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I was in primary three when cancer struck

by | posted 4 April 2018, 1:46 PM

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A culture of blessing

by | 20 April 2018, 4:55 PM

I was scrolling through Facebook recently when I saw a remarkable video.

The video was about what it means to honour others. It made me think of our culture, and how we can do a lot more to bless those around us.

Jesus had quite a lot to say about loving people. In Luke 10:25-37, He talks about the two greatest commandments. The first is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” The second is to “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

And when asked who’s the “neighbour” in question, Jesus replies with a story about an injured Jewish man who was lying on the road. A priest walked by, but instead of helping him, he walked away. Another Jewish man did the same. But when a Samaritan (an enemy of the Jews) saw this injured man, he picked him up and cared for him. And when the Samaritan had to leave, he paid someone to care for the injured man.

THE GOOD SAMARITAN: 3 PRINCIPLES ABOUT BLESSING

1. Be a blessing to those who the world ignores

When was the last time we thanked the cleaner aunties and uncles for maintaining the cleanliness of the streets in our community? When was the last time we complimented the hawkers for the food we ate?

There are groups of people like CEOs, celebrities and even pastors who we deem to be worthy of honour. We have no problems blessing them. But then there are those aren’t quite worth the time: Cleaners, hawkers, construction workers … What if we were blessings to them as well?

The Samaritan could have just walked on as culture instructed – but he chose to love the injured man by helping him. The pastor could have just taken the pizza and gave her a standard tip – but he chose to bless the woman by giving her an amount that went above and beyond.

It’s not about the money. We can bless people in small ways for an incredible impact too. A quick thank you, prayer or lunch treat goes a far longer way than we might think.

2. Acts of blessing are infectious

Watch the video above. Did you see how 77 men and women came up to bless the delivery driver when only 10 were called?

When we bless and help the least of our brothers and sisters, others will notice and be encouraged to follow suit.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

You are a blessing catalyst. One way to encourage others to do good works is by doing good works ourselves. Taking the first step to bless others, we create a butterfly effect and ultimately a culture of honour and blessing within our families, communities and nation.

Even simply clearing your trays after a meal encourages your friends at the table to do the same. It blesses and honours the elderly auntie who will have an easier job to do, and also encourages those around you to perpetuate this culture of blessing.

3. Blessings go further than we think

That pizza-delivering single mother would never have guessed that she would be blessed so richly, delivering to the Church that morning. Likewise the injured Jewish man couldn’t have imagined a Samaritan would be the one to come to his rescue in his most desperate hour.

By blessing those who society neglects, we might well be the answer to the prayer they’ve been desperately making. We might be the love they need in that hour. We have an opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ in a tangible way.

So why not bless someone today? It doesn’t have to be a big thing like giving hundreds of dollars to a pizza delivery driver – you can also start small.

Let’s be the change we want to see, and create a culture of blessing in Singapore.

/ junheng@thir.st

JunHeng is a 100% extrovert who loves caffeine – lots of caffeine. He also likes HTHTs, jamming and eating good food. Did he mention he loves caffeine?

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In trying to be a friend, I let myself be emotionally manipulated

by | 20 April 2018, 2:02 PM

I grew up with love stories.

When I was younger, it was about how true love made a mermaid abandon her home for a prince.  When I was older, it was the Korean dramas which showed how true love perseveres in spite of disapproving parents, illnesses and rivalries.

I’ve had my perception of love shaped since I was a child: Patient, selfless and forgiving. And that’s great! Selflessly loving others is a good thing as long as we exercise discernment in doing so. That was my problem: Story books and dramas never taught me about discernment.

So I loved like a high-speed ambulance without brakes.

I met Tim when I was in school and clicked with him almost immediately. He shared his life with me, gradually letting me see how broken his family was. His real life was a stark contrast to the facade he put up for others to see, to convince everyone that his life was put together.

It didn’t take me long to realise that he was running away from the emptiness in his heart. To rid himself of loneliness, he worked his way up the social ladder. And to feel better about his self-worth, he took care of his appearance and won girls’ hearts.

But these were just temporal pleasures. What he truly needed wasn’t the love of men – but the love of God.

As I disagreed with his actions and perception of life, I rebuked him and tried to point him to a better way. I struggled to love him as a friend because he was a ball of depression and anxiety, frequently lamenting how not even God would love him.

He pinned the blame for his brokenness onto his broken family, and guilt-tripped me for not being loving enough to stay. He was emotionally manipulative, threatening me with his suicidal thoughts whenever I wanted distance from the friendship.

I often shared about my friendship with Tim to friends and mentors who also knew him. But because I thought I would be gossiping, I left out all the parts where he was toxic or emotionally manipulative. I didn’t want to taint what they thought of him in case he ever decided to come to church.

Because of the partial truths I had shared with my peers, they were unaware of the severity of the situation. So their advice was generically encouraging – not what I truly needed to hear because I was never transparent with them. And so I continued to invest in my friendship with Tim.

