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Do Good

I’m right where I should be

by | 19 July 2017, 5:36 PM

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:23)

This verse has stuck with me through the years. Whenever I read it, I imagine God in heaven evaluating what my life has amounted to. With this picture in mind, I constantly weigh my ministries, relationships and career prospects by their eternal value – fruit that will last (John 15:16).

I can’t waste my life.

So I keep asking: “What will this add to the Kingdom?”

Because I’m terrified I’ll wake up one day at 50, and realise I’ve wasted decades. I don’t want to be stuck in any job just going through the motions, making little to no difference for God’s Kingdom. That’s heartbreaking to me.

For those of us in the marketplace, I am by no means comparing how Job X is more “Christian” than Job Y. I know there are differences to be made for the Kingdom wherever and whoever we are.

I just know that my heart is prone to wander towards that which is profitable in the world, and a routine which is comfortable. I’m tempted by many such jobs in the marketplace.

*     *     *

Very rarely, I get a particular, special feeling in my heart. It’s a feeling which surfaces at moments I know I’m exactly right where I should be.

The first time I felt this way was when I went on a mission trip to the Philippines in 2014. It was a humid night after numerous rehearsals, and a group of us were walking back to our home for the night.

We shuffled in single file down a narrow inner street, bathed in orange light.

The whole time, we were carrying heavy things like ladders and props, getting ready for the performance the next day. In truth, none of it was really fun – it was hard work. Yet in that moment, I experienced a tangible peace in my being which said:

You are right where you should be.

These words settled in my heart, stilling it with a peace I had never experienced before; it was strange and beautiful all at once.

I knew that I could have been in Singapore – or anywhere – doing anything else. Yet here I was in this strange and foreign place, far from Singapore, carrying ladders – and I was Home.

*     *     *

Another time I felt this peace was earlier this year, while serving in my church’s performance arts ministry. I was in charge of the props team for the Good Friday production. The work was tedious and certainly not glamorous.

On the day of the performance, I was moving the props around as a stagehand. Then it was time for the altar call at the end of the show. I wanted to pray for those who responded.

I sat in the darkness offstage, hunched over by the curtains as the stage lights peeked through. I could see the faces of the many young people who had come to the altar. As I reached out my hands to pray for them, I was just hit by this wave.

I can’t put my finger on it. It was just a mixture of emotion, and raw power. In that moment, I knew in my spirit that something good was happening to all the lost and hungry souls standing an arm’s length from the curtain.

The many nights and months of preparation and sacrifice revealed their worth in that moment – as if a curtain had fallen before my eyes. I saw the eternal value. And again the peace spoke:

You are right where you should be.

*     *     *

I’ve encountered this peace whenever I was making a real difference to the Kingdom of God. I experienced this joy when every day, every hour I spent, counted for the Kingdom.

It’s certainly easy to feel that way when you’re in a place and period as intentional as a mission trip. But what if I told you it’s possible to feel this deep sense of purpose every day?

In truth, we should be feeling it every day! It’s not about the exotic locale or starting a holy-moly job.

You’re right where you should be” is a place of heart.

When we have a heart that says in complete obedience, “Lord, I’m all in”, I think something profound happens in us. There comes such deep peace, joy and excitement when we chase God. 

When we truly, truly trust Him.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26.3)

Do we trust God? Do we trust in His plan for us against the worries of this world? Imagine a life where every moment is lived in light of eternity. Imagine if our every step followed in His destiny for us. What profound bliss awaits the faithful heart which trusts and obeys.

/ gabriel@thir.st

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.

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A dream of justice for the disabled

by Ronald JJ Wong | 19 October 2017, 4:19 PM

The greatest challenge I find in trying to do good is a lack of empathy.

The truth is I am a product of circumstances. I have my biases, blind spots and paradigms. These sometimes hinder me from being able to understand different perspectives, and climb in the skin of another and walk around in it.

