I’m in the middle of a life transition, and the one question I keep getting is, “Are you going into full-time mission work?”
Well yes, I’m committing a fairly big portion of my life to YWAM. And I know what people mean when they ask me that, but still … What is full-time mission work exactly?
When we talk about full-time mission work, are we just referring to giants of the faith like missionaries, pastors and church workers?
I wonder, if there’s such a thing called full-time mission work, does that mean that there is part-time mission work? Part-time mission work must be for part-time Christians who only serve in ministry once a week, like cell group leaders – or that sweet old lady who plays the piano for the benediction on Sundays!
Just to be clear, I was trying my hand at satire back there.
But this is serious: Many of us have restricted our relationship with God to a weekly affair on Sundays, when He wants the other days too. Indeed, He wants your entire life! God is far too large to be reduced to a time-slot in a schedule that revolves around you – He wants your whole life to revolve around Him.
So this is the truth about our walk with God and our service to Him: Whether you’re holding a microphone or a mop – God wants to make your work count for the Kingdom.
Lay aside all your titles: You are first and foremost a child of God. So it is not the duty of “giants of faith” to preach the gospel. Every Christian must carry the mandate of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15).
We are all charged with the responsibility of evangelism. Ours is the missional life wherever we are.
Does that mean that we have to be constantly talking about Jesus with our colleagues?
Well, the simple answer is no. We must, however, be constantly communicating who Jesus is. And to be clear: That’s something everyone can and should do.
How? One way is by having a spirit of excellence. Martin Luther once said, “The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”
So one way to shine our light as Christians (Matthew 5:16) is to produce fantastic work – so that others will see and glorify God in heaven. But there mustn’t be a speck of self-glorification, it’s all about Him.
Good Christian work isn’t about slapping a “Jesus” sticker onto the product. Good Christian work is going the extra mile, not cutting corners, working excellently – excellence which reflects the God you serve.
Another way is to imitate Christ (Matthew 5:48) wherever we are. To that end, there are many questions we could ask ourselves.
How can I show compassion to my sister?
How can I show mercy to my brother?
How can I show grace to the new intern?
How can I show humility to my boss?
These are a just a few questions to get your ball rolling. But they must be asked every day in our constant walk with God.
If I am the best Christian in Church on Sunday, but a wife-beater on Monday night – I’m a part-time Christian. If I’m a penitent sinner in my men’s group on Wednesday night, but see no issue in ogling girls on the train home – I’m a part-time Christian.
The last thing I want for you, after reading this article, is to walk away feeling condemned. What I desire is for you to go full-time. Yes, be a full-time Christian!
From the big things like your career, to the smaller things like what you’ll eat for dinner – involve God! Do it all unto His glory. He cares. The question is if we really believe that.
In Abraham’s time, whenever the Israelites presented a sacrifice to God, the animals sacrificed had to be perfect – no blemishes whatsoever. So when we present ourselves as living sacrifices to God in worship (Romans 12:1), we must strive for godly perfection in every area of our lives as we align ourselves to Him.
You are a missionary wherever God puts you. If God means everything to you, He will be in everything you do. Go and be a full-time Christian.
Fifty Shades Freed, the movie adaptation of EL James’ last book in her Fifty Shades trilogy, is released this Valentine’s season. In most cultures, Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love, so the movie’s release in this season might suggest that it’s a movie about love.
But nothing could be further from the truth. I urge you to think long and hard about what kind of love is in the movie. The root of that romance is selfishness.
If love is self-centred, it’s not true love. True love looks to the interest and wellbeing of someone else before their own – so where does inflicting physical pain onto a lover come into the picture?
And it doesn’t insist on its own way. It’s not about taking control over someone. Selfish love only leads to more pain for both parties. It is deriving personal pleasure at another’s pain.
Now if you say, “But this isn’t meant to be about love – it’s consensual pleasure!” That might well be so according to society’s rules. But out of love, I must attempt to convince you how destructive such a twisted view of love and sex can be.
Broken relationships, divorces, adultery, fatherlessness and even sexual confusion – these are but the offshoots of selfish love. It’s why I am urging you not to watch this movie or engage in deviant sexual practices – even within marriage.
The kind of selfish love you might witness in Fifty Shades sits upon the spectrum of BDSM pornography. Fifty Shades is a soft-core variant – porn with a marginally better plot.
Also, Christian Grey is portrayed as a man whose child abuse results in his BDSM fetish. If the normalising of BDSM fetishes in mainstream media wasn’t already problematic for me – it is exacerbated by the fact that it is done so while glossing over child abuse.
True love looks to the interest and wellbeing of someone else before their own – so where does inflicting physical pain onto a lover come into the picture?
But there is a better way – real love exists – and I want to tell you all about it.
