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This Christmas, take a Sabbath from sadness

by | 19 December 2017, 4:57 PM

There’s two kinds of Christmas stories: The ones where we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our loved ones and families, all the good warm fuzzy things that come with the season; and the ones where we lament about our lack of enthusiasm for any kind of celebration at all.

The latter stories are usually triggered by over-commercialisation, over-hype, over-activity, and the fact that our troubles from the rest of the year aren’t cutting us any slack despite the sudden semblances of joy around us.

What’s there to be so joyful about? I’m not even this joyful on my birthday – much less someone else’s. No hard feelings, right, Jesus?

I don’t think we notice it, but the stress that seems to tighten its grip around us as December rolls in comes from this flood of joy. And if joy hasn’t been on your programme for the past 11 months, it’s downright disconcerting to be hard-pressed by the fairy lights and spirited Christmas music (and certain Christmas enthusiasts) to get out and put on your love, hope and good cheer.

You see, almost nobody spends the rest of the year this loving, hopeful and cheerful! It’s no wonder the Christmas spirit always feels so uncomfortable to wear for so many of us. And after spending most of this year walking in the shadows of difficult times, joy doesn’t quite so fit me either.

I have to admit, the Lord does not appear to have come to save me from many of the trials I will still face after the 12 Days of Christmas. Maybe it’s the same for some of you. Maybe you’re in the thick of worry, sickness, depression, sadness … And no matter how bright and sparkly the lights of the season are, they only serve to show you how stark the darkness has gotten.

But a thought came to me one day, just as November turned into December. Something a pastor had preached on the Sabbath resurfaced in my mind:

“With regard to time, there’s something predictable and scheduled that God has given to us, and that’s the Sabbath. It’s routine. It’s scheduled. It’s cyclical. It’s God’s way of placing order in an otherwise chaotic and unpredictable life. It’s a call for us to abandon our attempts to bring order into our own lives in order to embrace God’s divine order through the governing of our time. The Sabbath is God’s invasion of our reality in the realm of time. Our reality can be dictated by our circumstances, or we can keep His Sabbath and allow Him to dictate our reality.”

What if Christmas was a form of Sabbath for us to intentionally abandon our sorrows for a season and take a deep breath of joy?

What if it was the best reason to take a break from our usual anxieties, to force our minds to stay on the truth that God has a salvation plan and, for once, refuse to despair?

It’s almost counterintuitive, but like the Sabbath, it reminds us who’s in control. And when we choose to honour it for what it is – the joyous birth of our Saviour – we embrace God’s divine order for the new year ahead.

What if Christmas was a form of Sabbath for us to intentionally abandon our sorrows for a season and take a deep breath of joy?

If the Sabbath is God’s invasion of our reality in the realm of time, Christmas was and is God’s invasion of our destiny in the realm of eternity. After all, through the birth of Jesus, the greatest light shone in the deepest darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it (John 1:5).

So for the month of December, every time I find myself steering down familiar dark roads of thought and emotion, I’ve been intentionally choosing to return to joy, love, hope and good cheer. I invite you to do the same – even if there’s not much of 2017 left.

The world didn’t know it then – as you may not now – but Christmas was just what it needed.


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


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I discovered my Asperger’s only in my 20s

by Wu Yanping | 17 January 2018, 2:03 PM

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, and is republished with permission.


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Lessons on womanhood from my mother

by | 16 January 2018, 6:41 PM

I’m at a time in my life where I’m figuring out for myself what it means to be a woman — and one who is after God’s heart. Topics like being a girlfriend and eventually becoming a mother seem to be permeating most of my conversations nowadays.

Which begs the question: I wonder what kind of woman I am, what kind of girlfriend/wife/mother I’d be and if I’m doing a good job so far according to God’s standards.

I then thought about the person whom I feel is the epitome of a godly woman in my life: My mother. While she isn’t perfect and her temper does flare on the rare occasion (especially when my room is in a mess), my mother has walked out a life in holiness to the best of her abilities.

I’ve been privileged to have had the front row seat in observing her walk out her faith with God and every time I look at her life, I find the encouragement and inspiration that I too can do the same.

