Have you heard of the Autism Spectrum Disorder*?” David, my missions team leader, casually asked me while we were having lunch at Makassar, Indonesia, where we were on a mission trip.
“Yes, I have. In fact, I know of someone who has Asperger’s,” I replied rather matter-of-factly.
There was a momentary pause. Through David’s hesitation, I had a suspicion that he might be talking about me, but before I could pursue that train of thought, he continued.
“If we were indoors and I told you that it’s going to rain, what would you think?”
“It’s going to rain,” I replied.
“Well, it can also imply that you must close the windows. My daughter has Asperger’s. My wife and I will instruct her specifically to close the windows. I suspect that you may have Asperger’s based on my experiences with my daughter.”
I kept quiet and did not say anything else, trying to process the gamut of emotions I was feeling. “No, that can’t be. Asperger’s is a boy’s problem,” I told myself afterward, as I mulled over what David said to me.
According to research, far more men are diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome than women. How, then, was it possible that I had a condition that tends to affect men? Could I really have Asperger’s?
*Autism is a condition that is used as an umbrella term to describe an impaired cognitive ability to socialise. People with autism have trouble reading facial expressions and body language. Asperger’s Syndrome is one sub-type of autism. People with Asperger’s Syndrome are at the higher functioning end of the spectrum. For example, they are able to complete a higher level of education.
As I thought about this, I started to recall my behaviour on the mission trip and several incidents that happened – being really straightforward in my speech, saying “No” when our Indonesian host offered me food, and going on and on about a specific topic with no clue that others around were losing interest.
The short dialogue with David also triggered a distant memory from my schooling days. Back then, my teachers had expressed the same suspicion, but I simply brushed it aside. I just thought that I had to work harder on my social skills, and I tried to do so by mimicking the words and actions of characters that I saw on TV shows and in movies.
It didn’t work for long, though, because some of their words and actions were not applicable in the context I was in.
Upon returning to Singapore after the trip, I took online tests that diagnosed for Asperger’s. The results supported what David said and confirmed my worst fears: I very likely had Asperger’s Syndrome.
Here are three struggles that people with Asperger’s face:
1. Words are taken literally and at face value. People who have Asperger’s are often unable to read between the lines or understand sarcasm. As a result, they are perceived as gullible or easily deceived by others.
2. Maintaining eye contact in conversations. Doing so makes it hard for them to focus on the topic of the conversation and makes them feel extremely uncomfortable as well.
3. Speaking intensely about things that they are passionate about—and not knowing when to stop due to their inability to pick up on social cues. They are not able to tell if they have lost the attention or interest of their audience.
A former cell group leader once shared this passage from 2 Corinthians 12 with me as she prayed for me. “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
I realised that Asperger’s could be the “thorn in my flesh” that I would have to live with for the rest of my life.
As I thought about it, I realised that Asperger’s could be the “thorn in my flesh” that I would have to live with for the rest of my life. Questions flooded my mind: Why does God not heal me of Asperger’s when He is more than able to? Why do I have this condition that makes me socially awkward among people?
But God in His grace led me to discover the answer to these questions in the same passage – perhaps He did not heal me because He wanted me to depend on His power. Another verse from the Bible that spoke to me was Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
I am a beautiful work of God, created to do good works! It’s all part of His plan.
These new revelations led me to gradually accept my condition and look at it from a new perspective – God’s. I started to depend on the Holy Spirit for help in social situations, such as to guide and nudge me to stop blabbering when I got excited about something, and to maintain eye contact when I was speaking to someone.
A final note to all of you who may have a loved one or friend who struggles with Asperger’s: Please be patient with us. Please relate to us in love (with the Holy Spirit’s help, of course), especially in moments when we might not understand the meaning behind what you are saying or when we are unable to empathise with you and your problems. Remember that it’s not because we don’t want to, but because we are unable to.
It will take a while, but I trust that God is teaching us all to depend on Him and through our relating with one another. It is a process of His sanctifying work in our lives, transforming us more into the likeness of Christ, so that we may bear much fruit for His glory alone.
This article was first published on YMI.today, and is republished with permission.
Why try to twist God’s arm, when you can just hold His hand?
by Michele Lee | 15 January 2018, 4:50 PM
It’s tempting to think we can “manipulate” God into giving us something better.
For example, have you ever prayed these kinds of prayers?
Jesus, I have spent so much time on ministry, so please bless my work in 2018 …
Jesus, I promise to give you the best 15 minutes of my day, now shower me with Your blessings …
We are not the followers of fickle-minded or careless gods. We don’t worship and make sacrifices to sweeten the tongues of smaller gods, who in turn give reports of our behaviour to bigger gods.
Our Most High God is not capricious – He does not change His mind on whims or fancies. Hebrews 13:8 tells us that, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”.