“For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.” (Psalm 149:4)
If God brought us salvation, delighting in us – then I wonder if Jesus experienced profound joy while suffering on His way to the cross.
Fifty Shades is about suffering for mere pleasure – but God suffered for our salvation. Mere pleasure is never the purpose. Love is the end where sacrifice is the means.
So, true love isn’t the eros (erotic) love of Christian Grey – but Christ’s agape love. It is saving love freely given to us when He came to earth to die – wiping out the death this world’s bogus loves bring.
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:10-12)
This Valentine’s Day, think about true love. Love God selflessly, love one another sacrificially.
You’ve always loved Chinese New Year (CNY). Meeting family and friends, stuffing your face with calories, receiving hongbao – what’s not to like?
Yet the older you got, the less excited you became for the season. Somewhere along the way you traded the enthusiasm for apprehension.
Well, you’re looking forward to the hongbao and the food … It’s the conversations you’re obliged to have that you dread.
How’s your job?
Do you have a girlfriend/boyfriend?
When are you getting married?
When are you having kids?
It’s the questions, man. Every year they ask the same questions and every year you give the same answers. It’s old.
So maybe that’s one reason you dread CNY, because of the exhausting questions that add or subtract value –assigning identities – to who you are based on your answers about your job, wife or life.
But you know, there really is only one question worth asking at the end of all these other questions.
Who am I?
You are more than your job, more than your relationship status, more than your bank account, more than what you’ve achieved or what you’ve not, more than how you look or how you dress. Dear friend, you are more than your successes and your failures, more than your reputation – more than an “ENFP” or an “ISTJ” or any combination of letters or numbers someone or something assigned to you.
Why? Because of who God says you really are.
Don’t laugh. You are intrinsically valuable – even if you’ve spent your whole life believing you’re not. This is what God says: You are fearfully and wonderfully made by Him (Psalm 139).
You were designed with intricate thoughts that outnumber the sand grains by the sea, woven tirelessly together. You were made a masterpiece in God’s image (Genesis 1:27)!
You were made fit to walk with angels on streets of gold (Revelation 21:21). If you are a child of the Most High God, then you are an heir to the King (Romans 8:16-17).
There is so much more to life than just going through the motions, dying and being buried in the earth. Snap out of the stupor and realise there’s more to it all than just daily putting in eight hours of work and showing up on Sundays.
If you want this better life, God is waiting to give it to you. If you seek Him first, I promise you that He will show you the better way. But it’s a risk. I won’t hoodwink you: You must throw away the life you had before, to gain one worth keeping.
This isn’t a religion thing. This is about new life. It’s not about systems of reading the Bible, going to church, tithing, attending cell groups and praying regularly. Man, it’s about being reborn!
This year, when you’re bombarded by all the usual questions – be the answer.
Be a light which reflects Jesus. Let whatever you think, say and do show God’s goodness. Pray and ask God to make it so that when your friends and relatives see you, they see Jesus.
It’s a hard prayer to make. And if you do make it, don’t be surprised at the challenges that soon come your way. They are the opportunities you were waiting for.
It doesn’t matter what others say about you. Tongues may wag … But well, tongues will always wag no matter what you do. Be the change you want to see in your family. Dare to be different from the expectations that society places on you.
You’re probably sick of questions but I’ll leave you with a final one: How are you going to be different this year?
It’s true. Call us hypocritical, bigoted, self-righteous, goody-two-shoes or egoistical all you want – I’m going to agree with you.
Certainly, there have been people who claimed to be Christian but behaved terribly – inviting accusations of hypocrisy to the general body of believers. But I won’t pretend the rest of us are innocent, because when I was honest with myself, and searched my heart for hypocrisy … I realised I was guilty.
I’ll give you some examples. I turn away when my colleagues start to gossip, but there are still traces of it in the “prayer requests” I share with my Christian friends.
I turn my back on idolatry – refusing to participate in my family’s ancestral worship – but I falter in other ways: Chasing after money, studies, relationships and everything that isn’t God.
I’ve treated people differently because of how they look, what gender they are, what they do … This hypocrite’s list goes on and on.
But self-flagellation isn’t why I’m writing this.
I’m just convicted that my life has so often misrepresented God to others. The Bible tells us that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This means that we are all guilty of at least one sin – at least one misrepresentation of God.
Pastor Tim Keller writes, “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
So, the truth of the matter is that I do not know – and will never know – just how wretched I really am.
And yet I’ve been imbued with righteousness by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for me. So, despite my brokenness, I will strive for holiness because my life is no longer mine – it belongs to God.
But I can see why Christians would seem self-righteous when we refuse to smoke, swear or gossip. And I can imagine how it might seem like we’re holier-than-thou whenever we pray before meals.
When words aren’t picked correctly, it’s easy to appear lofty and proud when we talk about difficult topics like religion, sexual orientation or humanitarianism.
