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I was tithing for the wrong reasons

by Agnes Lee | 10 April 2018, 3:31 PM

Four years ago, I moved out alone after a heated argument with my family.

At around the same time, I began attending a small family church. The pastor’s wife invested a lot of time in mentoring me. She studied the Bible with me weekly, and often lent me her listening ear. I was incredibly grateful.

I did not know how to repay her, so I started tithing to the church out of a heart of gratitude towards her. I did not want her to invest in me without any returns.

The other reason I started giving was because I saw that the church was small – every cent of the tithes and offerings collected from church members counted. I remember one month, our pastor announced that we did not have enough to pay rent for that month. Though I was not rich and did not earn a high salary, I decided to prioritise tithing then.

Eventually, I reconciled with my family and began contributing to the family expenses again. Though this additional expense strained my finances, I was still determined to continue tithing. I felt grateful for the help that the pastor’s wife had given to me during my hard times, and I did not want the finances of the small church to be affected.

There’s the problem: I wasn’t tithing out of a personal conviction to please the Lord. Instead, I was tithing to please people around me like the pastor’s wife and the congregation.

Tithing from my own strength and for the wrong reasons, I soon started to grumble. Though I continued giving the 10 percent that my church recommended each member to give – I was inwardly unhappy.

I began to find fault with what our usher (she’s also in charge of collecting tithes and offerings) would pray before the collection. She would typically say something along the lines of, “I pray we will all give with a cheerful heart.”

Her words meant nothing to me. I would continue to grumble, thinking to myself, “As long as I give, it’s okay … It does not really matter whether my heart is cheerful. As long I’m not hindering church finances – it should be fine.’’

Tithing is not mere grudging obedience. Tithing reflects how ready we are to surrender our hearts.

But God was concerned about my attitude of giving. He did not give such grumbling a chance to linger. During my quiet time one day, God mercifully showed me that the prayers the usher prayed were actually based on scripture.

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7)

As I studied this verse, I felt as if God was lovingly saying: “I want you to be cheerful as you give. Do not give out of compulsion. If you are not cheerful, please keep your money. I don’t want it. I would rather have your heart.”

I felt convicted. I realised that God only wants my heart. He wants my attitude to be right before Him. God does not desire my money; His desire is for me to love Him with a heart of conviction – to give Him a place above everything else in my heart. I felt a tender, fatherly love flowing out of the words of the Bible, telling me I am precious in His eyes.

So why had it been so difficult for me to give cheerfully from my heart? Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). I realised that I did not love God enough. Outwardly, I declared that I loved God. But inwardly, God was revealing to me the true condition of my heart.

Tithing is not mere grudging obedience. Tithing reflects how ready we are to surrender our hearts. A surrendered heart is a heart that is cheerful in giving, and God can do far more in our lives when we live with a surrendered heart.

Ever since God revealed to me His desire for my heart, I no longer grumble about tithing. Though my finances are still tight, 2 Corinthians 9:6 encourages me: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”

God’s kingdom is not about the material things of the world. It is about eternal things that last forever. As we tithe generously, we may not see financial returns in our bank accounts, but we definitely reap returns that are of eternal value.

Tithing to the Lord when I am financially tight, I have learned far more than I would have if I were rich. I have learned what it is like to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), and I am grateful to experience God’s truth in His promises each time I surrender.

Slowly and surely, He is teaching me to trust Him more. And each time He does that my love for Him only grows.


This article was first published on YMI.today, and is republished with permission.

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Growing up in a lower-income family, I hated my life

by Shanice Lim | 20 March 2018, 4:23 PM

My parents separated when I was 10.

I was too young to understand anything about separation, but one thing I knew for sure was that our house now felt emptier.

After the separation, my mother moved us to our aunt’s place where the 4 of us settled in a single room. Over time, I began to realise how difficult it was for my mother, being the sole breadwinner of the family.

I saw her struggle to pay off bills and rent to the point that our allowances became a problem. I was still too young to help her so all I could do was to worry with her. I worried about money and all kinds of things other 16-year-old teenagers wouldn’t really bother about.

I had no choice but to grow up quickly into an independent person.

In 2013, I entered polytechnic. Honestly, by that point of time – I hated my life.

Why was life so unfair? I started comparing my family to other people’s families. At every turn, I felt like I was on the losing side. My family wasn’t complete, it wasn’t financially stable. I wasn’t pleased with anything in my life.

And around this time, I stopped taking money from my mother because I knew it was more important for her to provide for my younger sibling. That meant I had to scrape through my polytechnic days with a part-time job.

