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Culture

So the train broke down

by | 6 September 2018, 5:23 PM

A couple of months back, I was almost late for a performance. Not because I had mistimed my schedule, but because of a signal fault between the Bayfront and Promenade stations.

Panicked, I had to run up and down the flight of escalators to find information on the free shuttle service. When I finally had enough of being referred from one flabbergasted officer to another, I decided to just walk to my destination.

“They could get it right when I was growing up, why can’t they do it now?” I grumbled under my breath.

But God soon brought to memory this verse in James 3:9-12: “With the tongue, we praise our Lord and Father, and with it, we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing …”

With the same mouth, I along with a great many Singaporeans have both blessed and praised the name of Jesus while also cursing our transport system — one built and maintained by people made in God’s own image.

Well. If I don’t complain, what then should be the response?

We need to remember our transport system is built and maintained by people who are flawed just like us.

When was the last time you got a perfect score on an exam, assignment or project? If you can think of one, that’s genuinely great! But was there ever a time when you got anything less than a perfect score?

No one is perfect. But imperfection in life — right down to transport failures and breakdowns — is only the evidence informing us that we live in a broken world.

Scripture tells us in Colossians 3:13: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.” Honestly, my natural inclination reading this was to think of how much their mistakes cost me in terms of my time. But as I read on, I saw something: “as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

We must forgive. We have been shown grace and mercy by Jesus Himself. We deserved death, yet He first showed us grace by making the first move to save us.

So if Jesus could show us grace and forgiveness despite our sin, what then will we show the world when we suffer mere inconvenience?

We must forgive.

The next time something goes wrong, or doesn’t go according to a plan or schedule, pray over the issue knowing that God is bigger than any problem.

In a discussion with some friends, I recently heard this gem of wisdom: “The amount of time we spend on our knees in prayer, determines how big of a God we believe in.”

When the transport system fails, we are often self-centred, considering first the inconvenience and implications the disruption has on us and our time.

Few would consider the workers and engineers working tirelessly to get the system back on track as soon as possible. Fewer still would think of the staff at the affected stations, enduring abuse from commuters each time such incidents occur.

But as Christians, we are not called to mockery or scorn. I know God would rather have us out there interceding and helping the people we instead oppress or laugh at.

Jesus charged the disciples in Matthew 10:8: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” In this verse, personally, I sensed Jesus calling me out to intercede for all the workers we so often neglect in our transport system.

When we pray for our transport system, we join a fellowship of other believers who are also interceding for the same thing, so that when the problem is resolved, the prayers of petition may become thanksgiving and praise offerings — fragrant to God who is sovereign over all of life’s problems.

But as Christians, we are not called to mockery or scorn.

24 hours. That’s 1440 minutes … or 86400 seconds. What are we doing in that time?

We need to make full use of our time, even when our schedule is disrupted. We are quick to presume when our time is wasted. But the truth is we waste a lot of it ourselves without help or inconvenience.

Here’s the thing: while men may mistakes, God doesn’t. He knows exactly when every train disruption is going to occur, for what reason, and how to solve it. We can believe that God still has a purpose for His people in disruptions or inconveniences.

What are some things you can do while inconvenienced? Perhaps instead of playing Rules of Survival, Mobile Legends or other games, maybe we could spend a few moments praying for those people hard at work to restore the service.

Maybe a disruption is a firm reminder to take out the Bible you haven’t opened in weeks. Maybe this inconvenience is an opportunity to reflect and meditate on what God has to say to you — and hadn’t you been asking to hear Him better?

Maybe instead of complaining with your fellow passenger, it’s a chance to share Jesus with them. The point is we are not helpless, we have a purpose and a calling in Christ Jesus that doesn’t take a back seat for mere disruptions.

Instead of grumbling and complaining, let’s show grace and pray for those hard at work for us. The next time a disruption happens, let’s make use of the time given to us to make a difference to our walk with God or someone who has yet to know Him.

It’s what Jesus would do.

/ 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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Confessions of a conference junkie

by | 31 August 2018, 12:10 PM

I remember when a friend brought me to my first Christian conference.

It was held in my church anyway, so I didn’t mind giving it a shot to see what these conferences were all about. But I was blown away when I saw how the sanctuary I was familiar with had been completely transformed. Worship was amazing, the sermon powerful – don’t even get me started on the altar call!

Long story short: That day was the start of my journey of conference hunting.

Along the way, we started living for the hype – not the Gospel.

This year I’ve attended 7 different conferences – with at least 3 more to go.

I’ve never failed to be amazed by the worship in each conference, or how compelling top speakers can be. But as I attended conference after conference, I began to hear more and more stories of friends who had become jaded and stagnant in their Christian walk despite having attending all these conferences like me.

I was puzzled by their stagnation … but I think I have a couple of ideas as to what happened.

