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Megachurches and their extravagance: How much is too much?

by | 7 December 2017, 6:07 PM

A few months ago, my friend told me he wanted to change Church. One of the reasons he gave was because he disagreed with how the Church was spending money.

“Why do we spend so much on building Church facilities and running extravagant programmes when we could use all that money to benefit the poor instead?”

Surprised by his question, I quickly replied, “I think it adds to the experience. A good atmosphere leaves a good impression on people, especially for those who are visiting the Church for the first time.”

But he was unconvinced, and so was I. My own reply sounded like a first world justification in contrast to his altruistic concerns.  Providing for the needy seemed like the “better”, and perhaps “correct” answer. 

Hillsong is one of the most well-known megachurches internationally. Hailed by the media as a “successful global brand”, it ushers in hundreds of thousands of service attendees worldwide every weekend, regularly produces chart-topping albums and conducts sellout conferences. A recent article also states that Hillsong has a $100 million annual revenue. Tax free to boot!

With a huge wealth of funds on hand, it is no wonder the public and media are highly interested in how Hillsong spends their money.

Just last month, I attended my very first Hillsong Conference – the Hillsong Worship and Creative Conference. As I entered the Baulkham Hills campus – where Hillsong originally started out – I noticed a beautiful outdoor market right outside the main conference hall and let out a soft “wow”. Later on, our hosts introduced it as “The Marketplace”, where people could hang out after the conference for late night fellowship – food, live band and a barber included.

The auditorium also had me floored. There was a translucent fabric draping over the stage, acting as both a curtain and a screen. A looped video of a rainforest was projected onto it. After a while, I noticed there were crew members walking on the steel-framed platform above the auditorium scattering leaves at random intervals for a full immersive experience.

A performance during the Hillsong Worship and Creative Conference. (Photo courtesy of Hillsong Church)

And if that wasn’t crazy enough, the stage lighting was incredibly stunning during praise and worship. The visual effects came together nicely and added to the whole experience.

There were theatrics involved in most of the sermons preached – be it bringing a dog up on stage, wearing an astronaut suit or displaying treasure boxes to drive home a point. The crowd was constantly entertained; it was nothing short of amazing.

One of their designers mentioned in a co-lab session: “Just because it’s Christian, doesn’t mean it should be second best.”

They definitely weren’t kidding about that.

In 2 Samuel 7:1-2, the Bible records King David’s decision to build a temple for God. To this point, following the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, God’s presence was resting in the ark of God – where the tablets holding the Ten Commandments were stored. The ark was kept in the Tabernacle, a huge tent that could be put up and taken down easily as the Israelites moved towards the Promised Land.

“Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.” (2 Samuel 7:1-2)

At this point of his declaration, King David had just reclaimed possession of the ark, as it had been stolen by enemies. He placed it back in a tent, but decided it wasn’t reflective of his love and reverence for God. This temple, he decided, “must be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all countries” (1 Chronicles 22:5).

And so King David set aside materials of gold, silver and precious stones, assigning his son, Solomon, to build the House of God. The Bible states that the Temple was so grand, its inner sanctuary was completely covered in gold.

Talk about extravagance.

In a response to the grand gesture, God reminded his people that He doesn’t need a temple – or extravagance – but He saw King David’s heart and accepted his offering as a form of worship. His only condition was that the nation be faithful to Him (2 Samuel 7:5-7, 1 Kings 9:3-9).

I understand my friend’s concern. It doesn’t seem right for Churches to look “expensive” and “extravagant”, because stewardship of money is important. But I think the more important question is: How does this align with God’s will?

In Luke 16:9, Jesus said, “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

The Bible is clear that good stewardship is not about the amount we spend or save, but how that amount will impact a person’s eternity. At the end of the day, you can’t bring any money to heaven – you bring souls. Money is simply a tool, a resource, to reach that goal.

Granted, giving to the needy is one of the most direct ways of reaching out to people, but this form of giving isn’t the only way of showing Christ to the world.

I remember feeling moved and inspired as I sat through the 3-day Hillsong conference, and experienced for myself the hearts behind the extravaganza. Every single “performance” – be it the songs, stories or sermons – was geared to one obvious direction: To reveal Christ through beauty and excellence.

