by Pastor Lim Lip Yong, Cornerstone Community Church | 13 July 2018, 4:45 PM
Over the last couple of weeks, there were several things that deeply concerned me about God’s people. These are not new problems, but somehow, I sense the Holy Spirit placing an urgent emphasis on them.
The first concern is about our ability to hear from the Lord. As a pastor, my job is not to be an intermediary between God and His people. My office as part of the five-fold ministry is to train the saints and equip them, and that includes training believers to hear from the Lord for themselves.
Unlike traditional concepts of priesthood, where the priest or spiritual leader is the channel of communication between the people and God, Christianity does not hold to such a concept. God’s will is that all His people are able to hear from Him. His desire is that all should prophesy.
Yet one of the urgent needs in the Body of Christ is for God’s people to learn to hear from Him accurately and consistently. This does not happen overnight. Instead it requires for us to pursue His voice in a disciplined manner. Let me suggest a few things that we can do.
3 HANDLES TO HEAR GOD
1. Read the Bible regularly
I’m a strong believer of the fact that God speaks to us primarily from His Word – the Bible. In my own personal life, this holds true. By this, I don’t mean that we should randomly open the Bible and hope for a suitable Scripture for our circumstances. Instead, as we read the Bible consistently and through a systematic reading plan, we’ll find the Lord speaking to us.
It’s uncanny how your daily reading will often coincide with something you’re asking the Lord about.
… pursue His voice in a disciplined manner.
2. Make room for God to speak
All too often, we want the Lord to speak to us, but we don’t make room for it. Say for example, we’ve an important decision to make. We all want to hear from God, but all too often, we make those decisions without taking time to hear from Him.
We often place a short time limit for God to speak and if He doesn’t speak by then, we’d make our own decisions. I want to strongly encourage us not to do that.
Most important decisions in our lives are not rushed. Decisions on a home purchase, marriage, relocation to a different country – these are all decisions that will greatly impact our lives. These are decisions also that we should take time to wait on the Lord until He speaks.
It’s uncanny how your daily reading will often coincide with something you’re asking the Lord about.
3. Be still
One of the most important keys for hearing from the Lord is to quieten ourselves to hear His still, small voice. Too often, our minds and surroundings are filled with too much noise for us to hear from the Lord. Since we’re listening for a still, small voice, we need to lean in and be silent so that we can catch what’s being said.
I suggest waking up early before the needs of the day press in on us. Alternatively, do it at night when everyone else is asleep. The instructions from the Lord is to find a secret place.
The second concern I have for God’s people is the issue of offences and bitterness.
Bitterness comes as a result of offences that are not dealt with in our hearts towards people. I don’t know how I can emphasise this in the strongest manner possible except to compare it with the most aggressive type of malignant cancer.
Bitterness absolutely destroys us. It results in terrible barrenness in our lives and is highly infectious. It’s a spiritual disease that the infected person often will not realise they’ve contracted. It clouds our perspective, impairs our judgement and fills us with negativity. In our own eyes, we’re the victims.
In our own eyes, we’re the victims.
How then do we deal with bitterness? The key lies in looking at the Cross.
A deep and full appreciation of the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross makes it clear that Jesus alone is the victim. The most horrid injustice was done to Him. All the penalty of sin was placed on Him. Despite all that, Jesus forgave and gave His life willingly as a ransom for us – the ones who crucified Him by our sins.
You see, the Children of Israel came to Marah and found bitter waters. Moses was instructed to cast a tree (the symbol of the Cross) into the waters and the bitter waters became sweet. Can the most bitter experiences of our lives actually be transformed into the sweetest moments of victory? Yes, indeed.
There’s grace sufficient for us to overcome every offence and every bitter experience. I pray that we’ll take a serious examination of our own hearts on these matters.
This article was first published on Cornerstone Community Church’s blog, and is republished with permission.
by Zeke Gao, Deacon of YCK Chapel | 13 July 2018, 4:16 PM
“If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” (1 Peter 4:16)
Around the world, many Christians are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. This is especially the case for those living under severe religious restrictions experienced by nearly three-quarters of the world’s population. Just think about the May 13 suicide-bomb attacks on three churches in Surabaya which killed 15 people and wounded another 57.
Living in Singapore, it is often easy to forget what religious persecution really looks like, or take for granted the harsh realities faced by our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. However, studies by Open Doors USA revealed that the persecution of Christians is higher today than at other points in history.
Each month approximately 66 churches are attacked, 225 Christians are killed, 104 are abducted, and 160 Christians detained and imprisoned without trial. The persecution of Christians will likely remain a permanent feature of humanity until Christ comes again.
… if we truly desire to live a godly life and follow Christ, then persecution is to be expected …
Even at home, you may face persecution as a result of your declaration of faith. At school, at work, or even among your friends, your faith may be challenged. Those who like you may begin to have second thoughts about you, or see you in a negative light because you believe in Jesus.
How then should we respond to Christian persecution? Here are three ways to prepare and respond to persecution.
3 POINTS IN RESPONDING TO PERSECUTION
1. Expect it
Jesus and Paul warned that if we truly desire to live a godly life and follow Christ, then persecution is to be expected (John 15:20, 2 Timothy 3:12).
This is because we do not belong to the world but to Christ, and it is that very separation from the world that arouses its animosity. This trial of faith develops endurance, maturity and strengthens the character of believers (James 1:2-4) to make an impact for the Lord. So it is no wonder that the spread of the gospel often flourishes in the face of persecution (Acts 1:8, Acts 8:1).
Hence, when persecution comes our way, we should not be surprised. Instead ask the Lord for the courage to face it, and seek His purposes and wisdom for your specific circumstances. This way, acting on what the Lord impresses upon you will enable His truth and love to be communicated to others even in the most dire of situations.
… we do not belong to the world but to Christ, and it is that very separation from the world that arouses its animosity.
2. Lend support
Persecution also provides a direct opportunity for us to show appreciation, support and brotherly love for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ both at home and abroad, in ways which we may not have otherwise known.
Amidst the hardship that our brothers and sisters face, we should resolve to comfort them and lift them before His throne in prayer. We can also take the initiative to partner with various missions organisations to take action where it matters most, or lend other means of support like financial or material resources.
3. Pray and press on
Finally, we can thank the Lord for those we love, and stand with them in their times of distress. Thank Him for His grace and patience with each of us, and ask for the courage to press on even in the face of persecution. We can also pray for those who would accuse or abuse us (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27).
As you read this, would you take a moment to pray for our brothers and sisters in Surabaya? Let us never grow cold or indifferent towards the persecution of Christians that is intensifying around the world.
This article was first published on YCK Chapel’s website, and is republished with permission.
Recently, I came across an article in which the writer chronicled her experiences of sleeping with married men.
The author wasn’t looking for a long-term relationships, and since married men have obligations to their family, she decided that they would be ideal one-night stands for her with no strings attached.
Through her hookups, the author learnt that men typically commit infidelity because their partner stopped having sex with them. And these men found it easier to get their sexual needs met elsewhere rather than to ask why. Other men confided that their wives were bedridden, but they had chosen to not leave their partners.
As I read on, it struck me that these men weren’t looking for a relationship – they already had that with their wives. They were simply looking for sex. In the author’s words: “But the other husbands I met would have preferred to be having sex with their wives. For whatever reason, that wasn’t happening.”
I was appalled when I read the article. How could a husband cheat on a wife and still claim to love her? How could anyone betray their loved ones like that? How dare they! But as angry words turned over and over in my a mind, a small voice broke through the internal rant.
Don’t you cheat on Me too?
It’s easy to point fingers and play the blame game. But it’s more productive to understand that cheating happens when we succumb to temptation.
All of us face temptations in our everyday lives. Some of us check girls out (Matthew 5:28), others watch pornography or even engage in forbidden relationships. And sometimes as singles, we may think we’re not cheating anyone when we cave in – but we are.
We’re cheating on God.
… fidelity and self-control aren’t things that just automatically start after we’ve utter our marriage vows. They start now.
Temptation is universal. I have friends who have given into temptation, I know some who were betrayed by their partners. Likewise I also face temptations, when I was single and now also as someone who’s attached. And I’m pretty sure I will continue to face temptations even after I marry.
As a married person, you choose and fight to stay committed to one person. As a single or unmarried person, you fight to remain pure. So whatever your relationship status is, fidelity and self-control aren’t things that just automatically start after we’ve utter our marriage vows.
They start now.
Temptation is that tension between the heart, mind and will.
In the heat of the moment, it’s all too tempting to simply give in. We rationalise and deceive ourselves – anything just to convince ourselves that it’s okay.
We need conviction.
A friend shared with me a passage from Jane Eyre which had helped her to overcome her struggle with physical intimacy. Jane had fallen in love with a man who she later found out was married. The man begged Jane to stay by his side, a plea which caused her great emotional turmoil. But Jane produces a remarkable response to the temptation.
“I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad — as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth — so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane — quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot.”
… if we stay where we are tempted for too long, the temptation will overtake us. So we must also flee.
Many of us already know what the right thing to do is. We just lack the determination to see it through when the test comes. But that’s human nature. So beyond deciding early what we will stand for, we need to flee when temptation comes.
We plant our foot on our convictions when trials and temptations come. But if we stay where we are tempted for too long, the temptation will overtake us. So we must also flee.
In times of peace, prepare for war. Feed yourself with the Word. Strengthen your beliefs. Pray for your spirit to grow. If you ever stumble and fall, repent and pick yourself up again. God’s mercies are new every morning.
Purity, integrity and our relationship with God – these things are priceless. So fight for them.
It sounded ridiculous – even sadistic – to me as well, when my friend said a similar prayer years ago. But today, these seven precious words have taken on a new meaning for me.
Experiencing and resisting same-sex attraction (SSA) is probably the hardest battle I have ever fought. While I’ve had crushes on guys as well, my attraction towards females has always been much stronger. Throughout the past seven years of resisting the temptation to act on my emotions, I’ve never understood why I had to go through this.
Doesn’t God know how disgusted I am with myself whenever I come to Him?
Doesn’t He know how difficult it is for me to repeatedly turn away from my most natural attractions?
If God really loved me, why didn’t He just make me normal?
Why did He allow me to go through so much pain?
Those were some of the thoughts that used to run through my mind. Even as I grappled with these questions, God used a recent infatuation I had to show Himself to me.
SUCCUMBING TO TEMPTATION
I met her on a week-long overseas work assignment and we clicked instantly. She was kind and took special care of me. Soon, we grew closer and started to confide in each other. We often deviated from the group to spend time together and even hung out in each other’s hotel room alone. I didn’t fully recognise my emotions then and hence, set myself up for trouble.
Perhaps it was the extended amount of time that we spent exclusively or the emotional connection we had that led me to develop feelings for her. As much as I knew my feelings were contrary to what constitutes holiness and Christ-like behaviour, I couldn’t help myself. I told myself every day that I couldn’t continue indulging in my feelings, but I just kept falling helplessly into sin.
One day, God intervened and graciously used the situation for my good. At that time, I had yet to share my struggle with my mentor and friends, hence I did not have anybody to turn to. As a result, God became the only Person I could hold on to. But at the same time, I felt far too dirty and sinful for God to handle.
WE CAN ALWAYS DRAW NEAR TO GOD
But even in the midst of my struggle, I was repeatedly reminded of what the apostle James wrote about choosing God over worldly passions. He instructs us to “resist the devil” and “come near to God” (James 4:7-8). It’s a two-pronged approach that we have to take – not an either-or approach – for it is impossible for us to turn away from sin without drawing near to God.
The apostle James also encouraged us in this: When we violently reject the devil, he flees from us. But on the other hand, when we run to God, He draws near to us.
That beautiful and magnificent image of God Himself being with me kept replaying in my mind.
… when we run to God, He Himself draws near to us.
When that realisation hit me, I knew what I had to do.
I had to come to God in brutal honesty, regardless of the state I was in. Humbling myself to realise that I could not do it on my own and raising the white flag in surrender was difficult, but I knew that there was no other option for me. I had done all I could with my human strength but it still did not amount to anything. I saw my helplessness and my desperate need for God.
I remember crying out to God in frustration. I whined endlessly to God in agony. I begged Him to remove my feelings of attraction. It was in these moments of vulnerability that I realised that it is absolutely okay for me to come to our Holy God in filthy rags.
God proved to me that He provides us with the strength to obey Him, so that we can resist even the toughest temptations.
In fact, just like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, He welcomes and embraces us when we come to Him in repentance – regardless of the state we are in. When we become His children, we can never be too dirty, too unholy or too distant to come back to him.
Slowly, I started to feel less alone in my struggle and I knew for certain that God was fighting alongside me. Every time I turned to him, comfort and peace, which were usually elusive to me, suddenly began to fill my heart. I felt reassured that turning to God was the right thing to do.
I also noticed how my prayers shifted from asking God to remove the temptation to asking God for strength to make the right decisions. He became very real to me in those precious seven days when I struggled with that temptation.
GOD NEVER ABANDONS US
For the first time, I was truly convinced that our Father never abandons us. Even in our times of rebellion against Him, He is never too far away for us to reach out to.
God proved to me that He provides us with the strength to obey Him, so that we can resist even the toughest temptations. In Philippians 1:6, He reassures us that He is not done with us yet and that He will complete the good work that He started in us.
… my prayers shifted from asking God to remove the temptation to asking God for strength to make the right decisions.
Since I began this journey, I have found it easier to obey God. By actively distancing myself whenever I find myself developing feelings for other girls and being honest with God about what I’m feeling, I now struggle less to turn away from temptations and turn my heart towards God.
I still do not have an answer for why God allowed me to be attracted to both genders and am far from being immune to temptations, but God has opened my eyes to see how these encounters have become a way for Him to draw me back to Himself.
I’ve seen how weak and helpless I am in the face of sin, and how the Almighty God works even through that.
Now, I am able to truly thank God that I struggle with same-sex attraction, for if I didn’t, I wouldn’t see how God graciously provides us with His own presence and supernatural strength to fight these battles and to ultimately win the war in eternity.
This article was first published on YMI.today, and is republished with permission.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the idea of surrendering. I like to be in control, I like to call the shots, I like to plan and chart my future. I would rather hide God in the unseen corner of my heart and call Him out only when I need Him to bail me out of trouble. Surrender to Him? Whatever for?
It’s almost as if God wired us to find surrender incredibly difficult to swallow – because it is – except that He didn’t. What if I told you we were made to joyfully relinquish control and allow God to lead us in holy partnership? Does that thought make you uncomfortable?
THE MOST PAINFUL REQUEST
The Greek word for surrender, paradidomi, means to give into the hands of another, and to give in to another’s power or use.
When God tested Abraham in Genesis 22, it wasn’t just a test of obedience, but one of sovereignty. Who really sat on the throne of Abraham’s heart? Would Abraham surrender to the will of God, even to the ultimate request of his beloved son’s life?
“Sometime later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.’” (Genesis 22:1-2)
From God’s call to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3, to the numerous rehashing of God’s covenantal promise to make him the Father of all nations (Genesis 13:14-17, 15, 17) – surely it must have been so difficult to say yes to God, especially to this seemingly absurd request that followed it all.
I don’t know about you, but I can imagine how difficult it must have been for Abraham to relinquish control when God said, “Give me Isaac.”
“Abraham was old when Isaac was born, old enough indeed to have been his grandfather, and the child became at once the delight and idol of his heart. From that moment when he first stooped to take the tiny form awkwardly in his arms he was an eager love slave of his son. God went out of His way to comment on the strength of this affection. And it is not hard to understand.
“The baby represented everything sacred to his father’s heart: the promises of God, the covenants, the hopes of the years and the long messianic dream. As he watched him grow from babyhood to young manhood the heart of the old man was knit closer and closer with the life of his son, till at last the relationship bordered upon the perilous.
“It was then that God stepped in to save both father and son from the consequences of an uncleansed love.” (A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God)
I believe God was teaching Abraham what it meant to find true satisfaction in Him – a satisfaction that comes from a posture of joyful, confident surrender. Whatever the cost, He wanted him to learn this lesson. And not just him, but many other faith heroes, and yes, even us today as well.
When the fig tree didn’t bud, when there weren’t any grapes on the vines, when the olive crop failed and the fields were barren, when there wasn’t any sheep in the pen and cattle in the stalls, Habakkuk declared, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
One of my favourite articles puts it this way: “When Job was still able to say, after losing everything, ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’ (Job 1:21), he declared the surpassing worth of God. God himself, not the things He could offer, is Job’s true treasure.”
When Abraham trudged towards Moriah with the firewood, ropes and knife needed for the sacrificial offering, the weight wasn’t on his back, but on his heart. I don’t know how long that journey to Moriah took, but I believe that God was changing Abraham’s heart with his every step.
Gradually we see that control was relinquished, because when Abraham reached the place of sacrifice, he laid down his baggage and told his beloved son, “The LORD will provide.” Abraham joyfully surrendered.
“God let the suffering old man go through with it up to the point where He knew there would be no retreat, and then forbade him to lay a hand upon the boy. To the wondering patriarch He now says in effect, ‘It’s all right, Abraham. I never intended that you should actually slay the lad. I only wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart that I might reign unchallenged there.
‘I wanted to correct the perversion that existed in your love. Now you may have the boy, sound and well. Take him and go back to your tent. Now I know that you fear God, seeing that thou has not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’
We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety; this is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save.
Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.” (A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God)
Abraham and many other Bible heroes rejoiced not in their circumstances, but in God. They knew that their faith is not circumstantial, hence they could joyfully surrender to the One sovereign over circumstances.
They learnt the Kingdom equation: God + nothing = everything, and this must be the formula we follow. They could surrender because they have first found true satisfaction in God, and nothing could shake that conviction, not even the removal of their most precious possessions.
COME TO THE ALTAR
I have many “Isaacs”, things precious to me. I like to look good and dress well. I’ve put certain relationships before God. I’ve even put ministry success above God. I find security in a life driven by sound decisions and worldly possessions.
But the tighter I hold on to these lesser loves I hear God even clearer, over and over: “Give me your Isaac.”
He calls me to come to the altar with my Isaac, to learn how to joyfully surrender my great loves one by one because He knows that whatever I hold on to by my strength is never secure. It’s not always intuitive, but there’s no safer place for my most precious things than in His hands.
Anything outside of God sovereign care and watch is in danger – in danger of being exalted above Him and becoming an avenue for tearing my heart apart because nothing lasts forever.
It’s not always intuitive, but there’s no safer place for my most precious things than in God’s hands.
He calls me to come to the altar because He knows that my heart is deceitful beyond all things (Jeremiah 17:9) and that only in His care will it be sealed and safe from unnecessary hurts and disappointments. And so the King of my heart calls me to surrender.
But this surrender isn’t and shouldn’t be a forceful one. Again, in Kingdom math, surrender is liberating, not enslaving. Exchanging kingship brings joy, not despair. So every day I come to the altar, to learn what it means to find true satisfaction in Jesus, and nothing else.
Every day I learn to joyfully surrender my desires, hopes and wishes to Him: Those relationships, grades, finances, ministry fruitfulness, everything … And in doing so, I too declare, “The LORD will provide.”
My surrendered heart can find joy, satisfaction and rest in this beautiful truth, because this declaration has already found fulfilment in the person of Jesus Christ.
SALVATION LIES IN SURRENDER
When God created man, He intended our relationship to be one where we joyfully submitted and surrendered to His sovereign and loving lead. We were created to follow and reflect our Maker from a posture of humble surrender, obedience and trust.
But when Adam and Eve shared a bite of the alluring forbidden fruit, what tasted exceedingly sweet quickly turned into bitter antagonism between God and man. That day, God’s idea of joyful surrender was contested by man’s selfish, wilful desires.
That day, Man essentially told God: “I want to be king, and You must surrender to my will”. You might ask, “Isn’t God strong enough to break the seal over our hardened hearts?” Of course He is, except He didn’t, because He always intended surrendering to be a joyful, free choice.
In Kingdom math, surrender is liberating, not enslaving.
He wants us to be like Abraham and Isaiah, who gladly, not grudgingly responded to Him: “Here I am.” (Genesis 22:1, Isaiah 6:8)
We can only thank God that our story didn’t end there. For that same day, God promised a conquering King who would one day surrender the privileges of heaven just to be with us. He did that to break the serpent’s curse and help men find their way back to their Maker.
The journey to regain the rightful throne of men’s hearts began that day, and true satisfaction and joy is promised to those who gladly surrender to the One who created all things.
At the start of my journey with Jesus, they typically revolved around what I now recognise as trivialities: Favour at work, relief from stressful situations, a sudden stop to rain.
But as I matured, the sharing lessened, and the words dried up. It’s not that I don’t want to celebrate what Jesus has done and is doing in my life. It’s just that we’ve come to expect testimonies to end with the spiritual equivalent of a “happily ever after” – and that’s something my story can’t offer.
I am going blind in both my eyes.
This is hard for me to write, because until a few months ago I thought I was only really going blind in one of them. Sometimes it takes a while for the mind to catch up with reality.
Most people in my church know about this light affliction of mine. Many have prayed over me, declared verses of healing and promises of miraculous recovery that are mine to claim with the redemption of one mustard-seed of faith.
Within the first ten minutes of conversation, someone will usually ask me, “How are your eyes?” And I will pause, try to work out what I ought to say as though I haven’t had to answer this question more times than either “So what exactly do you do?” or “When are you going to find yourself a girlfriend?”
