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How to pray from the Psalms

by | 30 May 2018, 3:23 PM

Did you know that many of today’s worship songs are inspired by the Psalms?

For instance, Everything That Has Breath is from Psalm 150. Whom Shall I Fear borrows from Psalms 27 and 84 – and 10,000 Reasons is inspired by Psalm 103!

The Psalms are a collection of hymns, prayers and poems from the psalmist to God. And while we see traces of them in many praise songs today – they are also wonderful to use in prayer.

We often lack the words to accurately describe the innermost thoughts and desires of our hearts, but the Psalms help us with this.

The Bible is filled with the experiences of countless people. Their prayers often describe the same emotions we feel; many have spoken the prayers we wish to make today.

Think of King David. He was known as a man after God’s own heart, and wrote most of the Psalms. Some of them praised God (Psalm 27, 66, 138). Others were desperate cried to God of despair and guilt (Psalm 22, 51, 69).

But at some point or another, they are all relatable to us.

A sincere, simple prayer is never turned away.

Psalms allow for great honesty in prayer. Negative emotions are part of daily life, yet many of us tend to avoid expressing these feelings to God – as if they’re not worth His time.

Psalms help acknowledge sadness and suffering in our lives, and guide us to praise God even when we don’t feel like doing so. We see King David’s sorrow and plea to God, “Why have you forsaken me? in Psalm 22:1. But we also see him praising God in the midst of his troubles: “I will tell of your name to my brothers … I will praise you” (Psalm 22:22).

The best way to pick up a skill is to observe and imitate a professional. Infants learn speech through hearing and copying their parents’ words. In a similar way, we develop our prayer language through the study and imitation of the psalmists.

Like the rest of Scripture, psalms are part of the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16). Studying and imitating His words shape our prayer lives and inclines our hearts towards Him.

All 150 psalms can be categorised into 8 main themes; you can mark them down in the Bible with these symbols.

Image taken from “Praying with the Psalms” by Tim Keller.

You might start by reading a psalm a day. Doing so allows you to meditate on the verses, turning the psalmists’ declarations into your own personal prayers and petitions to God. It’s also good to recite and memorise psalms – that will enable you to pray them again at other times of the day.

Some choose to read Psalms in numerical order, while others read what resonates with their feelings that day. If you’re unsure, or can’t decide, a Psalm reading plan might help.

Image taken from “Praying with the Psalms” by Tim Keller.

That’s just one example. There are many Bible plans available online that help you to read through the Psalms effectively. Tim Keller’s one is just my favourite – I find it especially useful for meditation and study throughout the day.

It’s always wonderful when I set aside fifteen to twenty minutes just to meditate over a few psalms.

While there’s no hard and fast rule to praying, praying through the Psalms is just one of the many ways we can spend time with God. But ultimately it’s the heart that matters.

A sincere, simple prayer is never turned away.

/ 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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Learning to let go

by | 25 May 2018, 1:43 PM

I’m a control freak.

I’ve always wanted things to go according to plan, and to make sure it does, I’m usually the one who makes a conscious effort to plan meet-ups with friends. From reservations for the café to getting ideal seats – middle seats of the middle row – in the movie theatre, I made sure things were well-planned.

But in the occasion things didn’t go according to plan … I’d get really anxious and frustrated.

I’ve always believed in the importance of organisation and structure. The world would surely collapse into chaos without meticulous planning! Whatever I did, wherever I went, I made it a point to ensure there was a plan for everything.

According to the Myers Briggs personality test, about 44% of the world’s population are planners by nature. We are especially fearful of the unknown. We want to safely know what is going to happen in the future.

But I had to draw a line. Yes, it’s a good thing to have structure and plans. And it’s a good thing to have one eye on the future, but not when it causes anxiety.

When things don’t go as planned, we can take it as a timely reminder that we’re not in control of everything. But God is!

There was an occasion when I was assigned to cover a media event with my friend. She overslept and failed to answer my calls. I, on the other hand, was early and already waiting at the location. After 12 missed calls, she finally picked up and told me she would be cabbing to the location.

When I found out she was going to be changing the plan, I could feel the frustration and anger simmering within me.

We’re going to be late! This isn’t fair, I could have spent more time in bed. 

