How many times have we referred to life as a battle? We’re under heavy fire on every flank. Sometimes we even get hit by friendly fire: Accusations come in our ministry, relationships fail, friends fall out.
It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that suffering is part of life (1 Peter 4:12). In the ruckus of war, our pain screams at us, and the fight before us is all that we’re focused on.
As Singaporeans, we’re always on the go. There’s no stopping us; one goal down, onto the next. You rarely hear anyone making intentional time for rest. For some strange reason, rest has become something to be ashamed about – as if it’s a code word for slacking off or an excuse.
Rest? What rest? There’s just no time for it.
Why has rest become such a repulsive word? Maybe because we take it as an affront to our capability.
We think we can pull one more all-nighter to complete a project, despite not having slept for the past 36 hours because we think we can handle it. And if we don’t, we worry that our teachers or bosses will think we’re weak, incompetent or lazy.
We rarely take a break from ministry because we think, “If I don’t do it, who will?” But that’s not how God works – and that’s where pride seeps in.
When God is in charge, He fight our battles for us. Rest assured.
The Creator of the universe does not count on our works. We are saved by grace through faith, not by what we do (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Jesus knew when He needed rest, even when people had urgent needs which needed to be met (Mark 6:31). What more us?
ARM YOURSELVES WITH THESE 3 Rs
For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:9-11)
Remember the Sabbath. What’s yours? Take a break on that one day, from that which you would typically do on the other six days. Rest by intentionally retreating into your secret place with God. Have longer, unhurried quiet time. Worship in your bedroom. Pray.
Why do you think NSmen are asked if they got at least 7 hours of sleep the night before a big physical activity? Because without rest, they’re less able to function on the battlefield – the very place they were trained to be the most effective.
The same goes for us; rest enables us to be effective wherever we’ve been placed at.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
In 2 Corinthians 3:17, we learn that “where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”. In Him, we find freedom from hurts, unforgiveness and bitterness. When we seek recovery in God, we take upon His yoke which is easy and light; allowing us to work well from a position of restedness.
Back to the war metaphor: A wounded soldier who has his wounds tended to at least lives to fight another day. We recover for the next battle.
The disciples went and woke Him saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Then Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters, and they subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” He asked. (Luke 8:24-25)
When Jesus calmed the storms, the first thing He asked the disciples was, “Where is your faith?”
His reminder was not to be distracted and distraught by everything that threatens to derail, but to instead refocus on the One in whom we put our faith.
When God is in charge, He fight our battles for us. Rest assured.
“Some things are loved because they are worthy; some things are worthy because they are loved.”
For quite a while now, I have been struggling with self-worth. It has been quite the sneaky little bugger – it doesn’t come at you head-on, but instead stalks you, nibbles at you.
In moments of solitude, when you are left alone with your thoughts, it yanks you and whispers into your ear: “Are you sure you are loved? How do you know for sure?”
When you flick the light switch and nestle into bed to sleep, it whispers yet again in the darkness: “You’re not good enough. For him. For her. For anyone.”
We were all loved while we were far from being worthy of it.
This insecurity is a snare. It makes me so needy for affirmation that even a single whiff of affection will reel me in by the nose. That’s just not healthy.
“For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)
Insecurity and the sense of lacking in worth drives a person to hew hard. You’ll resort to smashing through rocks just to cradle and savour a small sense of acceptance – even if it never lasts, or if it’s just an illusion.
It happens over and over again. It’s just so tiring. I know that it gets me nowhere, yet I get suckered time and again. Then the mirage fades – and what am I really left with?
What I’ve learnt is that love is build upon trust, and trust is forged by experience. The best place to start is from a reference point which is unchanging: God.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
We were all loved while we were far from being worthy of it.
I want to return to my Fount and be restored. To understand that my worth is not the pre-requisite to being loved, but that the converse is true: That it is being loved that actually gives me my worth.
A few years ago, the Lord convicted my heart that it was not part of His will for me to act on my same-sex desires. Since then, He has led me on a journey of deeper healing and pursuit of holiness.
Though I no longer identify myself as “gay”, I still experience attraction to men. There isn’t a day I’m not aware of it. I know in my mind that it is not to be acted upon, and I choose with my will to obey God.
Christians are rightly concerned about how they can show love and truth to same-sex attracted people in their church. Having experienced both sides of the fence, I’d like to share from my experience what you can do to make church a safer community for those with same-sex attraction.
HOW TO CREATE A HEALING CHURCH
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but a few helpful pointers to get you started …
1. Show me love that’s real
We’re told to “not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
If you know someone with same-sex attraction, be genuinely interested in them as a friend, and not as a project that needs to have their homosexual desires changed to heterosexual desires. When I told my Christian friends that I experienced same-sex desires, they interacted with me just as they did before – and I deeply appreciated that.