We are mere beggars telling other beggars where the free food is.
I’ll speak for myself: The heart behind what I do is to please God and be the version of myself He wants me to be.
From Romans 3:23, we have not just “fallen” – but we “fall.” Present tense. We are constantly failing every single day because our souls have been redeemed, but our bodies are not yet regenerated.
Because we are fallen, we will face daily shortcomings – misrepresentations of God for all to see.
WE NEED YOUR FORGIVENESS
My mentor has a saying, “We are mere beggars telling other beggars where the free food is”. In that vein of things, I humble myself – acknowledging that I’m not any better than you – and ask for your forgiveness.
If there was some way I could say this on behalf of all Christians … I am sorry.
I am sorry for being hypocritical. I am sorry for behaving condescendingly toward you. I am sorry that my life did not reflect the words that I spoke, or the beliefs that I hold.
I am sorry that my Monday-Saturday life looks different from the Sunday one. And I am sorry for the painful words – deliberate or not – that I have said to you.
I need your forgiveness.
The Church needs your grace as we sort ourselves out. Even from today, you might continue to see that nothing has changed. You might still be able to see misrepresentations of God in so-called Christians.
Give us grace.
WE NEED GOD’S FORGIVENESS
Jesus was once asked, “Which is the great commandment of the Law?” Jesus’ reply was to love God and to love our neighbours.
A large part of how much we love God can be seen from the way we love our neighbours. The negligence of the second in an attempt to uphold the first only results in hypocrisy.
God, we hypocrites need Your forgiveness.
More than just His forgiveness – we need God Himself. We need Him to help us reach the standards He has set for us. We need Him to empower us daily to be accurate representations of Him – who won’t shame Him.
Only He can show us how to live like Jesus.
Fellow believer, would you take a moment to ask God for forgiveness from hypocrisy? This week, if God leads you to, be challenged to ask for forgiveness from someone you’ve misrepresented God to.
How can something written 2000 years ago relate to my life?
If you can relate to some or all of these statements — then I thank God that you’re here! I am writing this article with you in mind.
I’m no authority on the Bible, but I am passionate about reading the Word and I’ve come to know that it’s anything but ordinary. By sharing a few things I’ve learnt over the years, maybe we can better figure this out together.
RELATIONSHIP BRINGS REVELATION
Search rigorously for the truth, but don’t make a god out of extracting wisdom and knowledge from the Bible. It takes meekness to submit to God who is watching over us — teaching us as we read His Word.
Incomprehension should lead to more earnest searching. But there are also spaces in the Bible where incomprehension reflects the beautiful mystery of God’s design. It takes humility to see that. It may sound like a cop-out, but I’ve learnt that there are things I don’t have to understand.
Quality time is one of God’s love languages. When you’re together with someone, you may not always learn something new about that person every time you hang out. But each time you do hang out, it strengthens the bond you share.
It’s the same with God. There will be days where you just don’t seem to get anything out of reading the Bible, but don’t lose hope: As long as you’re intentional about spending time with God, the relationship will deepen.
KNOWING ABOUT GOD ≠ KNOWING GOD
It’s not the same. Being able to teach in a Bible school is not the same as being a friend of God. Having said that, in order for one to know God — one has to know about Him.
What we need is to strike a balance. Think of a superstar: You can know his hobbies, address, favourite foods — but you will never truly know that person until you are physically present with him, hanging out and getting to know him personally.
But God isn’t far away like a superstar. No, He’s much closer than many of us know (Psalm 34:18).
If all we get from Bible-reading is mere information about God — all while never truly being intentional about enjoying the relationship — then all we’re getting is head knowledge. God wants so much more for us than that! He wants both head and heart knowledge, and to deepen our relationships with Him.
REAL AND RELEVANT
To me, the Bible is real and relevant. Though it was written 2000 years ago, we still have the privilege to draw life-giving truths from the timeless Word about God, ourselves and the world today!
When you read the Bible, think of what the passage says about these kinds of things:
Who God is — His nature and Character
Humankind in general
The world, society and culture
Ask the right questions, and God’s revelation will show you the right way to live. Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
We renew our minds when we take in the Word. So when you learn a spiritual principle from the Bible — apply it in your daily living. If we do, then our scripture reading is a catalyst for transformation in our hearts — and we’ll know this transformation by our fruits (Galatians 5:22-23).
The Bible is relevant. The question is whether we choose to make it relevant to our lives.
That was the question I used to ask myself at the end of every day.
I grew up in Christianity, but it was when I entered Ngee Ann Polytechnic that God turned my life around. There I joined Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as Cru Singapore), where I became increasingly serious in my faith.
I matured spiritually through my Polytechnic years, becoming truly “on fire” for God.
