Top Stories

Sign Up for our newsletter now.

Culture

So you want to be sold out: But at what cost?

by | 15 June 2017, 11:00 PM

“Take my life, and all that I have to give. Take my world, just inhabit all of it. Take my dreams, make me assuredly Yours.”

These words are not the easiest to sing. The first time I heard it, my heart broke. The gravity of those words weighed on my heart.

I was torn. A part of me was desperate for the conviction to sing those words. Another part of me that was grieving over what it would cost to sing it.

But I realised; I was singing out my life’s purpose. But what would it take for me to live those words out? What would it cost me to be sold out for Jesus?

A LIFE OF EXTRAVAGANT WORSHIP

I’ve been a church-goer for most of my life. But it wasn’t until I was 17 that I finally got serious with God.

I had grown up in a small semi-conservative family church, but the new church I was attending was turning out pretty different from what I was used to.

People were rocking back and forth during worship and arms were fully outstretched. People were on their knees, weeping openly. Nobody was too shy to proclaim that God was in their mess.

What bewildered me was that they had the same fervour for God outside of the church and on all the other days of the week.

Then there were all these new jargons I had to get used to. Extravagant worship. Laid down lover. Sold out for Jesus. What did they even mean?

In the midst of all that confusion, I came to appreciate my new church congregation’s unbridled authenticity and unabashed worship. What bewildered me was that they had the same fervour for God outside of the church and on all the other days of the week.

While we had our fair share of friction from our differences, their friendship spurred me on in my race back Home.

They showed me what it looked like to be sold out for Jesus. It wasn’t just some tacky-sounding slogan but a fully surrendered life. A life that isn’t free from grit or dirt but lived with the kind of love that keeps on trying.

The unrelenting way they pursued God’s heart resonated in me. In my slow yet sudden awareness of Who my life really belonged to, I rededicated my life to God quietly in my own heart.

I didn’t know it then, but it was purpose that was bubbling up within my spirit man.

There was no fanfare; it was a quiet resolve. I had tasted God’s goodness and I’d seen the fruits of the changes He brought about in me.

There was no other option. Life couldn’t remain status quo. And it was as if in the twinkling of an eye, I myself had changed (1 Corinthians 15:52). I didn’t know it then, but it was purpose that was bubbling up within my spirit man.

I was where I needed to be. It felt like I had finally come home.

COVENANT RESTORED

During my recent bouts of depression, there was this quiet assurance that remained in me. I’d like to think that it was God’s grace for me – He preserved my life when I’d been so close to death.

Even from the distance that I had put between us, I knew He was waiting it out. He was waiting for me to come home.

After the longest time of giving Him the cold shoulder, I finally sat down to have a painfully honest conversation with God. My heart wept as I spoke about His goodness that triumphed through my failures.

I want to pursue His heart with reckless abandon – the same way He pursued mine.

I knew that the pain meant He wasn’t done with me yet. I was still going through the Refiner’s fire. I needed His strength to carry on.

Six years on from the first time, I rededicated my life to God once again.

It was my renewed commitment to run alongside Jesus in this race called life. I was tired of living life at a fraction. I made an altar out of my desires and asked the Holy Spirit to show me how to abide in Him (Galatians 5:16). I want to pursue His heart with reckless abandon – the same way He pursued mine.

It was the restoration of my covenant with God. I made it with full confidence that I had been appointed a purpose – one that I knew God had specifically called me to. I want to walk in a manner that is worthy of that calling (Ephesians 4:1).

It doesn’t matter that the blows will keep on coming. I’m reminded that even though my heart and flesh may fail, I know that I can draw my strength from Him (Psalm 73:26). I know I’ve come out from the valley with a bigger heart; one that has no room for expectations, just room for Him to make His home in it.

I’m reminded that this life isn’t for me to call my own (Jeremiah 10:23). I want my life to be at the disposal of the One who paid a hefty price for it (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). I prayed to have the heart of the woman who had wet Jesus’ feet with her own tears (Luke 7:38).