If spending some money brings people one step closer to Christ, it’s all worth it.

In their own words, the team was “gathering all artisans to explore our calling, respond in worship and create with beauty, to fulfil Jesus’ Great Commission.” The Great Commission to make disciples of all nations.

In her sermon, Cass Langton, Creative Director of Hillsong Church, expressed it like this: “The Church needs artists to help the world see clearly what we feel vaguely”.

You see, the performances you see in Churches aren’t just a show – they’re worship. They’re outreach.

It’s understandable why people might look at the glitz and glamour of megachurches and be skeptical of the unconventional form of impacting someone’s life. But as Paul said “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

If improving facilities can attract people to Church, if performing a play can communicate the Gospel more effectively, if spending some money brings people one step closer to Christ, it’s all worth it.

After all, people are always worth it.

/ siqi@thir.st

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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In this perilous age we live in, we too are the Avengers

by Ada Chua | 15 May 2018, 5:56 PM

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE MOVIE, GO WATCH IT FIRST. DON’T SAY WE DIDN’T WARN YOU!

It’s the greatest war in the history of mankind. Half of humanity is at risk of being wiped out at the snap of one evil being’s fingers. No other war has been so threatening, so universal, so eternal.

It is the very nature of this war that compels the reunification of broken teams, the backing of a whole country’s army, the sacrifice of heroes. It is a war that rallies the most powerful people from a whole spectrum of contexts, cultures and callings.

What a wonderful display of strength, unity and character. Among them:

A young boy chooses to take up the great responsibility of the new power that has been given to him, at the risk of his own life.

A man puts building a family on hold and leaves the stability of his present life, knowing there is a fight to fight.

A gifted prophet looks into the future, sees how the world can be saved, then acts upon what he has seen.

A leader rallies his entire army to fight with strength and courage.

A fallen hero gives all he has in battle, despite having lost his power.

A hero asks to be killed as he knows that his death is the only way of stopping the enemy from being victorious.

You might recognise them as several of the Avengers in Infinity War: Peter Parker, Tony Stark, Stephen Strange, Black Panther, the Hulk, and Vision.

But also, respectively, King David, the Apostles, Jeremiah, Joshua, Samson, and Jesus. The Bible is full of parallel characters.

Our own world is dying. The devil is at work every day, playing with our minds, disturbing our souls, robbing us of our time, abusing his power.

This information is not new to us, yet I have – on so many occasions – chosen to keep my identity under wraps and continue with business as usual.

But a suicide bombing by a family reminds me that there are still wars being fought. But the impending end of a 50-year hostility in the far north, and the upheaval of a long-ruling government just next door to us shows that there are wars to be won.

“Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10-20)

And as I watched Avengers: Infinity War and all its characters engaging in the battle at hand, I couldn’t help but ask myself: Which one would I be like?

I walked away from the movie inspired at the power of unity. This was not a montage of superheroes. It was the coming together of different people from different planets with different powers choosing to give everything they had in the hopes of defeating a common enemy.

Church, there is a war. Not against flesh and blood, not other human beings – but against the unseen forces of darkness that prowl this world.

If we live in our retirement, our happy places, our sources of comfort, if we refuse to work with those of different cultures, different backgrounds, different giftings, if we do not reconcile with those we’ve fallen out with – then the mind, soul, power, time, reality and space of the human race will continue to be surrendered into the hands of the mighty enemy, and we will lose the eternal war.

In the blink of an eye, more than half of humanity could be lost forever.

We are the light of this world. We have been given the command to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). The gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14). We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that we may declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).

To quote from the Infinity War trailer: “There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, to see if we could become something more, so when they needed us, we could fight the battles that they never could.”

So the question is, will you be a part of God’s remarkable people, with our Great Avenger as the head of our army?

“It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.” (Deuteronomy 32:35)

We may not be called to fight physical wars, but spiritual wars are real.

The will to wake up in the early hours to intercede, the decision to uproot a family to do missions, the willingness to work with brethren from a different denomination, the perseverance to keep praying although restoration is not yet in sight.

These individual decisions may seem insignificant, but as we’ve seen from Avengers, it takes everyone to give whatever they have and all they’ve got to form an army that will – one day – win the war.

