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Culture

Mission: Possible

by | 29 September 2017, 10:45 AM

The topic of missions is not a comfortable one to talk about – sometimes not even in our cell groups. It questions our willingness to do the unnatural and the uncomfortable.

But we have a mission – and a Great Commission – to accomplish.

If we see ourselves as His disciples, our Christian mission is a singular purpose we orient our lives around, and it doesn’t always involve an air ticket to a faraway place. Mission doesn’t have to mean overseas trip.

Check the thesaurus – other words for mission are “purpose” and “function”. When we look at it this way, we recognise that our lives are meant to be lived as an answer to God’s call. That’s our purpose, our function. Our mission.

And while we all have the same mission (Matthew 28:19-20), we may be called to carry out our mission in multiple ways.

Here are 9 different realms of missions to help us get some handles on our mission – what we are called to.

WHICH OF THESE 9 FORMS OF MISSIONS ARE YOU CALLED TO?

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EVANGELISM
Isaiah 52:7, Luke 10:1-9, Mark 1:15

What emotions does the word evangelism stir up in you?

I’m a first-generation Christian who only got to hear about Jesus because a secondary school classmate plucked up the courage to tell me about the Christ. So when I think about evangelism, it’s a picture of Jesus reaching out to me through my friend.

To evangelise is to tell the story of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.

We are not the gift; Jesus is. We point people to the Source, the Living Water, so that they might find Him, quenching their thirst for a real Hope in all of life’s conundrums.

Think about your mission: Are there people around me who hasn’t heard of the story of Jesus? Am I living a lifestyle of evangelism? Am I mindful to build genuine relationships with my friends and neighbours? Do I enjoy telling other people about Jesus?

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RECONCILIATION
2 Corinthians 5:17-20, Matthew 5:9, Matthew 5:43-45

God kickstarted the work of reconciling all man back to Him when he sent Jesus to the world, so that through him, our sins may be atoned for and forgiven. Jesus was the Way (John 14:6) for us to return to God.

The mission continues today for all of us Christians whom God has called to be His ambassadors: Through acts of forgiveness, we provide people with access to healing and restoration that comes from God. We’re called to be peace-makers.

Think about your mission: Are there people we need to reconcile with? Are there people we can bring together for reconciliation? Are there divisive social issues that we can intercede for to ask for God’s move of reconciliation?

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CONTEXTUALISATION
1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Acts 15:28-29

Jesus came for the world – that’s a lot of people. A lot of different people.

The good thing is that Jesus didn’t call us to all be the same, we only have to be like Him. And depending on the cultures that we are from, even that may look a little different.

That’s where contextualisation comes into the picture. It’s about bringing the Gospel to people wherever they are, helping them to understand what it means to follow, love, and honour God in their culture.

Because we are so different, we express our love for God in different ways. People should be able to love Christ without having to dress, worship, or do things the same way as us.

Think about your mission: How can we bring Jesus to people from other cultures in our community? How can I help them to understand the gospel? How can I encourage them to lead a Godly lifestyle within their culture?

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MERCY
Micah 6:8; James 1:27

Mercy is the healing balm that heals hearts and restores relationships, but it’s not a quick-fix solution. Mercy cannot be applied through batch processing.

The act of mercy requires us to care for people, one person at a time, just as Jesus tends to each of us personally.

Mercy is the practice of serving others, especially the needy, poor, and disadvantaged. And it requires love, time, and humility. When we respond with mercy to the people around us, we respond to God’s love towards us.

Think about your mission: How can we extend God’s love towards the poor and needy? Are there people in my community whom I can show mercy to? Can I regularly carve out a portion of my free time to help those who are in need?

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ADVOCACY
Esther 4:13-14, Proverbs 31:8-9, Nehemiah 5:1-12

Advocacy. It’s a big word. But if you pray for others, you’re already an advocate – someone who raises a case to God on behalf of someone else.

An advocate is also someone who supports a cause. Advocacy is the act of transforming political and social structures to align more closely with the Kingdom of God.

Some ways to advocate God’s kingdom could be by creating awareness, exposing evil agendas (eg human trafficking), showing solidarity and mobilising the church to act.

Is there a particular cause or injustice that you feel needs to be changed? Regardless of your position in society, there is something you can do as an advocate who is on a mission.

Think about your mission: What are some social issues we see a need for advocacy? Disadvantaged youths; foreign workers; marriages; families. Will I play a part in bringing God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10)?

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FRIENDSHIP
1 John 1:3, John 15:13-15, James 2:23

God first extended friendship to us (John 15:15). And friendship is Jesus’s way of reaching people regardless of their status in society, gender, or religion.