My usual answer, after some deliberation, is that things are okay, and that it’s hard to really tell. How else do you summarise a life-sentence into a pocket of small-talk?
Going blind forces me to acknowledge that I can’t survive on my strength alone
This is the longer (still grossly abridged) answer: I have been answering the same question for the past six years.
There is still no cure, apart from maybe stem cells and definitely a miracle. I am running out of options for treatment, even from Singapore’s best clinicians. There have been glimmers of hope, but the most positive results have been stays on execution at best: The apparent correction of negative test results … A few extra months on less-than-surgical treatment.
Most likely, they will cut my eyes open soon, and maybe again and again after that. Sometimes when people pray for me, I get angry enough to hit them, although I haven’t done so yet.
This story – my testimony – does not fit what people want or expect when they say “testimony.” It has no neat conclusion that sums up God’s goodness and mercy in a palatable way. It does not cause people to say, “Praise Jesus!” and happily return to their discussions of football or the latest in politics.
If anything, it echoes the grieving, beseeching cry of the nation of Israel in its darkest hours: “Lord – You are good, and Your mercy endures forever.”
So why doesn’t my story fit in?
My primary-school English teachers taught me that every narrative has three parts: Exposition (setting the stage), complication (bringing in a challenge), and resolution (solving the challenge).
I believe the issue is that we naturally frame the complication in terms of what we see, feel and expect – as opposed to His perspective on what’s the real problem. And as a result, we seek a resolution that deals directly with those physical or material complications, despite knowing that He is more concerned with the condition of our hearts than how our circumstances look.
There’s always something for which we can give thanks, even in our darkest hours.
My story looks a little different from that perspective. Going blind forces me to acknowledge that I can’t survive on my strength alone – a road that led me, spent and broken, to the feet of my Saviour. It tore down the walls of my parents’ hearts and brought them to know Him too. It not only humbled me like Paul’s thorn in the flesh, but constantly forces me to test my faith, to build my endurance – to question whether my testimony edifies others or gratifies myself.
There’s no longer any pressure to craft up testimonies in my cell-group, especially not the “popcorn” ones that we fall back on in light of our program’s time constraints.
Instead, I ask them what they’re thankful for. There’s always something for which we can give thanks, even in our darkest hours. And doing so, as the words of Philippians 4:6 suggest, brings us to prayer and a removal of those anxieties that might otherwise mar our joy.
My testimony has no happy ending, partly because it hasn’t ended yet.
Perhaps there will be some conclusive moment of miraculous healing at which I can parcel up the entire narrative for all the world to hear. Perhaps not.
I can only see through a glass darkly, both figuratively and literally.
But here’s something to consider: Testimonies don’t have to have happy endings. Perhaps they shouldn’t. Suffering produces perseverance, then character, then hope. We are not called as children of God to be happy, but to be victorious: Over sin, shame, and death itself – through Him whose own story is the most tragic and yet most triumphant of them all.
Popcorn is easy to swallow, but carries little nutritional value. My testimony may be bittersweet, but that’s only because it’s been seasoned by His glory.
I run a public relations and marketing business that’s rather small, not very innovative, and wholly unremarkable. We only have one goal: Make as much money as possible, and give away as much as we can.
I enjoy making money. I always have. When I was 10, I “bought” my first shares in an off-book exchange with my father. I sold all our family’s baby guppies when I was 12, making a respectable profit (and possibly avoiding an overpopulation crisis in the process).
During my university years, I spent most of it working as a freelance journalist and copywriter, so much so that in one particularly lucrative month I didn’t see anyone outside my household for nearly six weeks. Despite what happened with the guppies, we still had fish at home to keep me company, though the conversation was rather one-sided.
I enjoyed making money, but I enjoyed giving it away more. This was an instinct best suppressed in any Asian household, especially those carving out a living as immigrants in a country with a penchant for elitism. “You think anyone will look after you if you go hungry?” was the catchcry of my pre-Christian household.
Years on, with my family saved, it’s easy to answer yes and amen: To repeat the promises of Matthew 6:25 and Psalms 37:19, and numerous other verses that speak of how our Father will neither leave us nor forsake us.
It’s also easy to answer as Paul did: That it’s better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). But the muscles of generosity were left atrophying over the years until I began to flex them again.
I never intended to go into business. When I did, no amount of prayer could remove the sensation that I was leaping into an abyss – one where if He didn’t catch me, I’d crumple on the rocks of poverty below. But as I was in mid-flight and His promises started to reveal themselves, I knew He had bigger plans for me than to simply fill my own rice bowl.
He’d placed in me a desire to give, and my only question was, “How?”
The first answer He gave me was time. Running my own business, coupled with the flexibility of the type of work we were doing, suddenly opened the hours between 9 and 6 to expanded possibilities for ministry and service.
Preparing materials for our cell group; fixing doors and lightbulbs in the church; meeting the young men under my care for lunch at their offices, on their terms. Giving me time taught me faithfulness in the little things, husbanding my hours and minutes to bear fruit for others wherever they could.
My goal is not dissimilar from an ah long’s: Earn money, give money.
The second answer was treasure. As the business grew in revenue, it gave boldness to my vision: To aggressively sow into Kingdom-building work throughout South-East Asia. We invested in church projects, funded missionaries, donated to charities devoted to the “pure and undefiled religion” (James 1:27) of helping the widows and orphans whom Singaporeans all too often avert their eyes from.
My business partner – himself a committed leader of similar organisations nationwide – literally wrote me blank cheques to use where I felt the Holy Spirit leading me. We put Luke 6:38 to the test and the more we gave, the more He gave back in return.
The final answer was – and is – talent. It came on a winter’s night in the hills of Chiang Mai’s outskirts, where a young man told me the story of his own leap of faith. And as he did so, I felt something stir in my heart as well – the desire, entertained since young but never really exercised, to tell everyday stories of hope and life that would otherwise go untold.
From that point on, the business became a tool. It gave me the flexibility and time to travel afar, and bring testimonies like that young man’s to a world in desperate need of hope and light. It also became a wellspring of resources to support those whose stories I had the privilege of encountering.
I also realised it had been the refiner’s fire to my talent: Two years of managing high-pressure operations and completing last-minute jobs from the back of pick-up trucks, in oily sampans, and under foreign skies clear of cloud and cellular reception.
“For by You I can run against a troop,” declared David, the ultimate action-hero, in Psalm 18:29; “By my God I leap over a wall.” What was once the impossible had, through unrelenting training, become the unremarkable.
It’s increasingly difficult to separate treasure out from time and talents. And I think that’s what He always intended. He wants us to give not pieces of ourselves, but the whole – just like He gave Himself for us.
My goal at the start was simple, not dissimilar from an ah long’s: Earn money, give money. That’s still what motivates me to stay in business today.
But as I’ve learnt to give, that vision’s grown to encompass far more forms of giving, and I hope it never stops. The only thing remarkable about my business is how He’s made it His.
In Chapter 10 of the Book of Numbers, the Israelites were off to a great start journeying into the wilderness.
However, by the start of Chapter 11, they began to complain and “the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.”
“Grumbling is a sin that can have serious consequences,” said City Harvest Church’s executive pastor Bobby Chaw, who preached on the weekend of Jun 9 and 10.
Numbers 11 also recorded another incident of the Israelites’ complaints. The second complaint started when the mixed multitudes among them – those who were not from Israel – craved meat. These people were not descendants of Abraham and they did not know God. Their grumbling infected the rest of the people, and soon the whole camp started to complain.
“Grumbling begins among people with little or no spiritual insight”, Chaw pointed out. Like a virus, grumbling spreads and even those who should know better can get “infected” with the complaining bug.
“But I’m not suggesting that we should cut ourselves from the non-spiritually minded,” Chaw clarified, “But in such incidences, we need to be clear who is influencing whom.”
Like a virus, grumbling spreads and even those who should know better can get “infected” with the complaining bug.
In John 17:15-16. Jesus prayed, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” Jesus’ instruction to the disciples is to be the salt and light of the world, but also to be conscious of the dangers and spiritual diseases that can infect God’s people.
Grumbling can also distort one’s vision. Numbers 11:5 goes on to describe how the Israelite began to reminisce about their past in Egypt. The place where they suffered as slaves became wonderful all of a sudden. But manna – which the psalmist described as bread from heaven – became boring!
Grumbling is a crisis of faith, not circumstances. When the people complained to Moses for the first time, he prayed and interceded for them. When they complained the second time, the Bible said Moses was troubled and he himself began complaining to God – he was even suicidal!
Faith looks to God but unbelief turns inward
“Moses was not grumbling about the food, but about the people,” Chaw pointed out. Grumbling is grumbling, no matter what one is grumbling about. “Faith looks to God but unbelief turns inward. If we do not move from unbelief to faith, we will grumble under any circumstances.”
So what does it take to overcome the temptation to grumble? Chaw provides the answer: Faith that conquers grumbling. The eyes of faith do not stay in the past or the present, but are fixed on the future and promises of God.
“We have to understand that the wilderness is not our home. No matter what sort of bad situation we are going through, we are just passing by,” said the pastor. “The Promised Land is our home, so have faith in God’s promises for our future.”
HOW TO NOT GRUMBLE
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing…holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labour in vain.” (Philippians 2:14-16)
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. That is why devotion towards the Word of God is so crucial. Psalms 119:97 says, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.”
Chaw explained that the Christian meditation is different from other kinds of eastern meditation. “Instead of clearing our minds out, we fill our minds and hearts with the Word Of God,” he said. “It is during meditation that we can hear the still small voice, and receive the rhema word of the Lord.”
The pastor went on to demonstrate how he would meditate upon the Word daily. He would focus on individual words in the verse, then on the author of the verse. Sometimes, he would focus on the context and the circumstances the author was facing at the time of writing.
Drawing to the end of his sermon, Chaw brought the church back to Numbers 11:33 where God granted the Israelites what they wanted, but also meted out judgment upon them. But Moses was not judged by his grumbling. That is the sovereignty of God: He will have mercy on whomever He chooses – and compassion too.
Said Chaw in closing, “Let’s walk in the fear of the Lord, holding firmly to the Word of life.”
This article was first published on Citynews.sg, and is republished with permission.
“If it’s God’s will, it’s God’s bill”: Lessons and miracles over coffee with Jason Chua
by Joey Lam | 10 July 2018, 1:52 PM
I was having coffee and catching up with Jason Chua when he blew my mind with a few stories.
6 years ago when he came back from Kansas City, he had only $250 left in his bank account. At that time he knew God had called him to establish a house of prayer, but back then no one in Singapore would pay you to make worship and prayer happen.
Besides, Jason’s brother is a pastor who doesn’t earn much either and has 4 kids to feed. His parents back then weren’t believers, and wouldn’t give him money because they wanted him to get a job. Their actions simply said: “If this is what your God has called you to do, He will feed you.”
So with little left in his bank account left, Jason prayed that God would give him the faith of George Müller.
George Müller was known as the apostle of orphans. He once sat all his orphans down at mealtime to give thanks to God for food – all while holding empty plates. The next moment, a milk truck broke down outside the orphanage. Because milk would spoil by the time the wheel was fixed, the milkman gave Muller all the milk for the orphans to drink.
Jason told me about a date he once had with Constance – then his girlfriend, now his wife. They were walking around Cathay when she turned to him and said, “Let’s watch a movie.”
Jason told me that he didn’t like the idea of having to ask Constance to pay for their movie tickets. But the reality was that there was no more money left in his bank account. So he said, “Well, we will see, let’s just put the card into the ATM.”
That was when he saw there was suddenly $500 in his bank account.
If God has a will, He will pay His bills.
Back then no one knew who Jason Chua was. So it wasn’t possible that anyone would have transferred money to him, because no one knew his bank account number apart from his brother and father. He rang them up to ask if they had transferred money to him – they both replied no. He exploded in faith from that moment on.
Jason told me about this other time a random teenager came up to him with an angbao with a few hundred dollars inside. He’d never even met the teenager before. Even more incredulous was Jason’s testimony of how his bank account kept “replenishing” itself to the amount it originally held, even after he drew money.
And there’s more: Jason once put his phone on top of his wallet, and when he picked up his phone some time later, he found new notes underneath it. And there was another occasion when he was walking on the street, and he suddenly felt uncomfortable in his feet. He took off his shoes and you guessed it – money inside.
Right before we parted, Jason left me with a word of conviction and encouragement: “If it’s God’s will, it’s God’s bill.”
As I sat listening to Jason, I realised I was meeting a person who has experienced God’s supernatural provision. And I was reminded: God put the stars in their place with His fingers, by His breath He separated light and darkness, by His thought He fashioned each of us uniquely yet in His image.
What miracle is beyond Him?
Read Elijah’s account in 1 Kings 17 – there are two kinds of provision in there. First, God calls Elijah to hide by the brook in Kerith, where he would drink from and where ravens would feed him. So Elijah drank from the brook, and the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and evening. Talk about Deliveroo from above!
How humbling it must have been to be fed by some random birds twice a day. Supernatural provision, in God’s amazing way for every unique situation.
I struggle to empty my wallet into the offering bag, fearing there won’t be enough to buy lunch after church, and yet Elijah asks this widow for her very last meal.
Next, the brook dries up and God instructs Elijah to find the widow of Zarephath – a foreign woman in a foreign land.
According to God, she was going to provide for Elijah. So he finds the widow (in what I’m sure is their first meeting) and asks for a cup of water and some bread. He asks her for these things in the middle of a drought!
She replies honestly, saying that he is free to join them for one last meal before she and her son die from starvation. Elijah assures her that she and her son will live, but insists she feeds him first. He promises that the God of Israel (a foreign god to this widow) would ensure there will always be food on the table until the rain falls once more.
That’s … ridiculous. The widow just told him she was going to eat her last meal, yet Elijah – possibly an imposter for all she knows – insists on eating her last meal first and that a foreign God would take care of her?
I struggle to empty my wallet into the offering bag, fearing there won’t be enough to buy lunch after church, and yet Elijah asks this widow for her very last meal. The beauty of this passage is that in Elijah’s need and the widow’s obedience – neither died from hunger.
But God in His amazing way, orchestrates miracles around such intersections, showing Himself to be the ultimate provider and conductor over our lives.
I don’t know if you’re like me, but I’ve been tempted to think things like, “Cool story, bro.” I’ve also found myself reasoning before, “This is a Bible story, I am not in the Bible, so God isn’t calling me to such things.”
But it isn’t about us. God used ordinary, flawed and imperfect humans for His purposes. I’m sure that if could speak with these biblical characters, we’d realise how ordinary they are.
The same God who’s working these miracles in the Bible, is the same God we worship today. So the miracles He performed in the Bible – He can do them today as well. The question is whether we have the faith to believe He can do likewise through us.
The same God who’s working these miracles in the Bible, is the same God we worship today.
As I listen to Jason’s testimonies, I am made to reframe the way I view money again and again. Money does have many uses, but the one thing I can’t let it do is trap me. And it’s easy to be trapped by our perception of money, forgetting we worship a God who is not restrained by financial limitations, who has infinite resources beyond what mere money will ever get us.
To us, money meets needs. But do we attribute more power to money than to God? We cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24) – one must take precedence over the other.
When we dare to say, “I can have nothing left in my bank account, I do not know what I will eat for my next meal, but I am sure He will provide, I am sure He hears my prayer,” that’s when we faithfully attest to His character and timely provision. That’s when the grip of financial security over us loosens.
Many workers live by such faith, not because they enjoy uncertainty, but because they rest in His provision.
I pray that as you finish reading this article, more room in your heart will be given to God, to let Him walk with you through financial uncertainty. He will certainly be faithful to provide no matter the circumstance, because we live not by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of our living God.
When we dare to live with little or none, we’ll realise how He is truly everything we need. When we have a renewed understanding of God and money, we’ll have a new perspective in the songs we sing about His provision.
But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. (Acts 8:20-21)
Have we taken a wrong attitude to the gifts of God and to God, the giver of good gifts?
In this story, Simon the Magician, who had previously amazed the Samaritans with his magic, was so amazed by Philip’s signs and miraculous wonders that he believed in Philip’s gospel about Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Peter and John came from Jerusalem to Samaria to pray for the Samaritan believers to receive the Holy Spirit.
When they laid hands on them, the Spirit must have come so visibly on the Samaritans. When Simon saw this, he desired this ability the apostles had. So he offered money for the apostles to give him this ability.
Now, isn’t this a good desire? If he could have this ability, he could go around praying for people to receive the Holy Spirit, and more people would enter the Kingdom of God, wouldn’t it?
The problem was that Simon’s heart was in the wrong place. This manifested in two problems: (1) Simon desired the ability because he was jealous and thus bitter about the apostles, (2) Simon desired to pay for the gift as a bargain with the apostles and God.
Peter must have seen through Simon’s heart. He proclaimed that Simon was steeped in bitterness and iniquity. Simon previously marketed himself as the “Great” or “Great Power.” But when Philip came, the Samaritans turned to Philip. Simon lost his status, his clients and his fame.
Since the Samaritans were so impressed by the Christians, Simon must have wanted to have the same power as the apostles to impress people and regain his status. It could well be that even Simon did not realise his corrupt intentions. When Peter rebuked Simon, Simon asked Peter to pray for him.
Our hearts are deceitful, even to ourselves. We can be so enslaved in bonds of iniquity that we do not see ourselves and our own hearts. What is the true intention of our hearts when we desire God’s gifts or desire God?
I have sought God for direction not to obey Him but in hope that my life will be smooth and prosperous. I have sought His gifts with the mindset that I need to pay for them with my giving of time, service or money to His purposes.
The second problem with Simon was that he tried to enter into a bargain with God by offering to pay for a gift.
A gift by nature is free. It would be an insult to the gift giver to offer to pay for the gift. It implies that the gift is but a commodity in a transaction. It implies that the gift giver is not sincere in giving a gift, but is merely cynically and underhandedly demanding payment.
What’s more, the gifts of God are invaluable. What price would one ascribe to the gift of praying for the Spirit to come? Would $1,000 be enough? Would $1,000,000 be enough? Can the gifts of God ever be purchased?
These two problems Simon the Magician had must confront us to look into our heart: Are we seeking God or His gifts with a wrongful heart? Are we seeking God or His gifts with selfish intentions? Are we seeking God or His gifts with a transactional or bargain mindset?
I’ve been guilty of this. I have sought God for direction not to obey Him but in hope that my life will be smooth and prosperous. I have sought His gifts with the mindset that I need to pay for them with my giving of time, service or money to His purposes.
What is the true intention of our hearts when we desire God’s gifts or desire God?
Imagine a child who keeps doing all sorts of things to please her father in the hope that he would continue to provide her with nice food and presents. The child would not be loving the father or in a relationship with him – but with his gifts.
Our God is a Father who desires to give us good gifts freely. He does not need or want us to pay for these gifts. Yet, these good gifts do not always take the form we please. We must not go to Him with our selfish narrow-minded desires.
We were meant to please and enjoy Him.
This story was first published on Ronald’s blog, and is republished with permission.
These days, I don’t have to look very far for my beliefs to be thrown into crisis. Reading the news, scrolling through Facebook, and even casual conversations all involve us forming an opinion on issues that carry implications for our worldview as Christians.
If you’ve ever been reminded that God wants to be sovereign over every part of your life, you may also have encountered the immense difficulty of shaping your worldview in a way that pleases God.
What do we make of the call for equal rights for same-sex marriages? What about reconciling God’s blessings on Israel in the Bible with the bloody reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Or the fact that President Trump received the support of American Evangelical pastors when some of the things he says and does seem so wrong?
As if being Christian in a broken world wasn’t hard enough already. But as someone with a strong passion for justice, I’ve sometimes found myself inadvertently seeking out difficult challenging positions when it comes to morality and theology.
Whether it’s taking part in rallies in my university, interning at gender equality organisations, or even dinner table conversation on topics that I feel strongly about, time and time again I’ve felt backed up against a corner between the world and my religion. Though I continue to wrestle with these issues, I have learnt a thing or two from these experiences.
4 HANDLES TO A GODLY GRAPPLE
1. Don’t sweat the small stuff
If you’re grappling with an issue, chances are that eminent figures in the public world of religion and academia are still engaged with them today. We are all mere human beings, trying to find a God-pleasing way to live and perceive the world. The reality is, exegesis and hermeneutics of scripture aren’t always going to give us 100% of God’s truth, especially when attempting to apply it to current affairs – we are only human, and we all make mistakes.
Even if you’re struggling to form your own definitive, defensible Christian opinion on certain issues, remember that it’s okay to be confused. It’s okay to not know the answers to everything – it doesn’t make you less of a child of God.
2 Thessalonians 2:2 counsels us “not to be easily disconcerted or alarmed by any spirit or message or letter presuming to be from us and alleging that the day of the Lord has already come.” The questions we have are important but remember that our faith is not ultimately based on nitty-gritty debates or complex theology, but on the faithful acceptance that Jesus is Lord and Saviour.
It’s okay to not know the answers to everything – it doesn’t make you less of a child of God.
2. Keep thinking
Maybe you find yourself caught in the middle of a heated exchange on an issue you don’t have an answer to. Or perhaps you didn’t quite agree with something your pastor said the other Sunday.