Thankfully, despite having to work part-time, I was able to graduate from polytechnic with a Diploma with Merit, and got into a local university. In retrospect, I believe God knew me even before I knew him – He was already guiding my way back then.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

The period right before I began university was my turning point – it was then I encountered God.

Ever since then, I came to experience who God is and also His unmerited love for us. He has provided for my family so abundantly, and I have truly been blessed by the people who He has placed in my life – especially my Church family.

Our financials have improved since, and despite the occasional hiccups in my family, I believe that God will heal and bind our wounds because He makes everything beautiful in His perfect time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

After being a Christian for just under 2 years, God has revealed so much to me: How He has plans to prosper and not harm us and how these plans give us a hope and future. God can turn our suffering into greater things.

There is a reason for every thing that has occurred in our lives.

I hope that we will be like Job, who never lost faith in his sovereign God despite incredible suffering in life. God doesn’t promise that the Christian would be smooth-sailing, but He delivers us and guides us through it all.

I thank God that He has been so good and faithful. In dry seasons or rainy days, I choose to say that He is good to me. For all the problems in my life, I still know that nothing is too difficult for God.

If you’re struggling, feeling like you’re suffocating you – if you hate your life – I want to leave you with the promise that God loves you.

He hears us and collects every single tear we shed. And if mere tears are precious to Him – how much more the one who cries?


This is a submission from a participant of our Greater Love Giveaway. From now till the end of March 2018, we are giving away a pack of limited edition Thir.st “Greater Love” Stickers in exchange for every story. Stories must have a personal/local angle and be of 800-1000 words. Send us yours here.

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Spiritual complacency erodes our inheritance: Bill Johnson at Kingdom Invasion 2018

by Thir.st | 15 March 2018, 12:37 AM

“An inheritance is something somebody else paid for,” Bill Johnson said gravely. “But if we are going to continue an inheritance, to increase it, we need to pay an even higher price.”

Speaking on the second day of Kingdom Invasion 2018, the Senior Pastor of Bethel Church, Redding, cautioned the 3,500 strong audience against spiritual complacency.

Drawing from the life of King Hezekiah, Johnson shared about the king’s early days as a strong political and spiritual leader of Israel who reformed his nation, calling it back into covenant with God during one of its darkest and most corrupt seasons.

“He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.” (2 Kings 18:3-4)

Hezekiah was a man whom God Himself acknowledged as “a king like no other”, and unlike his predecessors, removed the high places of idol worship in his country and brought back worship as in the days of King David.

“Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses.” (2 Kings 18:5-6)

However, things took a downturn after he was saved from the mouth of death by a gracious act of God to heal his terminal illness and extend his life by 15 years (2 Kings 20). Johnson pinned the start of his ultimate demise on the king’s failure to offer to the Lord a sacrifice “equal to his miracle” after he was healed.

“But Hezekiah’s heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness shown him; therefore the Lord’s wrath was on him and on Judah and Jerusalem.” (2 Chronicles 32:25)

“You could say it was a token response to a supernatural act,” Johnson said. “The moment I take something God’s done for me lightly is the moment callousness begins in my heart.”

Something must have changed in the king’s heart after his miracle, he continued. He not only failed to offer sincere thanksgiving to God, he even grew proud and flaunted his wealth to enemy nations (2 Kings 20:12-19).

And it was complacency enough to completely turn the tide on the legacy he’d earlier built as a king after God’s heart – right down to Hezekiah feeling glad when the prophet Isaiah declared God’s resulting judgement for his pride on future generations – because he would not have to personally live through them (2 Kings 20:16-19).

“’The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,’ Hezekiah replied. For he thought, ‘Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?’” (2 Kings 20:19)

“I don’t know how King Hezekiah got to that point,” said Johnson, prompting the audience to consider their own lives. “But while everything looked right on the outside, there was no fire on the inside.”

Judgement fell upon the kingdom soon enough. His son Manasseh, who took over the throne at age 12, went on to become one of Israel’s most wicked kings – leading to a complete erosion of the spiritual inheritance left by his father.

Despite the fervour and favour his father once had for God, all came to naught as Manasseh rebuilt the high places that had been demolished, reinstated idol-worship and built altars in the tabernacle. Practice of witchcraft became rampant (2 Chronicles 33).

And if Manasseh was 12 when he became king, this meant that he was raised in Hezekiah’s extended years of life – years where he had already grown complacent with God.

While everything looked right on the outside, there was no fire on the inside.

“There were probably semblances of the days of worship decreed by his father,” Johnson conjectured. “But if Hezekiah’s passion for God was waning, Manasseh might very well have been raised on token representations of religion.”

