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How to face the giants in your life?

by | posted 9 January 2018, 3:45 PM

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Are you there God? It’s me again

by Jason Chua, Burning Hearts | 18 June 2018, 5:20 PM

Anyone who has ever spent time praying probably has had this question cross their minds: “Does God even hear my prayers?” And it gets amplified when we feel like nothing is happening in those moments of prayer.

In my early years as a young Christian, prayer meetings were a staple for me. The first meeting I attended after giving my life to Jesus was a prayer meeting that ran daily in church. And for the next 9 years, I would follow my brother to weekly 6.30am prayer meetings.

The atmosphere of these prayer meetings was so glorious, it made my prayers feel powerful. I knew that God was right there to hear me. So for a long time, I equated a successful prayer meeting with an energised, empowered feeling.

But this idea of a “successful prayer meeting” began to cripple my personal prayer life. I became demotivated to stay faithful in showing up for prayer meetings that didn’t provide that “atmosphere” – one where I would feel powerful when praying.

Of course, I totally believe in contending for the fullness of God to break in with His power and presence as we gather to pray. It is still my constant pursuit to see that reality happen in all our gatherings, especially in the place of prayer, just as God did it in the days of Acts.

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31)

By all means, this should be our vision and hope for our prayer meetings, but it should not be an equation for what a successful prayer meeting is.

During the first few months of my stint at IHOP Kansas City, I had to spend at least six hours of prayer in their Global Prayer Room daily. And it was a struggle for me because of my definition of success in the place of prayer.

For the majority of my time there, it felt more routine than glorious. For me to stay in that room for a full six hours made me feel weak as a person. Every prayer I made felt reluctant, almost meaningless, as though it was going nowhere – yet in my heart I did want Him to hear me.

This went on until one regular day, with my Bible opened to Matthew 6:6, when God shifted my paradigm and changed up my definition of success in prayer.

And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)

At that moment, I felt the Lord ask me these questions:

“Do you believe in the words of My Son regardless of how you feel?”

“Do you believe that I see and hear when you pray in secret, regardless of how you feel?”

“Do you believe that I am true to who I am as a rewarder of those who diligently seek Me?”

It was at this point that I realised the success of prayer is never about how powerful I feel when I am praying, but recognising God as the powerful one we are anchoring our prayers on.

The act of praying itself is already a success because it is a demonstration of our faith in God and what He is able to do. Why else would we pray if we were in control or we didn’t think He could make the difference?

Faith is never about feeling, but an inward confidence that you have towards God. And without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

Now when I pray, I look beyond my feelings because I know our Father sees and hears in secret, regardless of how I feel. That it is already success to be showing up before Him.

It is my hope to experience a greater manifestation of God’s power and presence in our prayer meetings, but He alone knows the right time and season for an outpouring. It is something that only God can do; no man can fabricate it. We can only be faithful to show up for prayer.

I can imagine those 10 days in the Upper Room after the disciples witnessed Jesus ascend to heaven (Acts 1:13). All they had was a promise Jesus had made: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”

For the 10 days before the Holy Spirit came, I can imagine how dry, weak and broken their prayer meeting must have been. Yet the apostles put their faith in the promise of the Father through the words of His Son, and they kept on showing up until that “suddenly” happened.

“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting … All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:2,4)

I want to encourage you to keep showing up in your personal time of prayer and stay faithful to the small and seemingly weak prayer meetings, because God loves weak and broken things. They are our opportunities to experience His power and grace (2 Corinthians 12:9).

My prayer for you is this, that God will give you a persevering faith that goes beyond your feelings, knowing that when you pray, your Father who sees in secret will reward you.


This article was first published on Jason Chua’s blog, and is republished with permission.

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My true fear is growing comfortable

by Joey Lam | 18 June 2018, 3:05 PM

This is a response piece to A Chinese girl in the Congo: Working in war zones 5,000 miles from home.


I was reading Jemima’s article when I was struck by a line in it.

‘Then it dawned on me. I hadn’t fled for my life, lost everything I owned, hidden in jungles for days, watched people I love die in front of me, starved in refugee camps, endured squalid conditions with little hope for survival … “

Stopped dead in my tracks, a singular thought came to mind: Have I become too comfortable?

While God doesn’t necessarily call us to live in dangerous places, He has called us to die to ourselves so that He can use us wherever He has positioned us.