Although I was frustrated and stressed because of the uncertainty she introduced into our assignment, I decided instead to make use of the waiting time.

So instead of grumbling and lamenting like I usually do, I pulled out my unfinished assignments and worked on them. Because I realised had two choices to make.

  • Spend time fretting over the problems that might happen
  • Make use of the time to complete other tasks

Ultimately, though she was late, things actually turned out not so bad. So I was reminded of God’s sovereignty over everything that happens. When things don’t go as planned, we can take it as a timely reminder that we’re not in control of everything. But God is!

Ever done a “trust fall”? It takes faith to be able to trust that He is in control: That all that happens – happens for a reason. It takes faith and humility to believe that our finite human mind is unable to comprehend God’s greater plans. We simply have to trust in His timing and ways.

We can always choose how we will respond. When things don’t go the way we want them to, we can choose to trust in God or try to change the situation by our own ability.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

God has His plans for each and every day. If you’re a planner like me, don’t be anxious about tomorrow. Learn to trust in His plans for our future.

/ 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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Why it’s important to face your doubts

by | 15 May 2018, 4:43 PM

Ever felt stupid to ask a question? Like, “I’m probably the only one who doesn’t know …”

Growing up, I’ve always been intimidated by the thought of having to raise your hand amidst 40 other students.

I was always afraid my classmates would think I’m stupid. So I preferred to stay silent rather than risk the whole class staring at me while I clarified my doubts. But this was mentality that began to cause many other problems.

My grades deteriorated because I struggled to grasp concepts. I lost sleep because more time was spent studying at home. I became a burden to my classmates because I asked them questions instead of the teachers, sometimes even during the lessons when they were also trying to listen.

It was only at the start of my Polytechnic education that I began to ask more questions in class. I had to for the sake of class participation marks. But it helped me see the importance and value of clarifying my doubts.

Doubts left unclarified lead to uncertainty.

In a human relationship, doubt that is buried eventually leads to speculation. That in turn, brings about misunderstanding — eventually causing a rift in the relationship. It’s similar when we don’t find answers to our questions about faith — or when we don’t even ask.

Doubts hinder our relationship with God and cause us to stray from him.

Jon Bloom puts it this way: “Doubt is not the complete absence of faith. It’s faith laden with weights of unbelief, which threaten to sink us.” So we sink into disbelief when we don’t deal with doubt.

When we face our doubts head-on, we will someday also be able to help fellow believers tackling the same questions.

In the Church, we’re all on a journey. As siblings in Christ, grow alongside one another. When we talk about our questions of the faith, such a discussion edifies one another and helps us build our faith on solid doctrine. The end result is that we spur each other in the pursuit of understanding and desiring God.

Let’s never make a fellow brother feel like he’s looked down on. Church should be the safest place to ask these questions.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15)

When I studied in a media school, I was surrounded by individuals who weren’t afraid to express themselves. In particular, I had classmates who had strong opinions against Christianity and were very vocal about it.

There was one particular classmate I discussed religion with. Although we had disagreements with each other regarding the Christian faith, he was extremely knowledgeable about the Christian faith. In fact, he knew much more about the Bible than I did.

Our conversations made me determined to better understand God. They helped spur me on to be better equipped to defend my faith.

A good place to start on apologetics would be any of Ravi Zacharias’ books. In particular, I’ve also enjoyed Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. There is great literature out there that can give you insights into the Christian faith.

I know many people who are apathetic. They aren’t keen on discussing hard questions or theology. They worry about it turning into a heated debate or they just don’t have the interest.

I wish they knew how important it is to know what we believe — what we stand for. Ephesians 4:13-14 tells us about the importance of unity of the faith and knowledge in our Lord, so as not to be swayed by false doctrine.

So don’t judge those who doubt. If not you may develop a sense of superiority over the person who’s clarifying his doubt.

Let’s never make a fellow brother feel like he’s looked down on. Church should be the safest place to ask these questions. So encourage one another to raise questions, rather than sweep them aside.

Don’t run away from the doubts in your faith because when placed in God’s hands, He will use them to build up your faith.

/ 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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Do you deserve love?

by | 10 May 2018, 4:47 PM

Ever heard the quote, “We accept the love we think we deserve?”

