blind.”
I honestly believed then that this would be the rest of my life. Until that day.
Something had been going on lately. Something out of the ordinary. I never keep in touch with the news, but even sitting at my usual corner, I’d been overhearing several similar accounts of a blind man who saw again.
I never dared to allow myself to imagine what it would be like to see, but I couldn’t help but think: How was this possible? Could it happen for me?
I’d no longer be bound to these streets, no longer dependent on others’ pity on me. I’d be free. This thought scared me, because hope is a dangerous emotion.
But hearing that it could even happen for someone else awakened a curious faith in this blind man, a man in need of nothing less than a miracle.
As the days went on, more people – men, women and even their children – whispered and talked about this man who had healing powers. I knew it was the same mysterious man who’d brought back the sight of the blind.
“I heard that people asked him to have mercy on them … That’s how they got his attention.” “He just asked if they believed that he was able to heal them – and then he did!”
Just believe? I couldn’t wrap my head around this. Who was this man and where could I find him? How long was he going to be in town? But I was also afraid – what if I did not have enough faith, what if I’d be the first one who couldn’t be healed?
Since young, my mother had told me not to believe in sorcerers or those who practised divination. Was this man one of them? But I’d suffered for so long in poverty and disability, I was sure she’d have understood why hope started to grow in my heart that I might meet him one day and be cured.
I did try to put all thoughts of being healed out of my mind, but the urgency that had been stirring inside took the better of me, and I found myself asking one of the strangers who stopped to talk more about this man who could heal.
She told me that the authorities were on alert because many people turned up to hear him speak – but that he was also of royal blood! I was scared to hear this but somehow comforted too. It couldn’t be so bad if this man had descended from a king, right?
From that day, I made up my mind that if he ever came my way – if God would allow our paths to cross – I would take my chances. Perhaps faith was growing in me by then.
I wanted to see.
A week passed, then two, but my resolve didn’t waver.
And then the fateful day finally came.
I began to hear his name chanted in the streets: “Jesus! It’s Jesus!” A mix of fear and courage arose in my heart all at once. This was my only chance!
So I began to shout, “Son of David! Son of David!”
I yelled like a man who had no shame. If this man was who they said he was – the Messiah, the Chosen One – he wouldn’t look at me like those who believed my blindness was caused by sin in my family.
The crowd that was with him was deafening, I couldn’t tell where he was in the midst of them – some even told me to be quiet – but I wasn’t about to just let him pass me by.
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
All of a sudden, I heard the movement around me stop. Then I heard someone call my name, saying, “It’s your lucky day, Bartimaeus! He’s calling you! Get up!”
Jesus had heard me. He had stopped for me and was calling for me!
I threw off my cloak and got on my feet, heart pounding, legs trembling. Kinds hands guided me to where he stood waiting. Then I heard him speak.
“What do you want me to do for you?” the Son of David asked.
I felt the power in his words coursing through me, as though the question was already an answer. Was this how the others felt when they heard Jesus call out to them?
And before I could comprehend that moment, faith left my mouth: “Teacher, I want to see.”
At first he didn’t say anything in response, but I could somehow feel his gentle smile though my world remained dark. Then, these simple words. “Go, your faith has healed you.”
A bright light exploded all around me.
Colours, movement, faces … Everywhere. My heart was leaping inside my chest and tears were flowing down my dust-caked cheeks. For years I’d walked in a world of sightless sound and form I could only feel with my hands. Now everything I knew was bathed in a new light; this unfamiliar place I’d always called home.
My eyes rested on the one who had healed me – my Messiah, my Saviour. This man who stood before me with compassion in his eyes. In his presence I suddenly realised the depth of the blindness he had set me free from – a blindness that reached into the crevices of my soul.
I was a man in need of more mercy than I could ever comprehend.
“Lord, I will follow you all the days of my life,” I said as I wept.
And true to my word, that’s what I’ve done ever since.
This is an adapted account of blind Bartimaeus who receives his sight, taken from Mark 10:46-52.
by Senior Pastor Jeffrey Chong, Hope Church Singapore | 20 February 2018, 11:08 AM
The illustration used in the video was adapted from a sermon by Pastor Michael Strickland from The Cove Church
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” (Galatians 5:16-17)
The Bible shows us that there are two natures: One of the Spirit and one of the flesh. But we can only have one. If we really want to see life transformation, we need more of the Spirit because what the flesh desires is contrary to what the Spirit desires. They are in conflict with each other.
“Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)
As vessels of God, what we need to do is flee the evil desires of the flesh and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace. When we have more of God – there is less of ourselves. Where there is more of the Spirit – there is less of the flesh.
It’s one or the other.
SEALED AND DELIVERED
If we’ve received Jesus into our lives as our Lord and Saviour, the Bible says that we’ve received a seal of the promise of God.
“And who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 1:22)
But there’s another experience that God wants us to have in our Christian walk – it’s the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that we will be filled – to the brim – with the Holy Spirit!
That’s not all there is to it. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, though we may have changed, we are not removed from our usual environments that test our responses or reactions.
So we will react either according to our “old self” or respond through our “new self” which is being renewed in the knowledge of God. If we are not in step with the Spirit, it’s easy for us to respond in the flesh.
1. Anger Whether you’re driving on the road or responding to your children: Are you aware of the situations and things that tend to draw anger out of you? Are you an angry person? Even though we are filled with the Holy Spirit, anger can seep into our lives through cracks and open windows of impatience and intolerance.
2. Self-righteousness When you place white vinegar in a glass jar, it looks just like water. But vinegar stinks. We may look like water on the outside but we’re not. We can do many Christian things yet still have a spirit of self-righteousness – trust and reliance on ourselves instead of the grace of God. 3. Jealousy Things get nastier when you throw jealousy into the mix. Some of us get jealous when others do better than us: We write off others’ successes and we point fingers at them. We cannot stand not being the best. Don’t let jealousy make you a miserable person.
4. Other sinful desires Lastly, there are the darker things that we may not talk about openly – or at all. Things like adultery, pornography, stealing and backstabbing. These desires belong to our fleshly nature. In order to keep in step with the Spirit and defeat our fleshly nature, we can’t just be filled with the Spirit one time. We need to continually be filled and continually be empowered so that God’s light won’t dull in us.
Think about the first thing you do in the morning. Do you reach for your smartphone or for the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit? Each morning, tell the Holy Spirit, “Speak and I’ll listen. Lead and I’ll follow.”
Jesus said, “Let those who are thirsty come to me and drink, and out of your belly will come out an abundant flow of the Holy Spirit.” When we are continually filled with the Holy Spirit, not only are we filled – Jesus says we will be filled until we overflow!
By the continual empowerment of the Holy Spirit – through the overflow of our revived heart – we can bring revival everywhere we go: Our homes, schools, army camps, and workplaces.
“I just wanted to disappear. Specifically, I wanted to disappear to an isolated and desolate place that reflected how I felt inside.” said Holly Baxter, who spent five weeks along the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia.
At some point, maybe you’ve thought of escaping, for real – to a place where there’s no need to keep up with appearances or show up for a job.
That’s one way of harmonising our feelings: Changing the external to match what’s happening on the inside.
Almost all of us would have experienced what it’s like to run a fever. And one of the most uncomfortable things then is having an icy-cold towel on your forehead when all you want to do is curl up in a thick blanket. It’s safe there – away from the attack of the chills and cold towels.
But what really needs to be changed is what’s happening on the inside.
Our anxious and restless running-away from our feverish heart reflect an absence of peace within, and not merely the difficulty from our challenges. Something’s off on in inside. And we would place a stethoscope our hearts, what will it say about the state of our souls?
Unfulfilled and conflicting desires are the cause of our unrest. When our desires get out of control, they become our worst enemy. Don’t let your desires pull you in all directions and keep you going nowhere.
These are 3 questions we can ask ourselves that might save our lives:
3 QUESTIONS TO QUENCH RESTLESSNESS
1. What kind of person should I be?
Take a moment to think about that question before you write an answer down. Spend some time with God on that question. It’s not an easy one because our answer necessitates changes, adjustments and sacrifices in our life.
Ask Him to give you a picture of the person you are to become. This vision will help to keep you going when the mission gets tough.
A vision will lead you. If God tells you to be more generous, you’ll know that the decisions you make in life must lead to more generosity. You may not always feel generous, but God will lead you to your destiny even — especially — when you don’t feel like it.
2. What am I living for?
If you don’t have an answer, then your thoughts and feelings — which are more prone to change than you may realise — will be your only guide.
That’s why it’s easy to do what feels good to us, to follow what everybody else is doing. It becomes natural to follow your heart. But the heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9).
So what kind of person should I be? In fulfilling God’s destiny for your life, you must be careful not to squander and waste time on the temporal because every choice has its consequences.
3. What am I doing with my time?
Think about what’s frequently at our millennial fingertips these days: Instagram, Facebook, Netflix, YouTube and porn. Some are more innocuous than others, but most are still the well-worn holes we crawl into for worldly comfort when we need to escape.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
But we have the God of all comfort on our side. Jesus offers to carry your burdens — the weary weights of this world. You must give them to Him because they are far too heavy for you. You were never made to do this alone.
Give God the best time of your day. Don’t wake up, and make the first action of your day a grasping for your phone in the darkness. Start your mornings on your knees. Have lunches with God. Time spent with God is time not wasted — never regretted.
BONUS: WHOM HAVE I IN HEAVEN BUT YOU?
” … And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” That’s from Psalm 73.
When you can earnestly ask this question — and know the answer in your heart — somethingchanges. Life may deal you all kinds of bad hands, but at the end of each broken day, you will still know you are loved and cared for by God.
Your flesh and heart may fail — you might miss the mark — but God will carry you through this heavenward journey.
Don’t let human weakness be your undoing. Refuse to end or label your story with failure. You have a God who has won it all, and He is your strength forever.
