Ever had someone ask you what’s your five-year plan?
Or how about if you’re financially stable? Are you ready to start a family? Really, what are you striving for? What is the purpose of all the hard work you’re putting in? For the comfort of tomorrow?
Where does it all go? My friend, what if I told you this world has nothing for you?
“You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).
These short years of your life are but a vapour compared to eternity. But what you decide on in this passing moment will affect your eternity, as well as the eternity of many others. The choices you make today have an everlasting influence.
If you could truly feel the weight of your decisions, how much better would you make them? Is life really just about studying, getting a good job, starting a nice family and ensuring a pleasant retirement?
There is nothing wrong with dreams. There is nothing wrong with wanting to build a nice household and have nice things. There is nothing wrong with being an excellent worker unto God and enjoying the fruits of your labour.
Grow where you’re planted. If you’re a shoemaker, make good shoes. If you’re a businessman, do honest business. If you’re an artist, create beauty. If you’re a homemaker, build an excellent family.
But if you’re only fixated on excelling in these aspects of life for the sake of comfort in this temporary home, you will lose sight of what will happen beyond life here.
That is a tragedy. Anything that is done in vainglory — and not for God — is done in vain.
Everything in this life is meaningless unless done for things of eternal value.
Sometimes, we like to separate the Gospel from secular aspects of life such as business, family and music-making. We don’t realise that the true gospel encompasses all facets of life!
It’s not a one-way thing where Jesus dies — full-stop. Faith in Christ means your whole life is wholly dedicated to Him. Jesus died for you so you can have a new life in Him. Don’t give up your life for the temporal things of the world.
Spend it on eternal things — give it to Jesus!
Comfort in this world is a parasite that demands more and more — but true contentment lies in God (1 Tim 6:6).
This world really has nothing for you. Everything in this life is meaningless unless done for things of eternal value. Hold on to the things of this world loosely (this doesn’t mean irresponsibly) in the knowledge that they are temporal — they will fade unlike our eternal God.
“I have seen all the things done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14)
I understand that you want what’s best for your family, especially if you have children. We have been raised in a culture which teaches that money is what makes the world go round. It may be difficult to accept the truth that there is a greater life beyond amassing worldly possessions.
But if you are able to trust God with your life and your family’s lives, He will provide wherever He calls you to. Where He leads — He feeds.
In Africa, we have this popular song called Bambelela, which literally translates to “hold on”.
Wherever you are right now in your life, hold on and hold on to Jesus. Cling tight and never let go. If He is moving, move with Him. Go wherever He is calling you to.
Many of us are called into missions — we are all called to the Great Commission — but only a few respond because we are so often tied down by the fears of this world.
While I’ve been single for most of my life, I’ve been infatuated with numerous women before.
Now because some of these women weren’t Christian, I was tempted to ask God, “So what if she doesn’t love You?” Honestly, I went so far as to think about “converting” someone just so I could get into a relationship with them.
But I really should know better about not being unequally yoked – God is clear and firm about this (2 Corinthians 6:14).
So, one time, a Christian friend of mine entered into a relationship with a non-believer. We were all talking about his new relationship when I gently surfaced my concern that the relationship would likely face stresses owing to the couple’s different beliefs.
“Stop being so small-minded, Roy!” was another friend’s swift retort. That got me thinking: Has the command not to be unequally yoked expired in our generation? Are we just old-fashioned and small-minded?
Looking at the life of Solomon (Nehemiah 13:25-26), here’s my case on why the command still applies: Do not be unequally yoked.
Growing up, I learnt abouthow great a king David was.
While Solomon is famous for asking God for wisdom … He wasn’t nearly as great. Solomon disobeyed a fundamental command given by God to Israel: To not be unequally yoked.
“You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.” (Deuteronomy 7:3-4)
Solomon collected wealth, horses and literally had a thousand wives – all of which led his heart away from God (1 Kings 11:1-3). And this was a man after God’s own heart – the wisest man of the age.
We often hear that David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). But I believe Solomon had actually bested his father’s heart for God – only he pressed the self-destruct button. Reading 1 Kings, I cannot help but be in awe at Solomon’s heart for God.