Well, it comes from the “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, a best-selling novel by Stephen Chbosky. To me, the book explains how love works in the world: We choose a lesser love when we think we’re unworthy of a better love. Conversely, we reject love from some people — even wonderful people — when we think too highly of ourselves and believe we deserve better.

In my experience, the quote has truth in it. In the novel, the protagonist learns that his sister is physically abused by her boyfriend. But she is unwilling to end the relationship: She had accepted that this abusive love was the only form of love she could possibly receive.

She put up with the hurtful torment because a guy who would treat her with care and concern was an unfathomable notion to her. Ultimately, she can’t end the relationship on her own — her parents intervene to save her.

But that’s one extreme, the flip-side is that it’s all too easy to give up on those we deem as “unworthy” of our time.

Some psychological studies suggest that it’s easier lose interest in those who express a liking towards us. It’s called “uncertainty theory”, which suggests you are more likely to have romantic interest in someone, when you’re uncertain of whether your affections will be reciprocated.

Uncertainty theory is one attempt to understand human behaviour. But can we use it to examine God’s love?

Let’s take a quick look at the beginning of the Bible. When God created Adam and Eve, the garden of Eden was basically a perfect haven for them. God allowed them freedom and authority to do whatever they wanted, with the exception of one rule — not to eat the forbidden fruit.

But yet Adam and Eve failed to obey that one rule (Genesis 2:1-3:24). The Bible and world history is filled with countless accounts of humans rebelling against God. But time and time again, though upset at their disobedience, God ultimately responds with forgiveness and love.

We accept the love we think we deserve. It’s overwhelming to know that God loves us even though we don’t deserve it. But that makes the Gospel so much more beautiful, doesn’t it?

If we want to talk about what we deserve — then the truth is we deserve is death. That’s all we rightfully deserve. And yet He has given us life He has given us everything. In Christ we have gone from being unworthy wretches to sons and daughters of the Most High God!

How does something like that even work? Only by the blood.

Jesus’s blood covers all our sins the moment we accept and follow Him as Lord and saviour. All who believe in Him will be saved (Romans 10:9).

The ball’s in your court: Will you accept the love you never deserved?

/ 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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A tribute to Mum: There are 5 of us, but we’re all Number 1 to you

by | 10 May 2018, 11:08 AM

If you asked me who’s the strongest woman I know, I’d point to my mother.

By 36, she was a mother to 5 girls — and having 5 children doesn’t come cheap. My mother sacrificed her figure to have my sisters and I. She threw away her social life in order to care for us.

When we were younger, most of her time was spent working and helping out my sisters in their schoolwork. She had little time for her own friends and relaxation. This is someone who would wake up at 4am every morning to make breakfast: Soft-boiled eggs and ham sandwiches.

And yet we’d whined about how we were sick of the same meals every day.

We weren’t a well-to-do family, barely making ends meet each month. So my parents took on a lot of stress for us — constantly thinking about money and how to pay off all the bills.

But I realised that the things she’d been doing for us weren’t necessary. By that, I mean she didn’t have to make breakfast for us as we were more than capable to do it ourselves. It was the same with housework and schoolwork … And yet she did it anyway.

She didn’t complain about the amount of time and effort she spent on the family. She wore her many hats and played her many roles in the family with joyful sacrifice.

When I reflect on the extent of love my earthly mother has for us, it makes me wonder how much more our heavenly Father loves us.

I remember when my mum was pregnant with my fifth sister. What should have been a joyous occasion was actually one of anger for my older sister and I. We were upset that our parents wanted another child.

We complained that there wasn’t enough space in the house. We even played the financial card — that we didn’t have the capacity to raise another life. As if we were slogging our guts out like Mum.

I remember how my sister and I couldn’t stop crying when the announcement was made. We even vowed to make it a point to remind my parents how big a mistake they were making.

Yet my parents spent a long time comforting the both of us, promising to work hard to ensure everyone was well taken care of. They reassured us that it was going to be okay, that God would provide for our needs.

To my shame, we persisted in making Mum’s life a lot tougher than it should have been. Throughout her 3 trimesters of pregnancy, we constantly reminded her that the baby was going to be a burden rather than a joy.

I even threw cloves of garlic at my mother’s belly to “ward off the evil spirit.” My mum was heartbroken — and I will always wish that I could take it all back.

