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Limping through dark valleys

by Weiren David Ong | 6 November 2017, 1:19 AM

A friend who was struggling with the idea of God once asked me:

“If you base your whole life on what God wants and what He says, doesn’t that limit your life? Or if you use His sovereignty to comfort yourself, doesn’t it make Christianity a crutch?”

My friend, you are actually pretty correct. In some way, Christianity is a crutch. To a healthy person, a crutch is useless and only limits what you can do in life; but to a crippled person, a crutch is everything to him – the crutch enables him to live, when on his own he cannot. His life hinges on that crutch.

Well, I know my soul is crippled. What about yours?

This season of my life has been one fraught with despair. I’ve been hit by disappointment after disappointment – people I cared about let me down, studies seemed to be getting nowhere, everything I thought I had a grasp on, was suddenly not there.

It was like getting hit by a bus, and for a long time I couldn’t get up. I was crippled. Sadly, I even felt that there was no point in getting up anyway, because another bus would come and hit me again. Even my prayers seemed to reverberate in an echo-chamber of my bedroom, never reaching Heaven.

“What would really make me happy, is knowing that I am loved by You. I just need to know that I am loved.”

And it was a very dark place to be in. I did not see a point in waking up, did not see a point in going to school. I did not want to talk to people or hear what they could say to comfort me. I even looked like I did not belong in the land of the living.

I felt as though God had forgotten about me and I was left to fend for myself in the valley, but one fine day, my mouth opened to pray, and my heart to hear. And in that moment, God spoke:

“What would make you happy?”

Many things sprung to mind – good grades, better friends, being wealthy, getting healthy … But as the list continued and as I extrapolated the happiness index, I concluded those things would one day expire, and the derived happiness would inevitably cease to exist.

“God, we both know those things will not make me happy. What would really make me happy, is knowing that I am loved by You. I just need to know that I am loved.”

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalms 23:4)

Then He said, “What I want you to consider is this: If one day you were to lose everything you held dear, how would your life be like? Would you consider Me enough when everything, and perhaps everyone you treasured, is swept away like vapour?”

God didn’t need my answer. But He knew that was enough for me to hold onto while I walk through this. And while I am not fully out of the deep, I know that there are lilies in the valley.

When the mountains fall
And the sea turns rough
“But My Word stands strong,” says the Lord
When the world gets tough
Filled with broken hearts
“But my love won’t fail,” says the Lord

This article was first published on Weiren’s blog and was republished with permission.


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Changing church: Moving on to greener pastures?

by H J Yeo | 23 March 2018, 6:28 PM

This was written in response to Elizabeth Tan’s story, “3 questions to ask before changing church“.

I have been a member of my church for more than 30 years. And I can recall a couple of times when I thought about moving to another church. So what made me stay?

Based on what I’ve observed of people I know who have made that move – both from my church and into it – I believe these could be some of the reasons:

1. Leadership: I don’t agree with the church direction or its beliefs
2. Relationships: I have been hurt by people in the church
3. Teaching: I don’t feel ministered to by the sermons
4. Disunity: There are divisions within the church
5. Spiritual health: I am not growing spiritually here

We are often told that no church is perfect – and even if there were one, when you join it, you’ll change your mind! The church I grew up in did experience divisions once – and survived; it has seen its worship service evolve; some of its programmes have tanked; there was growth in numbers during some years and stagnation in others.

I love my church, though I can see its warts and all that might be reasons for some people to feel like leaving.

No church is perfect – and even if there were one, when you join it, you’ll change your mind.

When I contemplated such a move many years ago, I was attracted to a new church that was built next to where I lived. It seemed to make sense to me to move to a nearer church – it was attractive not just location wise, but also for its pulpit ministry, worship style … Its entire service, in fact!

I felt right at home there and could see myself growing and contributing in that church. I even reasoned to myself that joining a nearby church would mean I could participate in community work amongst my neighbours. Surely that was good reason enough?

It of course begged the question: Was I unhappy in my church? Not really, if I was being honest. However, there were a few things I wish it had: More inspiring sermons and more freedom in worship. I was serving actively and sometimes, that means I got to “see” things, such as the imperfections in leadership. It left me struggling to submit when I disagreed with how things were done.

I believe my experience is not unique. So what made me stay?

First, I checked my inner motives. Deciding whether to change church or not should involve praying and waiting upon the Lord for a period of time. What does God say about it? Surely He wants to see me grow and be happy in His church, right?

