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When my mentee came out to me

by Olivia Lee | 26 June 2017, 11:22 AM

“I have something to tell you. I’m attracted to the same gender.”

Someone I was mentoring in church had suddenly asked to meet me. She looked extremely jittery and it was clear something was up.

“I … like girls. And there’s this girl …”

Her voice was shaking, her eyes fixed on the table. It was a side of her I had never seen in our years of friendship. She sat before me, completely vulnerable, her life peeling apart like layers of an onion.

She told me that she’d been in a secret relationship with a girl from our church for some time, but she wasn’t proud of it.

In that moment, what I saw wasn’t her coming out to me. It wasn’t her relationship with a girl. Instead, what I saw was her vulnerability.

“I know it’s not natural. We both know it. I want this to stop. But I just can’t.”

In that moment, what I saw wasn’t her coming out to me. It wasn’t her relationship with a girl. Instead, what I saw was her vulnerability. I saw her trust – her trust in me that allowed her to bare her darkest secrets. Her fears. Her hurts.

“Aren’t you going to get angry?” Her eyes were welling up with tears.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people around me speaking about same-sex attraction in hurtful ways. Ever said “that’s so gay” as a joke or to describe something you don’t like? These things are insensitive. They hurt.

The church needs to be ready and equipped to walk this journey alongside brothers and sisters. Through my own experience of journeying with Christian friends who came out to me, I’ve learnt that we really should rethink some things we often hear.

TRY NOT TO SAY …

1. “Love the sinner, hate the sin”
This overused line has become the top offending statement for many. To say “love the sinner” often sounds as though we view others as “the sinner” and that we are holier than them, which isn’t the case.

2. “Struggling with homosexuality/SSA”
This is only appropriate when referring to someone who admits to be in conflict over their sexuality and is resisting the tendency. People who accept and live with their same-sex attraction are not struggling with it.

3. “The gay lifestyle”
This implies that everyone who experiences same-sex attraction has the same lifestyle, which is untrue. Many may frequent gay bars and clubs, but there also many who live very sedate and conservative lives.

I thanked my mentee for trusting in me enough to share with me whatever she was going through. For a Christian to come out about her sexuality to someone in the Church was definitely something that required more than just a bit of courage.

We need to learn to walk alongside them rather than just telling them what to do from the bleachers.

So if you are someone who is struggling with same-sex attraction, I know that you didn’t ask for this. It’s not just a phase. I won’t tell you that it’s a passing thing that will be over soon. Because we both know that it won’t. You didn’t create this. It’s not your fault. There is nothing inherently wrong with you.

But here’s the catch: You are not to blame for your feelings and inclinations, but you are responsible for managing them wisely and properly.

And you are never alone in this journey of managing your feelings.

Paul wrote in Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”

We all deal with various kinds of temptations and inclinations that yield to the flesh — just that some are more common than the others. Most people don’t toy with the idea of cutting themselves every time they are sad or angry, but some do. Many people aren’t tempted to indulge in pornography to destress or to feel better, but many are.

This is the reality of the struggle between the flesh and the spirit. You are not meant to give in, helplessly, every time you have an urge. The need for self-control is part of the reality of Christian living.

Not only should we try to make it easier for someone to talk about their sexual struggles, we must avoid making the mistake of always talking about it. By only talking about this aspect of their life all the time, it reinforces the wrong idea that this is all there is to them and that this is their identity.

I made that mistake we made. I briefly shared about the situation with my leader just to keep myself and my mentee accountable and in check. But unfortunately, it blew out of proportion. Leaders kept asking me, “How is (insert mentee’s name here) and her struggle with that?”.

No how have you been or have you eaten, but it was always how is the SSA situation going?

Here’s the catch: You are not to blame for your feelings and inclinations, but you are responsible for managing them wisely and properly.

I would like to think that they came from a place bearing good intentions at heart. But the constant questions about just that particular issue in my mentee’s life made it feel as though it was all there is to her as a person.

There were also other battles going on her life. Her financial worries, her parents’ disapproval about her faith, the stress she’s facing in school …

Our identity isn’t built on our sexuality. Or our achievements. Or what school we go to. Or where we work. Or our relationship status.

Our identity is fundamentally found in the person of Jesus. We are defined by God and God alone. He identifies each and every one of us as His own (2 Corinthians 1:22).

We still have a long way to go in terms of learning about how to walk alongside each other, for better or for worse. But what I have learnt in my years with my mentee is that only the revelation of Jesus in our lives – the awe from finding our identity in Christ – can spark the beginning of any transformational work in our lives.

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Where in the world are our young missionaries?

by Joey Lam | 21 February 2018, 10:12 PM

It’s becoming somewhat of a perennial question: How can we engage and mobilise millennials for missions, both within the Church and across cultures?