I bore a huge grudge towards my youngest sister until the day she arrived into this world. But I remember all the anger and annoyance vanishing right as I held her at the hospital. Suddenly all the worries and doubts I had about our future didn’t matter in the moment.

I thought I had a glimpse of what a mother’s love looked like — even though I wasn’t the one who had gone through the pain of pregnancy and the difficult 9 months. In fact I was just a bystander, someone who jeered at my mother from the sidelines.

After my sister was born, my mum kept the promise she made to us when she first announced her pregnancy.

She worked doubly hard to keep up with the increasing expenditure and needs of the family. Taking on a new job, more of her time and energy was taken up. But despite all of this, she continued to ensure her roles in the family weren’t neglected.

My mum is the closest thing I know of sacrificial love. When I reflect on the extent of love my earthly mother has for us, it makes me wonder how much more our heavenly Father loves us.

While growing up in a big family wasn’t easy for me, I can’t imagine what it takes to raise one.

Thank you, Mum. I’m glad God placed me in our family. I see His love, provision and protection through you.❤

/ 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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What if I’m not interested in anything?

by | 30 April 2018, 12:17 PM

For the first 16 years of my life, I lived with little fulfilment and purpose.

Life was simply a long list of to-do’s. Friends were simply there to fill up free time. Extra-curricular activities were for the accomplishments. My parents were strict educators, so excelling academically was something that was expected of my life. I had been raised to do everything to ensure I got my A’s.

If anyone were to ask me what I was passionate about, I’d struggle to answer. Life was about duty – not enjoyment. My free time was spent on doing things that were important, not wasted on trivial things like entertainment.

So I didn’t actually know what I liked. Yet like most young Singaporeans, I was expected to know what I wanted to do with my life. I was enrolled in career guidance classes which emphasised the importance of figuring out your passions to start planning your education route.

They only reminded me of how uncertain and lost I felt: If I didn’t have any particular interest in anything, what was the point of the future anyway?

To cut a long story short, I lived in this haze of boredom until I accepted Christ in my life. For the first time, I found genuine fulfilment in the things I was doing – activities actually had a semblance of purpose now.

Forging friendships became more meaningful in the context of living to love God and those around us. Doing well in school wasn’t just a chore – but a way to honour my parents and develop a spirit of excellence for God’s glory.

Good things. But the passion question still remained.

I eventually reached a point in my life where I needed to make a concrete decision about the future. Upon graduation, I’d hang out with my friends, hearing about their grand plans like which university and job they were applying for.

I didn’t begrudge the excitement for their passions and plans. I just wanted the same for myself: To be passionate about the future.

Passion is more than just enjoying your work or simply having the perfect job. It’s about finding fulfilment and purpose even when hardships come – and troubles will certainly come (John 16:33).

But here’s the thing, while I was anxiously trying to figure out my passions, I failed to realise that God already has a call for us.

Most of us have heard of Jeremiah 29:11 – but I hadn’t yet trusted that He had a plan for me. I knew in my heart everyone is called to do something, but I hadn’t internalised the truth that God’s plans leave no one out – even those without passion just like me.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

That’s one of my favourite verses. But it doesn’t end at the first part – which is the bit people usually quote only. In all things God works for our good – we who have been called according to his purpose.

We have been called according to His purpose. The calling is already there! So really, I was missing out on asking a more important question: “God, what is Your purpose for me?”

I realised I had a warped understanding of what passion was. Common knowledges dictates that life is about landing that dream job: Good pay, friendly colleagues … Great workplace culture. And if my job doesn’t meet those criteria, it’s a push factor to move on.

Perhaps this mindset is a reason is why Singaporeans are more prone to job-hopping. Survey reports show that 34% of Singapore professionals do not intend on staying in their current job for more than a year – the global average is 26%.

But passion is more than just enjoying your work or simply having the perfect job. It’s about finding fulfilment and purpose even when hardships come – and troubles will certainly come (John 16:33).

God, what is Your purpose for me?

It’s not a popular choice, but the most purposeful life you can ever lead is one that’s totally sold out for God’s plans. It’s about finding joy in the work you do for Him – passionately serving Him regardless of what and where.