A life sold out always comes home. It doesn’t look back at the Father’s house in shame, it continues to return even after being away for too long. It continues to give it’s all even when it goes against all rationale – because it is secure in the sonship it operates under.

In that conversation, I told God to let my life to count.

I’m all in. Are you?

 

/ sarakohxx@gmail.com

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

Conversations

We Recommend

Culture

Your first calling is to be a friend of God

by Thir.st

Culture

Practising and professing your faith: Know your rights

by Ronald JJ Wong

Faith

How can quiet time be done out of love, not obligation?

by Jonathan Her

Culture

A culture of blessing

by | 20 April 2018, 4:55 PM

I was scrolling through Facebook recently when I saw a remarkable video.

The video was about what it means to honour others. It made me think of our culture, and how we can do a lot more to bless those around us.

Jesus had quite a lot to say about loving people. In Luke 10:25-37, He talks about the two greatest commandments. The first is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” The second is to “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

And when asked who’s the “neighbour” in question, Jesus replies with a story about an injured Jewish man who was lying on the road. A priest walked by, but instead of helping him, he walked away. Another Jewish man did the same. But when a Samaritan (an enemy of the Jews) saw this injured man, he picked him up and cared for him. And when the Samaritan had to leave, he paid someone to care for the injured man.

THE GOOD SAMARITAN: 3 PRINCIPLES ABOUT BLESSING

1. Be a blessing to those who the world ignores

When was the last time we thanked the cleaner aunties and uncles for maintaining the cleanliness of the streets in our community? When was the last time we complimented the hawkers for the food we ate?

There are groups of people like CEOs, celebrities and even pastors who we deem to be worthy of honour. We have no problems blessing them. But then there are those aren’t quite worth the time: Cleaners, hawkers, construction workers … What if we were blessings to them as well?

The Samaritan could have just walked on as culture instructed – but he chose to love the injured man by helping him. The pastor could have just taken the pizza and gave her a standard tip – but he chose to bless the woman by giving her an amount that went above and beyond.

It’s not about the money. We can bless people in small ways for an incredible impact too. A quick thank you, prayer or lunch treat goes a far longer way than we might think.

2. Acts of blessing are infectious

Watch the video above. Did you see how 77 men and women came up to bless the delivery driver when only 10 were called?

When we bless and help the least of our brothers and sisters, others will notice and be encouraged to follow suit.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

You are a blessing catalyst. One way to encourage others to do good works is by doing good works ourselves. Taking the first step to bless others, we create a butterfly effect and ultimately a culture of honour and blessing within our families, communities and nation.

Even simply clearing your trays after a meal encourages your friends at the table to do the same. It blesses and honours the elderly auntie who will have an easier job to do, and also encourages those around you to perpetuate this culture of blessing.

3. Blessings go further than we think

That pizza-delivering single mother would never have guessed that she would be blessed so richly, delivering to the Church that morning. Likewise the injured Jewish man couldn’t have imagined a Samaritan would be the one to come to his rescue in his most desperate hour.

By blessing those who society neglects, we might well be the answer to the prayer they’ve been desperately making. We might be the love they need in that hour. We have an opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ in a tangible way.

So why not bless someone today? It doesn’t have to be a big thing like giving hundreds of dollars to a pizza delivery driver – you can also start small.

Let’s be the change we want to see, and create a culture of blessing in Singapore.

/ junheng@thir.st

JunHeng is a 100% extrovert who loves caffeine – lots of caffeine. He also likes HTHTs, jamming and eating good food. Did he mention he loves caffeine?

Conversations

We Recommend

Culture

Practising and professing your faith: Know your rights

by Ronald JJ Wong

Faith

I was in primary three when cancer struck

by Fidelia Lim

Faith

How can quiet time be done out of love, not obligation?

by Jonathan Her

Culture

I would have left this world if not for a friend

by Li-ann Chee | 19 April 2018, 2:06 PM

Since young, I hated looking at myself in the mirror because of how ugly I thought I was. I wouldn’t even take pictures with anyone. It was suffocating, living with this fear of mirrors and photographs. And I hated believing that I was ugly, alone and somehow judged by the people around me.