It’s quite a prevalent problem. It can hinder Christians from better understanding certain justice and mercy issues, as well as people’s needs. It can prevent advocates from understanding the rationales for certain policy decisions or laws. Conversely, it can also prevent policymakers from understanding complex ground realities and relational dynamics.

We are like the Hebrew people in Babylon. We are exiles and not emperors. We are not some majoritarian force of power.

So in Singapore where there is a democratic system for law-making, every citizen must participate in law-making to help make just laws for all. Political leaders, civil servants and civic society — which includes the church — all have roles to play.

In this conversation we must remember that as Christians, we are like the Hebrew people in Babylon. We are exiles and not emperors. We are not some majoritarian force of power. We ought to live the best we can and do good. We should honour all, especially the authorities, and fear God (1 Peter 2:15-17).

Jesus remains the finest example to us all. He was like a humble servant who did not quarrel or cry aloud, who would not break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick (Isaiah 42:3), and yet brought justice to victory through the cross.

A LAW OF LOVE

I long to enact a law for people with disabilities (PWDs). Of course, the specifics would have to be worked out carefully in consultation with PWDs, their caregivers, and various stakeholders. It’s worth noting that Singapore has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) but does not have a specific disabilities legislation.

Why have such a law? Well, it’s a justice issue. God calls His people to justice, mercy and faithfulness (Micah 6:8). As I wrote in my book, The Justice Demand: Social Justice & The Singapore Church, the foremost conception of God’s justice is the inclusion of every person to participate in His community.

That is why justice was brought to victory on the cross. At the cross, everyone who repents of their sins and believes in Jesus can enter into the Kingdom of God regardless of their race, background or social-economic status (Galatians 3:28). This principle of inclusivity should first be expressed among the family of God. Then the people of God should express in relation to others in the world.

At the cross, everyone who repents of their sins and believes in Jesus can enter into the Kingdom of God regardless of their race, background or social-economic status.

PWDs have a pressing need for this inclusivity, and the Bible is very clear about this. For instance, Leviticus 19:14 is a Mosaic law prohibiting discrimination against PWDs. Furthermore, a large fraction of Jesus’ healing ministry served the PWDs. When the public silenced the blind beggar Bartimaeus, Jesus specifically called out to him and healed him, and Bartimaeus followed Jesus (Mark 10:46-51).

In Luke 14:12-14, Jesus exhorted people to host dinners not for their rich neighbours or even their friends, but for the poor and those with disabilities. King David made Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan, who was crippled in his feet, join him at his dinner table.

All through the scriptures I can see God telling us that PWDs are not to be devalued — but treated like His children!

BASED ON JUSTICE AND EQUALITY

In Singapore, PWDs make up one of the largest marginalised groups. We have certainly come a long way in supporting the establishment of many special education schools and social service organisations. But open employment continues to be a huge challenge for many PWDs.

There are still many instances of blatant prejudice against workers with physical, intellectual disabilities or those who are on the autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

There are also more subtle forms of prejudice. The greatest and most prevalent is the mindset not to consider PWDs for employment. This is something which cannot be entirely addressed by legislation or policy. The truth is, there are already numerous government grants and programmes which encourage employers to hire PWDs.

Instead we need paradigm shifts. We need far more than mere tokenism. While legislation cannot solve everything, it can help educate us as a society. A just law that we uphold can help us remember our commitment to the inclusivity of PWDs in our land.

Such an attitudinal shift cannot just be for PWDs. It calls for compassion for all. In a society where large corporations make millions of dollars of profit but still layoff employees, it challenges Christians to challenge the norms.

In the Mosaic gleaning laws, land owners were required to leave some of the harvest for those who are otherwise poor and unemployed to glean so they can provide for themselves. The principle here is that capital owners — whether wealthy individuals or businesses — must use some of their profits to provide employment for those who are otherwise economically marginalised.

Would Christian business owners heed such a law? Would Christians lead the way in living out Kingdom values in their respective spheres of influence, particularly in relation to PWDs?