Having inherited the temple-building operation from his father, Solomon constructed the temple in no time. Every measurement and detail was the way God wanted it to be. After the temple was finished, Solomon dedicated it to God. Read his amazing prayer of dedication to God in 1 Kings 8:22-53. It’s quite lengthy, but it tells us how desperate Solomon was for God to be among them.
My point is this: Solomon was close with God and wise – greater than many of the previous kings of Israel. But sin messed all of that up when the wisest man of the age entered into unequally yoked relationships.
When it comes to any decision to make we have only two outcomes to consider: Closer to God or further from God.
You cannot outsmart sin. If even the wisest man fell into sin – what hope would we have? Solomon might have thought himself above the problems and consequences of marrying the foreign women. It might have been pride, it might have been denial.
But there was only ever going to be one outcome in that decision: He would be further away from God as a consequence. When it comes to any decision to make we have only two outcomes to consider: Closer to God or further from God.
Besides, if she does not love Jesus, she will not love you – at least not in the way God intended. It’s why so many relationships today don’t work out. We build it on good feelings and emotions, and when it faces the first blustery winds – it all comes down.
The only way any human being can truly love, is by being filled with God’s love first (1 John 4:19). If you love Jesus, intimacy with Him is your priority. Logically and necessarily, you’d want to find someone who would help you to grow in desiring God.
You’d want to be a couple who would take each other closer to God.
For all this talk about binary choices, it’s not God or girlfriend: It’s always God first – girlfriend maybe!
Until you know in your heart that God loves you, you will never be able to love or see others the way He does. So our only recourse is to draw near to God and learn about what He thinks of us. Only by growing closer and deeper in love with God can we truly love others – especially our significant other.
Thousands upon thousands are making the mistake of not learning how to love before jumping into things. But you don’t have to make that mistake.
Learn to love and be loved by God, and whether or not you get married, you will live a life that’s built on solid ground.
“How many of you believe that God can do extraordinary things?”
This was a question that Loren Cunningham, founder of Youth With A Mission (YWAM), once asked a group of youths. Every person in the room raised their hand enthusiastically. He paused.
“And how many of you believe that God can do extraordinary things through you?” This new question garnered only a fraction of the previous raised hands, from the crowd which had become uncomfortably silent.
Most of us believe that God can do great things. But how many of us believe that God can do extraordinary things through us? Unless we believe that God uses ordinary men and women to accomplish extraordinary purposes – we will never be able to change the world for His purposes and glory.
My low self-esteem has always been an issue that I’ve struggled with. Even today, there are still times I find it hard to believe that God loves me, wants a relationship with me and would use me to do great things!
Maybe some of that was due to the fact that I was different growing up. As I stuck out like a sore thumb and was always made fun of, I became a person who strove for acceptance from others. A large part of who I am today still reflects those early struggles, even though God has done a great deal of healing in that area of my life.
“The greatest revelation a person can get is to find out who he is to God.”
I can’t remember who I heard this quote from, but it was still fresh in the mind when a pastor felt prompted to share another truth bomb to me: “We often hear that God loves us, but do you know that God likes you too?”
God loves us because of our intrinsic value in His eyes. We were made in His image (Gen 1:27). God likes us because He created each of us uniquely – one of a kind (Psalm 139:13-18)! I didn’t like myself because others didn’t like me. If only I knew then how much God liked me – I wouldn’t have changed for the world.
Perhaps one thing that keeps us from believing we can be used mightily for God, is we don’t even acknowledge that He likes us. But He loves and values us.
“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
The reality of this truth hit me hard when I returned to Singapore from South Africa: I decided to be intentional about sharing my faith with my extended family members. But I felt wasn’t able to achieve what I had set out to do during Chinese New Year.
But what I didn’t know was that God was working in their lives through my testimony without me even doing anything. Relatives began coming to me, fascinated and encouraged by the purposeful nature of the missionary life – even the non-Christian ones!
Yet I have often felt inadequate as a missionary. Just like Moses, I’ve often been tempted to ask God, “Why me? Choose someone else. I’m not good enough.” Each time I do so, God gently reminds me that He is a God who does not call the qualified – He qualifies the called!
I didn’t like myself because others didn’t like me. If only I knew then how much God liked me – I wouldn’t have changed for the world.