Here’s something my cell member said in one of our discussions about the millennial generation that stayed with me.

‘The highest dropout rate from church happens between the ages 17 to 19. It is the age of enlightenment for young adults. They have a new-found freedom. They realise they can do something else with their time rather than go to church.

“The church leadership keeps thinking that there is something wrong with the programmes they are running. They think their transitional initiatives aren’t good enough, or it’s just the ‘A’ Levels.

“But I have seen those who went to church through the ‘A’ Level period ultimately leave the church; and those who disappeared during the ‘A’ levels come back to church after their exams.

“So it isn’t exams, it isn’t transitions, it isn’t programmes.

“It is about the authenticity of our faith.”

I sat there chewing on his words.

I replied, “But I am heartened that the discourse within the Church body is happening. And the answers are starting to get passed around.”

I said that because I’ve seen with my own two eyes how the Holy Spirit has already started a unity movement across the larger Church in Singapore. He has been blowing us out of our silos, causing individual parts of the body of Christ to interact and work together.

During the GoForth Millennial Influencers Gathering on February 1, 2018, we had four individuals from diverse backgrounds come together to exchange and make sense of the “puzzle pieces” of insight they’d received over the years. I believe their revelations are more valuable than their titles.

In the words of panelist Claire Carter, a young lady who’s been organising mission trips to countries such as India before she was even 20: “The antidote to short-lived excitement is to get us millennials acquainted with the person of God, the exciting character of God, and His heart for His people.

“If we make missions about programmes, we will only see the power of the programmes – instead of the power of God.

“Missions are exciting because God is exciting. Young people need to see that the greatest thing they can be a part of is God’s exciting redemptive mission.”

Claire Carter, the youngest panelist and representative for her generation.

Jason Chua of Burning Hearts House of Prayer, the next youngest on the panel, had this to add: “The way we are raising leaders today is to run good programmes.

“But there is a lack of leaders today who have been raised to first know God and to seek Him. To cultivate a life with God that goes beyond just a Sunday or Saturday affair and is instead, a daily living. And the younger ones need someone older who can model that for them.

You can only reproduce who you are, and you can only reproduce something that you have.

“Because you can only reproduce who you are, and you can only reproduce something that you have. If we as their leaders don’t have that lifestyle, there is no way we can tell a young person to do it. They will never be convinced. They have to experience it with the people who are leading them.

“If we can model that, then young people will catch on the spirit of living that life. You don’t have to try to convince them or make them do missions.

“We need to create a greenhouse that emphasises values rather than methodology.”

Jason Chua of Burning Hearts House of Prayer shares his convictions.

He continued, “You want to engage millennials, you want to challenge them – but you should never lower the bar for them.

“One of the problems in churches today is that there is so much fear that the next generation is going to run away, so we lower the bar. That is dangerous.

“We have to model our faith to them, show them our faith is real. That the cause of missions is worthwhile.

“That is when they will give 10 years, 20 years or even their whole lives to missions.”

David Tan, director of Wycliffe Bible Translators (Singapore), shared a similar heart for young adults. “The key to engaging millennials is to build strong relationships with them. Then you will never have to tell them to “Go!” – instead you can say, “Let’s go!”.

David Tan, a seasoned missionary with a heart for millennials.

“It’s easier to go when there people are coming with me. We are all in this together. When you have a group of friends – the body of Christ – going with you, it’s not just easier – it’s more exciting.

Instead of telling young people to “Go!”, you should say, “Let’s go!”.

Dr Goh Wei Leong, co-founder of Healthserve and Singaporean of the Year 2018, had simple advice as well: “Sometimes the simple things are important, like coffee. Think coffee, conversations, Christ. I think with that, we build relationships first. Then we get the values in.”

Dr Goh Wei Leong, Singaporean of the Year with a simple love for coffee, conversations and Christ.

During the tea break, I went up to Jason Chua to appreciate him for his sharing. He simply replied, with a nod towards David and Dr Goh: “These are the real heroes.” I knew he was also referring to all who have walked the missions journey ahead of us younger ones.

Besides actively caring for migrant workers in Singapore through his work at Healthserve, Dr Goh also serves on the global team of advisers for Operation Mobilisation. He has been deeply involved in integral missions for years.

David Tan’s decade-long work in the mission field has included translating the Bible into a language that over 1 million people speak. And, by the way, he also has a PhD in Mathematics.

Observing this, it’s plain to see that what the Church can and must do with regards to missions in this day and age isn’t really mobilising just the younger ones – but the whole body of Christ, young and old. Everyone has valuable things to bring to the table.

After all, in Biblical terms, everyone alive during the same time was considered to be part of the same generation. And if we can figure out how to tap on the strengths of the two ends of this generation and bring them together, we will then be able to move forward powerfully.

It is not so much about not pouring new wine into old wineskins. It is about offering both old and new wine from the same cellar.