Along the way, we started living for the hype – not the Gospel.

Conferences are events where we may experience the presence of God in worship, in the sermon and at the altar. They also produce a spiritual high from attending them.

These aren’t bad things, but if that’s all our faith is about – then we’re really just chasing dopamine shots. That’s living on spiritual highs for a little while before the inevitable crash that follows with inaction. Because we’re not supposed to chase one high to the next. We’re not junkies.

Authentic faith is a close and consistent walk with Jesus, whether we’re walking through valleys or on mountaintops. The hype a conference generates is temporal and fleeting. Hype never lasts – let alone sustain faith.

… we’re not supposed to chase one high to the next. We’re not junkies.

But the Gospel can! The good news of Jesus Christ dying for the sins of men and rising to life again is a solid stone worth building our faith and life upon.

It takes a team of humans to invest some money, invite some speakers and create the atmosphere for a conference. It took God Himself to be tortured, abandoned and crucified to give us the Gospel.

God paid the highest price so that we can have eternal life – a confident hope that stands on the highest mountains as well as in the lowest valleys. Those are things a mere conference can never provide!

I used to live for events … not caring enough about what should happen after them.

Conferences are great places for faith to be strengthened and lives to be equipped in reaching the world with the Gospel. But if we attend a conference merely with the mindset to be entertained, or just to get “better” worship or messages that we don’t think we get in church … we’re missing the point.

We would be misusing the opportunities and empowerment God has given us through the conference. Acts 1:8 tells us that the Holy Spirit empowers us not to keep this power to ourselves, but to be witnesses to our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria – to the very ends of the earth.

Conferences are never meant to be an end in themselves – they are catalysts! They should fire us up to live as empowered disciples reaching the world with the Gospel.

Use what you learn in conferences to live a life that’s founded in Christ, growing in faith and walking in obedience.

Use what you learn in conferences to talk to others about Jesus, encouraging fellow believers and stirring them to love and good works so they also can become more and more like Christ – realising the joy and power in following Him.

So when you next step into a conference hall, remember not to live for the high.

It’s not about you – it’s about the Gospel and God’s glory.

/ 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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What I learnt from my internship

by | 28 August 2018, 6:41 PM

Around this time last year, I was looking around for internship opportunities to complete my diploma.

I was hoping for an internship where I could not only expand my skillset, but also serve God in a tangible way. So I considered serving in my church as well as in para-church organisations. As I prayed and considered my options, I realised that they ultimately would not meet my school’s requirements for an internship.

So after a period of even more prayer, I was about ready to give up on the idea of merging ministry with my internship – until I looked at my Instagram feed in sheer frustration.

… your work is an expression of your faith.

We are hiring!

There it was — my internship opportunity in an Instagram post by one of the para-church companies I followed. And as I thought about it, I prayed all the more … until I finally handed in my resume. To my surprise, God flung open every door, the school had granted the approval necessary and the organisation welcomed me with open arms. I was hired!

A lot has happened since then. I celebrated with the team as we hit new milestones and overcame deadlines together. We laughed, cried and also prayed with each other.

But now, at the end of my internship, I realised that I have gleaned so much more than just a set of new technical and professional skills. I’ve also learnt deep spiritual principles that now shape my perspective on faith, work and even evangelism.

Work is an expression of worship.

One of the first lessons I learnt is that your faith cannot be separate from your work. In fact, your work is an expression of your faith. Colossians 3:23 encourages us to work as if Jesus was our boss! Having the opportunity to do work that directly went towards expanding the Kingdom helped me to apply this verse in my day-to-day assignments.

The internship also gave me the opportunity to meet top working professionals in the secular realm, who instead of living just for Fridays, view their work as worship unto God. They perform each task diligently, following biblical principles in joyful worship even while working on the most mundane assignment.

So whether you’re in full-time ministry or the marketplace, you should still be serving God. Who you are at work on Monday should be the same as who you are on Sunday. While this was a very hard principle for me to grasp initially, I eventually went from dreading my work to seeing it as a joy.

Even though my work may not be perfect, I can now say that I perform my role as worship unto God.

Work is one of your greatest tools in evangelism.

The second principle I learnt was that work can be a tool to reach out to others with the Gospel. As I served with the team, I was always encouraged to think about how I would express these same ideas of faith and love in daily life, in a way someone who has never heard of Jesus would understand.

And as I met Christian professionals in the marketplace, I realised they not only viewed their secular work as worship, they viewed it as a way of publicly displaying who Jesus is to them. They knew that if they did their work well, others would take notice. This wasn’t for their own personal gain – but the opportunity to share Jesus.

Who you are at work on Monday should be the same as who you are on Sunday.

So I learnt to express the core tenets of my faith professionally. More importantly, however, was the conviction to begin displaying God in my daily life as well.