Well, in our moments of quiet with Him, when we lay ourselves totally bare before our Father, the Holy Spirit and Scripture shine a light into our souls – to question the purity of our desires and motives.

I realised I wanted very much to belong to what I perceived then to be a “better” church – that I’d come to believe my own church was not good enough. I wanted to leave each service feeling spiritually well-fed, with renewed zeal for the Lord. This desire in itself was not wrong, but the way I wanted to achieve it was!

“For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:11,12)

Someone preached a message on these verses many years ago and it still comes back to me occasionally: Receive first-hand from the Lord, not second-hand. Too many of us rely almost solely on well preached sermons to teach us or inspire us; that is, we deem it the preacher’s duty to study the word, chew on it and feed it to us in bite sizes.

However, ultimately, we may be like fledglings in the nest forever waiting with gaping mouths for regurgitated food from parent birds. So, if I consider myself to be a growing believer, am I able to read the Bible for myself and receive from the Lord directly? Or do I rely on a Sunday service to be a morale booster instead of having regular, intimate personal encounters with the Lord that change me?

On this side of eternity, probably every family has issues, yet we do not just “change family”.

Second, the Lord gave me a message about perseverance. On this side of eternity, probably every family has issues, yet we do not just “change family”. By His grace, we accept our families, love one another and are discipled at the same time. We learn to forgive one another.

Similarly, we should persevere in the spiritual family He has placed us in, serving together within that community of imperfect believers. Truly, after all these years of belonging in one church, I have seen how God has brought us through, discipled us and who is now challenging us to do an exciting new work.

It is not my place to judge whether someone is right or wrong to change church. In each of the reasons I mentioned above why people change church, the Lord will grant wisdom if His counsel is sought, whether it is time to make the move or stay on.

We need to be totally transparent with the Lord, letting Him search and reveal our inner motives, and ultimately allow Him to guide the final decision in humility and trust.

This is a submission from a participant of our Greater Love Giveaway. From now till the end of March 2018, we are giving away a pack of limited edition “Greater Love” Stickers in exchange for every story. Stories must have a personal/local angle and be of 800-1000 words. Send us yours here.


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Why is my rest not restful?

by | 23 March 2018, 5:48 PM

Ever asked someone how they’re doing – only to be given a well-rehearsed response?

It might sound something like, “Oh, I’m good. Very busy these days!” and usually comes with a forced smile and shifty eyes. If you have, you might have witnessed a chronic illness known as “manic defence” – a symptom of our deep discontent and exhaustion with life.

Us metropolitans tend to suppress our unrest with a flurry of activity. We distract ourselves from our restlessness – never finding the path to God’s rest for us.But we need to enter that rest.

Paradoxically, it requires remarkable effort (Hebrews 4:11) to enter that place of rest. We need to ask ourselves, what’s the opportunity cost of missing that rest? I wonder if we sometimes cling too tightly to Ephesians 2:10 and forget that the work – however significant – does not define us.

Our God-given ministry is not indispensable, and neither are we. Esther 4:14 reminds us that God’s purposes will come to pass, and it is our privilege to be used by Him in our time.

But this privilege must never become the idol of identity we worship through incessant striving.

True rest requires solitude

Jesus’ greatest commandments are to love God, and to love your neighbour as yourself.

But how can I love my neighbour if I don’t even love myself (Ephesians 5:29)? It’s not selfish to love yourself! That’s intentionally nurturing ourselves to holistic maturity by caring for and protecting ourselves.

We also need to plug ourselves into a trustworthy community. Find one which is safe, authentic and unconditionally loving.

An authentic community isn’t simply one that teaches and instructs. It’s one that walks with you through life’s pain, disappointment and struggles. So learn not just to give love, but also to receive it from trusted brethren in humility and gratitude.

We’re all in this together.Look for rest beyond your body and heart.

Your spiritual hunger can only be satiated by God who is Spirit. Press in to know Him who knows you – who knit you together in the womb and called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.

His embrace warms the cold and deadened parts of our inner being as we begin to resonate with His rhythms of grace instead of our society’s. His breath fans the embers of our soul into flame each time we feel smothered by the world. He assures us that in the grand narrative of the cosmos, we matter, and we are loved perfectly.

Today, ask the Holy Spirit for a peace that transcends understanding. Enter into His presence where there is fullness of joy. With our Good Shepherd, we can walk through life’s darkest valleys with an overflowing cup.