If you are interested, there will be another GoForth Millennial Influencers Gathering on March 1, 2018, at Bartley Christian Church’s café corner. Sign up here.

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Billy Graham dead at 99

by | 21 February 2018, 9:29 PM

Billy Graham – probably the most well-known and influential evangelist of the past century – has died at the age of 99, according to various news sources.

He died at his home in North Carolina, according to a family spokesman.

Estimates suggest he preached to hundreds of millions of people in his lifetime, including tens of thousands at Singapore’s old National Stadium in a multi-day rally in 1978.

Graham, known as “America’s Pastor”, was a familiar face on TV and a much-loved voice on radio broadcasts in America. He was also honoured for his part in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, alongside Rev Martin Luther King Jr.

/ edric@thir.st

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

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“Clean Hands, Pure Hearts and Beautiful Feet”: Bringing Good News to the next generation

by Emily Soh | 21 February 2018, 10:27 AM

When given the proposition to write short stories for a children’s book – based on true accounts of missionaries sent from Singapore as early as in the sixties – my first thought was: “But I don’t write stories.”

Sure, I considered myself a writer, but creative non-fiction for children was uncharted waters. Thankfully, the hesitation stemming from my feelings of inadequacy did not last for long. I became intrigued by the opportunity to write the stories of men and women who heeded God’s call to surrender their lives for His purposes – to do good in the world and demonstrate God’s love for all peoples.

God provided me with a two-month window to concentrate on this project. The entire process to produce the book took much longer, of course – but it was great timing.

The book is a work which resonates with Christ’s prayer for His followers “to be one” – unity – as it cuts across denominational lines. It shows us the broad scope of missionary work that has been afoot since the sixties, detailing the stories of missionaries sent from our tiny island to far-flung places and how they served.

Children’s stories have great mileage – they travel with them for the rest of their lives.

Then there was the flight of imagination required. One example was the mystical and treacherous landscapes in Papua New Guinea. When such a locale was first described to me, I found myself thinking, “How can I convey this sublime beauty that could capture the imagination of children?” And in another story, “How can I portray a wartime scene that could relate to children, yet at the same time retain its raw authenticity?”

The writing may fall short of doing justice to these people, places and experiences. But I’m praying it will allow the children to imagine the wondrous world of God, while not shying away from accurate depicting a world that is scarred by sin, injustice and cruelty.

Children’s stories have great mileage – they travel with them for the rest of their lives. That’s the power of stories which engage children intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Powerful storytelling inspires curiosity, provokes thinking and provides children with a counterpoint for the harsh realities of the world they will encounter.

We are praying that this book will inspire children to receive the fullness of what God has prepared for them as they grow up. With clean hands, pure hearts and beautiful feet – they can be a light to the world wherever their journeys take them.

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Isaiah 52:7)


Written by Flora Man and Emily Soh, and illustrated by Jearn Ko, “Clean Hands, Pure Hearts and Beautiful Feet” is a children’s book featuring 10 inspiring stories of Singaporean missionaries serving in different parts of the world. If you are interested, you can visit their page to purchase a copy, or send them an email for further enquiries.

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The illustration used in the video was adapted from a sermon by Pastor Michael Strickland from The Cove Church


TWO NATURES

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” (Galatians 5:16-17)

The Bible shows us that there are two natures: One of the Spirit and one of the flesh. But we can only have one.  If we really want to see life transformation, we need more of the Spirit because what the flesh desires is contrary to what the Spirit desires. They are in conflict with each other.

“Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)

As vessels of God, what we need to do is flee the evil desires of the flesh and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace. When we have more of God – there is less of ourselves. Where there is more of the Spirit – there is less of the flesh.

It’s one or the other.

SEALED AND DELIVERED

If we’ve received Jesus into our lives as our Lord and Saviour, the Bible says that we’ve received a seal of the promise of God.

“And who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 1:22)

But there’s another experience that God wants us to have in our Christian walk – it’s the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that we will be filled – to the brim – with the Holy Spirit!

That’s not all there is to it. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, though we may have changed, we are not removed from our usual environments that test our responses or reactions.

So we will react either according to our “old self” or respond through our “new self” which is being renewed in the knowledge of God. If we are not in step with the Spirit, it’s easy for us to respond in the flesh.

1. Anger
Whether you’re driving on the road or responding to your children: Are you aware of the situations and things that tend to draw anger out of you? Are you an angry person? Even though we are filled with the Holy Spirit, anger can seep into our lives through cracks and open windows of impatience and intolerance.

2. Self-righteousness
When you place white vinegar in a glass jar, it looks just like water. But vinegar stinks. We may look like water on the outside but we’re not.  We can do many Christian things yet still have a spirit of self-righteousness – trust and reliance on ourselves instead of the grace of God.