Hebrews 11:1-33 is about the giants of faith – people who trusted entirely in God and saw their generation transformed.
Abel, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Gideon, Barak, Samson, David … These were some of the names on the list. I remembered turning the page over, expecting to see other names like Joseph, Elijah, Elisha and Daniel – but their names were left out.
Surely if one wanted to use examples, one would use the best ones? I thought that the people quoted were alright when it came to having faith, but in my mind they weren’t perfect like Joseph and Daniel. Why didn’t God include them?
I think the reason why God chose unprivileged and fallible men like David, is to show that He can work through anyone as long as they say “yes” to Him – even a shepherd boy. When Jesus came to Earth, He did not choose the cream of the crop to be His disciples. He chose the insignificant. He chose the sinners. He chose the inadequate.
So no matter who you are, what you’ve done or how incapable you feel: You are able to do whatever God is calling you to do solely because He will empower you for it!
He is a God who does not call the qualified – He qualifies the called!
Are you willing to say yes? If you are, Jesus can do unimaginable things with your life.
I have answered the call into missions and wherever He calls me to. I have said “yes” to all that He brings my way – and I have never looked back.
What is God calling you to? I really hope you do it, because there is nothing more satisfying than walking in the ways He prepared for you and fulfilling His plans.
Your life this side of eternity is a short one. So make it count.
One big reason why people don’t really read their Bibles, is because they don’t understand what’s going on.
So we tend to give up, and swap genuine revelation for easier things like liking verses on Instagram. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
In Bible school, I learnt four important things to remember when reading the Word of God. I’d like to share them with you, so we can read the Word His way.
It is crucially important that we understand the context of whatever it is we read in the Bible. I’m breaking context down into four further points below.
Segregation: “Splitting up” the Bible by chapters and verses is something that’s actually only 500 years old. Older scripts such as Samuel and Chronicles were divided into two books simply because of how lengthy they were as a whole. So, begin to read the books of the Bible as whole books. After all, the Bible itself is one grand story of redemption.
For example, 1 Corinthians 13 is a chapter familiar to modern readers (the one about love). However, if we read the chapters before and after, we find that chapter 13 is sandwiched between two chapters about spiritual gifts. This completely changes the outlook of 13 because it is essentially no longer speaking about romantic love – but loving the body of Christ.
While there’s nothing wrong in applying it to love in our relationships, reading this way allows for better appreciation of the context in which Paul writes to the Corinthian Church.
Origin, Date and Audience: The Bible was written for us but not to us. It was written to specific audiences at particular points of time in history. So, certain cultural norms or world-views in it may be foreign to us. Ever have difficulty relating to your grandparents? Multiply that feeling by that by a hundred generations.
Language: The Bible was not written in English. There are many words in the Bible which have different meanings from ours today, which explains the many English translations we can choose from. But language is inevitably limited when it comes to putting ourselves in the shoes of the Bible’s writers and readers.
The Timeless God: But God’s word remains supernatural and timeless. He is able to work in readers’ lives beyond the inflexibility of context.
2. HAVE AN OPEN MIND
Because we have reflexive minds, when we read certain portions of scripture – especially popular ones – we hold preconceived theology before even reading a letter. The thing is, much of our theology comes from sermons or teachings we’ve heard from teachers who had their personal revelation from God about that portion of scripture.
So, bringing a know-it-all mindset to reading scripture only limits what God might want to reveal to us. His wisdom and revelation supersede one-track human understanding.
I remember this one lecturer at my Bible school who spent 25 years studying the book of Colossians alone. She probably knows every word of that book by heart. Yet she tells us that every time she reads Colossians, she learns something new – as long as her heart is open to God’s revelation for the season.
3. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU BELIEVE
Reading the Word, we will form conclusions about the nature and character of God. Most of these may be true, but a few will likely be false. We are reading an ancient Jewish manuscript with almost no cultural similarities to Singapore. Therefore, what the Bible’s original readers understood from their reading is likely different from what we would as modern readers.
In fact, what we conclude from scripture actually reflects what we believe from our cultural nurturing and personal values. Both Hitler and Mother Teresa read the same Bible – each concluding vastly different things.