Having fulfilled the law, Jesus has brought the temple into us. Spiritually, we are able to enter God’s presence by first walking through the temple gates, the outer and inner courts, and finally into the Holy of Holies.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.” (Psalm 100:4)

Thanksgiving brings to mind our testimony of God, and the reality of Him in our lives. Here we remember His goodness, our daily bread, our health, and every good gift that comes from Him.

The rest of delight, wonder and presence

Bringing a sacrifice of praise to the altar is where a divine exchange takes place – where we pin our sins to the cross and receive God’s forgiveness. Praise is the choice to give Him all glory despite the things we do not understand. But God honours the sacrifice of our hearts with His presence.

But most people stop here, and thus struggle to live the victorious life. While anybody can give God thanks, and honour (praise) – only the righteous can enter into worship. To enter the Holy of Holies, we must pass through the gates of thanksgiving, and the courts of praise. Our sin is purged at the courts as we take on the righteousness of our Saviour.

Now God desires communion, intimacy, and fellowship with His children. Here’s where you are invited to slow down and simply sit at His feet.

“Give unto the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.” (Psalm 29:2)

When we enter into worship, the Spirit of God meets us, speaks and imparts. We receive empowerment and direction, not to merely inject life into our legs for the rat race – but to run God’s race. Lives completely surrendered to God become sensitive to His lead – full partakers of His divine rest.

Although we’ve tasted and seen of His goodness in moments of worship, it rarely lasts beyond a weekend church service. More than an activity, routine or song, let’s adopt a posture of worship in all we do. What a life, to always be fully surrendered to His good, acceptable and perfect will (Romans 12:2).

As you learn to be still in Him, He promises to make your life beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).


Kenneth is best understood through his impassioned Instagram posts, composed in the deep of night when the tumultuous world finally lies silent. He probably prefers dogs to cats.


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Drops of Life 2018: A week before Good Friday, another man gave his blood in my place

by | 23 March 2018, 2:02 PM

“You’ve never given blood before?” My editor looked at me incredulously. More specifically: “You’ve never given blood before and you want to encourage people to give blood this Easter?”

We were barely a week away from Good Friday, and I’d recently learnt that the Drops of Life initiative was happening again this year. Since 2016, LoveSingapore has collaborated with the Singapore Red Cross Society to host a blood donation drive, Drops of Life, over Easter weekend.

I always thought it was a compelling and meaningful cause. Jesus Christ truly was the biggest “blood donor” in world history – His blood shed for the wrongdoings of the whole of humanity, when it should have been our blood for our sins.

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” (Leviticus 17:11)

“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22)

Before blood can be given, blood must be tested.

In the time before Christ, the blood of unblemished animals was used in offerings to God to atone for sin – to cover it, so to speak. But this was only temporary, for the blood of animals could only cover sin, but not remove it. Think of it like a coat of paint; its effects kept wearing off. So this was the law: Animal blood had to be shed to fairly pay for sin, but it was not enough for a permanent removal.

Not until Jesus came to Earth to make the perfect, eternal sacrifice as the Holy Lamb of God.

The parallel was no coincidence – but divine right down to the unbroken bones of Jesus on the Cross. Prophecy after prophecy fulfilled in His time on Earth, and everlasting in effect.

“He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:12)

It was a brutal, bloody sacrifice and despairingly unfair in nature – for Jesus Himself never sinned. But that’s what it took, an unblemished man to shed his blood for the sins of mankind. And what unblemished man was there but one sent from God Himself – God in the flesh, who could die without a spot of sin?

He didn’t have to, but He gave His blood for us anyway. Anything to save our lives.

We’ll never be able – or required – to repay the favour, but this we can do: Donate from the life source that flows inside us, so that someone out there can live. Every day, 400 units of blood are needed to treat the ill and injured in Singapore; each sitting of blood donation draws 1 unit from us.

So much demand, but not much supply: Less than 2% of the population donates blood at all.

Saving lives made quick and easy at our bloodbanks.

That’s possibly because popping out to a bloodbank just isn’t the same as “Let’s go get some bubble tea”, and if you’re squeamish like me, a giant blood-extracting needle sticking in your arm for 15 minutes – or even entering your arm to begin with – isn’t exactly on the bucket list.

So when the conversation took an unexpected escalation to “Let’s all go donate blood today!” … I panicked. The only other person in the team who hadn’t ever given blood either also panicked. But my editor was adamant. “We can’t do a story on blood donation if the person writing it has never donated blood herself!”