God will not be manipulated. It’s just not something we can do. He does not change like the shifting shadows (James 1:17). Consider this hard-hitting interpretation of Isaiah 1:11-17 from The Message version of the Bible:
“Why this frenzy of sacrifices?” God’s asking.
“Don’t you think I’ve had my fill of burnt sacrifices, rams and plump grain-fed calves? Don’t you think I’ve had my fill of blood from bulls, lambs, and goats?
“When you come before me, whoever gave you the idea of acting like this, running here and there, doing this and that — all this sheer commotion in the place provided for worship?
“Quit your worship charades. I can’t stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings — meetings, meetings, meetings — I can’t stand one more! Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! You’ve worn me out!
“I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning. When you put on your next prayer-performance, I’ll be looking the other way. No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening.
“And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody.
“Go home and wash up. Clean up your act. Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings so I don’t have to look at them any longer. Say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenceless.”
God is all-knowing and all-powerful. He is neither fooled by our “charades” nor in need of help or motivation from us to do His thing.
He has already told us what is good and required of us: To do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8). But don’t read that like a checklist of Key Performance Indicators: God isn’t interested in our performance. No, our primary work is simply to believe in Him.
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: To believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)
What matters to Him is we give our hearts to Him: Broken and contrite hearts (Psalm 51:16-17), hearts which He will continue to mould and perfect until Jesus comes again (Philippians 1:6).
There’s no more need to twist God’s arm for things. Just hold His hand, follow His heart and walk with Him. Seek first His righteousness. And then all these things shall be added unto you.
by Senior Pastor Lawrence Khong, Faith Community Baptist Church | 13 January 2018, 12:11 AM
And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:23-25)
The call to discipleship is the call to the crucified life. The only way to spiritual fruitfulness and fulfilling God’s commission and will is the crucified life.
The answer isn’t more giftings or anointing, because God is already working among us.
We need death.
Think of Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
A committed life will not cut it. Only a crucified life will. A dedicated life will not cut it – only a deceased disciple can!
We have watered down what the Christian faith is. We often say that there are believers, and then there are disciples. But the Bible never makes that distinction: There are only disciples of Jesus.
In Biblical times, to follow Jesus was to be cut off from their community. They were seen as a cult, they gave their lives. When we give our lives to Christ, that’s what it looks like.
A BAPTISM SERVICE IS A FUNERAL SERVICE
The crucified life is Discipleship 101. This is what baptism means: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death?”
A baptism service is a funeral service! So when you’re put into that water, you’re buried – you’re dead!
We are baptised to be raised into the glorious resurrected life, fulfilling God’s purpose and nothing else. We are lifted up to live out God’s fullness.
So it’s not about commitment, its about crucifixion. Not dedication, but death to self. Not being driven by a call but being driven by the cross.
The crucified life is not a balance between God’s agenda and mine. It is a complete eradication of my own ambition. No longer my agenda but Christ’s!
And there’s no such thing as being “a little” crucified. Either you are crucified, or you are not. Either you are dead, or you’re not. If you’re half-dead, you’re not dead!
Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies!
There’s no middle ground when it comes to death. The crucified life is not a balance between God’s agenda and mine. It is a complete eradication of my own ambition and agenda. No longer my agenda but Christ’s!
It’s not a compromise between what I desire and what God wants. It’s not about me anymore.
GO AND DIE
The crucified life is about coming to a tomb, looking at the tombstone, and seeing your very name carved on it. Each time we have a problem in the Christian life, all we have to do is come back to the tomb and remember we are dead!
A dead man is never afraid. A dead man is never offended. A dead man cannot be hurt by anyone.
It’s not about you and me: It’s about Christ, and what He desires. So every time your will and God’s clashes, just die. Every time you are stung by criticism – just die again.
God says … Go and die.
Because when we keep coming back to our own crucifixion on the cross, the life of God in us grows!
There’s no middle road. Either you are crucified in Christ and Christ is living in you, or you’re not walking the crucified life.
THE CRUCIFIED LIFE IS ABSOLUTE
After 40 years of full-time ministry, I’m back again at the basics.
We’ve gone through all the studies, and I’m not belittling them – most of us are educated beyond our intelligence – but I find that no matter what happens, I come back to the bottom line. I come back to the revelation on the Cross.
There, nothing is complicated. There’s a solution for every problem at the Cross. It solves every problem.
“I can’t stand my wife, she’s so naggy!” Just die again. “I don’t feel like loving her!” No problem, just die to self.
Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains alone!
Death is the most liberating experience. In death we have the resurrected life.
Commitment alone won’t cut it. There are people who are determinately committed to a cause … But they fail. They run out of steam. They give up.
Only a crucified life cuts it. It’s not just a commitment to the cause, it’s a commitment to the Cross.
