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Faith

Die, disciple, die

by Senior Pastor Lawrence Khong, Faith Community Baptist Church | 13 January 2018, 12:11 AM

And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:23-25)

The call to discipleship is the call to the crucified life. The only way to spiritual fruitfulness and fulfilling God’s commission and will is the crucified life.

The answer isn’t more giftings or anointing, because God is already working among us.

We need death.

Think of Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

A committed life will not cut it. Only a crucified life will. A dedicated life will not cut it – only a deceased disciple can!

We have watered down what the Christian faith is. We often say that there are believers, and then there are disciples. But the Bible never makes that distinction: There are only disciples of Jesus.

In Biblical times, to follow Jesus was to be cut off from their community. They were seen as a cult, they gave their lives. When we give our lives to Christ, that’s what it looks like.

A BAPTISM SERVICE IS A FUNERAL SERVICE

The crucified life is Discipleship 101. This is what baptism means: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death?”

A baptism service is a funeral service! So when you’re put into that water, you’re buried – you’re dead!

We are baptised to be raised into the glorious resurrected life, fulfilling God’s purpose and nothing else. We are lifted up to live out God’s fullness.

So it’s not about commitment, its about crucifixion. Not dedication, but death to self. Not being driven by a call but being driven by the cross.

The crucified life is not a balance between God’s agenda and mine. It is a complete eradication of my own ambition. No longer my agenda but Christ’s!

And there’s no such thing as being “a little” crucified. Either you are crucified, or you are not. Either you are dead, or you’re not. If you’re half-dead, you’re not dead!

Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies!

There’s no middle ground when it comes to death. The crucified life is not a balance between God’s agenda and mine. It is a complete eradication of my own ambition and agenda. No longer my agenda but Christ’s!

It’s not a compromise between what I desire and what God wants. It’s not about me anymore.

GO AND DIE

The crucified life is about coming to a tomb, looking at the tombstone, and seeing your very name carved on it. Each time we have a problem in the Christian life, all we have to do is come back to the tomb and remember we are dead!

A dead man is never afraid. A dead man is never offended. A dead man cannot be hurt by anyone.

It’s not about you and me: It’s about Christ, and what He desires. So every time your will and God’s clashes, just die. Every time you are stung by criticism – just die again.

God says … Go and die.

Because when we keep coming back to our own crucifixion on the cross, the life of God in us grows!

There’s no middle road. Either you are crucified in Christ and Christ is living in you, or you’re not walking the crucified life.

THE CRUCIFIED LIFE IS ABSOLUTE

After 40 years of full-time ministry, I’m back again at the basics.

We’ve gone through all the studies, and I’m not belittling them – most of us are educated beyond our intelligence – but I find that no matter what happens, I come back to the bottom line. I come back to the revelation on the Cross.

There, nothing is complicated. There’s a solution for every problem at the Cross. It solves every problem.

“I can’t stand my wife, she’s so naggy!” Just die again. “I don’t feel like loving her!” No problem, just die to self.

Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains alone!

Death is the most liberating experience. In death we have the resurrected life.

Commitment alone won’t cut it. There are people who are determinately committed to a cause … But they fail. They run out of steam. They give up.

Only a crucified life cuts it. It’s not just a commitment to the cause, it’s a commitment to the Cross.

God has begun to show me what the crucified life is about. Death is the most liberating experience. In death we have the resurrected life. The crucified life is absolute.

THE CRUCIFIED LIFE IS EXTREME

The crucified life is giving yourself to doing God’s will no matter what it is – no matter what it costs.

Many pastors and theologians are very scared of the word “extreme”. People tend to say, “Be careful, don’t go to the extreme”. But did you know there are two sides to “extreme”? There’s a good extreme and and a bad extreme!

And did you know that the Cross of Jesus Christ is extreme? That the love shown at the Cross is extreme?

That the Creator of Heaven and Earth would come as man – that’s extreme! That He would empty Himself, be obedient even to the point of death – that’s extreme.

God has never called us to be a moderate Christian. He never said, “Love me moderately”. No, what does the Bible say? Love the Lord your God with all your heart. All that you have.

His love for us is extreme. So our love for Him must be extreme, too.