You can follow our “Calm My Raging Heart” playlist on Spotify.
As she recalled her mother’s final days in her 6-year-long battle with cancer, Belinda Lee took a moment to compose herself before she continued.
The former Mediacorp actress and host spoke of moments when her mom would get up in the middle of the night, when she was in great pain, to cry out to God.
“At that time, she was already on morphine and was very weak. I don’t know where she got the energy from, but she would shout with all her strength for God to take her home.”
“She would cry out with all her might like this: ‘Jehovah, I beg you to bring me home.’
“It was then that my family knew that she was ready to go home. It was painful for us to let her go but we knew that she was ready,” Belinda said.
It was the beginning of the end of a journey which saw her mother go from being anti-Christian to embracing the love of Jesus.
Said Belinda: “My mom, who told the whole world that she would never become a Christian, received Christ when I was in Bible college, and she actually got water baptised on her own without telling the family.
“To me, that shows how true her conviction was, because she willingly did it on her own without pressure from anyone – she did it on her own accord because she truly wants to know who this amazing God is, and she welcomed Him into her life.”
(Belinda Lee’s sharing on her mother’s faith begins at 40:44 in this video)
Belinda shared that her mother, who was illiterate, would pray for God to teach her how to read the Bible.
And He did.
“A miracle happened one day. She came to me beaming with joy, sharing that God answered her prayer and she could finally read the Bible! Not every word, but she was able to at least understand the gist of what she was reading.”
Belinda found it hard to believe, but was encouraged by a neighbour, who said the same prayer had come true for her own elderly parents. “She told me that I have too little faith in God!”
And the way her mother spent her last days stood out to Belinda.
“A week before she finally took her last breath, she instructed one of my aunties to cook a scrumptious breakfast to serve her friends, the members, and the pastors of the Chinese Church she was attending – because that was what she used to do when she was still mobile.”
Belinda recalls her mom saying this to her in Hokkien: “Belinda, I wasn’t educated and I’m not good at studying, but I know how to cook. With my gift, I hope that I can serve God and His children.
“My mom was a dying women, but while on her deathbed, she wasn’t thinking about her own needs or blaming God. All she was thinking about was how she could continue serving God and His people to the very end of her life.
“Mom did not fear death because she believed with all her heart that our Abba Father was going to welcome her with open arms and personally lead her through the white gates of heaven when she meets Him one day.”
Speaking to a number of people recently, I’ve realised that the festivities can be a difficult time for some. Not all’s well at family reunions, it increasingly appears to be.
Are you one of them? Are the relationships in your family breaking down faster than traditions can keep them together?
Maybe you once held out hope as a child, that things would get better in the family. Maybe you’ve tried, over the years, to get everyone together – but you no longer see a point to it when you’re the only one trying.
Maybe the relationships in your family are breaking down. Maybe you’re not even sure if there’s going to be a reunion dinner this year.
But what I do know is that it’s easy to feel like everyone elseis having an amazing time when you’re scrolling through Instagram. It’s important to have perspective: We’re looking at the highlight reel of other people’s lives on social media.
Think about the things not present on Instagram: Strained relationships, family deaths, generational tensions, divorces, bitterness … The list goes on.
But I’m not interested in staying stuck in self-pity – we don’t have time for that. I want to think about how we can respond, if in reality, our family isn’t that perfect, shiny and colour-coordinated dream we see on-screen.
Love gets harder as we grow up – which only means our love needs growing up too.
British-Ethiopian poet, Lemn Sissay, was fostered from birth and abandoned at the age of 12. By 18, he had lived in four children’s homes. He illustrates the importance of family using the game of squash:
“Family are like the walls in a game of squash. You hit the ball and it comes back at strange angles and you try to get it again … It develops your muscles in strange places, because you have to stretch sometimes to get the ball back in to continue the game.”
You have to stretch sometimes. The stretch is the place where love is learnt. We begin young with the easier stuff: We shared our favourite biscuit with dad, or gave our favourite toy to our sister.
But love gets harder as we grow up – which only means our love needs growing up too!
It’s harder when love requires more from us, like when we’re faced with an aunt whom we just don’t want to tahan any longer. It’s hard when family culture seems impossible to change. It’s hard when money gets involved or when “face” gets in the way.
But when it’s hard that’s precisely when we need to persevere.
It’s not easy to be the first one in the family to say a loving word in response to toxicity or sarcasm. Unity is not easy. It’s not easy to put aside our pride and ask for forgiveness. And it’s not easy to choose to love when others don’t care.
If we give up on family, we never develop the “muscles” that we need. Sissay also says this:
“And that all that would happen throughout my life is that my muscles would waste away beneath me because I’m not using the muscles that develop in the game of family … Family is defined by how it deals with difficult issues. It is strengthened by how it resolves them and weakened when it tries to ignore them.”
So don’t be discouraged if your family is facing difficult issues. Consider what real love is to your family members. Be the one who would love them.
Why should you do it? 1 John 4:19. “We love because he first loved us.” Jesus Christ loved us to the point that He would die for us – all while we were still sinners. God’s love takes the initiative. Jesus did – so we must do the same.
If we give up on family, we never develop the “muscles” that we need.
We may not have gotten the love we needed from our family. We may even have even been disappointed by the very people who were supposed to be our best bets – but we always have a Father in Heaven who loves us perfectly.
“And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:18)
Being filled with our Father’s perfect love for us enables us to love those around us. If your family is challenging, then let it challenge you. That’s where the growth is at.
I pray you’ll have faith to see that your best days are ahead of you. I pray you’ll have hope in God to do what you cannot on your own, and I pray that you will love someone enough to step out of your comfort zone.
Over the last six weeks, The Greatest Showman, a film inspired by and loosely based on American showman P.T. Barnum and starring crowd-favourite Hugh Jackman has enjoyed longevity and popularity in box office sales since its premiere on Dec 28. From Feb 1, a sing-along version of the movie has also been made available.
Of course the critics are divided on the film’s historical accuracy, theatrics and scripting – it won’t please everyone – but the audience keep showing up.
I keep showing up.
I’ve seen the film three times in the last month and upon my third viewing, an abrupt sense of awareness made me lean further back into my seat when these lines were being sung:
“When the world becomes a fantasy And you’re more than you could ever be ‘Cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open.”
Isn’t that life with God? Dreaming with our eyes wide open, now conscious of the world through God’s eyes? Our version of this “fantasy world” won’t all look the same, but it’d all constitute things that otherwise seem impossible or improbable in our current one.
“It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat.” (Ephesians 2:6)
With God, we are always more than we could ever be. He is the greatest showman – and He’s got a spectacular life waiting in the wings for all who give Him room to do His work.
If we would search deeper into the roots of our greatest pain and disappointments – it is that we are not enough. Or that we might never be.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)
But as I think about my world, now that the living God has redeemed it, my world is indeed a fantasy: What I could only previously dream of is now my reality.
There is no dream bigger than to have our sins forgiven and lives redeemed. It cannot be done by our strength, intellect or ability.
A life that’s given back to the Creator opens the door to a future where our best days are always ahead.
Sin alone stands as the biggest hindrance to a life of “more than we could ever ask or imagine” and the forgiveness of sin is found only in God.
For those who run to God, His power is at work within us. With God there is forgiveness and kindness that alters the way we spend eternity. There is a palpable excitement that reverberates from within a life that’s given back to the Creator. It opens the door to a future where our best days are always ahead.
And it carries us through the unspectacular moments in our brief existence on earth, as we’re on our way to becoming “more than who we could ever be”.
The possibility of more lies in the hands of a God who can do more than all we even dare ask or imagine of ourselves – and all for our good.
Whether it’s at the movies, in honest conversations with a friend about faith and life, a random song you hear on the radio, or in the darkest hours of the night when you struggle the most – I hope you always keep a door open for God to reach you.
When the lights come back on at the end of a movie, or whenever you have to “face reality” again, remember that there is a God-reality for your life that is wilder and infinitely more satisfying than even your best dreams for yourself.
The lasting sense of peace that you are searching for is not found on the other side of “making it in life” by your own merits and efforts. Your true satisfaction is found in coming alive in Jesus Christ, by the mercy and grace of God. It’s a reality we can step into.
So whatever stage you’re at, would you let Him show you the greatest version of your life?
“And you know you can’t go back again To the world that you were living in ‘Cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open So, come alive!”
I saw the wave of sadness and anger that was about to overcome him, and I recognised it. It was obvious that those words cut deeper than it should have. We could brush it off as bad parenting or poor management of emotions – but perhaps it reveals something bigger.
I recognised that boy’s emotions because I’ve been there. And perhaps you have, too.
When at the receiving end of comments that run the gamut from aggressive to unnecessary, we have only split seconds to decide how to respond. Perhaps it is much more comfortable for us to depress into a sulk or launch into a verbal war in our minds, than to calmly remind ourselves that our mistakes are not the sum total of our person.
But the actual mechanics are harder to sort out, especially when negativity already has a well-worn path to get to us. Perhaps that’s why some comments sting us so sharply even though we know they shouldn’t.
Things happen: You spilled a cup of coffee, you got drops of Laksa gravy on your shirt, or you broke a cup when washing it. They are small things – but these mishaps have the potential to reveal what’s on our inside.
It is much more comfortable for us to sulk or launch into a verbal war than to calmly remind ourselves that our mistakes are not the sum total of our person.
Some days, we may find enough confidence in ourselves to laugh or shrug it off. But on other days, it may feel like nothing we do is right and we’re the biggest failure we know; the mess on the kitchen floor is trivial compared to the mess that we think we are.
Even something as small as spilling a drink or messy eating can set us off and touch raw nerves in our complex circuitry, because it is no longer just about our carelessness or Mum’s loaded comments – what has been simmering in our belief system has also spilled over.
I remember moments when my emotions grew way out of proportion; it felt as if a switch was flipped, and the trigger didn’t matter anymore.
