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An arts festival with purpose: Make room for the displaced this Christmas

by Jonathan Cho | 11 December 2017, 1:53 PM

Places are significant. Whether it be an actual physical space like our homes, a seat at the dinner table, or something less tangible like having a place in someone’s heart, we all appreciate it when people make space or hold a place for us.

“Having a place” reminds us that we belong, that we are of value. Yet the reality for some is that by circumstance, they have little or no reason to believe that they carry such inherent worth or significance.

I’m reminded of the people groups that many of us have come to expect to read about in the news – those who float about at sea in desperate hope of finding a place to take refuge, or those who get pushed about across countries/regions with no place they really belong.

Closer to home, my heart turns to the displaced and the destitute, who often find themselves outcast in society, with no place to call their own and nowhere they can really feel welcomed.

Jesus entered a world that had no place for Him, and His first sight of it was dark, dirty and definitely not welcoming.

That experience of exclusion is something that many of us can identify with on different levels and for a variety of reasons. When we experience this alienation from the community around us, that unshakeable sense of being inconsequential and non-existent – it can feel like we count for nothing at all.

In Luke 2, we read the story of a person who had every reason to feel inconsequential and non-existent, even though that could not have been further from the truth.

In the story of Jesus’ birth, we learn that when He first entered our world, there was no room at all for Him: “And [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son [Jesus] and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

Jesus entered a world that had no place for Him, and His first sight of it was grim to say the least – dark, dirty and definitely not welcoming.

The darling of Heaven, the very Son of God, left His place in the heavens to enter a world which had no room for Him – the brutal reality and ordinary pain of the human condition. God the Father too, was also willing to let His only Son be born into these conditions, almost as if to tell us that He doesn’t mind the brokenness of our fallen nature and lack of room that we have for Him.

The beauty and good news of the Christmas story is that someone significant willingly gave up His heavenly place and lived as a man who had “no place to lay His head”. 

Whether it be a physical manger or the equally dark and dirty conditions of our hearts, it seems to me that all Jesus wanted was to enter into our lives and to have a relationship with us. Places are significant to Him, and however small the room or the place in our lives we’re willing to give, He will take it – because that’s what He came for.

The beauty and good news of the Christmas story is that someone significant willingly gave up His heavenly place and lived as a man who had “no place to lay His head”. Not only that – He also took our place and died for our sins, so that by this sacrifice and our belief in Him, He could give us a new place in His Father’s house.

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:3)

He just wants to be with us.

This Advent season, I am reminded of the sacrificial, unconditional love of my Saviour and His desire to lift up a people who often find themselves feeling insignificant. He gave us dignity and worth – He gave a place in His family, although we did not deserve it. Would we do the same for others?

I have resolved to take on His example: An example of place-making for the people around me who may feel as if they have no place in this world, whether it be the vulnerable in the community, family, friends or just anyone who needs a place to call home – anyone who feels like an inconsequential, insignificant placeholder.

The Placeholders team preparing a floor mural for the festival.

In doing so, I have found my place in a community of people working to do just that by putting together an arts festival called Placeholders, which will be held at the abandoned building over at 10 La Salle Street.

Using the convicting nature of art to explore and surface issues of displacement amongst the poor and needy in Singapore, festival goers will also discover how a simple act of making room for someone can possibly change a life.

Jesus gave his place in heaven to take our place on the Cross, so as to create a place for us in His Kingdom. By the life He lived, we are always reminded that we each have inherent value and significance in His eyes – and that we too should see those around us through His.


Placeholders is an arts festival that seeks to engage the community to reflect on what it means to make place for marginalised individuals and families alike, particularly during the Christmas season. All are welcome!

Date: 16 & 17 December 2017 (Saturday and Sunday)
Address: 4 & 10 La Salle Street
Time: 10am-9pm

For more information, please visit their Facebook page and Instagram page.

The Festival is partnership between Bethesda Frankel Estate Church and New Hope Community Services, a voluntary welfare organisation working with displaced families in Singapore. All proceeds raised from the event will go towards the Kampong Siglap Lifeskills Training & Retreat Centre, an initiative by New Hope Community Services which provides shelter for these displaced families.

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Running for HOME: The race for social justice for domestic workers

by Joanne Ong | 1 December 2017, 4:58 PM

It all started after graduation this year, when my good friend Isabel and I decided to courageously fly ourselves to Tiruchirappalli, India, to visit our migrant worker friends back in their own villages.

We had forged a friendship with our migrant worker friends while they were working in Singapore for the past 7 to 10 years. We enjoyed this special friendship with them, and often exchanged jokes and shared pictures of our families with one another.

However, due to unfortunate circumstances regarding their work permits, they were sent back to India earlier this year without our knowledge. We lost contact and were not content with the abrupt end of our friendship. Fortunately, we retrieved their addresses and, hence, the grad trip of our lives!

To our delight, Isabel and I not only reconnected with our migrant worker friends miles from Singapore, but were also introduced to their village and family members. We stayed with them, milked their cows, visited their plantations and visited cultural sites together.

Witnessing and experiencing their lives back in their own village reminded us once again that migrant workers have their own stories to tell. They are more than a statistic; their lives are more valuable than our nation tends to acknowledge.

Meeting with their spouses, children, and even grandparents opened up our eyes to the incredible burdens these workers carry to support their family by earning a living in a foreign country.

Isabel and I have always shared a passion for justice and the marginalised, and upon returning back from India, hearts gripped with the plight of migrant workers’ lives and rights, we got connected with HOME.

HOME stands for the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, a non-profit organisation dedicated to assisting and advocating for foreign workers in Singapore. We’ve enjoyed building relationships with the lovely HOME staff, and have had various visits to their help desks, shelter for abused domestic workers and training academy that empowers them with skills.

Some may say it’s time-consuming to build relationships with migrant workers and domestic workers, and at other times, it also means offering practical financial assistance for them. These are the questions people may have: Is it really worth it? Why do we do what we do?

As believers of Christ, we recognise that social justice is the very heart and character of God (Deuteronomy 15:11, Psalm 146:7-9, Isaiah 58:3-7). Since it is the very nature of God to uphold the poor and vulnerable, likewise God’s people must pursue the same. Loving and responding to the needs of the marginalised thus is an outflow of the love and grace God has first shown us.

Photo taken from the HOME website

Isabel and I have learnt so much from the HOME team and their work, and we’ve recently decided to raise funds to support what they do.

Coming December 3, 2017, I will be running the Standard Chartered full marathon with two beautiful and strong domestic workers from the Philippines, Nancy and Jannah, to raise funds for HOME under a personal initiative we call Run for HOME. I’ve always enjoyed running, but this time round, I’m excited to be running for a cause dear to my heart.

Run for HOME carries a meaning greater than my interest for running; it also represents our shared vision and passion for justice. I’m excited not just to run for, but to run with the domestic workers for this cause – which symbolises my commitment to being a part of their journey.

I believe the physically and mentally exhausting distance of 42.195km would also allow me to identify with the challenges that migrant workers and domestic workers face, although what I will experience is minute compared to their real, everyday struggles.

Hope for the many women HOME has helped looks like this: Stepping out of a place of abuse into a place of warmth and refuge.

The one image that will keep me running to the finishing line is the memory of meeting a group of Punjabi women at the HOME shelter.

“Last time not good, but now very good,” said a Punjabi lady who’d been abused by her employer, her face brightening up as she shared how the shelter had been a safe place for her.

Hope for this woman and the many women HOME has helped looks like this: Stepping out of a place of abuse into a place of warmth and refuge. To see them holding onto hope again in their lives drives me to keep running – not just in this marathon – but in the race for social justice for all.

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)


Joanne is a social worker based in Singapore, having been exposed to the exploitation and injustice faced by the migrant workers as an undergraduate in university. Other social concerns her heart is burdened for include poverty and community development.

HOME does not receive funding from the government and relies solely on donors. Their shelter for abused domestic workers alone takes $350,000 to run annually. Donate to Run for HOME and contribute to a culture of justice in Singapore, where all lives are seen with equal dignity and worth. To find out more about HOME and volunteering opportunities, visit their website here.

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40 and forgotten: When will I be married?

by Tricia Tan | 29 November 2017, 4:29 PM

I am a single in my 40s who is still hoping to get married.

So whenever I read a piece on singlehood by someone under 30, my heart’s always tempted to say, “Wait till you hear my story.”

I mean, I’ve been praying about marriage since my 30s. I’ve tugged at my Heavenly Father’s sleeves many times. My four siblings are already married!

I feel like time is passing me by. I am tested each and every time I see blissful pictures on Facebook of my former pupils and friends getting married.

I want to be in one of those pictures. God, have You forgotten me?

SINGLED OUT FROM THE CROWD

I was once at a conference where the main speaker, Heidi Baker, asked all the singles to stand up so she could pray for us.

Unfortunately, I happened to be seated that day with all my young friends from Bible school. When the call was given, none of them stood up – some just didn’t want to even though they were unattached.

But I did … And I still wish I hadn’t.

As I was being prayed for, I could see from the corner of my eye my young friends stealing glances at me. They were wearing strange looks on their faces, grinning to each other. I felt so humiliated.

When the prayer mercifully ended, the young girl beside me offered a sympathy vote: “You must invite me to your wedding.”

But it didn’t comfort me at all – the damage had already been done. And the next day at Bible school, those same young friends made no attempt to hold back the cheeky grin on their faces when we crossed paths, twisting the knife in my gut.

God! Have You forgotten me?

LEFT BEHIND BY THE WORLD

I was reading the Bible one day when a particular verse gripped me. 

“Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.” (Genesis 40:23) 

I don’t know why, but every word seemed to sting me.

Joseph had correctly interpreted the butler’s dream, which foretold the servant’s eventual restoration to Pharaoh’s service. Joseph had simply asked the butler to remember him then.

But the butler forgot him when Joseph needed to be remembered most. Joseph remained in prison without any idea of what lay ahead, radio silence from the friend he helped. Just one word from the butler would finally release him from the torment of the lonely jail cell – but the butler forgot him. 

I felt a bit of what Joseph might have felt in that cell. I realised how forgotten I felt in my prolonged singleness.

REMEMBERED BY GOD

For many years, I’ve been praying with my buddies about finding our life partners. Although I am thankful that God has given me these precious sisters to journey with, there are still some paths I must walk alone.

In those times, I remember that even if the world forgot him, God did not forget Joseph – and He has not forgotten me. He has promised to never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).

I choose to believe in the truth that faith in God is the one thing in life that doesn’t disappoint. And I still believe His delays are not denials.

For instance, He recently fulfilled a long-standing dream of mine, which greatly reminded me that He knows everything about me and delights in satisfying my heart’s desires.

I still believe God’s delays are not denials.

For 5 years after I resigned from the teaching service, I was without a regular job. God had spoken clearly to me to say no to teaching and yes to writing.

Since then, I’ve received writing assignments on occasion. But it was never an easy journey. There were months with so few projects I’d be tempted to ask again, “Have You forgotten me?

Yet God’s provision always came through; I was recently hired as a full-time writer! To my delight, God reminded me of His promise in Psalm 40:

“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:3)

Now I’m determined to live this undeniable goodness out – single or married – that many will see His goodness in my life and praise Him. His grace is enough for me.

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Finding my voice, learning to say no

by Yan Huang | 29 November 2017, 12:11 PM

For the longest time, I struggled with the crippling fear of speaking to people in authority over me. Even as an adult in her 30s, this fear of speaking to superiors would paralyse me with anxiety.

I suppose it was a fear that stemmed from my childhood; I grew up as the only girl in a family that had really strong opinions about everything. Unlike me, my loved ones have a way with words – and they’re loud too – which made me feel like I couldn’t really speak up and voice my opinions.

It’s not that they weren’t reasonable people – conversations were just so tense and harsh. In the face of any disagreement, I’d walk away feeling condemned for what I felt. I grew up feeling this sense of rejection every other time I expressed myself.

After a while, the voices around me must have silenced mine.

In early August, I accepted a contract for a start-up company that was scheduled to commence towards the end of the year, with mixed feelings of hope and hesitation.

I was glad to have a job, but months before it’d even officially started, I was already feeling slightly uncomfortable – having been pulled into meetings and set on tasks I hadn’t exactly signed up for. And despite my continuous efforts to try and voice my concerns, I felt like nothing was getting through to them, not even my suggestions on how to improve things.

It grew more and more apparent that this job might not be what I was called to do – I actually felt more strongly for women’s health and coaching – which was not what this new job was about.

Again, I could feel that the same old inner battle churning inside me. Should I arrange to speak privately with my boss? I couldn’t possibly … Or could I?

All I could do was pray. I kept asking the Lord for His strength, peace, clarity, courage and discernment to help me through this, and not be once again consumed by my fears of what others may say.

On most days, I was overwhelmed with anxiety and uneasiness, but all I could meditate on was the truth that God would lead and show me the way to go.

I asked the Lord for His strength, peace, clarity, courage and discernment to help me through this, and not be once again consumed by my fears of what others may say.

I finally started drafting an email to my boss, telling him that I might need to take a break to reconsider the job. It was so difficult to voice my thoughts even in written word that I had to enlist the help of a friend.

Within a few minutes after I’d sent it, my phone rang.

I didn’t answer it. I couldn’t. A wave of fear had sprung up in my heart, and years of traumatic experiences from running my own business, falling prey to convincing sales pitches I should have said no to but couldn’t … It all came rushing back as anxiety overtook me in that moment.

I could imagine what my boss would say. He’d give me all sorts of reasons to stay despite the bad fit of the job, pressure me to hang on – and knowing me, I’d be too scared to just say no.

But I didn’t want to run away this time, and so I knelt down and prayed. And once I felt His presence and peace again, I knew the responsible thing to do was to send a message and set a time to speak over the phone an hour later.

As I prepared for the difficult conversation ahead, I reached for the Holy Bible, asking God for His help, and was led to the Psalm 34:4.

“I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all of my fears.” (Psalm 34:4)

I broke down, meditating on His assurance over and over till the time for the phone call came.

A few weeks later, I sat in my final meeting with the team. It wasn’t entirely pleasant, with a slight air of unhappiness and disappointment, but I’d prayed for the right words and effective communication of my thoughts.

In the past, I would have crumbled under the conflict, unable to endure what felt like accusations, and kept silent about my real feelings. But this time, I focussed on the promise of Psalm 34:4, and as I left the meeting room, I felt a new lightness in my footsteps.

I’m sure that I’m not alone in this struggle. Like me, many of you probably find it difficult to just say no and voice out your honest opinions because of fear. Some of us react to these pressures by either caving in to requests, or developing a passive-aggressive attitude because of the bitterness inside.

But the goodness of God is beyond what we can ever comprehend. He never stops reaching out to us, and when we take that leap of faith, trusting and leaning completely into His love, we are set free from all crippling fear.

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“Ask largely of God”: Lou Engle rallies the youth of Singapore to pray

by Thir.st | 25 November 2017, 6:39 PM

“God had a dream for your life before you were even born, and then He wrapped a body around that dream to fulfil that dream.”

Barely a few hours after he touched down in Singapore, Lou Engle, founder of TheCall, preached to almost a thousand youth from over a hundred Churches, gathered for the final day of FOPx Surrender Conference on November 25, 2017.

Sharing about his early years when he first experienced an insatiable hunger for Jesus, having previously walked blind to the faith despite coming from a Christian home and education, Lou reminded the crowd that each one of them was a dream from Heaven – God’s dream.

“That’s why you can hardly help but do what you were created to do. You can hardly not fulfil what you were created to do when you come to know the Author of your life.

“And you can try to fulfil your own dreams or follow the voice of the One who’s inside you to be a voice on this earth.”

“How many of you have ever had a God dream?” Hands raised across the room, somewhat hesitantly at first.

“Start praying your dream into being,” Lou encouraged. “When I was a young man I prayed for the mantle of Frank Bartleman, who participated in and wrote a powerful book on the Azusa Street Revival.”

“I didn’t just want to read about revival, I wanted to see revival in my country, for the generation. So I kept praying.”

“One day my friend called to tell me that he’d had a dream, and in that dream he saw a big black book with the word ‘revival’ on it, and inside was the picture of Frank Bartleman.

“And in that dream, his face turned into mine.”

The big dream in you will always drive you to the outer limits of your faith. You cannot pull off your own dreams – they must be fulfilled by God.

He looked around the room, you could tell everyone was on the edge of their seats.

“Pray prayers that are way beyond your own thoughts. Prayer embraces the God of impossibilities. He is exceedingly abundantly more than you could ever ask for or imagine.

“Here’s the work: Ask largely of God.”

Just the way he’d pleaded for the mantle of Frank Bartleman, the way Jabez had prayed for God’s enlargement of his life, the way Joseph dreamed his dreams. Dreams are never just dreams – even if they seemed impossible, he said.

“The big dream in you will always drive you to the outer limits of your faith. You cannot pull off your own dreams – they must be fulfilled by God.

“Every dream usually goes through the nightmare stage – lest you think you’re the one who fulfilled it.

“It’s when the dream dies that resurrection takes place, and you know it’s supernatural through and through.”

He also talked extensively on how Singapore was a prototype for youth movements across Asia and the rest of the world – as part of her destiny as the Antioch of Asia, which reaches its 40-year anniversary since Billy Graham spoke the word during his Singapore rally in 1977.

“I believe in Singapore. Not just for revival but for transformation, reformation, justice … Rolling down like water to the men and women who will dare to dream the dream, pray it into being and follow the voice of God.”

But a Jesus Movement like this cannot not take place without a John the Baptist movement to precede it, the way John preceded Jesus.

“Revival is God’s arrival. When Jesus came to earth He sought out the man in the wilderness, set apart and fasting for the coming of the one who was greater than he.”

Give us a generation that is not possessed by things but by God. A generation so possessed by His promises.

“How far will you go in your consecration to God, not out of legalism but out of love and inward desire?

“Will He find a generation that won’t do what the rest of their generation is doing? Separated from the pleasures of this life for the true pleasures of the divine?”

Holding up his book, The Nazirite DNA, Lou called for youth who were willing to set themselves apart and consecrate their lives for God to do His revival work through them.

“Give us a generation that is not possessed by things but by God. A generation so possessed by His promises that they will lay hold of them no matter how long it takes.”

“What starts as small as a seed can become a great tree that fills this whole island, the east, the world – you must believe.

“Being faithful in that seed can change history.”


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. 

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“If you keep the fire burning, the fire will keep you burning”

by Thir.st | 24 November 2017, 6:01 PM

Pastor Yang Tuck Yoong of Cornerstone Community Church had one message only for the 800 over youths gathered at the FOPx Conference taking place from November 23-25, 2017: Let the fire of God burn in you.

“Fire is self-advertising. There is something intriguing about it. Get yourself on fire for Jesus Christ and people will come watch you burn.

“God is a God of fire and a God on fire. Moses met God in the burning bush. Daniel’s three friends encountered God in the fiery furnace. Jeremiah calls the word of the Lord fire in his bones.”

“God wants to put a fire on every head the way He did at Pentecost.”

He reminded the crowd that each of us has the responsibility to keep the fire in us going, the same way the Levite priests were in charge of keeping the fire in the Tabernacle burning all day and night throughout the year.

“He lights the fire of revival in you, but you have to fan it and feed it – or it will die.

“If you keep the fire burning, the fire will keep you burning.”

Pastor Yang then quoted Methodist minister Samuel Chadwick: “The Church is powerless without the flame of the Holy Ghost. Destitute of fire, nothing else really counts. Possessed of fire, nothing else really matters. The one vital need is fire.”

He recounted his own experience at the altar as a young man, experiencing the electrical volt of the Holy Spirit that coursed through his body and brought him to his knees as he rededicated his life to Jesus.

“Fire consumes. Fire refines. When the Great Fire of London burned through the city, it killed the rats in the sewers that were carrying the Bubonic Plague that was killing thousands every year.

“Let the fire of God burn away the things that are killing you deep inside. He has come to refine us. Let the fire consume and purify you.”


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!

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FOPx: Surrender ushers in the supernatural, Ben Fitzgerald urges youth

by Thir.st | 23 November 2017, 5:19 PM

“When God tells you to do something, He’s not asking you to figure out how to do it. It’s up to you to obey. It’s up to God to do it.”

Ben Fitzgerald, leader of Awakening Europe and GODfest Ministries, opened this year’s FOPx Conference – themed “Surrender” – with a simple question: Whose wisdom are we going to live by?

“As a Christian, you’re supposed to be filled with God and His wisdom. It may look irrational to you, but God is not irrational – He is trans-rational. His thoughts transcend your thoughts.

“We only have to surrender and say yes.”

Referring to John the Baptist, Pastor Ben, who used to serve at Bethel Church, Redding, exhorted the 800 young participants of the youth conference to faithfully obey as God calls, to prepare the way of the Lord.

“If you rely on your ability to do something, nothing supernatural will ever happen.

“John had nothing naturally in him that anyone should have listened to him, but he had a yes in his spirit. He had zero – zero resources, zero qualifications – but he was close to the One.

“He simply bent his knee and allowed the Son of God to step across into His destiny. And you and I have the same call on our lives.”

He reiterated his point on this importance of submitting our humanly wisdom to the wisdom of God with the example of King David, who continually turned to God to ask Him how He wanted things done.

And because he always consulted in God’s rationality above his own, King David was able to surrender himself wholly and walk in God’s way throughout his years of kingship.