True faith must be life-changing. There’s a saying that goes: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Likewise, people can know what you believe but if that faith and love aren’t expressed in your day-to-day work and who you are at home – it just remains as head knowledge to them rather than life-changing truth.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to use my school internship to expand God’s Kingdom. My earnest prayer is that these two principles will forever change the way I perceive work not just in ministry, but also my home and the secular world as well!

/ 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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What’s your anthem?

by | 20 August 2018, 1:07 PM

I am a massive fan of the German football club, Bayern Munich.

I keep up with all of FC Bayern’s matches and buy the latest jerseys. I even celebrated in public when the club won its sixth straight league title in April. I also bought the tickets to see them play at the National Stadium at the International Champions Cup last year.

Though Bayern lost 2-0 in that match, I was still awestruck by how the fans united together as we sang the anthem together. Race or background didn’t matter. Though we were losing, we continued to cheer and roar the club’s anthem loudly and proudly.

So I was struck by an anthem’s power for unity. Think of “La Marseillaise”, the anthem that spurred the French middle and lower classes on to battle in the heat of the French Revolution. Anthems unite, rallying people to a common purpose and hope under a common banner.

So, what’s your anthem? What’s your cause, passion and hope?

My life is driven by the knowledge that God is the Creator.

In Genesis 1:1, it says that God created the heavens and the earth. Just think about that. From the grandest of galaxies to the smallest of ants – everything is designed by Him. Every evening, I look at the bright orange, yellow and sometimes purple sunset, and I can’t help but be in awe of what an artist my God is.

Humans create too. But we can’t make a paper plane without paper, and we can’t make houses without bricks. Yet God made something out of nothing. We know from Genesis 1:2 that the Earth was without form, yet God simply spoke and all of creation came into existence.

That never fails to blow my mind.

From the grandest of galaxies to the smallest of ants – everything is designed by Him.

And somehow this awesome God is not a distant god: He is a loving and intimate Father.

My God is intimately personal with each and every individual on this planet. 1 John 4:10 says that before we even loved God, He first loved us. He has led me into deeper love with Him in more ways than I can count. From heartbreak to breakthrough, He’s led me on an adventure that’s been nothing short of amazing.

And day after day, I am reminded that He loves me. In spite of all my sin and darkness, He loves me to the point that He would die on the cross for me. How could it be that God Himself would take on the punishment of torture, ridicule, pain and death – punishments that I rightfully deserved?

And by nothing I could have done, He calls me His son. This love from the all-powerful God leaves me in awestruck wonder.

This is my God: The Creator of the Universe, from the immense expanse of the Milky Way to the very atoms that form the universe – the intimate Father who would in spite of all my sin and shame, take on the punishment I deserved so He could call me His child.

Those are the words in my anthem, and I would gladly give my life for the Gospel to be proclaimed till the whole world sees!


Want to know more about God and His love? Come on down for “ANTHEM: Till the whole world sees”, a worship concert by the youth ministry of Trinity Christian Centre on 2 September 2018, 7:30pm at Trinity@Paya Lebar.

DM @trinity.ignyte on Instagram for more information.

/ 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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The best lessons I learnt in school

by | 6 July 2018, 5:52 PM

It’s funny how time flies, within a blink of an eye, I am now Year 3 in a school that I still struggle to fully understand. I mean, one moment you’re walking into your very first lecture, the next, you’re well into your final year, taking on a 6-month internship programme at Thir.st.

But one thing has stayed constant for me, and that’s the community I’ve in school. When I was in Year 1, I joined my polytechnic’s Cru chapter. It was the best decision of my life. I’ve made the best friends I’ve ever had, brothers and sisters who’ve faithfully walked my poly journey with me.

As I now stand at the end of my poly life with graduation less than a year away, I can’t help but think back on some of the lessons I had learnt from this community.

3 LESSONS FROM MY CRU JOURNEY

1. It’s okay to be who you are

For an extrovert, I am surprisingly socially awkward. I remember when I first showed up for Cru’s welcome tea, not knowing what to expect or who to talk to.

But as I showed up, again and again, I saw something very different about the community – no one was disingenuous. And while the world says to put on a mask before everyone so no one can tell your true colours, this community laid it all down to be real with each other.

As I saw my new friends revealing who they really were, I felt the need to do so too. But as I did, something strange happened; instead of feeling endangered, I felt a certain release.

It was through this community that I realised how tiring it was to put on the mask of poise and excellence before everyone, and how easy it was to finally lay it all down and say, “This is me, all my strengths, all my weaknesses, all my flaws.” And at the end of the day, still be accepted for who I am.

This community, to me, was a picture of how we can and should come before Jesus. In John 6:37 Jesus says to us: “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” If we come to Jesus, just as we are we are accepted and will never be driven out from Him.