3. Jealousy
Things get nastier when you throw jealousy into the mix. Some of us get jealous when others do better than us: We write off others’ successes and we point fingers at them. We cannot stand not being the best. Don’t let jealousy make you a miserable person.

4. Other sinful desires  
Lastly, there are the darker things that we may not talk about openly – or at all. Things like adultery, pornography, stealing and backstabbing. These desires belong to our fleshly nature.

In order to keep in step with the Spirit and defeat our fleshly nature, we can’t just be filled with the Spirit one time. We need to continually be filled and continually be empowered so that God’s light won’t dull in us.

Think about the first thing you do in the morning. Do you reach for your smartphone or for the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit? Each morning, tell the Holy Spirit, “Speak and I’ll listen. Lead and I’ll follow.”

Jesus said, “Let those who are thirsty come to me and drink, and out of your belly will come out an abundant flow of the Holy Spirit.” When we are continually filled with the Holy Spirit, not only are we filled – Jesus says we will be filled until we overflow!

By the continual empowerment of the Holy Spirit – through the overflow of our revived heart – we can bring revival everywhere we go: Our homes, schools, army camps, and workplaces.


This article was adapted from a sermon first preached on Jan 14, 2018, by Senior Pastor Jeffrey Chong of Hope Church Singapore.

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How are those resolutions coming along?

by Alex Park | 19 February 2018, 9:48 AM

We’re already about two months into 2018 — how are your new year resolutions coming along?

Mine was “get busy”. Not get busy trying to fill myself with things that don’t last, or things that bring temporal fulfilment. I wanted to get busy with the things of God.

I thought of it after a conversation with a close friend who shared how working with God proved so much better than just staying at home all day watching Netflix and gaming.

Choosing to serve God … Though it seemed like it would tire me out more — it actually did the opposite. He restored me, especially after a very difficult 2017. Walking with God more intentionally this year, I’ve learnt that He will faithfully guide me through life.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)

In Rhythms of Grace, Judas Smith gives us an insight to this verse: “In farming, a yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plough or cart that they are to pull. However, in the past getting two oxen would be costly for farmers. So, farmers would get an experienced, mature ox pair it with a younger, weaker calf. This way, the younger calf would follow the pace of the older ox, not going too fast or too slow. Both of these two animals harnessed together would then begin to plough the field, doing the same amount of work two oxen would.”

I hadn’t seen it that way. Jesus is the stronger and experienced one. We are like the calf, frequently getting ahead of ourselves — sometimes too weak to even keep up. But Jesus invites us to follow His pace — the unforced rhythms of grace (Matthew 11:29 MSG).

He’s calling us to partner Him in this journey that we run. Only follow His pace, learn from the One who created you and loved you before the foundations of the earth. As you choose to follow Him — He will guide the path and walk with you.

Jesus overcomes the strongholds of sin and darkness in your life.

Everyone struggles with sin and we are all on the journey to become more like Jesus everyday. But the fight with sin seems almost impossible at times. How do you love when there is so much hate, be pure when there is so much lust, or worship Him amidst a million things fighting for your attention?

Depression, fear, anxiety, loneliness … The list is endless and the struggle is real.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Did you catch that? It’s not about trying to be better or merely resisting temptation. It’s about being wholly surrendered — “fixing our eyes on Jesus”.

If we could overcome sin and the powers of darkness by sheer willpower or discipline, we wouldn’t need Jesus. He wouldn’t have to come down to save us at all.

During His time on earth, Jesus focused one purpose: Not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom to many (Matthew 20:26). In the same way, steward with great focus the ministry you have been assigned to — loving His people and pursuing Him.

Don’t be despondent at the sin or oppression in your life. There’s hope! Where light is, darkness ceases to be. Keep running because He guides you and walks with you. He overcomes the sin and darkness in your life.

If you’ve been serving and fighting for His Kingdom — don’t lose sight of Him. Wherever He has called you to be, He has gone before and He is with you in that place.

So, again, how are those resolutions coming along? There’s still time for 2018 to be the year you allowed God’s faithfulness to move in your life. The best place you can ever be is at the centre of God’s will.

I’ll leave you with Erwin Mcmanus’ words in The Last Arrow.

“It makes me wonder how many times in my own life I thought I failed, but actually the only thing that happened was that I quit. When you come to the end of your life, will you be able to say, “I gave everything I had,” or will you have a hollow feeling inside of your soul that you quit too soon, that you expected too little, that you did not strike the last arrow? Make the commitment to not stop before you are finished, because you are truly stopping before God is finished.”

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Article list

When my mentee came out to me

Where in the world are our young missionaries?

Billy Graham dead at 99

“Clean Hands, Pure Hearts and Beautiful Feet”: Bringing Good News to the next generation

Empowered for a purpose

How are those resolutions coming along?