Within an hour, four of us were out the door and on our way to the nearest bloodbank. The ride there was a blur. I wasn’t even giving all my blood or getting nailed to a cross, but here I was, hoping this cup would be taken from me.

Little did I know that my blood would not be found worthy.

After filling out the brief form on my medical history, I was called into one of the rooms to run through my details with the medical officer. Everything was clear, until we reached the segment on the medication I was taking. “You can’t give blood today,” she informed me. “You can’t have taken any medication in the past three days. Come back next time.”

I wasn’t as happy to hear this as I thought I’d be.

And as it turns out, of the four staff who made the trip down, only my editor made it through to the final step of actually giving blood; my fellow blood-donating newbie was found to have an iron deficiency after the blood test – she left with a complimentary dosage of iron supplements. The fourth among us had to do some heavy lifting for an event within the next 72 hours so wasn’t allowed to donate blood that day for her own safety.

Stay off medication and pump up the iron before you go!

“Looks like a man gave his blood for us again,” the three of us joked as we sat in the waiting area, looking longingly at the refreshments that were laid out … only for donors. After all, one person’s donation can serve three lives, as one of the many infographics on the walls helpfully informed us.

But it’s not such statistics that compel most to head to bloodbanks regularly. Sadly, it usually takes witnessing the great need for blood in hospital situations, in the face of emergency or illness. Blood cannot be kept for more than 42 days, which is why regular donation is everyone’s responsibility.

As I sat waiting for my editor to be done, and seeing four donors each sacrificing their precious lunch hour to make a bloody donation, I couldn’t help but think back on a time one of my best friends from university almost lost his life on the operating table. He lost a dangerous amount of blood – several litres of the mere 5L we have on average in our body – and was only saved that day by a major blood transfusion.

Someone’s donation made all the difference that day. Every donation could be the difference between someone living and someone dying.

I’m still uncomfortable thinking about that needle, but I think I’ll head back next week to try again.

Taking place over Easter weekend, Drops of Life is open to all who love Singapore and its people, regardless of race or religion. Please ensure that you’re qualified to donate beforehand. If you’re interested, please register here in advance.

Saturday, 31 Mar | 12pm-6pm
Resurrection Sunday, 1 Apr | 12pm-6pm

Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre
Level 2, Crescent 2


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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You couldn’t blame me for being worried

by | 23 March 2018, 11:32 AM

Look, you can’t blame a brother for wanting to be sure. You’ve got to keep your wits about you. Have a healthy scepticism. Stay on your guard. Better safe than sorry, that’s what I always say.

And yeah, I know what they say about me. I’ve heard all the names. I don’t care – I’m just looking out for myself.

See, I’ve always been Number 2. I’ve always been playing catch-up. It’s what happens when you’ve got a twin brother. There’s always a winner and a loser. Someone’s gotta lose. I was so sick of it being me.

Never got to pick my seat at the table. Never the one picked by Dad to help him out in the field. Always stuck with the smaller portion at dinner.

I was late to the world by 2 minutes – and I’ve been playing catch up all my life.

So, I became who I became. If was always going to lose, I figured, better to just prepare myself mentally for defeat. It makes it that bit less painful when it inevitably happens.

Getting on the boat? Ahh, it’s sure to capsize, let’s just get it over with. Greek test? Why bother studying, there’s no way I’ll pass. New pair of sandals? Probably last a day. Two, max.

I gotta be honest – I think it’s why I left home when I did. There didn’t seem anything worth staying for. When he came calling, everyone else got pretty excited, but cross my heart, it didn’t really sound that big a deal to me. But it was better than rotting at home.

Sometimes I thought I was the only sane one in that group. We kept getting into weirder and weirder situations and it got pretty dicey at times. I don’t know why the rest of them put up with it. But they all kept hanging in there, so I did too.

To be fair to me, I did warn them. I kept warning them, if we keep following this guy, we’re all going to get in trouble. He had a lot of fans, but he sure had a lot of enemies.

There was this one time, a good friend of ours fell sick. Actually, he died, but that’s another story for another time. The problem was, the wake was in a pretty awful place. The guys there? They tried to lynch us the last time we were there.

Don’t go there, man. That’s suicide, we warned him. But he was always so certain, you know? We couldn’t talk him out of anything.