2. It’s okay not to be okay


My best friends in community have become my best friends not just because of common interests and fun times we’ve had together, but because we’ve shared our struggles, pains and deepest hurts.

In my recent struggles, I found myself wrestling with the issue in the dead of midnight. After praying over it, I decided to call one of my best friends. Not only did he pick up the phone, he even talked it through with me till the early morning.

Such a sanctuary to be this vulnerable is such an apt image of how we can lay it all down before Jesus. In one of my favourite verses, Jesus gently offers us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus knows how hard it is to be human, He feels our every struggle because He went through it Himself. But instead of standing at a distance, He offers to have us cast our burdens on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).

3. It’s okay to be different

Cru communities are usually made up of people from many different churches, denominational beliefs, socio-economic backgrounds and sometimes even nations.

Yet, I realise that the closeness of this community is not founded on the ignorance of our differences but in spite of them. Whenever we don’t agree on a particular issue, we always take the time to communicate and, as much as possible, compromise so that we can dwell in peace and unity.

Each time I step into this community, I am reminded of the hope to come. In Revelation 7:9-10, the Apostle John saw a great multitude of every nation, tribe and tongue, and they were all praising God as one.

What a beautiful sight it must have been, and what a glorious hope. As believers, there will come a day where we no longer pick out the differences between each other – we are only going to see each other as God’s fellow children; we are going to praise and worship Him together.

Even now as I look back at my two years with Cru, I can’t help but be in wonder of how this community has not only grown me but also given me a glimpse of Jesus and the future hope I have in glory.


Don’t believe me? Come and see for yourself. If you are a polytechnic or university student looking for a Christ-centered community to be a part of, why not join me and see for yourself what change being a Christ-centered community in school can do?

Contact @polycrusingapore, @np_crusade, @sp_crusade, @nypccc or @ntucru on Instagram. 

/ 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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Make time for important things

by | 24 May 2018, 11:47 AM

I’ll be the first to admit that my schedule is often a wreck.

With a calendar stacked with appointment after appointment, I’m constantly out of time and in a rush. And in an average school semester I find myself falling sick at least 3 times simply because I wasn’t getting enough rest.

It makes me wonder what Jesus’ secret was. How was He able to minister so effectively even while so many clamoured for his attention? And on top of it all, He was discipling 12 men!

3 THINGS TO MAKE TIME FOR

1. Make time to rest

So many of us have a tendency to carry our office desk all the way back home. It’s hard to find the time to rest. Yet we need to remember that God created everything within a 6–day work week. He set aside a day to rest (Genesis 2:2-3) – the Sabbath!

Since God made us in His image and rested on one day of the week, we should follow Him – we weren’t made to work 24/7.

It might not be popular belief, but taking time to rest isn’t counter–productive at all. Intentional rest helps ensure that we are meeting the conditions necessary for us to perform up to design, just as the creator would have wanted.

If we want to step into our destinies as the men and women He created us to be – time with God is the most important kind of time.

2. Make time for family

Working in Singapore, it’s easy to neglect family time. This is the thing I’m most guilty of. I struggle with not being a yes-man, and overbooking my schedule so that I can have time for my family.

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

How can we honour our parents or families if we won’t make time for them? How do we even get to know them as people if we won’t put down the phone at home and have real and honest conversations?

I realise that relationships only work if you make the time to grow them. The grass isn’t greener on the other side – it’s green where you water it. So take the time to talk to your parents, take the time to play with your younger siblings. These relationships don’t grow without investment.

3. Make time for God

How much time do we give to God? The very best parts of our day or just a couple of minutes here and there? Our relationship with God works in one similar way to human ones – it also needs time to develop.

If you don’t regularly spend time alone with God, or aren’t sure how – you could start by reading a chapter from Psalms every day. Then journal what God speaks to you in that time with Him. We can be confident that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us (James 4:8).

And if you’re on the move, spend that time in worship. It can be as simple as listening to a hymn in the train and meditating on its lyrics. If we want to step into our destinies as the men and women He created us to be – time with God is the most important kind of time.

Don’t let your work rule your life.

We need to define what is truly important in our lives. We need to know what is worth our time beyond work and meeting our deadlines. So when it’s crunch-time, don’t forget what’s important as well – what cannot be replaced.

If you’re set apart, then your clock should be set differently from the world as well.

/ 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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Hold on to the rope

by | 22 May 2018, 4:18 PM

Just before I changed churches, I was serving to the point of burnout.

I had taken up all kinds of roles: PA Team, Backup Singing, Video and Post-Production, Social Media, Youth Leader …

I was exhausted. Where there once was joy in service, now I simply felt overworked and under-appreciated. And I had lost my purpose. Why was I running around doing all these things in the first place?