If you rely on your ability to do something, nothing supernatural will ever happen.

Pastor Ben ended his sermon with a personal testimony of putting God’s wisdom above his own. During a trip to France, where he was due to speak in a local Church, he encountered a woman in a wheelchair on his way to service.

It was just 5 minutes till the service started and he had just enough time to walk to the Church, but something stirred in his spirit to stop and pray for the woman’s healing.

“I heard God tell me that He wanted to heal this woman, but I really didn’t want to be late for my speaking appointment – I almost wanted to tell Him to go ahead and do it Himself!” He said to a laughing crowd.

“But I knew I could either go with my own rational wisdom to not be late, or surrender in obedience to what He was putting on my heart. So I stopped and approached her.”

Although the woman spoke no English, her husband who was pushing her wheelchair did. His wife was suffering from a debilitating muscular disease and was no longer mobile. He allowed Pastor Ben to pray for her, but did not offer to translate.

I knew I could either go with my own rational wisdom or surrender in obedience to what He was putting on my heart.

Pastor Ben went on to share that as he prayed, the woman began to writhe, but as he persisted in prayer, she suddenly went limp, as though something had left her body.

Speaking in rapid French to her husband, he explained that she was confounded by how the chronic pain in her back and legs had disappeared. She could move again! Overjoyed, she leapt up and embraced Pastor Ben.

That night, as the couple attended the service Pastor Ben was preaching at, they received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. What’s more, the woman prayed for another lady in the congregation who was suffering from the same disease, and she too was healed on the spot.

“Imagine if I’d obeyed my watch instead of the watch of the Lord,” Pastor Ben said. “Your rationality should never get in the way of the wisdom of God.

“Whose wisdom are you going to live by?”


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. 

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Where is God in my heartbreak?

by Charis Tan | 20 November 2017, 4:50 PM

You have to believe you’re going to make it, God said to me.

There are probably as many forms of escapism in the world as there are people. I’m quick to recognise it only because it is one of the major flaws I’m working on, and I see it most lucidly in myself.

Recently I went through some heartbreak. Turns out it’s possible to relate to a very good past in a very bad way. I didn’t want to think about certain things, because the hurt would consume me. I asked God, crying, “What am I going to think about now?” He said, Me.

So daily I’ve been practicing filling every void with Him. Christians preach that God is the only all-satisfying one, but I haven’t always lived it like I believed it. Either I never believed it enough, or I never believed it at all.

We face empty spaces in life every day. Occasional loneliness. Boredom in the office. The loss of a loved one. A future yet unknown. Lack of security, lack of validation, uncertainty, doubts. How often is turning to God in that moment, and asking Him to give us what we need, our default response? How often is it social media? How often is it ministry? Drugs? Food? Sleep?

In a world at war within itself, where the tragedy never stops and every enjoyable thing expires, worshiping God is the safest activity.

God asks us to worship Him because adoring perfection will never let us down. We will never run out of things to wonder at. In a world at war within itself, where the tragedy never stops and every enjoyable thing expires, worshiping God is the safest activity.

The prophet Isaiah says of God, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You.” (Isaiah 26:3) There will never be a safer place to be found here. God is so big that we could think about Him for a lifetime and only scrape the surface of what eternity after would allow.

What goes on in the world is nauseating. Exposure to it makes one anxious. Once, after doing some research on the Rohingya crisis, I lay on my bed and cried. I asked God what to do. He said, worship Me.

I cried even more because I wish He had said something else, something that sounded less lame, something that I could see the direct impact of right here and now. I didn’t challenge Him, because that would’ve been rude. But He didn’t need me to – He knew my questions.

Before you get anything done, you first have to know I am good. You have to remember and be convinced of My goodness.

Worship centres us. We fixate upon constant love and so are stabilised. I think God wants all of us to go through a time of realignment with Him, and the things that matter most to Him. Just like how when the Corinthian church got all excited about the spectrum of spiritual gifts, Apostle Paul reminded them of their fundamental purpose: To love one another (1 Corinthians 14).

God is the beginning, the happy ending, and the one I cling to all moments in between.

Obedience is enough to love a person. But there is more: Being willing to enter God’s heart. We can love someone because He asks us to, or we can love them because we have dared to step into His heart. And the returns of loving a person should always come from Him. When we know that voids in affirmation and recognition are all filled by Him, we become unstoppable lovers.

It all seems so straightforward to me right now. When your life is centred on God then it really doesn’t matter what happens. Or happened. Abandonment, or heartbreak, being forgotten, being neglected. Why not try asking Him to fill the void where it’s most needed, right there and then? Why not reset the defaults of where we run to when we hit an empty space?

You have to believe you’re going to make it, were His words to me in my recent struggle.

I have always taken a lot of comfort in the fact that He knows my journey. Sees what no one else sees, understands when others don’t. But recently, I had an epiphany. He not only knows my journey, He is my journey. He is the beginning, the happy ending, and the one I cling to all moments in between.

Jesus has been right in the thick of death and loss, of changes in seasons and new life. When I feel like my story isn’t going anywhere or has somehow been ruined, I remember that His story is mine just as much as mine is His. I am going to make it, because He did.

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Awaken your heart to the sound of the generation

by Jonathan Cho | 8 November 2017, 6:23 PM

Something I often hear Alarice say when she shares her story, is that she never knew she could sing. She never thought she could lead the people of God into worship. Well, let me tell you: This girl can sing.

You might already know Alarice Hong as the unofficial face of Awaken Generation, the woman behind the worship mentorship school that sprung up almost out of nowhere in 2015. Today, they’ve had almost 190 students from over 45 different Churches come through the doors for training, shaping and mentoring.

I remember when I joined AG last year and my cohort attended our very first Convergence – a monthly gathering of all the different AG streams – where Alarice led us in worship. As I’d never heard her sing live, I was immediately struck by the power of her voice and the authority she carried when she declared her praises to God.

And that’s the spirit of AG itself, really – our gifts are nothing without the anointing that flows from a heart that’s connected to Heaven.

Sure, she’s got a quality voice, but it was as if Alarice carried a song inside her. I was listening to a song birthed from the overflow of her deep relationship with God. If you were there, you’d know the song was coming out of that wellspring.

When Alarice sings, you can hear her heart for Jesus and the nations. And it’s this heart she carries into AG’s curriculum and how the school – and its students – serves the body of Christ.

Alarice, a self-professed “rojak” Singaporean, spent most of her life growing up in seven different countries before relocating to Singapore in 2010. Her husband Calvin, who pioneered AG with her, is no different – he spent almost 20 years in New Zealand before moving to Singapore sometime in 2011 in response to God’s call on his life.

Despite their personal background, or what might seem as “loose ties” to the country in the eyes of man, it is abundantly clear that Alarice and Calvin have opened their hearts to God and the nation of Singapore, to carry His heart for His people and to serve Him in this place.

In fact, Alarice once shared this in an interview with Selah: “Ever since I was a little girl, the Lord had tied my heart to this nation; I remember listening to a few National Day songs and weeping.”

And at her tender age, she’d already started on her music journey in Australia, where her dad was based for work, having been talent-spotted by her teacher in school. Little did she know, but her voice and her unexplainable heart for a country she’d never stayed in would one day be divinely woven together.

It’s hard to imagine how a natural performer like Alarice could ever feel insecure or uncertain about her talents. Even before AG, she was already professionally writing and recording music as a singer-songwriter.

Yet, I learnt through our friendship over the years that she’s had her own journey in learning how to take ownership of her God-given gifts and wield them for His Kingdom purposes.

The struggle with self-consciousness and doubt, uncertainties and fears, the desire for affirmation and the joy of being championed by a godly community are just some aspects of her story of stepping into her destiny as a worship leader and musician. It is certainly one that many on the same path can identify with.

Alarice would tell you herself that she would not be who or where she is today had it not been for the precious individuals in her life who were faithful to identify and call out her gifts.

People seldom take active steps to affirm those who have a God-given gift for something, because they do it so well that one assumes they already knew they were gifted at it and didn’t need to be told again. Serving in ministry, I’ve often been left to wonder if I completed my assignment excellently or not, because there was simply no response – positive or otherwise – from the people I was serving with.

But Alarice and the AG team are different, they don’t make those kind of assumptions with the people they meet. It is both their culture of honour – a huge thing in AG – as well as Alarice’s heart to affirm and champion others.

One of my favourite memories in our songwriting class was when each of us presented the original songs we had written for a mid-year assignment. Though it took time, Alarice and Ian (our other songwriting mentor) made an intentional effort at the end of each presentation, to affirm every individual and pray over each of us.

I recall one moment in particular where Alarice stopped one of the students after his presentation and said: “Doesn’t he have a great voice, guys? You have a great voice. Now, say it, ‘I have a great voice!’

Alarice, Calvin, and the AG team never meet and mentor people for the sake of it. They’ve always been after something bigger than themselves. Thus it is not uncommon to hear words like “nations” or “generations” in their conversations.

The desire to disciple one generation for the sake of another yet unborn (Psalm 102:18) is so essential to the call of the school, that their syllabus includes a teaching titled “Thinking Generationally”. The heart and vision of this team is great, because they have caught of glimpse of the greatness of God’s own heart.

As John Piper puts it: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t.”

Apart from the obvious work of running a school that cultivates a generation of true worshippers, Alarice and Calvin have also been intentional to involve AG in mission work throughout the year, fulfilling the missional call to disciple nations into becoming worshippers.

The couple believes that each nation carries an inimitable sound of worship – a heart cry unique to each people group – and they have set their hearts on unlocking every nation’s unique offering of praise to their King.

Your name, and Your renown, O God, is the desire of our hearts.” (Isa 26:8)

AG desires to empower the children of God in the ministry of worship so that true worshippers may better execute His will wherever He plants them. In this season, God has stirred them to steward their skills and resources towards unlocking the sound of worship in the heart of this nation.

From the simple prayer of: “God, we will disciple an entire generation in this nation with You – for You – if that is what is on Your heart for us”, God has worked through AG to touch so many lives.

It is all God. The hallelujahs raised by AG have indeed been multiplied by a simple act of laying down their five loaves and two fishes (John 6:1-14). By their example, I am compelled to look beyond myself, and allow God to use my life for His greater purposes.

AG are my family, because they truly live as children of God and the Kingdom. And in worship with them – I am constantly reminded that I must do the same.

AG’s latest single, “Hallelujah (For the Broken)”


Awaken Generation 2018 Applications are now open. Early bird applications close November 19, 2017. All applications close December 17, 2017. Their streams include: Vocals, Keys/Guitar, Bass, Songwriting and Dance.

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“Here I am, send me”: Answering the call at FOPx

by Justin Teo | 8 November 2017, 2:35 PM

I struggled with keeping my faith in NS. Although I was growing in my relationship with God, people all around me couldn’t understand why I liked to pray for the sick and hurting. They assumed I was naïve and immature, seeking my own glory. That I was misrepresenting Jesus by praying for miracles.

Discouraged, I soon stopped acting on the prompting of the Spirit and lost the audacious faith I once had to pray for injured knees and twisted backs. But at the FOPx Born Conference last year, Pastors Glyn Barrett and Andy Harrison spoke about rising up and seizing our identity and purpose in Christ, to walk worthy of the calling that God has called us to.

I was reminded that we are a new creation in Christ. Who God says who we are in Him trumps whatever Satan tries to make us out to be. And as long as we avail ourselves, God can use us. So at the altar call during the first afternoon session, I surrendered my life back to Jesus and gave Him permission to once more do whatever He wanted with my life.

My one and only request was that He would be clear to me.

At around 9pm on the second day of the conference, I received a text informing me that my friend had hit by a car while cycling. His legs were in a lot of pain and he was rushed to the A&E. Thankfully, he was conscious and didn’t suffer any severe injuries.

Although I wanted to stay till the end of the conference, I felt a small tugging within my heart to visit my friend in the hospital. So I took a cab down, and told God that I would surrender how I thought it was all going to play out, and I asked the Spirit to guide me step by step.

I found my friend in a wheelchair at the hospital. His legs were in serious pain. We spoke for a while, and then I asked if I could pray for the leg that wasn’t so severely injured … I didn’t have enough faith to pray for the other one yet. One step at a time, right?

As the story of Elijah praying for rain is one I hold on to dearly, I made it a point not to stop praying until something happened (1 Kings 18:44). Though I prayed up to four times, nothing seemed to be happening. My friend and his friend waited in silence. I was getting more and more discouraged!

At that moment, the Holy Spirit prompted me to pray for his other leg. It was very badly injured and he couldn’t move it or touch it without wincing in pain.

But by then, there was nothing much to lose, so I mustered up the courage and asked if I could pray for that leg. My friend agreed.

When we avail ourselves to the call of God and align ourselves to His heart – He moves.

This time, the Holy Spirit took over and began to put words into my prayer. I found myself praying through the Gospel, how God loved us so much that He didn’t even spare His own Son – how God loved my friend so much, was for him and not against him.

Then touching my friend’s leg, I asked him how felt. He didn’t flinch or even respond to my prodding. I pressed harder, but he said he didn’t feel any pain at all. Emboldened, I held his shin, raising it up and down, and still he insisted there was no more pain. God had done something!

What I learnt that night was that when we avail ourselves to the call of God and align ourselves to His heart – He moves. This incident will forever be a testimony in my life and continue to remind me of God’s goodness and love for me.

From the outset, FOPx always stood for something bigger than just a national youth conference. I’ve attended almost every FOP event since I was 10, having fallen in love with seeing the Church worship her King as one.

The heart of this year’s FOPx Surrender Conference is Isaiah 6:8. We stand at a new frontier: A rising tide of young people, with fire in their eyes and passion in their bones, ready to run into the world to heal, mend, keep and love.

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)


FOPx will be taking place on 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. Speakers include Lou Engle (co-founder of TheCall), Ben Fitzgerald (Director of Godfest Ministries) and various local Senior Pastors. 

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Texas shooting: Why does this keep happening, God?

by Charis Tan | 7 November 2017, 2:20 PM

The Lord said to Ananias, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.”

“But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! And he is authorised by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.”

But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

So Ananias went and found Saul. (Acts 9:10-18)

He gets featured in all of eight verses, but Ananias is one of my greatest Bible heroes. I want to be like him.

The man Saul is now known to us as the Apostle Paul, without whom most of our treasured New Testament would not exist – or most of the Church, for the matter. And Paul attributes his salvation to the willingness of one godly man who obeyed when it counted the most.

You could even argue that Paul was what we would call a terrorist in today’s terms. The Bible says that he was literally “going everywhere to destroy the Church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison” (Acts 8:3), and was “eager to kill the Lord’s followers” (Acts 9:1).

Terror attacks seem to be getting more and more frequent these days. I woke up to the news of the Texas shooting on the morning of November 6, 2017, and like many others, was stunned and heartbroken.

God called Ananias to go after the hardest and the darkest, because He knew what He had placed within Paul.

But my thoughts once again turned to Ananias and Paul as I was praying. About God’s instruction to Ananias, and how maybe He’s whispering that same instruction to us, if we are only paying attention.

God called Ananias to go after the hardest and the darkest, because He knew what He had placed within Paul. He knew his relentlessness, his undying commitment to truth. He knew his unbelievable ability to suffer for the sake of what he believed in, even unto death.

He saw in Paul who he had always been meant to be. The man who would one day proclaim the famous words we all echo: To live is Christ, and to die is gain.

There’s a curious passage in the book of Luke where some of Jesus’ followers imply that the Galileans had been murdered by Pilate because of their sin, only to face His gentle rebuke.

Some of those present informed Jesus that Pilate had slaughtered some Galilean Jews while they were offering sacrifices at the temple, mixing their blood with the sacrifices they were offering. 

Jesus turned and asked the crowd, “Do you believe that the slaughtered Galileans were the worst sinners of all the Galileans? No, they weren’t! So listen to me. Unless you all repent, you will perish as they did. Or what about the eighteen who perished when the tower of Siloam fell upon them? Do you really think that they were more guilty than all of the others in Jerusalem? No, they weren’t. But unless you repent, you will all eternally perish, just as they did.”  (Luke 13:1-5)

So maybe this is another sermon for another day, but I remember just stopping to re-read that passage a few times.

It challenges us to ask what God’s perspective is on physical death and natural crises. And I just feel like that is the best response we can have every time a horrific incident like this terror attack occurs. To ask God to renew our minds again in how we see things, to ask continually for the perspective of Heaven.

What areas is He calling us to go after the hardest and the darkest without fear of death or failure?

In what areas is He breaking our hearts for what breaks His, and in what areas is He inviting us into more of Him and to look through His lens? What areas is He calling us to go after the hardest and the darkest – as Ananias did – without fear of death or failure?

Back to Apostle Paul, whose zeal for justice was redeemed for the Gospel upon his encounter with the living Christ. He makes this incredible declaration in his first letter to the Corinthian church, and I believe it will comfort you the way it does me in this time of tragedy:

“If our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.

“Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies.

“But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 

“Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:

‘Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?’

“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”

(1 Corinthians 15:19-58, excerpts chosen by author)

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What my dad’s death taught me about life

by Treye Teo | 5 November 2017, 11:46 PM

When our loved ones fall terminally ill, it’s as though the rug has been pulled out underneath you. You know the world as you know it is about to change. And seeing them struggle, slowly stripped away by disease and creeping closer to death is excruciating.

I was 11 when my father was diagnosed with cancer. I can still remember the day clearly. I was woken up rudely in the morning by my grandmother wailing. She had just received the news after my dad was brought to the A&E at SGH for what appeared to be a serious headache.

I didn’t even know what cancer was then, just that it was very serious. On top of everything, it all happened during the SARS epidemic. In my young mind, anyone who went to the hospital these days usually didn’t come back.

But my father did. In the short span of a few months, he underwent an operation to remove the brain tumour, and chemotherapy thereafter. He bravely soldiered on, trying to maintain a semblance to the normal life we had before, going back to work as soon as he could and sending me to school in the mornings.

I thought things had taken a turn for the better until we got into an accident one morning. He couldn’t see a car approaching from his right and it slammed into us, causing our car to careen into a ditch. By what could only be the protection of God’s hand, we were shaken but unscathed, although the car was damaged to the point of no return.

But this was how we discovered that the tumour had returned. This time, it had caused him to lose part of his vision – the reason for the accident. The cancer was back with a vengeance. Bit by bit, his other bodily functions – things we take for granted daily – started slipping away. He became a shell, eventually losing his ability to recognise or respond to us.

I wondered where God was in all this. Why did He allow bad things to happen to good people? My dad was a loving father and a good family man, always striving to provide the best for us.

One Saturday afternoon, my pastor and some members from my church came over to pray for him. The day, my father finally accepted Christ with tears streaming down his face. He had lost his ability to speak by then, but no words were needed.

Trust may not come easy in the midst of difficult situations, but God’s plan is always perfect, though we may not see it now.

I will always be thankful for that moment. To know that our God provides hope beyond death, and that someday we’ll see each other again in Heaven. I regret the times I lost my temper with him, times where I did not reciprocate his love. But I’m glad I was there before he passed on, just holding his hand and being present.

I don’t know why God’s plan unfolded this way for us, and may never know during this lifetime. But I’m thankful for the grace He has shown my family, guiding us through those tough times. Glad that my dad got to know Jesus before he passed on. Grateful for the people He’s sent along the way to help me.

Trust may not come easy in the midst of difficult situations, but God’s plan is always perfect, though we may not see it now.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Of course, coping with the loss of a loved one isn’t easy. There were times when I was angry, times when I felt guilty that I was relieved when my dad passed on so that he wouldn’t have to suffer anymore. I went through the five stages of grief in reverse, from acceptance to anger, denial, and depression before surfacing back to acceptance again.  

But I’ve decided to live a life without regrets. Jesus said in John 10:10 that “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”. So I try to be a blessing to the people around me, even joining the medical community so that I can make a difference to those I have the chance to interact with.

As Mother Teresa says, not everyone can do great things, but we can do small things with great love. 

If you’re going through a similar situation, take confidence in the Father’s love for you and your loved one. Even when everything seems to be falling apart, He is holding you in His loving arms. Never letting go.

It may be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but God promises that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). We are after all strangers in this world. Live without regrets, live with eternity in mind. 

If you know someone struggling, just be there for them. You don’t even need to say anything. My friends did simple things like playing computer games with me to help me take my mind off my dad’s illness, even though major exams were round the corner.

Give thanks to God and tell your loved ones how much you love them before it’s too late. Life is far too short. 

I remember how my youth leader’s wife, who happened to be a teacher in my school, opened up a room for me to pour out my emotions when I had a delayed reaction to grief (If you’re reading this, I’m sorry for making you late for your class).

If you’re blessed and life has been good, give thanks to God and tell your loved ones how much you love them before it’s too late. Life is far too short. 

And Dad, thank you for everything. I still keep a picture of us in better times as my phone screensaver to remind myself to live as a blessing to others and that someday, we’ll meet again. 

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Thor: Ragnarok – Asgard as it gets?

by Jonathan Cho | 1 November 2017, 5:31 PM

I’m sure this is going to impact my reputation in some way, but who cares: I’m a comic book geek and proud of it.

I have always been a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU”). From the Ironman trilogy, to The Avengers and most recently, the Spider-Man films, I have learnt much and even “met God” through the different story arcs and characters portrayed in the films, with all but one exception until now – Thor.