It was my worst pain that my family could not understand this, not because they didn’t care, but because I had no idea how to accurately tell them about my misery. On the inside, I felt useless, worthless and without a sense of belonging everywhere I went. There was no joy in my life.

Despite my struggle with my self-image, the irony was that I really craved attention. All I wanted was for people to notice me – the real me – for once. But the more I craved for attention, the more I could see it being a burden on those around me.

Unable to express myself well and left with almost no close relationships, I sank into a depression, hiding in my room and crying myself to sleep every night.

Eventually, I started questioning my own existence on Earth: “Does anyone really care about my life?” There were several times when I looked out my window from the 18th storey and thought, “Will there finally be peace if I fall to the first floor?” 

I tried my best to fix my eyes on the Cross and read God’s word daily, but things took a turn for the worse last year when my grandmother passed away in April, followed by my mum being diagnosed with cancer later in September.

All the old feelings surfaced again. Worthless. Useless. Insecure. Helpless. I couldn’t do anything to change what had happened to those I loved. I found myself crying alone again; the pain was so great that I scratched myself until I bled, hoping to numb my heartache

But God proved His love to me again and again. I questioned Him, “If I am really your friend, give me a sign and put the right people in my life.” In response, He gave me a vision where I saw a river that I had to cross, and then I saw myself dancing on stage, with Jesus standing in the audience and waving at me.

In a step of faith and obedience, I joined the dance ministry in church, although I had no background in dance. And it’s been the best thing I could ever ask for, where I get to serve Him alongside a great community.

If I didn’t have Jesus, I don’t think I’d still be here. But I’ve learnt that even if people don’t love me or want to be my friend, He is the one and only true friend and Saviour who loves me – and you – unendingly.


This is a submission from a participant of our Greater Love Giveaway.

Conversations

We Recommend

Culture

Exhausted from caregiving, I battled depression and suicidal thoughts

by Alivia Kan

Work

I just want to be a useful person

by Fiona Teh

Relationships

How I forgave my dad for having an extramarital affair

by Esther Toh

Culture

I thought I was good for nothing

by Cindy Leow | 17 April 2018, 5:11 PM

As a child, I always wondered what I was good at. I wasn’t a good student and never knew the purpose of studying other than appeasing my parents – something I wasn’t good at doing either.

Over the years, this feeling of being “lost” and having nowhere to go got even more desperate. Soon, I turned to computer games and was quickly hooked. I invested all my time into these games, thinking that by doing so, I could be good at something for once.

However, the consequences of squandering hours on these games kicked in quickly. My grades suffered even more and at times, it started to seem like my parents clearly favoured my studious sister.

Due to the lack of attention, I turned to my school friends. But my friendships were stormy and filled with arguments when things didn’t go my way, and soon I turned away from them too.

Everything was a wreck. There was no one I could turn to and it seemed like I was in this world all alone. There was no purpose in living, not even living to see the next day.

Like any other Singaporean child, tuition was unavoidable with the grades I was attaining in school. Despite the many tuition classes I attended, the best grades I could muster were a mere pass. One day, my mother heard of a tutor who had helped to drastically improve my cousin’s school results and hired him in hopes that he would do the same with mine.

This tutor, G, taught me for a year, and my grades started to improve, though I wouldn’t say I excelled. Soon, G needed to drop some of his students as he needed to focus on his new-found job. So I ended up being passed to another tutor, S.

S was stricter with me and my work as compared to G. Sometimes I would even end up crying in class because of uncompleted homework. But despite her intense tutoring, my grades remained borderline.

One day, a week before Easter, S asked if I’d like to go to church. I declined her politely at first, but upon hearing there would be a drama production, I agreed to go.

On Resurrection Sunday itself, I remember stepping into the hall and being warmly greeted by many people. They spoke to me as though they’d known me for a long time, and I felt very welcomed.