He packed his stuff – he really didn’t carry much, most nights we didn’t even have a pillow to sleep on – and just took off. The rest of them looked at each other. Do we go with him this time?

I guess it was my fault that we went along. I was thinking about my options. Stick with him, or go back home, where no better life awaited me. I thought about it for a while, and eventually, I gave up thinking. It hurt my head. “Let’s also go – that we may die with him,” I told them.

Whatever, right?

I really thought he was a flake. I mean sure, we saw a lot of really impressive stuff along the way, but, well, coincidences can happen.

There was another time, for example, when I coulda sworn he was talking gibberish. Garbage. It just didn’t make sense.

He said, “If you know me, you know my father.” Which, like, is just ridiculous. Like, if you know me, you don’t know my father … though I suppose if you know me, you’d know what my twin brother looks like, but that’s different.

I think that’s the same conversation where he said to us, “Don’t worry. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

I was like, whuuut are you talking about, have you been hanging out too much with the drunk dudes? “We don’t know where you’re going, so how can we know the way?” I told him.

And he said – get this – that he was the way.

I still don’t really know what he meant.

I know I’ve been sounding pretty negative about the whole thing so far. Look, it’s just how I talk, okay? You can’t grow up like me, thinking and speaking this way for all my life, then expect me to change overnight.

Which is why I was really surprised – more surprised than everyone else, I suspect – the day it dawned upon me what had really been happening all those years, and I called him something I never, ever thought I would.

My Lord and my God.

I mean, who talks like that, right?

I’ll tell you who talks like that: A man who has seen his friend die – he died, without a doubt, not just possibly dead but dead dead, I was there – and then, days later, met him again in the flesh. The scarred flesh.

That day I knew that Jesus was truly a holey man. (Get it?)

I mean, he was on the cross! THE CROSS! No one is put up on one of those things and survives! The other two dudes on the crosses beside him that day, they totally died. Frankly I’m amazed Jesus even made it up onto the cross, I thought they’d’a killed him with all the whipping they’d done to him earlier that day.

But he was just so determined to get to Calvary.

Jesus died. He died. We saw it. We saw them stab his body, just to be certain, and water and blood poured out. My friend Luke – he’s a doctor – tells me that only happens if a man has been dead for a while. The soldiers seemed sure, they didn’t even bother breaking his legs like they always do.

Which is why I was so surprised to see him a few days later. I mean, sure, the other 11 – sorry, I think we were down to 10 by then – kept telling me, “We have seen the Lord!”

And you know what? For once in my life, I wanted to believe. I really wanted them to be right. Jesus, he kept almost getting us killed, but I loved him. I wanted him back.

But I couldn’t help myself. It’s why they all still call me Didymus, the Twin – I was second best, always, so it’s just second nature for me to be cynical; I’ve trained myself to expect the worse. It’s just easier to get through life that way.

So I told them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

And a few days later … well, all I got all of that. I don’t even know how he got into the house; we’d locked all the doors. But there he was. And they musta told him what I’d been saying. Cos Jesus headed Right. To. Me.

“Thomas, put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side,” he said. So I did.

“Stop doubting and believe.”

So that’s where we are now. He’s gone again, like he said he would, but I’m okay this time. I know he’s had it all figured out all along. From here on out, I’ll stick to his plan. It makes a lot more sense than mine.

Honestly, I know I was a bit iffy about Jesus at first – but I would do anything for him now. Anything. A bunch of the others have gone to some pretty far-out places just to talk about him, and I think I will, too. Not like we’re really welcome here.

I think my boy Andrew went far, far northeast. He tells me it’s freezing there. A couple of them went to Ethiopia, Syria.

Me? I’ve been hearing a lot about this place called India. I don’t know much about it, but I just have a good feeling about it. I’m sure they could use a bit of Jesus there.

Don’t worry about me now. I got this. I’m done with worrying. I mean – India! It’s all gonna be good.

No doubt about it.


This is an adapted account of the Apostle known as Doubting Thomas, as told in chapters 11, 14 and 20 of the Gospel of John.


Edric has spent a lifetime in mainstream and digital newsrooms, and has the waistline to prove it. He is a lapsed divemaster, a father to four and husband to one. Could use more sleep.


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Article list

Limping through dark valleys

Changing church: Moving on to greener pastures?

Why is my rest not restful?

Drops of Life 2018: A week before Good Friday, another man gave his blood in my place

You couldn’t blame me for being worried

Where should you go this Easter weekend?