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)

I walked away from the movie encouraged with a renewed image of what Ephesians 4:7-14 looks like. I walked away with a new belief that I could do something, and an urgency that I should do something. And if we all did something – I think that we would save the world.

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This world has nothing for you

by | 15 May 2018, 12:47 PM

Ever had someone ask you what’s your five-year plan?

Or how about if you’re financially stable? Are you ready to start a family? Really, what are you striving for? What is the purpose of all the hard work you’re putting in? For the comfort of tomorrow?

Where does it all go? My friend, what if I told you this world has nothing for you?

“You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

These short years of your life are but a vapour compared to eternity. But what you decide on in this passing moment will affect your eternity, as well as the eternity of many others. The choices you make today have an everlasting influence.

If you could truly feel the weight of your decisions, how much better would you make them? Is life really just about studying, getting a good job, starting a nice family and ensuring a pleasant retirement?

I’m pleading with you, with all my heart: Don’t live a life of tragedy.

There is nothing wrong with dreams. There is nothing wrong with wanting to build a nice household and have nice things. There is nothing wrong with being an excellent worker unto God and enjoying the fruits of your labour.

Grow where you’re planted. If you’re a shoemaker, make good shoes. If you’re a businessman, do honest business. If you’re an artist, create beauty. If you’re a homemaker, build an excellent family.

But if you’re only fixated on excelling in these aspects of life for the sake of comfort in this temporary home, you will lose sight of what will happen beyond life here.

That is a tragedy. Anything that is done in vainglory — and not for God — is done in vain.

Everything in this life is meaningless unless done for things of eternal value.

Sometimes, we like to separate the Gospel from secular aspects of life such as business, family and music-making. We don’t realise that the true gospel encompasses all facets of life!

It’s not a one-way thing where Jesus dies — full-stop. Faith in Christ means your whole life is wholly dedicated to Him. Jesus died for you so you can have a new life in Him. Don’t give up your life for the temporal things of the world.

Spend it on eternal things — give it to Jesus!

Comfort in this world is a parasite that demands more and more — but true contentment lies in God (1 Tim 6:6).

This world really has nothing for you. Everything in this life is meaningless unless done for things of eternal value. Hold on to the things of this world loosely (this doesn’t mean irresponsibly) in the knowledge that they are temporal — they will fade unlike our eternal God.

“I have seen all the things done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14)

I understand that you want what’s best for your family, especially if you have children. We have been raised in a culture which teaches that money is what makes the world go round. It may be difficult to accept the truth that there is a greater life beyond amassing worldly possessions.

But if you are able to trust God with your life and your family’s lives, He will provide wherever He calls you to. Where He leads — He feeds.

In Africa, we have this popular song called Bambelela, which literally translates to “hold on”.

Wherever you are right now in your life, hold on and hold on to Jesus. Cling tight and never let go. If He is moving, move with Him. Go wherever He is calling you to.

Many of us are called into missions — we are all called to the Great Commission — but only a few respond because we are so often tied down by the fears of this world.

Yet the greatest fulfilment you can have on earth is living the life that God has destined you for — I’ve chosen to follow God all over the world and I’ve never once regretted it.

A life for God isn’t a boring one — it’s an adventure. So don’t shortchange yourself.

/ roytay@thir.st

Roy has a peculiar appreciation for subtle wordplay, an inexplorable passion for competitive sports, and an insatiable hunger for delicious food.

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They said my unborn baby is incompatible with life

by Benecia Ng | 11 May 2018, 4:04 PM

“I refuse to accept this prognosis,” I can still hear myself say. “I’m not going to terminate the pregnancy.”

I got married in June 2015, ready to have children. My husband Ernest and I decided early on that three would be a good number, if God allowed.

By December that year, we were expecting our first child, which was a miracle on its own, given that I have six fibroids in my womb – and women with just one already experience difficulty conceiving.

Delivery wasn’t easy. After a horrifying 35 hours followed by induction, coupled with a mid-delivery scare due to the baby’s irregular heartbeat and mild distress, I successfully gave birth to our daughter, Vanna, via natural delivery in August 2016.