God intends for His people to have joy and purpose as they serve. If you do not yet see where your passions lie, rest in the fact that you have been called according to His purpose.

Only don’t waste your life: If you spend it as God’s friend, you will become passionate for His purposes.

/ 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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If you died today, what would your life amount to?

by | 25 April 2018, 3:45 PM

“Tony* has passed on peacefully, thank you for your prayers.”

Upon receiving the WhatsApp notification of yet another passing this morning, I couldn’t bring myself to send another message of condolence. Not another one.

In the past two weeks alone, I’ve received news of the passing of four individuals in my life. These grave messages came around the same time as Avicii’s passing and four recent road accidents here which claimed the lives of Kathy Ong (19), Jasmine Lim (23) and 3 more Singaporeans – including a father and daughter pair.

It’s been such awful news to take. As I sent my condolences out, I tried to put myself in the shoes of those who were grieving, but I just couldn’t imagine the pain.

But death happens and it will continue to exist even if we’re unwilling to think about it. What we must do in its wake is to reevaluate our purpose for living – what our life will amount to.

Kathy Ong’s passing left a deep impression on me. She would have been 20 this year – the same age as me. She had passion and drive in her studies, she even planned out all the modules she would take in her 4 years of university.

Life is good until it’s not, a vapour that can vanish in the wind at any time. We have to live each day as if it’s our last – with purpose and fulfilment. I suppose we’re used to such mantras, being bombarded by constant reminders in the world.

Live the life you want to. Do what you love. Life is too short to have regrets.

Most people live for the puddle of water in their hands – when they could be living for the river!

There’s some truth to that … But the message these kind of mantras drive home is one that is very self-focused. A life spent on chasing what society dictates is worthwhile is one with shallow purpose: We spend our youth working hard to make a small pile for ourselves, so we can spend our twilight years collecting seashells – and then we die.

Is that what purpose really is? I looked to Ecclesiastes 2, where King Solomon – one the wisest men who ever lived – talks about purpose.

What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 2:22)

A perennial, purposeless haze hangs over this world – have you felt it yet? Solomon writes that we ought to find joy in our labour: But it’s impossible to find joyful purpose in our work when God is removed from the picture (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25).

The passing pleasures of this world will not satisfy you. It’s a simple equation: A life spent for temporal things won’t have eternal value. We were created for a purpose greater than ourselves.

I watched a movie with my dad recently – Paul, Apostle of Christ. There was a scene where Paul was speaking with the prefect in charge of his execution. The prefect asked Paul how was he able to be so calm before his death.

Paul explained it to him using an analogy: When we scoop water from a river, it slips through our fingers regardless of whether we want it to or not. Life is like water slipping through our fingers – easily gone in a moment.

But eternity is water from the river. Most people live for the puddle of water in their hands – when they could be living for the river! That was where Paul’s peace came from: Facing death, he knew he had lived for Christ.

Life slips through our fingers easily. Be the one who lives for the river and finds his purpose in God. It’s the only path to peace: The knowledge that life’s labour isn’t in vain – but spent for eternity.


* Name has been changed for confidentiality.

/ 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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The danger of pride

by | 24 April 2018, 6:01 PM

It took quite some time for me to realise how big a problem pride had become in my life.

I suppose it started with the little things: Serving actively in Church and elsewhere in a Christian organisation, I began to feel a quiet pressure to pray eloquently with bombastic words.

I loved reading the Bible, but at some point, I began reading not to enjoy God’s word and mature in it – but to feel as competent and knowledgeable as the rest of my friends. Even in worship, I focused on singing rather than the lyrics.

I couldn’t see the problem because pride blinds us to our weaknesses.

Writing on pride, Jonathan Edwards notes that “[spiritual] pride is the main spring or at least the main support of all other errors.” Like weeds in a lawn – unless removed from its roots – pride will continue to grow.

It’s difficult to escape from pride – not even angels did. Though a person may be serving God, pride can still seep into his heart, making him depart from growing increasingly Christ-like to striving for self-righteousness instead.

Many of us who are actively serving strive to live like little Christs – aware that we are leaders church-goers look up to. Timothy Keller shares how easy it is to fall into the trap of pride when serving in ministry. He says that when we speak to others about God, we either “commune with God or act like you commune with God.”