So my true fear is being too comfortable in full-time ministry. And I never thought I would ever start feeling comfortable.

There are a number of reasons why I thought I would never be comfortable in full-time ministry.

For starters, I don’t have a regular income. Many of us working in mission organisations have to raise our own funds, and few are able to consistently hit their needed income for a stable salary. Few of us have adequate CPF contributions, taking a salary way below market rate. But God is faithful to provide.

Next, Interserve Singapore for a very long time did not have an office space. To save money on rent, we worked from our own homes or anywhere with WiFi. So I regularly did my work from coffee shops or on the train. Only recently were we blessed with office space by Geylang Church of Christ.

My prayer is that no matter where the currents of life bring me, I will never grow too comfortable, to die to self and follow Him into the field.

Third, for a very long time, my only other colleague was Christy, my director. The working relationship between Christy and I is precious, as we can share vulnerably and openly, but it was still strange to a fresh graduate. I can’t complain about my director to my director, can I? Though honestly, there isn’t much to complain about – it’s been my privilege to work with such a visionary, energetic and earnest leader.

Also, for most of the questions I did not know (I was doing graphic design when I was trained in political science) I had no one to ask but Google and YouTube. So in a sense, if I were ever to ask someone how to do something, I would be inquiring from other agencies like YWAM or OM.

In short, agency work broke all my stereotypes and mindsets about a fixed office, fixed working hours, colleagues to have lunch with, and most crucially – a fixed salary.

Yet after one year plus in ministry, I still caught myself getting comfortable.

During team prayer one week, we received news from a friend serving in Kabul that there were 15 impending bomb threats to be carried out at any time.

I just sat there shaking my head. 15 bomb threats at the same time? I couldn’t imagine how the security forces were rushing to track the bombs and diffuse each one. How did their wives and children feel when they watching them leave to work against time-bombs?

And how about this missionary’s family here in Singapore? What would they think if they knew they might lose their daughter serving in Kabul to one of these bombs?

That was when I asked myself: If God called me to drop everything, to go live and serve in hard places, amidst danger and suffering – would I go?

While God doesn’t necessarily call us to live in dangerous places, He has called us to die to ourselves so that He can use us wherever He has positioned us.

I didn’t dare to answer because I knew my answer. That was when I knew I got comfortable. That I had not died to my own desires, crafting up excuses to avoid God calling me to hard places.

I am working in a mission agency and I dare not go?

What then do I believe in? Do I even believe in what I am mobilising people towards? These workers we’re talking about are single ladies who face death threats, rape threats, lack of electricity, no WiFi, no hot water, no air con, not even a fan … How dare I quietly tell myself my life is more valuable than those serving and suffering in these hard places?

It’s not about chasing after adventure and danger, it’s about choosing to die to self and go to places to live amongst people who God loves dearly.

In Christy’s words, “Do not be afraid to come close to suffering. Jesus came close to our suffering.” And truly, we often read about the co-suffering with Christ in the Bible.

The call to serve overseas in hard and painful places isn’t the easiest decision to make admittedly. Like the rich man (Matthew 19:16-28), we have great possessions. We serve Jesus faithfully but dare not sell all that we possess, to give to the poor and follow Him. The rich man couldn’t, even after Jesus promised him that he would have treasure in Heaven.

At this juncture, I myself am transiting to a slightly more marketplace setting in the community services. Here I have fixed income, a sizeable team of colleagues, career progression to speak of.

I took some time to share with Joseph Chean about this transition I was about to make. “Go in with your eyes wide open,” were the words spoken straight into my spirit.

“Go in with your eyes wide open, knowing that when the day comes for you to make the jump into the mission field, and you can’t – don’t regret.

“By that time, you would have got a wife and children, a house, a much higher salary, most probably in management level. And at that moment, if you can’t make the jump, don’t regret. But go in with your eyes wide open, knowing that today, you have considered the choice you are making.”

His words echoed deep within the recesses of my heart. Upon surveying all I have ten years from now, will I – out of fear – conjure up excuses to avoid the honour and privilege to partner with Christ in hard places where great suffering abounds?

“Do many not make the jump in the end?” I asked. “Yes. Many,” was his reply.

My prayer is that no matter where the currents of life bring me, I will never grow too comfortable. I will die to self and follow Him into the field. After all, He jumped.

I’ll jump too.