When I did my Biblical Studies in South Africa, my classmates were from over 20 different nations. We studied God’s Word as a culturally diverse group, and I was soon amazed by the many other perspectives of God I hadn’t seen. Before, my cultural perspective of God had simply told me more about who I was as a Singaporean – rather than providing an accurate view of who He really is. And who’s to say one’s cultural perspective is better than another’s?
4. BE HUMBLE AND TEACHABLE
You feed one of two things when interpreting the Word of God: Your relationship with the Lord or your pride. When we have an entitled and lofty approach to the Bible – we feed our pride. Approach the Word of God with humility, knowing that it is only by grace – an utmost privilege – that one is able to study the Word of God.
The condition of your heart is the very filter the Word of God will pass through. It determines the application and fruit which follow. Strive for humility, utterly prostrating yourself before God to receive His revelation from the Word. Posture yourself like the tax collector before the altar of God (Luke 18:13).
“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
Pray and ask for God’s transformative presence to meet you as you read His Word. Reading the Bible must necessarily be a supernatural experience for it to be transformative at all.
We often want transformation at our timing. But God knows what we need in every season (Matthew 6:8). We simply have to trust that His ways are way higher than ours (Isaiah 55).
And sure, there will be times in reading when it’s hard to “feel” as though God is present – especially chapters like Leviticus or Deuteronomy. Just remember then: God is working within you whenever you dive deep and soak in His Word.
“…I take you to be my spouse, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”
Most women and men dream of their big day, of being able to say their vows. After all, they’re entering into something beautiful – a covenantal union for the rest of their loves.
But divorce and adultery have become more rampant in recent decades. It seems the vows recited at the altar have diminished significance. Seated in the pews, I often wonder – and especially so if they’ve written their own vows – if the bride and groom truly know the significance of the words they speak.
My fear is that we are too concerned about the wedding day, and so much what happens after that.
Think of Saul’s conversion (Acts 9). There’s nothing wrong with wanting a momentous occasion or milestone moment. But too many of us focus on the moment of the conversion that we neglect the discipleship that must follow. A wonderful wedding is good, but the lifelong marriage that follows the day is more important.
At the end of a wedding, guests may leave it commenting how perfect everything was. However, what would really make a lasting impact on how the world views marriage today is how you fare when the rubber meets the road for the next thirty years.
In the same way, your followers on Instagram are not that impressed when you post pictures of Bible verses after you become a Christian. They are only impacted when you choose to live the rest of your life in close intimacy with Jesus – when you stick to the commitment you made when you accepted Him as Saviour and Lord.
A conversion is merely a wedding. A discipleship is a marriage.
When the going gets tough, the tough don’t get going.
We’ve all heard of the proverb. But the truth is, when facing difficult circumstances, escape quickly becomes one of the first few solutions we consider. Our generation isn’t exempt from such mindsets, especially when it comes to commitment in relationships.
Unfortunately, many of us also see this in our relationship with Jesus. Forget even talking about persecution: When our walk with God becomes even slightly uncomfortable – we are so prone to forsaking God. I know this well, because I am guilty as charged.
Do you feel this way? You may be on the brink of walking away from God. You may just be dragging yourself to church hoping for an encounter with God in order to “restore” your walk with God.
I don’t honestly think there’s anything that can magically reform or restore your walk with God – unless you are willing to put in the work.
Two of the greatest reformations recorded in the history of Israel are in 2 Chronicles, under the reigns of king Hezekiah (715-686 BC) and king Josiah (640-609 BCE). Preceding these kings were rulers who were idolatrous and far from God. During their reigns, both Hezekiah and Josiah destroyed the pagan worship which plagued their nation.
Unfortunately their reforms lasted only as long as the kings lived. When the next king rose to power, Israel fell into idolatry again.
Think about your relationship with Jesus. Has your revival gone stale? A fiery passion for God fanned by the winds of revival is not enough to sustain the spiritual life of a disciple.
I spoke to couples who have been married for at least 30 years, and there’s one common thing they say about marriage: Marriage is not easy.
They tell me to “choose love always.” In their own words, “it takes intentional decision-making to show unconditional love to your spouse every day.”