That’s how fast the winds of destiny could turn from one generation to the next in the face of spiritual complacency. Johnson used the Matthew 12 analogy of the strong man (Matthew 12:29) and the unclean spirit (Matthew 12:43-45) to explain this further.

Like our spiritual forefathers who have contended for breakthrough, personally as well as in the local body of Christ, years of ministry and intercession “binds the strong man” – the evil strongholds in our lives – and makes way for God to move in.

This is what Hezekiah did in the early days of his kingship, and what revivalists such as John Sung and Billy Graham have done for Singapore.

But it’s easy to take our inheritance lightly, especially when it’s been freely given to us by those who’ve tilled the ground and sowed the seed before.

“After years of walking with the Lord it’s easy to get into a routine – to know how to sing the worship songs, dance along, talk like a Christian, but I could do all of that and never have my heart healed and transformed,” Johnson said in reference to Hezekiah’s backsliding and Manasseh’s upbringing and ultimate kingship.

“If the next generation does not properly occupy the inheritance given to it, if the house is found empty instead of filled with the presence of God – the stronghold comes back even stronger.”

“’When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.’” (Matthew 12:43-45)

And just like that, Hezekiah’s great spiritual inheritance from his reformation was overthrown within a generation – by a son whose name is now synonymous with corruption and evil.

Johnson’s question for Singapore was this: What will we do with our spiritual inheritance, the favour and blessing of the Lord upon our nation? 

He reiterated several times, “The problem is not with God’s favour and blessing. It’s how we respond to it.”

Like Lou Engle the night before and Heidi Baker who spoke before him, Johnson’s exhortation for Singapore was to not flaunt our inheritance or grow complacent in comfortable times – but to use favour and blessing for God’s purposes instead.

After all, this is but a small price to pay in light of the present and eternal riches God has faithfully rewarded his children with.


Kingdom Invasion 2018 will run until Friday at Singapore Expo Halls 7/8. Night sessions starting from 7:30pm are free, subjected to availability of seats. For more details, visit www.kingdominvasion.sg.

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When taxes get taxing: How should we react to the impending GST hike?

by | 22 February 2018, 6:03 PM

On 19 February, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat confirmed that the GST will be increased. The tax will be raised from 7% to 9% at some point between 2021 and 2025.

My parents were watching the news with me. “Don’t anyhow spend money now,” said my mum to vigorous head-shaking. Then I went online – the public’s reaction to the news was more heated. “Cut the ministers’ salary lah!” read one of the gentler comments.

It’s the same anger from when they raised the price of water and transport fares back in 2015. I’m not interested in being a government apologist, plus I don’t honestly know enough to have that kind of debate.

Instead, what I can offer are two handles that might help us respond better – rather than simply reacting.

1. Evaluate fairly

It’s easy to focus on the negatives. It’s easy to be negative.

Instead of just passing crude remarks about the hike and the government, we would do well to have an objective look at the official reasons for the increase in GST.

Whether we agree or disagree, we need to evaluate how we’ll respond. Am I writing up an emotional reaction, or am I offering a civilised and reasoned view of things?

Honestly, I really don’t like the fact that I’ll have to deal with increased expenditure. But though it feels bad personally, I know I have to separate my personal agenda from the national one.

2. Take action

The GST increase will only occur sometime between 2021 to 2025. That means we have at least 3 years to plan for life under the new tax rate.

It’s true that lower-income households will be the hardest-hit because of the increase costs of basic necessities. And going by the comments, Singaporeans are certainly championing their cause.

I don’t want to be cynical, but we need to ask if we are only being altruistic for our personal agenda. If we’re truly concerned for the marginalised, let’s form concrete action plans to help them.

One way we can do so is through Giving.sg. That’s a portal to help you help others. For instance, you can serve as a volunteer, donate to a specific cause or even start a fundraising campaign!

Other methods include influencing the policymaking process by participating in dialogues such as Our Singapore Conversation (OSC). It’s a part of the REACH initiative the government has set up for citizens to participate in conversations about national policies and issues. Likewise, we can express our opinions about Budget 2018 here.

Whenever it comes to money, things always get a bit feisty.

It’s found in instances in the Bible too. Immediately after that famous exhortation to submit to one’s authorities, Paul writes, “Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honour to those who are in authority.” (Romans 13: 6-7)

Before we raise our pitchforks, let’s study the verses in context. Reading Romans as a whole, we can identify how man fails to uphold righteousness (Romans 1-3), and that we have imbued righteousness through faith in Christ (Romans 3-5). Empowered by the Spirit, we’re supposed to reflect God’s righteousness to the world (Romans 6-8).