I’ve never quite connected with the character Thor in the MCU series of films. Since the second instalment in the franchise (Thor: The Dark World), there was just something about the character and his role in the MCU narrative that I found difficult to identify with. Thor took himself way too seriously, I thought.

Nonetheless, I was baited into watching the latest instalment of the Thor franchise because of the trailers. The strangely light-hearted nature of the trailer and its uncharacteristic comedic elements made for an interesting formula. Was this a new Thor that we would be seeing? Or just some gimmicky marketing ploy?

So I bought two tickets and lured my wife into having an MCU date-night.

***MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!***
IF YOU READ BEYOND THIS LINE, NOT OUR FAULT ANYMORE YAH

“Just Loki what you’ve done this time.”

Thor: Ragnarok doesn’t exactly carry a particularly fresh or novel storyline. It’s fairly clichéd, with its “superhero-finds-out-he-has-an-evil-sibling-who-is-trying-to-kill-him-but-he-gets-captured-in-the-course-of-fighting-her-so-he-tries-to-escape-and-forms-a-team-along-the-way-and-finally-defeats-her” story arc. Within the first 15 minutes of the movie, however, you begin to realise that the appeal of this film comes not so much from the storyline itself, but the manner in which the characters are portrayed.

Right off the bat, it’s clear that Thor takes himself far less seriously than he did in all the previous films. This Thor immediately seems easier to connect with. He has far better comedic timing (though sometimes more like slapstick) and is a far more accessible version of the “god of thunder”.

Thor never stops to rest throughout; there is far too much at stake. He’s constantly running from task to task; doing mental and emotional gymnastics, desperately to fulfil his duty and calling to be “leader”. I recognise all this behaviour in my own life.

Thor: Ragnarok sees Thor and his brother Loki, the “god of mischief”, embark on a journey to find Odin. When they do eventually find him, he isn’t the kingly, sagely Odin that we’re used to seeing on screen. He remains wise and speaks even profoundly, but it is obvious that he carries a certain resignation about him – he’s merely waiting for his time to come.

He reveals to the two brothers that they have an older sister, Hela – Odin’s firstborn – who is due to return from exile once he’s dead. Father and daughter had previously conquered realms together, until her hunger for conquest became far too ferocious for her father to control, so he banished her to exile.

That’s Hela scary.

Before we know it, Odin leaves the scene and Hela enters almost as quickly as he exits. The three siblings have a tense reunion, which ends with Thor and Loki on an unknown planet, Sakaar, looking for a means of escape.

And, oh – ***SUPER DUPER SPOILER ALERT, THERE’S NO TURNING BACK AFTER THIS*** – very early on in the film, Hela easily crushes Mjölnir, Thor’s hammer.

He’s simply not the same hammer-wielding god of thunder because he doesn’t have his hammer anymore. “I miss my hammer,” he mopes.

Thor’s journey down the path of vulnerability culminates in a final, apocalyptic battle scene pitting him against his sister, the “goddess of death”.

As the mighty Thor comes to the end of himself, his mind and spirit return to the place where he had met his father earlier. There he has an intimate conversation with Odin, where Thor finds himself on his knees, proclaiming himself a failure, verbalising every insecurity that we, as an audience, have witnessed in the last 115 minutes of the show. He tells his father that he has failed in his mission, and that he is far too powerless to overcome his sister without his hammer.

He is painfully broken.

In one of the most prophetic father-son movie scenes since the Mufasa and Simba moment in The Lion King, Odin reminds his son that the power was never in the hammer itself; that the power was always in him, and that “the hammer was only meant to help you focus your power”.

Marvel has played with this kind of revelation across various MCU movies. Think Ironman: “Who are you without the suit?”; “My armour was never a distraction or hobby, it was a cocoon”. In Homecoming, Spider-Man is told: “If you’re nothing without your suit, you shouldn’t have it”.

I kept thinking about the conversation between Thor and Odin – from father to son, king to prince, one generation to the next – long after the show had ended. The insecurity which we see Thor carrying around throughout the movie mimics the same insecurities that I carry in my own life.

It’s an action-movie, and Thor never stops to rest throughout; there is far too much at stake. He’s constantly running from task to task; doing mental and emotional gymnastics while trying desperately to fulfil a duty and calling to be “leader”.

I recognise all this behaviour in my own life.

Armed with the purest of intentions to live out our calling and a genuine desire to serve the greater good, too many of us carry a certain pressure to perform well in the tasks set out for us. There’s also a certain weariness and battle-worn quality, created by our fear of failure and other insecurities. Am I doing enough? What if I don’t succeed? Do I have what it takes?

The power of a story often comes from the fact that it is communicated from a place of brokenness, and not only from a place of strength and victory.

For those of us in any kind of Christian ministry or leadership, Odin’s words to his son apply to us too.

We know that our ability or “power” doesn’t come from the roles we take up or the appointments/titles we carry, but the struggle is real and it’s so easy to fall into the trap of believing that it does. We know that we are not defined by the weapons of gifts and talents we wield, but we hold that in tension with the false belief that somehow our significance comes from the battles we fight successfully, or the victories/crowns we wear from these battles.

Thor: Ragnarok repeats the truth that our strength, delight and reward must come from our hearing the Father’s words to us; from knowing time and again that He sees us as His children. Just as Thor comes to the deep realisation that his power comes from within, inherited from his father, we too bear the mark of our Father, as witnessed by the power of His Spirit in us (Galatians 4:6).

Nice haircut dude, but what’s with the eyes?

Throughout the movie, Thor receives regular indications of the power that lies within him (as opposed to his hammer), but he fails to recognise it. He continues to whine about he misses his hammer. Do we do the same? Wondering if need to have the next title/appointment or ministry assignment, or right vocation, or enough affirmation from others, before we can fully appreciate our standing as sons and daughters of God?

I wouldn’t be surprised if we, too, have received similar “signposts” from God, reminding us of who are in His eyes, meant to anchor us in our identity in the Kingdom of God. Yet we fall too often for the trap of trying to define ourselves not by who we are, but by what we do – our successes, our abilities and gifts, or what others say about us.

That the Odin/Thor father/son moments in Thor: Ragnarok always take place in the same place remind us that we need to learn how to carry in our hearts that “secret place” to which we return  to meet with the Father. As we return to that place, we remember once again who we are in His eyes, and it is from that place that we live out all that we have been called to do.

There is no doubt in my mind that this instalment of the Thor trilogy has redeemed a character and narrative that I once found disconnected and hard to engage with, and that he has quickly become one of my favourite characters in the MCU (they are actually all my favourites #geekspeak).

Thor’s pain, struggle and vulnerability are what make him a relatable character. The power of a story often comes from the fact that it is communicated from a place of brokenness, and not only from a place of strength and victory. That, to me, is what makes Thor: Ragnarok both compelling and transformative.

Those of us in ministry – we need to learn to communicate out of our journey, and not out of destination. That the broken and bruised reeds around us will be drawn into the stories that we tell about our lives, and the good news that is carried within those narratives, simply because of our willingness to be honest, broken and vulnerable about it.

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How to keep the spirit of the Reformation alive

by Mich Lee | 31 October 2017, 5:12 PM

How is your church celebrating the Reformation this year? 

If you’ve been following the news, the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation – the reason the Protestant Church even exists – falls on October 31, 2017.

I’ve always kind of dreaded talking about the Reformation, because there’s only so many times the Martin Luther story can be told – right?

If your church is anything like mine, the choir will sing some really moving songs, ang moh guest speakers might be invited over, and there you may be treated to a special week of messages. Which is all very nice, and proof that we’re quite good at commemorating things.

We often get caught up in all the deep theology and complex Latin phrases that defined the movement, and forget that the Reformation was really all about … God.

But what’s so good about this message, such that countless preachers have been willing to be burnt at the stake for it?

To explain this simply, consider the Five Solas of the Reformation. You can think of them as the five slogans that chiefly defined what the Protestant Church was even protesting about.

Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.

Sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, soli deo gloria.

But if you ask me what the protest was really about, my answer would be God.

We often get caught up in all the deep theology and complex Latin phrases that defined the movement, and forget that the Reformation was really all about … God. Not the Reformers per se, and definitely not us.

The Reformation is about a God who took the initiative, even though we spat in His face by refusing to obey, to bring us back into right understanding of Him.

It is about the God who takes pity on us, even as we cling to rituals and traditions that we think can make us right with Him.

It is about the God who shows us the way home, 500 years ago and now.

Only God can lead us home. And only by trusting Him can we find the way. That was the lesson of the Reformation, and it still holds true today.

It baffles me why God would want anything to do with someone like that. When someone turns their back on me, my last instinct is to reach out to them. I’m still in a cold war with a friend who de-friended me for 9 months. (Sinful? Maybe not. Childish? Yes.)

But God did, even back in the Garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, Adam ran away and blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. In contrast, God saw that they really CMI, and held an intervention.

The God who created the whole universe, commands the winds and the waves, and breathed life into man – He reached out first. He didn’t leave an ambiguous trail of gingerbread crumbs, but put up huge neon signboards with arrows pointing the right way.

“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7-8)

We may think we’re not quite as bad as the Church was 500 years ago.

We tell ourselves there is still goodness in this generation, and we have the wisdom of the Reformers to stand on. We think we can find our way back.

But the fact is, we can’t. Only God can lead us home. And only by trusting Him can we find the way. That was the lesson of the Reformation, and it still holds true today.

Exactly 500 years ago, the Reformers wrestled with Scripture. Now, 500 years later, dare we wrestle with Scripture and be honest with ourselves, about if what we believe holds absolutely true to the unchanging Truth?

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I spent 1.5 years as a missionary in Nepal: Now is the time to arise

by Jea Ng | 31 October 2017, 11:03 AM

Last week, the Nepalese government announced to the world that evangelism and Christian conversion in Nepal is now illegal. No one should profess his religion to another. No one should convert to another religion. No one should disturb the religion or belief that has been practiced by the community since the ancient times.

Anyone found guilty will be fined and imprisoned for up to five years. Foreigners included.

Having spent one and a half years as a missionary in Nepal, the recent news weighed heavily upon my heart as I pondered its implications.

1. WHO WILL REACH THE UNREACHED?

First, it is going to get increasingly difficult to reach people in Nepal. As it is now, sharing the Gospel in Nepal is already difficult enough. I remember having to travel for 45 hours in a bus out of Kathmandu and walking for five days just to arrive in a remote village to share the Gospel.

For the sheer inaccessibility of such villages and the lack of access to the Internet, many people in these villages have never heard of the name “Jesus”. They would ask, “What is Jesus? A place? A person?” Because of how deeply intertwined religion and culture is in Nepal, accepting Christ for a Nepali is like leaving one’s family and one’s roots.

This new law will make things harder than it already is.

2. WHAT HAPPENS TO THE GOOD WORK?

Second, the ongoing work of the Gospel is at risk. The Government is taking a hard line on the teaching of the Bible in Christian orphanages run by pastors and missionaries. Christian orphanages had been found to conduct Christian activities and had been warned to stop such activities. Otherwise, action will be taken against them.

There are many of such orphanages providing shelter, love and the hope of Christ to children who are orphaned. The good work that they have built up over the years is at risk of being shut down.

3. ARE WE READY TO SUFFER FOR THE GOSPEL?

Third, anyone who shares the Gospel in Nepal – be it the locals or foreigners – must be ready to suffer for it. Last year, even before the new law was officially passed, seven teachers were handcuffed, taken into custody and jailed for distributing religious materials to students.

I also remember my Nepali brothers and sisters-in-Christ who are currently in full-time ministry work in the least-reached districts of Nepal. They reach out to villagers and hold house church services for believers. All it would take is for one hostile villager to make an official complaint against them and they would be imprisoned.

Though the new law aims to restrict the spread of the Gospel in Nepal, our God is sovereign and the work of His Kingdom is unstoppable. Often, with great persecution comes great growth. Man can plan to stop God’s work but our God is a God of power, miracles and visions.

For every soul in Nepal that earnestly seeks after Him, He will reveal Himself to them.

As the Church in Singapore, how are we to respond? Are we going to shrink back or are we going to arise and claim the land of Nepal for Christ? The Lord is looking for those who would not only believe in Him, but who would also suffer for His sake.

This also serves to remind us not take the religious freedom we enjoy in this country for granted; it may not always remain convenient to be a Christian. Where will you stand then?

Church, arise. Reach out. Now is the time.


Jea spent one and a half years in Nepal, reaching out to Nepalese in the city as well as in the least-reached districts of Nepal. She documents her adventures in a newly released book, Latte to Lathi. If you would like to purchase the book or support her ministry, please visit her site.

She has a passion for young people and has been actively serving in the youth and young adult ministry in her home church. Her desire is to see the next generation step out in faith and experience the reality of God in their lives.

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On the Reformation: Why should I care what happened 500 years ago?

by Dev Menon, Zion Bishan Bible Presbyterian Church | 30 October 2017, 8:37 PM

At the heart of any reformation is the sense that the church of the time has grown stale. When the things of God which are meant to bring new life and transformation become things that enslave and cause despair.

Martin Luther was the German monk who – exactly 500 years ago today, on October 31, 1517 – was moved to stand up because he witnessed a dryness in the church, corruption in the land, and was personally plagued by soul-deep anxieties.

Though many had tried reforms before, this Protestant Reformation stuck because it was a reformation that came from the rediscovery of the Scriptures. From there flowed such wonderful truths, also known as the Five Solas: Christ Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Scripture Alone, the Glory of God Alone.  These truths about a heart-warming God made Luther leap for joy and soon traversed all Europe and remain till this day.

That was the Reformation, yet reformation is not over; there must always be reformation. Each generation must – must – find God, through His Word, for ourselves.

Why bother looking at what happened in the past? Especially events like the Protestant Reformation that occurred all the way back in 1517? Somewhere so far away, too – in Europe.

What would a few monks and ancient scholars know about what is happening in my life, my culture and my circumstances right now?

Consider the words of the Teacher in Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 (ESV): What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us.

We often think that the things we are going through cannot be understood by anyone other than ourselves or our peers, and we are the ones who need to trail-blaze a new ministry or find new teachings to deal with these “modern issues”.

But read widely enough through books of all ages, and you’ll quickly learn that what King Solomon said still holds true: What we think are modern issues are often the same old issues, just with new packaging. So the solutions to those issues are still the same old solution, but may need new packaging themselves.

What King Solomon said still holds true: What we think are modern issues are often the same old issues, just with new packaging.

CS Lewis once said, “Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes.

“Where they are true they will give us truths which we half-knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.

“Not that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes.”

When we look at history, we see the errors of the past, and what was done to correct them, such as the reform of churches. If we understand these ancient struggles deeply enough, in their own context, it allows us to see the same error or problems occurring within our own societies, our own churches and our own lives.

We also see what was/is needed to provide not just a quick or superficial fix, but to sustain long-term change and growth. Often you will find there is no need to reinvent the wheel, only perhaps “upgrade” it from a wagon-wheel to a car-wheel.

Ever read stories about people from the Age of Reformation like Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, William Tyndale and John Calvin? If you persevere long enough to get past the language (buy an abridged modern English translation if that helps!), once you get past the packaging, I think you will find they speak directly to you in your situation and to current issues.

I believe you will find them warm and insightful, with a pastoral heart bigger than you can imagine, and a love for God fierier than the most emotion-stirring megachurch service.

When we look at history, we see the errors of the past, and what was done to correct them, such as the reform of churches.

Read them for yourselves. If they’re too unfamiliar and intimidating, read them with someone who can help you understand what they are truly saying.

A good place to start? Try The Reformation, What You Need to Know and Why, by Michael Reeves and John Stott. Or if that’s too long, start with this booklet, Freedom Movement: 500 Years of Reformation, again by Michael Reeves. You can download a free PDF version here.

Let those be your breeze of the centuries, leading you to hopefully a greater level of clarity and passionate love for this Ancient of Days that we serve.

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The girl without the husband

by | 27 October 2017, 7:37 PM

My GrabShare pulled up in front of an old terrace house in the same neighbourhood. There was a girl waiting outside the gate in a black razor-back dress, hair barely dried off and stringy. It was almost 10 in the morning and despite the world-weary scowl on her face she looked young enough – so I immediately assumed she was one of those college students trying to get to a morning class.

Settling into the front seat with barely a word in greeting to the driver, she pulled out a compact from her handbag and started applying her makeup. It was only then I realised she was wearing an engagement ring, its solitaire diamond glistening as she deftly patted her face, cushion in her left hand. Nestled on the same finger was a wedding band.

I was suddenly conscious of what I looked like from her perspective – Uniqlo jeans, simple plain tee and barefaced. All of 28 years old. No ring.

I’ve never been in a relationship and am not particularly enthused by the young adult dating scene, but recently I actually feel kinda bad when I meet other under-30s who are some form of married. Married for one or two years, just married, going-to-be married … Just the other day it was married with children. Children!

Then comes the inevitable thought: What am I doing with my life?

I am, glaringly, the girl without the husband.

The year most of us turned 26, five of my cell members got married. Closer to home, my cousin – also an ’89-er – got married. A JC classmate got married. Earlier this year, two members of the younger cell group I lead married each other. Next year, I will marry off two more.

“When will I get the honour of walking you down the aisle?” My dad likes to ask when we head off to another wedding dinner. All my other dad-friends have, with their own daughters.

My mother is less patient. “What’s the point of working so hard if you can’t even get married?” She’s repeated at various levels of frustration. “I think you’re too proud for marriage.”

On darker days, I wonder if she’s right.

With only one year of my 20s left to go, I am what the mainland Chinese will term “剩女”, a term I learnt from an SK-II ad about women over the age of 25 who don’t have husbands – literally, “leftover women”. These single women are commonly “advertised” by their parents at Marriage Markets, in hopes of being matchmade to other parents’ single sons.

When one of the “leftover women” being interviewed talked about the pain of disappointing her parents with her relationship status despite being gainfully independent, I cried. 

It’s not that I don’t know all the commonly cited exhortations to single people in the Church. It’s a season of unimaginable freedom to do your own thing. To pursue God without any distractions. That marriage is super hard and won’t solve any problems. That Jesus really is more than enough no matter how you feel otherwise.

It’s not that these things aren’t true. But when the ones who are married are labelled as “taken” – where does that leave the rest of us ringless ones who … aren’t?

I cried with the 剩女 not because I desperately wanted to be married, but because like her, like them, I wasn’t married not because I didn’t want to be married – and how does one tell her parents the truth?

I am not married, because nobody wants to marry me.

There is a phrase in Mandarin – “没人要” – nobody wants. I heard it used as I was growing up, usually as a joke to describe singleness.

We all know Paul said that if we could help it, stay single (1 Corinthians 7:8). That would be the real joke; I don’t think I know any women in Church today who’d second that wholeheartedly. It is human to want to be chosen and loved. It is hurtful to consider even for just a moment that we belong in the Rejects Pile. The Bargain Bin. 没人要.

And I’ve seen too many women try to preserve their sense of self-worth by doing either one of two things in response:

1. The Spoilt Milk Mentality: Escaping the dreaded– and very imaginary – Bargain Bin by lowering their standards as they approach “expiry date“, settling for whoever is willing to take them
2. The Fine Wine Mentality: Compensating with power – inflating their standards and working hard to be better than men, believing they are too good for most men in the first place

Neither is helpful, and both choices have their own consequences.

But even if you’re not taking advice from Cosmopolitan, trying to remain as Christian as possible in life’s waiting room is admittedly harrowing. When my friend caught the bouquet at a wedding and I congratulated her with the traditional “You’re next!”, she quickly corrected me that it was God who determined who got to be married and who would remain celibate for life.

“Just moderating my expectations,” she said, and it broke my heart to know she was really just guarding herself against the familiar sting of disappointment.

“Do you ever want to be married?”

He was barely 21, and we weren’t exactly close friends. I wonder if my face coloured at the question. What’s the point of my answer, if wanting something doesn’t actually mean getting it?

But there was no judgment in my young friend’s eyes, no thinly-veiled accusation in his voice. I realised suddenly, in the safety of that moment, that I’d never allowed myself to even think of my own answer. I was always too busy smoke-screening the embarrassment with modern-day wisdom for singlehood, Christian version included.

As he held the silence that fell between us, the truth that surfaced in my heart was startling.

It was yes. And no.

Because yes, I’ve met and been friends with people whom I’ve wanted to marry. I may not have spoken highly of the institution and its pitfalls, but I’ve never been closed to the idea of marriage, especially when I really liked someone. I was never “too proud” for marriage.

But no, I don’t want marriage if God doesn’t need me to be married for the work He has already prepared for me to do (Ephesians 2:10). I want to be chosen and loved by someone, but I choose and love God and what He wants more.

A sermon I once listened to says it better: We have made marriage all about ourselves and what we want; whether we want to be married or not. But as servants of God it is not about us. If it’s better for His Kingdom’s work that I be married, I want to be married. I will be married. But if it’s better for His work that I be single, then I want to be single. It’s not about what I want. It’s not about me.

The day I gave my yes to Jesus, it was never about me anymore.

When God planted Isaiah 54 like a flag in the ground to mark my new season, it felt like a love letter straight to the deepest troubles of my heart.

“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labour! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord … “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced … For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name …” (Isaiah 54:1-5)

For too long I had held the image of my husband in my head as the person who would protect and provide for me, feed and fulfil me. And when he failed to appear, year after year, heartbreak after heartbreak, the panic would mount – and so would the bitterness.