Personally one of the issues I constantly grapple with is how should we as Christians love LGBTQ people while rejecting the sin of homosexuality. I don’t have a conclusive answer yet, but it is an important issue, so I will keep turning it around in my head. Why would I do that?
I do not believe that we are meant to sit back and accept that we are better off not thinking about such things. Each one of us explores our faith in different ways, and if you find yourself with questions, I don’t think God has given you a spirit of curiosity and critical thinking for nothing.
Job’s friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar shut down Job’s angered cries with placating exultations of God: Phrases that their people probably passed from generation to generation – repeated so many times that everyone accepted it as truth. But God would much rather us struggle with real issues of faith like Job did, while never losing sight of His sovereignty. Hence the Lord said to Job’s friends, “You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:8)
It may be difficult to remain ambivalent when it seems like everyone around you has a solid conviction on every issue under the sun. It’s natural to gravitate toward certainty – no one wants to appear indecisive.
But perhaps God has made you the way you are for precisely such a time as this: To hold these thoughts in your head and heart, seek God’s counsel, contemplate the multiplicity of opinions and perspectives, and contend with seemingly irreconcilable arguments.
Discourse does not only require the exchange of viewpoints—it also needs listening ears; those who absorb and reflect, who are quiet enough to see that every argument has its own inconsistencies. Perhaps even to recognise that no human construction will ever truly suffice as an answer to human problems.
Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” God wants to hear your questions. He loves it when we lift our human struggles to Him. Doing so is a declaration that we need our Father’s infinite wisdom; that our human understanding is limited and imperfect and can never be a substitute for His omniscience.
I do not believe that we are meant to sit back and accept that we are better off not thinking about such things.
3. What you believe is between you and God
In our quest for understanding, we’ll inevitably come across compelling arguments and speakers. This is tricky, especially in a church or religious context.
Because we tend to see the teachings of spiritual leaders as gospel truth. And while it is true that God has appointed our pastors, church staff and Christian theologians, the onus is on us to always test their teachings against the Word and the Holy Spirit’s direction. No sermon is as true as God’s still small voice, and no Christian book can replace the Bible.
So while it may be easier to accept what someone else persuades you with, or tempting to succumb to the pressure of a widely accepted orthodox belief, know that God wants you to ask Him directly. God wants you to work through these difficult paradigms of belief to pursue Him.
“If you believe in Jesus, you are not to spend all your time in the calm waters just inside the harbour, full of joy, but always tied to the dock. You have to get out past the harbour into the great depths of God, and begin to know things for yourself—begin to have spiritual discernment.” (Oswald Chambers)
What is your treasure: The satisfaction of being right, or honouring God? Of all the questions you have, this one is the most important.
4. Test your heart
Your heart is of crucial importance. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) And so it is in life. What is your treasure: The satisfaction of being right, or honouring God? Of all the questions you have, this one is the most important.
So the next time you are confronted with an issue that strikes your head and heart – hold it there. What does it arise out of? If it is a desire to please God in your innermost thoughts, follow that thread. Actively seek to understand: Read books, listen to talks, talk to people — but more importantly, let the Holy Spirit reveal wisdom to you in God’s perfect time.
Maybe you will never get that answer you’re searching for, and that’s okay. Trying to reconcile questions in this world with our faith is a little walking trail on our journey of faith. Whichever route you take, no matter how many detours, the final destination is the same: Grasping how desperately we need a Saviour.
A quick search on the internet will show that most dictionaries define “concert” as a public musical performance.
According to this definition, worship can be considered as a type of a concert. But concerts are also associated with entertainment – a couple hundred bucks for a good time.
Worship isn’t entertainment; it is about our response to God. The first ever worship song recorded in the Bible was the song of Moses and Miriam, written to express the Israelites’ gratefulness towards God who had delivered them from the Egyptians (Exodus 15).
King David, possibly the most prolific songwriter in the Bible, often penned lyrics about God’s character. In Colossians 3:16, we are also told to sing praises to God with a heart of thanksgiving. Even stars sing to exalt Him (Job 38:7, Revelation 5:13)!
So while worship can be fun (Miriam led the Israelite women in dance as she sang!) it is primarily a response to who God is and what He has done in our lives. The unfortunate thing is that when we brand worship as a “concert”, people’s minds are usually primed for entertainment instead of exaltation.
So why do worship bands have tours and concerts?
That’s a question I’ve been mulling over, and the only incentive from holding worship concerts I can think of is the sound of unity. To have people from different churches and denominations worship under one roof – isn’t that a glimpse of heaven on earth?
Even so, I still have my concerns. Most people go for worship concerts because of the particular band that’s playing. I can hardly imagine people paying to worship with an unknown band. If that’s the case, aren’t we putting too much spotlight on the band rather than God Himself?
I personally find it hard to reconcile the contentious point that worship should be branded as a concert because of all the connotations and expectations that come with the word “concert.” But I don’t want to discount the heart behind it. Perhaps there really is a good and compelling reason to hold worship concerts – one that I don’t know of yet.
To have people from different churches and denominations worship under one roof – isn’t that a glimpse of heaven on earth?
But as much as it is the worship leader’s role to worship well, good worship is still dependent on the worshipper’s heart.
Take Paul and Silas as examples. If they can worship in prison without any instruments or backing tracks, then I’m sure worship is not about the environment or the acoustics (Acts 16:25). Worship is about our heart. And while most people are distracted by bad musicianship, good musicianship can take our eyes off God too.
I’ve seen it too many times at concerts. Bedazzled, people become too caught up in catching the perfect moment on their phones to post on social media rather than focus on being present in the moment itself.
To worship is to make a conscientious decision to put aside all distractions – whether it’s strobe lights, surround sound or even the band itself – and focus on God. As worshippers, we are not called to spectate but to participate because worship is more than a musical show – it is us responding to God.
In 1 Kings 19:11-13, Elijah was told to go to a mountain where God’s presence was about to pass by. Standing on the mountain, he witnessed a whirlwind, an earthquake and a fire. Yet God was not in any of it. Instead, He chose to come to Elijah in a still, small voice.
The passage speaks volumes to me about how God wants to be a personal and intimate God. But what about us? Many of us look for God in the grand and spectacular, but how many of us would seek Jesus without all the “high” experiences?
And while most people are distracted by bad musicianship, good musicianship can take our eyes off God too.
I’ve come to understand that it is important to seek God in the mundane too: When I’m at work feeling sian and dejected, when I’m at home with quarrelling parents … Even when I’m alone by myself. Do I still revere Christ? Do I acknowledge – or even remember – that He is Lord in all areas of my life, no matter how big or small?
At the end of the day, worship is less about how the session is being led than it is what we express to God. And Romans 12:1 tells me that worship is a life lived for Christ.
We are our own performers of worship to God. We are the conductors of the symphony of worship. Worship only truly becomes a concert when we reduced it to a 30-minute session on Sunday, or a two-hour concert that we attend and then leave untransformed.
by Jason Chua, Burning Hearts | 5 July 2018, 12:11 PM
When we think about prayer, our expectations often revolve around its tangible impact.
Prayer is a powerful weapon that affects our circumstances and the people around us. There is a reality in the place of prayer that many of us often neglect and overlook: Our prayer doesn’t change God, but it changes us.
In the first few years of my life as a follower of Jesus, I knew nothing about ministry. My faith towards God then was a simple and pure response to who He is and what He has done for me through tangible encounters with His presence and love.
Somehow, during that season, David and Moses were often preached about and quoted from the pulpit. Whenever there was a call for a response to the Lord, I found myself praying prayers such as, “God, show me Your glory,” or “Make me a man after your heart.”
There is an inner compass within the soul; prayer points us to the True North that leads us toward His purposes and will in our lives.
Looking at what I am doing today in the house of prayer, modelling it after the tabernacle of David, I am confident and convinced that God heard my prayer – and that my prayers shape me. I prayed biblical prayers, and His Word and His will formed me.
There is an inner compass within the soul; prayer points us to the True North that leads us toward His purposes and will in our lives. Not only do our prayers lead us towards His intentions and will, but it also strengthens our inner man to stay on the course of our journey towards our destination – to finish the race strong.
The Apostle Paul prayed for the Church in Ephesus that God would strengthen their inner man. Instead of being shaken by his suffering, that they may be rooted and grounded in love for the sake of the generations to come, giving them courage and confidence in the love of Christ.
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14- 21)
Sometimes, the answer and the breakthrough that we are looking for in our circumstances may not necessarily be found in God’s miraculous intervention, but a divine partnership through God’s invitation.
To be honest, our human inclination naturally steers towards contending for God’s supernatural intervention because we want an instant result with no cost. But divine partnership requires us to go through the process with a price. Most of the time we are changed in the process more than the circumstances are, and the answer is found in the transformation that God did in us.
Christians in the first century faced tremendous pressure and persecution for their claim in the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the midst of that intense pressure, God empowered the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses of His resurrection through signs, wonders, and miracles (Mark 16:20).
The pressure and tension stemmed from a legislation passed by the Roman Empire about the usage of the name of Jesus. That led to an earth-shaking prayer meeting in Acts 4 when Peter and John were imprisoned for using that Name – the Church were fearful.
“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:29-31)
Instead of praying for the persecution to cease, they responded to the Lord by asking Him to grant them boldness to speak the Word. In fact, the persecution in Jerusalem did not subside but intensified as we read on a few chapters after Acts 4. James and Stephen were killed for preaching the gospel, yet their courage and boldness gave the church strength to stay true to their witness which is the main assignment of the Church.
Persecution was part of the package. As Jesus said: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake” (Matt 5:10-12).
Perhaps God allows us to experience difficult situations and circumstances so we can cry out to Him, be refined and shaped by Him into the image of Christ – the answer to all problems in this broken world.
And the truth is that some will embrace Him and some will reject Him, but our posture is to stay true to Him and share the gospel. Your life is shaped by your prayers, and as God refines you, a more Christlike you becomes the answer to your prayers.
This article was first published on Jason’s blog, and is republished with permission.
Joshua served as Moses’ assistant for 40 years (Numbers 11:28).
40 years. One of Israel’s greatest military leaders, conqueror of the Amalekites – an assistant! Most people wouldn’t even hold the same position for more than 10 years, much less 40. Perhaps it was for Joshua’s sake – and ours now as well – that we read stories like this.
In Exodus 17, Joshua led Israel to battle the Amalekites. When the staff of God was raised, he prevailed. But when it was lowered, Amalek prevailed.
How humbling that must have been! For all his training, expertise and fighting spirit, the outcome of the battle was determined by the height of a wooden staff.
And we see in Numbers, Joshua being rebuked for defending Moses. The spirit of Lord is not reserved for any one man, but that the Lord gives to whom He pleases. He alone holds all things in His hand.
What does it mean to serve a God like that? What would that do to you? I think it would give you cause to serve as a second fiddle for 40 years, even though you are younger, stronger – braver one might argue – than your superior.
The leadership of God’s people is no place for ego, might or human expertise. No, it is surrender to the God who holds all things in His hand – submission to His sovereignty that triumphs over all other kingdoms. And if He should hold you in the same position for 40 years, you should be glad and rejoice in His will for you.
Ever since my reformation, I have desired to teach and preach. I want to share my knowledge with those around me. But often have I written fanciful words and elegant prose with no regard for those who might hear – only that they might look upon me and approve.
How am I to serve a God to whom I have not submitted?
Oh the pieces I’ve written to glorify myself! The testimonies I’ve planned and executed, not to share the gospel, but to esteem myself! God, I’ve asked you for a long time what you want out of my life. But increasingly, the question that’s truly on my heart is this: “Why have You not esteemed me?”
I’ve been asking why I haven’t been worshipped! The audacity! How truly stupid and foolish and blind I still am, that I would demand of God a position of honour and authority among His people – among any people! How am I to serve a God to whom I have not submitted? How am I to worship a God that I have demanded worship me?
Who is in charge here? Who is king?
Lord, if for 40 years I am to plan children’s lessons or play second fiddle to every electric guitarist in the worship team, then let it be so.
But don’t let me do it with the way my heart is. Lord, help me to rejoice, delight and truly revel in serving a God so big. If I am to be forgotten by the world, then let me take pleasure only in that I am remembered by You. And Lord, I have been!
Help me take joy in the gospel of Christ, in living it out and proclaiming it no matter where You place me. Lord this is Your Kingdom, I am your servant – rule and reign as You please.
Jesus, You are King. The throne belongs to You.
This article was first published on Nicholas’ blog, and is republished with permission.
It was wonderful. I loved her and accepted her for who she really was. We were happy until the day I realised that A was seeing someone else without my knowledge. I didn’t know how to react. I felt betrayed that my trust was broken. I felt angry because how could a Christian do such a thing?
At 20, I started getting closer to B. I loved being around her. It was fun. I’ll never forget the nights we rocked out at concerts, watching Arsenal matches or the late night drives spent just hanging and talking. But we never got together, and one day she started to avoid me. I never knew why until 2 years later when I found out that she was dating a guy who I mentored.
I was furious for being a fool again.
Then at 22, I met C. It was going well and there were plans to ask her to be my girlfriend. We jammed to music together and geeked out to our favourite anime. I still remember Thursday was my favourite day because I’d get to send her home and spend time with her. But yet again, I was betrayed by C because of another guy.
Three times, I was betrayed and cheated on.
The betrayals broke me. I knew only fury and anger towards these people. I wanted justice. Furious, I let rage consumed me.
So I turned towards porn. In particular, a genre called “bondage.” Bondage binds women with ropes and “punishes” them by sexually abusing them. I felt satisfaction and release seeing these women suffer. “They deserve it,” was what I thought to myself each time I scrolled through page after page of bondage porn.
Pornography was the only twisted form of justice I knew. I wanted to see justice being served. I couldn’t bring myself to forgive them and let go all of the emotional hurts I went through. True release was forgiveness, but I wasn’t even close.
Forgiveness is a conscious day-to-day decision and not a one-off thing.
But I think one of the great examples of forgiveness of all is found in the Gospel of Luke.
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
It’s mind-boggling how Jesus could forgive the people actively killing Him. Forgiving means releasing a person from the debt owed to you, even if they will never come to understand the depth of the hurt they’ve caused.
Forgiveness is a conscious day-to-day decision and not a one-off thing. It is both letting the debtor and yourself off the hook. It’s surrendering the post-traumatic emotional baggages to God for His healing.
I’ve caught a glimpse of how Jesus feels when we betray His love for other things in life.
It must be excruciating when one person betrays Him, let alone 6 billion people on the planet betraying Him each and every day. It puts my pain in perspective.
So I constantly pray and acknowledge that I am a sinner and because Jesus forgives me – I choose to forgive others.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Till this day, I struggle with the vast head knowledge that cannot yet be translated into the heart. I still struggle to forgive every day. The events that I went through keep replaying in the wee hours of the night. The emotions become alive and intensified and yet the most ridiculous decision of all is the best one: To lay it all down at the throne of grace.
This pain is something I have to live with for now, but I know that He is patient and He is there for me.
So what now?
A was just happily married 5 days ago. B is happily engaged and just graduated from university. C is trusting in the Lord and working in the mission field.
But now my heart feels strangely warm typing this, knowing that they’re fine.
For myself, I am thankful that I am loved by Jesus. I am loved by my family, my partner and my community. I’m thankful that even though I have so many baggages, my girlfriend loves me and is there for me and accepts me for who I am, that she is willing to give me a chance to go through life together with her.
I’m thankful to Jesus that even though I’m a broken vessel, I am still “crowned with glory and honour”. I still struggle with pornography and forgiveness, but I am pressing on towards righteousness as God’s work-in-progress.
For most of my life, I’ve been told to wait for The One.
The one I would someday meet, who will make all of these lonely nights worth enduring. The one who may not be what I’ve wanted in a spouse but would be the best for me. I felt sorry for myself for the longest time, having to endure and wait for this magical person from the future.
I wish I realised it earlier, but my singleness now is absolutely a gift.
If I could only give one piece of advice to anyone struggling with singleness: Take a cold shower and sign up for a six-month missions stint.
It’s what I’m doing with YWAM now. The greatest advantage of being single is being free! If you were married, it might not be possible to just sign up for a mission stint like that. I love Paul’s words to the singles of the Corinthian church.
“I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:32-35)
Paul treaded cautiously when he wrote this portion of his letter. He made sure to have the disclaimer, “I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgement as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 7:25). It’s the only disclaimer Paul makes in all of his letters because he knows singlehood is a delicate issue.
Not everyone should receive celibacy as a calling, but we should all see the beauty in singleness.
A little historical background research tells us that the life expectancy of a Jewish person during that time was only about 25-years-old. So it would actually make good sense to serve God wholeheartedly in view of a short life. Scholars also believed that Paul’s writings hinted he believed that Jesus would come back during his lifetime. These factors contribute to the rationale of his suggestion.
I have a friend who’s constantly travelling the world. He makes it back to his local church probably five times a year. He’s single and beyond the usual age most people marry by. If he were married, it’d be unlikely that he’d be able to do what he’s doing right now. To me, his life looks a lot like “undivided devotion” to the Lord.
Not everyone should receive celibacy as a calling, but we should all see the beauty in singleness. This is a question I ask myself all the time: Instead of spending time fantasising about the future with our significant other, how can it be better used in serving the Lord now in singlehood?
Singleness builds your character. It’s not some dreadful, meaningless phase of life spent waiting for a slice of the future. It should be joyful and purposeful season where God shapes you to be the one for your one.
I remember just telling another friend yesterday, “You would not be in such a hurry if you saw singleness as an opportunity.” What you sow today you will reap tomorrow. If God is building your patience as a single, you will appreciate Him having built your character when your patience is tested in marriage.
Ask God: What areas of your character can be further improved so that you can be the best one for your one when you eventually meet her? She will thank you and thank God for it.
Don’t waste your singleness. Impatience frequently reveals a lack of trust in God. But He is working for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28).
Don’t waste your singleness.
Singleness is a time to date Jesus – not that being married isn’t.
I have to tell God each day, “Lord, not my will but Yours be done.” I struggle too. It’s hard for me too. The heaviness is there in my heart as well. I’m just trying to find out what God wants to do in me through it.
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
There is a special closeness to God that you can enjoy while you savour the bitter pill of loneliness. Seek Him and trust Him. He is good and sovereign. He makes all things beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
If you truly believe that Jesus is the only water that satisfies (John 4:14), then your ultimate desire should be in Him. And there’s good news in that: “Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and His Righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
There is a special closeness to God that you can enjoy while you savour the bitter pill of loneliness.
If you’re waiting for The One, spend the time growing into Christlikeness.
One reason why more and more marriages are failing in the world today is that we keep pursuing The One, while oblivious to the fact that marriage requires the character of both individuals.
Be The One. The only way to do that is to align your heart with Christ, develop your relationship with Him and He will develop your character (James 1:2-4).
“I’m really stressed,” my friend Anna* sighed, slumping into her seat opposite me at the café.
“I need to do well during this probation period, but at the rate my department head keeps criticising me, I don’t think I’m gonna make the cut.”
Anna, in her twenties, started work in the education sector last year. She’s good at what she does and really helps her students, so I was a little surprised that things were not going smoothly. “Is it personal?” I asked. “Is he just out to get you?”
Anna shook her head. “No, he’s just as strict with the other new staff. And he has a point – we can’t afford to make mistakes. But it feels like I’m being judged all the time. Like I need to prove myself. I’ll be really upset if I’m not confirmed!”
I could relate to Anna. When faced with challenging circumstances, I tend to fret that I might mess up. If I take up the challenge, I pray and do my best, but I still feel a degree of anxiety. And I’d be thrilled if someone who could do the job better would put me out of my misery.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of healthy self-doubt, is there? Isn’t it only natural?
RE-THINKING “GOOD ENOUGH”
It’s easy to see why Anna felt inadequate; the external pressures of her job and her boss’s demands were real. In our student or working lives, we are usually assessed according to certain criteria and standards. Doing our jobs well means having a certain amount of knowledge and competence.
First, in Singapore, the competitive education system attunes students to this kind of rigorous assessment from an early age, handing out grades that seem either to open the door to further opportunities or to put up barriers, saying to a child, “You’re good enough” or “You’re not.” We become alert to the perceived cost of failure, so self-doubt begins at an early age.
God challenges Christians to look at the world through new lenses because we now belong to Christ (Romans 12:2).
Second, our culture is two-faced about achievement. On the one hand, we prize success. On the other, we are suspicious about self-promotion and have been warned not to let success go to our heads. So we learn to be self-effacing. “I’m not good enough”, even when records seem to show otherwise, can become our knee-jerk reaction to praise or recognition.
We want to believe it’s the healthy antidote to pride or boasting. But is it?
We may have grown up with certain assumptions and cultural biases, but God challenges Christians to look at the world through new lenses because we now belong to Christ (Romans 12:2). Here are a few reasons why self-doubt, or a fear of inadequacy, may not be a valid way for Christians to respond to difficulties or a competitive environment.
3 REASONS TO GET RID OF “GOOD ENOUGH”
1. “Good enough” is arbitrary
The world we live in often assigns a ranking or hierarchical value to objectively neutral human characteristics. In God’s perspective, these spectrums of difference are real but equal. For instance, rich and poor, tall and short, beautiful and plain, young and old – such characteristics are points of difference on a morally equal, horizontal scale.