Like anyone else, same-sex attracted people wouldn’t like to be viewed as a “special” case and treated any differently.
Be genuinely interested in someone with same-sex attraction as a friend, and not as a project that needs to have their homosexual desires changed to heterosexual desires.
Another way of demonstrating love: When you see same-sex attracted people being singled out for ridicule, stand up for them. Don’t make or laugh at “gay jokes”. As a Christian with gay desires, I really needed to know who in the church would accept me and be safe for me to be myself.
I’ve heard Christians laugh at such jokes, and even though they weren’t the ones cracking the joke, my perception was that they would also be willing to ridicule people like me. It was hurtful and made me feel that they were unsafe people for me to come out to. So I resolved to hide this part of my life from them, for fear of being rejected. That helps no one.
2. See me as a whole person
People with same-sex attraction, like heterosexual people, are more than just their sexuality. Don’t make it that big of a deal or the only issue whenever you talk to them.
Instead, encourage same-sex attracted people to grow in the strengths and talents that God has given them – just as you would any other brother or sister in Christ.
I was grateful that Christians with whom I confided my sexuality didn’t focus only on this one aspect about me, but viewed me holistically as a person.
3. Offer to walk with me after I’ve shared my story with you
After a same-sex attracted person shares his or her story with you, give your assurance that you’ll honour the confidentiality of what they told you. They came out to you, and not to someone else. Therefore, value and reciprocate the trust they have put in you.
Also, if they have shared any struggles with you, offer to walk with them. Your invitation may be turned down – but at least you offered! If I pluck up the courage and take the risk of sharing my homosexual struggles, I’d hope that someone would reach out to me. If no one does, I would be left wondering if I should not have shared at all.
Don’t make such a big deal out of it, but don’t completely ignore it either. We confided in you for a reason.
4. Leaders, share your struggles, especially in the area of sexuality
If you’re a church leader in any capacity — whether you’re a pastor, zone mentor, ministry leader, cell group leader, and so on — you can help to create a culture in which everyone, heterosexual or homosexual, will feel safer confessing their struggles, and hopefully sharing their testimonies.
Speak on all aspects of sexuality. Affirm the goodness and beauty of God’s design even as you talk about how all deviations from it — heterosexual or homosexual — cause brokenness.
When you take the lead in vulnerably sharing your struggles, especially those in the area of sexuality, it assures me that I can do the same, too. Not only that, when those of us with same-sex attraction hear you share about your journey toward holiness in your sexuality, we’re encouraged that we’re not the only ones who have to work out this journey toward wholeness in Christ.
5. Leaders, have ongoing conversations about all aspects of sexuality
Again, if you’re a leader, don’t single out homosexuality as the only topic of concern in the area of sexuality. If you do that, it makes me and others with same-sex desires feel like only we have an especially heavy cross to bear, and no one else seems to need to carry that heavy a cross.
That would feel rather unnecessarily discouraging and burdensome (Matthew 23:4).
Instead, speak on all aspects of sexuality — on God’s intent for family and marriage, and deviations from it, like pornography, masturbation, pre-marital sex, cohabitation, extra-marital affairs, et cetera, alongside homosexuality. Affirm the goodness and beauty of God’s design even as you talk about how all deviations from it — heterosexual or homosexual — cause brokenness.
When you do that, whether from the pulpit or in Christian education classes or cell group, you show people with same-sex attraction that you’re concerned for everyone’s discipleship in their sexuality.
It also helps me and others like me to understand that every one of us has a different cross to carry, and that in our journeying toward holiness, we can support and love one another by “bearing one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
I hope these pointers are useful to you in navigating how to show the grace and truth of Jesus Christ to those who are same-sex attracted in your church. If you need wisdom, know that you can always “ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach” (James 1:5), and He will enable you to be and to build a safe and loving community to them.
Did you find the read helpful? If you would like to receive regular news and encouragement for your faith + family, subscribe here! This article was first published onWhole Lifeand republished with permission. Held on August 23 and 24, Whole Life Symposium: Sexuality reValued will examine the space where sexuality intersects biblical worldviews. Get a group discount when 4 or more people register together.
My bi-sexual ex-convict then-boyfriend had broken up with me because I was a virgin and did not want to sleep with him.
I was heartbroken and devastated. I was in a club with my schoolmates who all smoked, and I said, can I have a cigarette please? I was crying, and it made me feel instantly better. I felt calmer as I took my first, deep breath of what would turn out to be 9 years of addiction.