But now He had a name; again, God had given me Himself. I was that childless woman – ashamed, confounded and disgraced – but I wasn’t unwanted or leftover in the eyes of my Maker. Out of society’s Bargain Bin, I was chosen and redeemed at the highest cost (Galatians 3:13-15).

With everlasting love, He vows, “I will protect you. I will provide for you. I will feed you. I will fulfil you.” I am not the girl without the husband.

And in this season, my response to Him is a resounding “I do”.

/ joanne@thir.st

Joanne is a bundle of creative energy commonly heard before she is seen. She believes in the triune power of good conversation, brilliant writing and bold ideas. She also likes milo.

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Creating with the Creator: X marks the spot

by Norman Ng, Creative Pastor, 3:16 Church | 24 October 2017, 3:44 PM

God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

You’ve been in God’s shoes. Felt the awe of creation birthed from an idea somewhere inside. The canvas is no longer blank. The new page now resounds with poetry. All your life you’ve created, composed, conceptualised. Each piece, a collaboration, God x you

You can’t explain it. But you know what it feels like when the light bulb goes off. That divine moment when “x” happens.

You may have struggled to fit God into the picture. Your craft is a part of you and so is your Creator. But how does your faith fit into the work you do? Who else walks this strange and lonely road?

I’ve always dreamt of belonging to a creative community that’s passionate about maximising their creative gifts to influence and change the culture of society and in particular, the Internet. A team of Kingdom influencers who use their God-given creativity to put out relevant content that is well-produced, hilarious and enjoyable.

There is no reason for the Church to be lagging behind in the great storytelling we see in the secular marketplace. Our Father is the Author of the greatest story every told! So why shouldn’t we be telling stories that are beautiful, redemptive and powerful? As His children, we should be shaping national narratives for key seasons like Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Children’s Day, National Day … Every day!

There is no reason for the Church to be lagging behind in the storytelling we see in the secular marketplace when our Father is the Author of the greatest story every told.

The biggest issues young creatives face is a lack of role models who are effectively exercising heavenly influence in their creative fields whom they can look up to and be mentored by. Young creatives are smart, sharp and they can sense easily when someone is faking it and just living a double life at work and in church.

Without mentors to show them that it is possible to use their gifts at work and for God as well as the possibility of making work a form of worship, they reflect the common narrative that creativity can only be fully realised in the corporate world.

I also believe that many Christian creatives do not have a conducive environment where they can flourish and grow their creative gifts. Churches are not the best in providing such an environment. After all, they’re not creative agencies!

All too often, they do not easily recognise the value and potential of communicating through design, film, art, writing … At most, a creative might be challenged to redesign a Church website. Or lay out the Sunday bulletin. Maybe be in charge of the Church anniversary video – from pre to post production.😦

So while it may seem that the Church has no creative people based on certain quality of output, I think it’s probably just that creative talents have not been fully utilised and well-invested in – resulting in most creatives being drawn to better opportunities – better briefs, better budgets, better mentors – outside of the Church.

Just as Professor Xavier sought out mutants who had withdrawn themselves from the world out of fear, it’s high time we called our creatives out of hiding.

The X Conference was borne out of the hearts of creatives who understand the struggles of reconciling our craft with our Creator. How do I create for God in a less than godly workplace? Why do I feel like I don’t quite fit in Church? Is there a creative cause worth investing my very limited free time in?

Creatives have to know that they have a tribe. And when we gather from different Churches to collaborate on a compelling cause, we can activate our gifts in way that can inspire the individual, the church and the world.

It is important for creatives to catch a glimpse of their heavenly potential. When they are able to see themselves maximising their gifts for a cause that is bigger than themselves and one that is jointly owned, it could open up a whole world of possibilities in how they live their lives.

The quality of our content would be so good that people would be compelled seek us out for inspiration, direction and entertainment. And in the process of doing so, inspire many more grass-root movements to do the same – a explosive multiplier effect on the world for the glory of God.

We’re calling it the “x” effect: When people of the Cross collaborate with their Creator.


Christian Creatives: Writers, designers, media planners, filmmakers, artists, musicians and storytellers across all disciplines – mark your spot and find your tribe in this Creative Covenantal Community here. The X Conference is happening this weekend, October 27-28, 2017.

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“If you have a smartphone in your hand, you are part of the mission”

by | 23 October 2017, 1:58 PM

I never paid much attention in the only computing class I took back in university – a compulsory module that required us to learn how to code on Microsoft Excel. Possibly the only reason I passed in the end was the blessing of having the top student, George, in my project group; I was childhood friends with the girl he eventually married and we were all in the same class.

To find myself mentoring at #HACK – Indigitous’ 42-city, 48-hour missional hackathon – which took place on October 20-22, 2017, thus could not have been more amusing.

What was a Creative Producer with a Marketing and Corporate Communications background (and no programming knowledge whatsoever) doing in the midst of some of the best brains and hearts in the tech world?

Even more surprising was meeting George and his two young proteges, Leslie and Valerie, on opening night, and being asked to mentor their group. Together with another two of the youngest #HACK participants, Charis and Jasmine, we formed a motley crew of eager, albeit slightly inexperienced, humanitarian hackers for the long weekend ahead.

The 6 challenges for teams to adopt were:

#FaithatHome – Helping parents disciple their children better
#UberMissions – Matching mission agencies to relevant potential missionaries
#RedLight – Reaching out to the burgeoning online sex trade
#ReachingGeeks – Finding new ways to evangelise to techies
#HumanTrafficking – Stopping human trafficking with digital strategies
#TacklingSuicide – Confronting the rising suicide rates

My team took on #TacklingSuicide, coming up with a platform inspired by John 10:10 and a Telegram Chatbot named Lyfe.

Other hacks included amazing solutions such as a Facebook bot that could chat with suicidal victims and connect them anonymously with real humans for intervention, and a filtering system that could sieve out data from popular sites for sex trafficking such as Craigslist and Gumtree.

We took home the award for People’s Choice, but it was the experience of sitting in a meeting room flanked by whiteboards covered in scribbly ideas and listening to my young teammates discuss codes in all kinds of computing language that will stay with me. God must have known I missed sitting at a creative brainstorm table such as this.

As Pastor Mark Hall, who represented the #TacklingSuicide challenge posed by the Salvation Army of Singapore, shared on the last day, “When God met Moses at the Burning Bush, He asked him ‘what is that in your hand?’ – then He used the staff in Moses’ hand to do great signs and wonders.

“Each of us carries a handphone everywhere we go. This is where God has given us power.

“If you have a smartphone in your hand, you are part of the mission to take the Gospel into the digital mission field. You don’t have to be a coder or programmer; we all can play a part.”


Indigitous started as a movement of people who love Jesus and are passionate about using their talents for God in the digital space. #HACK is an annual global missional hackathon that brings together the best creatives, technologists, strategists who are not only committed to God’s mission, but are also uniquely wired to ‘hack’ out creative solutions to missional challenges. These challenges seek to address social issues in the city they’re in, to contribute to the good of our world, and also to make Jesus known everywhere.

Indigitous Singapore will be having a gathering on December 2, 2017 to discuss progress on some of the projects presented at #HACK 2017. To participate, please RSVP at their Facebook event page.

/ joanne@thir.st

Joanne is a bundle of creative energy commonly heard before she is seen. She believes in the triune power of good conversation, brilliant writing and bold ideas. She also likes milo.

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The day I lost my dad

by Jolynn Chia | 18 October 2017, 1:06 AM

I have been a control freak most of my life.

My core belief was in the importance of control. If I lost control, I’d lose everything I’d ever worked for and wanted. I believed I deserved everything I had because I’d earned them with my very own hands. I didn’t have a personal relationship with God then, and it was a false sense of security.

That life fell apart the day my Dad had a heart attack and passed on.

Even during the funeral, I was still trying to control every aspect of it. I had to. Who could blame me? My Mum was so depressed she couldn’t do anything, my two younger siblings barely knew what was going on and my relatives were either overseas or busy with work.

In reality, I was reluctant to do anything because all I really wanted to do was to sit at home and cry.

I especially hated having to arrange the funeral because I found Dad’s sudden death unbelievably ridiculous. He was just cycling two days ago, and he had never complained of any heart issues. I was so angry at God. How could He punish me like that? Why?

I tried my best. I wrote the eulogy while settling endless administrative matters. I hosted guests whom I appreciated but could not welcome heartily because I had just lost my parent and felt utterly deprived of space to weep. I was exhausted sharing anecdotes of my Dad to people who might not have met him in person. I even tried to ensure that the eulogy was delivered calmly, yet mildly humorous so as not to bore my audience.

Control, control, control. I didn’t sleep a wink.

But even in that dreadful week, God showed His faithfulness to me. Every day, I received encouraging and comforting text messages. Friends and church mates whom I thought I never had a connection with came regardless and grieved with my family and me.

The second night, I dreamt of my Dad queuing at Heaven’s gates. And when choosing the Bible verse for my Dad’s plaque in the niche, my sister and I searched randomly on the Internet until we chose Daniel 12:3 for its beauty. A week later, I found out that chapter features the archangel Michael, which is my Dad’s name.

“And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)

If you’ve ever had to purchase a niche position, you’d know that the eye level ones are the hardest to get. All the eye level niches were crossed out from the availability chart by the time we received it.

Nevertheless, the day we went down to the columbarium we learnt that the number “0414” was the only eye level niche not taken up. April 14 was Good Friday, the same week my Dad passed away in. I think he would have liked it. It was a divine gift.

I knew all these things happened because God wanted to reassure us that even the suffering of life is part of His divine plan, and He is with us every step of the way. He would never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).

But this truth felt far away on the darker days.

I came to harbour a quiet bitterness towards people who did not understand my pain. I mean, how many people in their mid-twenties have had experienced their parent dying overnight of a heart attack with no warning signs at all?

How many people could truly comprehend, empathise with and relate to the deep regrets and self-hatred I had in my heart? How many friends could I cry with? How many people saw how it fractured my life?

Even my Mum and siblings had different ways of dealing with grief, oscillating between denial and distraction.

My grief was uncontrollable. It would come like a thief in the middle of the night, in the day, during bus rides.

I did not trust that anyone would understand my experience, and most people understandably did not have the courage to probe. My grief was uncontrollable. It would come like a thief in the middle of the night, in the day, during bus rides.

But just when I thought the darkness would never end, God mercifully brought two sisters-in-Christ who had similar experiences to journey with me. They graciously saved me from falling into the Devil’s crafty lie that no one cared – not even God himself.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Over the months that have passed, God has met me personally in my grief and hopelessness. He’s been there in my loneliness, purposelessness and anger. I can say this with all my conviction: It has been an arduous process, but He has not let me go. Though my whole world might fall apart – I know I will never fall out of His love.

As a former control freak, I’ve now accepted that I cannot control everything that happens to me. But I do know that all that has happened is of His divine will, and I’m letting that be enough.

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“I thought it was my inevitable reality as a woman”: Sexual harassment in the workplace

by Ashley Chan | 14 October 2017, 3:00 PM

I had been praying for the right work opportunity after ‘A’ levels to earn some pocket money and also start on a personal missional lifestyle: To share the Gospel with my colleagues as salt and light in my workplace.  

I was eventually introduced by a female friend to a Thai restaurant in order to take over her part-time position as a waitress. She was going to be starting a new job elsewhere soon and assured me that it would be a fun and dynamic environment with nice colleagues.  

I was the only woman and Chinese Singaporean at my workplace, but I was quite excited at the prospect of being able to share about God to my new Thai friends, having recently started learning Thai for future mission work.

There were a few newcomers besides me, so we had a welcome party after work in the first week. Out of nowhere, one of the older men started joking about how he visits prostitutes. Suddenly, I could feel eyes on me. Then another colleague blurted out, in Thai, “Too bad she’s young. I would pay a high price for girls like her at the brothel.”

He downed another shot. I hadn’t drunk much, but my face was on fire. I didn’t know how to respond. They didn’t think I’d understood, but even with my limited Thai, I had.

I wanted to believe it was just the alcohol speaking, but later incidents proved otherwise. 

There were situations where more than one of us servers were squashed against the cash register, trying to settle the bill. This happened whenever the restaurant was particularly crowded.

I was taking out some change for the customer when I felt one male server standing very close behind me. He pressed against me, arms swooping between mine and intercepting me to the cash register. “Sorry, customer is rushing me,” he mumbled in my ear as he swiftly retreated, but not without grazing my chest and slapping my butt.

I was afraid to speak out for fear of being too sensitive or confrontational. The other guys didn’t think it was a big deal at all. 

I was unsure if it was an accident, or if he was treating me like a “bro”. Did “bro’s” do that to each other? In the end, I decided to dismiss it as he didn’t seem to think much about the matter. Also, I was afraid to speak out for fear of being too sensitive or confrontational. The other guys didn’t think it was a big deal at all. 

This wasn’t the first time I’d faced some form of sexual harassment. It’d happened to me before on public transport and with people I knew and trusted. Somewhere inside me, I thought I ought to accept all these incidences as part of my inevitable reality as a woman.

When I tried to tell others about it, the common responses I got were: 

“Are you sure…? Maybe it was accidental.” 

“You? Sexual harassment? They must’ve been blind …” 

Why would guys want to touch you?” 

“Stop being dramatic .. you also not that pretty.”

“You look like a man leh.. are they gay?” 

I decided to stick it out for another few months. 

I was working the closing shift when my male colleagues were making sexually suggestive jokes, directed at a female patron just out of earshot. Unable to stand the coarseness any longer, I asked them to stop it.

They looked at me and burst out laughing, saying, “Just a joke what … You also have nothing for us to look at so we look at other people lah.” They proceeded to spend the next few hours making fun of me, accusing me of only liking Caucasian men because of my bigger build.

I couldn’t get openly angry because there were customers around, and neither could I leave if I wanted to be paid. I had prayed to God for a resolution, for some sort of way to end all of this. But it seemed like He hadn’t changed their minds and made them stop.  

In fact, it only got worse. For some reason, that night, the boss came by after closing and requested to speak to me. I thought that it might be a good time to broach the topic of my colleagues’ behaviour. But before I could start, he pointed to my baggy work-wear and asked, “Why don’t you wear tighter jeans? You’ll attract more male customers that way … You’re the only girl here.”

They all laughed. He beckoned me to sit beside him as they smoked and drank, and again I tried to share about the uncomfortable experiences with my male colleagues. Midway through, he swivelled towards me, a wry smile on his face.

“Have you ever had sex?” He asked. The table roared. “She’s Christian and definitely a virgin!” Someone else piped in. I stood up in shock, holding back tears in my eyes; I had to get away from these people. But my boss gripped my arm tightly, insisting he was just joking and would drive me home afterwards.

As I fled the scene, my head was spinning and all I could think was, men will be men.

Coupled with my past experiences of being sexually assaulted, I was disillusioned and angered. I felt entitled to my bitterness.  

There was a point where I even questioned, “Why am I even praying for them? They deserve to go to hell.” I know Christians are continually called to be counterculturally meek and loving, but is this what I have to put up with? Is this really what I’ve been called to do? To love these people in spite of this? 

In the news, we hear of horrifying reports of sexual harassment and abuse. The Harvey Weinstein scandal brings to mind every incident where I had been sexually harassed, assaulted and violated. And whenever I remember, every suppressed emotion that I felt in those moments rises like bile from inside, choking me with violent intensity.

But in my quiet time of prayer one day, I heard, “Even then, love.”  I was shaken and broken to tears. Yes, I saw myself in those memories, hurt and confused. But for the first time, I was looking at my pain through His perspective. I felt the Father’s love overflow in my heart.  

“Come to me.”

And then I knew: He had been there, in every moment, in every situation, weeping with me.

What does love look like when you’ve been violated? 

What does forgiveness look like when you’ve been wronged?  

What does redemption look like, in a disordered, perverse and sinful world?  

Christ-like meekness doesn’t mean aggressive confrontation, neither does it mean to suffer in silence. Whether you’re a man or woman, whether you’re facing this for the first time or to the point where you think you’re desensitised to it – it doesn’t make sexual harassment or abuse okay. If you’ve felt uncomfortable in a situation that you were unable to escape, it is not your fault and you are not alone.  

In the darkest moments of self-condemnation, bitterness and shame, I find comfort that Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish.

“I called out of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice.” (Jonah 2:2)

God can hear the words you can’t say. Your suffering will be redressed, even if you don’t get to see it for yourself. Injustice will not go unpunished. Vengeance is His, and He will repay (Romans 12:19).


Ashley has since left her waitressing job and found a safe and loving work environment. If you’ve ever been sexually abused, assaulted or harassed, seek help – be it reporting your case to the authorities or speaking to a trusted loved one. Your well-being is top priority.

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Join the mission: #HACK for Jesus

by Simon Seow | 13 October 2017, 6:19 PM

How can technology be employed to address the increase in suicides among the young? What could be some creative digital pathways and opportunities that might help stop people from taking their lives? How can the Church respond to this problem?

Many Christian techies and creatives are unaware of or under-appreciate the unique skills and talents God has given to them. They are unsure how to live out the passions for the Kingdom. But I’ve seen how their eyes light up when they hear stories and examples of how technology is creatively used and maximised for God’s mission.

It’s as if they suddenly realise things like: “My line of code can actually help save a girl’s life from sex trafficking!” Or “My creative design and writing could contribute to the Gospel’s reach across the globe!”

As they discover these opportunities, they inevitably gain new, God-given vision of how they can invest their digital and creative gifts for building His Kingdom.

DIGITAL DOES GOOD

Young professionals of the digital generation are often under-challenged in their own churches. For example, a CEO of a tech start-up company who has just launched a successful app might be asked to help with the worship slides, or design the church bulletin. It’s easy to miss the potential to help solve harder and larger missional challenges in this day and age.

We all desire to be a part of something larger than ourselves. Young people are driven by causes for the problems they see and experience around them. When given the opportunities and right connections to a  community with like-minded, like-gifted individuals, the gears are kicked into place for them to make significant impact for Jesus.

Indigitous started as a global movement of people who love Jesus and are passionate about using their strengths for God in the creative and digital space. Indigitous communities around the world bring together the best minds and hearts from the tech and creative spheres, inspiring them with projects and challenges that cause them to stretch and grow their gifts.

I heard an account of a lady who was 5 weeks pregnant and desperate because her partner kept pressurising her to abort the baby. Depressed, she searched online for help and found Boiling Waters, a Facebook page set up by a few brothers in Indigitous Manila – a mixture of creative writers, designers, website and social media experts.

Moved by the inspirational posts, she started chatting with one of the volunteers of the FaceBook page. It led quickly to a spiritual conversation. She was then invited to watch Falling Plates – a powerful 4-minute Gospel short film that has been watched by millions on YouTube. She received Christ that day and decided that she will not abort the baby.

A NEW KIND OF LIFEHACK

#HACK is an annual global missional hackathon that brings together the best creatives, technologists, strategists in various cities around the world for a weekend. Almost like a special force team, you will “hack” out digital-based prototypes and creative solutions to missional challenges in your context.

These challenges seek to address social issues in the city to contribute to the good of our world, but also to make Jesus known everywhere. In November 2016, Singapore hosted the first Indigitous #HACK event, the first-ever Christian hackathon in our country.

This year at #HACK, we encourage teams to work on potential solutions to some of the social issues in Singapore.

A few of these challenges include:

1. Countering social issues that are contrary to God’s values (e.g. sexual immorality and abuse)
2. Positively impacting the underprivileged (e.g. the poor, sick, disabled and elderly)

What dreams has God placed on your heart? What are some ways you desire to contribute to the digital strategies and engagement in our city? Does it excite you to use your talents for God in the digital and creative space?

Then this #HACK could be for you.


#HACK is happening next weekend, October 20-22, 2017. You don’t have to be a programmer to get involved. Creative thinkers of all types are welcome: Designers, photographers, writers, project managers, social media gurus – we want you! For those interested, please register here. Participation is free.

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You’re 50 shades of blue, what can I do?

by Shiyun Yong | 8 October 2017, 11:59 PM

In 2009, I visited a friend in hospital for the “blues”. I was 17 years old and stood at the door clutching a bunch of flowers, not quite comprehending what had just happened.

In 2015, I lost a friend to the blues. He was smart, young, talented – I stood at the door of the casket hall hugging myself, again, not really understanding what I had just lost and would soon continue to lose.

In 2016, a month before the first death anniversary of that friend, I lost another friend to similar circumstances. This time there was no door to stand by, or lean on for support.

This year, I’ve walked alongside a few close friends struggling with the blues. We’ve walked from doctors’ offices to counselling rooms and back again, but thankfully, by God’s grace and deliverance, today the darkness seems further away.

The “blues” is a term I personally use to describe all the various challenges people have with mental health and wellness. In the short time I’ve had my encounters with the “blues”, I learnt quickly that the terms “mental illness”, “depression”, “anxiety” or even “mental health” trigger many different reactions and emotions from people, often a reflection of existing stigma and prejudice towards the topic of mental health.

So here are a few things I’d like to share from what I’ve learnt on the journey.

4 THINGS I’VE LEARNT ABOUT THE BLUES

1. They cannot be “snapped out of” or “just moved on from”

All you need to do is just suck it up and move on. I’m quite sure these words are familiar to you. Perhaps you’ve heard a parent say it when you’ve tried to tell them about a friend who has depression. Maybe your supervisor at work made a similar comment when you tried to point out that a colleague seems to be particularly blue.