I continued to suffer for months until I told my friends the truth, who immediately persuaded me to get out of the friendship.

Selflessly loving others is a good thing as long as we exercise discernment in doing so.

I was heartbroken. I knew how much he needed God and had believed it was my duty to make every effort in showing Christ’s love to him. I cried as I told my mentors how I felt like I’d failed as a servant of God. But a friend shared a verse with me.

“”I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

I didn’t realise that what I thought was long-suffering love, was actually me just blindly remaining in a toxic friendship.

But I don’t want this article to discourage anyone from showing love to others.

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)

That’s from Paul’s letter to the Church in Philippi. I could use that prayer myself: God, help me to love others wisely.

I’ve learnt to know when a friendship has turned toxic, and how to be more accountable. I am heartened to hear from friends that Tim is doing well and pursuing a deeper understanding of God now. I know that God wants to minister to Tim – maybe just not through me. And that’s OK.

I just want to serve the Lord, who sees plainly our hearts.

/ helene@thir.st

After surviving the chaos of Poly life fighting the evils of sleep deprivation and academic stress, Helene now spends most of her free time repaying her three years accumulated debt of not doing household chores.

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I would have left this world if not for a friend

by Li-ann Chee | 19 April 2018, 2:06 PM

Since young, I hated looking at myself in the mirror because of how ugly I thought I was. I wouldn’t even take pictures with anyone. It was suffocating, living with this fear of mirrors and photographs. And I hated believing that I was ugly, alone and somehow judged by the people around me.

It was my worst pain that my family could not understand this, not because they didn’t care, but because I had no idea how to accurately tell them about my misery. On the inside, I felt useless, worthless and without a sense of belonging everywhere I went. There was no joy in my life.

Despite my struggle with my self-image, the irony was that I really craved attention. All I wanted was for people to notice me – the real me – for once. But the more I craved for attention, the more I could see it being a burden on those around me.

Unable to express myself well and left with almost no close relationships, I sank into a depression, hiding in my room and crying myself to sleep every night.

Eventually, I started questioning my own existence on Earth: “Does anyone really care about my life?” There were several times when I looked out my window from the 18th storey and thought, “Will there finally be peace if I fall to the first floor?” 

I tried my best to fix my eyes on the Cross and read God’s word daily, but things took a turn for the worse last year when my grandmother passed away in April, followed by my mum being diagnosed with cancer later in September.

All the old feelings surfaced again. Worthless. Useless. Insecure. Helpless. I couldn’t do anything to change what had happened to those I loved. I found myself crying alone again; the pain was so great that I scratched myself until I bled, hoping to numb my heartache

But God proved His love to me again and again. I questioned Him, “If I am really your friend, give me a sign and put the right people in my life.” In response, He gave me a vision where I saw a river that I had to cross, and then I saw myself dancing on stage, with Jesus standing in the audience and waving at me.

In a step of faith and obedience, I joined the dance ministry in church, although I had no background in dance. And it’s been the best thing I could ever ask for, where I get to serve Him alongside a great community.

If I didn’t have Jesus, I don’t think I’d still be here. But I’ve learnt that even if people don’t love me or want to be my friend, He is the one and only true friend and Saviour who loves me – and you – unendingly.


This is a submission from a participant of our Greater Love Giveaway.

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Why we don’t call home more often

by | 19 April 2018, 12:45 PM

You may have heard this verse before, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” And we thank God that it is true. But when I read the verse, I also think of how our faith is so often dependent on crisis.

How many of us only pray when there is some sort of crisis in our lives? Something we cannot control with human means, something we’ve run out of solutions for.

I wonder if less things would boil over into our laps if we talked to God more. You’ll notice that I used the word “talk”. I’m writing about prayer in the context of it being an ongoing lifestyle – almost like a regular phone call home – not just an SOS hotline.

Today I’m thinking of prayer and reflecting on how the simple act of talking to God has changed my life.

Last year, I had the privilege of listening to Dr. Leonard Ravenhill preach at my church. One of the most memorable things he said to the congregation was this: “Prayer is the privilege of stepping into the Control Room of the Universe and meeting God.”

Imagine that. We are so quick to look horizontally to each other for a word of comfort or advice, but we forget we have a similar, even more powerful vertical relationship and access to the Creator of Heaven and Earth! Jesus paid for this privilege with His own blood, and how little we use it gratefully – much less treat it as such.

Dr. Ravenhill offered a framework of “3 Ps” which really summed up who God is when it comes to prayer (the verses are my own personal examples).

Presence: Now that the veil is torn, without a need for anymore yearly mediation, God is very present and available to help us at all times. (Psalm 46:1, Hebrews 4:15-16)
Passion: He wants to help us. (Psalm 40:17, 72:12)
Power: He is able to help us. (Psalm 121:2, John 14:26)

I had such a good time researching these verses on who God is when it comes to prayer and helping us. The Psalms, especially, are bursting with God’s promises to help those He loves.