Addiction is real. I had a stick when I woke up, on my way to work (while driving, hand on the car door window, expertly allowing the wind to blow the ash out of the car). Every other hour I had to have a cigarette or I got edgey.
Years on, I was anything but the “good” Christian Pastor’s daughter that I was “supposed” to be.
I had walked away from church out of shame. I had premarital sex, I smoked, I clubbed, I drank (a lot), I used the F-word plenty, I hated people and gossiped.
I was everything a good Christian should not have been. It was too hard to be a Christian. I couldn’t go to church because I couldn’t be rid of all my addictions – and I couldn’t face God with all my shame.
You see, even though I grew up in a church and my dad was a pastor, I did not know God. You can grow up in a Christian family, go to church every week, read the Bible everyday, yet not have a relationship with God.
But eventually, somehow, I stepped back into church, where I received fellowship and no condemnation.
I also began to join the Tuesday Group, a small gathering of real and raw people that love and want to know God. On one of my first visits, I saw someone go out to have a cigarette after worship.
I was stunned: How could she not be embarrassed? Why wasn’t she trying to hide her sin? Did anyone know she was smoking out there on the steps?
It was then that I realised that it was okay to not have everything together while seeking God. “God still loves you”, she said.
I remember laughing so hard too when my pastor, Joseph Prince, joked about it too. “Pastor, can a smoker still go to heaven?” He replied: “CAN – just faster!”
I was set free from my shame. I knew that smoking was not good for me, but knowing that God loved and accepted me anyway freed me to enter into His presence.
It was about maybe a year into my journey of learning about God’s grace and love for me, and just hungering for the things of God and knowing him, that I had decided I really wanted to quit. At this time, I was even reading the Bible and praying … as I smoked.
I knew myself: I had zero will power. In my attempts to quit, I would throw my cigarettes away the night before, only to drive out the first thing in the morning to buy some because I just could not start my morning without one.
I told God that He would have to help me quit – I couldn’t do it without Him.
I told God that I did not want to smoke anymore, but that I could not do it on my own.
I was headed to a Planet Shakers Conference in Australia with a group of friends from the Tuesday Group; I decided that would be the deadline. I would stop smoking then.
I told everyone in my church group I would quit by then. I told God that He would have to help me – I couldn’t do it without Him.
I still remember the day itself, before I boarded my plane, when I nervously smoked my last few cigarettes. I was so afraid. What if I could not quit? What if the urge is so strong – like it always is – that I cave in and buy some in Australia?
I threw my last packet away before we got onto the plane. And God was faithful.
When I stepped out of the plane, something had lifted. I no longer had the urge or the edge. The addiction had left me; I was totally fine not smoking.
I knew that I knew that I knew: It was a miracle. God had delivered me.
Some weeks after the trip, I was out drinking one night – I was still not free from all my other addictions, but God has slowly delivered me from them one by one – when I was offered a cigarette. In my “highness”, I went through half a stick.
I remember the sorrow, the remorse, the condemnation, and the guilt that I battled the next day. But even so, when I met with my group of Christian friends, they reminded me that there was no condemnation in the struggle.
Know that your sins and struggles don’t surprise Jesus at all – He saw them all on the Cross. And He died to set you free from them.
I knew shame was part of the plan to keep me from God.
From that day till now – I’ve been completely clean from cigarettes. I am free!
If you have any addictions in your life, and if you know Jesus, you need to know that those sins and struggles don’t surprise Him at all – He saw them all on the Cross.
He died so that you can be free from that shame and condemnation that chains you to all your addictions. This supernatural freedom – it glorifies the Father.
He loves you and He wants to set you free. He came that you may have life, and life abundantly.
So if you’re reading this and have been through any of the struggles I have, I pray that right now, wherever you are, God will touch you and encounter you, and fill you with His loving kindness. I pray that you will have a hunger to know Him, the one who loves you and created you, whose son died on the Cross for you.
I pray that you will know His abundant grace, that so much more abounds in your sin (Romans 5:20-21).
This article was adapted from Hadassah Lau’s blog. Hadassah is the co-founder of homegrown jewellery brand Hadasity.
by Yang Tuck Yoong, Senior Pastor, Cornerstone Community Church | 15 August 2017, 4:43 PM
On August 9, Singapore celebrated her 52nd birthday, and what a bash it was, with the Marina Bay skyline serving as a backdrop.
As always, my family sat glued, watching the National Day Parade live on television. And as always, we sang the songs patriotically, laughed at the outrageous costumes, teared when the National Anthem was being sung, talked about our National Service experiences.
But one thing is for sure – we were all proud to be Singaporeans.