Jesus crossed cultural boundaries (Matthew 4:9) to befriend the Samaritan woman at the well; He knew the state of her life, spoke to her need and offered her a way out. Jesus saw Zacchaeus, a tax collector hated by many, and stayed at his house and forgave him.

Friendships built on long-term relationships lead to mutual personal transformation or societal change. It’s how we display God’s love to the people around us, in or out of the church.

If you want to display God’s love, build friendships. With friendship, people no longer become “conversion targets” or goals in an outreach project, but lives that Jesus came to rescue. A soul isn’t a statistic.

Think about your mission: Are we passive in cultivating and maintaining friendships? What is our attitude towards our co-labourers in ministry? Are we driven by task or love?

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INTER-RELIGIOUS CONNECTIONS
2 Kings 5:1-6, 1 Peter 3:15, Acts 17:16-21

How often do you come into contact with someone of a different faith? And have you taken the time to understand where they come from?

Paul modelled it for us. When he was in Athens, he didn’t only talk about the good news of God in church, but spoke in the marketplace (Acts 17:16-17) as well. By placing himself in the marketplace, Paul had the opportunity to speak to people of different faiths, and in turn, got to speak about his own faith in God.

A group of Greek philosophers invited him to speak (Acts 17:19-20). Though some sneered at him because he spoke about God’s power, still some others became followers of God because of what they had heard (Acts 17:32-24).

Think about your mission: How are we cultivating friendships with those from other faiths? How well do we understand their faiths and customs? How can I boldly yet respectfully proclaim my own faith?

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CREATION CARE
Genesis 1:28, Genesis 2:15, Deuteronomy 10:14

By caring for God’s creation, particularly the natural world, we are being good stewards. If God affirms that His creation is good, then as His good stewards, we need to be responsible with it.

We know the 3Rs: Reduce, reuse, recycle. But we don’t often see it as part of our Christian mission. Exercising care for the world that God created goes beyond a national campaign or political agenda.

So the next time you see a poster to “make every drop count”, remember our Creator’s part in giving us everything we have on Earth, and our responsibility not to take this gift for granted.

Think about your mission: Do we recognise that our natural world was created by God? Do we see ourselves as a steward of God’s creation?

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HOLY SPIRIT
Acts 1:8, John 20:21-23, Romans 15:13

“Mission is, from first to last, the work of the Holy Spirit.” (Scott Sunquist)

Our quest to fulfil the mission cannot be done apart from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit empowers us to be participants in God’s mission. By the Spirit we have supernatural power to change the hearts of men and bring salvation to them.

There is no contest where the resurrection power of God is concerned – He alone conquered death. And because of that – we have a Mission Possible.

Think about your mission: Do we depend on the Holy Spirit’s leading in my daily life? Do I recognise the power of the Holy Spirit? Do I operate in the power of the Holy Spirit or in my own strength?

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)


The 9 practices of mission were adapted by Pastor Eunice Low from Bethesda (Bedok-Tampines) Church, from her studies at Fuller Theological Seminary, in a module titled “Practices of Mission”.

/ fiona@thir.st

Fiona is secretly hilarious and one of her dogs thinks so too. She loves a good chat with strangers, store assistants, and fluffy dogs.

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Culture

Don’t follow your heart

by | 19 February 2018, 11:17 AM

Don’t follow your heart.

Sure, most hearts do a fine job of pumping blood to keep us alive. But while it sustains life – it doesn’t lead us well at all. 

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

I’m sure you’ve felt the fickle nature of your own heart before. Right when we think we finally know what our heart wants – we’ve changed our minds by the next moment.

Our minds rationalise and soothe our easy hearts that it’s OK to run away from things we hate or fear. So we escape, and strive to find fulfilment in all manner of things.

Consider what’s frequently right at your fingertips: Instagram, Facebook, Netflix, YouTube – porn. These are so easily the well-worn holes which an escapist crawls into willingly.

But some holes are pits.

“I just wanted to disappear. Specifically, I wanted to disappear to an isolated and desolate place that reflected how I felt inside.” said Holly Baxter, who spent five weeks along the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia to escape social media.

Has your heart ever felt like escaping? You may even have thought of doing something like Baxter. I suppose that’s one way of being in touch with ourselves – by being somewhere which encompasses our inner turmoil.

 

Here’s the point: What really needs to be changed is what’s happening on the inside.

If we’re restless and constantly on the run, it more than likely reflects an absence of peace within. And sure, life can be difficult – but life is difficult.

The real question is: What do you have in this difficult life that’s unshakeable (Psalm 62:6)? My gentle words are that you find it, because a day will come when what your whole life stands upon is tested.