Till I had the chance to walk with someone with the blues, I too, once believed that it was something you could will yourself to move on from. Mind over matter right?

Not quite.

According to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), based on a study conducted in 2010, 1 in 17 people in Singapore will be diagnosed with clinical depression at some part of their lives. While no new study has been undertaken since then, IMH estimates that there’s been a steady increase in the percentage of people being diagnosed with clinical depression – an annual 7 percent increase.

In fact, the lack of statistics around this topic speaks volumes about the existing stigma and gaps of understanding about mental health.

2. Mental health is a Pantone palette, not a single colour

Perhaps the first thing to leave behind when you encounter someone with the blues is to acknowledge that there is nothing that you know about the blues. Especially if you’re blessed to have never experienced it yourself. This was an early lesson I learnt.

Leaving behind your perceptions and knowledge about the topic allows you to connect with someone with an open heart and mind. It allows you to learn, to be a friend, an ally – the person they need at this time of their lives. It puts you in the right posture to serve, to hear and to do for them as God asks of you.

In the face of the blues, patience, love and openness is what you’re called to.

They’re not here to hear you extol the glorious clear-headed days you have, nor hear you dole out well-meaning but often ill-fitting advice. It’s not your fault you don’t know better; it’s also not your fault that you’re feeling helpless and inadequate in light of this.

But it would be careless to think that one case of the blues is equivalent to the other, or that there is an immediate answer to the situation. Take the time to appreciate the situation and the person, to acknowledge what you do or do not know, and simply take the chance to learn and be present for the journey.

Surely we know for all His purposes, one day the answers to all your questions will be clear. But in the face of the blues, patience, love and openness is what you’re called to.

3. Jesus is the answer – but don’t just say it, show it

The theological aspect of mental health and wellness can seem like a bit of a dark abyss itself – fixations with definitions, principles and maybe often too many good intentions and not enough love in action.

While there is no doubt in my mind that God can heal and deliver in any and every situation, the little I’ve learnt is that sometimes a reassuring hug or sitting with someone in companionable silence can do as much good as a reminder to pray or a Bible verse.

Sometimes as Christians, we are keen to solve a problem, eager to see someone step into the light, to conquer evil and receive deliverance. We want to see lives transformed. Yet for all our pure intentions, we often don’t recognise our role in the situation, which is that of an instrument rather than the musician.

The dictionary definition of an instrument is a tool that is used to do careful work for a particular purpose. To be an instrument is to accept that you do not know the final outcome, perhaps you don’t even know the next note that will be played, but there is submission and acknowledgement that God is in control.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)

Knowing our role as an instrument is so important because it helps us to keep ourselves in check too. We avoid ‘preaching’ and do a little more listening and caring. We stop trying to control the situation or the person. It’s also important because we don’t take on more responsibility than we should. Sometimes, despite our best efforts and intentions, the outcomes may not be as you hope for.

4. If all else fails, just be kind – especially to yourself

When I did a quick straw poll among friends about their perspective on mental health and wellness, most of them said – just as the dated statistics did – that they didn’t know much about it and don’t feel people talk about it at all. They felt a bit helpless about the topic and tongue-tied around those who do have a case of the blues.

If there’s anything I’ve learnt, it’s that kindness is a core ingredient in the face of the deep blue unknown. It sounds like a horribly cliched and obvious, but it is in dire need of practice.

Being kind to yourself is probably the best investment you can make – it not only helps you to build empathy, but it also empowers you to share that kindness.

Being kind is not just an act onto others; it is also an act you need to practice with yourself as well. You’ll be surprised how unkind you are to yourself on a daily basis. This was something that struck me each time I sat with a friend who was walking through the blues – the kind of things they would say of themselves, there was so much unkindness.

I learnt that being kind to yourself is probably the best investment you can make – it not only helps you to build empathy, but it also empowers you to share that kindness with others.

Being kind is also an uncomplicated reaction to the blues. It’s not about grand gestures of service or some elaborate strategy to show support. If you’re feeling helpless, awkward, frustrated or just stressed out by someone with the blues, kindness is probably your best friend.

Through it all, this is what I’ve learnt about kindness:

Kindness is as small as an acknowledgement of the blues someone is facing and your confession of not knowing quite what to do to help.

Kindness is sitting in silence and listening.

Kindness is having the courage to ask if someone is feeling okay and what can you do to help.

Kindness is about conversations with no set positive outcome, a process to allow someone to talk and allow someone to receive and to learn.

Kindness is self-control and consciousness of language, of what we say and to whom we say it.

Kindness is about casting an eye out for one another, whether via a text or a cup of coffee.

Kindness is small, consistent demonstrations of love, an attempt to shine a light into the darkness – no matter how small it may be or how much it flickers.

It’s your best ally against the blues, both for you and for them.

“The light shines in the darkness, the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)


The month of October is Mental Health Awareness Month. Shiyun is involved in Campus PSY, an initiative started by a group of youth volunteers from IMH to raise awareness on mental health issues and to rally like-minded young adults in tertiary institutions towards the development of a more supportive and inclusive society. For those interested to help advocate for mental health awareness, please visit their Facebook page

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A prayer for the downcast soul

by Crystal Ong | 5 October 2017, 12:26 PM

I’d finally climbed out of a deep pit in my life, where I had decided to hide for the longest time. I looked up and I saw Him at the edge of the pit; He was helping me back up.

So I climbed out, emerging into the open air, and I never felt so vulnerable. I was scared, but I also knew God didn’t bring me this far to leave me here. I knew He wouldn’t leave me where I was now (Philippians 1:6).

Still, some days I can’t help but feel my fleshly side is winning out. It’s so strong, it seems nothing can change it. But that’s the way the Enemy wants us to feel.

God tells me to fear not, and put my trust in Him. He will help us through it all. It is to Him that we pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13)

I’ve not felt whole for the longest time. I spent a long time in pain. I was drowning in my fears and insecurities.

But during one Sunday service, I decided to join a cell group in my church. It wasn’t a comfortable move for me at all but a little voice inside my heart told me I had to do it.

At the end of the group meeting, we had to be paired up and pray for each other before we go off. I was paired up with a girl called Michelle. When she was praying for me, she said, “God loves you”.

In that moment, I felt His warmth and presence surround me.

I was dead, and God resurrected me. What can’t he do? He heals, He carried me up again and restored my soul (Mark 5:41).

I thought that as a young adult now, I should be able to solve everything, But I wasn’t as strong as I thought, I was fraying with each passing day.

But every time, He picked me up, reminding me that although I can’t, He can and He will, because He loves me (Isaiah 43:4).

When I feel that everything is taking a turn for the worse again, I calm myself down, look up and speak this over my troubled soul: God is always with me.

He is by our side, ready to help in the big and small things of this life. Do not be afraid (Psalms 121:7).

So today, I say the same prayer for you: God loves you. God loves you very much.

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At 16, I checked myself into the Institute of Mental Health

by Tiffany Ethel Tan | 4 October 2017, 6:31 PM

“Maybe I could pretend to fall onto the road …”

“Maybe if I jumped down …”

“Maybe if I got some pills …”

I was ready to die. The thoughts that haunted me everywhere I went weren’t decisions of life or death – but rather where, when and how to stop living. My suicide notes sat together with my study notes. There was a rock concert coming up in a few weeks; I’d attend it before I said goodbye forever.

At barely 16 years old, depression had consumed my life – I felt like I was slowly drowning, and although I could see everyone above the water, no one could see me.

The water levels had started rising more than a decade before. My dad was a taxi driver and my mum started her own business. I was therefore left to the care of a domestic helper for most of my childhood.

As time went by, my dad started coming home later and later, reeking of alcohol and making a ruckus in the wee hours of the morning. He’d complain about how my mother wasn’t contributing enough to the family, how he was working so hard while my maternal grandmother added to our financial burdens.

They slowly grew more apart and started to sleep in separate rooms.

One day, my father came home in a rage and a violent quarrel ensued. As his beer mug shattered on the ground in his fit of anger, so did their marriage. Their divorce was finalised two years later and he moved to Bangkok, leaving me and my brother with my mum.

The first time I tried to kill myself, I was only 8. I had a very bad relationship with my younger brother, who had ADHD and anger management issues. This resulted in constant fights, where he would claw at me, pull my hair and dig his nails deep into my skin till he drew blood.

I remember grabbing a chopper in self-defence during one of his outbursts, desperate enough to throw myself out of the kitchen window to escape the torment. If my aunt hadn’t come in to stop me, I would have jumped. This is when she started taking us to church.

In Primary school, I was a timid child. My grades were good and I excelled in sports and art, but my classmates would tease me about my weight, and a suffocating fear of rejection followed me. I was increasingly conscious of how I looked in the eyes of others and it made me withdrawn and detached.

The social anxiety was so crushing that despite an excellent PSLE grade for my mock exams, I dropped almost 20 points in the actual national exam. It was another blow to my identity, and I couldn’t go to the “better” schools that I had initially considered.

I struggled to fit into the Secondary school I was posted to. The culture was very different and most of my classmates spoke in Mandarin or dialect, which made it even more difficult to connect with them.

For a while, things looked up when I made a new friend, who became my boyfriend. He was depressed and suicidal, but I was so desperate for us to “click” that I gradually found myself mirroring his attitudes and behaviours.

My parents’ divorce, my academic disappointments, my loneliness – I amplified these things in my head and convinced myself we were partners in pain. I picked up his habit of self-harm. I cried about the injustice in my life, although I previously never had.

Eventually, he broke up with me over a silly bet with a mutual friend, leaving me with my self-esteem shattered and arms covered in self-made scars – he won $50, skin and ego intact. He always knew when to stop cutting before it was too late.

I, on the other hand, didn’t.

“Honestly, I would have less financial burden if you didn’t go to university.”

My father only contacted me from Bangkok during the release of my school results. This time, he was livid to hear that I wanted to go to a Polytechnic instead of a Junior College. He had called to tell me that at the rate I was going, I wasn’t going to have a future and would become useless to the nation.

Following the breakup and my continued isolation from my peers, I was barely surviving in school. My grades were at an all-time low and I couldn’t keep up with the speed at which the curriculum was taught. Despite having tuition lessons every day after school, my mid-year results showed that I didn’t even qualify for a Polytechnic, much less a Junior College.

My life was a wreck. I had nothing left. No happy family. No friends. No relationship. No achievements. Only this tsunami of disappointment and failure crashing over my head day after day, test after test. Thoughts of ending it all started overtaking my mind, so much that I couldn’t sleep at all.

I told Him, “God, I’m going to give my life one last chance.”

Every night, waves and waves of tears would flood in as I tried to sleep, worn out from dealing with the depression and anxiety. At most, I would be able to sleep for an hour or two. The pain I was in was close to unbearable. That is when I started writing my suicide notes and planning to take my own life.

But somehow, God reached out and caught me in the midst of what I thought would be my last days on earth. We’d had an on-again, off-again relationship over the years. The weekend before I was to attend this rock concert – the only thing I had to look forward to before I died – something clicked inside me.

I don’t fully know why I changed my mind, but I told Him, “God, I’m going to give my life one last chance.”

That day, I walked into the emergency room at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and was later diagnosed with severe depression, dysthymia, adjustment disorder and social anxiety disorder.

The junior ward at IMH is like a jail for children. Because I was suicidal, I had to be admitted under suicide prevention and was put under 24/7 surveillance.

We couldn’t bring anything with us into the ward. Before admission, there was a body check to ensure there were no prior injuries, blades, strings or anything hidden on us. All our belongings, including our phones, were confiscated.

If we wanted to go to the toilet, we had to ask the nurse to unlock it for us. There was a limited amount of time to shower, and just enough soap to wash ourselves. At mealtime, we were only allowed to eat with spoons, even if they served noodles. No forks, knives or chopsticks. The windows had three layers of grills.

Lights out at 9PM. Lights on at 7AM. During the night, nurses would come and take our blood pressure.

There were people as young as 11 years old there. I discovered that most of us – many who were girls my age – were facing the same struggles: Suicidal tendencies, low self-esteem and depression. I wasn’t as alone as I thought, but the evidence was more sobering than consoling.

The irony was, a part of me still wanted to die, but this lifeless prison wasn’t the place to do it. By the following week, I managed to convince the medical team that I was better and got discharged – just in time for that concert.

This is how I know God was out to save my life: Death didn’t come easy.

Whenever thoughts of death threatened to take over, things just never worked out. The roads would be particularly quiet, the pharmacy wasn’t selling what I was looking for.

Just before I could finally take my leave, now that I’d gone to that concert as planned, someone in church encouraged me to go for 21project, a youth leadership training conference happening over the following week. Again, I don’t know why I signed up on impulse. What’s one more week, right?

I heard it loud and clear. “You’re done with depression.”

But on the second day, as a powerful word on courage was preached, I felt the urge to go up for the altar call. Standing in a sea of over two hundred young people, we were led to let go of all our past hurts, guilt and shame, and to step into the destiny God has in store for us.

As the speaker, pastors and church leaders prayed over us, I felt a transparent box around me shattering to pieces. It was like being broken out of a tank full of fear, anxiety, doubt and every negative emotion that had been drowning me for so long.

A still small voice stirred in my heart, and I heard it loud and clear. “You’re done with depression.”

For the first time in years, I could breathe again.

Today, I walk with a newfound lightness in my soul and courage in every step. Things look a lot different outside of depression’s box. Even my friends who don’t know what happened that day have been pointing out the changes they see. I like to call them joy and peace.

But a sadness remains in my heart when I think of the girls I met during my stay at IMH. And I know God is calling me back to them. Like in Isaiah 6:8, He is asking, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

I don’t know what lies ahead, walking away from the aftermath of 8 years of suffering. But here I am Lord, with what little I have to offer – here I am, send me.


If you’d like to speak to Tiffany on her initiatives for those who struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts, you can reach out to her at tiffanytwj@yahoo.com.sg. If you know anyone in distress or contemplating suicide, call the SOS hotline at 1800 221 4444, or email pat@sos.org.sg

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

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Seen, heard and accepted

by Jonathan Cho | 2 October 2017, 12:04 PM

I sing to be heard. I draw so that my pieces will be seen. I create in the hope of being appreciated. As creators or creatives, it seems perfectly natural to feel this way.

After all, isn’t that the point of the whole creative process? Why produce or perform something if there is no audience or recipient? How can I make an impact on the world around me if I’m not concerned about who sees me, hears me, and accepts me and what I have to say?

As a musician and writer, I often find that I place myself in situations of incredible vulnerability, usually after I share my pieces or after I perform. Did anyone see me play that riff? Does anyone realise that I intentionally chose to use this word in the lyrics instead of this other, more obvious word?

Is anybody going to tell me that I did a good job? Why hasn’t anyone commented on my post/video/article?

The desire to be seen, heard and be accepted is real. The possibility of being rejected on all these fronts is real too. I often feel like the authenticity of my creative work is somehow diminished because of the need for attention to be brought to it.

Like a pendulum, I’ve swung back and forth on this many times. Some days, I find that the easier path is to stay clear from sharing any of my creative work or putting it out there.

It’s just too tiring to fight this battle time and again – where I want to be content with what I’ve produced, and yet, I can’t enjoy it unless I know someone has seen it, heard it, and accepted it (thus, accepting me too).

Is anybody going to tell me that I did a good job? Why hasn’t anyone commented on my post/video/article?

About a week ago, I had the privilege of hearing Pastor Dan McCollam speak at an event about pursuing excellence in our creative pursuits, instead of perfectionism. He cast a spotlight on a word that has probably reverberated in the hearts and minds of all creators for ages: Significance.

Significance. This great tussle of wanting to be heard, seen, and accepted for the work we produce.

Pastor Dan drew from the lesson of Leah, who struggled immensely with the issue of significance in her life. Her marriage with Jacob started on the belief that she was never really wanted or valued in the first place. Her father had to trick Jacob – who was really only interested in her sister, Rachel – in order to marry Leah off.

Talk about comparison, competition and sibling rivalry!

Like many of us who have been scarred by comparison in our lives, Leah carried that wound around with her, and spent much of her life seeking an answer to the question of her value, her significance.

As a result, we see in Genesis 29:31-35 that when Leah bore children for Jacob, she was producing them in the hope that she would finally be seen, heard and accepted by her husband.

“Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”

Though I’ve never borne a child, I feel as if I could totally understand and identify with Leah’s emotional pain in childbirth. One child after the other, Leah created, wondering which child it would be that could bring a definitive answer to her question: “Am I valuable and significant in someone’s eyes?”

It brings to mind the many times where I’ve thought that one piece of writing, or one performance, would help me know that “I’ve arrived”. That I would finally earn my validation or affirmation through that piece of work.

After three children, Leah seemed to finally find an answer to her question, and although the passage doesn’t really explain why, it does tell us how she found her rest on these questions of value and significance (Genesis 29:35): “And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, ‘This time I will praise the Lord.'”

This time, I will praise the Lord.

We need to unlearn our old patterns of creating, where we produce from a place of insecurity and inner turmoil, trying to impress in order to find value and significance.

After what must have been years of experiencing the pain of rejection time after time, it seemed as if Leah finally understood that her question of significance and value could never be answered by her husband or her father – even though the wounds were caused by them. The definitive answer to her question could only be found in one Person – the God who created her.

It is poetic and beautiful that the name Leah uses when she praises “the Lord”, is the name Jehovah (יְהֹוָה), which is the same word used to describe the God who created the heavens and the earth in Genesis, as well the God who created Man.

Leah’s (and our) question of significance can only be definitively answered by one Person, and her life-giving creative work was meant to lead to one thing only: Worship of the One who created her. Anything less would have left her with an insatiable abyss of yearning and set her on a lifelong journey of seeking other ways to answer that question.

The inexpressible need and compulsion to impress people with our creative work returns to the issue of our value and significance. I understand it, I struggle with it, and I’ve lived it. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

As creatives who seek to create and produce masterpieces for the glory of God, we need to unlearn our old patterns of creating, where we produce from a place of insecurity and inner turmoil, trying to impress in order to find value and significance.

If we do so, we’ll find ourselves caught in a cycle of creating to be seen, heard and accepted by others. Not for an audience of One.

Instead, we need to learn new patterns of creating. We learn to do so from a place of worship and security in our identity, where we can simply delight in the joy of creating by allowing it to culminate in giving praise and thanks to the Uncreated One. He kickstarted the whole creative process by making us and delighting in His creative work.

We also need to know that we are already seen, heard, and accepted by a God who has done everything necessary to prove His love for us. Nothing more we do could impress Him further.


For all who would like to explore reconciling your craft with our Creator, the X Creative Conference is happening on 27/28 October 2017. Find out more here.

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When you work freelance, you either grow in fear or faith

by Melody Elizabeth Goh | 2 October 2017, 10:31 AM

Maybe the thought of working freelance appeals to some of you. No constraints, no fixed hours. Not me though – given a choice, I’d rather be tied down to full-time commitment. But my life hasn’t panned out that way.

I’ve been searching for a full-time job since I graduated from Bible school last April. I had been praying, sending out my resume and going for interviews. None worked out; I didn’t last more than 2 weeks in any position as I had to either quit because the job scopes were too overwhelming or because I had things that needed to be settled.

I was desperate, because I was 28. At this age, I thought I ought to already have a full-time job and a stable income, but here I was still depending on my parents for financial support. I felt like my world was crumbling on me, and I dove deeper into depression as self-condemnation sucked me into a bottomless pit of self-pity.

It was a tough season for me. I began to doubt the goodness of God.

In my desperation, I asked a friend who was always posting freelance jobs on Facebook if she had an opening. She got me a freelance position as an assistant media trainer in photography. This increased my exposure to photography and I learnt so much just from assisting the lead trainer.

I loved the job because I knew I wanted to work in the media industry. But the downside was that I was earning peanuts. My company was not doing very well and their projects were drying up as their last sales staff had left the company.

I was worried. For freelancers like me, who live from hand to mouth, regular projects are very important. Sure enough, my project ended and I had no more assignments.

It was another period of unemployment for me. I had no pending interviews and no openings at that time.

I went back to wrestling with God. Did He really want me to live with the vagaries and uncertainty of the freelance life?

One night I had a dream. In my dream, God spoke to me and told me to hang in there for another 2 weeks. I did not know what that meant but I trusted God.

Sure enough, 2 weeks later I was scheduled to have 4 interviews in a week, 3 of which were freelance jobs and 1 of which was a full-time job.

When I had reached the venue for the interview for the full-time position, the interviewer told me she’d forgotten about our interview and she had stepped out of the office. Very literally, a closed door.

I went back to wrestling with God. Did He really want me to live with the vagaries and uncertainty of the freelance life? But God gently reminded me that we are in this world not to be stable and comfortable, but to have faith and to learn to depend on Him.

This was driven home by a prayer someone prayed over me soon after. Part of the prayer went: “Thank you, God, for opening so many doors of opportunities for Melody, and thank you for the flexibility in timing that allows her to meet people and to reach out to the lost souls and play a role in revival.”

That prayer opened my eyes. That was the answer I was searching for. Working freelance gave me the flexibility I was looking for. God knew what was suitable for me even better than I thought I did.

I’ve seen and experienced how God assured me and how He’s made a way for me. I need to trust that He will keep doing so.

I’m still on the journey of trusting God to provide projects for me. I know it will be a constant journey of having the faith that God will provide every school term. For example, my work schedule is slowing down as it’s the examinations period, and it will be the school holidays soon, which could mean I may be out of work till the new academic year begins.