But I had a breakthrough during a missions rally at my new church a year later.

Pastor Manning was sharing from Acts 9:20-25, speaking about the events following Saul’s conversion. Shortly after his conversion on the road to the Damascus, Saul – once a great persecutor of Christians – began to preach the Gospel.

The Jews were stunned by Saul’s turnaround, and they plotted to kill him. So they watched the city gates and prevented his escape. But some of Saul’s followers brought him down the city walls by basket, helping him to escape.

Here Pastor Manning paused and threw a question that caught me off guard: Who were the ones who held the rope for Saul to escape? The Bible doesn’t tell us their names, but what did they is of eternal significance.

Their service holds valuable lessons for us today.

LOOK PAST TODAY’S APPLAUSE, LOOK TO ETERNAL GLORY

There are millions serving in the Kingdom of God, doing what God has called them to do. But the greatest of these are the ones who don’t worry about who gets the glory at the end of the day – it’s all for Jesus.

That struck me. I realised that I was craving the thanks and applause at the end of my deeds. I wasn’t a “rope-holder”, I simply wanted the glory for myself. I lost sight of eternity and the riches of the Father – holding on instead to the temporal scraps of human applause..

LOOK PAST TODAY’S SACRIFICE, LOOK TO ETERNAL PURPOSE

They did it even though no one could see them because they knew their purpose. They did it so that Saul could escape – so that the message could go forth to the glory of God. To the rope-holder, encouragement and credit become secondary beside God’s purposes.

When God’s purposes demand sacrifice, the rope-holder gives and obeys the call without delay. In ministry, we often forget the reason why we serve. This might be because of discouragement or burnout. But when we look to God, we look past what little we gave to what we are gaining from obedience.

LOOK PAST TODAY’S SUFFERING, LOOK TO ETERNAL IMPACT

Think of the people who held onto the rope until Saul’s basket reached the ground – through sore hands and the danger of the moment. No matter how tough the situation was, they held on until the task was finished. And their efforts had eternal impact – the very next verse begins with “When he came to Jerusalem,” (Acts 9:26).

I was very moved by that. In my season of burnout, I had let go of a number of ministry commitments. But Pastor Manning spoke a game-changer into my life: “When you feel you can’t hold on to the rope any longer, that’s when God comes and wraps his hands around yours and helps you to hold onto that rope.”

I had felt lonely in ministry for so long. But there and then I knew that God who called me to hold the rope was not abandoning me to it – He’s holding my hand even as I hang on.

The truth is we often have no idea when our basket will reach the ground, but we can expect to please God when it does.

I am reminded of Paul’s encouragement to Timothy as he approached his death.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

When I look to God – to the reward set before the race’s finishers – I look past giving up.

When the basket hit the bottom, the rope-holders probably didn’t realise they had changed the world. They did not know Saul would eventually become Paul, founder of more than 14 churches in the Asia Minor and European regions – writer of one-third of the New Testament!

They were simply holding the rope as God had called them to. Without expectations or grievances, they simply obeyed.

So hold on.

/ 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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How could you take from me what I deserved?

by | 17 May 2018, 12:26 PM

When I was in secondary school, my number one ambition was to become a cell leader.

The thought of being able to change people’s lives was something I desperately wanted. Unfortunately, this led me to suck up to my leaders in the hopes of getting on their good side.

Around that time, I responded to a challenge by my cell leader to pray for a friend and invite him to youth camp that year. Joshua, a childhood friend, came to mind. I secretly thought: “Why not? Maybe if I integrate him into the cell, I could get more credibility from the leaders!”

To my surprise, not only did he accept the invitation to attend camp that year – he became really well integrated into the community within a short span of time. Almost too well …

When it was time to pick a new leader, within the short span of a year, they chose Joshua to step up instead of me. I felt betrayed.

How could they! After all I’ve done for the cell, all the contributions I’ve made, how could they deny me the one thing I wanted the most! I have my rights too!

Looking back on those days, I realise that I behaved like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).

He had seen his young brother essentially ask his father to die, run away to spend his money on parties, luxurious food and prostitutes – only to come crawling back into the house begging to be taken back as a slave.

But instead of sending him back to the depravity he had left them both for, the father welcomed the younger son home with open arms – even throwing him a big party. I knew well how the older brother felt.

Where is justice? Where is the reward I deserved? What about my rights too?

Because I felt the same: What gave Joshua the right to inherit what I believed was mine? But rereading that parable, I saw something I hadn’t seen before. Just as much as the younger son was lost – so was the older brother.

In The Prodigal God, Timothy Keller writes that both sons wanted the father’s possessions rather than the person. Both were far from their father, but while one ran away from the father’s love by being extremely bad – the other did so by being extremely good.

I, too, was undeserving of God’s grace. When all I deserved was death, He ran to me and welcomed me with grace.