Though I did not know the meaning of the songs we sang during worship, nor the “Jesus” everyone was worshipping, I was moved by a deep sense of peace within that I haven’t felt before. It was also strange, standing in this place I’d never been, to feel like I was home.

When the preacher asked if anyone would like to receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour,  I put up my hand. Though I don’t fully know why I did, I followed S as she brought me forward to receive salvation.

During the Sinner’s Prayer, I was overwhelmed with emotion. It felt like someone had unlocked the deepest places of my heart, and now all the bottled up feelings were tumbling out.

The loneliness, the failure, the condemnation, the feeling of unworthiness; they seemed to dissolve in an instant. And all that was left was this feeling of lightness … Of joy.

I went home that day with a changed heart.

When my parents heard that I had embraced Christianity, they objected slightly, but did not stop me from going to church. Soon enough, I had quickly integrated into my new cell group and continued to observe changes in my character and disposition. I knew that the Jesus who had met me on the first day was with me every step of the way.

However, my grades remained the same. I was still failing in most subjects and did not have any interest in anything else besides English lessons.

In the year I had to take my ‘N’ Levels, I was afraid, for I didn’t know what I wanted in life, nor was I good at anything. It was a constant thought and worry in my mind.

One day, the head of the radio ministry in church approached me. He told me I had a nice voice and asked me if I was interested in joining their ministry. Thinking that I had nothing to lose, I agreed. After learning that I was completing secondary school soon, he encouraged me to consider pursuing media studies in a polytechnic.

After our conversation that day, I looked up the course he’d mentioned online and discovered that it really was something I found exciting. This compelled me to study hard for my exams and by the grace of God, I was able to apply for media studies.

I finally found myself enjoying what I was studying, and even excelled in school. Things were finally taking a turn for the better.

Through the radio ministry in church, I was also trained in public speaking, and even took the stage for various church events. It was in this place I found God’s calling for me as His mouthpiece.

One day, my previous tutor S revealed to me that my first tutor, G, had transferred me to her with only one condition: To bring me to church. My life had always been part of a divine plan.

Looking back, I realised that through knowing Jesus, I’d found my calling, confidence and most importantly, my first love. My thoughts and worries about my life were never unheard. Jesus … the name I was once unfamiliar with, now a name I call upon every day.

Of course, my journey is far from over. There are still many areas that I struggle in. However, I now live victoriously knowing that He has died and overcome the world (Matthew 16:33).


This is a submission from a participant of our Greater Love Giveaway.

Conversations

We Recommend

Faith

I was just going through the motions

by Bryan Chua

Culture

In a world of choices, what is the one thing you seek?

by Jason Chua, Burning Hearts House of Prayer

Culture

“There is none good”: ANNETTE’s hymn on hypocrisy

by Annette Lee

Culture

My love affair with the Arts: Where do blurred lines lead?

by Jonathan Pang | 14 April 2018, 4:51 PM

I remember a question raised by my friend: Science has often been viewed with contention with regards to leading young Christians away from the faith, but couldn’t the Arts do that just as well?

Having been heavily exposed to European classics for piano since the age of 3, I was quite taken aback by the hypothesis she put forth. The Arts is such a broadly defined subject matter – its traces can be found just about anywhere around us. If it had the potential to lead one’s heart away from God, how dangerous would that be?

Artists are often the centre of attention because of their works, be it positive or negative publicity. In either situation, the spotlight is on them. In the former case, it need not simply be the ability and skill with which they showcase themselves, but also an attractive appearance or personality, even a philosophy which thrills and excites their public.

I myself have had my fair share of teenage years in which I explored the pop scene with my peers. However, I always maintained an admiration for Argentinian-Swiss pianist Martha Argerich, whose performances I have listened to since 2001.

Martha Argerich in the early years

As I grew older, I had begun to explore and revisit the European composers of my childhood, such as Bach and Beethoven, and other more modern contemporaries including Rachmaninoff, Debussy and Ravel.

It was always breathtaking to dive into the spiritual aspects of music, often through discussions over background and interpretation with my music teacher. In particular, I was intrigued by Modern Music, which is music between the late 19th to 20th century, especially that which had elements of the Orient.