This is the point: It is rare to find someone whose help for you is always present, willing and able — but God’s help is all these things, all the time!

Some of Dr. Ravenhill’s closing words in that sermon were most remarkable, “God wants us to take hold of our power and authority in Him. No more mere looking up — look down with God and execute!

“Prayer is touching Heaven to change Earth.”

One of my mentors once said: “Prayer is the first recourse, not the last resort.” In one of his sermons, he shared an invaluable framework which he uses to pray effectively with. He calls it “ACTS.”

Adoration
Confession
Thanksgiving
Supplication

Adoration is giving God praise and worship for who He is. Confession is admitting our sins to God, who forgives and sanctifies us. Thanksgiving to God is honouring Him, recognising that we owe Him everything. Supplication is praying for our needs or others’.

It’s a very holistic approach to prayer, important angles of prayer that help foster a living, breathing relationship with God. If your prayer only sounds like a cry for help — you can go one step further and do better.

Prayer has been Christ’s chief passion upon ascension (Hebrews 7:25).

S.D. Gordon puts it far better than I ever can: “Thirty years of living, thirty years of serving, one tremendous act of dying, and two thousand years of prayer. What an emphasis on prayer!”

Prayer is what God loves. Now, I want us to step into the Control Room of the Universe for a second.

“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” (Revelations 5:8)

Incense gives off a sweet fragrance when burned. So, what is the incense used in Heaven? It is prayer.

God values prayer. Think about it: When designing Heaven He could have chosen to perfume it with absolutely anything He wanted. Yet He chose prayer — anything else and it would have been unfair.

This is what Dan Hayes has to say on the inequitable nature of prayer: “In prayer, we all, regardless of our differences, have equal access to Him and equal love and grace and power from Him at our disposal.”

Prayer is the divine equaliser, because unlike preaching or worship-leading or teaching, all men can pray.

Thank God for the simple reason that talking to Him is something everyone can do. And when we pray, it brings a pleasing aroma into His home.

Perhaps it’s time we called home more often.

/ gabriel@thir.st

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.

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You’re never too far gone

by | 18 April 2018, 5:20 PM

Some time ago, I sat in a conflict resolution meeting with some of my cell members.

Simply put, the conflict was caused by mistakes I had made. There was a lot of unease going into that meeting as I didn’t know how would my cellmates react: Would I be rebuked for my incompetence? Were they going to tell me that they were right all along?

As I sat in that meeting, I was instead surprised by how quickly my cell members forgave me and take me back into the cell. It happened in a blur – undeserved but freely given.

What did I do to merit such favour? By all accounts, it was me who messed up – why were they so gracious?

I realised my quick reinstatement resembled the prodigal son’s homecoming (Luke 15:11-32). You know the story: The prodigal son runs away from home and lives as if his father was dead. He then squanders his inheritance on every vice imaginable.

Sin tries hard to take us as far from God as it possibly can. It makes us grieve God. And yet our God is like that father who endures the heartbreak of watching his child waste his life – living for the next high.

Deep in trouble, the son thinks of home – he misses being in his father’s house and love – and makes a plan to ask his father to take him back as a slave. Speech prepared, he picks himself and trudges on home.

In the moments before our meeting, I could empathise with the prodigal son’s pain. He had made a complete wreck of his life and his only option was to return to his father he had rejected. What kept him going past the shame of failure was the memory of his father’s house and love. It was similar for me: I remember doing nothing but praying the entire journey there.

The grace God gives to us surpasses all logic and rational thought.

It’s just like how we are when we come back to God after yet another sinful escapade. In the mess and muck, upon remembering His love and providence, we realise the best course of action is to return to our Father.

The younger son thinks he’s finally crossed the line – he’s too far gone. But as he walks home, instead of being yelled and jeered at by a man on the horizon, the Father runs toward him and embraces him. Remarkably, the Father cuts the son off midway through his apology speech. He can’t wait to get a feast started. He can’t wait to celebrate his son’s return!

That’s our God. He never forsakes us – even when we forsake Him. He doesn’t just wait for us with open arms – He runs to us when we come home. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.

The grace God gives to us surpasses all logic and rational thought.

My friends demonstrated God’s love to me when their forgiveness and grace sprinted to meet me. The grace extended to me that day wasn’t something I could ever earn. But they looked past my mistakes and welcomed me home.

Have you run away from such a love? Maybe you feel your life’s an empty shell, like you’re too far gone. Well, you’re not. God’s love is waiting to wash over you the moment you turn around and come home.

So come back, brother. Dad is home and dinner’s ready.

/ junheng@thir.st

JunHeng is a 100% extrovert who loves caffeine – lots of caffeine. He also likes HTHTs, jamming and eating good food. Did he mention he loves caffeine?

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Article list

I was in primary three when cancer struck

A culture of blessing

In trying to be a friend, I let myself be emotionally manipulated

I would have left this world if not for a friend

Why we don’t call home more often

You’re never too far gone