The cell leader position was just a symbol. Like the fattened calf at the feast, it masked an underlying issue: My devotion to God wasn’t founded on delight in Him but on trying to curry favours out of Him.

I have done so much in Your name. You owe me. 

That was what my bitter heart was actually saying. But regardless of which son we resemble, God’s response to us is still the same. Like the father in the story, God runs to welcome wayward children back into His arms and joy. He desires his children to lay down their pride and reenter his joy.

The older son couldn’t do so because he held on to his rights – what he felt he rightfully deserved. And just like him, by clinging onto what I thought I deserved, I denied myself the joy of seeing one of his sons come home again – of witnessing a warrior of faith rise up to expand God’s kingdom.

The solution was ultimately simple but painful: I had to lay down my rights and all the things I thought I deserved to reenter God’s joy. But I couldn’t do it. I felt God had been unjust and that his mercy to one person had come at my expense.

How is it that when God is unjust I was the one to pay the price for it?

That was what I actually thought! Eventually I gave up my rights not because I had to – but because I finally realised that I had been the younger son many times as well. I’m all too guilty of running away from God and laying waste to my life.

I, too, was undeserving of God’s grace. When all I deserved was death, He ran to me and welcomed me with grace.

The one who paid the price for my redemption was Jesus. He was what an elder brother should be. My redemption came at His expense, but he never once complained. He simply and completely obeyed his Father and took on the expense so I could be restored to the family.

/ 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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by | 30 April 2018, 11:03 AM

I attended a recent performance which left my friend distraught.

It was put up by a cell group mate in a liberal arts college, who was one of the performers in a display which really pushed us to our limits in terms of our morals and faith.

By the end of the show, my friend was left emotionally distraught. Though she chose to perform a part of the piece which didn’t force her to denounce her faith and values – she was still shaken. She felt complicit in something that had mocked and scorned her faith from every angle.

I can certainly empathise with how she felt: As a film major, I often have to work with films that don’t necessarily agree with my faith. The films may push a value set entirely contrary to my own. So how do we respond when art challenges faith? Here are two handles that might help.

TWO PRINCIPLES TO APPRECIATE ART WITH DISCERNMENT

1. At the end of the day, art is just art

It’s just art. Whatever you’re experiencing is just part of a piece by an artist expressing his thoughts and purposes creatively. His thoughts don’t have to become our own. As the viewer, we get to decide if those thoughts expressed by the piece hold any weight.

Art is specifically designed to evoke emotions and ideas, but we have full agency in deciding whether such thoughts are worth the mindspace (Philippians 4:8). Think about Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, who encouraged the Church to “test everything; hold fast what is good.”

So if we must sit through a challenging performance – hold fast to the truth of God. We will come out unshaken.

2. Stay cautious – close to the Truth

Like money, art is not evil in and of itself. It can be something that tempts us away from the truth – but it can also be used for good. So if you’re still thinking about that art piece you saw, you just need to weigh whether those thoughts are worth thinking at all – or if they throw doubt on the Word of God.

Ask God for discernment and a deeper understanding of His Word. Then we will we be able to tell what is true and what isn’t.

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

Christians are not called to gullibility or blind faith. If an art piece challenges your faith – that’s a good thing. It is vital to know what you stand for and why. Let challenging art strengthen your faith.

If viewing a certain art piece is unavoidable (and you know it’s not good – like horror-gore bad) ask God to help get you through it untainted. This comes up quite a bit as a film major, especially when I have to watch films that vilify biblical truth.

Such scenarios force me to lean on God and declare that my idea of truth is found only in the Word of God – not the mere opinions of man. Then I test every idea presented to me against the Bible. If the idea stands against God and His Word – no matter how appealing the artist has made it – I obey. I conform to the truth presented in the Bible.

It might sound close-minded, but it keeps me collected on solid ground (Psalm 40:2). Cautiously consuming art, we remain on the right side of truth and are not stumbled to the point of no return.

With the right perspective of art in mind, let it challenge you fairly. Then be God’s champion to engage art armed with His Word – so that others might see Him through you.

/ 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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Help! My best friend wants to be a full-time missionary

by Justine Hong | 24 April 2018, 11:40 AM

Though Annie and I had only met a year ago, we became best friends in no time.

Not only were we in the same group of friends in the same CCA – we also attended the same church and cell. We pretended we were like family, calling each other by our sibling titles. Whenever either of us were confronted with tough issues, we would be there for each other.

But one day she shared that God’s will for her was to do full-time missions in another country.

I didn’t want her to go. I struggled with the fact that God had called her out to the field.

How could you, God? I treasure our friendship. Why would you ask her to go when you knew I would be so unhappy?

As I reflected and asked God for wisdom, He began to show me certain truths which helped me to wrestle with and accept Annie’s calling.