Part of this righteousness includes serving the body of Christ with what we’ve been given and building each other up. This is spiritual worship for us, and it includes submission to our authorities (Romans 12-13) as long as they don’t cause us to disobey God.

Paul uses the words “living sacrifice”. Think about that. I suspect it has to do with the fact that we must die to ourselves in order to obey God (Romans 12:1)!

I think submitting to the Roman empire was the last thing early Christians had in mind. State persecution was brutal – Christians were even fed to lions for sport!

But Paul somehow makes this appeal for submission despite their political situation. He does this in light of the mercies they’ve all received from Christ.

How then shall we live? How do we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the life we have been called to (Romans 12:1)? There’s no hiding the fact that the tax will have a significant impact on many Singaporeans.

But I see another chance to live our lives righteously in light of God’s mercies for us. Let’s adopt the correct posture – regardless of what our stance on the issue is – because our attitude to our leaders is an extension of our attitude towards God (Romans 13:1-3).

May we always present our lives as a pleasing sacrifice unto Him. May we always present Christ to the watching world.

/ 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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Live fast, die young

by Jonathan Cho | 19 January 2018, 4:10 PM

Is there more to life than this?

A big question, which most of us have probably asked at some point. But in this age of hyper-connectivity, it’s almost impossible to create space to find the silence and solitude we need to wrestle with life’s big questions.

“Out of office” is a lie, because omnipresent wifi, mobile data and push notifications mean the office is wherever we are. The drudgery of the routine of life is hitting us harder than ever before. The endless cycle forces up questions of meaning, purpose, and fulfilment, but we try to cover up the seeming emptiness of these endless pursuits by filling our time – ironically with more and more such endless pursuits.

We don’t have the time to stop and think. Even if we manage to momentarily drown out the question by loading ourselves with more activity, the cry of our heart remains the same: Is there more to life than this?

I wrote the song, Strive (Live Fast, Die Young) out of that place of tension, where the desire to slow down, reflect and recalibrate my life had to be reconciled with the unapologetic fact that the world will never stop for me to do so.

I had a choice to make, as do all of us. Do we dare to hit the Pause button, and lose our lives as we know it, in order to find out what we are really living for?

More often than not, making the decision to slow our lives down means we’ll have to sacrifice something.

For some, it may involve finances: Dare I give up a life of stability? Would I give up my income and a comfortable life in order to take the time to understand what I am really living for? 

But for many of us, it is an issue of insecurity – the insecurity of not being in control and not being certain of who we are apart from what we do. It is a fear of losing grip over an image that has become so central to how we identify ourselves and our identity in this World. Maybe we fear losing our reputation – we’re worried on what people might think of us calling for a “time-out”.

I remember the day I started work in the CBD. I felt as if I had been thrust onto a moving treadmill; there was no warm-up, no gradual increase of pace. From Day 1 I felt as if I was playing catch-up. Anyone who works in the city might be able to identify; there’s an established rhythm in the area, a certain atmosphere about it. Things move like clockwork.

My peers and I were simply trying to survive and keep our heads above water. “Such is life,” we were told. “You just have to get used to it.”

So I did.

Over time, I caught on to this rhythm and assimilated myself into the working force. I developed an ability to move from activity to activity, task to task, person to person. Truth be told, I was mostly driven by an adrenaline-rush – it was absolutely thrilling. I felt effective, like I was a part of something bigger, and thought that my life actually had meaning. Telling people that I was busy felt almost like a badge of honour.

But in retrospect, I think the only meaning I had, was to live for busyness. There was a part of me which believed that if I was busy, I was useful. And if I was useful, then surely I was of value – significant.

I was so busy that even in my downtime, I found myself restless and unable to be still, checking my emails or social media for incoming messages/news/information. Most days, I felt like I was drowning in people’s demands and often unrealistic expectations. My boat was taking on more water than it could hold – from work, from Christian service, from people, family, and friends – and I didn’t even know it.

I was striving for so much and moving so fast that I had no capacity to even consider how I could be thriving instead, because I spent most of my energy just trying to survive.

All this came to a jarring halt one day, as I looked out the window at my workplace to give my eyes a break from the computer.

Looking down from the seventh floor, I noticed in the middle of the open area at Raffles Place a man sitting in a wheelchair, holding out tissue-packets for sale. It wasn’t an uncommon sight in the CBD, but that day my heart writhed with a sharp pain: Almost everyone walked past him, each one on their mobile phone, too busy to stop to give him a moment’s attention.