But even so, I have at least one class almost every weekday to help keep food on my table.

I’ve seen and experienced how God assured me and how He’s made a way for me. I need to trust that He will keep doing so.

Has it been easy? No. It’s been a season of trials and testing. But importantly, it’s been a season that has forced me to fix my eyes on God. He never fails and I know He has a perfect plan for me – even if my human mind cannot see how that might pan out.

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A letter to you, the one desperately trying to hide your depression

by Naomi Yeo | 28 September 2017, 1:17 PM

Dear You,

I see you. You hold down a stable job. You’re well-dressed. You were at work today, in new shoes and your favourite dress. You were wearing cute animal ear studs! You were almost late today – but made it with five minutes to spare. You put your things down at your table, and your colleague wished you a good morning. You smiled politely.

How could you be depressed?

But here’s what they don’t know.

You woke up half an hour before your alarm today, with your palms cold. That was because your legs were tingling, again, for reasons you didn’t understand. The first time it happened, you wondered if you would end up paralysed in the end. You’ve grown used to it when it happens now, but that doesn’t make things easier.

You tossed around in bed, wondering aloud, should I go to work today? You weren’t sure if you felt well enough, but you already took sick leave last week because you were too dazed to function. You slept seven hours last night – sufficient to feel well-rested, except you’re not.

Your eyes hurt; you don’t know why.

Every day at work you’re torn between struggling to cope, and wanting desperately to prove you’re just as capable; you shouldn’t be treated like a defective, bruised strawberry.

You were almost late because you took such a long time to get ready. As you stepped into the shower, your stomach was in knots. You had to wait for the stitch to go away – again. The hot shower eased your nerves, only briefly.

You dragged your feet to the bus stop. With each step, you contemplated turning back home. No, that is not an option – nobody takes MC on such late notice, you chide yourself.

Depression is not a kind master.

At lunch, you sat with your work BFF and burst into peals of laughter as you good-naturedly teased each other’s quirks. For a while, the clouds of depression faded; you were thankful for the respite, but it made you wonder if you made the brief episode of levity up. The voices of scorn from those around you thunder in your head –

It’s all in your head!

Aiyah of course, you keep thinking about sad things. Stop overthinking lah.

You were able to work, even if it was a struggle. You talked and laughed, you even ate lunch – depressed people don’t have the energy for these, do they?

Once you got back to your desk, you wonder how you made it to work at all. You looked at your desk – this was due yesterday. I’m only half done. That report is due tomorrow. I haven’t started! I got it two weeks ago. How am I going to make it? I don’t know.

You stared at your computer screen, pining for home. Guilt overwhelmed you as you felt so unproductive.

Be thankful for the good days, and compassionate on yourself on the bad ones.

You sat at your desk, trying to complete your overdue reports, but you were really checking how long more to go before you can crawl back home to the comfort of your bed – away from these people and their hurtful words. Their side-eye glances. Their looks of condescension that cast pitying glances in your direction.

Every day at work you’re torn between struggling to cope, and wanting desperately to prove you’re just as capable; you shouldn’t be treated like a defective, bruised strawberry. But your brain feels fogged over; you barely register what people are saying to you.

I see you, and I believe you – because I was once like you. Your experience was once mine, too. I can’t explain why people get depressed; I can only validate that they do.

If you’re a Christian, this is not the result of being a “bad Christian”; nor is it “just a lack of faith”. It’s a mental health condition – just as the Fall brought forth physical illness, likewise mental illness is the result of that, too (Deuteronomy 29:16-28, Romans 1:18).

Nonetheless, through your circumstances, God works them for good – to allow you to grow in Christlikeness (Romans 8:28) – and He continues to love you in the midst of them (Romans 8:38-39).

Hang in there – it takes a while before the darkness lifts. You may have questions on whether medication is necessary at all; different pastors seem to have different opinions. Or you may be annoyed that the meds hurt before they help – assuming they ever will.

In the midst of this, know that while you didn’t choose to have this area of struggle, you can choose how you react to it.

Be thankful for the good days, and compassionate on yourself on the bad ones. There will be naysayers, who doubt the authenticity of your depression – which is why it’s important to have people to walk this road with you. They may be few, but they are crucial – and treasured.

I write as someone who is still a work-in-progress, but has not had a grey day in a long time, only by grace. For Jesus has come:

 

To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
The oil of joy instead of mourning,
And a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:3)

Love and blessings,
Me

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I had an abortion, and the guilt and shame almost killed me

by June Bai | 27 September 2017, 6:05 PM

I stared at the rows of bottles in the room Marina had ushered me into. I’d been awestruck by the sights in New Zealand over the past few weeks, but nothing could prepare me for this.

In the jars were hundreds, if not thousands, of buttons. In any other setting they would have been an impressive collector’s item, but I knew I stood before something a lot more sacred. Every button represented a baby lost to abortion, sent in by those who mourned to Marina Young, founder of the Buttons Project.

“Through my own abortion experience I came to realise many women feel the same – that it can be difficult to gain any sense of closure. There is no grave to visit, no tangible way of remembering,” Marina shared with me.

“That’s why I started the Buttons Project. To create a memorial for the babies we’ve never met.”

The familiar sadness I’d carried for years inside me stirred. Most of it had healed over and been replaced by a renewed sense of hope – but I would never forget the dark place I’d left behind. Just like Marina, I too had an abortion in my early 20s. I too had searched for peace, the unknown face of my unborn child etched in my heart like a scar.

It was the greatest irony; I had always wanted my own children as a young girl. But when the second pink line appeared on the pregnancy stick, indicating I was most likely with child, the only thing I could think of was to erase it immediately – like I’d written something wrong.

Although we’d been dating for some time, my boyfriend was not ready to get married and start a family. We hadn’t considered the possibility of pregnancy. I could see my father’s crestfallen face. I could imagine how my mother would have chastised me. I told you not to anyhow stay over at people’s house. They wouldn’t know about my ordeal until years later.

My boyfriend and I agreed that the only option was an abortion. To us, this wasn’t our baby. This was our problem. And problems needed to be solved. Back in school, I’d written impassioned pieces on how I was against abortion, but now abortion wasn’t the only problem. I had a problem. This was the solution.

Everything the pre-abortion counsellor told me flew over my head. Yes, I know the risks. No, I don’t want to reconsider this. Get this out of me so I can move on with my life.

And when it was all over, I walked out of the clinic clutching my bundle of relief. My old life was waiting for me. My relationship was waiting for me. No one would ever have to know.

Problem solved.

But that night, I struggled to sleep; it was more than the physical pain I was in. Somewhere, growing in me, was a new pain where my child had been.

The child I had killed.

Very much like its cousin shame, guilt is like a tumour. It appears insidiously in a place you cannot quite put a finger on but announces its presence like thunder – throbbing in your head or in your gut. I couldn’t tell if I was guilty of getting pregnant or terminating the pregnancy or not hesitating to terminate the pregnancy – but within the next few days of the abortion, I was a wreck.

What was happening to me? I’d never even met this child or thought of it as a life, as my own. I was supposed to be the same June as I’d always been, unpregnant, not-yet-a-mother. This episode was supposed to be a blip on the screen for my boyfriend and I. A small error reversed as quickly as possible. Control-Z. Undo.

So why did I feel like a part of me had died?

My boyfriend was very supportive at first; he was the only one who knew about this. He’d promised that we’d go back to normal once we’d crossed this hurdle, and I believed for a while that we were stronger together after the abortion.

But as the mounting guilt of killing my own baby sapped the colour from my life, the strain on our relationship soon reached its tipping point.

Six months after the abortion, we called it quits and broke up.

The time following the end of our relationship was what I can describe as my own private hell. Depression sunk its ugly teeth into me and along with that came nights of bitter tears. I had never felt so alone, having isolated myself from most of my social groups.

If the topic of abortion ever came up, the enormous tumour of guilt burned inside me. It was easier to avoid conversation altogether. I felt like the worst of sinners, crying out for comfort yet believing I was undeserving of any. I was grieving the loss of my child, but I was the one who killed him in cold blood.

For more than a year and a half, I cried myself to sleep every night.

It dawned on me gradually that the wound was too deep to heal with time, and I was going to need something stronger – or never stop hurting.

I saw all the other women who were spending the weekend together with me, and it hit me: Each of us had lost a child to abortion and was suffering for it.

I needed God.

It’d been a long time since I’d attended Church regularly. I had stopped all Church activity after the abortion, unable to bear the tension of my secret shame.

But now I was desperate. The dark tunnel I’d been walking in was only getting darker. So I asked a friend if I could follow her to Church. I was like the woman in Luke 8:43-48, grabbing onto the border of Jesus’ cloak, believing with all her heart that it was the only chance she had to be healed.

It didn’t happen all at once, but I look back now to see that this was precisely where healing began.

“If you want to walk into your destiny, you need to come to a point where you have nothing to hide, nothing to lose and nothing to prove,” the preacher said.

It had been several months since I’d started coming back to Church. I was in a much better place – surrounded by good people, reminded of God’s love for me, ready to believe there were brighter days ahead. And when I heard what the preacher said that morning, I realised I wanted so badly to walk into my God-given destiny, whatever that looked like.

Sure, I had nothing to lose and nothing to prove at this point. But I still had something to hide. Up till now, I had never spoken about the abortion to any of my Church friends. Honestly, I was hoping I’d never have to.

But now I knew I had to.

Taking our secret sins out of hiding is very much like coming before God with our confessions. I’m glad you told me, I imagine He’d say, though He’d have known it all along. Now let’s get you out of there.

And that’s just what happened when I finally told my cell group about the abortion. Instead of judgment or disgust, love came pouring forth. It was like a veil had lifted in my relationships. With my friends’ support, I found the courage to go for Rachel’s Vineyard, a weekend retreat for anyone affected by abortion.

The experience of group therapy was terrifying to step into. I remember wanting to run away the moment I entered the retreat centre. But then I saw all the other women who were spending the weekend together with me, and it hit me: Each of us had lost a child to abortion and was suffering for it.

During one of the group sessions, we were sitting in a circle for an activity. Suddenly the room faded, as though in a dream, and the talking around me dissolved into a faint murmur. Right in front of me stood a man I somehow recognised to be Jesus, and in his arms was a wiggling, happy boy whose face I could not see clearly.

I sat frozen in my seat, but Jesus walked towards me and placed the child on my lap. Immediately I knew he was the baby I had lost, and a peace I’d never felt before enveloped my heart.

All this while I had been struggling to believe my child was in Heaven; after what I’d done to him, how could he be in a happy place? He should have been bitter and angry at me for denying him life – his own mother! Where is my baby now? I’d cried for so long.

But as I held my son for the first time, I had my answer. With Jesus standing beside me, eyes full of love, I felt all the guilt and longing fall like chains.

I was finally free.

When I found my way to Marina Young’s house in Auckland, New Zealand, I knew God was up to something. I’d quit my job and come to the country as part of my healing journey, unsure of what lay in store. I had never heard of the Buttons Project previously, but when a pastor I met at a local church heard my story, he immediately referred me to Marina and her husband, Peter.

As a young unmarried couple, Marina and Peter got pregnant before they were ready to settle down. They took the advice of well-meaning friends and family and decided to abort the baby. Although they eventually married and had three children, they never stopped mourning the loss of their first child.

This compelled Marina to start the Buttons Project, to help others who grieve in silence find a place of solace and community. She started the website, which invited anyone affected by abortion to send in a button, either physically or digitally, to create a memorial for babies we’ve not met. To this day, the Youngs have received over 20,000 buttons.

With their blessings, I decided to bring the Buttons Project to Singapore earlier this year, in hopes of helping women and men affected by abortion in our nation take a step towards healing.

If you are on a similar journey, please know that you are not alone. What happened matters. It will always matter.


If abortion is part of your story, visit the Buttons Project Singapore website to send in a button of remembrance, or join their support group.

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Are you waiting for your big break?

by Tris Xavier | 19 September 2017, 12:38 PM

Sometimes, I feel like I’m still waiting for my big break.

All my life, I’ve been wondering when my big break would come. For instance, when I did comedy, I waited for some life-changing opportunity which never came. Andy Samberg had it. Trevor Noah had it. But where was mine?

The same feeling holds true for every area of my life, whether it’s in my career, ministry or even my personal life.

know I have a journey to undertake before I get to where God wants me to be. But I sometimes feel I’ll never get there. And I don’t believe I’m alone in feeling like I’m grossly inadequate.

I recognise that I am very blessed in my career and my ministry life. Others might not be as fortunate. The big break they’re looking for might be a matter of life and death – between food on the table and starvation.

Perhaps you’re standing on the precipice and wondering: “How in the world can I see a breakthrough when life has dealt me such a rotten hand?”

Where’s the greatness? And what hope is there to bridge the gap?

Wanting to be more than who you are isn’t a sin.

The Devil will try and make you believe that wanting to live a life larger than yourself – to be someone and aim for the best – is a mortal sin: Vanity.

But no, it’s only a sin if the root is pride and selfish ambition. If your deep motivation is to reach up to the greater plan He has for you, then that isn’t sin – it’s obedience.

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

In Greek, the term “hope” is elpis – a confident expectation of what is certain. The term “glory” is doxes – the splendour and honour of the LORD.

God has called you to something greater than a mediocre existence, the typical life.

If you have been washed with the blood of Jesus, He now resides in you, and the Holy Spirit which lives in you carries the confident expectation that you have a greater calling in your life.

So, if the motivations are pure, the struggle with this sense of greatness – this sense in you of a manifest destiny – means that Christ lives in you, and the Spirit stirs, seeking to awaken you to the call.

You know it deep down: That God has called you to something greater than a mediocre existence, the typical life. Your spirit knows that it has a higher calling – because it belongs to the Lord.

I’ve found that often, our pride needs to break – before we see a breakthrough.

Breaking our pride means surrendering the idea of what the greater/higher calling looks like. That’s His to decide, not ours.

Of course, in the heat of life, we’re still tempted to question God: Where’s the breakthrough? We still compare: Why is it that other people seem to be doing well and yet we’re suffering – wading in mediocrity?

Whenever we are tempted to compare and complain, remember Proverbs 3:12: “For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.”

To be clear, the Lord does not punish us with disease or death (Hebrews 12:9). He trains us because He loves us. Sometimes, this could take the form of trials and tests. The Lord uses situations in our life for our good – reminders that we need Him absolutely and totally.

But in the midst of the trial, I want to encourage you: Your breakthrough is coming, as sure as the morning will.

Let God address the root thorn of self-reliance in your life, and bring you into a walk of deeper reliance on Him and His provision.

Throughout the Bible there are numerous figures who had their pride broken within before they could break through to their God-given position.

In Genesis 40:14-15, Joseph asks the cupbearer to rescue him from prison. He’s still relying on human strength to rescue him. He had to learn humility, so he remained for another 2 years.

But by the next chapter, Joseph is humbler and wiser. Now he tells Pharaoh that he cannot interpret dreams – only God can (Genesis 41:16). With this dependency on God, Joseph is no longer the proud boy we saw in Genesis 37.

He’s a man who’s had his pride broken for greatness in God.

Similarly, Jacob was a man hunting for blessing. He tried trickery to get it, but it was only when he met the Angel of the Lord, and tried to wrestle out the blessing, that he obtained his full inheritance.

Importantly, he received his blessing only when his hip was dislocated. It was not until he was brought low, unable to stand, that he received his breakthrough and great inheritance.

They needed to have their pride and self-reliance broken before God could bring them to their place of higher calling.

Likewise, Peter always had an issue of pride. Here was a man who was strong in his flesh – never clearer than his declaration in Matthew 26:33 that “even if all these fall away on account of you, I never will“.

He was humbled that same night, when he thrice denied knowing Jesus.

But the resurrected Jesus went to Peter on the shore of the sea of Galilee, who, beaten down by his own guilt, had given up on discipleship to return to fishing. There He gave Peter the precious commission to feed His sheep.

In all of these examples, these men of God each had a glorious destiny awaiting them. But they needed to have their pride and self-reliance broken before God could bring them to their place of higher calling.

God loves you too much to let you rise to a position before you’re ready for it. He doesn’t want you to be crushed by the position, or made proud. Before the mountain, first the valley.

When you understand that walk, you understand the preciousness of that journey. Only then will you be ready to receive all He has for you.

And that’s why it’s so important to keep our eyes on Jesus, especially in the valley of training and disappointment.

If you think Jesus doesn’t love you, or that what you’re going through is an accident, it becomes easy to be discouraged and give up.

We must know that God doesn’t break our pride because He hates you. He in fact loves you, and He wants you to have your breakthrough.

From Colossians 1:27, we know that it is Christ in us, who Himself is the Hope of Glory. We don’t find greatness in our efforts, but in Him alone. Jesus is leading you to the abundant life, along paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.

Someday you’ll get there: The end of your journey, where you will lie down in green pastures, beside quiet waters, with a refreshed soul.


This post was originally seen on Tris Xavier’s blog. Tris is a full-time Christian who happens to be a civil servant.

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No agenda love: Carrying the heart of God

by Charis Tan | 12 September 2017, 6:53 PM

I must constantly make this clear to myself: The purpose of helping, serving, caring for or befriending anyone is to represent God’s heart to them.

It is to express to them how He feels toward them every single day that they go about their lives. It is for them to come into contact with His very nature. No strings attached, love with no agenda.

The idea of love without an agenda is really that love itself is the agenda. That love is the ultimate goal – not a stepping-stone to one. Love is sufficient as a source from which all other things in God’s Kingdom flow.

Jesus says in Matthew 22:40 that it is on the two great commandments – to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and to “love your neighbour as yourself”, that “all the Law and the Prophets” hang. Basically, every single word from God spoken to humanity can – remarkably enough – be hinged on the directive to love.

So, it is not really about having no agenda; it is that there is no other agenda required besides love – pure, real, and unselfish. God’s love. Agape love.

How does that work? And how should we then go about loving others that way?

I attended one of the most culturally diverse colleges in the whole of the United States of America, Berklee College of Music. A third of Berklee’s students come from 99 other countries around the globe. Because of that, I got to experience interacting with people from a huge range of ethnic, socio-economic and religious backgrounds.

I witnessed firsthand how certain differences run so deep they can be reconciled only by the love of Jesus.

My last year of college saw a huge aggravation of political and racial rifts in America. Emotions ran high all over the city and my campus during the heated Presidential Elections. It was during that time period, through the surfacing of all kinds of ugly in humanity, that I started deeply considering what unity really was.

I was – and still continue to be – hopeful that the Church can blaze a trail there, after I witnessed firsthand how certain differences run so deep they can be reconciled only by the love of Jesus. No other view, cause or opinion can unite a body of people more wholly and unconditionally than a shared friendship with Jesus can. And I got to see that.

In my last semester, God told me one day to “fight for relationship.” I remember it so vividly. I realised I was friends with people of such polarising views (both religious and other) that in another life, we would have easily been enemies. But somehow, we weren’t. And that was so precious to me.

I think one definition of true unity could be the willingness to fight for real relationship amidst great difference. This applies both within the Church and outside it.

When Paul explained in Ephesians 6 that we do not war against “flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” and advised that we gird ourselves accordingly with the armour of God, he was directing us to a different vantage point on conflict and crisis, and what our response should be.

More than fighting for our values, our rights and our convictions, we need to fight hard for our relationships – particularly with those with whom we disagree. We need to fight for the love that exists in spite of, not because of – the love that transcends denomination and politics and socio-economic status and religion.

God is raising up a Jonathan generation: Behind every David is a Jonathan who loved him without an agenda.

I believe that the Enemy is out to divide, accuse, and ultimately destroy relationships that are God-ordained. And so they are the very things we must fight for.

When I came home to Singapore, I was awakened in the wee hours one morning and felt God strongly whispering this phrase: I am raising up a Jonathan generation. I was confused at first. A “Jonathan generation”?  Did I hear wrong? What could that mean? The next moment, I felt Him say, “Behind every David is a Jonathan who loved him without an agenda.”

I immediately got up and opened my Bible to re-read the famous story of David and Jonathan. I discovered, to my amazement, a few things I’d overlooked before.

  •  Jonathan cared solely and intensely about the honour of David instead of his own (1 Samuel 20:34)
  • Jonathan risked his own life out of pure and sincere affection for a friend (1 Samuel 19:1)
  • Jonathan willingly gave up all of his rightful inheritance as heir to the throne (1 Samuel 18:4)

In fact, the Jonathan-David bromance begins from the very moment David technically becomes a threat to the throne, right after he slays Goliath.

In that instant, I believe that Jonathan recognised the destiny God had laid on David’s life straightaway, the destiny to bring a nation into victory and its fullest potential. And despite being highly qualified and a totally legitimate successor, Jonathan gave up all of his rights in a moment in total support of the one God had chosen to lead.

David is lauded in the Bible as the man after God’s heart, but I actually believe Jonathan was too. It is a testament to his sheer selflessness that most of us remember him only as the best friend of David.

My belief is that while many of us want to be the so-called Davids – visible, glamorous, popular – God is looking just as much for those who are willing to be Jonathans. Those who would, out of genuine love, readily lay down dreams and successes they might very well be entitled to in the eyes of society, in order to see God’s will accomplished His way, through someone else.

I often know deep down that I fall so short in the area of loving others well, without condition or expectation. God has been putting the story of Zacchaeus on my heart recently (Luke 19:1-10).