The same goes for our relationship with Jesus. We have to choose love every single day no matter how difficult it gets – it’s our only chance for lasting joy and peace.
We have to read the Bible. We have to spend time with Him. We have to serve Him.
A call to discipleship is a marriage proposal.
“And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood…” (Luke 22:20)
In Jewish culture, if a man offers a cup of wine to a woman, it is seen as a marriage proposal. The process usually goes like this: The prospective groom would speak to his father, to ask the woman’s’s father to organise a feast. He would then find the opportunity to “propose” to the woman.
Now the woman actually gets to decide whether she wants to marry the guy. If she accepts, the man would then go back to his father’s house and prepare a home for his bride-to-be.
Doesn’t that sound familiar to you?
Jesus is the groom who proposes to you, inviting you into a covenantal relationship! He is calling us – the Church – into discipleship! He is the groom who is back in His Father’s house preparing a room for us.
To those who accept and drink the cup, one marriage proposal and one acceptance is enough. All that’s left is to live out our commitment well.
There’s a scene where Katniss aims her bow at Finnick – certain that she will hit her mark. Everything in her is telling her to let the arrow fly. But just then, her target speaks out: “Katniss, remember who the real enemy is.”
At these words, she comes to her senses and lays down her weapons.
Remember who the real enemy is.
In recent years, there’s been a lot of debate and activism going on. It seems at least to me, that at every turn there’s a new debate to take part in or some new issue to contend about.
But if we’re Christians, that means we’re soldiers of the LORD’s army — so what should we fight against?
Thinking about this question, I figured the best way to find out would be to ask God Himself.
In Joshua 5, Joshua is leading the new generation of Israelites into the Promised Land when they meet their first obstacle: Jericho’s defensive walls. Near Jericho, Joshua sees a man standing before him with a drawn sword.
That made Joshua ask, “Are you for us or against us?” The man reveals himself to be the Lord’s army commander (divine in nature), and simply replies “Neither.”
After I finished reading the whole book of Joshua, I started to understand why the commander had replied so tangentially.
Bear with me and think back to the Hunger Games movie, where Finnick was about to be shot by Katniss. In this chapter, through the commander, it was like God was reminding Joshua: “Remember who the real enemy is.”
The real enemy wasn’t the Canaanites whom the Israelites had to conquer. God was more interested in conquering the real enemy: sin.
The Israelites were so fixated on defeating their mortal enemies — they should have been more concerned about sin.
We are often just as narrow-sighted as the Israelites in the way we choose our fights. We are so caught up with the physical and what is right before us. We think Christianity is about behavioural rectification, so all we do is wear nice and play nice on the outside.
For many, it borders on false religion — and Jesus had plain words for such attitudes.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27-28)
There is a place for social justice and activism. But when I see how much of it is fuelled by revenge and anger, I’m not convinced that naming and shaming is the answer to the brokenness ravaging the world.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
It is human to feel deeply about injustice in the world. After all, we are made in the image of a just God. But before we wage war, we should consider if the battle is even ours to fight. There’s enough vitriol and hate online and in the world, and the last thing Christians need is friendly fire in the Church.
King David wisely said, “be angry but do not sin (Psalm 4:4).” In a world of great brokenness, while we seek justice (Isaiah 1:17) and defend the needy’s cause — we must know that we are not avengers.
Don’t stumble and sin because you see someone else’s sin — it is God’s job to avenge (Romans 12:19). Before we type up something online, let’s ask ourselves whether our words are true. Let’s ask if they are helpful and necessary.
The goal of discipleship is not behavioural rectification. It’s heart transformation.
The brokenness we see in the world should come as little surprise. Sin is ugly. This is life in a sinful and broken world.
Sin didn’t just destroy our relationship with God. It destroyed our relationships with one another, with creation and even with ourselves.
Why is there so much damage to the earth? It’s because the relationship between humans and all other creation has been severed by sin. Animal cruelty, deforestation, oil spills, global warming, extinction … All the miry byproducts of sin.
It’s the same reason for issues with body image: We have a broken relationship with who we were created to be.
Don’t just get angry at the sexual predators or dictators in the world today, and forget the reason for all this rubbish. Remember who the real enemy is!