I considered stopping at one after the trauma from this first experience, but we’d initially wanted more – so we stuck to our plan. By September the next year, we tested positive on our pregnancy test. Thinking that all would be well, we told our parents the good news shortly after.

However, this happiness was shortlived when I started bleeding one day. The gynaecologist described it as a biochemical pregnancy – in layman’s terms, a “very early pregnancy loss”. We were all heartbroken, but we thought to ourselves: Perhaps God didn’t think it was the right time for our second child.

Holding on to hope despite our grief, we discovered we were pregnant again at the end of 2017. This time, everything looked good. When it was time for my 12-week scan, I went alone as Ernest was away on a work trip, thinking it was just another routine scan.

I didn’t think it would be a scan that would change our lives forever.

After the scan, I was asked to wait in the room for a second one. Unsure of what was happening, I went along with it, until I found myself sitting with a doctor who broke the news that they were not able to see the foetus’ skull through the scan, which points to a rare congenital disorder called acrania.

Babies with acrania are born with under-developed skulls and have a long-term survival rate of zero percent.

In medical terms, my baby was “incompatible with life”.

My mind went blank; this had to be a nightmare that I needed to wake up from. “You have an option to terminate the pregnancy,” I was then told. “I refuse,” was my reply, saying I was going to get a second opinion.

The second opinion was the same. So was the third. We didn’t want to believe it, but my baby really had acrania, and he/she was unlikely survive even if I were to go through with the pregnancy.

Is this some joke from God? I’d already suffered through the miscarriage of my second child. Now I had to decide if I wanted to take an “unnecessary pregnancy risk” or terminate the pregnancy, move on and try for another child.

But when we saw our baby’s heart still beating strong and fighting the odds stacked against him/her, Ernest and I knew we would continue with the pregnancy. Even as the parents, we acknowledged that life and death is God’s domain, not ours. We don’t actually have the right to decide if our baby lives or dies.

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” (Psalm 127:3-5)

And in my heart, I knew that God doesn’t make mistakes – that there had to be something good that could come from this situation, even if we couldn’t see it from where we stood.

After spending time in prayer and speaking to our pastors, we confirmed that we would see this pregnancy to delivery. One of the pieces of advice received that stayed with us was: “As children of God, we live for eternity and we make decisions of eternal value; whether you meet your baby on earth or in heaven, will you be able to honestly say that you loved him/her with your all?”

This baby might still be a foetus, but he/she is already part of our family, and we will love him/her and give our best, no matter how difficult the road ahead looks. Family doesn’t leave anyone behind.

In this waiting season as we draw closer to my expected delivery date, September 18, 2018, God has been so real to us. We are so encouraged by the sermons we hear in church and the messages of encouragement from our spiritual family. No matter what happens in the days to come, I know that when we look back upon this time, we will see hope amidst the trial.

We have been praying for a miracle, but our hope does not lie in the miracle itself – it lies in the God of the impossible. His sovereign will be done, for He is always good.

We are on a journey to witness the mighty hand and loving heart of our Good Father. This is not the end.


Benecia and Ernest are currently awaiting the birth of their child. Send them your thoughts and prayers here.

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“She told me she couldn’t have children”: Menopause at 26 and the miracle after

by | 10 May 2018, 11:50 AM

Imagine this with me for a moment: You’re sitting at your study table for your usual quiet time. You’ve just read your Bible, and you’re praying for the people you love, the place you work in … When suddenly a picture of a foetus in an ultrasound scan appears in your mind.

At first you dismiss it as a random thought; maybe you saw an image like that somewhere today.

You carry on with life as normal, but in the office the next day, the picture pops back up. Where is this coming from? You’re getting a bit worried. So you try to take your thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and avoid thinking about it.

It doesn’t work; for the next few days, that vision of the foetus keeps coming back. So you decide to finally ask your pastor for help.

She tells you that perhaps God is trying to say something to you – ask Him to show you what it’s about.

You can’t even make educated guesses; you’re definitely not expecting a baby (you’re not even married!), but neither are the people in your immediate circle. You’ve never experienced something like this. You’ll just have to pray and ask God for answers.