Zacchaeus was a man who literally came up short – in both stature and character. Wanting to catch a glimpse of Jesus in person but unable to see above the crowd, the notorious tax collector ran ahead and climbed up a tree. Jesus noticed Zacchaeus right away and visited his house at the expense of His own reputation.

The desperation to see Jesus touches His heart profoundly, and He will gladly meet us where we are and teach us how to love.

It is this no agenda love that compels Zacchaeus to give half his possessions to the poor and repay those he had previously cheated four times the amount.

I felt like God was showing me that it moves Him so much that I want to see Him despite my shortcomings, despite all my failures and weaknesses and pride. I think about how many of those people in the bustling crowd also had trouble seeing Jesus that day but didn’t see a great enough need to run ahead and climb a tree.

The desperation to see Jesus touches His heart profoundly – and He will gladly meet us where we are and teach us how to love.

Sometimes I also think about Jesus seeing Zacchaeus way before he saw Him. Not in the crowd, but before the dawn of time and creation, in the heart of God. How, growing up, Zacchaeus would think of himself as small and inadequate and unworthy, but then one day, Jesus would come along – and then everything would make sense.


Charis was part of the team that organised Permission to Dream, which later inspired Carry the Love – both cross-campus prayer and worship tours for university students. Carry the Love is currently taking place every evening on 5 different college campuses this week – all are invited! For more details, please visit their Facebook page.

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The girl who would not walk in the dark

by Ashley Chan | 8 September 2017, 4:39 PM

In my teens, I often volunteered as a facilitator in student camps. By the time I was 19, I was helping out at my sixth camp, where we brought a bunch of students to Malaysia for a week’s retreat.

Our job was to help them bond through interactive activities, and ultimately to get them excited about school. Frankly, I didn’t know how that would be possible.

During this camp, I became close to one of the students who was initially extremely reserved and quiet. She wasn’t stuck-up. She was simply … silent. She wasn’t interested in the activities and usually sat in a corner alone. She never spoke to any of her classmates.

As a facilitator, I felt the pressure to help her gel better with her classmates. I took extra care to include her in all our conversations. I really looked out for her.

Before the planned “night walk” – a camp activity where students develop courage by walking through a set route, in the dark of night – she disappeared.

I was worried she’d run out of the camp; this was Malaysia. The roads were uneven and there were no street lamps.

I saw myself in this girl. I had been suicidal too, a few years before.

Using my iPhone flashlight, I went around the whole site looking for her. I finally found her hiding in the toilet. When I assured her that I was the only one there, she unlocked the door, and came clean about her fear of the dark.

“I can’t go into the dark … It’s too dark. I don’t want to go there,” she sobbed.

We managed to persuade her to come out and go for the walk, her classmates and facilitators holding her hands, encouraging her with every step. We had our phone flashlights and torchlights on throughout, so she was able to overcome her fear of the dark.

After the night walk, I asked to speak to her privately. She opened up, telling me she was depressed and overwhelmed with her personal life and school.

Slowly rolling up her sleeves, she showed me all her scars from self-mutilation.

She was trembling, and tears welled up in her eyes. That’s when I realised what she had been doing in the toilet: She had intended to harm herself again.

“Nobody understands. It’s better that I die. My teacher even said to the class that I’m being attention-seeking … How could she say that?”

I saw myself in this girl. I had been suicidal too, a few years before.

That’s when I realised what she had been doing in the toilet: She had intended to harm herself again.

I prayed desperately for God to guide me: “How can I show her Jesus in this situation? Jesus, where are you now?”

And He spoke, reminding me of how Thomas had to touch the scars on Jesus’ hands before he truly believed. She will not know of the resurrection until she sees it.

I revealed to her that I, too, had struggled with similar issues. I shared how I eventually overcame self-harm by holding on to the love of God.

I even took pills. I’m glad I’m alive, and I hope you’ll find the strength to live on, to live through your circumstances, because they are temporary, I told her.

She was shocked initially – but she broke into a shy smile and hugged me.

I knew what it was like to be young and broken. I’d grown up ridden with scars both emotional and physical.

Sin had ravaged and destroyed my self-esteem. My self-worth had been crushed through years of self-harm. I didn’t think anyone would have understood me. I attempted suicide so, so many times.

How is it possible that my pain can be used to comfort another? How can it be that my scars can lend strength to another? How could my brokenness reveal His glory? That night with the girl was a lesson for me.

It showed me that even a broken vessel like me – seemingly useless and worthless – may have the privilege of pouring out His overflowing glory in the most unexpected ways.

We need only to be willing.

Recently, I got a private message on Instagram. It was her again. I’d almost forgotten about the camp by now.

“I’ve been clean for a year, thank you so much,” she wrote. “You reminded me that the only way for light to shine through was through a crack. God bless you.”


September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. If you’re struggling and unhappy with life – please don’t give up. Call the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) hotline at 1800 221 4444.

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Depression, dyslexia and the hope I hold on to

by Nigel Teo | 4 September 2017, 11:40 AM

I was never the “normal” kid, even from young.

With ADHD and dyslexia, I never really fit in with the “crowd” and got bullied and ostracised often growing up. I’ve always longed for love, acceptance and a place to belong among the people around me, but never seemed to get that. I was often labeled as an “extra” among my peers, and the butt of many jokes.

Things took a turn for the worse when I entered secondary school. Entering a totally new environment without the friends I made in primary school, I felt even lonelier and more ostracised than ever.

Because of this transition and lack of social support, I fell into depression and had thoughts of committing suicide.

I started to question my existence and things involving my purpose in life. Though I was going to a church, I started to ask hard questions about whether God really existed and if he really is as loving as people portray Him to be.

One day, after school, I passed by a chapel as I headed back home. It had been a bad day for me, and I really didn’t know why all these bad things happened to me.

I walked in, all alone, and cried out to this “God” whom I’d been hearing so much about but did not understand.

“If you really are the loving God people say you are, why do you let me go through the things that have happened to me?”

And there I had my first experience with Him. An inner prompting came out of nowhere, and I felt God telling me that “before any of these bullies came to existence, I’d already made you, loved you and called you my own”.

“If you really are the loving God people say you are, why do you let me go through the things that have happened to me?”

Bewildered, I walked out of the chapel questioning if what I had gone through was all in my imagination. But now, on hindsight, that incident marked the beginning of my journey to knowing this God who calls me His own.

It was much later on in my life that I learnt that this “prompting” I had felt was actually from Psalms 139:13-14. Borrowing the words of David, this is what he says of God:

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

God had made us with a purpose and plan, regardless of what the world may tell you. You are not an accident.

I still struggled considerably with bouts of depression that came and went over the years. I doubted how the truth in Psalm 139 might apply to me, a misfit. Although this incident spurred my pursuit for a true, living God, it took many years and many different people God had sent to love and accept me for who I am, before I began to see healing and could change this ungodly belief of mine.

Even now, I still struggle. There are times where I cannot control what I think, nor can I control the anxiety or despair I feel. I’ve also grown to learn that depression and anxiety are not easy things to understand, and although I know what I should do (or not do), I cannot seem to do them.

When I choose to follow Jesus, it does not mean life will be easy from now, but it does mean I won’t walk alone anymore.

This despair, triggered by my depression, and the constant reminders of my flaws remind me of the imperfect world I was born in. I’ve grown to learn that when I try to solve things by my own strength – to pursue things I perceive to be anchors of peace, hope and happiness – all my efforts came to naught. Merely broken wells, as Jeremiah 2:3 states, which only bring brief relief at best.

There have been many sleepless nights where I’ve stayed awake, wondering if the morning would ever come – if I would ever wake up from the nightmare of my destructive thoughts.

But yes – morning will come. Every struggle points me to a life that is yet to come, a life that’s perfect and without sadness of pain. No matter what I do by my own strength, I cannot solve or change anything that I am going through. But in partnership with the Holy Spirit, I can change and be the person God has called me to be.

Grace is given to us through Christ, so that we may live in this moment and take the opportunity to experience the life God has promised to us.

We are given a new self and a new power through Christ. We are shown in 2 Corinthians 10:5 that we are not the sum of our thoughts, and we need to bring any thought that sets itself against Christ captive, bringing it to obedience in Christ.

But as we empty our minds, we cannot stop there. We need to fill our minds with what is noble and good (Philippians 4:8-9). And as we do that, we renew our minds to understand what is good, acceptable and pleasing to God (Romans 12:2).

Jesus’ act of love – death on the Cross – gives me a choice to truly live. I could choose to live my way, which results in death, or choose to follow Jesus. It does not mean life will be easy from now, but it does mean I won’t walk alone anymore.

Though I struggle I know there will come a time where I won’t have to. That is the hope I have in Him.


This is solely written based on the experience of the author. It is by no means a fixed, one-shape-fits-all solution if you find yourself struggling with depression, anxiety or any mental health issue. Your journey may look very different. But you do not need to walk alone. If you have any further questions about mental health, or would like a platform to talk about your struggles – we would like to be there for you. Please drop us an email at hello@thir.st.

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I’ll never be as _______ as her

by Eunice Sng | 31 August 2017, 4:19 PM

I was never happy with who I was. Even when I received a compliment, I wasn’t satisfied.

All it took was for someone to post a picture of themselves on Instagram, depicting their particularly rosy life. I’d feel a twinge of envy, which would eventually overflow into a landslide of self-doubt. I’ll never be as happy/pretty/smart as her, I’d think.

So I became determined to do whatever it took to be happy. But what would it take?

I always fell short of the expectations I placed on myself.

Get a million followers on social media? Show off a perfect body? Score a perfect GPA? Land an internship at an established firm? Yes, I thought, only then will I be content.

And I don’t think I was alone in believing that lie. Needless to say, I always fell short of the expectations I placed on myself.

I was really unhappy.

This changed one day on a bus in Spain, bound from Zaragoza to Madrid. The usual cloud of anxiety looming over my head was suddenly interrupted by a podcast playing on my headphones. Dr Ravi Zacharias quoted a phrase from an old but popular hymn; the words cut like a knife, slicing through the lies I’d been believing.

“I’d rather have Jesus than man’s applause.”

And then it hit me. I’d been doing everything with the motive of gaining approval from others – not the one whose approval truly matters. And deeply seeded in that twisted mindset was pride – wanting affirmation of my worth.

That gentle reminder to look to Jesus completely changed the way I viewed … everything.

I understood finally that we are all running different races. The finishing line is the same – we all end at the same place, before the judgment seat – but the race isn’t a competition with others.

Just be you.

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How to get comfortable in the waiting room

by Charis Tan | 31 August 2017, 7:17 AM

If you are currently trudging through a probably-quite-agonising period of waiting for something, here are a couple of thoughts I had recently that I hope will be of some help.

1. Waiting is about becoming ready for an indefinite moment. It’s about preparedness.

Today my sister Corrie said in passing, on some random topic, “I’m so prepared.”

I found myself absent-mindedly wondering aloud, “What does ‘-pare’ mean? That’s a word, right?”

“Yeah,” she replied, making the relevant action, “like, you know, to pare an apple?”

I went to check the dictionary, and to pare something means to trim off an excess. You do it in advance (that’s the pre-) so that when the moment you’re waiting for finally arrives – whenever that may be – you want to have already shed your “excess” so you can really run with it.

As people who don’t know very much, it helps a whole lot to know someone to whom nothing is unknown.

2. Waiting is trusting God’s timing (presupposing that you want to live according to His timeline).

I told a friend recently, “There are actually no real unknowns in life, just things that we don’t know.”

“That’s a thought,” she said.

“It’s truth,” I replied.

“It’s a true thought,” she conceded.

As people who don’t know very much, it helps a whole lot to know someone to whom nothing is unknown. I feel like life is all about timing, and that waiting should be less about stumbling around in a fog, and instead more about getting comfortable with living according to rhythms much larger than ourselves.

My gardener Dad always talks about the power of seeds, so that’s really rubbed off on me. It’s erroneous to call something dead simply because it is still. A seed has more life scripted into its DNA than any of us could dare to hazard an estimate about.

So I think we have to re-adopt our posture towards waiting.

Waiting is a gargantuan opportunity to be attentive and sensitive to the incremental growth hidden deep below the surface of visible events. If you don’t know God it’s a chance to know Him, and if you do know Him it’s a chance to get further acquainted with the way He likes to work together with you.

As a Christian, I’ve found that the Holy Spirit is like a secret agent you gradually get the hang of working with. Sometimes when we’re waiting he’s clearing the path ahead, or sometimes he’s just round the corner covering your back.

Or sometimes he’s just cherishing the final moments he gets to hang with you – before you get busy all over again.

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In Singapore, we must choose life

by Serene Ho | 29 August 2017, 4:57 PM

“Father, can You take this burden away from me?”

With my hands clasped tightly and my head bowed down, tears fell in fat drops onto my hand while my mind struggled to understand what was happening to my body. I was trembling at the Burning Hearts prayer room as Jennifer Heng asked us to stand in repentance for our lawmakers and leaders for passing the Abortion Bill in 1969.

“Abortion stands for death. Every successful abortion is only successful because there is death.”

Jennifer’s words rang in my head.

“Abortion stands for death. Every successful abortion is only successful because there is death. It is absolute death versus absolute life.”

When I learnt that Burning Hearts has committed every first Wednesday of the month to praying for the culture of life – as opposed to death even before birth – to be established in Singapore, I was ecstatic.

This monthly meeting feels like an answer to the cry of my heart.

“When is abortion justifiable? If our premise is circumstantial, there is no end to the debate. As Christians, our premise is God’s truth. That will not change,” Jennifer continued.

The truth is, an innocent life is lost with each abortion.

Why is building a culture of life the burden of some Christians but not of the Church? Is God not interested in life and death issues? Didn’t He ask the Israelites to choose life, that both they and their descendants may live, to love, obey and cling to Him, for He is their life and the length of their days? (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

In her work with women who had abortion, Jennifer shared, not one said that their life had become better after abortion. They did not feel empowered, as pro-choice literature would want us to believe. On the contrary, they felt that they had no choice but to abort.

Ours is a Life-giving God. We need to repent of our apathy towards women who are suffering in silence. We need to repent that as a Church, we shirk that responsibility of loving the most vulnerable members of our society: The unborn.

At 5 weeks, your circulatory system is beginning to form and your tiny heart will start to beat.

At 6 weeks, your nose, mouth and ears are starting to take shape, and the intestines and brain are beginning to develop.

At 7 weeks, you have tiny hands and feet.

By 11 weeks, you are almost fully formed. You are kicking, stretching, and even hiccupping as your diaphragm develops.

But somehow, in Singapore, you can still be legally killed up to the point you are 24 weeks in the womb, because we are one of the countries in the world with the most liberal abortion laws.

Since 1970, when the Abortion Bill was passed, how many hundreds – thousands – of babies were sacrificed because of fear, helplessness and benefits? At its peak, in 1986, a total of 23,035 babies – 37.51% of pregnancies in the country – were aborted. More than a third of babies in the womb didn’t get a chance to fight to see the light of life that year.

Is my education, career, reputation or convenience more important than this child in my womb, such that I can sacrifice him to remain status quo?

There is a deafening silence with regard to abortion, not only in Church but also among the ministers. We don’t know how to deal with it.

What happens when a pregnant teenager comes to the Church, seeking help? Will we rain down judgment and let her go away in shame? Or will we embrace her, support her in her difficult circumstances before we say, “Go and sin no more”? (John 8:11)

Someone once asked me, “What is the greatest gift of God in your life?”

For me, it’s this second chance I’m getting at life. I nearly died – that’s another story for another day – but now live in and for Christ.

Maybe that explains why my heart aches at the thought that people might intentionally take their own lives, or the lives of others.

There is a deafening silence in the Church with regard to abortion. We don’t know how to deal with it.

At the prayer room, some of us went up to be prayed over by the youths who were at the prayer room. As a young lady prayed for me, my heart wanted to cry out: “I should be praying that you take over from here.”

My prayer is that more youths will take up the baton in the fight for life. Those of us who say we embrace the commission to spread the gift of eternal life should be passionate about contending for life itself.

 

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Living in the tension

by Jonathan Cho | 29 August 2017, 9:22 AM

Tension. Some of us face it almost every day. Maybe at work. Maybe in our relationships. Or maybe, for you it’s a deep internal struggle.

I face this tension when I find myself pulled in different directions, by communities which each demand something from me – family, work, church, ministry, friends/social groups.

How can I be fully present in each one, and be fully me in each place?

For those of us in the marketplace, the greatest tension we experience is found in the supposed dichotomy between the secular and sacred. What do I do when my work environment requires me to be a different person from who I actually am in church?

Perhaps we are meant to live in the tension and create beauty from it.

Those of us in the creative realm experience a sense of excitement as we consider the gifts we have been given, and how we can contribute to and shape the narrative of the world around us through our creative works. But this quickly translates into an equally compelling sense of feeling lost as our circumstances threaten to put this excitement down.

It can be overwhelming, paralysing, frustrating.

In this confusion, we know in our heart of hearts that we are called to live on a different paradigm from what we often experience day to day. As Jon Foreman writes, “I want to thrive, not just survive”.

How do we live in this tension? How can we learn to thrive?

Like most musicians, I take to an instrument to find some answers to these questions. And so, I pick up the guitar – only this time, the answer is found not in the music, but the instrument itself.

The guitar, as with most string instruments, functions because of tension – it creates beauty out of the tension.

The design of the guitar carries the tension of the strings in a precise placement and tuning to produce music. The strings are wound tightly, and anyone who has been hit by a snapping steel string would tell you that it is indeed very “high-strung”.

Yet you don’t see guitarists shy away from holding the instrument – they’ve mastered the art of proper tuning and playing the instrument to create beauty out of this tension.

The guitar, as with most string instruments, functions because of tension – it creates beauty out of the tension.

We often shy away from the tension in our own lives, desperately praying that it will be resolved and dissipate in time. But this could take days, week, even years – or sometimes, not at all.

Perhaps it’s not meant to. Perhaps we are meant to live in the tension and create beauty from it.

If so, then our focus must shift away from trying to get rid of the tension in our lives to managing it well – or even taking possession of it and mastering it, tuning our hearts so that we are in harmony with the plans laid out for us in life.

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How do you know when to quit?

by Claudia Wong | 27 August 2017, 11:55 PM

Today’s millennials have been labelled “The Strawberry Generation” – one that cannot withstand excessive pressure or hard work and, like strawberries, “bruise” easily.

Compared to the generation before, the current generation tends to change jobs more frequently, with some even quitting their jobs without finding a new one first.

Millennials say that multiple job offers and the opportunity to move represent high career mobility and is the way to pursue career development today. So is this generation as flippant as they’re made out to be, or one that is simply able to make more frequent informed decisions for better outcomes?

On the other hand, quitting is often seen as a weakness of character, especially so in the church context. Leaders who decide to leave their flock, members who change cell groups – or worse, church – are directly or indirectly criticised for not being committed.

Quitters don’t win and winners don’t quit – right?

In the Bible, faithfulness and perseverance are qualities that are highly regarded: Ruth choosing to rough it out with Naomi, Joshua and Caleb the minority who wanted to press on and conquer the Promised Land …

So, apart from areas of sin where we know we must let go and die to our carnal selves, for key decisions such as a career change, relinquishing of church ministry, or ending a romantic relationship, how do we know when is the right time to stop pushing on and move on instead?

Here are three guiding scenarios where calling it quits may just be the right thing to do.

3 GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR QUITTING

 1. When you are influenced more than you can influence

This can happen when your environment is extremely toxic – such as an excessive drinking culture or a spirit of hyper-competitiveness in the workplace, leading you to constantly compromise on your values and morals to “fit in” and please your boss.

If you are unable to find like-minded Christian colleagues who can support you in this journey, are in a very junior position and unable to influence office practices, with every working day a constant battle – it may be time to find another job.

“Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

We are called to be the salt of the earth and light of the world. But if the salt loses its saltiness by resembling its surroundings rather than reviving them, it is no longer good for anything.

2. When you have lost a sense of purpose and joy

Ministry isn’t always easy and smooth sailing.  A lot of time and effort is involved in sowing into the lives of others, only to be met with familiar disappointment at the end of the day.

While such setbacks may sometimes cause us to lose the joy of serving, if you still have the firm belief that there is a greater purpose, persevere on! Celebrate and give thanks for every mini-milestone, and you will find joy in serving itself, regardless of the results.

Jesus’ ministry on earth wasn’t the most joyful, but he did have a sense of purpose. He knew what he was called to do, and what He would face on the cross. He prayed, “Father if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

However, if you have lost both the joy and purpose of ministry, go back to God and ask him to show you what talents He’s given you to invest. It might be better to stop and recalibrate, than to push on completely burnt out.

3. When God is calling you elsewhere

Moses took a 40-year time-out – albeit not by choice – to work as a shepherd for Jethro in Midian (Exodus 2:11-25). Only at the age of 80 was he called back to Egypt to lead his enslaved people, the Hebrews, out to God’s Promised Land (Exodus 3).

Sometimes we are afraid to leave our comfort zones for an uncertain new role, or we hold on to our current situation too tightly even though we know deep down we need to let it go. This “elsewhere” that God calls you to could be a new job, a new ministry, a season of rest, or to the desert of Midian – time in the wilderness.