God has begun to show me what the crucified life is about. Death is the most liberating experience. In death we have the resurrected life. The crucified life is absolute.
THE CRUCIFIED LIFE IS EXTREME
The crucified life is giving yourself to doing God’s will no matter what it is – no matter what it costs.
Many pastors and theologians are very scared of the word “extreme”. People tend to say, “Be careful, don’t go to the extreme”. But did you know there are two sides to “extreme”? There’s a good extreme and and a bad extreme!
And did you know that the Cross of Jesus Christ is extreme? That the love shown at the Cross is extreme?
That the Creator of Heaven and Earth would come as man – that’s extreme! That He would empty Himself, be obedient even to the point of death – that’s extreme.
God has never called us to be a moderate Christian. He never said, “Love me moderately”. No, what does the Bible say? Love the Lord your God with all your heart. All that you have.
His love for us is extreme. So our love for Him must be extreme, too.
Have you ever felt that a relationship with God is hard to maintain?
Like, you know you should be reading the Bible regularly, praying before you sleep at night … But admit it: You aren’t as involved as you should be.
There are always distractions – your friends, your family, your studies/work. And like any other relationship, it’s hard to go deeper with God when you’re not spending much time together, or just talking to each other.
It’s so hard because other people who are competing for our time are physically present, but He’s … not.
How does one build relationship with someone who seems so far away?
I think we need to recognise is that our relationship with God was never meant to be easy.
In fact, I liken our relationship with God to a long-distance relationship (LDR).
We all know that LDRs are challenging. For couples living in different time zones, they’ll have to be even more intentional with scheduling specific periods of talk-time. It may also require one party to stay up at an unearthly hour, while the other wakes up at the break of dawn.
I’ve heard advice from LDR couples that includes updating each other throughout the day rather than summarising it in a phone call at night, so as to virtually incorporate the partner into one’s daily life.
As you can see, LDR requires a lot more intentionality than the average face-to-face relationship.
So why doesn’t our relationship with God feel easy? Because it isn’t!
Will our temporary physical separation from God make our hearts grow fonder or forgetful?
The Bible says that we are aching to be reunited with God (Romans 8:23). But instead of expecting things to work like a “normal” relationship – and these need a good deal of effort too! – perhaps we should understand that the most important relationship in our lives requires LDR-level commitment for as long as we want to remain and grow in it.
Separation does things to people. But will our temporary physical separation from God make our hearts grow fonder or forgetful?
I believe that for any couple in an LDR, it’s a mixture of the two phases. At times, you’ll miss each other like crazy. Other times, you’re solely consumed with your present, physical reality that you “forget” your significant other.
Both sides of the coin of separation have their own difficulties, and are reasons why LDR can be challenging to the point of break-up.
I think it is the same with our relationship with God. Whether you’re yearning for the Second Coming or fighting to rekindle your first love with Him, each has their own pain.
But we can take comfort that before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He gave us the Holy Spirit to help us through this waiting period.
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.” (John 16:7)
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27)
Our relationship with God was never meant to be easy. In a devotion by Pocketfuel, it says, “Learning to stay awake and aware and alive to Him moment by moment, day by day will be the greatest challenge you will face. To keep that ‘sheer wonder’ alive. To not let the name of God just be a name, but to allow it to carry the whole world and eternity within and from it.”
God knew it would be tough – Jesus warned His disciples that following Him will come at a cost – and that’s why He gave us the Holy Spirit to guide, counsel and help us every step of the way (John 14:26).
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)
Don’t give up just because it is demanding, because it is worth it. God is worth it all. And He has shown us time and time again that He wants this relationship – we were always worth it all to Him – so let’s fight hard to make us work, no matter what it takes.
Christopher Chng is a 27-year-old Youth Worker at a local Methodist Church. Prior to his entry into full-time ministry, he was part of a discipleship training programme with missions organisation YWAM (Youth With a Mission) after graduating from the University at Buffalo, New York with a Bachelors of Arts in Communication studies.
I was 22, fresh out of military service and at a young Methodist leaders conference when I first received that much-spoken-about burning sensation in my heart. That struggling-to-respond moment when a speaker called forth young leaders with a passion to serve God full time.
I did not want to accept it at first, but in the mix of confusion and excitement – mostly confusion – I responded and stood up for prayer.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into, in fact, in my zeal, I shortly wanted to head straight to the nearest local seminary, but both my Church mentors and parents told me to wait and pursue a local degree first. This was the first testing of my full-time ministry calling.
What followed was a testing of my faith and identity. During my two years in university I started to lose sight of this call and, furthermore, was growing discouraged in my faith in God. I was starting to make plans to live a “normal” life with a job that wasn’t full-time ministry, not traditionally anyway.