In those split seconds when we catch a glimpse of our boiling anger or experience a sudden, crude awareness of our own insecurity – do we surrender to our feelings? It might be comforting to relish in our anger or take comfort in our pity-parties, but the trail doesn’t end well in those places.
Are there punishing emotions and unpleasant accusations that seem to be parked at the door of your mind, always waiting for an opportunity to heap unworthiness on you? Are there words that seem to always get you down? Is there a particular trait about yourself that you are ashamed of?
In those split seconds when we catch a glimpse of our boiling anger or experience a sudden, crude awareness of our own insecurity – do we surrender to our feelings?
I will go out on a limb to say that the feeling of being trapped in our mistakes and inadequacies is neither new nor all that uncommon. We’re not all that different, really.
But there is a real path out of it.
There is a verse in the Bible that says this: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
The sweet taste of freedom is best cherished by those who know that they have been in captivity. To the captive who has been slave to unwanted anger, bitterness, harshness and rage, the sweet taste of freedom is the experience of humility, gratefulness and peace.
There is a real way out of the the hole of darkness, anger, and bitterness – and there is no need for us to live in captivity any longer; the debt has been paid on our behalf.
If your heart is tired and bruised, take comfort and find rest in the love of Jesus Christ that is promised to all those who believe in Him. In His love, we don’t have to prove ourselves.
I confess that I’m a sinner and I need your forgiveness. Today I invite you to come into my life to be my Lord and Saviour, help me to become the person I was created to be. Thank you for dying for me on the Cross, that I might have eternal life in You.
In your name I pray,
If you’ve just said the prayer, we encourage you to find a church to root yourself in so that you can experience and enjoy the full Christian life. Please feel free to email us at email@example.com as we’d love to help you kickstart your journey of freedom in Christ.
The author was listening and responding to a sermon by Senior Pastor Jeffrey Chong of Hope Church Singapore.
“Most things promise more than they deliver.”
10:56am That is true. *Copies it down.*
“When it comes to satisfaction, we often feel like we’re always one step away; if only I had that job, a new phone, a girlfriend/boyfriend, more well-behaved children, or that dream home – then I will be satisfied.”
11:02amHa – totally true. It never happens! It’s like a messy person going to IKEA to purchase that shelf that will finally keep the room in perfect order – it’s only a matter of time before the real problem is exposed. Having the dream job doesn’t absolve us from hard work, just as being someone’s partner is even more hard work. Will nothing satisfy us then?
“It’s like a dog chasing his own tail – the closer it gets, the further he is.”
11:05am He’s using this example again. But I think it’s perfect. I like dogs but I’d hate to be this dog. When will I learn to stop chasing after pointless things?
“Pleasures without joy is empty. If you feel a sense of restlessness in your spirit – it is because there is more than what pleasures in life can deliver. Life is short. Don’t waste it on hollow things – meaningless things.”
11:10am Meaningless … Are we still in search of meaning these days? But I get the lure of pleasure. When we’re on the other side, peering into the promises of pleasure, we just want to know how it feels like: Wealth promises power, fame promises an exciting life, sex promises love …
“He was a king well known for his riches. He endeavoured to find out what people should do with their short time on earth; he was interested in the pleasures of this world and what it can accomplish.”
“Over time, King Solomon built houses, vineyards, took hundreds of concubines, indulged himself in every pleasure he could think of; he worked and gained fortune and treasures, and he was well-respected and did anything that he wanted.”
11:16am Let me guess … he had accomplished all these and he was still not joyful?
“There is probably no one more familiar with hollow things than King Solomon. He concluded, towards the end of his life, that everything is meaningless – all that he thought was good turned out to be hollow.”
11:18am Is there a bit of Solomon in all of us? Perhaps it’s hard for us to take his advice because we want to try it for ourselves too. But it won’t be for free. Our choices create a path, and it can lead to places we don’t want to go. The costs may be higher than what we first thought – just ask Solomon; He wasted his life only to realise that it was all for nothing.
“Pleasure on its own is neither evil nor bad – it is a feeling – but is meaningless if we try to find fulfilment from it. Solomon recognised that anything he tried to do apart from God turned out to be meaningless.”
“Joy is found only in God.”
King Solomon made this observation: Some people have wealth, possessions and honour to the extent that they lack nothing that their hearts desire but they did not have the ability to enjoy them – the ability to enjoy whatever God gives to us. If God does not grant us the ability to enjoy things, it will all feel meaningless (Ecclesiastes 6:2).
If joy has been the elusive element that we have been searching for in our pursuit for pleasures, what’s left is for us to return to God because we can find our meaning only in our Maker who formed us and knows us.
At the end of our lives – will we say that it has all been meaningless? Or will we put an end to our chasing so we can rest in God’s joy? God’s arms are open to us, however we come to Him – as long as we come.
Upgrading our houses isn’t a foreign concept, but what about ourselves? Our traits and bad habits which frustrate us and recur are like the troubled parts of a house in need of replacement or renovation.
But just thinking of the trouble “renovation” would bring often discourages us from fixing the “house”, until the painful disrepair and dysfunction of life finally outweigh the discomfort and inertia of making a change.
Many of us ultimately reach a point where we need to make life-saving changes that aren’t just cosmetic or quick fixes. Instead I’m talking about structural overhauls – demolishing and rebuilding.
YOU DON’T NEED PERMISSION TO IMPROVE
Think back to the times you found weaknesses in your “house”.
Perhaps you realised how bad you are at apologising, or that you argue incessantly with your loved ones because fighting is easier than saying how you really feel. Maybe you finally saw how loud your inadequacies voice themselves through a petty word hurled in hurtful retaliation.
These discoveries about ourselves happen whether we are 15, in our 30s or middle-aged. They should happen as we walk and commune with God, who then reveals our impurities and refines us for His glory.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
So we should never stop growing as people just because we’re “old enough”, have proper jobs and should know how to “adult”. There isn’t an age for perfection because we’ll never “arrive” on this side of eternity. In that vein of things the door to our “house” must remain open for God’s repairs and renovations.
When we treat ourselves like a rental house, we hold back on the most important renovations.
So it’s worthwhile to pause and consider today, wherever in life we’re at: Do we treat ourselves like a rental house or a real home?
If you take ownership – responsibility – of the house, this is probably how you live: I’m going to give these walls a new coat of paint. I’m spending the money to replace the cracked beams. And I’m replacing the entire foundations of the house because I’m building something bigger.
These are things you don’t do if you live in a rental house because (1) You’ll need permission from the owner to do these things and (2) Why would you spend the time and effort on a place that doesn’t belong to you?
When we treat ourselves like a rental house, we don’t live as we should. We hold back on the most important renovations. I’d like to think that it is kinder and wiser to treat ourselves like a real home – one we have responsibility for.
YOU ARE WORTH THE WORK
Is there something or someone holding you back from living a changed life that would honour God? Say this aloud: “I will do whatever it takes to fulfil God’s purpose for my life.”
That was all the permission you need. Sign off on the permits to build and rebuild, and hand that piece of paper to God. To knock down walls and demolish shaky foundations – that’s a work of rebuilding only the very best carpenter can do (Mark 6:3).
And sure, some renovations are more complex than others. Some won’t be easy, they’ll be inconvenient and messy … But it’ll be worth it.
With God on our side the renovations He makes will produce life. We’ll see victory over addictions and bad habits. He’ll rip out unhealthy thought patterns and ungodly beliefs – and replace them with new life (Ezekiel 36:26)!
We’ve all been created wonderfully, we’re just not yet who we’re meant to be.
As long as we’re alive, we haven’t missed the train for change. If you feel trapped by your age, or fear what you think people think of you … Just remember that you don’t need their permission to step into your destiny. Take the permission back from whoever you’ve given it to – and give it to God.
You’re not an accident – your blueprints have been drawn up by a perfect God. We’ve all been created wonderfully, we’re just not yet who we’re meant to be. And there’s beauty in that.
There’s excitement in that. Our Lord, who is both carpenter and king is waiting for the work to begin! He is not daunted by the disrepair. No, He’s looking forward to the restoration.
I’m leaving you with a quote from CS Lewis. I think he gets it, and I hope you will too:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.
But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.
by Senior Pastor Benny Ho, Faith Community Church | 4 January 2018, 8:20 PM
The late Ann Landers who ran the popular Agony Aunt column in the US used to receive some 60,000 letters a month. She revealed: “One problem dominates. People are afraid.” People are afraid of losing their health, wealth, and job. They are afraid of the future, being left alone, rejected and embarrassed. They are afraid of death, and even of public speaking.
While some fears are constructive, most fears paralyse and render us ineffective. Throughout scripture, we are told not to be afraid. Jesus often said “Fear not!” and we are reassured in 2 Timothy 1:7 that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
So why do we still have fears?
We are afraid because at the root of our fears is the fact that we find ourselves unable to fully trust God. Fear and the lack of trust go hand in hand.
However, every instance of fear is also an opportunity to trust in God and move from fear to courage.
In 1 Samuel 17, we read the familiar story of David versus Goliath. Picture this: The Israelites and the Philistines are at war in the Valley of Elah. The Israelites are on one hill, and the Philistines on another, with a valley in the middle.
Here comes Goliath, nine and a half feet tall, a giant of a man with a bronze helmet on his head, a suit of armour on his body, a javelin slung on his back – a massive 200 pounds in all.
He stands like an overgrown tree and shouts in a deep voice: “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us. This day, I defy the ranks of Israel!”
Goliath did not just taunt the Israelites once but, like a broken record, he did that again and again for 40 days non-stop! All the Israelites were terrified and gripped by fear.
One of the most powerful weapons that the devil uses against us is intimidation. And I’d like to give you five keys to help you overcome our fears:
5 KEYS TO FACING YOUR GIANTS
1. Guard your eyes – watch what you are looking at
The first principle in overcoming fear is to watch what you are focusing on. Are you focusing on God or your circumstances? Fear comes from focusing on our circumstances rather than on God.