With an expected one billion people in Asia moving from rural to urban areas by the year 2030, the number of world city dwellers is expected to rise to 70% by 2050. There is an urgent call to the Church, especially as the majority of new urban dwellers will be young (under 25 years old) and live below the poverty line ($2 a day).

The GoForth National Missions Conference, happening June 21-23, 2018, will look at an array of diverse strategies to empower individuals and churches to reach and transform cities with the love of Christ. Visit their website to find out out more.

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Craving for Jesus: What I learnt from fasting

by Joey Lam | 18 June 2018, 2:37 PM

“This kind cannot come out except by fasting and prayer.” (Mark 9:29)

Before I start on where I am and what I’ve learnt on my fasting journey, let me recount how this year started, and my growing conviction for fasting and prayer.

When my cell group leader asked us which area we would like to grow spiritually in this year, I wanted to say, “To love God’s Word more.” But I knew that wasn’t a stretch for me – I already love His Word (that’s a story for another time). So I decided to commit myself to something harder: Prayer and fasting.

2018 has been called the Year of Prayer by LoveSingapore, where churches are rallied to come together and pray. My girlfriend also reminded me that Jesus sometimes referred to “fasting and prayer” in the same context (Mark 9:29), which has to mean something.

I knew it was time for me to have a more structured prayer and fasting time.

But of course, Chinese New Year arrived and feasting – not fasting – was on the agenda. Pineapple tarts, bak kwa and every other CNY snack was upon me. I guess the Lord understands. And I wasn’t prepared to start at Lent either …

Ironically enough, I decided to put my foot (or food) down and take my commitment to fast for an extended period of time only when Hari Raya Puasa rolled around.

Here were a few guidelines I gave myself: No solid food from the moment I wake until dinner time, and try not to go crazy when I break fast. After all, the point of fasting isn’t restraining yourself from good food then gorging yourself later – it is learning your dependence on God and dying to self.

5 THOUGHTS FROM THE FAST

1. Fasting is a subtle form of worship

There is nothing showy. Fasting is silent, mostly unseen faith discipline. This runs contrary to our hyper-social culture, where the world pulls a lot of attention to the self. No one wears a tag that says “I’m fasting”, much less takes a photo of an empty plate with the caption, “Fasting today”.

2. Fasting alone is tough, but you are never quite alone

Fasting for Christians is too often one man’s journey. This only means one has even more chances to give up, especially when your friends offer you your favourite food, or when your mum unwittingly tries to feed you.

But in fasting, it’s not just about integrity and willpower; it’s learning to depend on God’s sustenance.

3. We need to overcome our fear of hunger

Before I started fasting, I always ate my meals regularly even if I was full, just so I wouldn’t be hungry at night and unable to sleep. At work, I would bring food for tea break, just in case I was hungry again. But fasting made me realise I feared hunger more than I feared God.

“Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:19)

I had to ask myself: Would I take this opportunity to die to my own hunger and cravings? Even as believers, many of us have made food our god. We enjoy food so much, we go to great lengths to find the best food and document our food journeys. But do we crave for Jesus as much – if at all?

4. You might have to say “no”, even when it makes no sense

On Labour Day, I was out with my girlfriend. Due to the rain, we went to my place and my parents cooked lunch for her. This was the second day of my fast, and there I was, watching my parents eat with my girlfriend, while I drank plain water.

Another time, I was at an event that happened to serve food. Everyone was eating and I was hungry. For a moment, I was so tempted to make an exception – the food was free! How could I let it go to waste! I also learned that when you’re hungry, any excuse is a good one. I stuck to my fast that day.

5. Man does not live by bread alone

We live on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). Jesus said this at the end of His 40 days of fasting. And we must remember that He was fully man as well – He must have been starving while He said that!

Should you undertake one full month of fasting, know that it doesn’t get easier by the day. But as you die to yourself meal by meal, the grip food on your life loosens with each passing day. Your appetite is less a god each time you say no to whatever you are fasting from.

What do you crave for?  What will you die for? I pray and hope our answer is Jesus.

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Why do I feel this anxiety?

by Jolynn Chia | 18 June 2018, 12:07 PM

I’ve been an anxious person for most of my life.

But I’ve learnt a lot about anxiety in the past year. I realised that most of my anxiety comes from a need to please man. I’m overly-sensitive to the expectations of people around of me. I feel I have to meet those expectations in order for me to be accepted and considered a good person.