There is just one thing in this world worth pursuing. It is Jesus Christ – only Jesus satisfies!

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25-26)

We were made to walk with God, we who are so prone to walk away. I want to tell you with all my being – shout it from the rooftops – that He is enough. We have all we’ll ever need in God.

We cannot go wrong by desiring Him, so let us choose and love Him.

/ fiona@thir.st

Fiona is secretly hilarious and one of her dogs thinks so too. She loves a good chat with strangers, store assistants, and fluffy dogs.

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Belinda Lee: My mother’s unwavering faith

by | 15 February 2018, 3:37 PM

As she recalled her mother’s final days in her 6-year-long battle with cancer, Belinda Lee took a moment to compose herself before she continued.

The former Mediacorp actress and host spoke of moments when her mom would get up in the middle of the night, when she was in great pain, to cry out to God.

“At that time, she was already on morphine and was very weak. I don’t know where she got the energy from, but she would shout with all her strength for God to take her home.”

“She would cry out with all her might like this: ‘Jehovah, I beg you to bring me home.’

“It was then that my family knew that she was ready to go home. It was painful for us to let her go but we knew that she was ready,” Belinda said.

It was the beginning of the end of a journey which saw her mother go from being anti-Christian to embracing the love of Jesus.

Said Belinda: “My mom, who told the whole world that she would never become a Christian, received Christ when I was in Bible college, and she actually got water baptised on her own without telling the family.

“To me, that shows how true her conviction was, because she willingly did it on her own without pressure from anyone – she did it on her own accord because she truly wants to know who this amazing God is, and she welcomed Him into her life.”

(Belinda Lee’s sharing on her mother’s faith begins at 40:44 in this video)

Belinda shared that her mother, who was illiterate, would pray for God to teach her how to read the Bible.

And He did.

“A miracle happened one day. She came to me beaming with joy, sharing that God answered her prayer and she could finally read the Bible! Not every work, but she was able to at least understand the gist of what she was reading.”

Belinda found it hard to believe, but was encouraged by a neighbour, who said the same prayer had come true for her own elderly parents. “She told me that I have too little faith in God!”

And the way her mother spent her last days stood out to Belinda.

“A week before she finally took her last breath, she instructed one of my aunties to cook a scrumptious breakfast to serve her friends, the members, and the pastors of the Chinese Church she was attending – because that was what she used to do when she was still mobile.”

Belinda recalls her mom saying this to her in Hokkien: “Belinda, I wasn’t educated and I’m not good at studying, but I know how to cook. With my gift, I hope that I can serve God and His children.

“My mom was a dying women, but while on her deathbed, she wasn’t thinking about her own needs or blaming God. All she was thinking about was how she could continue serving God and His people to the very end of her life.

“Mom did not fear death because she believed with all her heart that our Abba Father was going to welcome her with open arms and personally lead her through the white gates of heaven when she meets Him one day.”

“I was told I was doomed to fail”: Belinda Lee’s journey from insecurity to purpose

/ fiona@thir.st

Fiona is secretly hilarious and one of her dogs thinks so too. She loves a good chat with strangers, store assistants, and fluffy dogs.

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Porn and the things I’d rather love

by JH Kwek | 12 February 2018, 9:16 PM

It has been said that there are two types of men: Those who watch porn, and liars.

The truth is I belong to both categories.

My struggle with pornography began when I was 11. I was surfing the web when I stumbled onto some highly sexualised anime clips. Ever since then, this thorn, this drug, this corruption has been with me.

I’ve tried my whole life to break free, only for each attempt to end in failure. I got really good at lying about it though. Even when I confessed this sin to my cell members, I managed to phrase it in a way that made me look like the victim – like I was really trying my best and somehow that was enough.

It was like there was no real consequence to remaining in my addiction, as long as I cried and looked like I didn’t like it.

But I did.

I loved it: Every lustful moment in the toilet, every fantasy fired up by sensual Instagram posts, every filthy thought – I revelled in all of it. I knew the sinfulness of my addiction, but I didn’t really believe it. I was deluded, a man who thought nothing of eternity and only of the momentary high that came each night I gave in to my lust.

The struggle against pornography is often portrayed as a noble war, as if we’re righteous creatures born into a broken world, battling the forces of lust that seek to ruin us.

But we are not righteous creatures. We are dead creatures (Ephesians 2:1). We don’t just sin – we love to sin. We delight in it. We take pleasure in it. By ourselves we are so far from righteousness.

When God shook me out of my stupor, I finally saw how great my sin was – but I also had my eyes opened to the vastness of His grace.