“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” (Psalm 3:3)
“I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.” (Psalm 3:6)
2. Guard your ears – be careful who you listen to
The moment Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him, he said to David, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert?” (1 Samuel 17:28)
But David demonstrated that he was a giant inside. He turned away from Eliab’s discouragement and continued to pursue God’s glory. David did not allow any discouragement to dilute his courage and passion for the Lord.
If you listen to the wrong people, you will exchange your faith for their fear.
3. Guard your mind – remember the right thing
“But David said to Saul: “… When a lion or bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth…this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them because he defiled the armies of the living God. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:34-37)
To overcome fear, you must fill your mind with the powerful things that God has done in your life. David remembered how God was with him in the past, and it filled him with confidence.
4. Guard your heart – be confident with God’s provision
When fear threatens to strike, remember to
1. Do what you know 2. Use what God has put in your hand 3. Stick to faithful old sling and stone
David wrote, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (Psalms 56:3-4)
5. Guard your back – cut off the root of your fear
It is not enough to immobilise our giants or knock them out temporarily. We must literally cut them off from our lives. And there is only one way to put an end to crippling gear – by applying the truth of the God’s resurrection to our lives.
The truth is, all of us have “Goliaths” in our lives and experience challenges that intimidate us. There are fears that haunt, accuse, and make us feel miserable and diffident. These fears rob us of courage and cause us to live in a constant state of fear.
However in Christ, we do not need to be afraid. We are no longer bound in fear, but in the security of our King of Kings and our Lord of Lords. He is our victory, courage and confidence.
To find out more about how you can “Manage Your Emotions – Overcoming Negative Emotions for a Life of Abundance”, visit Benny Ho’s resource page.
If you haven’t heard it enough, welcome to 2018. I hope it’s been a good first few days for you.
There’s a fixed “budget” when it comes to days:We have only 365 each year. And we don’t get to “save” them up – they get spent no matter what.
So given that we have to spend our days, we should hope to get a good return on our investment. Annie Dillard puts it this way, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
This was in my year-end reflections: How much of what I do is out of self-interest, with no regard for others? And am I hard-hearted towards the poor?
“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16)
This year, will we dare to ask ourselves these questions and answer them honestly, in order that we might become people who please God?
In the Bible, a group of religious people was asked to consider those same questions when they wanted to know why life wasn’t turning out the way they wanted to, even though they seemed to be doing everything right: They fasted, they asked God what they should do, and even seemed eager for God to come near them.
But in their preoccupation with rituals and self-gain, they could not see their hypocrisy and hard-heartedness towards the poor. They asked to be satisfied by God, but they withheld help and kindness from others.
Our call then is to stop blaming victims, stop gossiping about other people’s sins, stop condemning others, lend a hand instead of finding fault, put ourselves in the shoes of others and meet them where they are – love them.
It calls us to consider the commandment that carries as much weight as loving God: Loving our neighbour as ourselves. It is as true for us today as it was for them. When we ask to draw near to God, should we not also draw ourselves near to those whom He is near: The broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18).
But loving our neighbour requires the giving of ourselves – “Spend yourselves,” the Bible instructs.
“Do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk. Spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed.” (Isaiah 58:9-10)
We need to spend time in order to hear about a person’s day when no one else will, we need to be present when a lonely heart needs someone most, and we need empathy to see and understand the invisible hurt that has been inflicted upon the person in front of us.
“There are plenty of charities and soup kitchens there and people can get fed every half an hour. But such a charity model fosters a one-way relationship and a taking mentality.We believe that people’s hurt and brokenness occurs in the context of relationships and often their families, and so healing and transformation will also come in the context of relationships – healthy ones.”
(Craig Greenfield, founder of Alongsiders International)
Who knows if we will also receive healing and experience transformation through our willingness to step out in willing and confident obedience to God?
If we would yield our individuality to God, lay down our ideas and judgement of what people deserve or do not deserve, and simply do what He says, this is what He promises: “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)
Don’t we want this to be a picture of our inner lives? God keeps His promises, so we can be sure that spending our days doing justice and loving mercy will yield the best return on investment.
What we have – it all comes from God. With God’s help, we can use what He has placed in our lives and in our hands so that the glory goes back to God.
“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” (Isaiah 58:12)
Walls signify protection and dignity. But our city is surrounded by broken walls – do you see them? Think about the brokenness all around us: In homes, hearts, marriages and all types of relationships.
Is there anyone around us who needs protection? Is there anyone around us who needs dignity restored to them?
This is our year to stop with the gossip, turn away from condemnation, rest our pointing finger for good – and give of ourselves to those who need a healing touch, a helping hand, or even just a word of encouragement.
We’d be mistaken to think that the brokenness all around our city has nothing to do with us. The walls are broken, but God Himself is our Repairer and Restorer.
The God we serve? He is able to bring dead things to life and call into existence things that do not exist (Romans 4:17). If we answer the call to – with His help – be a repairer and restorer wherever we go, God will guide us and satisfy all our needs. It’s a promise. Trust Him.❤️
On late Monday afternoon, the lead singer of popular Korean boy band SHINee, Kim Jonghyun, 27, was found dead in his rental apartment in an upmarket corner of Seoul.
From the time he sent his final farewell to his sister to the moment the police broke in to discover him unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning – it all unraveled in less than two hours.
By dinnertime, the K-pop fandom was shaken by the unbelievable news that one of their beloved idols, with his perfect smile and hair, and lovable personality to boot – had very likely taken his own life. SHINee was due to celebrate their 10th year anniversary since their debut, and Jonghyun had been preparing to release solo music in the new year.
As I read the translated last words of a stranger – a heartbreaking letter given to a close friend some time before he’d actually acted on his suicidal thoughts – my heart ached; it stirred and birthed a strange sense of loss in me – strange because I didn’t know who he was.
“I am damaged from the inside. The depression that has been slowly eating away at me has completely swallowed me, and I couldn’t win over it … I wanted someone to notice, but no one noticed … Things you can overcome don’t scar you for life … It’s a miracle I lasted this far … I never learned how to turn this exhausting pain into bliss.” (Jonghyun’s letter)
My sense of loss grew as I paused to think about those who are fighting the same battles that Jonghyun did. It could be anyone I know – any other smiling, happy face on Instagram. The private battles against depressive feelings, an overwhelming sense of inferiority, exhausting pain and a sense that one’s failings are final – are far from exclusive to international pop-stars.
And in the face of suffering and pain that is as real as darkness, how do we find the right words to say that would cut through the thickness of anguish? And how do we heal an illness if we don’t quite understand it ourselves?
But even as we sometimes rage against the futility of words and our inability to rescue those in misery, we must fight the real enemy: The lie that there is no way out.
We’ll never know if the next person we speak to is going through a similar, unspoken battle. In light of the fragile times we live in, kindness is a risk we should always take – so we can make it easier for someone to believe that they are loved.
“Everyone in the world is loved by at least one person.” It’s one of those random “facts of life” that float around on the Internet, and I was gripped by it when I saw it, because at that point I had been looking for any evidence to suggest that I was indeed loved.
I felt a deep need for that “fact” to be true. It felt as though I had been wrapped with layers of insulating material that was preventing me from being able to feel love at all. Like the nerve ending that was meant to feel love had died a long time ago.
Kindness is a risk we should always take – so we can make it easier for someone to believe that they are loved.
Someone then told me, later, that what we want most in life is simply to love and be loved. And it didn’t take long for me to find those words true and sobering. If we would condense the expanse of the suffering, drama, monotony, labour, and mystery of life; it is this: We were created to love and be loved.
“But what if I’m not loved?” I suspect that this fear is far more prevalent and havoc-wreaking than we could realise, than we could care to admit. Perhaps we feel that being “unloved” disqualifies us from having worth. But we must remember to look at the first three words –“we were created” – and realise that God has a purpose for each of us and each of us is more loved than we can ever imagine.
And if we’re willing to try it, sometimes the fastest way to burst the insulating bubble that prevents us from feeling love is to take the first step to love someone: Encourage a friend you seldom talk to, compliment a co-worker, help a stranger in need.
When journalist and author Howard Sounes peered beneath the famous lives of six artistes who led troubled lives that ended in suicide – among them Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix – he uncovered the dark side of the music business, along with the fragility of the most successful artistes of their time.
Sounes found that most of the artistes had terribly difficult childhoods. “All of the wealth and status they achieved was not enough to undo the impact of their early days,” he said.
Perhaps there is something about an artist’s fame and/or extraordinary talent that causes us to confer them hero-status, view them as superhuman, or less human – and fail to consider that humanityconsumes them as much as us, with flaws, insecurities, and a drive for acceptance and love.
We know from their experiences that it is not popularity, success or wealth that will rescue us from despair. And this is not limited to only troubled artists. If we are honest with ourselves, we all have things that we wish to undo – something that happened in the past or something about ourselves that we wish to change.
The “rest” that God gives feels a lot like freedom – the freedom to live, love and grow to become who were meant to be.
“Things you can overcome don’t scar you for life.” But the truth is, overcoming on our own is difficult, maybe near impossible when it comes to certain deep wounds no human could possibly reach. And like Jonghyun, we may never learn “how to turn this exhausting pain into bliss”.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
When I first read these words that were inscribed on a building in my primary school, I had to ask someone what “weary and burdened” meant. With the passage of time, I soon understood what it felt like to be weary and laden with a weight that I couldn’t quite carry on my own.
But as I came to Christ, I also grew to experience the rest that God promised in that verse, and in many other verses such as John 16:33.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
The “rest” that God gives feels a lot like freedom – the freedom to live, love and grow to become who we were meant to be. The freedom of overcoming with Him and through Him.