It wasn’t long before we began to dabble with the spiritual elements of music and the transcendental wisdom it could convey concerning the ancient cultures and histories of the past, including the composer’s character and life story.

However, it eventually dawned on me that  I may not have understood the gravity of the situation I was potentially getting myself into. For all the talent that artists possess and the atmosphere they’re able to generate, do people become so enamoured with the beauty of art that it becomes a thing of worship?

There is nothing wrong with gold until it becomes a golden calf.

As Christians, we must understand that a work of art is merely a sensory means of expression. It is a tool through which we communicate meaning to others. It must be approached with the correct standard of discernment and contemplation, such that it does not become a snare to our hearts and minds, clouding our understanding of its essence and purpose in living in Christ.

More importantly, concerning artists, we ourselves are unconsciously shaped by the actors, musicians or designers we emulate or whose works we patronise. Therefore, before we subscribe to allowing such celebrities and their beliefs to carve part of our identity, should we not weigh them against Scripture and God Himself?

It is all too easy to be swept away by the allure of the world, ultimately neglecting the true source of life, Jesus Christ.

I therefore caution people to be on their guard and be active discerners rather than passive consumers of any form of art, and ask themselves whom it is are glorifying and pleasing through their actions. Upon reading the passage of Exodus 32 concerning the Golden Calf, we observe that gold earrings and ornaments – items of worth and usefulness – had been transformed by human hands into a blasphemous image.

There is nothing wrong with gold until it becomes a golden calf.

Likewise, the purpose of art in any form of sensory communication – visual, aural, gustatory – is ultimately to glorify God and the works of His Son Jesus Christ. Any attempts to divert and distort this purpose is akin to stealing from God, not giving the praise and adoration which is due to Him.

On a personal front, I have now stopped listening to pop music, due to a difference I find in many artistes’ lifestyles and beliefs – which is usually reflected in the contents of their lyrics.

Even my musical role model, Martha Argerich – who is known for a complicated personal life and capricious temperament (including backstage tantrums and frequent last-minute no-shows at concerts) – I also realise is merely human and not to be seen as more than that.

All of us are part of a fallen Creation, with no effort of our own making sufficient to save ourselves and our world. This makes it all the more imperative for us to lovingly seek and pursue our Lord, whose miraculous sacrifice on the Cross has paid the ultimate penalty for our transgressions, far surpassing any vain philosophy Man can conjure.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

Conversations

We Recommend

Faith

To my left, hope

by Joanne Kwok

Faith

How I first heard God

by Caitlin Foo

Faith

I was just going through the motions

by Bryan Chua

Culture

In a world of choices, what is the one thing you seek?

by Jason Chua, Burning Hearts House of Prayer | 12 April 2018, 10:24 AM

As a “borderline millennial” born in the late 80s, I decided to ask my wife – a true millennial – about the way they think.

Our conversation flowed into the realm of “sense” and “purpose” and “reason for existence”, as she pointed me to the tip of the pyramid in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where “self-actualisation” sat – the need to fulfil one’s purpose.

Many of our millennials were born into a world where their basic needs have been met, and that’s why they’re constantly in search of purpose.

In fact, I see these young people going from place to place in their pursuit of purpose; some are even willing to take on low-paying jobs because they find it worth the cost. And because of this sense of need for self-actualisation, they’re a little more free-spirited, adventurous and hungry.

I find that it is this characteristic of theirs that make them good candidates to become missionaries.😜 

TEACH THEM TO PRAY

In the past five years of leading young people and even in my own journey as a young person, I notice that we don’t tend to think of “young people” and “prayer” together. But I don’t think that young people find prayer unimportant – we know that it is fundamental to our faith and part of our connection to God.

Instead, I’ve come to realise that perhaps young people don’t pray or find prayer “boring” because they don’t know what to say.

In Luke 24, a time shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion, two disciples were on the road to Emmaus when Jesus Himself appeared and expounded the Scriptures to them. And it was only at the end when He broke the bread that their eyes were opened – though by then He disappeared from sight – and they said this to themselves: “Did not our hearts burn within us?” 

“Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24 31-32)

The “burning heart” experience is what happens when we interact with Scripture – with God’s Word – and allow it to create a spark within us and keep us burning.

He wants to put His desires into the hearts of men, which will fuel their hearts to fulfil what’s in His heart.

The key to set young people on fire for God are the very words in the Bible. These words aren’t just dry black letters on thin paper – there is a Man behind those words: He wants to put His desires into the hearts of men, which will fuel their hearts to fulfil what’s in His heart.

As we teach our young people to pray and respond to God’s Word in the Bible, they will grow in their depth of knowledge of God, their biblical language, and their capacity to pray and understand God. And the Holy Spirit will create a new world in them, just like how He formed the world in the days of creation.

If our young people don’t know how to pray, we must guide them into a life of prayer and as the Word forms in them, so will a spark be formed.

THEN SEND THEM OUT

I lead a praying community of young people and we have a prayer room that is inspired by the Moravians, who were known for their prayer and evangelism.

For over a hundred years, members of the Moravian Church in Germany started a round-the-clock prayer watch. At home and abroad, on land and sea, their intercession reached the Lord. And by 1791, 65 years after they began praying, the small Moravian community had sent 300 missionaries to the ends of the earth.

We have been discipling young people in the ways of prayer, getting them into a place where they have conversations with God, by praying with and through Scripture. The centrepiece of our prayer meetings is not issues we are facing but rather who Christ is. This has cultivated an environment where young people learn to pray.

They pray in their hearts, pray in small groups, pray in what we call “rapid-fire prayers” as they line up and pray for the nations that the Word of Jesus will be manifested around the world.

Their inward motivation is now to go to places where He is not worshipped, where He is not loved, where His name is not yet known.

And after spending four or five years coming to our prayer rooms, some of our young people have prayed so much that they don’t want to stay praying in a room but to take prayer out of it. I think they have begun to see a facet of Jesus’ world, that their inward motivation is now to go to places where He is not worshipped, where He is not loved, where His name is not yet known.

It’s in this place of prayer that God incubates His heart for the nations. And at Burning Hearts, we’re creating a type of greenhouse where young people can grow up in, with values and systems that will help them see Jesus’ worth in the midst of all these different things they face and experience.

Our prayer room is a space for young people to pray with Scripture, to stand before God, to look at His beauty, to meditate upon who He is and engage with Jesus and His Word. And it is our hope that they will one day say that Jesus is worth it all and give themselves to whatever He wants them to do.

MY HOPE FOR A GENERATION

We need to create an environment that emphasises values rather than forcing young people to a method. If we want them to move into a place of cross-cultural missions, the “ang-ku-kueh method”, where we simply put them into a mould, won’t work and they’re just going say that they are not interested.

But if we were to create a safe environment for them to grow – a greenhouse infused with biblical DNA – no matter where you transplant them to, their roots are going to remain and they can flourish where they are.

Our young people want to express the creativity and dreams within them, and we need to help them grow deep, healthy roots that will keep them anchored. Then they will be able to express themselves the way God has made them to be – in their true, original design.


Jason Chua will be speaking at The One Thing Gathering 2018, which will see hundreds of young adults unite with the International Houses of Prayer across the world to behold the majesty and beauty of Jesus.

Happening from July 19-21, 2018, for the first time in Asia, the gathering calls for young people who have purposed in their hearts to live with abandonment and devotion to Jesus, to do His work, be His voice and see His transformation in the nations.

To register your attendance, visit their page.

Conversations

We Recommend

Faith

Good good Father, really?

by Sim Pei Yi

Faith

How I first heard God

by Caitlin Foo

Culture

“There is none good”: ANNETTE’s hymn on hypocrisy

by Annette Lee

Article list

So you want to be sold out: But at what cost?

A culture of blessing

I would have left this world if not for a friend

I thought I was good for nothing

My love affair with the Arts: Where do blurred lines lead?

In a world of choices, what is the one thing you seek?