3 TRUTHS I LEARNT IN ACCEPTING GOD’S CALLING FOR ANNIE

1. I must lay down my preferences

In accepting God’s calling – whether for ourselves or another person – we need to lay down our preferences. To help Annie accept God’s call for her life, I needed to lay down my preference to have her in the same nation as me.

I should have given her my fullest blessings to go and make an impact for the nations – but I was too self-absorbed. I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

The cost in my mind was too tough for me to bear. Just when I was about to give up – the second truth came.

2. I need God’s strength

God gives us the strength needed to obey Him when we choose to have faith and trust in his plan. I can only imagine Abraham’s anguish in Genesis 22, when God called him to sacrifice Isaac – his promised son. But on that journey up the mountain, Abraham depended on God’s strength for the obedience he needed to sacrifice Isaac.

If we truly acknowledge Jesus’ sacrifice for us – it shows up in our living and decisions. No sacrifice becomes too great for us to bear.

We struggle with accepting God’s calling because we don’t like the idea of giving up the things we want – even if it’s for a greater purpose. But God’s strength empowers us to obey. Encountering His beauty and holiness makes it so that the things of this world – the things we want the most – fade in comparison to His purposes and glory.

As I began to earnestly seek God’s strength to be obedient and release Annie to her mission for Him – He opened my eyes to the final truth.

3. I must remember Jesus sacrificed Himself for us

It’s human nature to look at one’s own problems and consider them bigger than everyone else’s. I was so self-centred that I even considered my “sacrifice” greater than Annie’s!

But if we need to think about sacrifice, we should first think about Jesus. Shortly before His death in Matthew 27:46, Jesus cried out with a loud voice: “Eli Eli, lema sabachthani!” [My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?]

Jesus had made the greatest sacrifice of all time on that cross: The fellowship of the Trinity was broken for the first and only time when Jesus was separated from the Father, bearing the weight of every sin.

That is true sacrifice.

If we truly acknowledge Jesus’ sacrifice for us – it shows up in our living. It shows up in our decisions. No sacrifice becomes too great for us to bear.

Knowing God initiated the greatest sacrifice was a great help to me as I prepared to let Annie go. In the light of Jesus’ sacrifice, there was no way to hold on to the false belief that letting my best friend follow God’s calling was too costly!

What are you struggling to sacrifice for God? If you find it difficult to release a friend to his or her calling for God, I want you to think about how Paul left his beloved Church in Ephesians (Acts 20).

In this farewell, the elders knew Paul would face “prisons and hardships” (23). And Paul knew they would never “see [him] again” (25). How did both parties respond to such a grave commission?

Paul considered his “life worth nothing,” only aiming to “finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus [had given him]—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (24). And the elders didn’t hold him back. They wept – but they embraced and kissed him (37) as they released him to the higher work God had called him to.

That’s sacrifice. And that’s laying preferences down – from both the one who goes and the one who stays.

Lord, let our farewell glorify You as I surrender Annie into Your hands. There isn’t a pair of hands more secure than Yours.

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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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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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Two steps to get over feeling inadequate

by | 2 April 2018, 10:56 AM

My academic life can be summed up in 2 words: “Over-expectation” and “underachievement.”

I always aimed high only to get a result that was average. This pattern created a lot of inadequacy in me. Why can’t I do as good as that person? Why can’t I be like him? Why can’t I produce work as good as her? These are questions I still struggle with today.

But I’m not alone. Dealing with inadequacy is a common struggle in our society. My personal breakthrough came when I realised this one simple truth: It’s alright to be inadequate.

Let me explain. When I was wallowing in self–pity, I read Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” The first part of the verse made something inside me click – God understands!

He knows how we feel when we fall short of the expectations. He knows what goes on in our head when it seems we can’t do anything right. When the world doesn’t seem to understand, it’s comforting to know that one person does – And He walks with you still.

Nice to know … But the inadequacy remained. So how? I went to my best friends and had a long discussion with them about my struggle with feeling inadequate. They offered me a two-step solution to feeling inadequate. There are two parts to it: The first may be painful, but the other brings relief.

1. Be honest with yourself

Take a piece of paper and a pen. Draw a straight line down the middle of your paper. Now, read on.

Be honest. If you believe you can’t accomplish a task because you don’t have the skill required for it – acknowledge it and then go and develop your skillset. Humbly acknowledge your shortfalls and ask God to help you. If we aren’t honest, but keep telling ourselves “I can do it”, we are pressuring and setting ourselves up for a crushing failure.

“I felt like the dumbest student in school”

That was me in the lead up to my O Levels. I was insistent that I was going to meet the impossibly high standards I had set for myself at the preliminary examinations. I worked my hardest in the spirit of self–help and self–motivation. But most of my results went “underwater” – that is going below the “C” level.