God give us courage. At the end of our lives we will be judged on how we expressed justice, mercy and compassion to the least among us (Matthew 25:31-46). How would you fare?


As a Christian who is also a lawyer, Ronald JJ Wong believes in access to justice for all. Burdened for the common good of society, he advocates for the marginalised and volunteers pro bono for the less privileged. He will be speaking at LuminoCity 2017.

LuminoCity is a 3-day forum that will bring together thought-leaders and disciples in the marketplace for conversations to shape the culture of our day. It will be held from November 3 to 5, 2017, at The Pavilion. Thir.st readers can enjoy a special discount of $50 from now till October 23, and a discount of $40 from October 24 till October 30 with the promo code “THIRSTY”Visit the LuminoCity website for ticketing information, and follow them on Facebook for updates. 

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Should I be giving to every peddler I see?

by | 18 October 2017, 1:44 AM

Most of us are used to being approached by old, hunchbacked elderly selling tissue packets, but I was once approached by a young man who asked for some money for lunch. Although I typically walk away when such people approach me, my heart was softened that day.

“Sure, shall we go to the Kopitiam?” I offered.

I accompanied the man there and bought him a plate of mixed rice. On his part, he was careful not to exceed the budget he’d asked for, carefully deliberating his choice of vegetables.

As I watched him gratefully tuck into his meal, I wondered if I would do this again. I still feel like I did the right thing that day. Why?

GENEROSITY TOWARDS THE NEEDY

The call to be generous towards the needy is found in both the Old and New Testament.

In Deuteronomy 15, Moses teaches the Israelites God’s Law on the year of the Sabbath. In view of Israel’s inability to keep the Law perfectly, Moses tells the Israelites, “there will never cease to be poor in the land”, therefore they are to open wide their hands to their brother, to the needy and to the poor in their land (Deuteronomy 15:11).

In trusting God to meet our needs, we look away from our sufficiency to God’s sufficiency.

This commandment is echoed in the New Testament in Luke 14:7, where Jesus teaches that believers are to aim to do good for the poor without expecting to eradicate poverty in this age.

As we heed this commandment, we may be questioning the value of being generous with those in need. Proverbs 19:17 makes this clear: graciously lending to the needy is akin to lending to the Lord.

As we meet the needs of others, we demonstrate reliance on God to provide for our own needs. In trusting God to meet our needs, we look away from our sufficiency to God’s sufficiency.

NEED GENEROSITY BE FINANCIAL?

Cynics will argue that peddling tissue has become a profitable income-earner, where peddlers are scamming their buyers at rip-off prices. Yet, I choose to ask myself: Would I rather be in their position, where I have to make ends meet by hook or by crook?

Of course, I cannot be certain how the money will be used – if it will be used in the way the person claims. Hence, I admit I tend to err on the side of caution as I don’t want my generosity to be taken for granted. I don’t want to risk having my money being used on feeding a harmful habit, such as the consumption of cigarettes or alcohol.

But I also remember this: In showing love to someone else, I do him no harm (Romans 13:10). So, taking this all into consideration, I’m willing to be generous in kind rather than in cash.

In showing love to someone else, I do him no harm.

In personal experience, I have had the privilege of sharing time and energy with a family who is less well-to-do, by reading with their preschool children. They have been directed to the appropriate platforms for financial assistance; nonetheless, I am repeatedly reminded not to give them money, were they to ask for it.

As I give my time and energy, I believe the family is no less blessed – my presence is an opportunity for their caregiver to take a momentary pause in caring for them. I know she appreciates my presence – in the midst of caring for young children, she treasures conversation with other adults.

Likewise, the children anticipate my visits – being read to is a treat their caregiver cannot afford time for, as her time is spent on taking care of their basic needs.

TRUE GENEROUS GIVING

As we seek to be generous both in cash and kind, it is worth remembering we are not always able to give to every person we meet. Hence, we give as we are able, bearing in mind their greatest need is not physical, but spiritual.