Being tall, rich, young and/or beautiful does not make anyone better than someone else who is short, poor, old and/or plain. Yet our world persists in making those distinctions, rewarding some traits over others. Such a warped value system gives rise to racism, sexism and other kinds of prejudice against those who are merely different from, not inferior to us.
In his letter, the apostle James reminds believers that God has a different standard and expects us to love all people equally (James 2:1-8) because all of us are sinners alike who have received grace before God. So His standard is the only one that matters, and we are “good enough” in the sense that God loved us enough to send His Son to save us.
2. “Good enough” is fleeting
The second problem with basing our idea of “good enough” on human achievement and approval is that “good enough” lasts only as long as the next hurdle.
A few weeks after my conversation with Anna, she told me that she had not been among the five employees offered a contract at her workplace. She was hurt and disappointed. She felt like she hadn’t measured up – hadn’t been “good enough” for that institution.
“If you’d been confirmed and given a contract, would you have been satisfied?” I asked her. “Of course,” she enthused, before adding, “At least until the next round of appraisals …”
The world’s favour is fickle indeed. If we put our hopes in being “good enough” for the world, our security will always be threatened by someone “better” – subject to the world’s changing standards and trends.
… ask whether we are being assessed for the qualities God cares about.
3. “Not good enough” is not true humility
It may seem humble to refuse a challenge or decline taking on something that I’ve been asked to do because I don’t think I can do it well. Sure, real limitations exist, and there are times when saying no is not about being humble but merely being wise about those limitations, such as when I choose not to join the next record-chasing Mount Everest team, or when I decide against driving because I’ve had a few glasses of wine.
But much more often, when I worry about not being good enough to serve God in some way, I’m not really being humble. It’s still all about me relying on my own effort rather than depending on God and what He can do through and despite me. It is me looking not at God but at myself through the world’s judging eyes and being afraid that the world will expect “more.”
At times like this, I think of Moses’ self-consciousness in Exodus 3-4 – how his “[slowness] of speech and tongue” made him beg God to “send someone else”. God’s anger burned against Moses then, because his “not good enough” stemmed from a fear of human judgement and an inability to trust God with his weaknesses. This kind of “not good enough” is false humility, a form of pride.
3 STEPS TO A BETTER WAY
1. Recognise that we are worth much more to God than any grade or verdict assigned by the world
When we’re tempted to think we’re not good enough, it’s worth asking whose standards we aspire to. Romans 5:6-8 reminds us that we truly aren’t good enough. We are all sinners who fall short of God’s standards and yet He died for us.
If in Christ, God has approved of us, then we should always ask whether we are being assessed for the qualities God cares about. This is usually not the case in our schools and jobs, so it means that while we still have to negotiate the hurdles of exams and appraisals, we can see them for what they really are: Gauges of our level of knowledge or practical skills at a certain point in time, rather than tests that determine our eternal worth or significance.
If God wants something else for us, are we humble enough to accept that He knows best?
2. Not “how well” but “how loving”
If we find ourselves overwhelmed by the pressure to “do well”, maybe pursuing things like grades, a job, lifestyle or image has become more important to us than trusting God to place us where we can serve Him. Anna realised this when she started looking for her second (and current) teaching job. “I was devastated about being let go until I realised that my obsession with keeping the job had been blinding me to the busy, stressed-out, competitive person I was becoming.”
Perhaps we should be less concerned with “passing” or “failing” and more dependent on God’s help in our circumstances to be a loving neighbour to others. In other words, who I am as a believer – loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, self-controlled – matters more to God than whether I am in one school or another, one profession or another.
True humility also teaches us that we won’t always succeed in the world’s eyes or get what we want. And that is fine. If God wants something else for us, are we humble enough to accept that He knows best?
3. It’s not about us
Ultimately, Christ came to set us free from the tyranny of our selves. Constantly thinking “I’m not good enough” or even always wondering whether we are, takes our focus away from the power and purposes of God.
Anna confessed that after she realised that she had not trusted God enough, she then felt guilty for “disappointing God”. This is yet another form of not feeling good enough! It’s important to know that we have full forgiveness in Christ when we confess our sins to God. He is big enough, and Christ’s work on the cross is sufficient – it’s not about us.
Christ came to set us free from the tyranny of our selves.
In his book, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, pastor and writer Timothy Keller observes that “the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. … True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.”
And so, I am learning that our correct perspective is at the foot of the cross, gazing at our Saviour.
“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.” (Romans 12:3-6a)
Rather than our achievements, abilities or the world’s approval, Paul says faith is the measure of how we should think of ourselves. This is hugely significant because faith is never about us – it is a gift of God so that no one can boast.
Paul goes on to say that in Christ we are all different because we are designed to serve one another. These verses are strikingly matter-of-fact. Paul’s saying, “God made us and saved us, and we’re His now; there’s Kingdom work to be done, so let’s just get on with being what He made us, without comparing ourselves to others or trying to be what we’re not.”
I find it so encouraging that the New Testament writers ultimately remember Moses not in terms of his weaknesses but as one “powerful in speech and action” (Acts 7:22) and “faithful in all God’s house” (Hebrews 3:2), because he faithfully did as God asked.
What do we make of his transformation from timidity in Exodus 2–3? God was working powerfully in and through him, despite his fears! Always thinking I’m not good enough is a hard habit to break, but I pray for God’s truth – that it’s about Him, and He powerfully helps me love others – to move me out of self-regard to action.
Are you prone to feeling inadequate, too? Will you let God’s words comfort, encourage and inspire you?
*Name has been changed for confidentiality.
This article was first published on YMI.today, and is republished with permission.
I remember manipulating my cousins to turn against another cousin of mine, Angela. Angela was a very sweet girl, soft-spoken gentle and easygoing … But I framed her as a “crybaby”.
Whenever she cried about feeling left out, I’d say, “Look at her whining again.” And when our relatives asked Angela why she was she crying, I’d comment to my cousins, “Look at her complaining to the adults”.
I would try all sorts of means to tear down the relationship between Angela and my other cousins because I wanted their attention and affirmation all to myself. I didn’t want to share them with anyone else especially since my cousins lived abroad and had limited time to spend with us.
Whenever my cousins left, I would act all nice and friendly with Angela once more to get my friendship with her back. But that would only last until my cousins came back.
I wasn’t quite as mean to anyone in Secondary School, but I was one of the girls who would exchange looks and snigger along with the popular kids whenever a socially ostracised student did something we decided was funny. It was all for fun and I never thought too much about it.
All that was more than 10 years ago. You might be wondering why I’m unearthing the past now. In a strange twist of events, I recently met up with one of my bullied classmates over a meal.
While talking to her, I realised how what we did in the past continued to haunt her in the present. She was talking about her current struggles but I could clearly see the ghost of her pain. I never saw it, but that meal was the first time in my life I realised I was a bully.
In putting others down, I felt like I was raising my self-worth up.
When I reflected on my younger self, it came to my understanding that the main reason why I bullied was for identity. In putting others down, I felt like I was raising my self-worth up.
There is an innate need in each of us to know that we are different and unique as a person. As part of our identity, self-image refers to the way we see ourselves while self-esteem is the amount of value we attach to ourselves.
Most people derive their self-esteem through comparison. We generally feel more secure about our personhood when we tell ourselves, “I’m not as bad as him or her” or “I’m better.” That was me with Angela.
And while I was not the main bully in Secondary School, I signalled to others – and myself – that I was part of the “cool kids” by laughing with them when they made fun of other students. Deriving our identity from group membership (social identity) is a form of self-image. Since I saw myself as part of the popular group – my self-esteem rose as well.
But we can’t base our value on our superiority over others. In an episode of Adam Ruins Everything, Adam argues that the “Alpha Male” is a myth because “Humans social hierarchies are constantly in flux, no one is the same type of person in all situations.”
That principle was true in my life. I held “power” over my cousins as a kid but guess what? I later became a victim of bullying at the tuition center I was attending. It sucked. “Why are they doing this? Is there something wrong with me?” was a question I asked myself over and over again.
It didn’t strike me then but I realise if we based our sense of self on something so relative, then we’ll always have to work for our value.
But that’s not how God designed us to be.
The Bible says we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Dr Art Lindsley puts it this way: “Our worth is connected to our Creator. If God is of great and inestimable worth, then human beings made in his image must be of great value, too.”
Not only that, the Bible also details how intricately God made humans. Psalm 139:13 describes God knitting us into existence – a delicate crafting. I don’t have to tell you how complex the human body is – just look at the Human Genome Project! Like all masterpieces, a work of sweat and blood is of extreme value to its creator.
“Our worth is connected to our Creator. If God is of great and inestimable worth, then human beings made in his image must be of great value, too.”
(Dr. Art Lindsley)
My Pastor once said that the worth of an item is highly dependent on how much one is willing to pay for it.
If I say a painting’s only worth $100 but someone comes along and is willing to pay $1000 for it, then the value of the painting automatically rises.
It’s the same for us. God was willing to pay the ransom in order to redeem us – the full price was His life. The fact that God died for us has many implications. One of which is that I no longer have to strive for my value.
I am not defined by my social status and I’m not defined by what others think of me. I’m not even defined by what I think of myself!
My worth is what God thinks of me, and that’s fixed and unchanging.
Tears streamed down my face in the dark of the auditorium. The man who had just given me a razor-sharp prophetic word took his hand off my head and moved on to minister to another person. I would take the whole night to process the word I had received.
Even on the train home from church, I was crying quietly to myself. But they were tears joy. After months of groping around in the dark for the Lord and pushing through walls of doubt, He had finally revealed Himself to me. And the slightest glimpse of His face, the faintest whisper of His voice were sweet beyond description.
I was sixteen at the time and had been taking my first clumsy steps towards a Father who seemed too good to be true. But that night my deepest wish had come true – God was real! I now knew it beyond a shadow of doubt. He knew my secrets and He loved me.
Let Me love you. What does that even mean? I was intrigued. He said it twice, so it must be important. Over many months, I toyed with the word, shelved it, and took it out again occasionally to examine it.
Over a year passed before I heard that phrase again. I was at a different church, and a former prisoner-of-war was the speaker that day. I perked up at those familiar words and approached him after the sermon to ask him about it. I was in a tough season of my life then, fully aware of many old wounds that never seemed to heal and hoped that this old man, standing tall after a lifetime of battle scars – physical and spiritual – could offer me some hope.
Let Me love you.
I knew that God loved me – I had read it in His Word. But I was grasping for a set of practical instructions. How do you let a God you can’t see, touch or hear audibly – love you?
He gazed at me steadily with eyes that said more. “You just let Him love you,” was his soft answer.
It has been three or four years since that day. As I look back, I realise I had only scratched the surface of His love. God has been teaching me to let Him love me in every moment spent with Him, and every tiny decision made to seek Him. The Lord wants us to let Him love us because His kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
We cannot bring ourselves under submission to Jesus without the experiencing His Father’s heart for us. We cannot long for the return of our Bridegroom without first having a taste of His rich and incomparable love. We cannot release God’s kingdom into this world if His love has not first reached and taken root in the depths of our hearts. To come into the fullness of our calling in Him, we must first let Him love us.
While my heart still has dark and dusty corners that are in the process of being redeemed by His light, I offer some practical handles for those of us who struggle to allow God’s love in. I hope this will help those who have emotional wounds that impede them from developing intimacy with God and fellow believers who struggle from a lack of spiritual sensitivity.
4 WAYS TO LET LOVE IN
1. Bealone with God in quiet places
The first practical step to letting God love you is to grow a daily habit of being alone with Him somewhere quiet and peaceful. Jesus always retreated from people to be alone with the Father. In order to be intimate with God, we must seek Him in a place where we can learn to take pleasure in His presence without it being diluted by the company of others, and hear His whispers of love without them being drowned out by the distractions of the world.
While we are meant to enjoy and worship God as a community of His children, we must guard our personal time with God. To experience the sufficiency of His love, we must give Him an exclusive intimacy with us. Our relationship with Him cannot be founded on leaders, family or friends – we need to seek Him on our own. We need to take time and linger in His presence.
Spending time with God mustn’t be treated like a duty but a pleasure. Time with God is time with the One in this world whose love for you is perfect, who knows you wholly. Time with God is the safest space in the world and the most restful respite.
Our relationship with Him cannot be founded on leaders, family or friends – we need to seek Him on our own.
2. Take Him at His word
We need to shed our deeply entrenched notions of logic and take God at His Word. God has already given us the seed to develop the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and we must actively resist the ways of the world and renew our minds in accordance with Him (Romans 12:2).
That means leaving aside persistent doubt and humbly accepting God’s truths: He delights in us, is close to us and is both listening to our prayers and speaking to us. That means intentionally submitting painful experiences and disappointments of the past to God and seizing His truth as written in His Word.
Letting Him love us means believing He is there because He says so in His Word, even if we do not feel His presence tangibly. Letting Him love us means hoping in Him, even when our hearts have been crushed by disappointments. Letting Him loves us means involving Him in the smallest moments in life, simply out of faith that He loves us personally.
… He is there because He says so in His Word, even if we do not feel His presence tangibly.
3. Be vulnerable
To let Him love us, we need to open up our hearts to His love. We need to take the scary step of being vulnerable with God. That means crying to God when we are hurt, admitting our most shameful sins to God when we are guilty, and even yelling at God when we are angry with Him – as long as we are moving toward God rather than away from Him.
A friend once shared with me that a part of her hated God and she had been hiding that away in shame while trying her best to love Him. To let Him love us, we must not keep any portion of our heart away from Him, especially the parts that make us feel ashamed or think may stop Him from loving us.
We must fully open up our hearts to Him in order for His love to touch every inch of us.
4. Be patient and let God be God
God takes His time in building a relationship with us. He enjoys the process and invites us to enjoy it with Him. So if you’re struggling today to receive God’s love, rest in the fact that it will not happen overnight and that the agency for building this relationship is primarily in God’s hands and not yours. Our job is to submit to His leading and to wait with Him through the twists, turns and curveballs of life.
Today, God invites you to open up your heart to Him and let Him love you.
It was more than just the cheap euphoria of physical attraction, this time there was a connection on a deep level. I never felt as understood by anyone else as I did with her.
But the person I was carrying a torch for is a she – just like me. And I’m not someone who falls in love easily. Save for a few eye-candies and crushes, I’ve never actually felt attracted to anyone – male or female. I really believed I would remain single for the rest of my life. And I was OK with that.
So I wasn’t looking for love when we first became friends. I wasn’t even expecting anything since we were both of the same gender. But what started out as an innocent friendship developed into something more. Before I knew it, I found myself drawn to how safe and comfortable I felt around her. That was when the alarm bells began ringing in my head.
How did I get here?
We preach about physical boundaries in church but what is even more insidious is emotional intimacy.
Timothy Keller writes, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.”
Most of us are searching for someone who would understand and accept us for who we are. When we do, our emotional needs are met and it can feel a lot like love. I believe people can fall in love anywhere with anyone. I believe that when you fall in love, you don’t fall in love with a gender, but the person in his or her entirety.
But I also believe when the Bible says that our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9).
I wished I had better managed my emotional boundaries. If only I had been more vigilant about who I let into my heart! But while I didn’t choose to fall in love, I eventually chose to fall out of love. The painful experience taught me to keep my friendships – male or female – in check if I don’t want to have unnecessary emotional entanglements.
3 WAYS TO AVOID EMOTIONAL ENTANGLEMENT
1. Make your friendship inclusive
More often than not, when you’re close and comfortable with someone, you’d prefer not to allow others to step in and disrupt the delicate world you’ve built together. But the extended time together will only foster stronger bonds, especially if the both of you are close to begin with.
When you invite others into the friendship, however, it’s no longer just about you and the other friend. It looks more like a community where people can watch over you and keep you accountable.
Do your friendships point you to God, His precepts and His purposes for you?
2. Make sure the friendship points both parties to Christ
Friendships are given to us for encouragement, comfort and love – humans are relational creatures after all. But friendships should point us to God, instead of drawing us away from Him.
“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.” (Hebrews 3:12-14)
The brotherhood between David and Jonathan demonstrates just that.
King Saul was after David’s life after the shepherd boy became a threat to the throne. As the prince and David’s best friend, Jonathan could have been jealous of David and plot to kill him too – but he didn’t. Instead, Jonathan reminded David time and time again of the destiny God had for him (1 Samuel 23:17), even when it meant he’d have to forfeit his right to the throne.
Do your friendships point you to God, His precepts and His purposes for you? At the end of the day, friendships with fellow believers are supposed to help us to keep our faith.
3. Make God your first love
The problem with falling in love with the wrong person is the life that comes after it. Who else can I share my burdens with? Who else can understand me like Jenna* did? Where do I turn to now?
The truth is that an unhealthy reliance forms when we view one another as an ultimate source of love and comfort. No human is able to fulfil that role. Instead our love for one another is merely a reflection of God’s love for us.
When we point people to ourselves instead of God, we’re only setting them up for disappointment. Remember the hurts you carried because someone failed to meet your expectations? Or the wounds you’ve nursed when people exited your life?
We all want to be loved. But perfect love can only be found in God. Only He is unchanging and ever-faithful. Will you let Him be the first love in your life?
I was diagnosed with psychotic depression eight months after I became a Christian.
As a young Christian then, it was a confusing and devastating season. The diagnosis came when I had just started working for about one year. Adulthood had been seemingly falling into place only for me to realise that it was actually falling apart.
Why did this happen even though I have God in my life now? Isn’t God always present to protect His children from such suffering? Why is this happening to me, God?
My heart was thrust into a tumultuous sea of maniacal voices questioning, mocking and depreciating my newfound faith in Christ. It didn’t take long before these acrimonious voices of despair planted brewing, bitter seeds of resentment, distrust and anger towards God for letting this happen to me.
Within the span of a few weeks, I stopped going to church.
I was that one lost sheep in His flock of hundred, and true enough, He left the ninety-nine in the open country to pursue me.
At about the same time, I was slapped with a three-month medical certificate. My psychiatrist said I was no longer mentally fit to work.
I realised then just how severe my depression was, and the walls I had desperately built around my heart as coping mechanisms prior to my diagnosis came crumbling down defencelessly. I shut my ears and my heart towards the teachings of God and His still small voice that was whispering to me, and I retreated into a dark lonely corner where the Devil awaited.
In the most testing and challenging season of my life, I found the Devil’s voice ringing loud in my mind as he did all he could to entice me away from my Heavenly Father. Depression amplified the Devil’s voice to the point it was all I could hear, and the more I listened to his cunning voice, the more I believed his lies to be the truth.
Where is the God you said you believed and trusted? Where is He now that you are curled up on your bed, suffering in pain and emptiness? He isn’t here. And He isn’t coming. He doesn’t love you because you don’t deserve His love. You who are broken and torn apart by your very own mind, who would love a tangled mess such as yourself? You are broken. You are worthless.
Thoughts like these wormed themselves into my mind over the course of the next two months as I fell for Satan’s trick and slipped deeper into depression.
But do you know the most beautiful thing about having a relationship with God? It’s that God never leaves any of His children to stray.
No matter how deep you’ve sunk, or how angry you are against Him, He will never give up on you and will continue to watch over you and reach out to you through various means. I was that one lost sheep in His flock of hundred, and true enough, He left the ninety-nine in the open country to pursue me in all His wonderful, fatherly love.
As He knew that my heart was shut towards His voice, He used my cell group (CG) leader from church to reach me. Though I stopped attending church services and CG meetings, she never gave up on me. She checked up on me and persisted in inviting me back to church in a patient and understanding way every few weeks, continually reminding me that no matter how difficult a situation I was in, God was there for me.
Bitter, I responded curtly at first. But her dogged and loving persistence found a way into my heart and began to challenge what the Devil had been telling me about being unloved and worthless.
I was this massive ball of negativity and resentment towards God and everything else in life. My leader stood in stark contrast, continuing to encourage me, loving me – never giving up on me. In her persistence, I saw the love of God shining through, reaching out to me even when I had cast myself into the shadows to rot in my depression.
As God moved through my CG leader to touch my heart, the lies that had settled in my heart started to melt away as I reopened my ears and turned my heart to God again. A forgotten warmth and strength began to reinforce my heart as I started to pray to God and read His Word again, and I finally mastered the courage to step back into church again.
It was then I learnt that God really was there every step of the way with me, leading me back to Him through the people He had placed around me. He had never forsaken me. Through this episode of psychotic depression, my faith in Him was not only restored – it was reinforced.
I am definitely still a work-in-progress, and the Devil’s whispers still plague me in the quieter moments of the day.But things are different now. Instead of listening and absorbing his lies passively, I now retaliate with God’s authority – repelling and rebuking him with the Word.
God isn’t coming. He doesn’t need to “come” to me because He has always been right here next to me, be it in the past, in the present and in the future. Joshua 1:5 says: “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Who would love a tangled mess like yourself? It is precisely because I am a tangled mess that God loves me all the more, only He knows the full extent my pain and He wants to free me from it! Psalm 34:18 tells me, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
I am broken indeed – but God never said that His Kingdom was only for perfect and unbroken people!
You are broken. I am broken indeed – but God never said that His Kingdom was only for perfect and unbroken people! We know this from Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” And Jesus said in Luke 5:31-32: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
You are worthless. No, I am not worthless in the eyes of God. He has His designs and plans (Jeremiah 29:11) for me to contribute to the Kingdom in this life. I am valued as a child of God.