It was in early 2014 – amidst the uncertainty of what I wanted to do upon graduation – that I had a prompting in my heart to join YWAM and do a 6-month discipleship programme with them. After praying about it and processing my decision with my Church, a few days after the last exam paper of my university life, I flew to join YWAM Perth in July 2015.
After the six months, I joined YWAM on staff and was based in Perth. There, I participated in a worship ministry, joined the staff team of the same programme and led a 3-month outreach.
Outdoor worship with YWAM Perth
But being a part of YWAM Perth had been an uphill battle. I was battling against my parents’ wishes for me to stay in Singapore and against a culture of financial stability as I had to raise support for my finances every month.
In my parents’ pre-believing eyes, I was begging for money and they had no idea why I had to travel so often to other countries, many of them unsafe in their eyes.
My friends and mentors from my Church also had differing opinions. Some discouraged me from going, others encouraged me to think about it carefully so as to not regret anything. It was a tough decision, but after God’s divine provision of the necessary finances, I made up my mind and officially joined YWAM in 2016.
My time in Perth were some of my best years. Being able to pursue my passion in music and getting trained by some of the best musicians I know, all while living and breathing the Great Commission of making disciples of all nations with a vibrant and loving community … I was living the life. The full-time ministry life.
I received hurtful comments like “welcome back to the real world”,as if life in Perth had been an illusion – or my delusion.
But soon after I was unexpectedly re-routed back home due to a family emergency. It was the second test to my full-time ministry calling.
I had to make the painful decision of leaving my YWAM family and coming home. And if that weren’t bad enough, I even received hurtful comments like “welcome back to the real world”,as if life in Perth had been an illusion – or my delusion.
Unbeknownst to me at that time, God had different plans. While I was wallowing in my frustrations of being back in Singapore, He opened the door for me to join my local church as a Youth Worker. One thing led to another, and I found myself still able to serve full-time in Christian ministry back home.
Of course, there were still many new challenges that presented themselves. Here are a few lessons I’ve carved out for myself.
Campus ministry time
LESSONS FROM A MILLENNIAL MINISTRY WORKER
1. Expect some loneliness
One of the early challenges I faced was the loneliness of full-time ministry. If you work in Church, you might not see your volunteer team mates from Monday to Friday. I found it hard to work and move things forward when I could only see my team on the weekends.
And when I started to apportion my weekends for meetings with my youth, I stopped meeting up with my peers, who also only had the weekends to hang out and chill.
It’s thus important to surround yourself with like-minded Kingdom warriors who carry their crosses for the sake of Christ. They will be your most loving and understanding support group.
2. Know the point of your work
I had to reconcile within myself that the work I’m doing, despite not being a regular 9 to 5 job, has eternal significance. The work of discipleship that Jesus calls all of us to is investing in relationships – in people and their spiritual growth.
We can miss this crucial point when we busy ourselves with too much programme, especially as ministry workers. You could very well become an efficient events coordinator and an ineffective minister of God’s grace.
3. Create space for yourself
One of the biggest things that I struggled with in the first few months (and still do) was creating a healthy space for myself to care for my own soul. I tend to pack my schedules with meeting people and never-ending work – and am usually left with little energy to exercise, listen to music or even just rest!
So I’ve had to forcibly create space for self care, and I highly recommend it. Do things that refresh you, whether its art, music, exercise, movies, reading or sleeping. You are equally important.
4. Always keep God in the picture
The most important takeaway that I’ve gained from this journey is that my faith and relationship with God is key to the entire process.
It was through personal meditation on Scripture and spending time journalling my ups and downs that the wisdom and understanding from God came through. It held me through the toughest times and guided my decision making.
As full-time ministers, we have an authority greater than our earthly bosses to stick close to, and that’s the Word of God – and the God of the Word. We need to spend time studying and pondering over what He’s saying in Scripture and speaking into our hearts.
5. Don’t give in to discouragement
I remember one time I preached what I thought was a terrible sermon and was flooded with thoughts of condemnation and discouragement.
When I prayed about it later that night, God deposited a simple truth in me, to not take myself too seriously and to keep my heart aligned with His through the tough times. That it was okay to be discouraged, to not have done well at times – but I needed to go easy on my heart and to follow Him closely through the journey.
So my fellow full-time ministers, take it from our Heavenly Boss: Enjoy the ride and don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh a lot and carry the joy of God in your heart wherever you go. That’s what people will remember you for.
If you are interested in finding out more about full-time ministry, feel free to drop us an email. For those interested in YWAM’s Discipleship Training School, you can visit their page here.
YWAM Singapore is a growing part of a dynamic global movement of mobilising the worldwide Church to reach the peoples of Asia. As a mission, they see themselves serving as a springboard from which many launch off into the Asian harvest fields.