I love my country and I love my people, regardless of race, language or religion. The evening before, my wife and I were with 6,500 other Christians at the Day of His Power at Suntec City, thanking God for Singapore and praying for her.
The day after, we were with the Festival of Praise Pastors’ Gathering, praying for the nation. We prayed for Singapore at our recent Church-wide Corporate Prayer; so yeah, I love my nation and I pray for her.
In 1978, the evangelist Dr Billy Graham prophesied that Singapore would be an Antioch East, for Asia. It was a defining moment for us as a nascent nation.
At that time, we were just 13 years into nationhood and our future was uncertain. The Iranian Revolution had just begun that would eventually lead the world to a global oil crisis and spiralling inflation. So, things were uncertain and we saw the world tottering as a drunken man reeling in his stupor.
But in the last 39 years, we’ve seen the Church in Singapore grow and rise up to be a voice to the nations. Megachurches have been raised and Singapore has produced strong and charismatic global church leaders.
I’m jealous over Singapore’s call to be the Antioch for Asia, and I know many in this nation are as well. We must rise up and take this seriously.
But are we closer to being the Antioch for Asia?
To be honest, I think we’ve come a long way, but perhaps still a distance away from fulfilling our destiny.
It’s been 39 years since the prophetic word was given and then, at the Kingdom Invasion Conference in March 2017, there comes a prophetic utterance, a dream from a seasoned prophet, that a cyclical review is on the way and God is revisiting the prophetic word He gave to us 39 years ago.
In essence, He wants to see what has been done. Has the Church in Singapore taken the word seriously, or have we just gloated over the fact that we’ve been called but done nothing about it?
Day Of His Power 2017 saw more than 6,000 gather at Suntec to pray for Singapore.
If there was a moment in time where we all sense that God is about to do a massive thing that will shape and redefine everything we know to be normal Christianity, this is it!
God is shaking the nations, as He’s shaking the Church, and in one generation, I believe He’ll change the expression of Christianity. All over the world, pockets of people – men and women of Issachar who understand the times and seasons; prophetic people, who sense a groundswell of tsunami proportions – have been activated.
The year 2017 began as one of the most tumultuous years in recent history. When Mr Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, he was a sign, a harbinger of things to come. In fact, Brexit precipitated certain events that would eventually bring about such flux and turbulence that the world will never recover from.
It certainly looks like God’s shaking everything that can be shaken and nothing is being spared.
From the political chaos to natural disasters, from widespread terrorism, to rebellion and anarchy, the world is reeling from one disaster after another. If this doesn’t wake you up, nothing will. We should all be on our faces before God pleading for His mercy.
Hebrews 12:26-29 tells us that in the last days, “everything that can be shaken would be shaken, so that the things which cannot be shaken may remain”. Why? Because we’re receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken.
So, this is a good thing. The shaking is a promise, not a threat. The Kingdom is being established and it’s an unshakable kingdom.
Senior pastors from various churches, spanning the denominations, declare they are “one church” at Day Of His Power 2017.
I’ve always believed that it takes a citywide church to have a citywide revival. The Church in Singapore must put away her differences and come together as one.
Singapore has an amazing call and destiny, but if we do not fulfil God’s purposes for our nation, then He might have to raise up another. This has happened before in history and it can happen to us – if we don’t do anything about it.
We mustn’t take anything for granted. I’m jealous over this call, and I know many in this nation are as well. We must rise up and take this seriously because fragile circumstances all around us demand it.
2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Singapore, this is our hour to rise up and truly shine, for our light has come. A trumpet has been sounded and we must respond.
“I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.” (C S Lewis, The Screwtape Letters)
I think I spend most of my days wasting my life away with nothingness – hamster-wheeling, basically.
I think about it as I reflect on pastor-writer-preacher John Piper’s generation-defining book, Don’t Waste Your Life.
The origins of the book can be traced to a message he gave at the Passion Conference in the year 2000, where Piper exhorted a generation of young bloods who had just entered an uncertain millennia by emphatically describing what a wasted life looks like for a Christian.
“Bob and Penny took early retirement from their jobs in the North-east five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball, and collect shells.
“That’s a tragedy,” he told the crowd.
“You stand before the Creator of the universe to give an account with what you did. ‘Here it is, Lord — my shell collection. And I’ve got a good swing. And look at my boat. Look at my boat, God.
Piper is crystal-clear: Only what’s done for Jesus lasts in eternity.
“Don’t waste your life.”
I told a friend earlier this year that Don’t Waste Your Life – you can download it for free here – had a huge influence on me when I first read it at 18 years old, on the verge of young adulthood and NS, among other critical transitional life stages. It generated in me a deep Spirit-driven conviction to live for Jesus – somehow, and maybe someday with greater clarity.