You are unworthy. Well, yes! I am wholly unworthy of Him, as I have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). and yet God’s grace and mercy is a gift offered freely to us who believe in the redeeming blood of Christ for what He’s done for us on the cross.
The more unworthy and broken we are, the more we should run towards God and His perfect love!
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
Friend, the Devil is cunning and his voice is louder in your states of weakness. Anchor your faith in God’s promises and rebuke the Devil with authority from God’s Word. Don’t dwell in negativity and resentment; dwell in God’s never-ending merciful light.
He loves us more than we can ever imagine.
The author’s name has been changed for confidentiality.
If only I had more money, I’d be more willing to bless others. If only I were rich, I’d be more generous.
That was what I used to think. But here’s a sobering realisation from the Bible: It is the generous who will prosper (Proverbs 11:25) – not the prosperous who will be generous!
It’s true. Status or wealth does not guarantee that one will exhibit generosity. I’ve known wealthy people who are selfish, but at the same time, I’ve witnessed those who have little give unreservedly. The story of the poor widow always humbles me.
“As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”” (Luke 21:1-4)
God specialises in using “little.”
Generosity is more about posture than it is about value. In other words, it’s not about the amount you can offer, but the spirit and heart behind it. The poor widow out-gave all the rich folk despite putting in only two very small copper coins.
I used to be stumbled over the little I was able to give or sow into anything – it felt negligible. Until I realised God specialises in using “little.” Had a young boy not offered up his seemingly insignificant 5 loaves and 2 fish into Jesus’ hands – 5000 would not have had their fill that day and experienced one of the greatest demonstrations of divine provision.
God is not in need of resources – He owns the universe. What He wants from our giving, is for us to cultivate a spirit of generosity and selflessness. What He seeks are sons and daughters who would partner with Him in releasing Heaven’s resources by sowing the first seeds.
Generosity is not even an issue of personality, it is actually an issue of identity. My problem was not that I was naturally thrifty or prudent, my problem was that I had not yet fully understood sonship.
The orphan spirit hoards for fear of lack, but the renewed mind gives from a place of security. If I truly believed He owns all of Heaven and Earth, and that He calls me son – it means I have access to unlimited resources in Heaven and on Earth. Would I not be compelled and provoked to live generously? To be a conduit of His blessings and resources?
God wants us to be generous because it models His heart. We ought to be generous not just financially, but also with our time, words and deeds. I believe the level of our generosity partly determines how much resources, influence and authority God will put in our hands.
Ever since stepping into ministry, I’ve had the wonderful privilege of being friends with many who exemplify radical generosity. More often than not, they carry great influence and are impacting our world profoundly. After all, God shows He readily adds to those who have been faithful with little (Luke 16:10).
Let us therefore endeavour to walk in radical generosity, demonstrating the Kingdom wherever we go.
This article was first published on Awaken Generation’s blog, and is republished with permission.
I remember the first time I felt like I was “on fire” for God.
I can still recall the colourful lights that danced like birds across the stage. The atmosphere was solemn yet I felt a warmth in my heart. Tears poured down my face as I rededicated my life to Jesus in the front pews. I’ll never forget the joy and excitement that rose from within as I did so.
I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back … No turning back …
I’ve never said anything more sincere.
But maybe you’re not feeling like you’re on fire. In fact, maybe you’re at a point in life where you’re asking yourself, “What happened to the fire in my heart?”
Spiritual rock bottom. Well, the good thing about hitting rock bottom is that the only way from there is up. So it’s normal to feel snuffed out at times. Because that’s where an essential stage of discipleship called discipline kicks in.
Discipline is what matters when the passion in your heart flickers.
God’s will for your life is to restore you back to Him because you are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). So the greatest pleasure God feels from your life is when you are made more like Him.
Discipline is what matters when the passion in your heart flickers.
So the reference point that we work towards is Jesus. We should want to be more like Jesus in every way. Even though Jesus was a passionate man, He only did what the Father told Him to do (John 5:19). He was disciplined to wake up early to spend time with the Father (Mark 1:35).
Commitment says hello when passion says goodbye. So our relationship with God doesn’t run on passion alone. The true test of commitment to our relationship with God lies in discipline. Don’t overstay the welcome of your revival. Passion is not a very hospitable host.
We need to read your Bible. We need to spend time praying, and we need to apply the Word of God into our lives. Authentic relationships require time and effort.
But what if I’m already doing all these things?
And yet … You don’t feel God in your life anymore. I’m sorry you feel that way. I’ve been there too in seasons of my life. But keep longing and praying – the effort put in to reaching God is never meaningless or in vain.
Perhaps you can ask, “What is God teaching me in His silence?”
Periods of silence may be trials you have to walk through. The apostle James teaches us that “the testing of your faith develops steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:3-4).
Authentic relationships require time and effort.
Friendly warning: It’ll be easy to fall in self-pity. Be careful not to fall into the enemy’s lies. Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
Then rejoice. Rejoice because “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
So if you are at this point of your life, do not weep or mourn. Take joy and comfort because God is working in you. You may not be able to see it right now, but this is precisely the most crucial time you need to trust in His love for you. Know that He wants to draw you closer to Him in all things.
“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Hebrews 12:7)
Whether you believe it or not, God delights in you. As you align yourself to seek and pursue His will for your life – He rejoices over you (Psalm 37:23)
Dear friend, thank you for reading this. We may not know each other, but I am so proud of you. Thank you for doing God’s work and being His hands and feet. It’s a great thing that you still desire God.
Keep pressing in. Don’t give up! He loves you. A great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1-2) including me is cheering you on!
REVIVE: Nearly 40 years after the Clocktower Revival, a new generation arises
by Jonathan Tan | 25 June 2018, 12:14 PM
I studied in ACS (Barker Road).
Unlike most people, I didn’t find God through Church. Instead, it was purely my time in Anglo Chinese School (ACS), through daily devotions and weekly chapels, that first helped me understand the Christian faith and later accept it.
After I began to encounter Jesus in my daily life so phenomenally, I wanted others to discover Jesus in the same way too. So I wrote an email to my principal and Christian Ministry staff about my starting a worship event for students to come together and pray for God to move greatly. My principal proved extremely supportive of such an idea.
From that point, things began to fall into place and it was increasingly apparent that God’s hand was orchestrating all of it.
God often orchestrates and uses individuals who don’t even know each other to start something incredible for His glory.
In REVIVE’S second year, attendance more than doubled and we reached people all of ages, from different backgrounds, different schools. And after REVIVE that year, my principal told the team that there was an attendee from Bedok South Secondary who later went to a Church near his school, asking for assistance in starting a prayer group in his school.
So REVIVE is not just a one-night event where Christians gather to pray and worship God. It’s a call to action for all Christians, that wherever they are, they would “go into all the world and preach the gospel.”
Coming from a school founded by missionaries, I know that God often orchestrates and uses individuals who don’t even know each other to start something incredible for His glory. In that same way, I feel God moving us to receive the same vision and come together.
To bring light into darkness as a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14) – that’s what REVIVE is about. After all, my principal once shared during assembly that our school sits on a hill. So we should all be that light in the world, one that cannot be hidden. That was a message which never left me.
What would the world look like if all Christians really went out into the world to bring light into darkness and the message of Jesus to all?
This Friday night (29 June), come down to REVIVE 2018 for an extended time of praise, worship and prayer. God is waiting for you. Find out more in the details below.
“First Choice”: A song of life decisions and destiny
by Jerome Yang | 25 June 2018, 12:09 PM
After completing my Bar Course to become a lawyer, I went through a time of great change.
I walked away from the church I grew up in, to consider what my faith meant to me, as well as whether the Catholic church was what it claimed to be: The true Church of Jesus Christ.
Amidst all the difficult questions I had to try and square off with myself and my family, I also wasn’t sure about my career prospects as a newly minted lawyer because the industry was facing an oversupply of law graduates.
I come from a university which prides itself on high achievers, great starting salaries and well-rounded graduates, so it was disconcerting to find myself more than a little lost on the cusp of adulthood. In fact, I had so little success with job interviews that after my pupillage and becoming a qualified lawyer, I applied for an internship at an e-commerce company!
In all of this, I remembered that God continues to be my firm hope and covenant partner. His choice to love me precedes, transcends and will last beyond my present circumstances.
So I wrote this song as an expression of this unwavering truth: God has chosen me. It gave me the confidence to write: “From Your courage, come the words that I can pray.” When life threatened to become a drag, I drew strength from knowing that my Saviour had bravely gone before me, bearing His cross for the joy set before Him.
I don’t have to stress over getting huge life decisions like faith and career right. It’s all in God’s good hands even if it’s taking longer than I expected.
I came to Joel, my friend and co-songwriter, with the first verse and chorus. His contribution was invaluable as we wouldn’t have had Verses 2 and 3 without his perspective.
I thank God for how this song helped me to reflect on the many times I tried to do life my way. I now see that God has already chosen me first, and I don’t have to stress over getting huge life decisions like faith and career right. It’s all in God’s good hands even if it’s taking longer than I expected.
Eventually, God led me back to my first church and gave me a job I’m thankful for.
But most of all, I thank Him for my renewed confidence in His sovereignty. God chose us when He sent His beloved son Jesus to die a public and humiliating death on the cross for our sins. Would you choose Him in return?
He is a far greater treasure than anything you will find here, and there is no insecurity of yours that He cannot handle.
What role does the Church play in their churchgoers’ love lives?
by Nicholas Quek | 22 June 2018, 1:49 PM
One of the chapters in a book I was reading recently, The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller, talked about singleness and marriage.
One of the passages he mentioned briefly was 1 Corinthians 7. Essentially, Paul was calling the Church not to be concerned with our spousal status, acknowledging the legitimacy of both marrying and staying single. He states that “the present form of this world is passing away.”
Keller then talks about widows in the Church, and the need for the Church to take care of widows so as to relieve them from the pressure to get married (marriage was often the only way a woman in those days could attain financial and social stability).
I couldn’t help but think about a study I did awhile back on 1 Timothy 5, where Paul exhorts the church to take care of those who are truly widows. I was wondering, shouldn’t the Church also then take care of younger widows so that they aren’t pressured into remarriage?
What do we do when we come to Church?
But then Paul justifies this distinction by stating in verses 11-12 that “When their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith.”
This reminded me again of what Paul states in 1 Corinthians 7:10, “For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” In essence, what Paul is saying is this: To those who are older and do not burn with passion, there is no need for you to marry to obtain financial or social security – the Church is your family.
To those who are young and single (widowed or otherwise), Paul says “It is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry.”
The role of the Church here is this: To relieve widows in the church of any ungodly motivation for getting married. It’s more than just taking care of people who need our help, it’s about encouraging and building each other up that we may be more like Christ, whether in singleness or marriage.
That’s the whole focus and foundation of the church, that we may encourage and build up one another in Christ.
That got me thinking: What do we do when we come to Church? Are we looking primarily to build one another up in Christ? That may at times look like fun and games, but more often than not what that looks like is painful admonishment, difficult conversations, and hopeful edification.
The Church is the Church of Christ and finds its foundation in His Word. And His Word is so clear as to what His church should look like.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)
“For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:9-11)
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-21)
Those are but a few mentions of what the Church should look like and what the Church should do.
What do we do when we come to Church?
This article was first published on Nicholas’ blog and is republished with permission.
by Pastor Kevin Koh, Cornerstone Community Church | 22 June 2018, 11:02 AM
I’m always fascinated by the supernatural provisions of God, especially when Israel were in the wilderness.
Feeding the entire nation of Israel of at least 2 million people, was equivalent to providing food for about half the population size of Singapore every single day!
And what about that super food called manna – which literally means “what is it?” in Hebrew (Exo 16:15, 31). It looked like coriander seeds and tasted like wafers made with honey. Equally agreeable to all palates, it sustained the whole nation for 40 years.
It came each morning and couldn’t be kept overnight, except on the sixth day where a double portion could be collected and be miraculously preserved so that there was food on the seventh day – the Sabbath.
I want to draw two lessons from what I call the “Manna Test” in Num 11:4-6 (NLT): “And the people of Israel also began to complain. ‘Oh, for some meat!’ they exclaimed. ‘We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!’
TWO LESSONS FROM THE MANNA TEST
1. Manna wasn’t the point
The purpose of the manna was to test Israel’s faith and daily dependence on God. Manna wasn’t the focal point, the focus should have been on the One who provided the manna – much like the “exit” sign above the door of a building.
Nobody walks to the “exit” sign and stops there. You’re supposed to go through the door and on to your destination. Manna was supposed to be a daily reminder of God to Israel. But instead of being grateful, they were so caught up by the lack of variety in their food menu that they complained incessantly.
And finally, Psalm 106:14-15 summed it up this way. They lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, cared only about pleasing themselves in the desert and tested and provoked God with their demands. And God gave them what they asked for, but sent leanness into their soul (spiritual decay).
Could it be that God had wanted their dissatisfaction for natural food to cause a “holy dissatisfaction” within them for more of Him instead?
At the slightest setback, they declared they would rather go back to Egypt (a type of the world) than run toward God for help. Just one chapter before, they were eyewitnesses to how God supernaturally parted the Red Sea and delivered them out of Egypt, even drowning Pharaoh and his armies (Exodus 15:19)!
Yet they somehow believed that God rescued them out of Egypt only to kill them in the wilderness! Clearly, although they were physically out of Egypt, their love for the things in Egypt wasn’t out of their hearts. Likewise, going to Church doesn’t really make you a Christian.
It’s living out and bearing the fruit of a surrendered life that makes you one.
2. Sometimes, God offends your natural appetite to reveal your spiritual appetite
We Singaporeans love our food so much that we even greet people with it. Instead of saying “how are you?” we ask: “Have you eaten?” I’m sure the Children of Israel loved their food as well, which is why they complained about the lack of variety in their food menu.
From 1 Corinthians 15:46, we know that “the natural comes first, then the spiritual.” Perhaps the Manna Test was to awaken their spiritual hunger and appetite. Could it be that God had wanted their dissatisfaction for natural food to cause a “holy dissatisfaction” within them for more of Him instead?
However, that wasn’t the case. They were satisfied with knowing and hearing God from a distance through Moses (Exodus 20:18-20). What a tragedy it’d be if Pastor Yang was the only one in Cornerstone who desires to know God intimately, while the rest of us were contented with hearing from his experiences with God and not desiring for our own.
If you had to take the Manna Test, would you pass it? Does your spiritual appetite for God match up to your natural appetite for food and material things? Are you satisfied with your 15 minute devotion, but are constantly checking out new food stalls, exploring new places or cafes to chill out at?
This article was first published on Cornerstone Community Church’s blog and is republished with permission.
I’m sure most of us know the weight of the word when someone is branded an apostate, but what comes to our mind when we picture such a person?
Perhaps, someone who wanders between worldviews pertaining to spirituality? Or a person who actively oppresses the Church? Such individuals undoubtedly exist, but have we considered the reasons why they went down such a path?
I know of an acquaintance named Yong Woon* with special needs like myself who had burnt bridges within my Church community after nearly two decades of hardship, passing through the Children’s, Youth and Young Adults Ministry.
His difficulties with relating and socialising with others around him caused him much pain and trauma within his school, where he was physically bullied and ostracised by classmates. Yong Woon told me about his struggles in Church and how it was no better than any other place, given his frequent meltdowns and conflicts with fellow peers and ministry staff.
Home too, provided little refuge as his parents and elder sister lacked in empathy for him, even though he was officially diagnosed to have an Autism Spectrum Disorder 2 years ago at age 25, after two previous acts of self-harm.
If we genuinely love our neighbours, we must therefore make the effort to see past our divides
Although he served in the Special Needs Ministry for a time, his external commitments with Work Shadowing and performances with The Purple Symphony resulted in conflicts of interest with his fellow workers.
Ultimately, Yong Woon severed ties with the members in my Church.
He confided in me that it wasn’t the first time he has done so: He had written letters of resignation written to ministry workers from both the Youth and Young Adults congregation before to air his grievances. Those letters were frowned upon by my Church elders, who found his actions maladjusted and immature.
As a person with Asperger’s Syndrome myself, I’ve also have had my fair share of similar problems within my Church in my younger years. Ultimately, I made a painful but necessary transition to the Senior Citizen’s congregation after a bad departure from the Youth Ministry.
It is curious how such experiences leave you in a “dipolar” state, the two D’s being disdain and discouragement. When I saw how Yong Woon left the faith, I started to think about the message Jesus spoke to his disciples regarding the conflict between the world and the Church owing to the world’s rejection of Christ (John 15 :18-21).
Certainly, one who does not obey God will never fully receive and serve the community of His people. But what if it were the other way round?
Often, the interpersonal hurt caused directly to individuals within the Church is even more grievous than regular public scandals and shaming brought to light by outsiders. It is a painful thing to experience neglect or be wronged by other believers – your very own blood-bought brothers and sisters.
Favouritism and segregation are condemned (James 2:1-13).
Of the seven deadly sins, the source from which discord and strife arises among the Body of Christ is vanity. To treat others poorer in appearance/means/capacity/faith with contempt or hostility within the Church breeds discontentment and even resentment among ourselves.
It’s decried as sin in the letter of James, for what truly matters to the Bride of Christ is to conform in the character of Christ Himself. Favouritism and segregation are condemned (James 2:1-13).
No doubt, this is difficult when people are polar opposites from what we expect them to be. Yet, the Church must be beacon of hope to those suffering in the world — these sufferers are closer to us within our own community than we think.
If we genuinely love our neighbours, we must therefore make the effort to see past our divides — of colour, tongue, creed and others —to nurture and support each other as the family of our Lord (1 Corinthians 13).
On a final note, it is my hope that Yong Woon will find the courage and forgiveness to come back to the faith and reconcile with my Church eventually.
To my brethren who have been downtrodden or even actively hurt within your Church community, the aforementioned two D’s are inevitable in the sinful fallenness of creation from which the Church is not spared.
The Church is made from deformed people, and yet Christ in His great love has never abandoned it. Do seek advice from trusted peers, mentors and ministry leaders or professional counselling if necessary in your life’s circumstances, but I urge you not to cause the two D’s to end in another — divorce.
… call upon Him to heal and mend the ties in the family you’ve been called to be a part of.
A life divorced from faith will ultimately be one not worth living. We need the Church and we need fellowship; we cannot expect to stand alone when facing the perils that the flesh, the world and Satan send our way. Likewise, the Church needs us in a symbiotic relationship to use our talents and skills to raise disciples among all peoples.
Whatever the circumstance, hold on to hope. The only hope for salvation we have is in our Lord and no other. Your faith belongs to you. Like a marital covenant, it is a vow made between you and God, a divine gift that no one, not even your enemies, can steal from you — unless you let them.
You may choose to abandon the gift of salvation by running away from the Church … Or you can call upon Him to heal and mend the ties in the family you’ve been called to be a part of.
You can run the race with fervour, towards an eternity yet to come.
Finding my first job and learning when (not) to leave
by Chantel Tay | 19 June 2018, 5:03 PM
“Everyone has a job, all your friends are working, everybody is employed.” The voices echoed in my head. I was 18 years old and unemployed, looking for my very first job. The fear of stepping out into an entirely new environment alone scared me, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready.
I didn’t want to jump into a random job just because of societal pressure or just because I felt accountable to others. Yet the pressure I was facing was intense. I eventually succumbed to it, and began sending in emails to various companies to enquire.
I prayed that if God had a path for me to take, He would open the doors of opportunities to me because I did not have a direction in mind. But Romans 8:5 tugged at my heart: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”
Romans 8:8 further emphasises that “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” I knew that I was falling into the pit of fear-based, not faith-based decisions – but I was unsure of how to pull myself out of it.
By God’s grace, doors for employment opportunities remained close. I was so uncertain about so many things and I was extremely tired of trying to be in control; I wanted to learn to submit wholeheartedly to Him.
So I decided to take a break from job hunting and decided to focus on my walk with Him, allowing Him to guide my every step of the way. After a while, I no longer harboured thoughts of sourcing for a job on my own strength.
Four months later, I was having a conversation with a really treasured friend of mine, and she casually asked me if I was interested in helping out in an F&B chain. As I was always open to service line jobs and had a passion for food, I agreed.
When I began starting work, I enjoyed my job very much. I loved seeing food being cooked, and I took great interest in the small preparations that I was assigned. But not everything was smooth sailing, and problems began arising.
With no prior job experience, I often felt redundant and incompetent, lacking confidence to deal with on-job challenges, albeit how small they were. I really wanted to leave my job.
It was not until I chanced upon a video that changed my perspective on things.
I started to see that as an imperfect, fallen human being, was never going to achieve the desired perfection that I had idealised in my mind for so long. I was also reminded of the Parable of the Lost Sheep and how the shepherd left the 99 for the one lost sheep – a reflection of how much Jesus cares for us.
I also began to see myself not with the flaws I had, but as a child of God, one saved by His mercy and grace.
I knew that as a Christian, I wanted to model Christ even in my workplace. And leaving just because of small problems definitely wasn’t going to be the solution. Instead, it reflected irresponsibility. I felt that glorifying God in my work included being consistent, responsible and completing my job till the best of my ability.
Furthermore, this was my first job. I did not want to leave with the mentality that I could continue escaping from situations in the future. I didn’t want to give myself that chance to start this mistake, and go down the path of little perseverance.