The struggle against pornography is not a mere struggle to stop loving porn: It is a struggle to love Christ – and love Him more than anything else. So my problem wasn’t that I loved pornography – my problem was that I didn’t love Christ.

How then can a dead man love Christ? He can when he is brought to life.

My problem wasn’t that I loved pornography – my problem was that I didn’t love Christ.

And that was exactly what God did for me. In the quiet moment of a ministry retreat’s worship session, I read Ephesians 2 and became utterly convicted of my sin and sinful nature.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved …” (Ephesians 2:1-5)

There and then, I repented, and asked God to bring me back to life.

And He did. He called me back to life.

That’s the power of the Holy Spirit. As the words of Ephesians 2 filled my mind, He began to convict my heart of my very real state of sin, that I was indeed dead in my trespasses and sins, carrying out the desires of my body and my mind, just like the rest of mankind.

But the same Spirit who convicted me of my sin also revealed to me so mercifully and lovingly that God, because of the great love with which He had for me, was calling me out of death in my sin to a redeemed life with Jesus Christ. It is by grace I have been saved.

There are so many of us – men and women – who struggle with an addiction to pornography. I still struggle with it. Porn is undeniably pleasurable. Speaking from experience, it is one of the strongest and most addictive pleasures I’ve ever come across.

But I can also speak from experience, that the cross of Christ brings a permanent joy and satisfaction that pornography can’t even touch. How blind I was! And how blind I still can be!

God gifted us priceless pleasure and fullest joy in His Son – yet we reject Him for worthless things. Father, forgive us!

A dead man can only love Christ when he is brought to life.

The cross of Christ brings a permanent joy and satisfaction that pornography can’t even touch.

You may seek love in pornography, relationships or achievements – after all, we were designed to receive love. But there is a better way.

It is the love that God gives to us. It’s the same love that caused Him to send His only Son into the world, so that we who were doomed to die might live through Him. All this while we did not yet love Him. Our Father loved us, and sent his Son to pay our debts (1 John 4).

I pray that God brings you back to life and opens your eyes, that His Son is no longer just words on a page to you, but the very real and tangible pleasure that surpasses all other pleasures.

A heart full of Christ has neither need nor want of porn. Help us to want and need you God – bring us back to life!

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Tired of facing the usual questions at CNY?

by | 12 February 2018, 2:57 PM

You’ve always loved Chinese New Year (CNY). Meeting family and friends, stuffing your face with calories, receiving hongbao – what’s not to like?

Yet the older you got, the less excited you became for the season. Somewhere along the way you traded the enthusiasm for apprehension.

Well, you’re looking forward to the hongbao and the food … It’s the conversations you’re obliged to have that you dread.

  • How’s your job?
  • Do you have a girlfriend/boyfriend?
  • When are you getting married?
  • When are you having kids?

It’s the questions, man. Every year they ask the same questions and every year you give the same answers. It’s old.

So maybe that’s one reason you dread CNY, because of the exhausting questions that add or subtract value –assigning identities – to who you are based on your answers about your job, wife or life.

But you know, there really is only one question worth asking at the end of all these other questions.

Who am I?

You are more than your job, more than your relationship status, more than your bank account, more than what you’ve achieved or what you’ve not, more than how you look or how you dress. Dear friend, you are more than your successes and your failures, more than your reputation – more than an “ENFP” or an “ISTJ” or any combination of letters or numbers someone or something assigned to you.

Why? Because of who God says you really are.

Don’t laugh. You are intrinsically valuable – even if you’ve spent your whole life believing you’re not. This is what God says: You are fearfully and wonderfully made by Him (Psalm 139).

You were designed with intricate thoughts that outnumber the sand grains by the sea, woven tirelessly together. You were made a masterpiece in God’s image (Genesis 1:27)!

You were made fit to walk with angels on streets of gold (Revelation 21:21). If you are a child of the Most High God, then you are an heir to the King (Romans 8:16-17).

There is so much more to life than just going through the motions, dying and being buried in the earth. Snap out of the stupor and realise there’s more to it all than just daily putting in eight hours of work and showing up on Sundays.

There’s a more abundant life for you just waiting to be lived.

If you want this better life, God is waiting to give it to you. If you seek Him first, I promise you that He will show you the better way. But it’s a risk. I won’t hoodwink you: You must throw away the life you had before, to gain one worth keeping.

This isn’t a religion thing. This is about new life. It’s not about systems of reading the Bible, going to church, tithing, attending cell groups and praying regularly. Man, it’s about being reborn!

If you’re sick of this life, then chew on this: Maybe you’re not yet living the one you were made for.

This year, when you’re bombarded by all the usual questions – be the answer.