Sometimes we do the latter and end up making ourselves seem closer to God that we actually are. And when others start to think that, we may also start to think it.

After noticing the shift in motivation for many of my actions, I recognised that pride had crept into my life and asked God for forgiveness. The following are some examples of pride having taken root in our life.

  • Being highly critical of others – but never myself
  • Being unable to take criticism
  • Striving for attention
  • Praying only with others but never when alone
  • Feeling threatened by peers as “fervent” in ministry

It’s not an exhaustive list. Pride makes you think too highly of yourself, which thus makes it challenging to even acknowledge the problem of pride. It takes prayerful discernment to be alert to pride. We need to keep a close watch on our hearts and its intentions, to draw strength and wisdom from our heavenly Father to discern and be alert to pride.

Like weeds in a lawn – unless removed from its roots – pride will continue to grow.

By myself, I knew I was powerless in the battle against pride. So the only thing I could do was to kneel and repent – asking God to free me from the bondage of pride. As I did so, I was reminded that as children of God, we have the Holy Spirit in us to show us how to live righteous lives (John 14:26).

If you have an issue with pride as I do, the first step is to acknowledge and admit that you are struggling with it. Look at the areas in your life which show signs of pride: Academic results? Talents? Wealth? Acknowledging areas of pride in your life will help you to avoid potential pitfalls. It also helps to journey with spiritual mentors who can keep you accountable.

In the Bible, pride is a common issue in people’s lives. In 1 Corinthians 4:7, Paul rebuked the Corinthians for being prideful. He questioned them, “For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”

When the Corinthians failed to acknowledge that their gifts and wealth were from God, it led to the growth of pride in their hearts. So look to the cross and be reminded of his Grace for you. Know that all things come from Him.

All we deserved was death, and yet Jesus gave us everything: He is the only thing we should ever boast about.

/ 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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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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Am I really honouring God in my studies?

by | 18 April 2018, 1:49 PM

You’re in the middle of a sermon but your mind is somewhere else.

You’re thinking about the truckload of assignments waiting for you, or that exam tomorrow you haven’t studied for. You stand for the closing worship song, but instead of meditating on the lyrics – you’re waiting to rush home to hit the books.


I’m sure we’ve all been there. In this grades-driven nation, we’re used to the pressure of living up to the expectations of both our parents and ourselves. In fact, Singaporean youths today are more motivated in their studies than the global average.

That’s a good thing, but there’s a danger to it: Our academic pursuits so easily overshadow eternal things without us even realising it.

As someone whose identity has been tied to her grades for the longest time, I relate well to this struggle. Back in secondary school, I used to dread going to church whenever my exams were coming up. I studied my revision notes right under the nose of the preacher and would rush home as soon as service ended each week.

There are so many more urgent and important things to do.

That was one of the recurring thoughts in my head whenever I headed to church, did my devotionals or read the Bible. Though I knew they were wrong, why did they ring so true in my head?

How could anything be as important as devoting time spent to God and learning more about Him and His Word? How could I let the chase for grades overtake God’s place? My thought-life betrayed the condition of my heart.

Ever heard the hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing?

Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

I realise how easily our hearts wander from him, how easily the things of this world can overtake God’s place in our hearts.

Desiring to excel in our studies is certainly something to be commended. We are all called to be good stewards of the resources God gives us. But in the case of time, is it all going into our studies? Are we neglecting to spend real quality time in Church or at home with our family?

““Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12)

Being a student doesn’t exempt you from being salt and light in this world (Matthew 5:13-16). When we study for God’s glory – working in a spirit of excellence and exemplifying Christlike character – it is a testimony to our schoolmates and friends.

We must know our priorities. While it’s important to be good students, our personal walk with Him is infinitely more important. We have little issue setting aside time for the things we enjoy doing, or the people we hold dear … But is it the same for God?

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

Make time for what’s important.

I’ve made it a point to do my devotionals as soon as I’m up from bed. Whenever I feel lethargic, I do my devotion at another time in the day when I’m fresher to concentrate better.

I’ve also developed the habit of using my trusty planner to note down important deadlines. I plan my time properly to spare myself the temptation of skipping Church.