I eventually made the decision to apologise for whatever problems arose, and continued my work with renewed strength and vigour.
Transitioning into work is often scary, especially when it is your first job. The environment is entirely raw, new and unfamiliar. But through this process, I thank God for constantly keeping me on track, for giving me the strength to work past each new day, and teaching me important lessons as I continue to be moulded in His image each day.
I first knew of Aarksara when she was a guest worship leader in my home church a few years back. Her energy was not only infectious, you could feel a deep sense of joy and triumph as she sang unto the Lord. There were no traces of pretension.
Raised and educated in Australia, God started to speak to Aarksara about her heritage — she’s half-Thai and half-Singaporean — and grew her heart for Asia when she was older, drawing her to a region that she had no intention to invest into.
Today, one of the fruits of her labour is the Vocal Summit, a platform that seeks to equip and empower musicians in Asia. She shares about the genesis of this project and how it weaves into the larger narrative of musicians in our part of the world.
How did you start singing and worship leading?
I grew up in church. When I was eight years old, an uncle had asked me to sing during communion because he wanted a break from having to sing during communion every week. I sang “Shepherd Of My Soul” by Marty Nystrom — it not only made me happy, something in my spirit lifted each time I sang! It also seemed like everyone around me felt the same.
After attaining my degree in Commerce, I fell really sick; I was practically stuck at home for nine months — I couldn’t even make it to a job interview. I wanted to find something that would take my mind off the recovery period and then I found out that I could do Berklee College’s program off-campus!
I eventually received a Specialist Certificate in General Music Studies from Berklee College of Music, Boston. I am also currently undertaking a certification in Professional Voice Development with the New York Singing Teachers Association.
Was there a time where you questioned your gift in singing or call to worship lead?
There have definitely been challenges along the way! People doubted my ability to sustain myself through music, especially when it came to paying the bills. But God has always provided for me every step of the way!
Another challenge would be memorising lyrics — I used to think that I wouldn’t be able to be a worship leader because everyone seemed to know their lyrics inside out and I did not. I’ve overcome that by just placing the lyrics sheet right in front of me, even on some of the biggest stages I’ve performed on.
Through this, I felt God lifted off that “performance” mentality and replaced it with a “worship Me” mentality.
Through all the challenges, I have decided that no matter what happens, I am going to follow Jesus. He is the one that encourages me every day. Trusting Jesus in every moment of my life is how I overcome doubt or anxiety. I choose Him, always. Sometimes I have to close my eyes and cling onto Him tightly!
Could you share with us what your ministry stands for today?
Today, I travel to train and equip singers and worship teams to use their skills and talents with excellence all for the glory of God!
The starting point was during the time when I fell ill after university. Doctors discovered a lump on my lower back and I had to go for an operation. Even though it was supposed to take six weeks to recover, it eventually took nine months.
I fell into severe depression as a result. I was not only in intense physical pain 24/7, I was also in emotional pain; I battled suicidal thoughts daily and wanted everything to end.
However, one day, one of the National Youth Worship Directors called me (I was a worship leader before my illness) and asked me if I could help train a few national youth worship leaders. I told him that I couldn’t leave my house (I couldn’t drive or walk much), so he started sending these young worship leaders to me for training.
The word got out and soon other worship teams found out and asked me to train them too. This was the start of my breakthrough: by taking my mind off my hopeless situation, pushing through the pain, and walking through the fire, even though my students had no idea about the battle that was going on in my mind. God freed me through worship and teaching.
Could you share with us how you founded Vocal Summit?
We had our first Vocal Summit last year in November. I felt there was a gap in Asia: workshops and summits weren’t available to singers and songwriters who live on this part of the globe. It’s common to have amazing summits overseas, such as in Australia and America, but not in Asia.
I felt that God’s direction was: “Do it. You have the resources and contacts, so do it.” Therefore, I started gathering my friends from Israel & New Breed, Planetshakers, and Crossover Music to fly over to Asia to share their knowledge and skills with singers and musicians in this region. I’m grateful for them!
What is the heart behind this event?
The name U Wonder actually stands for “Unlimited Wonder.” I really believe God wants us to be teachable always — for us to be in a place of unlimited wonder. Instances such as, “Oh, I wonder how I can do that vocal riff’ or “Oh, I wonder how I can make my choir sound fuller.” I believe these summits will help equip, inspire, and empower singers and musicians across Asia.
Why is it held in Singapore and Bangkok?
I guess it’s because of my roots: my dad is Singaporean and my mom is Thai! I’ve always had a strong connection with both cities. I was very close to my Singaporean grandma; when she passed away right before my eyes, it hit me hard. I didn’t want to return to Singapore ever again, as I associated it with my sadness and loss.
Yet, one day, I found myself back in Singapore as a guest worship leader at Cornerstone Community Church (it is now my home church when I’m back here). It also just so happens that my grandma’s home is down the road from church. God has healed my heart slowly but surely.
I had also never wanted to return to Bangkok, as I found the spiritual atmosphere so eerie and “dark.” However, I found myself being invited to conduct workshops and was commissioned for songwriting projects in Thailand. Today, I reside in Bangkok.
God called me back to Asia — a place where I didn’t want to return to — when I was so happy in my “perfect world” in Australia. But I’ve chosen to live this life with Him. Wherever He leads, I will go.
What do you hope to see in Singapore within the next 5 years?
I pray there will be an awakening among Singaporeans, especially musicians in Singapore. There are two prevailing attitudes that could be improved upon: “I’m good enough — there’s nothing new I need to learn” and “I’m too busy; I have this and that to do and have no time to enhance my skills by taking lessons or attending workshops/summits.”
May we not be in a place of laziness, and always be willing and eager to keep bettering themselves for the glory of God. There’s always more!
U Wonder’s Vocal Summit aims to inspire, equip and empower musicians and songwriters in Asia and beyond. It takes place on Jun 30, 2018, at SLV Hub. You can register here. Enter the code, THIRSTSINGS, to get $15 off your registration fee.
This article was first published on Selah.sg, and is republished with permission.
“Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” (Acts 8:4)
In this part of the narrative, Stephen had just been stoned to death for preaching about Jesus. That triggered a widespread persecution of Christians in Jerusalem. Divergent chains of events unfolded.
Devout Christians buried Stephen and mourned over him. This was a courageous act. Whoever claimed Stephen’s body would probably have been guilty by association and at risk of being stoned too. But these brothers and sisters were devout in their love for God, which means they were also devout in their love for their slain brother, Stephen.
Those devout in their love for God will have a devout love for their brothers and sisters in Christ.
Stephen’s martyrdom triggered Saul of Tarsus to become a religious policeman who went about dragging Jerusalem Christians out of their homes and into prison. This was from his early anti-Christian zeal. His zeal is commendable, but his persecuting others is not. His theology was wrong.
Wrong theology breeds wrongdoing. We know he would later become the apostle Paul. Luke must have written this account to encourage his listeners: Look, even our feared persecutor has become our respected apostle! Take heart that God is in control!
Today, Christians are still being persecuted. You may be being persecuted in some way. Take heart! Even now, God is turning the hearts of the worst persecutors to Him. We hear stories of terrorists from other worldviews repenting and turning to Jesus. God is in control still.
Those devout in their love for God will have a devout love for their brothers and sisters in Christ.
The most significant consequence of the above series of events is that the Christians in Jerusalem scattered. They scattered to the nearby regions of Judea and Samaria for safety. And there they preached the word.
Immediately, we remember Jesus’ last word in Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
It took persecution to scatter the Christians from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria and further beyond to preach the word. A comfortable status quo is the greatest threat to the mission of the Church.
It is easy to see persecution as only a bad thing. It is bad, but not only bad. What others meant for bad, God means for good. We have to always discern what God is doing in our circumstance, even when it seems bleak. Adversity is often opportunity. Opportunity to witness to Jesus.
Let us seize every opportunity, whether in prosperity or adversity, for the Gospel.
As a Christian who is also a lawyer, Ronald JJ Wong believes in access to justice for all. Burdened for the common good of society, he advocates for the marginalised and volunteers pro bono for the less privileged.
This article was first published on Ronald’s blog, and is republished with permission.
He was about to board the train when he stopped in his tracks and looked at me expectantly. I parted my lips to tell him what was on my heart but not a sound came out. Instead, I pointed to an empty bench and asked if we could talk for a while.
The train pulled away as we sat down. I was too nervous to look at him in the eyes so I simply stared at our reflection in the glass in front of us. Silence.
Each second felt like an eternity as I ransacked my brain for the right words. It was only when the third train came and went that I finally plucked up the courage to utter the next few words.
“I like you.”
I was only 17 when I first confessed to someone. I was also turned down by that person.
A part of me was relieved: I wouldn’t have to play guessing games with myself any longer. But the other part of me was dejected even though I had already braced myself for the possibility of rejection.
Burying all the feelings I had for him in my heart, I mourned over what could have been.
Love is more than just a feeling.
Shortly after that, I started my tertiary education. This was around the time many of my friends began getting into relationships, only to break up a few months later. And this cycle of heartbreak would repeat – only this time round it was with someone new.
The brevity of my friends’ relationships left me with a lot of questions. Why did these relationship not last? Was it because they didn’t love each other enough? Was it because it wasn’t love in the first place?
I don’t deny the affections my friends had for their partners, but I came to the conclusion that love is more than just a feeling. And anything less than love is likely just infatuation.
“When you develop an infatuation for someone you always find a reason to believe that this is exactly the person for you. It doesn’t need to be a good reason. Taking photographs of the night sky, for example. Now, in the long run, that’s just the kind of dumb, irritating habit that would cause you to split up. But in the haze of infatuation, it’s just what you’ve been searching for all these years.” (Alex Garland, The Beach)
Infatuation is the shadow of love. It becomes almost impossible to separate the two concepts when you’re emotionally involved, because you’d do anything to justify your feelings. But I’ve learnt that it’s easy to idealise the person we’re attracted to. It’s easy to make them out to be something they’re not when we let our feelings run amok.
Later on, after I became a Christian, I was introduced to the three C’s of the compatibility by my Church leaders. This model gave me a clearer picture of how I can better choose a partner – especially handy for when I’d be clouded by infatuation.
On the outer layer is chemistry. This is when you feel a connection. Maybe the both of you just get each other’s jokes – you simply click. More often than not, people stop here and think it’s love. But there’s more to a relationship than chemistry, and it’s important that we go beyond initial skin-deep attraction.
So, we also have character – the mental and moral qualities of an individual. It’s the way he treats other people, his work and values in life. Character is how one reacts in a crisis and when no one is watching.
It is important to assess one’s character before entering into a relationship because it determines how a person responds to difficult circumstances. And as a couple, there will definitely be difficult times ahead where love will be tested and patience tried.
Conflicts also tend to arise from differences in character. So wouldn’t it be great to find someone who has similar values? Not only will you have more to agree about, you’ll be able to spur each other on!
Character is how one reacts in a crisis and when no one is watching.
Last but not least: The core. This refers to the belief systems and worldviews one holds. The core frames how a person interprets and responds to his reality and shapes what a person believes and what he’s willing to believe. It shapes thoughts and actions.
Two people can have good values but very different takes on certain issues because of the worldviews they have. And this will have an impact on how a couple makes key decisions in their relationship. For example, what if an unborn baby is diagnosed with brain deformity? Do they then abort the child?
A worldview is like a roadmap for how to lead a life. Some think that life is all about having fun – a hedonistic take – while others view life as a preparation for eternity. How can a couple journey together when their definition and end destination of life is different?
These three C’s will either make or break a relationship. We need to walk into relationships with our eyes wide open.
So, looking back, I wasn’t in love with him. I didn’t really know him: His values, beliefs and life goals. And if I didn’t know him, how could I have loved him? I was just in love with the idea of him.
I liked him only because he was the first guy I met who was different from the other boys I knew from Secondary School. Older. More mature. Different.
It was just infatuation. And while infatuation can kickstart romantic interest, it will not sustain a marriage. If we want a relationship that lasts, we have to go beyond chemistry.
by Jason Chua, Burning Hearts | 18 June 2018, 5:20 PM
Anyone who has ever spent time praying probably has had this question cross their minds: “Does God even hear my prayers?” And it gets amplified when we feel like nothing is happening in those moments of prayer.
In my early years as a young Christian, prayer meetings were a staple for me. The first meeting I attended after giving my life to Jesus was a prayer meeting that ran daily in church. And for the next 9 years, I would follow my brother to weekly 6.30am prayer meetings.
The atmosphere of these prayer meetings was so glorious, it made my prayers feel powerful. I knew that God was right there to hear me. So for a long time, I equated a successful prayer meeting with an energised, empowered feeling.
But this idea of a “successful prayer meeting” began to cripple my personal prayer life. I became demotivated to stay faithful in showing up for prayer meetings that didn’t provide that “atmosphere” – one where I would feel powerful when praying.
Of course, I totally believe in contending for the fullness of God to break in with His power and presence as we gather to pray. It is still my constant pursuit to see that reality happen in all our gatherings, especially in the place of prayer, just as God did it in the days of Acts.
“And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31)
By all means, this should be our vision and hope for our prayer meetings, but it should not be an equation for what a successful prayer meeting is.
During the first few months of my stint at IHOP Kansas City, I had to spend at least six hours of prayer in their Global Prayer Room daily. And it was a struggle for me because of my definition of success in the place of prayer.
For the majority of my time there, it felt more routine than glorious. For me to stay in that room for a full six hours made me feel weak as a person. Every prayer I made felt reluctant, almost meaningless, as though it was going nowhere – yet in my heart I did want Him to hear me.
This went on until one regular day, with my Bible opened to Matthew 6:6, when God shifted my paradigm and changed up my definition of success in prayer.
“And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)
At that moment, I felt the Lord ask me these questions:
“Do you believe in the words of My Son regardless of how you feel?”
“Do you believe that I see and hear when you pray in secret, regardless of how you feel?”
“Do you believe that I am true to who I am as a rewarder of those who diligently seek Me?”
It was at this point that I realised the success of prayer is never about how powerful I feel when I am praying, but recognising God as the powerful one we are anchoring our prayers on.
The act of praying itself is already a success because it is a demonstration of our faith in God and what He is able to do. Why else would we pray if we were in control or we didn’t think He could make the difference?
Faith is never about feeling, but an inward confidence that you have towards God. And without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Now when I pray, I look beyond my feelings because I know our Father sees and hears in secret, regardless of how I feel. That it is already success to be showing up before Him.
It is my hope to experience a greater manifestation of God’s power and presence in our prayer meetings, but He alone knows the right time and season for an outpouring. It is something that only God can do; no man can fabricate it. We can only be faithful to show up for prayer.
I can imagine those 10 days in the Upper Room after the disciples witnessed Jesus ascend to heaven (Acts 1:13). All they had was a promise Jesus had made: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”
For the 10 days before the Holy Spirit came, I can imagine how dry, weak and broken their prayer meeting must have been. Yet the apostles put their faith in the promise of the Father through the words of His Son, and they kept on showing up until that “suddenly” happened.
“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting … All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:2,4)
I want to encourage you to keep showing up in your personal time of prayer and stay faithful to the small and seemingly weak prayer meetings, because God loves weak and broken things. They are our opportunities to experience His power and grace (2 Corinthians 12:9).
My prayer for you is this, that God will give you a persevering faith that goes beyond your feelings, knowing that when you pray, your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
This article was first published on Jason Chua’s blog, and is republished with permission.
I was reading Jemima’s article when I was struck by a line in it.
‘Then it dawned on me. I hadn’t fled for my life, lost everything I owned, hidden in jungles for days, watched people I love die in front of me, starved in refugee camps, endured squalid conditions with little hope for survival … “
Stopped dead in my tracks, a singular thought came to mind: Have I become too comfortable?
While God doesn’t necessarily call us to live in dangerous places, He has called us to die to ourselves so that He can use us wherever He has positioned us.
So my true fear is being too comfortable in full-time ministry. And I never thought I would ever start feeling comfortable.
There are a number of reasons why I thought I would never be comfortable in full-time ministry.
For starters, I don’t have a regular income. Many of us working in mission organisations have to raise our own funds, and few are able to consistently hit their needed income for a stable salary. Few of us have adequate CPF contributions, taking a salary way below market rate. But God is faithful to provide.
Next, Interserve Singapore for a very long time did not have an office space. To save money on rent, we worked from our own homes or anywhere with WiFi. So I regularly did my work from coffee shops or on the train. Only recently were we blessed with office space by Geylang Church of Christ.
My prayer is that no matter where the currents of life bring me, I will never grow too comfortable, to die to self and follow Him into the field.
Third, for a very long time, my only other colleague was Christy, my director. The working relationship between Christy and I is precious, as we can share vulnerably and openly, but it was still strange to a fresh graduate. I can’t complain about my director to my director, can I? Though honestly, there isn’t much to complain about – it’s been my privilege to work with such a visionary, energetic and earnest leader.
Also, for most of the questions I did not know (I was doing graphic design when I was trained in political science) I had no one to ask but Google and YouTube. So in a sense, if I were ever to ask someone how to do something, I would be inquiring from other agencies like YWAM or OM.
In short, agency work broke all my stereotypes and mindsets about a fixed office, fixed working hours, colleagues to have lunch with, and most crucially – a fixed salary.
Yet after one year plus in ministry, I still caught myself getting comfortable.
During team prayer one week, we received news from a friend serving in Central Asia that there were 15 impending bomb threats to be carried out at any time.
I just sat there shaking my head. 15 bomb threats at the same time? I couldn’t imagine how the security forces were rushing to track the bombs and diffuse each one. How did their wives and children feel when they watching them leave to work against time-bombs?
And how about this missionary’s family here in Singapore? What would they think if they knew they might lose their daughter serving in Central Asia to one of these bombs?
That was when I asked myself: If God called me to drop everything, to go live and serve in hard places, amidst danger and suffering – would I go?
While God doesn’t necessarily call us to live in dangerous places, He has called us to die to ourselves so that He can use us wherever He has positioned us.
I didn’t dare to answer because I knew my answer. That was when I knew I got comfortable. That I had not died to my own desires, crafting up excuses to avoid God calling me to hard places.
I am working in a mission agency and I dare not go?
What then do I believe in? Do I even believe in what I am mobilising people towards? These workers we’re talking about are single ladies who face death threats, rape threats, lack of electricity, no WiFi, no hot water, no air con, not even a fan … How dare I quietly tell myself my life is more valuable than those serving and suffering in these hard places?
It’s not about chasing after adventure and danger, it’s about choosing to die to self and go to places to live amongst people who God loves dearly.
In Christy’s words, “Do not be afraid to come close to suffering. Jesus came close to our suffering.” And truly, we often read about the co-suffering with Christ in the Bible.
The call to serve overseas in hard and painful places isn’t the easiest decision to make admittedly. Like the rich man (Matthew 19:16-28), we have great possessions. We serve Jesus faithfully but dare not sell all that we possess, to give to the poor and follow Him. The rich man couldn’t, even after Jesus promised him that he would have treasure in Heaven.
At this juncture, I myself am transiting to a slightly more marketplace setting in the community services. Here I have fixed income, a sizeable team of colleagues, career progression to speak of.
I took some time to share with Joseph Chean about this transition I was about to make. “Go in with your eyes wide open,” were the words spoken straight into my spirit.
“Go in with your eyes wide open, knowing that when the day comes for you to make the jump into the mission field, and you can’t – don’t regret.
“By that time, you would have got a wife and children, a house, a much higher salary, most probably in management level. And at that moment, if you can’t make the jump, don’t regret. But go in with your eyes wide open, knowing that today, you have considered the choice you are making.”
His words echoed deep within the recesses of my heart. Upon surveying all I have ten years from now, will I – out of fear – conjure up excuses to avoid the honour and privilege to partner with Christ in hard places where great suffering abounds?
“Do many not make the jump in the end?” I asked. “Yes. Many,” was his reply.
My prayer is that no matter where the currents of life bring me, I will never grow too comfortable. I will die to self and follow Him into the field. After all, He jumped.
I’ll jump too.
With an expected one billion people in Asia moving from rural to urban areas by the year 2030, the number of world city dwellers is expected to rise to 70% by 2050. There is an urgent call to the Church, especially as the majority of new urban dwellers will be young (under 25 years old) and live below the poverty line ($2 a day).
The GoForth National Missions Conference, happening June 21-23, 2018, will look at an array of diverse strategies to empower individuals and churches to reach and transform cities with the love of Christ. Visit their website to find out out more.
“This kind cannot come out except by fasting and prayer.” (Mark 9:29)
Before I start on where I am and what I’ve learnt on my fasting journey, let me recount how this year started, and my growing conviction for fasting and prayer.
When my cell group leader asked us which area we would like to grow spiritually in this year, I wanted to say, “To love God’s Word more.” But I knew that wasn’t a stretch for me – I already love His Word (that’s a story for another time). So I decided to commit myself to something harder: Prayer and fasting.
2018 has been called the Year of Prayer by LoveSingapore, where churches are rallied to come together and pray. My girlfriend also reminded me that Jesus sometimes referred to “fasting and prayer” in the same context (Mark 9:29), which has to mean something.
I knew it was time for me to have a more structured prayer and fasting time.
Ironically enough, I decided to put my foot (or food) down and take my commitment to fast for an extended period of time only when Hari Raya Puasa rolled around.