Over the next few days, you start to notice that the picture comes back to you specifically at your workplace. Not only that, it appears when a particular colleague of yours walks past your desk. You’ve never spoken much to her – you only joined the company a while ago – but she wears a necklace with a cross so she’s probably a Christian too.

You decide to sit on it for a little longer, hoping you’re making all this up in your head. I’ll just pray about it for now, you tell yourself. But the vision weighs heavily on you like a sponge soaking up water, and in your silent distress you ask your pastor one more time: What happens if I don’t tell her?

“Either God will send somebody else, or maybe she won’t ever have a child,” she says. Now you know you have to tell her. In fact, you do so the minute you see her again in the office.

She sits across from you, nervously at first, thinking this is a work issue. But when you mention the vision and these words: “I think God wants to give you a child” – her countenance completely changes.

“I have a medical condition called early menopause,” she finally says, voice constricted with emotion. “I haven’t had my period in many years.”

Your heart sinks as she continues: “I cannot have children.”

Unbeknown to them at that point, this was the eventful start of Linnette and Kate’s journey of faith. Linnette had received the vision of the foetus on January 28, 2012, during her regular quiet time at home.

“I’d never seen visions or the supernatural aspects of God when I was growing up,” Linnette said, eyes wide as she recounted her side of the story. “To me, my faith was just going to church on Sundays and serving.”

As a shy person who kept to herself, having to approach Kate to give her a possibly divine message was terrifying. To then discover that Kate had been declared medically infertile in her mid-twenties – a good 6 years ago – should have been the end of her bravado.

Linnette, 31

“She was very cute; she brought her journal to prove that she’d recorded the first time she received the vision,” Kate shared in amusement. “I didn’t want to dash her hopes, but I needed to let her know the doctor had said it was impossible – if not very difficult – for me to conceive.

“Then she asked me: ‘Do you believe in God or what the doctor says?'”

“I don’t know why I said that,” Linnette said with a laugh. “I think God must have given me the words to say!

Kate was torn. By this time, she’d recently found out her IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) had failed. She’d already gone through years of fertility treatments, but her female hormones were so low that she couldn’t ovulate. Her doctor had also told her that her eggs were probably empty and could not even be artificially fertilised; in his professional opinion, her condition was worse than a 50-year-old lady.

Impossible had never looked so real. “But I’m a Christian!” Kate said. “I needed to believe that God can do anything. He was the only hope I’d ever have to get pregnant.” Though hesitant, she then told Linnette that she would choose to trust God over the doctor.

Kate, 38

Encouraged by her response, Linnette pledged to pray with her every day until the vision came to pass. And for the next few months, their friendship grew as Linnette showed up at Kate’s table day by day to pray. If either one was on leave, they’d meet outside or over the phone.

Together, they started reading books on divine healing and miracles. “It was a crash course on who God is,” Linnette shared. “The Gospel was our only hope, and we kept claiming His promises that Kate’s child would come to pass.”

For a long while, nothing seemed to change. To Kate, it was a testing of their faith. “Every day I asked Linnette – is it happening yet? Do you think God still remembers?” she said.

“But we’d read the Bible and be reminded that ‘With man it is impossible, but with God, anything is possible.’

True enough, six months into their wait, the tides of impossibility began to turn.

It started with a physical sensation in her womb. Kate wasn’t sure what was going on. “I felt a pulling in my womb; it ached, like a sign of something.”

She told Linnette, and they decided to do a pregnancy test. It turned out negative. Unwilling to assume it had been a false alarm, they went to see a doctor.

“He asked her why she’d even thought she was pregnant,” Linnette said. “He told her that her hormone levels were so low that it was impossible for her to be pregnant.”

Had all those months of prayer meant nothing?

“I was very crushed,” Kate said. “My faith was really questioned. I questioned Linnette too, if she’d heard rightly from God.”

Linnette was also shaken, even calling her mentor to ask if she was doing something wrong. She felt as though she’d brought Kate up to the 100th floor and dropped her down from there. Great expectations had resulted in great disappointment.

And the pain didn’t stop there. “Kate also received an update from her twin sister that she was pregnant with her second child,” Linnette said. “She was already so devastated.”