“Peace is a promise He keeps” were the words of a song that moved me to tears. If you are looking for lasting peace, would you consider going to the Promise-Keeper? God invites us to go on life’s journey with Him because only He knows the way home; and we’ll need all the rest for our souls that only He can give.
If you know anyone in distress or contemplating suicide, call the SOS hotline at 1800 221 4444, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also seek help at the following numbers: Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800 283 7019 Institute of Mental Health’s Mobile Crisis Service: 6389 2222 Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800 353 5800 Tinkle Friend: 1800 274 4788
“What will happen if I cause someone’s death on the road?” The new driver thought to herself.
She came up with this list in a split second: Jail time, a criminal record, shame and regret.
Thought of the costly and embarrassing consequences caused her to sit up and slow down, becoming even more aware of the cars and pedestrians around her.
By then, she had latched onto the thought of a permanent blemish – a wrong that cannot be reversed, a criminal record that will be held to her name for as long as she lived. And it frustrated her.
“It feels all so permanent. One mistake – and that’s it. There is just no way to undo something that did happen, right?”
This time, she was referring to the human conscience.
“What can a person do to undo the weight of a guilty conscience?”
At this point, she was thinking about all the wrongs a person could commit – a lie, a bad thought, selfishness, malice – the range of weights of guilt that could weigh on a person, without a trace or mark visible to another person.
She’d read before that Oswald Chambers puts it this way: “Conscience is that ability within me that attaches itself to the highest standard I know.”
“So what is the highest standard you know?”
This made her remember an exchange between a mother and her son:
“Some men call it conscience, but I prefer to call it the voice of God in the soul of man. If you listen and obey it, it will speak clearer and clearer, and always guide you right; but if you turn a deaf ear or disobey, then it will fade out little by little, and leave you in the dark without a guide.
“Your life, my son, depends on heeding that little voice.’”
It implied that the highest standard is one held by God, one we should attach ourselves to.
“But why would we attach ourselves to God’s standard if it is so high?”
No wonder the Bible puts it this way: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We may choose not to heed God’s standard, but it doesn’t make change the fact that His is the highest standard.
“No one can meet such a standard! It’s a setup for failure!”
Sin is anything that falls short of God’s standard, and it is so whether or not we choose to subscribe to His standard. If I think that stealing is not a crime, it doesn’t cease to be a crime. And when we commit a crime, we are punished according to the law and convicted by a judge. When we sin, likewise, there are consequences.
“Is sin therefore like a crime according to God’s standards?”
You could say so. Because of the destructive nature of sin, death is the punishment for sin. We are aware of death, aren’t we? When young, we ask this question: Where do people go after they die? I think that we ask that in our innocence because we feel it in our hearts that people are not meant to die.
“But people do die. We all will die. That’s a fact.”
Death is only a fact because sin is real. It was not the natural order of things, that’s why death affects us the way it does. No matter how good or bad a person is by our standards – death comes, because we have all done wrong.
Sin is as real as death – but forgiveness is also as real as life.
Though death for all is our present reality, the Bible also says this about God: “But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.”
Sin is as real as death – but forgiveness is also as real as life. When God forgives sin, the result is life as it was meant to be – eternal. Life for all – is God’s original design for our world.
When God made us, He designed for us to be with Him forever. Don’t mistake eternal death and eternal life for fable because they are both real.
“If God forgives us – then why doesn’t everyone automatically have eternal life?”
Think of forgiveness as a gift. God offers forgiveness from sins, as a gift unto us, but we have to go to Him in order to receive the gift.
“That’s easier said than done. How do we go to God?”
Do you know what kind of people return to God?
“Those who know that they have sinned?”
The sinner knows that his punishment should have been death, but because of God’s mercy, he does not receive death.
In order that God may forgive us for our sins, our sins had to be atoned and paid for – the criminal does not get to walk free because he pays for his crime.
When it comes to sin, no other forms of atonement but death would suffice: A life for a life, blood for blood.
That was the reason why Jesus Christ, God’s one and only Son, had to die on our behalf – so that we may be forgiven. Because of Jesus’ death and on the cross, we can go to God to receive forgiveness for our sins.
When Jesus rose to life again three days after his death, God demonstrated His resurrection power. Because Jesus Christ lives, so can we, and we will cross from death into eternal life – and not eternal death as we originally deserved.
That was my journey to make sense of punishment, death, sin, wrong-doing, love and forgiveness. It began long before I even understood the gravity of my grappling.
As children, we asked adults where people went after they died. I can’t remember if any adult told me that they went to a better place, and I don’t know if they believed it to be true.
I had a knowledge of my wrong-doing; I made mistakes that left me unsure who I had to go to for forgiveness. Who could forgive me if the wrong I had done wasn’t against them? Why did I have the sense that I did wrong?
I had no knowledge of what sin was, or who God was, but my conscience knew – it didn’t matter how trivial the offence seemed to be, because no sin is trivial.
Even as I seemed to have stumbled upon the Truth of Jesus Christ by chance, I knew that it was not by my mere stumbling that I should be given a chance to come into the promise of eternal life.
The grace of God paved the way for me to even begin to understand the mystery of God’s love and forgiveness for me, through Jesus Christ. The gifts of Father God we cannot buy nor do without.
But we can receive it.
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” (John 14:6)
This is the message of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ: Come to me, acknowledge me as your Lord and Saviour, receive forgiveness, and I will set you free – forever.
Ever so often we look back on our decisions – good ones, bad ones, and those that fall undecidedly in between.
Whenever Christmas time draws near, I am reminded of a decision that my friend made about eight years ago in December.
On Christmas Eve, my friend Christina visited a Church for the first time.
While I would have liked to have been that friend who gave her a warm invitation to come to Church, I was actually the cowardly one who didn’t dare to ask her to come to church – even for Christmas.
Maybe I was worried she wouldn’t like it, that her INFJ personality couldn’t take it. What if Church was fun for just me?I’d visited a Church for the first time two years before she ever did. I had always wondered what Church was like, I’d returned after the first week, and then the next …
It was through an illustrated song presentation during Easter that I heard the Gospel for the first time and realised that there was a big possibility that God is real and He wanted to know me – and so I’d raised my hand in that service and welcomed Him into my heart.
At that time, I didn’t know what changes having Jesus Christ live in me would’ve brought into my life. I didn’t even know how long I was going to be a Christian for … but I tried anyway.
Perhaps I was hesitant to invite Christina – my classmate then – to Church because she knew all my bad habits: I slept in Chinese class, copied answers on my homework and skipped classes!
I wasn’t the best student around, and I certainly wasn’t a good Christian. So I didn’t see why she would want to go to Church with me. She seemed to be doing just fine.
“What do you mean I didn’t invite you?” “I thought we were just going to the mall.” “Oh …”
After all these years, I had forgotten that I never really invited Christina to Church that Christmas. I had merely asked her if she would like to go to the mall the next day – which happened to be Christmas Eve.
But I remember those moments I had in class when I was wracking my brains on how to ask her to come to Church with me – and all the while she was sitting just beside me!
Yet, my guilt would drown out what little faith I had: “Aiyah, you like that, still dare to ask people to go to Church?”
My doubts were louder, and they were winning the internal battle, but urgency finally broke through when it dawned on me that Christina and I weren’t going to be classmates anymore after the year ended. I might not – might never – get another chance to bring her to Church.
It’s funny to think about now, but when the question finally escaped my lips, I found myself casually asking her to the mall instead – Suntec City, to be exact – where my Church was having our Christmas services that year. I just couldn’t say the word “Church”, as if it was taboo.
Yeah, that was me. Time was running out but I was still cowardly.
Before I tell you what happened next with Christina, there’s something I must share: As a new Christian, one of the first few things I learnt how to do was pray.
“Prayer is just talking to God, like you’re talking to a friend.”
I’m not sure how seriously I took it, but there was one night in my young Christian life when prayer was the only thing I could turn to.
I didn’t kneel on the floor by my bed or clasp my hands together, but I prayed. I opened my laptop and I typed furious prayers – like I was talking to a friend – in a text document.
Perhaps that itself was the miracle – that I was able to sleep, that I went to sleep knowing that I wasn’t alone.
My tears were falling and my fingers were hitting the keys faster than I could think. I knew that there was no one else but God who could calm the situation that was happening outside the door of my room. That night, I didn’t hear an audible voice from God telling me that He’s real (I might have prayed for this), nor did I feel anything miraculous. To be honest, I cannot remember what happened next.
But perhaps that itself was the miracle – that I was able to sleep, that I went to sleep knowing that I wasn’t alone.
I didn’t realise how significant that night was to me then.
“It was something about hope that the pastor quoted from the book of Romans.”
Eight years after the mall invitation, I asked Christina about her decision to accept Christ that unexpected Christmas Eve. And this was one of the verses that first caught her attention:
“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5)
And it humbled me at the moment, again.
Had Christina been searching for hope that whole time?
I was so caught up with what Christina would think about going to Church that I forgot to consider that perhaps my friend and classmate – as have-it-together as she may have seemed on the outside – might also have those nights, as I did. Nights when she felt all alone and in desperate need of a divine intervention.
How would she have been able to do that if she didn’t know God for herself?
I’m so glad that God made a way for Christina to encounter Him that day, that she didn’t walk away when she found out about my plan to bring her to Church (“Oh look, it’s a Church service in Suntec City! Let’s go in!”) and that He spoke into her heart right when she needed to hear Him most.
If I hadn’t received Jesus Christ into my life, I wouldn’t have known that there was Someone I could turn to. And if I hadn’t persisted in asking God to show Himself real to me, and if God had let me go my own way – I wouldn’t be where I am today.
As I look back on my decisions now, I know I made the best one on April 7, 2007, when I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour.
I’m sure Christina would agree that it was her best decision too, when she made it on December 24, 2009.
As for my decision not to invite her to Church earlier and more directly? Well, I can do better with the next person!