Adapted from a sermon preached by Lawrence Khong, Senior Pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church, at the LoveSingapore Pastors’ Prayer Summit 2018.

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How to get the rest you need

by | 16 October 2018, 6:37 PM

I am an ISFJ, which means I’m often a ball of contradictions.

Though introverted, I can be outgoing and I have good social skills. That explains my constant packed schedule – the last time I had some time alone was nearly a month ago!

Because of my introverted nature, an accumulation of social activities drains me out when I don’t get time to recharge. Now, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, having enough time to rest and recalibrate is crucial for physical, mental and spiritual health.

But how do we do that in fast-paced society?

Source: SharperIron

If there was a “busiest person” competition in the Bible, Jesus would have won it hands-down.

Jesus taught in the synagogue in the morning, healed the sick in the afternoon and cast out demons at night! Yet despite his busy schedule, Jesus was never flustered.

“At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.” (Luke 4:42-44)

Already, you may have glimpsed some secrets to Jesus’ ministry. So how do we stay rested and composed amidst a hectic life? Here are some handles for doing so that I’ve learnt through my walk with God.

3 RULES FOR RESTING WELL

1. PROTECT YOUR TIME

The verse starts off with Jesus being by Himself. It wasn’t uncommon for Jesus to withdraw from people to be alone.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to give away my rest time when other things vie for my attention. One week it’s a friend who’s only free on this day. Another week it’s family commitments. On yet another it’s ministry work.

For a long time, I saw rest as less important and urgent in comparison to such activities. But this way of life quickly proved ineffective and unsustainable: I found myself extremely drained and moody. My relationships with people were affected badly, and I ended up complaining to God all the time.

God, why do I have so many people to meet? Why did you give me so many tasks and responsibilities?

But God isn’t responsible for how we handle the tasks we have been given – we are. And a good leader knows when to serve and when to rest.

In Mark 6:31-32, the disciples were so busy ministering that they did not even have a chance to eat. Jesus saw what was happening and invited them to get away with Him to a quiet place.

What about us? Do we know when to stop serving and start resting? Do we protect our time with God?

… a good leader knows when to serve and when to rest.

2. THE POWER OF SAYING NO

In the following verses we see that the crowd wanted Him to stay, but Jesus declined.

Matthew 14:23 tells us, “After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray.”

And this wasn’t just any crowd that Jesus dismissed. These were the first few people who accepted Him since His ministry began! In the previous town, where Jesus had demonstrated miracles, the people had actually wanted to throw Him off a cliff.

If you were a leader trying to start a following, this would have been a good opportunity. Why would anyone leave proven, fertile ground to grow a following elsewhere?

But this actually wasn’t a selfish decision. It was a deliberate choice based on Jesus’ priorities, which brings us to the next point.

3. PRIORITISE

Immediately after saying no, Jesus explained why He decided not to stay on: “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”

It wouldn’t have been wrong for Jesus to stay on and minister to the people there. Thing is, He was very clear on what his priority was. His mission was not just to go to that particular town – but to the entire region. Jesus had to say no to the important in order to say yes to the vital.

Saying no is difficult when we have to choose between options which aren’t necessarily bad. In such times, it’s important that we know what our mission is because we have limited time, energy and effort.

And since we are called to be good stewards of our lives, we have to learn how to prioritise where we want to invest our resources. Without having a clear focus, we will be easily distracted.

Above all, we have to prioritise our rest time; God didn’t tell us to keep the Sabbath for nothing. Even the Lord Jesus thought it necessary to say no to the crowd’s demands in order to pray.

So don’t you think we should learn how to do the same?

/ siqi@thir.st

Siqi often loses her footwear in the office. She is also known for her loud sneezes, huge appetite, and weird sound effects. Happens to be a writer too.

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Why I gave church another chance

by Nelson Lum | 16 October 2018, 4:11 PM

At the start of this year, I left my previous church of six years.

It was a heart-wrenching experience, but I had been wondering for months about the purpose of the church and why we even need churches at all. I asked many Christian friends and pastors about the theologies of sacraments and worship, and whether I could sit at home, listen to a sermon, and worship with my guitar in my room.

Ultimately, it seemed to me that I needed to realign myself to God first, before I could even try finding my way back to the body of Christ.