That was in 2010. I’ve come to see recently that a wasted life might look a bit different for today’s youths and young adults.
An article by The Atlantic has recently been making its social media rounds: Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation. In it, the author details the seeming fatal symptoms thus far exhibited by a generation the he calls the “iGen”.
The author describes iGen as those born between 1995 and 2012, who grew up with smartphones, had an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the Internet. The Millennials grew up with the Web as well, but it wasn’t ever-present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night.
iGen’s oldest members were early adolescents when the iPhone was introduced, in 2007, and high-school students when the iPad entered the scene, in 2010.
According to the author’s research, today’s teenagers are less likely to date, seek independence from their parents, or head outdoors, among other activities seemingly normal for past-generations. Essentially, their smartphone activity and obsession/addiction has comprehensively moulded every other sphere of their young lives – but they aren’t quite equipped with the maturity and perception to identify this.
I’m convinced that my smartphone usage has significantly influenced my emotional, relational, social, theological and spiritual life in every single dimension.
(To be honest, I spent a bit over a month reading the book although it’s a pretty short one, because I kept getting distracted by my smartphone. The irony.)
While Reinke is “one of us” in being part of the Facebook, Twitter and the Internet age, he provides an incisive analysis of the smartphone phenomenon and how it’s revolutionised the world – and how it could cripple the future generations of humanity.
This read has encouraged me to review my own phone habits. Doing so has convinced me that my smartphone usage has significantly influenced my emotional, relational, social, theological and spiritual life in every single dimension.
Apart from the two years wasted playing a certain Marvel smartphone game (I’ve stopped!), there’s the endless allure of mindless Twitter, the meaningless scrolling through Facebook feeds, staying connected on WhatsApp chat groups even when in the presence of actual real human beings, the perennial crouching traps of sexual temptations on the internet, and much more.
But really, the biggest impact my smartphone has had on my life is this: It’s numbed me to futility.
It’s numbed me to my daily finding false meaning in nothingness and foolishly seeking illusory fulfillment in mindless Internet shenanigans. Oh, if you could walk a day in the life of my Twitter feed.
This is how much time I’ve spent on various phone applications in the past 7 days:
I’ve spent a little more than half a day (14 hours) out of the past week on my phone either reading or watching videos on Safari, and chatting on WhatsApp! Yes, my Bible app is ranked in the top 10 but only because it spent 20 minutes running unseen in the background.
I will admit with all frankness that my smartphone habits have often fractured my prayer life, or taken my heart and ears away from a conversation or friend. I’ve chosen to focus in an NBA Finals game over an ongoing sermon taking place right in front of me.
But how did I succumb to such habits? How did the central and important things in my life become sidelined, merely optional?
I think these habits were simply groomed over time by smaller choices and smaller habits being cultivated on a daily basis. I had become used to making retrospectively dumb decisions and ignored pertinent matters/persons right in front of me because I had allowed myself to get sucked into a vicious vortex of mindlessness every single day.
And as I became more acclimatised to empty nothingness and brainless scrolling on a consistent basis, the importance of the Gospel reality in my life gradually decreased over time.
Cognitively, I grew more wired to sweep aside pressing issues that required my focus in exchange for whatever greatness I was achieving on my phone. My muscle memory had now reoriented itself to dedicate my mind and heart to my phone. Nothingness: It’s a powerful master.
In his book, Reinke talks about the “nothingness” that flows endlessly out of undisciplined and unfettered smartphone usage:
“What I am coming to understand is that this impulse to pull the lever of a random slot machine of viral content is the age-old tactic of Satan. C S Lewis called it the ‘Nothing’ strategy in his Screwtape Letters.
“It is the strategy that eventually leaves a man at the end of his life looking back in lament: ‘I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.’
“This ‘Nothing’ strategy is very strong: Strong enough to steal away a man’s best years, not in sweet sins, but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them.
“Routines of nothingness. Habits unnecessary to our calling. A hamster wheel of what will never satisfy our souls.
“Lewis’ warning about the ‘dreary flickering’ in front of our eyes is a loud prophetic alarm to the digital age. We are always busy, but always distracted – diabolically lured away from what is truly essential and truly gratifying. Led by our unchecked digital appetites, we manage to transgress both commands that promise to bring focus to our lives.
“We fail to enjoy God. We fail to love our neighbour.”
Echoes of Piper with the same warning reverberating here: That’s a tragedy.
Don’t give in to nothingness. Persist with self-examination of how your phone is shaping you, affecting your relationship with Christ, and dictating the way you live in light of eternity. Or, as they say these days: Stay woke.