After I graduated from Polytechnic, it was time to enlist for National Service (NS).
I could do it. I was positive I could keep my faith burning throughout Army life. So I started off excited to introduce my comrades to God!
I lasted about a year.
I read the Bible and prayed every night. But in time, I began to spend less time alone with God. Eventually I stopped intentionally praying altogether.
It wasn’t long before I fell into sexual sin. The deeper I sank into the mire of pornography, the further I felt from God. But I was adept at keeping my failings a secret. Telling neither my family nor my church, I maintained that “good Christian” façade.
I knew it was wrong. But I still indulged in the pleasures of the flesh. Lust ate at me from the inside, dragging me to despair and depression.
It brought me to a point where I started questioning my future, my life and my God: “If I can’t live the life that is promised by God, then there is no point in living.”
But that wasn’t a holy kind of resolve … It was closer to a suicidal thought.
Although it was small, a flame still flickered within me. I had a spark that still wanted God, and I knew God saw my flickering flame.
My pastor invited me to a YWAM Missions conference one day, and though I could only attend it during the weekend, I went. I sat through worship, where we sang “Give me Jesus” by Fernando Ortega.
The Holy Spirit touched me with that song as the little flame within me erupted into a blazing fire. In that moment, I told God I didn’t want anything apart from Jesus.
“How can you continue to live for your own comfort after seeing this?”
On the second day of the conference, I learned about YWAM’s Discipleship Training School (DTS). The next DTS would begin half a month after I finished my NS.
Initially, I had plans to become a teacher at the National Institute of Education, but that course would only start nine months after NS. But since a DTS was six months, I could still make it.
This is the last chance I’ll give you, God. If not – I’m ending my faith. That was the ultimatum I gave to God as I signed up for DTS in YWAM Singapore.
If that desire in my heart was a flame, then it was as if God threw every combustible thing He could find at me during DTS. Breaking and restoring me each week, by the end of it, I felt like my heart had been transplanted.
As part of DTS, I went on an outreach to Cambodia. There I saw the physical and spiritual depravity of the poor, and heard a quiet voice inside me pleading, “How can you continue to live for your own comfort after seeing this?”
The experience made me question life once more: “What’s the point of living, if not for Christ?” So, when an altar call for missions was given later on in the course, I stepped up and shouted: “Here I am, send me!”
God took me seriously. The fire within me grew as I continued on the outreaches, and He helped me see the great need for labourers in the plentiful harvest field (Matthew 9:37).
He gave me a global vision as I moved to South Africa to attend YWAM’s School of Biblical Studies (SBS), Leadership Training School (LTS) and continue my ministry work.
THE GOD WHO HOLDS TOMORROW
It’s been just over two years since I joined YWAM. I’ve given my life to missions wherever God calls me to, and where I once rejected the idea outright – now I am proud to call myself a missionary.
In hindsight, God has been there through it all. He was the one who kept the flame flickering, and the one who fanned it when it was time to blaze a new trail. Sovereign and faithful, He pursued me even while I was chasing everything but Him.
If you’re questioning life, or questioning God, I’d like to say that I empathise with you. Frankly speaking, it’s not a bad place to be – just don’t get stuck there. This is a verse that encouraged me in the difficult times:
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
God loves you. Only He is able and willing to take all your pain and affliction, and turn them into something beautiful. There is meaning to all of it – a message from the mess.
Look for it. In YWAM, we have a favourite saying: “As long as you say ‘Yes!’ to Jesus, He can use you for extraordinary things.”
I believe it. And I also believe that the most fulfilling and purposeful life that anyone can live, is the one that God has prepared for them. We should live for nothing less; die trying for our God-given destiny!
If you can find the faith, trust me on this: I promise that God has a beautiful plan in store for you. It goes far beyond what you can imagine.
He is the God who holds our tomorrow in His hands.
That’s a Japanese proverb I once read. It means that if someone doesn’t follow the set path or pattern in society, he is made to conform like the rest.
This mindset is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture where deviation is heavily frowned upon. Singapore is similar when you think about the lives of conformity we often lead. We begin our paper-chase from childhood, readying ourselves early for the rigid rat-race of life ahead.
Our culture does not lend itself well to people who want something radically different and adventurous. And I believe we can be intolerant of people who do not think like us.
So, I often feel close-minded: Stuck in the belief there’s only one kind of living, one end to education, one way to work, one type of church, one track of thinking … The list goes on!
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)
The fear of non-conformity permeates even our relationship with God. Think about it: Are you afraid to be identified as a Christian?
If your answer was “yes”, you’re not the first. Jesus’ followers have always faced persecution. While we live in a nation that is multi-religious and and tolerant of all faiths, our persecution — if we want to call it that — manifests itself chiefly in social interactions.