Be a light which reflects Jesus. Let whatever you think, say and do show God’s goodness. Pray and ask God to make it so that when your friends and relatives see you, they see Jesus.

It’s a hard prayer to make. And if you do make it, don’t be surprised at the challenges that soon come your way. They are the opportunities you were waiting for.

It doesn’t matter what others say about you. Tongues may wag … But well, tongues will always wag no matter what you do. Be the change you want to see in your family. Dare to be different from the expectations that society places on you. 

You’re probably sick of questions but I’ll leave you with a final one: How are you going to be different this year?

/ roytay@thir.st

Roy has a peculiar appreciation for subtle wordplay, an inexplorable passion for competitive sports, and an insatiable hunger for delicious food.

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What if my family makes for an unhappy CNY?

by | 9 February 2018, 6:05 PM

Happy Chinese New Year! … Or is it?

Speaking to a number of people recently, I’ve realised that the festivities can be a difficult time for some. Not all’s well at family reunions, it increasingly appears to be.

Are you one of them? Are the relationships in your family breaking down faster than traditions can keep them together?

Maybe you once held out hope as a child, that things would get better in the family. Maybe you’ve tried, over the years, to get everyone together – but you no longer see a point to it when you’re the only one trying.

Maybe the relationships in your family are breaking down. Maybe you’re not even sure if there’s going to be a reunion dinner this year.

But what I do know is that it’s easy to feel like everyone else is having an amazing time when you’re scrolling through Instagram. It’s important to have perspective: We’re looking at the highlight reel of other people’s lives on social media.

Think about the things not present on Instagram: Strained relationships, family deaths, generational tensions, divorces, bitterness … The list goes on.

But I’m not interested in staying stuck in self-pity – we don’t have time for that. I want to think about how we can respond, if in reality, our family isn’t that perfect, shiny and colour-coordinated dream we see on-screen.

Love gets harder as we grow up – which only means our love needs growing up too.

British-Ethiopian poet, Lemn Sissay, was fostered from birth and abandoned at the age of 12. By 18, he had lived in four children’s homes. He illustrates the importance of family using the game of squash:

“Family are like the walls in a game of squash. You hit the ball and it comes back at strange angles and you try to get it again … It develops your muscles in strange places, because you have to stretch sometimes to get the ball back in to continue the game.”

You have to stretch sometimes. The stretch is the place where love is learnt. We begin young with the easier stuff: We shared our favourite biscuit with dad, or gave our favourite toy to our sister.

But love gets harder as we grow up – which only means our love needs growing up too!

It’s harder when love requires more from us, like when we’re faced with an aunt whom we just don’t want to tahan any longer. It’s hard when family culture seems impossible to change. It’s hard when money gets involved or when “face” gets in the way.

But when it’s hard that’s precisely when we need to persevere.

It’s not easy to be the first one in the family to say a loving word in response to toxicity or sarcasm. Unity is not easy. It’s not easy to put aside our pride and ask for forgiveness. And it’s not easy to choose to love when others don’t care.

If we give up on family, we never develop the “muscles” that we need. Sissay also says this:

“And that all that would happen throughout my life is that my muscles would waste away beneath me because I’m not using the muscles that develop in the game of family … Family is defined by how it deals with difficult issues. It is strengthened by how it resolves them and weakened when it tries to ignore them.”

So don’t be discouraged if your family is facing difficult issues. Consider what real love is to your family members. Be the one who would love them.

Why should you do it? 1 John 4:19. “We love because he first loved us.” Jesus Christ loved us to the point that He would die for us – all while we were still sinners. God’s love takes the initiative. Jesus did – so we must do the same.

If we give up on family, we never develop the “muscles” that we need.

We may not have gotten the love we needed from our family. We may even have even been disappointed by the very people who were supposed to be our best bets – but we always have a Father in Heaven who loves us perfectly.

“And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:18)

Being filled with our Father’s perfect love for us enables us to love those around us. If your family is challenging, then let it challenge you. That’s where the growth is at.

I pray you’ll have faith to see that your best days are ahead of you. I pray you’ll have hope in God to do what you cannot on your own, and I pray that you will love someone enough to step out of your comfort zone.


Screenshots were taken from our Chinese New Year initiative, “One More Rice Bowl“.

/ fiona@thir.st

Fiona is secretly hilarious and one of her dogs thinks so too. She loves a good chat with strangers, store assistants, and fluffy dogs.

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Article list

Mission: Possible

Don’t follow your heart

Belinda Lee: My mother’s unwavering faith

Porn and the things I’d rather love

Tired of facing the usual questions at CNY?

What if my family makes for an unhappy CNY?