It wasn’t about the money; most would easily have been able to afford to give a dollar or more. It was their time that seemed far too expensive to give away.

In that moment, I felt as if my heart had caught a glimpse of what my daily life looked like – as seen from above. In the busyness of each day, had I lost sight of the true business of life?

When our lives move too fast, that comes with a cost. It may be the inability to notice and care for the people around us. It may be how we find ourselves restless in quiet moments. It breeds a deep sense of striving – there always seem to be things we need to do, goals we have to attain, people we need to be, respect we need to earn.

We build our fortunes and our reputation through all this striving, but to what end? What kind of life are we building beyond that, and what legacy do we leave behind?

Jesus was highlighting something critical to/for us when He posed the question: “What good would it gain a man to gain the World but forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)

The thing about living fast is that by the time we realise it, most of life might have passed us by. I carry this song in my heart as a prayer for each one of us, that we would not live lives where the only meaning is to stay busy, and that we would recognise the urgency of learning how to slow our lives down, because fast-paced living comes with a cost – the cost of living fast, but dying young.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

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Freely my father gave, even after he lost his job

by Jeremy Lim | 15 December 2017, 3:07 PM

From a young age, giving was always inculcated in our family. My dad would give my siblings and I a $1 coin each to put into the offering bag at Sunday school in Church. Every time we went to a hawker center or coffee shop and saw someone selling tissue paper, he would pass us the biggest note in his wallet and ask us to bless the person with it.

I never really understood why my father was so generous and thought that he was giving because he had a lot of money; that whatever little sum of money he gave away was nothing to him.

I remember one afternoon, I was having lunch with him along Thomson Road. While we were eating, we saw a frail old lady with a trolley full of fruits, sitting just a few feet away from us. She had set up a makeshift “shop” along the pathway, right outside a tuition centre, and was trying to sell her goods to those who walked by.

How unfilial her children must be! I was thinking. Was there no one to take care of her?

God has never held back from providing, so why are we not giving?

Just then, my father got up and walked over to her. After a brief exchange, I saw him purchase some fruits from her before coming back to where we were seated. I couldn’t believe it! What in the world was he doing? Hadn’t our household just bought fruits yesterday? These fruits didn’t even look fresh!

I immediately asked my dad why he had bought more fruits when we already had so much at home. This was his reply: “God has never held back from providing, so why are we not giving?”

I didn’t question him further, although I still thought the money could have been better spent on getting a new phone or other more useful things. I still felt that he was wasting his wealth by treating it so lightly.

And then out of nowhere, things took a turn for the worse. My father was retrenched from his job.

My mother was left as the only sole breadwinner of our 6-member family. On top of that, my grandfather’s frequent medical check-ups were very taxing too. We were in financial difficulty, so my parents decided to start drawing out money from their bank accounts only every two months.

In that period of time, I was sure my father would not give like before. But I was wrong. He continued giving! Even when the Church needed funds for the new building, he pledged to contribute a regular sum of money every month – and it was no small sum.

I couldn’t help but think to myself, what was my dad doing? Here we were in a financial crisis, and there he was giving away what was ours. He never cut short on giving to others.

When we give back, we are doing just a small portion of what God has done for us.

Over breakfast one day, I finally asked him, “Dad, how is it that even though you’ve been retrenched, you cut back on things like travelling at the end of the year, but never giving? Almost everyone I know would do otherwise.”

Again, his answer was simple: “Of course I could’ve not given money to the Church or to people in need, saying I’ve got financial problems. I could even pray that God would give us more. But will I be happy with that?

“It is through giving that you see how fortunate you are, and through it you will find true joy. When we give back, we are doing just a small portion of what God has done for us. He has never shortchanged me when I’ve given.

“I know that as long as I faithfully give to Him and the people he loves, He will look at my cheerful heart and bless me greatly. That is why I give no matter what I am going through.”

I never ever forgot those words he said. We give because He first gave to us – holding back not even His only Son. And if God has never shortchanged us, who are we to shortchange in giving freely?


This is a submission from a participant of our Christmas Gift Exchange. From now till the end of December 2017, we are giving away a limited edition Thir.st Tumbler in exchange for every story on the Christmas themes of love, joy, peace, hope and giving. Click here to find out more.

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Article list

I was tithing for the wrong reasons

Growing up in a lower-income family, I hated my life

Spiritual complacency erodes our inheritance: Bill Johnson at Kingdom Invasion 2018

When taxes get taxing: How should we react to the impending GST hike?

Live fast, die young

Freely my father gave, even after he lost his job