Sometimes I say things just because I think they are the words that people want to hear … I don’t necessarily mean them. And I was very offended when one of my close friends pointed that out to me personally, that I tend to say what I think people want to hear.

But now I realise that was very brave and astute of her. She also said it’s impossible for people to know me if I keep hiding my real views, refusing to be known. And the longer I keep up this facade, the less I like myself because I constantly feel like a fraud – not free to be who God has made me to be.

One consequence of wearing a mask is that I find it hard to form lasting bonds with people. I always turn out to be someone else from who they thought I was, and it’s tiring to keep up the facade. I never really enjoy interactions or feel that I have any real meaningful bonds with friends.

But in the past year, I’ve been learning to dig deeper into myself. I’m learning about what I really think and feel, so I stop saying stuff I don’t even mean or believe in. Because I want authentic relationships.

A simple strategy I’ve adopted is not to say anything if I don’t have an opinion on a matter. I also pray for boldness and wisdom to say what I truly think and feel, when I believe I have words that will help a person or situation. It takes time and effort, but I believe that I have begun forging relationships that are more authentic and lasting.

I also get anxious when I compare.

I look at how others are doing in their careers, and I feel that pressure to doing something that’s considered desirable, even if I do not find it meaningful or aligned with my gifts or inclinations.

My self-worth is frequently based on how well I am doing in my career. And as I can’t really get a full-time job as I’m currently schooling, it was impossible to feel like I was worth anything this way, especially when I hear others talking about having favour in the workplace, being promoted and finding fulfilment and of course – being financially independent.

There have been many restrictions on my personal development due to my unemployment issues. It’s tough especially when I’ve applied to dozens more jobs than the average graduate. I began to believe God didn’t want to give me the job I wanted.

 

When Christ is in me, I stop finding my self-worth in external appearances and accomplishments. I find them in who He says I am – a child of God.

The past year has made me realise it might well be a humbling season.

I believe that God wants me to leave my anxiety by learning to trust Him and live knowing my identity as a child of God. And sure, it’s still hard when I see people finding purpose in their work, going on holidays and getting married. I keep comparing – stuck despite my best efforts.

But on the other side of the coin, I am learning to find peace through prayer, and reading and meditating on His Word. Likewise fellowship with brothers and sisters-in-Christ, and serving others including my family, are more uplifting than I thought they would be.

When Christ is the source of my joy – not a career, lifestyle or person – I find that I like the new me. Because when Christ is in me, I stop finding my self-worth in external appearances and accomplishments. I find them in who He says I am – a child of God.

“And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28-30)

The lilies don’t strive and try to be something else, yet they are still beautiful and stunning. As we were made in the image of God, saved for eternity, I am sure our Heavenly Father knows and loves us far more than the flowers.

And no, while the anxiety is not yet gone, I can still surrender it to God in prayer continually. I am striving not to strive, praying for humility to trust in the Lord for the deepest provision.

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My parents don’t talk any more

by | 18 June 2018, 10:00 AM

“How are your parents?”

That was the question my friend asked me, as we sat in a ramen shop after wrapping up our worship training overseas. She had just shared with me about her family; she was raised by only her father after her mother passed away when she was young.

When that question left her lips, the noodles in my mouth started to lose their taste. I think my face must have twitched.

As she shared about her family dynamics, there were many things I resonated with. Wanting to escape from home, family tension, awkward Chinese New Year arrangements, loneliness, hopelessness for the future …

But my parents weren’t divorced or separated. They’re living together under one roof … mostly as strangers.

The last time my parents were on talking terms must’ve been in 2009.

My dad was suddenly hospitalised for a heart surgery in the middle of my O Level preliminary exams. As I clutched my social studies textbook, my family spent the night huddled in the ICU.

Some months later, I came home from school to find them in a heated argument about hospital bills and finances. In one moment of anger, some nasty words were said. My mom fled the room and slammed the door shut.

And ever since that moment, they’ve never had another conversation.

Refrain from contributing or participating in any family drama.

I became their middle man and official messenger.

Nowadays we only go for Chinese New Year visitations if I’m around. Everyone stocks up their own groceries in the pantry and prepares their own meals. It’s as though we are housemates.

It’s difficult living in such a complicated family situation. People assume that since my parents are still living together, my family must be more or less normal.