Here were a few guidelines I gave myself: No solid food from the moment I wake until dinner time, and try not to go crazy when I break fast. After all, the point of fasting isn’t restraining yourself from good food then gorging yourself later – it is learning your dependence on God and dying to self.
5 THOUGHTS FROM THE FAST
1. Fasting is a subtle form of worship
There is nothing showy. Fasting is silent, mostly unseen faith discipline. This runs contrary to our hyper-social culture, where the world pulls a lot of attention to the self. No one wears a tag that says “I’m fasting”, much less takes a photo of an empty plate with the caption, “Fasting today”.
2. Fasting alone is tough, but you are never quite alone
Fasting for Christians is too often one man’s journey. This only means one has even more chances to give up, especially when your friends offer you your favourite food, or when your mum unwittingly tries to feed you.
But in fasting, it’s not just about integrity and willpower; it’s learning to depend on God’s sustenance.
3. We need to overcome our fear of hunger
Before I started fasting, I always ate my meals regularly even if I was full, just so I wouldn’t be hungry at night and unable to sleep. At work, I would bring food for tea break, just in case I was hungry again. But fasting made me realise I feared hunger more than I feared God.
“Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:19)
I had to ask myself: Would I take this opportunity to die to my own hunger and cravings? Even as believers, many of us have made food our god. We enjoy food so much, we go to great lengths to find the best food and document our food journeys. But do we crave for Jesus as much – if at all?
4. You might have to say “no”, even when it makes no sense
On Labour Day, I was out with my girlfriend. Due to the rain, we went to my place and my parents cooked lunch for her. This was the second day of my fast, and there I was, watching my parents eat with my girlfriend, while I drank plain water.
Another time, I was at an event that happened to serve food. Everyone was eating and I was hungry. For a moment, I was so tempted to make an exception – the food was free! How could I let it go to waste! I also learned that when you’re hungry, any excuse is a good one. I stuck to my fast that day.
5. Man does not live by bread alone
We live on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). Jesus said this at the end of His 40 days of fasting. And we must remember that He was fully man as well – He must have been starving while He said that!
Should you undertake one full month of fasting, know that it doesn’t get easier by the day. But as you die to yourself meal by meal, the grip food on your life loosens with each passing day. Your appetite is less a god each time you say no to whatever you are fasting from.
What do you crave for? What will you die for? I pray and hope our answer is Jesus.
But I’ve learnt a lot about anxiety in the past year. I realised that most of my anxiety comes from a need to please man. I’m overly-sensitive to the expectations of people around of me. I feel I have to meet those expectations in order for me to be accepted and considered a good person.
Sometimes I say things just because I think they are the words that people want to hear … I don’t necessarily mean them. And I was very offended when one of my close friends pointed that out to me personally, that I tend to say what I think people want to hear.
But now I realise that was very brave and astute of her. She also said it’s impossible for people to know me if I keep hiding my real views, refusing to be known. And the longer I keep up this facade, the less I like myself because I constantly feel like a fraud – not free to be who God has made me to be.
One consequence of wearing a mask is that I find it hard to form lasting bonds with people. I always turn out to be someone else from who they thought I was, and it’s tiring to keep up the facade. I never really enjoy interactions or feel that I have any real meaningful bonds with friends.
But in the past year, I’ve been learning to dig deeper into myself. I’m learning about what I really think and feel, so I stop saying stuff I don’t even mean or believe in. Because I want authentic relationships.
A simple strategy I’ve adopted is not to say anything if I don’t have an opinion on a matter. I also pray for boldness and wisdom to say what I truly think and feel, when I believe I have words that will help a person or situation. It takes time and effort, but I believe that I have begun forging relationships that are more authentic and lasting.
I also get anxious when I compare.
I look at how others are doing in their careers, and I feel that pressure to doing something that’s considered desirable, even if I do not find it meaningful or aligned with my gifts or inclinations.
My self-worth is frequently based on how well I am doing in my career. And as I can’t really get a full-time job as I’m currently schooling, it was impossible to feel like I was worth anything this way, especially when I hear others talking about having favour in the workplace, being promoted and finding fulfilment and of course – being financially independent.
There have been many restrictions on my personal development due to my unemployment issues. It’s tough especially when I’ve applied to dozens more jobs than the average graduate. I began to believe God didn’t want to give me the job I wanted.
When Christ is in me, I stop finding my self-worth in external appearances and accomplishments. I find them in who He says I am – a child of God.
The past year has made me realise it might well be a humbling season.
I believe that God wants me to leave my anxiety by learning to trust Him and live knowing my identity as a child of God. And sure, it’s still hard when I see people finding purpose in their work, going on holidays and getting married. I keep comparing – stuck despite my best efforts.
But on the other side of the coin, I am learning to find peace through prayer, and reading and meditating on His Word. Likewise fellowship with brothers and sisters-in-Christ, and serving others including my family, are more uplifting than I thought they would be.
When Christ is the source of my joy – not a career, lifestyle or person – I find that I like the new me. Because when Christ is in me, I stop finding my self-worth in external appearances and accomplishments. I find them in who He says I am – a child of God.
“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 6:28-30)
The lilies don’t strive and try to be something else, yet they are still beautiful and stunning. As we were made in the image of God, saved for eternity, I am sure our Heavenly Father knows and loves us far more than the flowers.
And no, while the anxiety is not yet gone, I can still surrender it to God in prayer continually. I am striving not to strive, praying for humility to trust in the Lord for the deepest provision.
My dad held out his hand. “Give me your hand,” he told me.
I clasped my hands behind my back and shook my head. “Give me your hand or it will be even more painful for you,” he repeated.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I reluctantly brought my hands forward. My dad took my left hand and turned my palm upwards. He held a cane in his other hand.
“No, Papa! No!” I cried and tried to retract my hand. He held on tight. “So why did you steal?” he reprimanded. The cane struck swiftly on my palm.
Nothing was quite the same after that.
We lived like familiar strangers under the same roof throughout my adolescence.
Growing up, my dad wasn’t very expressive.
He never told me he loved me, never asked how my school was. He rarely chided me for anything. How could he when he was so often missing in action? My dad simply immersed himself in work, and got lost in games whenever he was free.
But the punishment really came as a blow to me. I knew I was at fault: I had stolen money from my dad … And it wasn’t the first time. So someone had to mete out the punishment.
I didn’t know how to relate to him after that. My mistake felt like a wine stain on a white dress – a permanent blotch. Guilt hung over my head even long after the incident and I thought I was a failure in my father’s eyes. It didn’t help that my dad was a man of few words so we didn’t speak much thereafter.
I didn’t realise it back then, but I had begun believing that my dad stopped loving me from that fateful day.
Like an old TV screen, my memories of my dad remained a fuzzy vision for more than a decade. We lived like familiar strangers under the same roof throughout my adolescence.
But somehow, my heart softened towards my dad after I received Christ. It wasn’t like I prayed about the situation or that anyone counselled me specifically on this issue. I didn’t even think it was a big deal since I’d been so accustomed to the distance.
But as I began to know God as my Father, I caught a glimpse of a father’s heart. I started to understand that a father loves their child no matter the mistakes made.
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18-19)
And as I read chapters like Hosea 2, or of how the Israelites disobeyed God time and time again, I saw that God’s forgiveness was always available as long as they repented. Because He loves them.
… To him, love wasn’t about tenderness. It was about putting food on the table.
Love means discipline – so that we grow and learn from our mistakes. But love also means forgiveness. The more time I spent with God, the more I began to understand that just because I failed once doesn’t mean I’m a failure in my father’s eyes.
It was only then that I started to notice how my dad loves me.
Everyone knows love is important. But not everyone knows how to show it. We learn to love from the generation before us. We often love the way we’ve received it.
My dad learnt it through his father. In the post-war years, everyone was in survival mode. There was no room for tender loving care.
My dad grew up under a hard man. So to him, love wasn’t about tenderness. It was about putting food on the table. But while my dad was a man of few words, he was a man of his word. He did everything he could to provide for the family. He did everything he could to provide for me.
A few years ago, my dad asked me if I wanted Hokkien mee for dinner.
I insisted on roasted meat rice from my usual, favourite stall. Unfortunately, the stall was closed for the day and my dad came back with roasted meat rice from another place.
I made a face and took my first bite anyway. I could already tell the difference. I looked over to my father’s dinner. Suddenly his Hokkien mee looked infinitely tastier. My chopsticks began to sneak over to his plate occasionally.
“I went rock-climbing today,” I told my dad. The noodles tasted sour. He hadn’t properly mixed the lime. “Mmm,” he replied gruffly. He started mixing the noodles.
“I got some baluku (bruises),” I raised my knees to show him my glorious battle wounds. “But it was very fun!”
While my dad was a man of few words, he was a man of his word.
In between mouthfuls of my own dinner, I continued to steal his noodles.
“Have you rock-climbed before?” I tried again. No, he answered. And then silence once more. By this time, I had already finished most of the roasted meat rice – only some rice was left.
Seeing that the conversation was going nowhere and I had finished the nice portions of my dinner, I decided to take my leave.
“You don’t want the rice?” My father asked. “Don’t want. Cause not nice,” I replied. Wordlessly, he took my packet and pushed his plate of noodles toward me.
“But Papa! No more meat. I finished it all.”
He waved me aside me with his free hand and began eating the rice. Then, he gestured me to finish his plate of noodles.
For most of my life, my relationship with my father was characterised by the question “Does he love me?”
But at that moment, his actions rang louder than all the words I ever wanted.
When I finally stopped expecting my dad to love me on my terms, I could finally see and appreciate that he had been loving me this whole time.
I had a very clear vision of what my life should look like.
I was supposed to be married by now, for one. There was someone I had called the love of my life. And even though I had known for years that I had no peace from God about marrying this person, I did my best to ignore it.
I called the absence of that peace so many things: fear of commitment, of change, of moving too quickly. Eventually the pain of living with my heart split in two became unbearable. The day I chose God and ended that relationship, I felt certain I’d just exchanged the person I’d loved most for a lifetime of loneliness.
I was also supposed to have some sort of brilliant career by now.
What was the point of graduating with top honours, only to be saddled with middling part-time work, and no career progression, benefits, or opportunities to build any kind of legacy? Meanwhile, my more fortunate peers have landed jobs that put them in places to move financial markets, fight for justice, and heal the sick.
I know I’m not without intelligence, but God so firmly closed all the doors to work I considered significant, that I really did wonder if He thought me incompetent.
In letting go of all the crutches that made me feel supported and safe, I can finally give God a chance to reveal His power and make my life whole.
And I certainly wasn’t supposed to have been sexually assaulted for four years by a senior staff of my home Church. Or to need to look for a new place to worship so that I could heal from my post-traumatic stress disorder.
At the lowest point of my life, I didn’t even have the familiarity of community I’d come to call family. And God didn’t seem to be in a hurry to provide a new one either. He gave no word on where I could find another Church family. It felt like God was content to kick back and read His newspaper while I drowned at sea.
This wasn’t supposed to be my lot. I’d served Him faithfully all my life and lived within the boundaries He’d set for godliness. Yet on all the things that mattered most to me, He stayed curiously silent over the years.
I wasn’t asking for much: Just someone I could love, work that I could be proud of, a community where I could be safe. These things were biblical, surely, and good. And what was it that Scripture said? “No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless” (Psalm 84:11).
As the years went on, that verse increasingly felt like a joke. Around me there were people who didn’t give any thought to God and His ways, but they were getting everything that I wanted! Why did God seem intent on frustrating all my attempts to carve out this life for myself?
Crushed, and furious that I’d “wasted” my life living for Him only to get nothing valuable in return, I eventually left God.
My circumstances had led me to misinterpret God chronically: I thought that He was not good because He refused to give me the good things that I needed to thrive. But after three miserable years of trying to find happiness apart from Him, I realised that I’d gravely misread the situation.
We don’t hear much about idols these days. It seems like such an antiquated idea, people bowing to wooden statues and expecting to be saved. How can they not see that those things are useless?
But what I didn’t realise was how much having a spouse, a job with career progression, and a Church community to alleviate my loneliness, had become idols. If only I had these things, my heart unknowingly thought, I’d be saved from pain. They’d meet my needs for significance, love, belonging, and value.
God + (insert idol) would make me content. And, if I really had to choose, it wasn’t God who I believed was the more effective of the two.
I have a hunch why God ruined all my plans. If He had let me have those things I had wanted so badly, I would have depended on them to meet all my needs.
As He held those things back from me, and watched me rage and rail, God must have been rubbing His temples wondering, “How can she not see that those things will not save her?”
I can’t be certain, but I have a hunch why God ruined all my plans. If He had let me have those things I had wanted so badly, I would have depended on them to meet all my needs.
I would then have to spend every waking minute ensuring I didn’t lose them, so that my needs could keep being met. Was I putting enough into my job to make sure I kept getting promoted? Was I being a good enough partner to make sure I wouldn’t be left? Was I meeting the expectations of my community to make sure I stayed valuable to them?
Enslaved to a life of frenzied scrambling, I would have been reduced to a mess of insecurity and fear.
And when these idols failed to complete me — as they were bound to fail — I would have been completely shattered. What kind of damage would being so overwrought with fear have done to me? What kind of damage would I have done to the people I loved by expecting them to fill a need no human could fill?
It was out of His goodness that God upturned my life: To expose all the idols that I was relying on to save me. God refused to leave me deceived, clamouring for things that would not work. Instead, He led me to Himself: the True Satisfier (Phil 4:19).
I’ve come to learn that being married or having a successful career or a Church community aren’t dreadful things to want. But if I couldn’t survive without them, I know I’ve made them my idols.
Since I left my relationship and returned to God, there’s not been a day where I haven’t felt an excruciating loss.
But there’s also not been a day where I’ve gone to bed without peace. God has come through, without fail, in quiet and surprising ways to meet the needs of the day. He turns my attention to the beautiful things He already has given me — my family, close friends, the work that I have — and lets me feel His presence through them.
“They aren’t consolation prizes”, God tells me, “But the very best things I know you need right now to heal.”
Sometimes He shows up in the books I’m reading, giving me answers to painful questions I haven’t even properly articulated. He even orchestrated an elaborate object lesson once, on my evening walk, to demonstrate how walking with Him will lead me into a life that suits me better than the one I had left behind. These things give me hope that I’ve not been forgotten.
Even without the things I thought I needed, I’ve been sufficiently filled. In letting go of all the crutches that made me feel supported and safe, I can finally give God a chance to reveal His power and make my life whole.
I don’t have a clear vision of what my life will look like anymore. But I am starting to see that I am in safe hands. And perhaps this is as good a starting place as any.
This article was first published on YMI.today and is republished with permission.
At Festival of Praise 2016 I cried out to God in tears: “Here I am, send me!”
“What is needed, God? What is needed before we get to see more of your work in the lives of the people around us? What is needed before we see greater breakthroughs? What is needed before a revival happens again in our nation?” I pleaded. I was more than desperate to see God move in my school and in Singapore.
“Prayer is needed. And also people who are willing to take time to commune with Me,” were the words that God dropped in my heart.
That same night, I recorded a list of things I would do for God if I knew I couldn’t fail. One of them was to start a prayer group in school.
It took some time for me to pray, “God if someone is needed to step up and stand in the gap for my school, I’m willing to be that someone.” It wasn’t an easy prayer. In fact, it was the most difficult prayer I’ve ever prayed. Because I knew that if God gave me confirmation, I wouldn’t be able to stay in my comfort zone.
In the following weeks, God showed me sign after sign. Yet I refused to budge. Maybe it’s just my imagination – maybe it’s just a coincidence. Eventually I finally gave in when it became too obvious that I could no longer find any excuse to deny God’s call.
So I started a prayer group in school. It was just my classmate and I at first. And things didn’t go as planned. Fellow Christians in school who I invited to join us in prayer were unresponsive. And for months, membership remained stagnant.
Disappointed, I complained to God: “All this started because You told me You had a plan! I’ve tried everything possible: Approached random Christians in school, prayed hard for like-minded Christians to answer the call to prayer … But why does it seem like everything is falling apart?”
Prayer is needed. And also people who are willing to take time to commune with Me
It was in June 2017 at my Church’s youth retreat where God spoke again. During worship, I was prompted by the Spirit to step out to be prayed for – that there was something God wanted to reveal to me.
The man who prayed for me said: “God sees your heart for your school, and He also sees that progress has been slow and it has been difficult to keep having faith. He is telling you today to press on and don’t lose heart, for He is doing His work in His own special way.”
I never told the man who was praying for me about the problems and challenges I was facing! He was merely a guest preacher at the event but God used Him to reveal His heart to me in my situation. I was moved to tears that night, knowing that God heard my cries and hadn’t let go of His promise. He was still in control.
In the following days, I prayed in faith for divine appointments, that God would let me meet people who would make a big impact in the prayer group. And it wasn’t long before God made another tangible move.
In July 2017, I was on my way to the Festival of Praise worship night. I prayed the same prayer for divine appointments. But throughout that night I didn’t meet anyone special. I was disappointed when the event ended because I thought my prayer was going to go unanswered.
But God does not fail! As I left the venue and looked for the nearest bus-stop, I came across a batch-mate from school who was also on his way home from the event that night. I didn’t know him personally but I somehow knew immediately that he was the answer to my prayers.
He expressed that he was interested in joining the prayer group, and he told me that there was another Christian group in school from Singapore Youth For Christ (SYFC) which was headed by another batch-mate of ours. There was now a possibility that we could combine to form a larger group. The merger eventually happened and I got much more than I prayed for!
All of these were the stepping stones that led to the active prayer ministry we have in school today. We meet twice a week in worship and prayer for Jesus to be revealed in our school. When things did not seem to be working out, where all plans failed, God prevailed because He’s more concerned about the issue than we are!
“There are parts of our calling, works of the Holy Spirit, and defeats of the darkness that will come no other way than through furious, fervent, faith-filled, unceasing prayer.” (Beth Moore)
Good prayer has little to do with complex sentences or big words. It’s about having a humble heart. Like Daniel, who humbled himself in fasting and prayer for his people, I believe that God is calling out a generation of believers willing to humble themselves and selfless prayer their lifestyle.
To see a greater work of God in our nation, we must pray more selflessly. Because when I examine my prayers, they are often about me and my personal life. “God, give me wisdom during my exam!” or “God, give me the strength to last the day!” They are all quite self-centred.
There’s nothing wrong with such prayers. But how about praying to know God? And are we neglecting prayer for the lost, the lonely and those who do not feel loved? What about prayers for their eternal destinies? God cares deeply for each and every one of them. In fact, His heart aches for every lost child that has yet to return home.
Yet we often get caught up with our personal lives, failing to realise that there are people out there who need prayer.
“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” (1 Timothy 2:1)
It is time to start praying selfless prayers that reflect the selfless God we serve.
This year marks the 40th year of Dr Billy Graham’s Crusade in Singapore which awakened us to the need to evangelise to the nations around us. I believe his death earlier this year is no coincidence. A new wave of evangelism is about to rise. But this cannot happen without prayer. The call to pray for our nation is greater than ever before.
We were born for such a time as this, to come before God not only in expectancy but also fervent prayer for our countrymen. We have no time to lose if Singapore is to fulfill her Antioch calling.
Are we willing to hold onto God? Not to stay silent? To call on him day and night. To take no rest. To give him no rest—until Singapore turns Godward?
United prayers make a big difference. When we come together with one heart and one cry, “God, reveal yourself to Singapore!”, we shake up the heavens and God moves.
|| Come Alive Singapore || A song from this land for this land. This is the deep cry of our hearts, and we sing this interceding for our Lion City. We are believing for an islandwide move of Love and Truth in our city, and we won’t let up till we see Singapore rise to her call. Here's an extract from Isaac, who wrote Come Alive Singapore. "I have been blessed by the gospel being preached to me when I was a youth that is undiluted; that has not rubbed me the right way all the time, but was presented fully and not shy of the truth. We have a responsibility to share the same in lovingness and kindness. For those who have grown indifferent to the truth, for those who have become professional christians, we challenge them to give their lives completely to Jesus. A generation of 100% wholehearted laid-down lovers of Jesus. I pray that as they grow up, the word “Surrender” is not foreign to them but embraced, which may not be the case as we are bombarded only too often with the incomplete idea of “freedom”.While praying, God placed a prophetic song in my heart that I would love to share with you.“Come alive, SingaporeStand up and fightAnswer our callGod we unite,We’ll raise up a roarThere must be moreThere must be more…for Singapore.”"#fopxsg #fopxsurrender #comealivesingapore #singapore
Let this be the cry of our hearts today and in the days ahead. There are many in our nation who desperately need a touch from our Heavenly Father. They are living a life without knowing there is a love so great and powerful that’s calling them.
“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:37b)
This is an urgent time. We need to pray for our nation and our people.
So pray. Keep praying. Never stop. Pray like never before.
by Jason Chua, Burning Hearts | 6 June 2018, 9:51 AM
There is always a “why” in every human being that drives and motivates them to do the things they love to do. So if you can identify the “why” in your prayer life, you will find joy and purpose in the place of prayer.
Many assume the goal of praying is to see answered prayer. But answered prayer is not the end of it. Instead it is a means to revelation – answered prayer reveals God’s nature. It shows us who He is, after all.
When we pray for the sick, and the sick receive healing, the answered prayer reveals God as Healer. When we pray for God to provide for the lack in our lives, and He responds us by releasing provision, that answered prayer reveals God as Provider.