So for half a year, I read the Bible and prayed as per normal, and it felt like everything was alright. Having been brought up in a non-believing household, and being an only child, I was used to a solitary faith. I used to joke that CS Lewis and St. Chrysostom were my cell leaders.

However, St Augustine’s words kept coming back to mind: “He cannot have God for his father who will not have the Church as his mother”.

God soon gave me another opportunity to give church a chance.

A friend came back from studying overseas and invited me to join her church. I reluctantly obliged. A part of me was still afraid of what I might find, but another part of me agreed with my friends that I should trust God in His unfailing providence. After all, “faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, despite your changing moods” (CS Lewis.)

Thankfully, my friend brought me around and introduced me to everyone, and I found that I could connect with a lot of them pretty quickly. I joined a cell group very soon, which considered problems of the faith and engaged in lively discourse, in stark contrast to my previous church.

Being able to question and engage with the materials used instead of simply accepting wholesale what the cell leaders presented, I found that I was right in my element. But beyond that, I found a genuine sense of koinónia (communion and fellowship) with the cell group genuinely loving and caring for each other.

This is not to say that there aren’t any problems with my new church, or that I have found the perfect church for everyone.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we cannot hold the entire religion hostage because of one church. That’s easy to say from an outsider’s perspective, but I’ve been there.

What got me back to church was a trust in the love of God, and to separate the people in a single community from the people of God. Sometimes we don’t fit into communities we are placed in or stumble upon, but we have to recognise that the church is made of fallen people – sinners just like you and I.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we cannot hold the entire religion hostage because of one church. That’s easy to say from an outsider’s perspective, but I’ve been there.

God is holy, but His people are not, and we have to give them a chance.

It’s a great thing when a group of friends can come together and share openly without feeling like they “need” to. These friendships take time to cultivate and do not happen spontaneously.

We need living mentors we can talk to, laugh with and cry together. Mentors who can share their experiences in the faith with us and advise us when we walk down wrong paths.

The Christian life was never meant to be walked alone; Jesus had twelve friends with Him!

Just like ants forming a nest, everyone in the church builds each other up (Ephesians 4:16), and they mature together. With teamwork, they can fend off much larger enemies and build bigger things. As iron sharpens iron, every person needs to constantly build their spiritual lives in genuine fellowship others.

It’s difficult for an introvert like me to even start a conversation with people, much less make friends with them.

But we do find instances in the Bible where God brings reluctant people to meet other reluctant people to do His will. Think of how many times Paul admonished the churches for their lack of unity!

I realised I needed to take the initiative: to start meeting new people and getting to know them on a deeper level than just saying hi or bye. I needed to find a mentor I could trust, to whom I could lay my joys and failings bare – free of judgment.

If you’re not currently in a spiritual community, my encouragement is to have a Christian mentor who you can at least speak your mind to about spiritual matters.

Eventually you will, by God’s grace, find the church He wants you to be a part of.

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Jesus I come, I surrender

by Alarice Hong, Awaken Generation | 16 October 2018, 3:13 PM

If you’re calling me, I will answer
If you’re bidding me to come, I will come
If you’re leading me into deeper waters
May I not refuse

When I song write, I record all my voice notes on my phone. Jesus I Come had been on my phone for the longest time, for over two years.

I was just plucking away at the guitar when a feeling of being drawn to something came over me. It’s reflective in the chord progression of the opening verse, how this was written in my response to the calling of Christ with my whole life.

Jesus I come, I surrender
All for Your glory, I give my life
Here in this moment
I’m marked forever
I am yours

One day during our song writing season I brought this to Ian and asked how he felt about it. He told me that the chorus could be even better if it was written as a declarative answer – as someone saying, “Okay God, I’m here. Here I am, surrendering my life.”

If you’re drawing me closer
If you’re lifting me higher
If you’re bringing me into greater purpose
May I not refuse

We thought that this would be a really powerful altar call song – the kind you respond to after you’ve heard the word of God, sensed His presence and have decided to really give your heart to Him. A song you sing when you’re running to the altar, that gives words to what you’re feeling in your spirit.