The New Testament speaks of spiritual hunger and thirst in the gospel of John.

When Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, He offers her some water, telling her that whoever drinks of the water that Jesus will give them will never be thirsty again. The water that Jesus will give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:14).

This water Jesus professes to give refers to the Holy Spirit dwelling within a believer (John 7:38-39).

Later, Jesus tells the crowds He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35) – which is superior to the manna provided in Moses’ day. He says this to tell the crowds He gives essential and eternal spiritual nourishment, instead of meeting only physical needs.

Hence, while we are called to give generously to the needy, we do so with discernment – in order that we don’t run the risk of doing more harm than good for the needy person. We also should be looking out for opportunities to meet their spiritual needs, not just their financial ones, as God avails.

At the end of the day, we cannot guarantee they’ll always get helped, but we can ensure they’ll always get loved.

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)

/ eudora@thir.st

Eudora found herself writing on public platforms by chance. Apart from writing, she likes many random things, including spoken word poetry, adult colouring books, tea, stationery and fresh, clean laundry.

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Join the mission: #HACK for Jesus

by Simon Seow | 13 October 2017, 6:19 PM

How can technology be employed to address the increase in suicides among the young? What could be some creative digital pathways and opportunities that might help stop people from taking their lives? How can the Church respond to this problem?

Many Christian techies and creatives are unaware of or under-appreciate the unique skills and talents God has given to them. They are unsure how to live out the passions for the Kingdom. But I’ve seen how their eyes light up when they hear stories and examples of how technology is creatively used and maximised for God’s mission.

It’s as if they suddenly realise things like: “My line of code can actually help save a girl’s life from sex trafficking!” Or “My creative design and writing could contribute to the Gospel’s reach across the globe!”

As they discover these opportunities, they inevitably gain new, God-given vision of how they can invest their digital and creative gifts for building His Kingdom.

DIGITAL DOES GOOD

Young professionals of the digital generation are often under-challenged in their own churches. For example, a CEO of a tech start-up company who has just launched a successful app might be asked to help with the worship slides, or design the church bulletin. It’s easy to miss the potential to help solve harder and larger missional challenges in this day and age.

We all desire to be a part of something larger than ourselves. Young people are driven by causes for the problems they see and experience around them. When given the opportunities and right connections to a  community with like-minded, like-gifted individuals, the gears are kicked into place for them to make significant impact for Jesus.

Indigitous started as a global movement of people who love Jesus and are passionate about using their strengths for God in the creative and digital space. Indigitous communities around the world bring together the best minds and hearts from the tech and creative spheres, inspiring them with projects and challenges that cause them to stretch and grow their gifts.

I heard an account of a lady who was 5 weeks pregnant and desperate because her partner kept pressurising her to abort the baby. Depressed, she searched online for help and found Boiling Waters, a Facebook page set up by a few brothers in Indigitous Manila – a mixture of creative writers, designers, website and social media experts.

Moved by the inspirational posts, she started chatting with one of the volunteers of the FaceBook page. It led quickly to a spiritual conversation. She was then invited to watch Falling Plates – a powerful 4-minute Gospel short film that has been watched by millions on YouTube. She received Christ that day and decided that she will not abort the baby.

A NEW KIND OF LIFEHACK

#HACK is an annual global missional hackathon that brings together the best creatives, technologists, strategists in various cities around the world for a weekend. Almost like a special force team, you will “hack” out digital-based prototypes and creative solutions to missional challenges in your context.

These challenges seek to address social issues in the city to contribute to the good of our world, but also to make Jesus known everywhere. In November 2016, Singapore hosted the first Indigitous #HACK event, the first-ever Christian hackathon in our country.

This year at #HACK, we encourage teams to work on potential solutions to some of the social issues in Singapore.