It’s never easy to put God above our worldly priorities. Sometimes, even if we truly desire to pursue Him, our fallen human nature causes us to stray from Him. How we need the Holy Spirit to help us desire Him.

/ 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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Reasons not to share the gospel are excuses

by | 26 March 2018, 2:43 PM

I had lunch awhile ago with a close friend who recently became a Christian. We were talking about faith when she shared her discomfort with evangelism — specifically street evangelism.

“To be honest, I don’t like it when Christians evangelise to others. It’s rather pushy. I mean, if I were interested, I would ask and find out for myself,” she said.

As evangelism is close to my heart – I was surprised by what she said. But I knew that God was giving me an opportunity to clarify some of the doubts she had as a new believer.

Sadly, I believe that Christians who don’t want to be pushy are in the majority. Many offer various reasons for not wanting to share the gospel with others.

  • “I’m not biblically competent”
  • “I’m not good at talking to people”
  • “I don’t want to be pushy and tarnish Christianity’s image”
  • “I don’t want to sound preachy”

Put bluntly, you could say these reasons are excuses.

These reasons are self-focused. It’s about how I have reasons not to evangelise. It’s my image and pride above the urgency of the Great Commission. We agonise about how evangelism affects our friends’ views of us but we fail to see that we have made evangelism about us rather than about God.

I want to empathise with how “scary” evangelism can be at times. But we forget that people are saved by grace through faith. God is the one who convicts the hearts of people – we are simply his vessels (Ephesians 2:8-9).

When is evangelism glorifying to God – and when is it not?

Scripture tells us in James that our tongue is a double-edged sword. We use it to sing praises in worship – yet it is also able capable of condemning others (James 3:6-10). So we are exhorted to be careful with our words – to speak the truth in love.

When sharing Christ to others, we ought to remember that the gospel is likely foreign and new to them. Christian lingo is likely to confuse them. Terminologies that may be straightforward to us may not be so for them.

We must be tactful in our words and the way we convey beliefs. For instance, one way to hold a conversation with someone of a different faith, would be to ask her questions instead of stamping your opinion on that particular religion.

We might ask her a question such, “Why do you subscribe to these beliefs?” or something even less confrontational like, “What are some differences between your religion and mine?” Through exchanges like these, a discussion gets going, allowing you to truly understand your friend – with the likelihood he’d better understand you as well.

More often than not, non-believers tend to be closed off to the gospel due to bad experiences they’ve had with Christians rather than the gospel itself.

It might be a Christian classmate who swears or skips school. Or a pushy believer who’s offended them. The point is that experiences with hypocritical believers have made Christianity a turn off for them.

We must be discerning to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, and know how to listen before responding. When we listen, we are better able to communicate the gospel to others. We become a gentle avenue for a biblical perspective of the world, and a better friend with whom one might wrestle over hard questions together.

Speak the truth in love, but make no mistake – the Gospel is offensive.

Even with the right heart and fervent prayer before reaching out to someone, you can’t please everyone. For all of our tact, there will be times when we offend others because God’s truth in itself is offensive to the world.

In John 6:35-66, Jesus was preaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. Many of His followers had left because they could not accept what Jesus was saying, that He was the bread that came down from heaven – the Son of God.

John MacArthur writes: “If the truth offends, then let it offend. People have been living their whole lives in offence to God; let them be offended for awhile.”

Speak the truth in love, but never water down the gospel to make it “acceptable” to those who hear it. Yes, the gospel is about God’s love and His Grace – how Jesus died for our sins. But we tend to forget that while the Gospel is about forgiveness – it’s also about repentance.

Romans 3:23 says that we have all fallen short. Not just you – me too. We all are sinners. But Christ died for us on the cross to redeem us from our sins – and was resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) on the third day!

The gospel is good news – it is miraculous love!

What is stopping you from sharing the gospel with others? The fear of judgement? The lack of confidence? The Most High God commands us to share His gospel.

So what can possibly stand against Him? What would you put before the Great Commission?

/ 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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Article list

How to pray from the Psalms

Learning to let go

Why it’s important to face your doubts

Do you deserve love?

A tribute to Mum: There are 5 of us, but we’re all Number 1 to you

What if I’m not interested in anything?

If you died today, what would your life amount to?

The danger of pride

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

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Reasons not to share the gospel are excuses