So this year, to save me from tears, I will muster up the courage to make good decisions – to invite someone to Church for Christmas, so that perhaps once again, I’d have even more reason to celebrate when they too are born again.
Last Sunday morning, I settled into my usual seat in Church – fourth row from the front – strongly feeling the lack of an additional hour of sleep, all for this predictable 90 minutes of service.
That day was just like any other week – we didn’t have a special programme, there were no guest speakers … It was a feeling that seemed to mirror my life at present: A clear routine of places to be at and things to do, nothing out of the ordinary. The sea of my life felt neither stormy nor terribly still, at least for now.
Some days, I wished that it could be more exciting, that I could dream up more things into existence; on other days, I would’ve been happy with just more sleep. It wasn’t the Sunday service, really. Life was justsian.
My Senior Pastor, Jeff Chong, was preaching that morning. I found myself surprised by what he was saying, “Many of us in lead fast paced lives, and we can so easily go on autopilot.”
My eyes widened and I might have sat up a little straighter.
At the back of my mind, I reviewed my past weeks and even months and realised that it was true.
I WONDER, WHERE’S MY WONDER?
While I might not have entirely been on autopilot, I realised that wonder had been leaking from of my system, and leaking even faster because I’d been dealing with a bout of flu that just wouldn’t go away.
The more tired I got, the more grouchy and dissatisfied I become. The busier I became, the more I lost the bounce in my step.
And I missed my sense of wonder. I had been so well-acquainted with it just a few months ago, when I relied on it daily – it was like fuel to me.
Wonder is a feeling of amazement and admiration, caused by something beautiful, remarkable, or unfamiliar.
But as it is with all fuel, it needs to be replenished, again and again – for as long as you want to keep going. Even – especially – when things are going well, we have to watch the indicator on the tank.
There are so many things in our lives that pick at our sense of wonder – a discouraged heart cannot possibly dance and a soul bogged down by comparison is not free.
Wonder is a feeling of amazement and admiration, caused by something beautiful, remarkable, or unfamiliar.
So even if our routines are familiar or drab, it doesn’t mean we cannot find beauty in it; it doesn’t mean that it cannot be remarkable.
HAVE YOU EVER SEEN THE WONDER?
I think that the one who can find beauty in anything will never be disappointed. I believe that beauty is everywhere – in everything – because God is everywhere.
I also think that God brings beauty everywhere because of His expertise at bringing good out of bad. But we need a trained eye to see that, especially when it is still dark.
In the dimmest of situations, God’s presence is enough to flood a soul with eternal hope, and His hope creates endless streams of amazement and admiration – wonder!
“The world is larger and more beautiful than my little struggle.”
(Ravi Zacharias, Recapture the Wonder)
Are you in a situation that is draining the good stuff out of your system and causing you to lose hope? Perhaps your life is more stormy than still, at present. If something doesn’t look good – at home, in your health, finance-wise, or in one of your relationships – would you consider committing it to God who is able to work good out of bad?
Ask God to come into your situation and do what only He can do.
God can see far beyond what we can, and He knows the most strategic move for us to take – even if it doesn’t make sense now.
A long time ago, Paul and Silas were thrown into prison in Philippi (where northern Greece is today). God could have kept them out of prison, but because they were in prison, their jailer got to experience the miracle of God and became a believer (Acts 16).
Before that happened, another man was thrown into an even more dire situation: Jesus Christ was about to be crucified on a cross. It was the most terrible punishment for a man to endure, yet God allowed it, because He knew that it was only by Jesus’ death on the cross that the world may be saved (Matthew 27).
God can see far beyond what we can, and He knows the most strategic move for us to take – even if it doesn’t make sense now – so that He work out good from the bad.
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20)
It may not be what we expect, sometimes it might even take a long time – but God is trustworthy.
Even in familiar routines, in the otherwise unspectacular humdrum, same-ness of life as we know it now – the presence of God alone makes all the difference.
When you’re in need, stoke the fire of wonder, think of what God has done and can do for you.
I see the world in light I see the world in wonder I see the world in life Bursting in living colour I see the world Your way And I’m walking in the light
(Wonder, Hillsong United)
“In His time. In His time. He makes all things beautiful. In His time.”
I sang the lyrics, word by word, as a prefect helped us follow the song with a pen on the well-used transparency.
In my Primary school, we used to sing songs about Him almost every day after recess – but was He real? To me, He was possibly another famous person or deity – an ang moh one– that people worshipped, not too unlike the ones I had on altars at home.
But I sang those nice-sounding and comforting songs anyway.
His name – Jesus Christ – would invariably involve talk of His death, how He loves me, and that He died for me.
I used to wonder: What does that even mean? Why did this man die for me?
I would only realise much later that there’s a peculiar reason why the death of Jesus Christ translates into profound hope – even, and especially, in the darkest of days – for all who believe in Him.
There is hope – because even though His death on the cross felt like a plan gone wrong, it was all part of God’s Plan A.
WHERE IT ALL WENT DOWNHILL
From AD26 to 36, almost 2,000 years ago, a man named Pontius Pilate served as the Roman Governor of Judea, a province where modern Israel is today.
The chief Jewish priests at that time brought before him a charge against Jesus, a Jewish man, for claiming to be the Messiah – the Chosen One, the Christ – whom the Jews believed would deliver mankind from sin and back to right-standing with God.
Pilate was convinced that Jesus was innocent of any crime that warranted death, but he also knew that the respected chief priests were enraged and wanted Jesus dead because they didn’t believe that Jesus was who He claimed to be.
The politician saw an opportunity to save Jesus in the upcoming Passover: By the goodwill of the law, the Roman Governor was allowed to release one Jewish criminal before the festival, so he gave the people the choice to release Jesus Christ – whom he had found to be innocent – or Barabbas, a well-known prisoner and murderer at that time (Luke 23:19).
Jesus had to die to overcome death, and come back to life so that love could prevail forever.
The crowd was insistent on having Jesus crucified (Luke 23:23), so they chose to set Barabbas free (Luke 23:25). If you were there watching this unfold, you might be thinking: What?!
But here’s the first zinger in the great plot twist: Jesus already knew that all these would happen.
More than once, Jesus told the people closest to Him – His disciples – that He had to go to Jerusalem to “suffer many things” at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law (Matthew 16:21); He will be killed and then raised again three days later.
Imagine their shock when they heard that Jesus would soon die as punishment. One of His disciples, Peter, said to Him: “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22)
Peter’s response was insubordinate but understandable. After all, Jesus –whom Peter believed to be the Messiah who would save the world – just said that He was about to be killed. How was that saving the world?
Wouldn’t that simply be … game over?
THE PLOT TWIST WAS THE PLAN
Death is our greatest opponent in the natural world. The weakness of our flesh and our running out of time are themes central to humanity as we know it – and I think the saddest thing about death is that it comes against love.
Losing my mother used to top my list of fears. I used to wonder if I could survive – in every sense of the word – without her. What would I do without her? Who would be the voice of reason that shouts at and invades my insensibility?
Perhaps Peter was raging against the same sense of loss; He was about to lose Jesus, the one whom he believed has come to save the world.
For all the confusion and shock that the news of Jesus’s impending death caused Peter, there was a greater plan that Jesus wanted his disciples to understand – there was more to what their eyes could see and their minds could fathom. There is always more.
Jesus would overcome the world – through death and resurrection. He had to die to overcome death, and come back to life so that love could prevail forever.
So if there’s only one legitimate reason why we shouldn’t be afraid, it is this: I can trust the guy who overcame death out of His love for me.
Since His finished work on the Cross, Jesus Christ is still very much in the business of dethroning death and peddling peace in the midst of our human chaos. He instructs us to be strong and take heart even though we will have trouble in this present life.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
It’s not instinctive, especially if we look at the state of affairs today. But dark nights cannot come against real Hope that has a plan.
CONTROL IN THE MIDST OF CHAOS
We can learn from Peter’s exchange with Jesus that everything was always under control – right down to the part where He had to die.
Even when things seem to have all gone south for Jesus, it was all part of the divine plan from the start.
And that’s the great plot twist that turned the course of human history around: Jesus had to suffer and die at the hands of evil men – and that was how He saved the world.
This is my challenge for us: Fiddle with the buttons, change the frequency and get in tune with God’s higher reality.
Suffering and evil don’t contradict God’s plans or chip away at His ability to work for our good (Romans 8:28). No matter what life may throw at us today or tomorrow – He is with us today in our sorrows and He will come for us again with eternal joy.
As we live painfully aware of both the beautiful and terrible things that are happening in our individual and collective worlds, this is my challenge for us: Fiddle with the buttons, change the frequency and get in tune with God’s higher reality.
The rejoicing Christian life (Philippians 4:4) is not a call to be blind to present suffering, but to remember Jesus’ promises to us, and to believe in Him.
Don’t be afraid. Take heart, and rejoice – His great plot twists are always just around the corner.
“In His time. In His time. He makes all things beautiful. In His time.”
“She’s okay what. Look at her. Does she not look okay?”
When my parents’ divorce was finalised and the relatives were informed, I was a topic of discussion at the lunch table.
Not fully knowing the weight I was trying to carry on my own, I smiled back in agreement with them – because I wanted to be okay too.
At that time, I don’t think anyone in the family was familiar enough with the rough terrain of divorce to help me navigate it.
It was easier for us to talk about my results, which secondary school I should go to – talk around the elephant in the room – instead of discussing how I should process my emotions or think about my new “broken” family.
I wanted to defend the decision made by my parents by proving that I was fine and that they shouldn’t be blamed. I was trying to be my own grown-up, but I was really just an anxious child trying to scare off the monsters by standing on shaky stilts, hiding in clothes too big for me. So how bad is the effect of divorce on the children? Can young children still “turn out well” after their parents’ marriage ends? Do children of divorce fare worse academically or relationally?