When we make prayer meetings a place where everything revolves around our terms and agendas instead of His – we miss the point.
We often only pray when we’re in need, which isn’t wrong in itself, but isn’t sustainable.
When we come to God based on our terms and needs, these terms and needs become primary, and God becomes secondary. And if God doesn’t meet us based on our terms and conditions, we eventually find ourselves disappointed by God. Offended, we look to other sources to meet that need based on our terms.
So if the goal of prayer is answered prayer, prayer will never be sustainable. But if the goal of prayer is to know the One who we are talking to, prayer becomes a constant pursuit because the knowledge of God is inexhaustible. The fruit of the knowledge of God is an inner assurance that God is, and He is able regardless of the circumstances.
There were times when pastors and leaders would experience the stirring of God to call the Church to an extended time of prayer because they believed revival was coming and it would happen in a particular manner.
For the first few days, people would come with expectation and energy. After a few weeks, the numbers would dwindle and the energy level would begin to fall. Eventually, the pastors would be caught up with other stuff, and someone would be assigned to lead the prayer meeting, which would end up becoming the prayer ministry in the Church for those who are gifted in praying (intercessors) and are called to this ministry.
When we make prayer meetings a place where everything revolves around our terms and agendas instead of His – we miss the point. When we understand the magnitude of the price Jesus paid on the cross and why He did it, our prayer meetings will no longer be another “ministry” for only a few “gifted intercessors.”
Prayer is not an entitlement, but a privilege.
Jesus paid a high price on the cross to rend the veil that separated God and Man so that what was once the privilege of one man – the High Priest – could now be given to all Man (Revelations 5: A kingdom of priests). Prayer is not an entitlement, but a privilege. We did nothing to earn it, but it was given to us by the Blood of the Lamb.
Jesus bled so we could commune with God and know Him through prayer (John 17:3). The cross of Jesus that hung between Heaven and Earth brought reconciliation between God and Man. We no longer have to know God from afar but can know Him intimately as our Father because of His Son.
Jesus said, “My house is a house of prayer.” Prayer is the only way His Family relates to each other, and now He is inviting all of us to be a part of that Family who will relate to one another through prayer. What a glorious privilege we have as a follower of Jesus today.
I hope this paradigm of prayer will produce an anchor in your heart to come before Him regardless of when and how He will answer your prayer. Remember: Prayer is not an entitlement for a few, but a privilege for all. Prayer and intercession is God’s invitation to intimacy.
Make this your goal today: To know the One you are talking to.
This article was first published on Jason’s blog, and is republished with permission.
I was the non-believer Christians are told not to be yoked with
by Ann Ng | 5 June 2018, 9:53 PM
As a freshman in university, I remember that one of the things I wanted to get out of my college life was to challenge my own limited worldview.
Coming from a Junior College that was largely homogenous in its demographics, university was like fresh spring waters for me as I got to meet people of different backgrounds and beliefs about life.
As a freethinker then, I’d always considered myself to be an open person, ready to listen to what each religion had to say about life and, in certain cases, the afterlife.
Until I met my current boyfriend, K.
K and I met while working in the same school committee. The two of us were like-minded in many ways and I admired his strong sense of leadership and values. As time passed, we grew closer and our friendship gradually progressed into something deeper.
However, he was a Christian – and I was not. And what I knew was that Christians are not supposed to date non-believers because it is “wrong“.
However, I challenged that thought: Why couldn’t we just respect each others’ religion or lack thereof? Just because I did not share the same religion as him, dating me was “wrong”?
I took things very personally and felt hurt and dejected. But neither was I open to embracing a religion, as much as K tried to share about what he believed in. I was caught between a rock and a hard place: Should I give this relationship up, or should I give this so-called “truth” a chance?
As feelings would have it, I chose the latter and began my journey of exploring the faith. However, it was far from easy.
K patiently shared his testimony with me, brought me to church and also had a few of his friends speak to me about the Christianity. But I found it difficult to relate to the sermons and sharing, which made it difficult to continue trying.
My family was non-religious and my closest circle of friends were non-Christian. What was this even worth? Tears would often accompany the tough conversations I had with K about religion. What if I ultimately concluded that my idea of “truth” was different from his? Did that mean we were not meant for each other?
Did that mean I was not meant for this kingdom his God promised to those who believed in Him?
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)
This verse spoke to me many times, through the friends I met and the articles I read on my own. I held onto it, believing that the struggles with faith at that period of time would some day bring me closer to the truth, as long as I sought it wholeheartedly.
Thankfully, by God’s grace, many instrumental people were sent into my life at the right times – and with every encounter, my faith in Him grew stronger. Most importantly, when I finally decided to put my faith in Jesus Christ, I knew my decision to follow Him was altogether independent of my relationship with K.
This whole journey of seeking took about a year, and there were many times I wanted to give up. But in retrospect, it made me realised that God fulfils His promises faithfully – that as long as you truly seek, you will find.
A relationship with someone who does not understand and share the same love of God can never be a relationship that is all-satisfying and all-glorifying to Him.
As a believer now, I’ve come to understand and fully agree with 2 Corinthians 6:14, to not be yoked with unbelievers. A relationship with someone who does not understand and share the same love of God as you can never be a relationship that is all-satisfying and all-glorifying to Him.
So if you’re a non-believer dating a Christian, please consider the fact that we don’t merely couple with a person in the body, but in the soul and spirit as well – two becoming one.
You cannot hope to marry a person but not his or her faith; at first that might seem plausible, but there are far too many instances where it becomes an unbridgeable gap in a couple. At best, you share some of your life, but not all of it. What a shame that would be.
And if you truly love the person you’re with, the least you could do for them is to spend some time with the God they love. Who knows? He might grow on you. ❤
What’s in a surname that I should change it when I marry?
by Sherrie Han | 5 June 2018, 5:54 PM
“Are you going to be changing your name after marriage?”
Without hesitation, I said no.
I was first presented with the possibility of officially changing my surname after marriage at the pre-marital counselling course at my church. Before this, I’d never considered the possibility of adopting my husband’s surname, which meant doing a deed poll and legally adopting my husband’s surname.
There didn’t seem to be any reason to change my surname. Administratively, it would’ve been a hassle to change my NRIC, passport, bank documents and other articles of identification, not to mention having to present my deed poll whenever my identity had to be verified with any older documentation.
Plus, my husband-to-be didn’t mind whether I did a deed poll at all, so the matter was left entirely up to me.
But I found myself wondering why my instinctive response to the question was an immediate “no”. Of course, as an independent, modern woman in Singapore, it felt so strange to even consider giving up my surname in favour of my husband’s.
It was as though I was needlessly giving up a part of my identity. What would my parents think?
Marriage, to me, meant becoming one with the man I loved, a union in which we would encourage each other to be the “spotless bride of Christ” in preparation for His return.
Giving up my surname was a powerful statement about the unity and permanence of marriage.
As I thought deeper about marriage, I came across an article on Facebook describing various feminist struggles against patriarchy and how women through the ages fought to keep their own surnames. The tone of the article was proud and strident, and it struck a chord in me.
The zeitgeist of our time is autonomy. As millennials, we are often told, directly or indirectly, that we are “captains of our souls, masters of our own fate”.
But the truth of this statement is rarely questioned – so much of who we are has come from standing on the shoulders of giants who have willingly sacrificed and laid down their own rights and privileges for our good.
The struggle to give up my surname was really a struggle to be vulnerable. There was a risk that I would regret giving up a part of myself and a risk that I would be embarrassed and hurt should marriage not work out in the future.
Yet, giving up my surname was also a powerful statement about the unity and permanence of marriage. I realised that to give up my surname in favour of his was to express faith in the institution of marriage, as created by God for our good.
Marriage as a covenantal relationship seems increasingly outdated in our day and age of risk-management and convenience. I believe that arrangements such as pre-nuptial agreements and open relationships are signs of how marriage has been devalued in this day and age.
But it doesn’t have to be. We are empowered to serve and love each other as Jesus did. He chose to give up everything even in the face of rejection and betrayal from the people He loved – the very things I was afraid I might face in the future.
Because of His act of great love and eternal commitment, He put His name on us, His bride. A name that reconciled us back to Father God, and will endure forever. And if Christ could give so willingly, I knew then that so could I.
And with that, I decided to formally adopt my husband’s surname.
Sherrie has been married for nearly two years now and is a proud mother of a new-born baby.
I wasn’t born a Christian, so I experienced certain difficulties with my friendships when I first came to Christ.
I remember the first time I told my friends about my decision. I was nervous and afraid of what they’d think. There was always an unspoken agreement about Christians – they’re different.
While they didn’t shy away from me because of my newfound faith, I realised over the years that our worldviews had shifted. I soon found that it was easier to leave my differences aside, and focus on our similarities instead. So I began to hide my faith. “They won’t understand,” was what I reasoned to myself.
In fact, someone once told me that they couldn’t understand how Christians can say they have best friends outside of Church, but not in Church – the common ground Christians have between each other seem almost to dwarf the commonalities shared with friends of other faiths.
“The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.'” (CS Lewis, The Four Loves)
For example, my mentor, who married earlier than her peers, told me that she’s been trying to befriend other young couples. As she has just became a mother, she needs a community of young parents to support her in this life station. Yet more important than our life transitions is our end destination.
If we’re attracted to people who are at similar stations of life, won’t we also naturally gravitate towards people who have the same faith?
While I drifted from my older friends, I grew closer to my friends in Church.
Having the same faith and same goals greatly strengthened our friendship. I trusted them to spur me towards Christ and they could relate to me whenever I shared my struggles in the faith.
It wasn’t until a big misunderstanding broke out between my former friends that I realised just how foreign the friendship had become. We had become familiar strangers through years of hiding and avoiding real topics.
We need friendships that can point us towards God – we need fellow pilgrims on this heavenward journey.
People always say that you are the sum total of the top 5 people you spend the most time with. And as Christians, our life should reflect our faith. So it’s important to have friends with the same faith who can encourage us in our walk with God.
But this doesn’t mean we cut off friends who aren’t Christian.
After the fallout with my friends, I began to see the importance of authentically sharing all aspects of my life with them. While they wouldn’t be able to give me a Biblical perspective on my problems, and they might not understand what I’m going through, at least we could have been real with each other.
Maybe it’s not the answers, but the journey that matters.
I began to understand that while our experiences may be different – emotions are universal. Loneliness, joy, anxiety … These aren’t exclusive to faith. So while my non-believing friends may not have the same values as I do, it doesn’t mean I should discount their perspectives on things.
That being said, there is wisdom in choosing who is able to speak into your life.
There are many types of friendships in life. In some friendships we give more than we take; in others we take more than we give. But we need friendships that can point us towards God – we need fellow pilgrims on this heavenward journey.
Jesus was a friend to the Gentiles, but He also had different circles of friends. Those who shared His vision, and were willing to advance His cause were part of the innermost circle in His life.
So how about us? Do the people who know the most intimate details of our lives the same ones who could spur us on our walk with God?
Different beliefs may lead to disagreement. But it shouldn’t mean I don’t connect with friends who don’t have the same faith as me.
If anything, it has taught me to love people in spite of our differences. For example, my friends bore grudges after the major fallout, and I had to press for reconciliation between the both of them.
Had it not been for the fact that I knew God desires reconciliation, I’m pretty sure I would have long given up on the friendship too. That would have been the end of a decade-long relationship.
I suppose that’s what Jesus meant when He said we are called to be in the world – but not of the world. At the end of the day, our faith shouldn’t arbitrarily draw us away from our friends in the world.
Our faith should draw all our friendships nearer to Christ.
Even today I can still remember seeing the youths walk towards me as they alighted from the bus. Watching from a distance, I began to tear uncontrollably.
With a tight knot in my heart, I asked God: “Why? Why Down Syndrome? Why them?”
As a new Christian, I couldn’t figure out an answer. So I struggled with these thoughts for nearly a year. I was tormented by them and deeply affected.
Jesus was interested in how one can best glorify God with the cards he’s been dealt.
And then a thought crept into my mind, “What if God wants me to give birth to a Down Syndrome child?”
Foolishly, I thought of either breaking up with my boyfriend or getting married and not having kids. I was terrified of that possibility … I wanted to escape.
Though I was plagued by doubts and fears, I eventually found peace as I sought God.
“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:1-2)
The disciples were focused on the sin. They wanted to know whose sin was responsible for the man’s disability: The man or his parents.
But Jesus wasn’t interested in the blame game. He took the guilt off the son and his parents and looked forward instead. Jesus was interested in how one can best glorify God with the cards he’s been dealt.
Everyone can glorify God. There is nothing able to stop us from giving God glory. After all, we were created for His glory (Isaiah 43:7)
So physical or mental disability does not mean one is able to give God less glory. We serve a God who works in mysterious and creative ways. He moves powerfully in our lives and we are made strong in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:10) through Him who strengthens us in every way.
Regardless of our advantages and disadvantages, our purpose on earth has never changed. We are meant to glorify God. But we fear because we are tempted to think that God has lost control.
He could possibly stop it – why didn’t He?
We need the faith and humility to accept that we only have finite understanding and knowledge. We don’t and won’t have the answers to all the questions in the world.
““For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.”” (Isaiah 55:8)
2013 was a difficult year. I spent it questioning God; suffering. Like he did with Eve, Satan planted seeds of doubt in my mind to make me think twice about God’s goodness and love.
But He is Lord over all. And in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
We see so very little with our human eyes, but He sees things we don’t. He looks beyond our appearances, disabilities and most crucially – our sin. All because of Jesus.
God cares for every child He’s chosen (1 Thessalonians 1:4).
He alone shows me what it means to love unconditionally. Jesus’ death was the exact representation of God’s love for mankind – the highest standard of love. His love surpasses all understanding. We are unable to love apart from Him (1 John 4:19).
Let us fix our eyes on God and be fully assured that we can trust in His plans. He has never once failed to keep His promises, He is a faithful God – a loving Father from Genesis to Revelation.
God’s sparks must land on the tinder of our hearts. When the little flame is fanned long enough, it becomes a force to be reckoned with: No longer fragile, but self-sustaining, relentless and all-consuming.
But even before the fire of ministry happens, we must be tinder. We cannot fake the real stuff. He must set your spirit ablaze. Everything starts with Him (Matthew 6:33).
Instead of prescriptively treating symptoms of burn-out with things like more vacations or dramas, many of us need to refocus on what matters most – God Himself.
Many of us start well but lose our way and make ministry the main thing.
We began to read the Bible only for the sake of teaching. We lived well so we could be good testimonies. We prayed so we could work better. We led hundreds of people into intimate worship, but never did so alone.
If we’re not careful, Christianity quickly turn into a means to other noble-sounding ends: A better world, social justice, feeding the poor, fulfilment, redemption and healing.
Good things. But we risk missing the point entirely.
The point is God Himself. We are to commune with Him and draw from Him. We were meant to experience Him – to worship Him.
The moment we stop going up the mountain, crying “Show me Your glory” – we come face to face with the scarcity of our hearts instead.
“The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and that servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all.” (AW Tozer)
When you’re burnt out, dry and deluded – you’re not drinking (John 7:37-39).
By “drinking”, I don’t mean simply reading the Bible more, praying harder, serving more, or putting more Christian songs into your playlists.
Instead of his anointing, gifts, blessings and favour – pursue Him alone. Boldly go to His throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). Strive to enter into the secret place (Psalm 91:1). Wait upon Him (Isaiah 40:31).
Put God back in the sacred temple of your heart (1 Corinthians 6:19), violently ridding your temple courts from vested interests and activities (Matthew 21:12). Sit unhurried at Jesus’s feet (Luke 10:39). Go back to the start and stay there until the Holy Spirit stirs in you (Exodus 33:15).
Claim His transcendent peace by surrender (Philippians 4:6-7), and strive to enter into His rest (Hebrews 4:11).
In other words, if you don’t feel blessed, recapture your poorness of spirit. Possess nothing (Matt 19:21). Don’t settle for anything other than God Himself.
Now that you rightfully enthrone Him, build your life on a bedrock of truth.
“See how feebly the soul limps along, unless it is planted in solid truth,” (St Augustine)
Truth must be felt in the heart, echoed in the soul, understood with the mind, and lived out with one’s strength.
I recall Ravi Zacharias’ three tests for a truth claim: Logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance. Christian theology passes the first test. Good attempts have been made to answer the second, not perfectly, but adequately enough.
But confronted with the third test, many of us are shaken. God might make perfect sense, but without tangible experiencing Him – our faith lacks conviction.
The added pressure and expectations of ministry lead us to don ministerial masks when we serve. We become deluded.
So what drives our lives?
Confronted with the inner struggle for experiential relevance, one rushes to fill life with things to ensure one’s relevance – to give comfort, to provide context. For most people, it’s career, status, romance or children.
For Christians, if it’s not the same things in Jesus’ Name – it’s “ministry.”
But “ministry” or “fellowship” cannot feed you. Rather, they simply express inner convictions that must be wrestled with God, personally and corporately.
When we cannot honestly talk about our faith experience, we delude ourselves. A generic creed or communal half-truth will not answer the tough questions for you. Every leg in truth’s tripod must pull weight.
A quest for truth will not always lead to worship, but true worshippers must be honest and relentless pursuers of truth (John 4:24), especially because Truth reveals itself as a person (John 14:6).
So wrestle with God about the difficult stuff.
Let people in; they will wrestle along with you. Wrestle with it as you share your faith, teach and minister. Pursue the truth with love. Let your wrestling draw you deeper into His inner courts; fear and trembling are part of the pilgrimage (Philippians 2:12).
If we are to love Jesus with all our heart, soul, mind and strength – our pursuit of Him must be on all fronts. On the path of righteousness, the Word is your map, truth your compass, and the world your playground. Faith is how you connect the dots.
Such a glorious pursuit promises to be a worthy exchange for our struggles. When it comes to ministry, we need to prioritise well.
Pursue God first. Be unapologetically real. Let people in.
I grew up in a volatile household where, like a time bomb waiting to go off, seeming peace would be met trouble. When my mum was pregnant with me, my dad requested to have me aborted. And throughout my childhood, he would intentionally hurt me too.
He was physically abusive to my mother at times, and frequently verbally hurled insults at her. It made me fearful that the same would happen to me. This led me to avoid getting too close to anyone in my friendships altogether.
While I was well-liked within my social circle as I grew up, I was never the goody-two-shoes girl people thought I was. In my eyes, I was pretty much an awful person on the inside – a villain, almost.
Because of my stormy household situation, I longed to release the anger, bitterness, hatred and jealousy I harboured deep within me. I envied my friends who seemed to have complete, happy families and frequently compared their lives to mine.
As a young person, I hid much of these pent-up feelings inside. I never trusted anyone enough to tell them my “secret” feelings. And while I did not terrorise my peers, I found myself putting on a superior front to my classmates, finding ways to manipulate and control them to my favour.
But in my late teens, I began to meet people who called themselves Christians. They seemed so different from me. They wore their scars on their sleeves and were real with one another about their faith and struggles. I kept asking myself, why am I different? So I decided to accept Christ too.
I remember going down on my knees and simply telling Jesus, “I don’t think I know You at all. In fact, I don’t know anything at all. But the Bible says You save. I’ve seen it in the people in the church, that could only be You. So help me with my feelings. Help me to understand.”
Yet, life as a Christian was still on the surface for me. The tension in my family was too great for me to bear. When my mum contracted tuberculosis, a saliva-transmitted disease, my father chose to distance himself for fear of his health. The emotions I kept inside could not be suppressed anymore and I lashed out at my dad.
But my Christian friends helped me realise it was time to grow up and let go of these childhood frustrations. And so I decided to work out my problems with Him little by little.
Painfully, I revisited memories from my past, the hurts and pains, everything. I prayed again, “Help me to let go of what I cannot control anymore – the things in my past. Lord, Your yoke is easy, so take my burdens.” And He did. Each time I feel these feelings inside me fester, I prayed and they left.
Of course, there were times I simply gave in to pity parties, yet slowly but surely, the old wounds disappeared once and for all. I do think about them at times, but they no longer have any hold on me. I also keep a close group of friends who are there for me and cover me in prayer.
I also notice that for a person who used to bear grudges easily, I’m find it easier to let go of emotional burdens. Of course, it all still takes some time. I began to open up and let people around me into my struggles, knowing that they care for me and would not hesitate to speak truth into my life.
I still do struggle with the desire to have control, especially when things go south. I may do things to fix the situation, which I usually regret, and end up feeling guilty and unforgivable. But the Holy Spirit has helped me tremendously in avoiding time-consuming battles inside my head – He is gentle but firm, and never condemning. Each time I fall, He helps me up.
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:23-24)
Because of God’s faithful growth and guidance, my faith has been made much stronger; and as time passes, I find out more about what freedom in Christ means.
By His grace, I wouldn’t say anymore that I’m a villain, but I have come to realise that the greatest enemy, at times, is yourself. As fallen humans, we all have darkness within us. Mine manifests in a cruel, hardened heart craving control.
Yet thanks to all that has happened in my life, I can proclaim that Jesus saves. I may not be able to overcome darkness on my own, but with the Holy Spirit, as well as the saints who are my friends – and now even my family – coming alongside me, I can press on forward, overcome my fallen nature and reach for the prize (Philippians 3:14).