In tears, Kate shared with Linnette that during the time she was trying to start a family and discovering her fertility problems, her sister got married and conceived a child soon after. And now again, just when Kate thought her womb might be coming alive – her twin sister was with child once more.

“I asked her if God had put the baby we’d been praying for in the wrong womb,” Kate mused. “I was so desperate that I believed he’d gotten my identical twin and I mixed up.”

Looking back, Linnette could see how this was an important step of emotional healing for her. “I challenged her to rejoice for her sister,” she said. “Because only when our old wounds are healed can we rejoice when someone else gets what we want.

“I felt that God was first reconciling her back to Himself after years of unspoken resentment and bitterness.

“What was left then was physical healing.”

Faith strengthened, Linnette led Kate into a time of worship that day, declaring that they’d still choose to believe God over anything a doctor could say. This time, they’d also pray for God to encounter Kate personally, as all this while it had been Linnette hearing from Him.

“And when we worshipped, I was really led into a vision.” You can see the excitement in Kate’s eyes, just telling us this. “It was like an out of body experience, and I found myself in a garden. There was a waterfall nearby, and I was kneeling under a tree.

“Then a man in white walked up to me, and in my spirit, I knew He was Jesus. He was carrying a baby, and when He came to me He put the baby in my arms.

“I was crying uncontrollably because it was so surreal. I also felt very comforted, like God was spiritually healing me and encouraging me not to give up hope that I would have a baby in my arms one day.

Within the next two days, her period came again for the first time in six years. The strange sensation she’d been feeling in her womb had been her menstrual cycle coming back to life!

“I’d seen the best doctors, spent thousands and thousands – tens of thousands – of dollars, and nothing worked. And God just comes in a vision and regulates my body immediately,” Kate shared.

“I was so happy, I believed I was one step closer to that child.”

But the next month, her period didn’t come again. Had the previous time been a one-time fluke?

Kate was doubtful whether she’d really been healed, but Linnette had other suspicions.

“She was telling me she had been very tired lately,” she said. “And the night before she had a dream that she was pregnant.”

Of course, there were fears that she might set Kate down a familiar path of disappointment if her gut feeling turned out wrong again. How could she convince her to take another pregnancy test after what had happened the last time?

But how could she not, after all that had happened in the past month?

“I had such a huge phobia of pregnancy kits,” Kate lamented as she recalled that moment. “And I was skeptical because my period had only just returned – even those with regular periods don’t get pregnant so easily!

“Plus, I really didn’t think I could handle the disappointment again.”

But under Linnette’s insistence, she relented. “But only if she was the one who read the results,” she said.

The test kit came out positive. The date was August 28, 2012: Exactly seven months from the day Linnette had received the vision of the foetus.

There’s something about barrenness that makes a perfect place for promise to grow. A womb – or heart – soaked in prayer, tears and desperation for the divine is the breeding ground for the prophetic to take hold and come forth.

Linnette and Kate’s story brings to mind the great men of the Bible who’d been formed in the emptiest of wombs: Isaac, Samuel, John the Baptist … Jesus. The nation of Israel, birthed from a woman barren of her husband’s love.

And then there’s little David, born to Kate and her husband in April 2013, seven years after doctors diagnosed her with early menopause. A resounding testimony of the power of prayer and God’s promises perfected in His time.

“I’d never been a prayerful person, but during that six months of praying I saw how every prayer is heard,” Linnette told us, eyes watering. “It was such a prayer growth for me.”

Even though she’s told this story countless times, the tears still fell.

“I really thank God for this huge journey and the privilege of getting to know who He really is.”


Kate and Linnette remain close friends and are now ministry partners, serving the community through prayer intercession and social initiatives.

/ joanne@thir.st

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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When you’re poorer in your twenties than you planned to be

by | 9 May 2018, 2:02 PM

 “You’re a fresh grad. You should be able to commit to at least $300 a month to this savings plan.”

I stared blankly at my financial planner as she continued to ramble on with her graphs and numbers — my head was spinning. She asked me if I had a savings plan, or if I was planning to start one soon: “You’re not that young, you should really have a savings plan.”

A $300 monthly commitment sounded scary to me, but I was afraid to voice out my fear to her. She made it sound like any other fresh grad would be able to commit to that amount easily.