For a long time I was interested in the answers to those questions too. I wanted to know if I’ll be “okay”. I can’t actually remember if my parents ever told me that I was gonna be okay. Maybe they didn’t, because they weren’t sure of it themselves too.
As a kid then, I was oddly “okay” with my parents’ divorce. And I saw it coming. I don’t recall asking them to stay together, since I was also of the view that that they shouldn’t – they weren’t happy together anyway. My young self believed wholeheartedly that it was “for the better”.
Then, I realised that all these questions and perspectives about divorce reveal a more concerning problem: Are we missing the mark on the significance of marriage? Can divorce really be “for the better” if we can be assured that the children will be fine?
The effects of divorce tend to show up in other areas – a weak sense of self, a broken view on love and divorce, an inability to trust fully.
What I didn’t know was that no matter how “okay” I was with it, the trauma will be no less significant. What I knew as home was disintegrating into fragments – the divide between my parents was a chasm opening inside of me, beyond my line of sight.
For children of divorce, the changes we experience are neither just situational nor superficial – they’re deeply real. And their effects may not show up all the time in our grades, a CT scan, or in our social functioning.
The divorce couldn’t change my biological-belonging to my parents, so I now had two separate realities that I didn’t want to have to deal with. But on the inside, I wanted a do-over – a restart, please – a different life altogether.
You see, the effects of divorce tend to show up in other areas – a weak sense of self, a broken view on love and divorce, an inability to trust fully …
At least, that was my experience.
As an only child, I wanted an older sister. It was almost purely so I wouldn’t have to go through my parents’ divorce alone, so that it didn’t feel like it was little me against the world.
I didn’t want to be defenceless; I felt attacked every time someone talked about either one of my parents – I felt lacking because I didn’t have a dad and mum who were referred to as a pair, a team – and that meant neither was I part of something whole.
I needed someone else I could turn to in the fallout of my nuclear family. I would’ve asked my older sister what was happening to us – and how do we make sense of it?
The divorce was an event set into motion by signatures on sheets of paper. But the breaking apart of something that was once joined will always entail a great shattering and pieces to be picked up.
In my own growing up by trial and error, in my fearful picking-up-of-pieces, I realised that I wanted a sibling because I was really looking for perspective, and for direction. With the permanent loss of my parents as one entity, it meant that I no longer had a safe place – and I was lost.
It was obvious what was happening on the outside – my parents no longer wanted to be together. But on the inside, there was an upheaval that couldn’t be resolved with a simple pair of signatures.
I didn’t feel the full force of my parents’ divorce in me until much later, when I went through my first major break-up.
“We are searching for a sense of home, a way to convince ourselves the lies in our abandonment and loneliness won’t have the last word.” (Paul Maxwell, To the sons and daughters of divorce)
The words of Paul Maxwell provided the language I needed to explain to myself what I’d been struggling with all these years; I was searching for a sense of home.
But my blooming identity crisis meant that I was in no position to see things clearly. I didn’t know who I was or what I even wanted.
I thought that maybe if I tried hard enough, if I looked for the “right” person, my new home – my new belonging as found in a person – would be indestructible, unlike the one I had.
But at the same time, I admittedly picked at my relationship like the big bad wolf who tried to blow the house down, because I needed to see if it would hold up.
I was in constant confusion. My destructive thoughts, feelings and actions should have been a big warning sign to stop what I was doing – “DO NOT PROCEED” – but I was so close to finally having a sense of home that I couldn’t bear it.
Eventually, the house was blown down like one made of straw.
As I picked up the pieces of my own break-up, I could strangely see myself better. Maybe I was growing into the clothes once too big for me, maybe I was getting better at seeing things from a mature standpoint, with no more need for stilts.
In the familiar wake of heartbreak, I realised that the source of my struggles came mostly from my sense of self. It might sound funny but my deepest question over the years was ,”Who am I, really?”
As a prideful child who only knew how to speak the language of “I’m okay and I’ve got it all together”, I didn’t know how to ask for help. Perhaps at several important junctures of my life, I should’ve raise my hand, the way we were taught to at zebra crossings, so that someone could see me – and all my confusion – clearly.
But that wasn’t in any school syllabus – so it took me more than a decade before I got hold of some language to help me express and process my parents’ divorce.
We don’t have to live our whole lives crippled, even if our growth was somehow stunted in our childhood.
Psychologist Erik Erikson sees the development of a person in stages, and success at each stage helps the person better take on the challenges in the next. He believes that the basic conflict in adolescence (12-18 years old) lies between identity and role confusion. If a child is confused about his identity, it leads to a “weak sense of self”.
Since the development is cumulative, a weak development (e.g. sense of self, independence, or competence) in earlier stages may mean a reduced ability to do well in further stages, when one has to build intimacy for committed relationships.
But it doesn’t mean that it cannot be made up for.
It means that we don’t have to live our whole lives crippled, even if our growth was somehow stunted in our childhood. The pain of our parents’ divorce is real, and it’s not the kind of pain you can easily heal with a just-get-over-it band-aid.
But it’s possible.
One night this year, I took out my big old reel of painful memories and played it in my mind again. It was extensive. I wondered if there was anything I could do about it, but I didn’t see how it was possible unless there was a way to undo the past. How does one fix a marriage that was supposed to last a lifetime?
This was a routine I was well-accustomed to: Holding onto my pain, keeping it in a box and opening it once in a while to remind myself of why I am the way I am. It was an equal mix of self-loathing and self-pity – downright scary.
But that night, I was asked if I was going to keep doing this for the rest of my life.
And the one with the question was none other than God, again.
Even though I’d allowed Jesus into my life somewhere in my teenage years, I hadn’t let go of my past. I was still old on the inside, while trying to be new on the outside. No wonder I kept walking down old paths of pain.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Christ offers a new life to anyone who would believe in Him. A new life that is not weighed down by the consequences of choices – others or mine – made in the past.
How should I put it? It’s not self-help at all, it was help from God Himself, with all the power that only He brings, so that I could trade in my old life for a new one. It was Him who saw me clearly all this while, even when I didn’t know how to raise my hand.
Though I did try, there was nothing I could do to help myself other than gratefully placing my life into the safe hands of a God who loves me.
So that night, instead of telling Him all the reasons why I thought my life sucks and how it wasn’t possible that I could live any differently, I quietened down and listened to His love for me.
I still had one thing to resolve about divorce: My acceptance of it.
Many years ago, somewhere near Christmas time, a couple from the same Church as me shared their story of adultery, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Sitting in the audience, listening to their story, I thought that it was crazy. Their story did not end in divorce! And I remember thinking that I’d never be able to find enough strength in myself to forgive that way.
And it made me realise that all this while, I believed in divorce as a solution.
To me, marriage was nothing beautiful, at least not for long; marriage only meant that there was a chance for something precious to be taken away from me. So even though I searched for love, I was incredibly fearful of it.
“Why would people vow to love each other for the rest of their lives? Why would anyone think they could keep a promise like that?”
These were just some of the questions I had towards marriage as an institution in our world. It befuddled me that despite the many failures of it, marriage is still popular, that people would still choose to enter into a contract with rising dissolution rates.
But I had to also ask myself which view of marriage I was subscribing to: Was it biblical or practical?
I had to orient myself with the biblical view of marriage – designed by God to reflect the way He loves us.
With that in mind, the wild vows of marriage make sense to me now, because I know that God keeps those same vows toward me. In His eyes, it is not so much a contract as it is a covenant. And He keeps His covenant of love perfectly.
Sometime this year, God reminded me of that couple’s story and my response to it all those years ago.
The wild vows of marriage make sense to me now, because I know that God keeps those same vows toward me. In His eyes, it is not so much a contract as it is a covenant.
A sudden question confronted me that afternoon: Should I come face-to-face with adultery in my marriage one day, would I stay put in the marriage instead of choosing a divorce?
My response was equally sudden. My heart lunged out, almost surprising me, a yes in agreement with my mind.
Holding onto love as a covenant – the highest of all promises – that’s the kind of bewildering love that Christ first showed us and now calls us to:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13)
Impractical? Maybe. But definitely biblical. And the sort of love I’d want in on.
And that became the day the child who was “okay” with her parents’ divorce renounced divorce as an option or solution in her own life – come what may.
I knew that my answer was significant. Should I one day make a decision to attempt to love another person in marriage, I know that my future no longer rests in the history of relationships in my family.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter whether I’d eventually be married or not. The far more precious lesson I’ve learnt is that God’s love will never fail me. And that is my confidence.
“Stop window-shopping, it’s time to pay the price”: Will you be the one?
by Thir.st | 23 November 2017, 6:25 PM
He was speaking to a crowd of over 800 young people from more than 80 churches – gathered in an auditorium on a Thursday afternoon at the FOPx conference for youths – but there was someone specific Pastor Tan Seow How was looking for and speaking to.
“I’m not speaking to the 800 of you. I came here to preach to the one man, one woman who is God-ready. Ready to pay the price of surrender. Ready to rise up to change the world.”
Affectionately known at Heart of God Church as Pastor How, he reminded the congregation of something God said to Adam in Genesis 3:9, where He asked: “Where are you?”
“God isn’t really asking where we are. Don’t you think He knows?” said Pastor How. It wasn’t a matter of physical location. God’s question to Adam was one about willingness of heart – was Adam’s heart in the right place, and would he come to God? Where are you spiritually? Are you present? Are you ready?
And the reply He is looking for is: “Here I am! Send me!”
“Perhaps there are only 2, 5 or even just 10 in our midst,” he said, acknowledging that not everyone was going to be respond that way.
Some things look good from afar, but when you go closer and realise the cost, will you still commit to it?
“It’s like window shopping,” said Pastor How. “You see something that you like in the store and it looks good. So what’s the next thing that you do? You reach for the item and you look at the price tag.”
He then drew the parallel between window shopping and surrender: There is a price tag, and not everyone will be willing to pay the price.