The proud facade of self-help had shattered. I hadn’t merely failed to meet my expectations; I had proven to myself that every empty encouragement I held onto was a lie.

Back to the paper. On the left side of it, I want you to complete the sentence: “I am inadequate because … ”

2. Stop looking at yourself – Look to God!

It’s so easy to keep looking at ourselves and our abilities. But we often forget that our “secret weapon” when dealing with struggles like inadequacy lies infinitely beyond ourselves. We forget that we have a God who not only walks with us but also grants us heavenly resources to fulfill His purposes and destiny for us.

When we align our wills to His, there is strength, wisdom, courage and provision to overcome any obstacle. We will never be able to do it by ourselves, but we can when we let God carry us. It takes humility.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

If we stop looking at ourselves and start looking upwards to our Heavenly Father, we would be empowered to do the things we should!

Humbly acknowledge your shortfalls and ask God to help you. If we aren’t honest, but keep telling ourselves “I can do it”, we are pressuring and setting ourselves up for a crushing failure. 

Look at the paper again. On the other half, complete the sentence: “But He is able because … ” List out as many attributes of God’s character as you can. If He has done a powerful work in your life before, write it down, trusting that if He has done it before – He can do it again. Find verses which speak life into your inadequacies and write them down as well.

Once you have filled your paper, talk to God. Admit your inadequacy. Be honest about your inability to do anything apart from Him. But declare that God is able, and ask Jehovah Jireh to provide you with everything you need to overcome what you must.

Ask according to His will, and He will come through for you.

/ 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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I CAN ONLY IMAGINE: The untold story of the song that inspired millions

by | 14 March 2018, 5:51 PM

If you’ve been going to church for some time, you probably have sung MercyMe’s hit Gospel song, “I Can Only Imagine”, in a worship service. But you probably have never heard of the story behind it, as filmmakers of “I Can Only Imagine” – the movie – will tell you.

On March 6, 2018, I had the rare opportunity of catching an early screening of the amazing testimony that inspired the song. Indeed – you can only imagine!

The film revolves around Bart Millard (J. Michael Finley), the lead singer of MercyMe. Coming off an abusive childhood at the hands of his father, Arthur Millard (Dennis Quaid), Bart spends years struggling to forgive him. Out of this pain, he is inspired to write “I Can Only Imagine”.

Watching Bart’s story unfold on screen brought new life to one of my favourite songs, and I found myself in tears when it made its appearance in the show.

The central theme of the show is transformation, and how true transformation is like metamorphosis – a radical changing from the inside out.

When God transforms us, he isn’t just transforming us but also the people around us.

God is fully in the business of transforming people from the inside out. This is how he always has been, he transformed a barren old man into a father of many nations. He transformed a shepherd boy into Israel’s greatest King. He transformed 11 fumbling men into apostles of the faith. He even transformed a persecutor of the Gospel to one of its greatest teachers.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezekiel 36:26-28)

This transformation is not one that is from the outside in. We can never be transformed by that way because of the hard truth that sin is not just a hard, logical issue but a deep heart issue. If we are not first transformed in our hearts, the transformation we bear is simply a mask that we wear.

God needs to totally replace our heart so that our actions may flow from that new heart.

This was the same inside-out transformation Arthur, the father, goes through. And as Bart chooses to forgive Arthur, he witnessed his relationships, including that with God Himself being radically changed.

When God transforms us, he isn’t just transforming us but also the people around us. Transformation is contagious, as we live radically transformed lives for Christ, we see ourselves being used by God to transform another life.

Without spoiling any more of the movie, I leave you with a quote that stayed in my mind: “(His transformation) set me on this warpath for the Gospel, because if the Gospel can change that dude, the Gospel can change anybody.”

When we decide to let God change us, we are going to see a transformation we can only imagine.


Join our exclusive ticket giveaway from now till March 22, 2018. Just head over to Facebook or Instagram, like our page/account and tell us what you think heaven will be like. The 5 replies with the most likes will win a pair of tickets to the preview screening of “I Can Only Imagine” at Shaw Theatres, Lido. 

I Can Only Imagine” will premiere on March 24, 2018, at the NEX Shaw Theatre in support of Come Celebrate Christmas in Singapore 2018. If you would like more information or are interested in bulk ticket booking (40 pax and above), please drop a message to +65 81185165.

/ 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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So the train broke down

Confessions of a conference junkie

What I learnt from my internship

What’s your anthem?

The best lessons I learnt in school

Make time for important things

Hold on to the rope

How could you take from me what I deserved?

The art to straddling church and culture

Help! My best friend wants to be a full-time missionary

A culture of blessing

You’re never too far gone

Two steps to get over feeling inadequate

I CAN ONLY IMAGINE: The untold story of the song that inspired millions