A few of these challenges include:

1. Countering social issues that are contrary to God’s values (e.g. sexual immorality and abuse)
2. Positively impacting the underprivileged (e.g. the poor, sick, disabled and elderly)

What dreams has God placed on your heart? What are some ways you desire to contribute to the digital strategies and engagement in our city? Does it excite you to use your talents for God in the digital and creative space?

Then this #HACK could be for you.


#HACK is happening next weekend, October 20-22, 2017. You don’t have to be a programmer to get involved. Creative thinkers of all types are welcome: Designers, photographers, writers, project managers, social media gurus – we want you! For those interested, please register here. Participation is free.

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Whose strength are you serving in?

by Noah Ho | 13 October 2017, 3:30 PM

I was so near to God, yet so far.

I was so caught up with serving and doing things for God – good things like missions and my ministries – that I was actually wandering away from Him.

I heard myself asking: Why isn’t anyone else doing anything for Christ? Why do I feel like I’m the only one trying to make an impact for God’s kingdom?

I was filled with pride. And because of that, doubts, distraction and discouragement crept into my life, and I didn’t understand why. But the reason was simple: I had stopped looking to Jesus.

And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:39-42)

Martha was so busy serving Jesus that she forgot to spend time with Jesus.

Although Martha had good intentions to serve Jesus, she missed out on the best thing, which is to sit at Jesus’ feet and spend time with Him before doing, you know, stuff.

The truth is that her problems might not disappear in the time spent with Jesus. But her worry would – that’s the lesson of John 16:33, where we’re told there will be trouble, but we’re exhorted not to worry about it, because … Jesus!

We will get discouraged in life. People will disappoint us. Circumstances will sometimes overwhelm us. But in such times we mustn’t respond like the world would, running away and giving in to despair.

What we need to do is rest in God, refocus and listen carefully to the assuring whispers of His grace. Once we are recharged and filled with Christ, we can go back in the world for His glory and purposes.

Being productive and getting things done – that’s all important. But praying and enjoying God’s presence must be more important that.

Work for God that is not nourished by a deep relationship with Him will eventually be contaminated by other things like ego, power and the fear of man. If we work for God with such motivations, we’ll lose sight of the main thing. Our sense of worth and validation will gradually shift from God’s unconditional love for us in Christ, to the success of our works and performance.

Are you, like I was, burnt out from the demands of ministry? Are you restless?

The lesson of Mary vs Martha is that you need to be with Christ, before doing things for Him. Only when we are topped up will we be able to pour out and invest into the lives of others effectively. We can only serve out of the overflow of our hearts.

The danger comes when we get caught up in doing so many things for Christ that we neglect spending time with Him. We risk doing “godly” things in the energy of the flesh, rather than in power of the Spirit.

Being productive and getting things done – that’s all important. We can’t be passive. But praying and enjoying God’s presence must be more important that. We need to constantly come back to Christ before we can serve and help others.

 

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Diagnosed at 14: Life with Pompe Disease

by | 12 October 2017, 5:26 PM

“You’re turning 24? Me too!”

I’d only been speaking with Emily Ho for a whole 5 minutes, yet we had already made a connection. Both of us were born in the same year and we’d established that we were better listeners than talkers. We were similar in many ways, except she was a patient and I was a visitor.

Emily is 1 of 4 known patients in Singapore who suffer from a rare genetic disorder called Pompe Disease. This disease debilitates muscles and affects their ability to function normally.

Most people who have this condition eventually die of respiratory failure because their diaphragm gradually becomes too weak to support breathing. For Emily, her leg muscles have already become so feeble that simple tasks like squatting and sitting are difficult for her. She falls easily and can’t get up without help.

“In the past when I wasn’t using a crutch, people wouldn’t come to my aid immediately when I fell down because I look so normal,” she laughed. “I’d be on the ground until someone offered to help me up.”

Emily had rejected using a wheelchair for many years, but the past 2 years have gotten increasingly tedious for her. She now uses an elbow crutch to help her get around.

Despite her condition, Emily has a very calm and pleasing disposition. There’s a perpetual smile on her face. If not for the elbow crutch, you wouldn’t have known this cheery girl has such a serious medical condition.