Just a glimpse of Your glory
And in my heart I know
That I won’t let go
No, I won’t let go

I feel that it’s so powerful and important for us to have these moments of God-encounters. The kind that change you for the rest of your life. And my hope and prayer for everyone who sings this song would be that it releases God-encounters for them as they make this declaration, and to be empowered by the Spirit for the destiny God has already written for each of them.

Just a taste of Your goodness
And in my heart I know
I’m not letting go
I’m not letting go


“Jesus I Come” is a song from Awaken Generation‘s latest album, “Our Light Has Come”, which will be released on October 18, 2018, on all major music platforms.

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An inconvenient death: What does “dying to self” mean?

by JH Kwek | 16 October 2018, 11:53 AM

There is a certain kind of absurdism we bring to arguments with our parents.

Here’s an example: I remember fighting with them over my curfew, insisting that I should be allowed to stay out past 10pm. They said no, because they wanted me to stay at home to study. I replied, “Well, fine, I’m going to come home – but I’m not going to study.”

So much for your rules now! I knew it was stupid, but I wanted to push and press their buttons, proving to them that their rules couldn’t simply bend me to their will.

What I didn’t realise was that my parents didn’t want me to simply follow rules like a robot. They wanted me to learn obedience while trusting in their heart for me.

… flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness …

Hold this thought on obedience with me as we move on to the topic at hand: I’ve been battling lust for close to 11 years now, and one thing I’ve recently been convicted to do is to delete Instagram.

At this point in time, I can’t handle the constant stream of bikini, #OOTD and workout posts that flood my feed, so I decided to do away with it completely.

As expected, it wasn’t a magic pill. I still struggle with masturbation and lust – though I now face considerably less temptation – because the mind needs little in the way of stimulation for me to sin. I still have a lifetime of practice with that.

I remain convicted that this was what I needed to do, to flee from every possible source of temptation, even when it makes life inconvenient. Even when it means denying pleasures and activities I enjoyed.

For a long time, I refused to make an effort to kill my lust. I can handle it. And I ignored my brothers’ warnings. It isn’t a problem for me.

True enough, for many of us, it isn’t. But for many of us, it is – more than we’re willing to admit.

How do we respond to verses like 2 Timothy 2:22, where we are called to “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart”?

How do we obey these verses? Do we tell God, “I will stop this, but I will continue to do that?” Do we tell God, “I will try this, but I will not change that?” Or the more common: “I will do this, but not with someone else?”

The Gospel death – dying to self – is going to be inconvenient (Luke 9:23).

Dying to self is taking up the cross and following Christ, no matter the inconvenience – no matter the cost! In calling us to die to ourselves, the Gospel has no boundaries, no limits, no realm it cannot penetrate.

Galatians 5:24 says that “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” The flesh doesn’t just refer to things that are obviously immoral, but every kind of worldly desire.

  • The desire to keep up with others’ social lives.
  • The desire to continually consume popular culture.
  • The desire to let others know how successful we are.

None of these “needs” define us anymore. The lives we now live are in Christ Jesus – bought by His Blood (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

So the way we go about obedience shows us what we really think about ourselves, and how we relate to God.

If I relate to God like how I related to my parents, then outward adherence to rules and regulations is what I would pursue. But if I relate to Him as a child transformed by the Gospel, then there is no desire, passion, habit, thought or fantasy that I would withhold from Gospel death.

The child of God is radically committed not just to obeying the rules, but trusting and loving the One who gave them. Our obedience was always designed to flow from a loving relationship with our Father.

Note that past tense is used in Galatians 5:24: the flesh has already been crucified. So Gospel living isn’t just about looking for ways to grow in holiness – a big part of it is also remembering who we are (1 Peter 2:9) and what was done for us (John 3:16).

I’ve already been adopted as a child of God – it was past time to act like one.

My desire to cut Instagram out of my life didn’t come about because I thought doing so would put me right before God. I cut it out because I am a child who is already right with God.

I’ve already been adopted as a child of God – it was past time to act like one.

So who are we? What do we do? Those deeds show who we truly think we are! In what ways do we need to die, that we might truly live?

Help us O God to die to ourselves every day. Help us remember the better and greater life we now have in You!

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Being bullied ruined my life, but I found a way out

by Natalie Tay | 15 October 2018, 4:15 PM

My family is a very traditional Chinese family with staunch religious beliefs. So though I’ve wanted to come to church since I was 5 years old, I was not allowed to do so.