But the price we pay is small, relative to other Christians elsewhere. It’s a mercy our battle’s merely against ridicule and sneers.
That’s why Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).
And it’s no coincidence how Jesus tells his disciples they are the salt and light of the earth in the next verse. If we conform to the world, we lose our shine and our taste. We forget who we were called to be.
We are called to live lives like lights in the world (Philippians 2:15). That’s a life that looks nothing like what the world offers, or tells you is normal. The Christian life is supernatural — above the natural.
Such a life is counter-cultural not for the mere sake of standing out — but for God. So stick out, and let it be so that others see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
DON’T SNUFF OUT THEIR LIGHTS
If you see someone doing something differently, don’t let your first reaction be to change or destroy them. That’s what the religious leaders did. When they saw that Paul had converted to Christianity, they tried to snuff out his light without trying to understand.
What if they just talked to him? Have a level-headed discussion? They might not have missed out on knowing Christ!
But we should move from mere toleration to celebration. When someone is different, we shouldn’t be so surprised. God created us all uniquely with different personalities, likes and dislikes. Instead of reacting by tearing down — let us respond by inquiring.
Because people do things for reasons. It sounds simple enough, but there are reasons for why people are the way they are. So look for a reason to celebrate that person (1 Cor 13:7), believing the best of him.
If we conform to the world, we lose our shine and our taste. We forget who we were called to be.
Don’t hammer down the stake that sticks out. When someone decides to do the cleaner a favour by clearing his own tray — don’t criticise him for being a goody-two-shoes. When someone speaks with a foreign worker, join in the conversation!
Never be the one to snuff out the lights which others are shining for the glory of the Father. There’s already enough persecution to go around — we can’t have friendly fire in the Kingdom.
I’ll end with a quote by Marianne Williamson. She captures beautifully the heart behind standing out for God’s glory:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
I was at a loss for words when first confronted with this question. I remember hurrying away in embarrassment – not because I didn’t know the answer – but because I felt it was a loaded question.
When I was still a new believer, I thought this question was a great way to start an evangelistic conversation. But when I really meditated on the nature of the question, I saw a problem.
When I asked that question I wasn’t preaching the good news – I was preaching bad news.
Not the Gospel, but a judgement!
The reason why I believe that question brings bad news is because it creates fear.
And fear is completely contrary to what the early believers of the Church experienced, who hearing of the good news, rejoiced as though they had found great treasure (Matthew 13:44).
But the gospel of joy has so often been reduced to one of fear. Too many preachers today preach a gospel packaged as a ticket to escape death – a close shave from hell.
“If you died today, where would you go?” is a manipulative question that narrows in on the fear of eternal damnation, when the real focus should be the offer of salvation and an everlasting place with God. And sure, while accepting Christ does mean that one is delivered from hellfire, it more importantly means one would spend eternity with Father God in heaven.
So the gospel of fear isn’t just unbiblical – it’s a rip-off of the real deal. An eternity with God is infinitely different from an eternity not in hell.
If it were possible to enter heaven with merely the intention to escape hell, then I wonder if heaven would feel much like hell since we never really wanted God – much less an eternity with Him!
What are some repercussions from preaching the gospel of fear?
1. Lukewarm faith If you don’t want to have a relationship with God for God, but only do it to escape hell – you will be content with the bare minimum. Imagine you were offered an all expenses paid ticket into Disneyland. Would you not take it, go inside on an adventure, and be all there with your 100%? Why would anyone be content to merely stand at the gates of Disneyland for the rest of the day? Perhaps they were falsely told by someone that simply entering was all there was to it.
2. Living in doubt You will be constantly questioning whether you are saved, because you don’t have a relationship with God. Walking with God is a supernatural experience which requires much guidance by the Holy Spirit. Cognitively, you may be able to know things from the Bible, but the only way the Truth can be translated into reality and unshakeable faith convictions in your heart is through the Holy Spirit working in us. We need both head and heart knowledge.
3. Lack of fulfilment To you, the Kingdom of God is reduced to a mere destination. However, to someone in a relationship with God through the gospel of joy, the Kingdom of God is already in his life! Jesus wasn’t only concerned with just getting us into heaven – He was also interested in bringing Heaven down to earth through Himself and through us. That is why Jesus said, “the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Luke 17:20-21).
The true gospel is life-changing and produces eternal joy.
In Psalm 63, David wrote that God’s steadfast love was better than life itself. And if we go back to the Pentateuch, we can see throughout that God created us to have a relationship with Him. So when we claim that Christianity is not a religion but a relationship, we need to know who we were called to be from the very beginning – lovers of God.
We were created by God to enjoy Him now and forever. The true gospel that deals with sin and dispenses grace, pivots on the love God has always had for mankind. And it was from out of that love that God sent His Son to bring us back into a relationship with Him.