But the battle against death is won.
As believers, we know that Jesus has won against sin. He triumphed against death itself and has promised eternal life together with Him to all who believe.
So, our battle to win the hearts of man isn’t a physical one — it’s spiritual in nature. Consider what Paul has to say.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rules, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
Therefore, soldiers of the LORD’s army, “Take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:13)
Consider who you’ve got in the sights of your bow. Remember, your fight is against sin.
Here is my one foundational belief when I think about leadership.
As Christians, we don’t have the luxury to lead however we like. We must lead by following Jesus’ example of servant-leadership.
Whenever I feel inadequate or fail as a leader, what brings me comfort is that I have a perfect example to work towards. I don’t get stuck feeling bad about myself — I look heavenward towards the ultimate servant-leader.
What is your idea of leadership? How does it compare to Jesus’ way of servant-leadership?
Power and prestige are attractive.
Because humans are fallen, we take pleasure when people look up to us. And not in a good way: Many seek leadership merely for the lofty position it provides.
Power and prestige are not inherently bad. But we need to examine our hearts when we start to want these things. A prideful sense of superiority over subordinates isn’t beneficial — it’s why the number one reason for employees quitting their jobs is an unhealthy relationship with the boss.
The Bible rejects the idea of power and prestige as the prize of the position.
“But Jesus called them [the disciples] to Him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.'” (Matthew 20:25-28)
Ask God to reveal the heart behind your desire for leadership. To lead is to serve.
We aren’t inclined to humility.
In fact, if there was a spectrum of leadership styles, the Biblical example lies on the opposite end of the world’s. Christ’s model of servant-leadership is unpopular because it clashes with humanity’s prideful and self-serving nature.
But the Lord didn’t lord it over us. Since God has shown us that leadership is servanthood, we need to lay aside our notions of leadership to adopt His.
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient tot he point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:3-8)
Leadership is a journey of learning humility. Would you be willing to follow the way Christ leads?
Because to lead is to follow.
One of my lecturers once said, “Every failure in leadership is a failure in following the example of Jesus.”
There’s so much truth to that statement. There are many times where incompetent leadership is not so much a leadership issue as it is a discipleship one.
A Christlike leader acknowledges who the true Leader is. Successful leadership isn’t about having everyone following him, but that everyone is led by God.
So, before we ask ourselves how we can lead our people better, I’d like to suggest that there’s a better question to ask first.
Did you know that the concept of having an “other half” stems from Greek mythology?
The concise version of the story is that Zeus feared humans (originally four-legged and four-armed) would be too powerful – so he cut them into two. That meant the two halves would spend the rest of their lives searching for each other.
Thankfully, I don’t believe in the Greek gods. I imagine if you held on to a concept like that, you’d be striving to piece yourself together never knowing you were whole from the beginning.
What I believe is that God made man in His image (Genesis 1:27). That means you are nobody’s “half” – you are whole.
So, the term “better half” has to go. Words have power and what we identify with shapes us. The Bible says that we are complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10). It sounds trivial, but a girlfriend or the lack of one cannot add to or diminish wholeness.
Perhaps you are lonely – you might feel empty. I affirm you: Your value isn’t tied to whether you have a partner. Your value’s found in who Jesus says you are.
There are many things in this world that will try and assign worth to human beings based on what they have or don’t, or whether they’re a swipe-right or a swipe-left.
Take some time to read Psalm 139. Crafted by God, you have inherent value. You are His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10).
Don’t compare. It’s something I strive never to do especially when I’m watching all my peers get married and have kids. Comparison truly is the devil’s snare. It produces envy and the mindset of “God, if only I had this, everything would be perfect.”
Because whenever I look at my happily married peers, I get impatient. I find myself asking God, “What about me, God? How long more?” So, when I am tempted to despair, I remember Solomon’s wise and comforting words.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven… He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-12)
God has a plan for each one of us. Some of those plans include the gift of marriage, and some of them don’t. Most of us are happy to say God is sovereign, but how many of us dare to trust Him with our futures? God doesn’t withhold good things from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11).