“It’s easy to come to a conference or hear a good message and get all excited, but it’s what you do after the conference that counts.
“Surrender is hard work – to serve God you might have to sleep less, be left out of the fun others are having, read the Bible, actively live a holy life …
“Some things look good from afar, but when you go closer and realise the cost, will you still commit to it?”
Drawing reference from The Message version of Psalm 53:2, he asked the crowd again, “Who will be that one God-expectant man, that one God-ready woman?”
For God is looking for the one who is willing to stop window-shopping and pay the full price of surrender. The one willing to till the ground and usher in revival for the generation.
FOPx will be taking place this week from Thursday to Saturday, November 23-25, 2017. It will be held at Trinity Christian Centre (Days 1 and 2) and Bethesda Cathedral (Day 3). Tickets are priced at $40 per person and you can get them here. Night sessions are free and open to all!
Speakers include Lou Engle (co-founder of TheCall), Ben Fitzgerald (Director of Godfest Ministries) and various local Senior Pastors.
In this world, evil seems to be gaining ground, but something greater is also awakening in the collective human conscience. We read about terror, but we also read about kindness. There are those intent on destroying lives, but there are also those who are intent on restoring life.
Despite the unrest of the world, love is not absent. At the front lines of conflict in the Greek forests of Samothrace – hot on the heels of violence and injustice – compassion shows up and loves. My heart is moved at the words of the Albanian policeman to the refugee whom he saved: “Do not be ashamed. I have also lived through a war. You are now my family and this is your house too.”
There are people who will refuse others even just a drink of water in their time of desperate need, but there are also people who will gladly receive others into their home, clothe them, and feed them. They do so because a truth convicts them: Aren’t we all brothers?
As much as we have a capacity for evil, we also have a capacity for good. There is a verse in the Bible that says this about sincere love: It is to hate what is evil and cling to what is good (Romans 12:9).
We can only do good to others, to the degree that we are personally disturbed by injustice and resolve to do something.
There is always something we can do, right where we are.
As a child, I wondered why I was fortunate enough to be born in Singapore. Are some people inherently more deserving of a better life than the others?
And how do we measure a good life? Are the lives of the young children in Vietnam who work 12-hour days in the field for meagre (by our standards) amounts of money absolutely worse off than the white-collar worker in Singapore who toils late into the night – just so he can avoid his family at home? We cannot answer on their behalf.
War, poverty and oppression are the big names in the business of curtailing the potential of a fulfilling life. But loneliness, brokenness, guilt, and a lack of worth – things common to the human race – also plague and damage a society like Singapore’s.
Have you struggled with these feelings? Do you know someone who does?
Eudaimonia, a Greek term described in 4th century BC by Aristotle, can be translated into “human flourishing” or “fulfillment”. An earlier philosopher, Socrates, saw eudaimonia as the goal of human desires and actions.
It is not the absence of evil that we are most in need of – it is the presence of God. Only that can restore to us life of the fullest measure.
People want to lead fulfilling lives. But human flourishing is not possible when purpose is absent, when people don’t feel that they are worthy, when they feel that there is no way to escape their meaningless life.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
In the Biblical book of John, we get a picture of what evil does: It steals, kills and destroys. But in God’s hand is the counter-offer of a full life.
Our desire for the more abundant life isn’t new – it transcends culture and time periods. But when evil seems to be winning, how do we still trust in God’s offer for meaning and purpose?
God’s offer was not without recognition of the troubles we may face. So it is not the absence of evil that we are most in need of – it is the presence of God. Only that can restore to us life of the fullest measure.
“Our stories are all stories of searching. We search for a good self to be and for good work to do. We search to become human in a world that tempts us always to be less than human or looks to us to be more. We search to love and to be loved.” (Frederick Buechner)
Could it be that the ache of our hearts is to be useful – to be good, to do meaningful work, and to do good to others?
But somewhere in the middle of that journey, bad things can happen.
We experience hurt, we fall into disillusionment. Life can feel so unfair. The gap between our reality and our innate dreams feel so big. And in response, we may scale back our capacity for loving others to protect ourselves from getting hurt.
If there’s been a sense of hollowness in our heart, a feeling that there is something more that cannot be simply fulfilled by just wealth or achievements – would we consider believing that God is bigger than we know and closer than we think?
“And in a world where it is often hard to believe in much of anything, we search to believe in something holy and beautiful and life-transcending that will give meaning and purpose to the lives we live. And in that process, God uses that person – the Christian – to help others find healing and flourishing too.” (Frederick Buechner)
Our flourishing cannot be achieved in isolation. God first calls us to Himself, and then to others whom He also loves. (1 Corinthians 12:26).
Closer to home, where compassion looks a lot different from rebuilding houses and homes torn apart by war and strife, we are not without suffering in our midst. There is rebuilding work of a different kind.
So how we view the child who is outcasted and bullied in school matters; what we think of the teenager who puts on a strong front to hide his fear matters; how we respond to the adult who has lived her entire life being told she will never make it in life … All that matters.
If there’s been a sense of hollowness in our heart, a feeling that there is something more that cannot be simply fulfilled by just wealth or achievements – would we consider believing that God is bigger than we know and closer than we think?
There is healing and a human flourishing which God makes available to us. And He also makes it available to others through us as vessels.
If we recognise our privilege of having been given what we have, we can find joy in offering kindness to another.
We want to love, and be loved. And there is risk in that. But take the risk to believe that God loves you and that you can love others. We have this hope in overcoming our natural self-centeredness.
Our hope is kept safe in the fact that we are profoundly loved by God, and that He has the ability to restore fullness of life to what was stolen, broken, and destroyed.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
It’s a lesson that may take a while – and a little faith – but cling to God’s love and we will overcome in His love.
If you’ve ever had braces for your teeth, you might know what I’m talking about. It’s been 7 months since I got mine, little metallic pieces glued permanently onto my teeth.
Friends warned me of the wires and the ulcers, but I had decided that the other side of pain and suffering – straight teeth – was worth it. There are days when even speaking is hard, but I’ve never thought of quitting. Straight teeth will be worth it!
Doesn’t that paint a picture of the hope of transformation of our Christian walk itself?
We go through pain and suffering when we realise that what’s on the other side — being made more like Christ — is worth it (2 Corinthians 3:18).
When we make that decision to get aligned with His will, we don’t have to be discouraged when the growing gets tough – and sometimes downright impossible to endure. Instead, we choose to rely on God’s grace to ultimately transform us into His likeness, if we stay the course (Philippians 1:6).
It will be daily hard work not to give free rein to our sinful nature – the natural way things are. But it’s always worth letting God do His work to change our carnal habits and straighten our slanted thought patterns.
Having grown up in a cage, it feels safer to remain a slave to our sin rather than be free in the wild. Left on our own, I believe most of us would rather take the path of least resistance than to fight.
In the holding room between slavery and the Promised Land, the Israelites sought the familiarity of a full stomach (Exodus 16:3). In bondage, they could eat all the meat they wanted. And after days and weeks and months of God-given manna out in the wilderness, they suddenly found themselves craving the “comforts” of slavery over their freedom.
When we make that decision to get aligned with His will, we don’t have to be discouraged when the growing gets tough.
It was in the uncomfortable desert that the Israelites’ true nature — their preference for temporal comfort and instant gratification — was brought to light. They had cried out for years for deliverance, yet had somehow forgotten God’s divine intervention and mercy in granting them exactly what they wanted (Exodus 3:9-10).
For as long as we refuse to let God’s Word convict us of our sins (James 1:22-25) and anchor our hope in His faithfulness to have our best interests at heart always, we will remain unchanged, unrepentant and ungrateful. To yank open the curtains and let light expose the truth about us, that’s scary. But we’re doing it for the God of love (1 John 4:16).
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)
I believe God has a bigger plan for you than to let you remain in your old ways.
Our old self is corrupted and deceitful. We must abandon it for good, putting on the new self as God’s blood-bought children.
God promised the Israelites ownership of an entire land flowing with milk and honey, yet the Israelites would rather be slaves for meat. But we are no longer slaves. When we’re inclined to grumble as the Israelites did, let’s remember that God can give us more than we can ever hope for ourselves (Ephesians 3:20) – even if we do not see it yet .
Don’t lose your faith in the holding room. Grace began the work in us and Grace will see us through. Our inheritance is on the other side of faith and patience (Hebrews 6:11-12), and it will be worth it.
Nobody said it was going to be easy. But neither does it have to be that hard.
“Yes, boy, you may pick the most expensive toy in the shop, and I’ll give it to you.”
The owner of the toy shop, a grand old man, came beside the boy, crouched down, and asked him: “Would you give up all your other toys in exchange for it?”
He saw the boy’s excitement quickly fade when he said this. He had seen the same look in the eyes of the other children who had come through his doors before.
“Thank you sir, that sounds like a nice offer, but I will pass.”
They couldn’t see how even the most expensive toy in that shop was worth giving up all their toys for.
And that’s how the grand old man’s prized treasure remained on the highest shelf. No one was willing to give up all their toys for it. Until one day, another young boy wandered onto the street where the toy shop stood.
For the first time, someone realised that the old man was offering him something quite extraordinary, to someone so undeserving.
The grand old man saw him from afar, and beckoned him over.
In a kind voice, he said what he always said, “Boy, you may pick the most expensive toy in the store, and I’ll give it to you. Would you also give up all your other toys, in exchange for it?”
“But even if I gave you all I have, it won’t be enough,” the boy said.
For the first time, someone had realised that fact.
The grand old man beamed, “Yes, boy, I know, but that’s why I’m giving it away – to you.” “But why would you do that? Why would you give me your treasure?” Again, for the first time, someone realised that the old man was offering him something quite extraordinary, to someone so undeserving. “I’m looking for someone who would treasure it,” the old man said. “And you, my child, are someone who understands what I’m saying here.”