Sitting next to someone my age who has to go through bi-weekly treatments for a potentially fatal disease, yet remains so positive about life, was inspiring and sobering at the same time.

COMFORTED BY COMMUNITY

“I felt suffocated and angry because I was very lost in my situation,” she told me, “I didn’t know what would change and how I would need to adapt so I couldn’t voice out for help.”

Because she was unable to express her needs, Emily became very moody. However, her church friends were patient and encouraged her to open up.

They encouraged Emily to keep working at what she was talented at and helped her to discover her gifts in graphic design and typography while she was still struggling to find a platform to serve God.

They would opt for handicap-friendly places near Emily’s house when planning gatherings so it’d be easier for her. These friends carry Emily every time she needs to get up from her chair.

“I still do throw my tantrums but they accept me for who I am. I feel God’s love through how willing they are to help me, how understanding, sensitive and accommodating they are.”

Emily not only receives support from her church community but also her newly established support group.

Because of the rarity of the disease, Emily hadn’t known about other patients in Singapore for the past 10 years since she was diagnosed. But an opportunity opened up when The New Paper interviewed her after she received the Hero Patient award last year. The Hero Patient award is presented by the Eastern Health Alliance to exceptional staff, patients and caregivers.

Encouraged by Emily’s openness, three other Pompe Disease patients in Singapore reached out to her and they all connected for the first time.

“It’s good to have a support group,” Emily told me, “It helps to identify with people who struggle with the same issues as I do.”

“This is why opening up is important – so that you don’t go through this alone and somebody can walk this journey with you.”

FUELED BY FAITH

Witnessing Emily’s spirit of faithfulness, I wondered how she reconciled her present situation with God.

“When I was diagnosed with Pompe Disease, my aunt offered to pray for me and asked if I wanted to be healed,” she explained, “I did, and I accepted Christ.”

But the healing never came. Hearing this made me question: If Emily came to know Christ because she wanted healing, why did she hang on to her faith despite not receiving what she wanted?

She shook her head and laughed as I voiced this out. “There was once after I went back to church, I had a fall right outside the church building. I cried really badly, not knowing exactly why. I just felt a storm raging in me.

“But as I was crying, I felt God comforting me. He told me that when I’m weak, He’s my strength. At that moment I understood while the physical healing had not come – God had healed my heart. He cured me of my heartaches and sadness and I was finally able to move on.”

There have been other miracles since then. The same year she was diagnosed with Pompe Disease, SBS kickstarted the wheelchair-accessible bus (WAB) services. One of the many features that were newly introduced through this scheme was the replacement of steps with ramps. This made public transport handicap-friendly.

And the first bus service that was launched? It goes directly to her school. That made life much easier for her. Previously, she was very reluctant to attend school as it took a lot of effort just to get up the bus.

HANGING ONTO HOPE

Pompe Disease is incurable. One can only go for treatments to slow down the deterioration of the muscles, but the treatment requires bi-weekly appointments and each session costs about $27,000. This all amounts to a yearly medical expenditure of nearly $500,000.

“I wasn’t keen on treatment initially. I intended to live as I’d always did because I couldn’t afford it.”

That’s until she was miraculously provided with a medical sponsorship. However, it is ending this year. If the renewal process falls through, she will have no choice but to stop the treatment.

Emily’s face is somehow still smiling as she shares this with me. She asks me to pray with her, that her medical sponsorship will come through again. “But I know that no matter what happens in the future, God is with me and He will always help me.”

I thought about what she said. Her response to trust God in the face of adversity demonstrated a profound truth: God does answer prayers. Perhaps not in the way we expected it, but He has his own ways and purposes.


If you would like to reach out to Emily or make a donation, please visit her Give.Asia page. You can also view her artwork on her Instagram.

/ 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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Whose strength are you serving in?

Diagnosed at 14: Life with Pompe Disease