Here are two major lessons I’ve learnt by looking at the life of my mother:


“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment such as braided hair or gold jewelry or fine clothes, but from the inner disposition of your heart, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in God’s sight.” (1 Peter 3:3-4)

From the outside, my mother appears to be a soft-spoken and reserved woman. She’s anything but. She may not feel the need to be the center of attention, but a conversation with her will tell you that she is a woman of opinion and is confident on where she stands.

You’ll rarely hear her rebutting anyone should they question her, but she douses the intensity of the situation calmly, usually with laughter. And instead of confronting the other person, she states her own thoughts in a way that still manages to refrain from discrediting the other person’s opinions.

In some cases, it’s wiser to keep silent than to pursue a matter — and not every challenge is an invitation to a debate.

I, on the other hand, take after my dad. I always felt like it’s my human right to defend my views and values if they are being prodded or challenged. But with my own eyes I’ve seen my mother choose silence over confronting the many people who have outrightly challenged her. I never understood why she would allow people to walk over her like that.

But I’ve been taught (by both the Holy Spirit and my mother) that it takes strength and courage to walk away from a situation where you feel like you deserve to be heard and where you feel like you need to protect your values.

The Bible says that women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers (1 Timothy 3:11). I’ve learnt that in some cases, it’s wiser to keep silent than to pursue a matter — and not every challenge is an invitation to a debate.


“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30)

A hot button topic among me and my friends, the subject of beauty and its relevance in today’s culture has made me more annoyed than anything else.

Personally, I disagree with the way beauty has been made into something that the world constantly holds over our heads as women. It’s as if to say that if we don’t look a certain way, we’re deemed as less worthy as compared to someone who fits into the stereotypical definition of what beauty is.

Like many, I’ve struggled with issues of self-worth and grappled with whether or not my ordinary looks meant I was inferior compared to a girl who was prettier. As I was growing up and navigating the choppy waters of puberty and my insecurities with how I looked, my mother has never stopped reminding me that God is not concerned about my outward appearance but He looks at my heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

I’m taught that a heart that is hungry and in pursuit of God is more attractive than a perfect body ratio and a stunning face.

I’ve been blessed to have parents who have never made me any less worthy because of my looks or the way I dressed. My mother constantly knocks it into my head that my character is worthy of more investment than the curation of my wardrobe.

She tells me that I can either choose to worry about something that is fleeting (like charm and beauty), or I can be more concerned about what God thinks of me. I’m taught that a heart that is hungry and in pursuit of God is more attractive than a perfect body ratio and a stunning face.

She once told me; “You can jolly well look the part of a model, but if your character sucks and if you have no capacity for compassion or love for anyone else apart from yourself, you’re as good as nothing.” Harsh, but I couldn’t agree more.

My mother models for me what a reverend fear of God looks like: It’s choosing to do His will, even if I may feel like I would be looked down upon in the world’s eyes. And I do this not because of legality, but because it is out of an authentic love for the One who gives me my worth.

It was impossible for me to believe this a few years ago, but I can now safely say that I am becoming who God has intended for me to be — slowly but surely. And although it doesn’t feel like it yet, I know God made me wonderfully and fearfully and completely.

I see God asking me to trade in my hard and strong-headed exterior for a tenderness He wants for my heart. Womanhood is an exciting thing to discover, but it’s even more fulfilling when I discover the God who fleshes out the woman in me.


Sara is inquisitive and a self-professed conversationalist. She hopes to learn something new with every interaction and also happens to enjoy writing about them.


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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.


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Die, disciple, die

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.

Li Yang/


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.

Simeon Muller/


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.

Christoph Schmid/


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.

Tim Marshall/


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.

Adapted from a sermon preached by Lawrence Khong, Senior Pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church, at the LoveSingapore Pastors’ Prayer Summit 2018.


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The longest LDR you’ll ever be in

by | 12 January 2018, 5:54 PM

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.


Siqi loves to eat. Except for peas, egg yolk, cucumbers, livers, intestines. Among others. She also happens to be a writer.


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Article list

This Christmas, take a Sabbath from sadness

I discovered my Asperger’s only in my 20s

Lessons on womanhood from my mother

Why try to twist God’s arm, when you can just hold His hand?

Die, disciple, die

The longest LDR you’ll ever be in