I got a little upset. Not with her … But with myself. I wanted to be able to agree to that $300 as easily and coolly as she did.

Why did I feel so poor?

LOVING MONEY KILLS 

Just the other day, my friend was telling me about fearing life after graduation. He told me he desires to go into full-time ministry, but he has other things to consider. As the only child, he has ageing parents to support and wants to be financially ready for marriage in a few years. And while he’s still doing an internship now — many of his peers have already secured a full-time job.

I really want to serve God full-time, but money is this other big thing …

It wasn’t as though his concerns weren’t valid. But the reality is feeling poor doesn’t stop once we start earning a keep that we think is good enough. It doesn’t go away — it’s never going to be enough.

You might not be as rich as you thought you’d be by now, but that’s nowhere near as important as storing up treasures in heaven.

The more you have, the more you want.  And more often that not, feeling poor stems from a place of discontentment and dissatisfaction.

I don’t think I’m being paid enough. I think I deserve a higher pay. Other people are doing better than me.

It all hinges on comparison from a point of reference in our minds. So we salivate over our fantasies of wealth, not realising they will also kill us (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

I think John Piper puts it best: “The love of money is suicidal. Jesus said it. Paul also said it. And Judas proved it (John 12:1–8).”

WANT ≠ NEED

Recently I went for a number of surgical procedures which amounted to a few thousand dollars. Unfortunately, the nurse made a mistake with my Medisave claim which I was only informed of months later — I would have to pay the full amount in cash.

It wasn’t even my fault! When I found out, I immediately began doing the mental sums. Just a week before this happened, I had booked my air tickets for a missions trip. So literally nothing went into my savings for that month. My wallet was bleeding, as was my heart.

I poured my heart out to God about my situation. But He had something else to say: “Why are you even feeling this way? I already gave you everything you needed.”

Honestly, it sounded like a platitude. But when I searched my heart, I knew I was looking at things from the wrong perspective – my own. My problem is that I always think that what I want is what I need.

But God already knows what we need. We won’t get everything we want, but we need to trust in the truth that God always provides and gives — and sometimes withholds lovingly (Matthew 6:33).

I wanted a few extra thousand dollars to cover my medical expenses and trip. I failed to see that God had already provided for those amounts beforehand – through my salary. God is our ultimate provider. He does so in ways that go largely unnoticed at times like our salaries, a freelance job or a blessing from a friend.

PLAN FINANCES WISELY

As we trust God to provide for the future, we also need to also be prudent in stewarding what we already have (Matthew 25:14-23). Some months back, my cellgroup member who used to work as a financial planner created a handy chart to help my cellgroup to steward our finances wisely.

“You have to set aside a budget for even the seemingly frivolous things like shopping, because if you don’t you’re only kidding yourself.”

She shared with us that financial planning is only effective when you’re honest with every aspect of your expenditure. It’s also good for us to do a reality check on our finances once in a while to ensure that we’re on the right track.

Create a financial plan that helps you to give generously and save wisely regardless of your circumstances.

DON’T WORRY

Ultimately, nothing that we own is actually ours. Everything comes from and belongs to God, who has graciously provided for us.

I’ve seen money destroy relationships and cause conflicts. I’ve seen how love of money and obsession over it have changed people for the worse.

Money in itself isn’t evil. It can be good as a tool to accomplish things like blessing others or providing your family. But when money becomes your life’s goal, it becomes poison to your soul.

You stay in a job you hate just because it pays well. You make life difficult for yourself and even others just to keep your money. You choose to skip out on life’s milestones so you can hoard more.

Loving money is opposite to having faith in God’s character – trusting in His unending grace and supernatural provision. It is not believing God’s promises. We can’t serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24-25). A heart fixated on money is one that isn’t locked onto who God is and what He has in store for our lives.

Fellow twenty-somethings, you might not be as rich as you thought you’d be by now, but that’s nowhere near as important as storing up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20).

Trust in God. He has provided for you and He always will.

/ christina@thir.st

Christina is a designer who memorises Pantone swatches. She is an INFJ who loves matcha, 80% dark chocolate, beautiful typography and folk jazz. She also dreams of raising her own pet penguin one day.

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