But we’re not. And my mum has become more dependent on me ever since the fallout. Her decades of being a housewife has probably cut off most – if not all of her social circle. She doesn’t like staying home alone with my dad, so I try to spend as much as time I can with her.

But my friends don’t understand.

Why you such a mummy’s girl? That was something someone in my cell group had once remarked in jest, after I said I had to leave early after service to have lunch with my mum.

Oh, you’re calling your mum again? Another comment from a friend, after I told her I had to FaceTime my mother to check in on her while we were overseas.

I also know that my dad isn’t entirely as bad as what he is described to be. He doesn’t say much to me unless needed, and he has his moments of anger. But he has worked without a break for decades, always pays the bills, and always makes sure I have enough.

Who could ever understand my family situation? I’ve always felt all alone. I turned to the Bible looking for some ray of hope, and was surprised to find messed up families just like mine in the Bible!

  • Adam and Eve: Messed up the entire world; one of their sons murdered his brother.
  • Sarah and Abraham: Got her husband to get their servant Hagar pregnant.
  • Lot: Seduced by one of his daughters to commit drunken incest.
  • Jacob: His sons conspired to kill their youngest brother Joseph, sold him into slavery.

And all the above happened in just the first book of the Bible. And as I read on, I learnt many lessons about how to live well in an imperfect family.

HONOUR THEM STILL

The Bible is clear about honouring our parents (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16). It is the fifth commandment, but the first that comes with a promise. It is the first commandment that governs a horizontal relationship – the only commandment that comes with a reward.

This also means that we refrain from contributing or participating in any family drama. There was one my mum was ranting to me about my dad, when I heard the Holy Spirit gently say: “Don’t dishonour your dad in the process of supporting your mum.”

My mum wanted me to agree with her about my dad’s faults. She wanted me to side with her. But I just quietly listened to her, and tried my best to explain the situation to her objectively. My dad had his faults, but if I had simply gone along with my mum emotionally, I would only be reinforcing negative ideas about him.

Honouring our parents requires us to submit to them as the parental authority God has placed over us (Ephesians 6:1). It means choosing to treat them as treasures, granting them a position of respect in our lives even when it seems like they don’t deserve it.

MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS

In every relationship, it is important to keep expectations in check. Unmanaged expectations will eventually lead to disappointment and disillusionment.

I don’t expect perfection from my parents because I know they aren’t perfect. I know that they, just like me, have their own issues and struggles that they don’t speak about. I raise and lower expectations according to how I’ve known them over the years.

There is a greater purpose and deeper message behind the mess.

Another thing that is equally important is that we communicate our expectations … Telepathy isn’t a thing!

When I was in JC, I often came home late because my school was far away from home and my CCA usually ended in the evening. I never understood why my mum would get so upset about me coming home late, so I got equally upset at her apparently unreasonable behaviour.

After all, I was in school! It wasn’t like I was running around outside … Until I realised why she was so upset: She just wanted me to let her know if I was going to be back for dinner.

Uncommunicated expectations create more misunderstandings than needed.

KEEP ON PRAYING

But to be honest, even as I try my best to honour my parents and manage my expectations, it still feels really hard on many days.

It feels like something is amiss in my family, like there must be more. And many times I’m faced with a situation where I really just don’t know what to do … It’s usually at that point where this verse comforts me: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

And as I persevere in prayer, I know breakthroughs will happen. Situations will change. Hearts will move. None of our prayers are ever prayed in vain (Revelation 8:1-5). And if even Jesus prayed unceasingly (Hebrews 5:7), why shouldn’t we?

There is nothing else I can do but to pray and surrender my family situation to God. It is easy for us to give up on complicated family relations because humans are messy.

But the story of Jesus – a Saviour coming from a lineage of messy and dysfunctional families – is a lasting reminder that love and goodness can come out of the deepest of wounds.

There is a greater purpose and deeper message behind the mess. And the end of all of it, it points us to our need for a Saviour.

/ christina@thir.st

Christina is a designer who memorises Pantone swatches. She is an INFJ who loves matcha, 80% dark chocolate, beautiful typography and folk jazz. She also dreams of raising her own pet penguin one day.

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Article list

How to face the giants in your life?

Are you there God? It’s me again

My true fear is growing comfortable

Craving for Jesus: What I learnt from fasting

Why do I feel this anxiety?

My parents don’t talk any more