Jesus wasn’t only concerned with just getting us into heaven – He was also interested in bringing Heaven down to earth through Himself and through us.
The early church could give up everything for God’s sake because they grasped the joy-giving truth of what God had done for them – from Genesis to Jesus! Their desire for God was so great that life on earth simply couldn’t compare to spending eternity with God (Philippians 1:21)!
They weren’t afraid to die because Jesus brought death to death – and life for them. No, what they had was joy. So do you see the difference between the gospels of joy and fear?
True discipleship and radically-authentic Christianity is more than a ticket to heaven. It demands more than one day in the week. The true gospel demands your entire life.
But if you’re able to surrender that, then eternal joy and fellowship with God awaits you.
“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:10-11)
The first question that comes to the top of our heads when we mention the word “poverty” is: Do we really have poor people in Singapore?
Sure, we have people who are constantly complaining about how poor they are – that’s inevitable. But according to MFA and Forbes, we are the third richest country in the world today, with reference to our overpowering GDP.
While we do have homeless people, elderly who cannot afford to retire and families mired in financial difficulty, Singaporeans are nowhere near the poorest of the poor.
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
Besides our financial superiority over most of the world, crime rates in our country are insignificantly minute and mostly minor. One is more likely to have more money taxed or fined than robbed. The judicial system of Singapore ensures that justice is swift and imposed so heavily that it is simply not worth it to even try to commit crimes.
So, how does the idea of justice for the poor and needy apply to us? How can Singaporeans obey and work out this command of God by executing justice where justice is due? How do we become the good Samaritan to the battered Jew (Luke 10:25-37) where there is no literal “battered Jew” in our line of sight?
What if there is a way in which all of us can participate in justice in the world today? Caring for the “poor and needy” does not need to be limited to sending hand-me-downs to Salvation Army. Generous giving to the forgotten and outcast can be more than giving back the two out of the three packets of tissues you bought for $1 from the tissue auntie.
We don’t always have to go overseas and do a humanitarian mission trip even though that is a perfectly sound idea. If we are open to the idea of justice that includes but goes beyond caring for the broken and impoverished where we can see them, realising that God’s heart is to care for every single individual in the world today, we will be able to see how our every action can lead to large repercussions, both positive and negative.
THE INHUMANITY OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING
One of the most terrible forms of inhumanity is to completely breach an individual’s human’s rights for self-gain, and the way it has dominantly prevailed in the unseen world today is through human trafficking.
If passages such as Deuteronomy 15-16 give us an idea of God’s standard of human rights, then human trafficking is the law’s nemesis – a totally opposite end of the spectrum of justice.
Let that awareness hit you. Yes, people do get paid nothing at all in the world today.
Labour trafficking comprises of a vast majority of human trafficking, together with sex trafficking, and is very literally modern-day slavery. 21 million people of the world today are victims of forced labour, made to work long hours for close to, if not nothing in return.
Victims are forced into labour with threats, fraud, violence, and many other inhuman methods to fuel the selfish gains of the industry. And regardless of how small our efforts may seem, everyone can join the fight against this revolting movement that is oppressing the last, the least and the lost.
THE PRICE OF CARELESS CONSUMERISM
The prosperity of Singapore breeds a culture of consumerism: The more we are given, the more we want.
We want more and more, but want to pay less and less for it. So when we walk into a supermarket, our eyes have been trained to find the cheapest item possible.
But one of the many factors that determines the price of an item is the labour cost. After you exclude raw material, packaging, freight and advertising costs, as well as the profit margin taken by the retailer, whatever is left is how much those involved in the manufacturing process are paid.
So consider the possibility that your cost savings may be down to the labourer being unfairly paid – exploited – for his or her labour. With this in mind, maybe we should add one more dimension to our decision-making process beyond “cheap and good: The guarantee of social justice for its employees.
Consider the possibility that your cost savings may be down to the labourer being unfairly paid – exploited – for his or her labour.
Buying from manufacturers and retailers that apply the principles of fair trade – for example, transparency, the creation of opportunities for the economically disadvantaged, and ensuring that no child or forced labour is used in the process – is us making a stand for justice, that every labour receives what he is rightly due. In 1 Timothy 5:18, the Bible plainly and clearly describes this principle: “The worker deserves his wages.”
This is just one way we can fight for justice even in our everyday decisions. The point here is that we need to consider how we make our spending decisions, beyond merely looking at the state of our bank accounts. Sometimes the price is worth paying.
THE EXCUSE OF APATHY
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”(Matthew 5:7)
The sad truth is, revelation of injustice right under our noses is usually confronted by apathy. We struggle to care about who gets what as long as we get what we want.
We have to ask ourselves, the “Israelites” of today – God’s people – how else can we be holy as God is holy (Leviticus 11:44-45)? How can we show compassion to the poor as God cares for the broken-hearted?