“And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28-29)
If even the lilies! God cares for us so much and it’s reflected in His plans and gifts for us. Elisabeth Elliot writes in A Quest for Love, “If you are single today, the portion assigned to you for today is singleness. It is God’s gift. Singleness ought not to be viewed as a problem, nor marriage as a right. God in his wisdom and love grants either as a gift.”
Just don’t wait mindlessly (Matthew 25:14-30). There are so many things you can do as a single that you might not be able to do as a married person. If a friend from halfway across the world called me to come help serve earthquake victims, I’d pack my bags and buy a ticket that same hour.
I don’t know if that sort of lifestyle would be possible if I were married. I just know I can’t waste the time God has given to me.In my wait for a life partner, I’ve learned to pray this simple prayer: “Dear God, let Your will be done.”
It’s a prayer that’s simple in essence – but difficult to say at times. Yet I know that my life is in the hands of the Father who loves me – who gives good gifts to His sons and daughters.
At the end of it, what can we do but put our faith in our sovereign God? Not for gifts and blessings, but because He is worthy.
To the God who holds time in His hands: I trust in Your perfect timing and will serve you diligently to glorify you in my singleness.
These involvements account for about 7 years of mission influence in my Christian life. But I’ve learned a foundational truth about missions just this year: It’s not about helping people.
It includes helping people but we should not go because we want to help people. We must go – first and foremost – because Jesus is worthy.
CRYSTAL CLEAR CALLING
“Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” – John Piper
So, you are not a humanitarian: Missions is not merely about doing good. Missions exist because Jesus deserves the worship that mission work results in. The end goal is the unified worship of every nation to God (Revelation 7).
The sacrifice of Christ was for every individual from every people group. When He reigns in the Kingdom to come, only He deserves the praise every soul brings Him. So mission work increases the number of souls, and hence the proportion of praise Jesus receives.
Missions is about extending His Kingdom because He is worthy of every praise. It’s so easy to get caught up in bringing happiness to people in missions that we neglect God’s happiness. We weren’t called to improve the quality of physical and temporary life (though this is still a good thing and a means to build bridges) – we are called to bring the gospel to the world.
THE SAVIOUR COMPLEX
I’m sorry, but the world does not need you. Really, let’s get over ourselves: God does not need us to go. He wants you to go because He loves you, and He knows that you will find no greater life on this side of eternity apart from the one He offers you.
When Queen Esther was hesitant to approach King Xerxes to save the Jews, her cousin Mordecai had a serious conversation with her.
“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
We know the second sentence well. We can accept that we are on the earth for “such a time as this”, but we don’t really pay attention to the first sentence – God can always send another form of deliverance “from another place”!
You are not called to be the Saviour of the world – that job’s already taken. And if you’ve tried to apply for the job, I can tell you that your application will be rejected because no one has what it takes to fill that position.
Except Jesus Christ.
We need the humility to know our place: Privileged partners with God in the work He does. When we go to an impoverished country to bring medical aid, food or build houses – we must be mindful not to play the saviour role.
It’s so easy to get caught up in bringing happiness to people in missions that we neglect God’s happiness.
LOVE GOD FIRST
Our motivation for mission work must stem from a love for God. There are many missionaries who go into the field because of compassion for the impoverished. That’s not wrong, but if it is the strongest motivation, we will inevitably be discouraged by the reality of things – that the world hates God and rejects His compassion.
“If our devotion is to the cause of humanity, we will be quickly defeated and brokenhearted, since we will often be confronted with a great deal of ingratitude from other people. But if we are motivated by our love for God, no amount of ingratitude will be able to hinder us from serving one another.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest)
If we reach out to others, with compassion being the sole motivation, we will never be able to love our enemies as Jesus taught us. And what reward is there if you only love those who love you (Matthew 5:46)? It is only in loving God that we can love the unlovable and reach the unreachable.
HERE I AM, SEND ME
“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above Him stood the seraphim… and one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’… and I said, ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!'” (Isaiah 6:1-5)
We are familiar with the account of Isaiah, who upon receiving the call, went to go and tell the people about God. But look at what happened before, when Isaiah encountered God in the throne room as the seraphim exclaimed the glory of God.
That vision of God’s glory in all the earth is the foundation of His ministry. So, rightfully, it should be the same for us.
“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)
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.