We often have the expectation that when God calls us to a new place, it will always be greener pastures. This is not necessarily true. God is always one step ahead of us, preparing us for the next season of our lives – and tough training just might be in store to help us last the distance. Trust Him and go where He leads.

The above three scenarios are just guidelines and may not apply to your situation. If you are thinking of calling it quits, set aside some time to intentionally seek God on your decision. This could be done through a season of prayer and fasting, as well as seeking godly counsel.

After all, our God is a covenant-keeping God, and we can rest on His promises that He will never quit on us (Deuteronomy 7:9).

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I’m a Singaporean who studied in Charlottesville – and I cannot stay silent

by Ling Shuang Ning | 21 August 2017, 9:48 AM

I’m an alumnus of the University of Virginia (UVA), located in the impossibly beautiful town of Charlottesville.

On Friday, August 11, white supremacists marched onto our Lawn, protesting in frightening numbers against the city’s plan to tear down Confederate monuments, which include statues of Confederate leaders from the American Civil War – leaders who fought for the enslaving of and suppression of rights for African-Americans.

The clashes between the white supremacists and counter-protestors, which included UVA students, led to three deaths. Based on my Facebook feed, America is reeling. America can’t stop talking.

When it comes to speaking, I’m a minimalist. Everything is about precision – the right words in the right order at the right time. If I have a choice as to whether to “add to the conversation” or not, I’d rather not.

But everyone’s talking – so here, I chose to talk too, so that we can understand.

There are words in this discourse that could be foreign to my fellow Singaporeans, words like “supremacist” and “Confederate”. I can hear the voices of some church aunties and uncles I know: “Aiyah, America, that crazy place.” And that is where the assessment usually ends.

But if I were to summarise what is going on, what is precisely so blood-chilling, it is that such racism is alive, well, endorsed, and preached as a right.

While the voices of condemnation ring loudly, there is palpable horror that the inequalities an entire war was fought over have not been destroyed.

Clay Cooke of New City Commons, commenting on the protest, wrote: “The evil on display … attacked something that stands at the very core of the Christian faith: An unbending commitment to the fundamental and irreducible dignity of each and every human person, regardless of race or ethnicity, creed or station, skill or ability.

“At the heart of the Christian imagination is that the human person – each human person – is the dignified crown of creation.”

Maybe some of us cannot imagine being like Jesus, who understood the importance of confrontation better than anyone else, even to the point of death.

Perhaps this seems obvious to us, not just in church, but in Singapore, where we’ve been weaned since young on the dangers of racial riots and saying anything that could be remotely racially sensitive.

And yet, as a teacher, I see how my students, after “enforced” Racial Harmony celebrations every year of their schooling life, start to lose sight of exactly what they are celebrating. I hear the unasked (and sometimes asked) question in the voices of loved ones. “She married an Indian.” Why she marry him ah?

We should insist on celebrating this harmony – not because we have fully attained it, but because, in whatever state we have it now, it is precious.

A recent StarHub commercial chose to intersperse African-American civil rights activist Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech with scenes of Singaporeans of different races and religions side by side, going about their everyday lives.

The very fact that these scenes are of such normalcy to us is in itself powerfully touching. It might seem vainglorious for us to imagine that we in any way at present the ideal that Dr King fought and dreamed for – but the truth is how shockingly these scenes contrast with the turmoil in Charlottesville, from just one week ago.

We should move beyond mere celebration, towards action.

There is a place we need to tread, between being afraid to talk about race, and the violent eruption of racist sentiments. We Singaporeans aren’t very good at this. Many see conversation as confrontation, and God forbid that we raise our voices and disrespect our elders.

Maybe some of us cannot imagine being like our saviour Jesus, who understood the importance of confrontation better than anyone else, even to the point of death (Philippians 2:8).

But we forget the likes of Ananias, whose act of faith was to pray for a supremacist who would have killed him for what he believed.

In Acts 9:13, we see how Ananias was afraid: “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, and how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.” The man he blessed – the apostle we know as Paul – repented and was forever changed.

God doesn’t call us to be safe. He calls us to cross boundaries, in order to transform.

We cannot put Charlottesville into the box of crazy, a kind of crazy that can never happen here. And as little as I like to talk, I cannot put my voice away, when God calls me to speak the truth.

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God is at work

by Abigail Dawes | 17 August 2017, 11:35 AM

Go to work. Get frustrated. Feel like quitting. Receive monthly salary. Don’t quit. Repeat.

As a young professional barely out of university, my existence seemed to be quickly confined to this endless loop.

What had happened to all the dreams I dreamt in university as I sat in lectures? Where was the impact I was supposed to make on the world through my job, the like-minded colleagues I was supposed to have, the patient boss who would mentor me?

The reality I was living out seemed to be the polar opposite of everything I had hoped for.

I had a dream job in mind – but I failed miserably at the interview, so I ended up instead at a firm that my idealistic college self would never have considered applying for. Beggars can’t be choosers, right?

I was relieved to be offered a permanent position, but the condition was that I’d have to accept work in an area of law that I truly despised. As the job market for lawyers was so bad, I stayed.

The reality I was living out seemed to be the polar opposite of everything I had hoped for.

It was not long before I turned these frustrations on God. Why had He placed desires for greater things in my heart? Why was the road to becoming a Joseph, Daniel or Esther – purposeful overcomers in their secular realms – smoother and faster for others?

Was I not as special to Him as His other children?

I concluded that God was not interested in my career. He cared about whether I turned up for prayer meetings, cell group and served in the worship team faithfully, but when it came to my workplace, I was on my own.

This conclusion on God’s intentions for my life meant that a line in the sand had been drawn between my spiritual life and work. God’s power was available for one but not the other.

One Sunday, I heard my pastor recount a season in his working life, before he became a full-time minister.

As a young employee, he did not have any influence over policies or directives, and was surrounded by senior officers who operated with a very different set of values from his.

They did things that were not ethical and also persecuted him for standing his ground. But as my pastor began to pray and intercede for his workplace, doing his best at his job as well as church ministry, he began to see changes.

He found favour with his bosses, saw “toxic” colleagues transferred to other departments and started to receive God’s direction for his day-to-day work, which gave him an edge over his peers.

It struck a chord in my heart. I wanted the same for my life – I needed God in my here and now. The God of the desert and the valley, the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night.

The Heavenly Father who gets right in there with you, in the muck and dreariness of life, and in His still small voice whispers hope for each new day and faith for the final prize of life (1 Corinthians 9:24).

From that day, my perspective shifted and my heart opened again.

The Heavenly Father gets right in there with you, in the muck and dreariness of life, and in His still small voice whispers hope for each new day.

I started praying for my bosses and my colleagues. I would get to work early to pray over my office space – declaring that the whole place belonged to God. I would sing over myself the call of God and His desires for my life. I found strength to serve the boss that my colleagues despised.

Was it a struggle? Sure. But I found myself able to do something that I could not even have imagined doing before.

Every piece of work that came my way, whether or not it was my cup of tea, I would undertake with the revelation that I was serving the unseen God behind my boss.

I accepted each piece of work, every interaction with a difficult colleague or superior, as a stepping stone to my destiny.

In the struggle to find meaning in my workplace, I learnt that we don’t always have to be Prime Minister Joseph to have influence (Genesis 41:37-41) – we can be Prisoner Joseph too (Genesis 39:20-23).

The Lord needs change agents in every echelon of the corporate ladder.

You don’t have to do anything super Christian to shift the atmosphere of your workplace. It’s as simple as living out our faith as Jesus taught us to, such as loving those who are difficult and unloveable (Matthew 5:43-48) or lending a hand for a project that will never be credited to you (Matthew 6:1-4).

We can be change agents of the spiritual and physical climate of our workplace. Our colleagues may never expressly say it but they most surely will feel it.

We should also be prepared for opposition wherever we’re placed – but we should only move when the Lord tells us to. Every job change should be a Spirit-led decision, not a frustration-led one.

We can’t delude ourselves into thinking that God only leads us to beds of roses. Remember Joseph’s prison cell, or Daniel’s den of lions.

Why? It’s not about the circumstances we find ourselves in. God is more interested in shaping our character. We can be used only to the extent that we have been moulded – and the marketplace is one of the best places for this to happen.

When David was anointed as the next king of Israel at the age of 16, what ensued was not a straight and easy path up the “corporate ladder”.

David had to work under and submit to an insecure King Saul, have his kindness repaid with ungratefulness, deal with “office politics”, and prove his worth in leading military missions – for us, it could be unwanted assignments our boss sends our way.

It was only 14 years later that David became King. Before he set foot in the palace of the kings, he had to be moulded in the valley of death.

The path to greatness requires endurance, perseverence, knowing the ways God can work at every step of the process.

Eventually, the work that I had once thought would get me nowhere led me to taking up a position I never dreamed would open up for me – in a government Ministry, practising the type of law that I had dreamt about in those lectures.

Am I the boss now? No. Have I been tapped as the next big thing in law? No. Am I drawing a six-figure salary? No.

But I feel and believe that I have unlocked so much more than just that. More than mere title, prestige or money.

What is the more that you’re searching for?

I am part of the committee of The Vanguard Movement Conference, a half-day conference for young adults who want to know the plan God has for them in their career.

We are just like you. We don’t profess to have it all together, but we are on the same journey, the same struggles, the same crises of identity – but most importantly, we are all sons and daughters of God.

We desire to see God move in even mightier ways in the workplace than what we have already seen.

The Vanguard Movement aims to equip every believer – to bring God into their place of assignment and sphere of influence.

To help you know God’s heart for your future, career and ministry, and shift your perspective on how to be a follower of Christ in the marketplace.

To help you move from survival mode to becoming a movement leader.

From surviving to thriving.


To sign up for The Vanguard Movement or to find out more, please visit their event details page.

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How I quit smoking after 9 years

by Hadassah Lau | 16 August 2017, 9:44 AM

I still remember my first cigarette.

My bi-sexual ex-convict then-boyfriend had broken up with me because I was a virgin and did not want to sleep with him.

I was heartbroken and devastated. I was in a club with my schoolmates who all smoked, and I said, can I have a cigarette please? I was crying, and it made me feel instantly better. I felt calmer as I took my first, deep breath of what would turn out to be 9 years of addiction.

Addiction is real. I had a stick when I woke up, on my way to work (while driving, hand on the car door window, expertly allowing the wind to blow the ash out of the car). Every other hour I had to have a cigarette or I got edgey.

Years on, I was anything but the “good” Christian Pastor’s daughter that I was “supposed” to be.

I had walked away from church out of shame. I had premarital sex, I smoked, I clubbed, I drank (a lot), I used the F-word plenty, I hated people and gossiped.

I was everything a good Christian should not have been. It was too hard to be a Christian. I couldn’t go to church because I couldn’t be rid of all my addictions – and I couldn’t face God with all my shame.

You see, even though I grew up in a church and my dad was a pastor, I did not know God. You can grow up in a Christian family, go to church every week, read the Bible everyday, yet not have a relationship with God.

But eventually, somehow, I stepped back into church, where I received fellowship and no condemnation.

I also began to join the Tuesday Group, a small gathering of real and raw people that love and want to know God. On one of my first visits, I saw someone go out to have a cigarette after worship.

I was stunned: How could she not be embarrassed? Why wasn’t she trying to hide her sin? Did anyone know she was smoking out there on the steps?

It was then that I realised that it was okay to not have everything together while seeking God. “God still loves you”, she said.

I remember laughing so hard too when my pastor, Joseph Prince, joked about it too. “Pastor, can a smoker still go to heaven?” He replied: “CAN – just faster!”

I was set free from my shame. I knew that smoking was not good for me, but knowing that God loved and accepted me anyway freed me to enter into His presence.

It was about maybe a year into my journey of learning about God’s grace and love for me, and just hungering for the things of God and knowing him, that I had decided I really wanted to quit. At this time, I was even reading the Bible and praying … as I smoked.

I knew myself: I had zero will power. In my attempts to quit, I would throw my cigarettes away the night before, only to drive out the first thing in the morning to buy some because I just could not start my morning without one.

I told God that He would have to help me quit – I couldn’t do it without Him.

I told God that I did not want to smoke anymore, but that I could not do it on my own.

I was headed to a Planet Shakers Conference in Australia with a group of friends from the Tuesday Group; I decided that would be the deadline. I would stop smoking then.

I told everyone in my church group I would quit by then. I told God that He would have to help me – I couldn’t do it without Him.

I still remember the day itself, before I boarded my plane, when I nervously smoked my last few cigarettes. I was so afraid. What if I could not quit? What if the urge is so strong – like it always is – that I cave in and buy some in Australia?

I threw my last packet away before we got onto the plane. And God was faithful.

When I stepped out of the plane, something had lifted. I no longer had the urge or the edge. The addiction had left me; I was totally fine not smoking.

I knew that I knew that I knew: It was a miracle. God had delivered me.

Some weeks after the trip, I was out drinking one night – I was still not free from all my other addictions, but God has slowly delivered me from them one by one – when I was offered a cigarette. In my “highness”, I went through half a stick.

I remember the sorrow, the remorse, the condemnation, and the guilt that I battled the next day. But even so, when I met with my group of Christian friends, they reminded me that there was no condemnation in the struggle.

Know that your sins and struggles don’t surprise Jesus at all – He saw them all on the Cross. And He died to set you free from them.

I knew shame was part of the plan to keep me from God.

From that day till now – I’ve been completely clean from cigarettes. I am free!

If you have any addictions in your life, and if you know Jesus, you need to know that those sins and struggles don’t surprise Him at all – He saw them all on the Cross.

He died so that you can be free from that shame and condemnation that chains you to all your addictions. This supernatural freedom – it glorifies the Father.

He loves you and He wants to set you free. He came that you may have life, and life abundantly.

So if you’re reading this and have been through any of the struggles I have, I pray that right now, wherever you are, God will touch you and encounter you, and fill you with His loving kindness. I pray that you will have a hunger to know Him, the one who loves you and created you, whose son died on the Cross for you.

I pray that you will know His abundant grace, that so much more abounds in your sin (Romans 5:20-21).


This article was adapted from Hadassah Lau’s blog. Hadassah is the co-founder of homegrown jewellery brand Hadasity.

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How to waste your life

by Danny Chua | 15 August 2017, 11:57 AM

“I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.” (C S Lewis, The Screwtape Letters)

I think I spend most of my days wasting my life away with nothingness – hamster-wheeling, basically.

I think about it as I reflect on pastor-writer-preacher John Piper’s generation-defining book, Don’t Waste Your Life.

The origins of the book can be traced to a message he gave at the Passion Conference in the year 2000, where Piper exhorted a generation of young bloods who had just entered an uncertain millennia by emphatically describing what a wasted life looks like for a Christian.

“Bob and Penny took early retirement from their jobs in the North-east five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball, and collect shells.

“That’s a tragedy,” he told the crowd.

“You stand before the Creator of the universe to give an account with what you did. ‘Here it is, Lord — my shell collection. And I’ve got a good swing. And look at my boat. Look at my boat, God.

Piper is crystal-clear: Only what’s done for Jesus lasts in eternity.

“Don’t waste your life.”

I told a friend earlier this year that Don’t Waste Your Life – you can download it for free here – had a huge influence on me when I first read it at 18 years old, on the verge of young adulthood and NS, among other critical transitional life stages. It generated in me a deep Spirit-driven conviction to live for Jesus – somehow, and maybe someday with greater clarity.

That was in 2010. I’ve come to see recently that a wasted life might look a bit different for today’s youths and young adults.

An article by The Atlantic has recently been making its social media rounds: Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation. In it, the author details the seeming fatal symptoms thus far exhibited by a generation the he calls the “iGen”.

The author describes iGen as those born between 1995 and 2012, who grew up with smartphones, had an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the Internet. The Millennials grew up with the Web as well, but it wasn’t ever-present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night.

iGen’s oldest members were early adolescents when the iPhone was introduced, in 2007, and high-school students when the iPad entered the scene, in 2010.

According to the author’s research, today’s teenagers are less likely to date, seek independence from their parents, or head outdoors, among other activities seemingly normal for past-generations. Essentially, their smartphone activity and obsession/addiction has comprehensively moulded every other sphere of their young lives – but they aren’t quite equipped with the maturity and perception to identify this.

I’m convinced that my smartphone usage has significantly influenced my emotional, relational, social, theological and spiritual life in every single dimension.

This phenomenon struck a chord with me because of what I read in another recent book – 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, by Tony Reinke, who also writes for the Desiring God website.

(To be honest, I spent a bit over a month reading the book although it’s a pretty short one, because I kept getting distracted by my smartphone. The irony.)

While Reinke is “one of us” in being part of the Facebook, Twitter and the Internet age, he provides an incisive analysis of the smartphone phenomenon and how it’s revolutionised the world – and how it could cripple the future generations of humanity.

This read has encouraged me to review my own phone habits. Doing so has convinced me that my smartphone usage has significantly influenced my emotional, relational, social, theological and spiritual life in every single dimension.

Apart from the two years wasted playing a certain Marvel smartphone game (I’ve stopped!), there’s the endless allure of mindless Twitter, the meaningless scrolling through Facebook feeds, staying connected on WhatsApp chat groups even when in the presence of actual real human beings, the perennial crouching traps of sexual temptations on the internet, and much more.

But really, the biggest impact my smartphone has had on my life is this: It’s numbed me to futility.

It’s numbed me to my daily finding false meaning in nothingness and foolishly seeking illusory fulfillment in mindless Internet shenanigans. Oh, if you could walk a day in the life of my Twitter feed.

This is how much time I’ve spent on various phone applications in the past 7 days:

I’ve spent a little more than half a day (14 hours) out of the past week on my phone either reading or watching videos on Safari, and chatting on WhatsApp! Yes, my Bible app is ranked in the top 10 but only because it spent 20 minutes running unseen in the background.

I will admit with all frankness that my smartphone habits have often fractured my prayer life, or taken my heart and ears away from a conversation or friend. I’ve chosen to focus in an NBA Finals game over an ongoing sermon taking place right in front of me.

But how did I succumb to such habits? How did the central and important things in my life become sidelined, merely optional?

I think these habits were simply groomed over time by smaller choices and smaller habits being cultivated on a daily basis. I had become used to making retrospectively dumb decisions and ignored pertinent matters/persons right in front of me because I had allowed myself to get sucked into a vicious vortex of mindlessness every single day.

And as I became more acclimatised to empty nothingness and brainless scrolling on a consistent basis, the importance of the Gospel reality in my life gradually decreased over time.

Cognitively, I grew more wired to sweep aside pressing issues that required my focus in exchange for whatever greatness I was achieving on my phone. My muscle memory had now reoriented itself to dedicate my mind and heart to my phone. Nothingness: It’s a powerful master.

In his book, Reinke talks about the “nothingness” that flows endlessly out of undisciplined and unfettered smartphone usage:

“What I am coming to understand is that this impulse to pull the lever of a random slot machine of viral content is the age-old tactic of Satan. C S Lewis called it the ‘Nothing’ strategy in his Screwtape Letters.

“It is the strategy that eventually leaves a man at the end of his life looking back in lament: ‘I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.’

“This ‘Nothing’ strategy is very strong: Strong enough to steal away a man’s best years, not in sweet sins, but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them.

“Routines of nothingness. Habits unnecessary to our calling. A hamster wheel of what will never satisfy our souls.

“Lewis’ warning about the ‘dreary flickering’ in front of our eyes is a loud prophetic alarm to the digital age. We are always busy, but always distracted – diabolically lured away from what is truly essential and truly gratifying. Led by our unchecked digital appetites, we manage to transgress both commands that promise to bring focus to our lives.

“We fail to enjoy God. We fail to love our neighbour.”

Echoes of Piper with the same warning reverberating here: That’s a tragedy.

Don’t give in to nothingness. Persist with self-examination of how your phone is shaping you, affecting your relationship with Christ, and dictating the way you live in light of eternity. Or, as they say these days: Stay woke.

How are you wasting your life today?


This article was adapted from Danny Chua’s original blogpost

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Time to shine

by Bianca Tham | 14 August 2017, 4:52 PM

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.” (Philippians 2:14-15)

For the longest time, I found it very hard to see myself as a star in the sky. I knew it in theory, but I couldn’t believe that I could really be a shining light.

My friends and I began an annual Bible reading plan this year, and we recently reached Matthew 1, the genealogy of Jesus Christ. In the long list of Jesus’ forefathers, many of us could only remember the key patriarchs: Abraham; Isaac; David.

I realised that the men and women in between whom we often forget, God remembered. He honoured them by recording the names of those who fulfilled His purposes.

Many of these people were broken and sinful people: Rahab was a prostitute; David was an adulterer and murderer … but even they could be used by God. They still became stars.

Like constellations in the night sky, some of us are called to play a role in the foreground – big stars. Some of us are called to play a role in the background – smaller stars. Even so, every star is as important as the other, and every star is called to shine.

We each have very different dreams and passions, and we all have our individual callings. But they all should collide in the house of God; all of us play a part in the bigger picture, in building God’s Kingdom on earth.

When I was young, I used to think that stars only exist at night – after all, I could only see them at night. The truth, as I have since learnt, is that they are always in the sky. They shine just as bright in the day as they do at night – but only in darkness do we appreciate them.

It deeply comforted me to know that my God is truly with me wherever I go, even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

That’s our calling. That’s what we are supposed to do: Shine light into the darkness.

To do so, we need to first appreciate the original source of light. That would be Jesus, according to Ephesians 5:8-9: “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produ