In the prophetic books, two minor prophets by the names of Micah and Amos spoke out valiantly against the social injustice that was happening in the land of Judah and Israel. The anger and conviction in their writing is apparent.
If the idea of injustice does not severely convict us, our generosity will never go beyond giving to charity foundations and spare change for buskers.
The highlighted theme of both books is not merely the ignorance of the poor, but the oppression they face, even from the “people of God themselves.” The nation of Israel, who was once an oppressed nation in the land of Egypt, forgot about their past and started becoming oppressors themselves to their own people.
They accepted the lie of apathy and forsook God’s values to care for the weak and the downtrodden. That is why Micah, a book that fluctuates between judgement and hope, is summarised in Micah 6:8.
As much as God is bringing judgement to those who are exploiting the poor and needy, His reminder to them of His standards to “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God” shows His heart of desiring their repentance, to one day become a holy example to the nations around them.
We must relate this heart of God to ourselves, the people of God today. If the idea of injustice does not severely convict us, our generosity will never go beyond giving to charity foundations and spare change for buskers.
It takes a life-changing decision to embrace justice in every ounce of our lifestyles to ensure that God’s just character is being reflected in us.
Therefore, what does it mean to live a just life?
Maybe to bring it a little closer to home, think about what a just God looks like to the foreign workers we see working at the roadside? How does He look like to your domestic helper?
We will never be able to strive for a just life if we are not convicted by the reason for it.
We can choose to live a life of apathy, or we can choose to live a life that imitates Christ. In fact, the Gospel of Luke was written to show Jesus’ ministry to the minority, His outreach to the outcast. We see Jesus specifically recorded reaching out to those whom society deemed as unworthy – women, children, tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes, Gentiles.
As imitators of God Himself (Ephesians 5:1), should we not then exemplify this compassionate trait of His?
From buying fair-trade groceries in the supermarket to impartial treatment for both countrymen and foreigners, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
Is it something like, “Let’s get over and done with?” I don’t know about you, but I’ve caught myself thinking that more times than I’m willing to admit.
It’s pretty bad. I mean, how would you feel if you were meeting a buddy for lunch and the first thing that he says when he sees you is, “Alright, let’s get over and done with?”
Before Moses approached the burning bush, he was instructed to take his shoes off because he was entering the presence of the LORD (Exodus 3:2-6).And when the prophet Isaiah received the vision of the throne room of God in Isaiah 6, he immediately saw how unworthy and unclean he was when facing the LORD.
“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of the people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5)
I imagine he was prostrate, trembling in utter fear before God. And this is the prophet Isaiah – probably the godliest of the Israelites. And yet, before the holiness and righteousness of God, he cursed himself as unclean and unworthy.
When we approach God’s word, we ought to have a reverence like these prophets. We’re not just reading from any other ordinary book – we’re reading God’s own words!
What you do in this world will flow from who you are.
Do we really understand what that means? Because unlike Isaiah, we can approach the presence of God with confidence in Christ (Hebrew 4:16). And yet many of us spit on the privilege.
We need a profound shift in our minds about the Bible: Reading it is a supernatural experience. It can be so easy to get caught up in the corporeality of life that we unwittingly carry that attitude into spending time with God.
The Bible is so much more than a book for us to fill our heads with knowledge. It’s not a textbook. Knowledge is good, but if all we want is to extract information when in the presence of God – we probably aren’t going to find intimacy with Him. All we’ll get is information.
Someone once told me that one way you can know the Bible is true, is by its ability to transform lives.
There are christians who busy themselves with theological debates in the wrong spirit, causing divisions in the Church just to be right. And then there are disciples across the globe who are giving up their lives for Jesus, with just their battered Bibles in hand.
Are you reading just to be right? Or is regular time with God’s Word causing you to be sold out for His will and purposes? If the Bible does not change your life in tangible ways, it is nothing more than a manual for you.
“So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” (Mat 7:17-18).
Jesus teaches us that the only way we can know whether God’s transformation is at work within us is by the fruit we produce. And we know this from the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
I’m not encouraging us to step onto a performance treadmill. All I’m saying is when there’s input from God – there’s output. So the Bible is a catalyst for transformation in our hearts, from which works of faith will follow.
What you do in this world will flow from who you are. If the Word of God is integrated into your life through the power of the Holy Spirit, you will embody the lifestyle of Jesus and it must necessarily affect every deed and word that comes out of you.
DIG DEEPER FOR TREASURE
When we draw near to God, He draws near to us.
Today, follow Moses and take off your shoes before entering into God’s presence. Rid yourself of all the preconceived notions you’ve developed over the years of who God is, and let Him tell you who He really is.
Just as Moses received a revelation of who God is, my prayer for you is that you also will know God is as you discover Him in His Word.
May God give you a love for His Word as you delve deeper into it. May you find overflowing joy in this great treasure you’ve found (Matthew 13:44). May God draw you closer and deeper to Himself.
I’ve heard it said before, “It’s not about how you start, but how you end that matters the most.” And I’m guilty as charged: I have many “beginnings” – but few “ends”.
I tend to be quick to commit to things, even things I know I won’t follow through with. If you looked through my bedroom, you’d come across an enormous stash of notebooks, each with only the first few pages filled in.
These notebooks are metaphors for the many things in my life I started but never completed.
So as the year winds to a close, I’m done with making careless commitments and failing to get past half of it. I’m done with the familiar regret of February. As someone who struggles to complete what I commit to, in 2018, I want to learn how to finish well.
I know what you’re thinking … I’m setting myself up for failure if this is just another impulsive resolution. But it really isn’t one. Instead, I’m challenging myself – and anyone else like me – to start the year right by ending it right.
I’m swapping out my New Year’s resolutions for year-end reflections.
FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. ” (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
The end is as – if not more – important than the beginning. Some beginnings may not have been as smooth as we thought they would be. It could’ve be a new job, a new house, a new child, a new relationship or a new stage of life. You might’ve had a rocky start, maybe a whole rocky year – but the good news is, all is not lost!
Some have quoted, “Failure is not falling down, but failing to rise after you fall.”
Indeed, the journey might have been filled with craggy cliffs and steep climbs, but how does one grow without tribulations? Your marriage may be on the rocks, but how can you show unconditional love when all conditions are already met? Your work may be overwhelming, but what has it revealed about your true character?
Maybe that passion you once burned with has become meaningless striving in the light of little progress, but perhaps there is some sort of higher purpose to the valley you’ve found yourself in?
Whether you are lying in the aftermath of a broken relationship, baffled in sorrow over the death of a loved one, or simply questioning the purpose of life – I can only imagine how difficult it must be to be faced with a horizon of confusion.
It’s natural to desperately seek answers to the “Why God, why?” circumstances of life. It’s human to wish for closure at the turn of yet another year. But consider this: Don’t put a full-stop where God has put a comma. Keep on keeping on.
KEEPING THE FAITH
I am unashamed to say that I am a movie nerd. Whenever I watch a movie, I tend to analyse everything: How it dramatically builds up, how it sustains attention, how the plot twists and turns, and what lessons can be learned from it.
You’ve probably seen this story arc before: The bringer of deliverance swoops in at the very last fraction of a second and saves the party in distress from the villain.
One of the top dramatic stories of the Bible lies in 2 Kings 18-19:
King Hezekiah was the king of Judah from 715 to 686 B.C. 10 years into his kingship, the Assyrian king Sennacherib attacked the land of Judah, and soon, only the city of Jerusalem was left.
A panicked Hezekiah was torn between surrendering to the Assyrians and trusting in God, as the prophet Isaiah was persuading him to. Spoiler alert: Hezekiah decides to trust God, and God destroys the Assyrian army in the blink of an eye.
Does your life feel ravished by an invading force, like the land of Judah? Has everything you used to believe so strongly in been brought to dust?
Do you sit among the debris shaking your fists toward heaven, or does your heart cry out, “I need a miracle”?
We all know how the plot can twist in your favour.
Like King Hezekiah, will you seize the hope of a deliverer by trusting in the Almighty God?
Trust in the God who can change the unchangeable. He is more than able to turn your deepest darkest despair into an indestructible joy – if you will let Him.
FINISHING THE RACE
God is not just interested in being a solution in life. He is interested in every aspect of it, at every stage of it. That’s why Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). And in some versions of the Bible, the finisher of our faith.
He is not just the beginning of our salvation. He is also the journey and the destination – the Alpha and the Omega.
My God is a finishing God, and He desires for us to finish well despite the long and arduous journey of life, the end of which we cannot see or fathom. Even if you struggle to fight on or keep the faith when the going gets really rough, He reminds us that His grace is enough (2 Corinthians 12:9). He will sustain us step by step with His strength.
My God is a finishing God, and He desires for us to finish well despite the long and arduous journey of life.
I’ve seen that only God has the power to help me go on even when I’m afraid. I know that it is only by the grace of God that I’ve resolved many issues that I was struggling with for a long time. He is more than able to help each and every one of us if we are willing to let Him.
The knee-jerk reaction to pain and problems is usually escape. We’d rather skip the journey altogether instead of dealing with its messy middle. Unfortunately, we often find regret waiting for us after a few steps.
So, before we pick up our pens to write our New Year’s resolutions, eager to flip past the unfinished business of the year before, let’s look back and reflect on the resolutions God has been leading us to through the journey we’ve been on.