When I was in primary school, I was introduced to what I felt was a nightmare. I was bullied physically, emotionally and verbally. And it wasn’t just one mean girl saying a few childish things about me – I was bullied by my entire class from when I was about 10 years old.

Coming from a class of rich and smart students, there was a hierarchy. I just happened to not be a part of the popular gang. I was bullied verbally: they would search up mean words from electronic dictionaries to label me with every day, like “slut”, “vixen”, “fat” and “spastic”.

They took my things and broke them, told me I shouldn’t eat or hide away my personal things, tore up the songs I wrote and made fun of my diary.

Whenever I tried to run and seek help, they would stop me by pulling me by the hair and telling me they’d stop … but they never did.

They told me to go and do everyone a favour and die. I didn’t, and I still don’t understand why I was treated that way.

They would “use” me when they needed me, but when they didn’t – I became irrelevant. Eventually, I thought that I was bullied because I was just me, and that it was my fault for being the way I was. My family put a high emphasis on grades and being in the best class, so being one of the worst students in class only damaged my self-esteem even further.

They told me to go and do everyone a favour and die.

Over time, this resulted in a few disorders. The eating disorder was the first. I hated my looks and my self-esteem plunged. I developed anxiety and depression from around the age of 11. I also had really bad insomnia, sleeping less than 4 hours on a regular basis.

I resorted to self-harm, cutting myself in hidden places like my hip to distract myself from the pain that I so desperately wanted to alleviate. I told no one about what I was doing, wanting to die more and more each day. I didn’t seek any help from anyone, not wanting to be even more of a problem or burden anymore.

I began to plan ways and means to kill myself. 

Life did get a bit better in secondary school: I wasn’t being bullied anymore, though I never really did fit in.

My negative mentality and poor self-image were already fixed in place. I was socially awkward, unable to talk to anyone properly without feeling judged or paranoid. I identified with the labels everyone had given me in primary school and was so used to hiding.

Just when I thought I was slowly getting over my eating disorder, something really bad happened. In secondary 2, I had a really bad anxiety attack in school after finding out I failed one of my papers. They had to send me to the hospital in an ambulance.

Because of this episode, my parents and my school finally found out about all my struggles. Everything came out and I was terrified. I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies and an eating disorder. I could no longer engage in physical activity because I would hyperventilate every time I ran.

People would sneak in plastic knives to harm themselves and it was blatantly obvious that everyone there was driven by the desire to die.

I got even worse after the diagnoses. I was very, very suicidal and was put on constant watch because I overdosed on pills and self-harmed constantly – desperate to find outlets to escape.

I was then admitted into the hospital for about week in the psychiatric ward so doctors could watch me. Being in the psychiatric ward was a huge struggle for me and it seemed like a never-ending nightmare. They would take away simple items such as soap and toothpaste to ensure that no one would harm themselves. People would sneak in plastic knives to harm themselves and it was blatantly obvious that everyone there was driven by the desire to die.

In the psychiatric ward, all we did was talk about death and share about ways to die. I never got any better and I eventually simply aimed to get discharged as soon as possible instead of getting well because it felt like I was drowning.

My life only turned around when I first truly encountered Jesus.

After being discharged, there was one night when I got extremely suicidal. But in the throes of depression, I had this strange and clear urge to call my school’s house captain. I wasn’t very close to her and I had no reasons to call her, but I did anyway.

While I had never been one to talk about my struggles, I surprised myself by sharing about my struggles with her, telling her that I didn’t know what to do.

She happened to be with her cell group from church and she invited me to get to know more friends from the cell. I was super apprehensive when they added me into the cell group chat, anxious about everything – very skeptical about church. I didn’t believe anyone could really accept and love me.

I was certain that I’d end up ostracised, that even God couldn’t understand my pain.

… though life doesn’t get simpler, God makes a way for me.

Besides, I also highly doubted that my parents would allow me to go to church due to their religious beliefs. I turned out to be wrong about that.

My parents surprisingly allowed me to attend church, so 29 November 2014 was the day I first attended service at Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC). There I experienced the tangible and amazing presence of God in worship. I broke down during the alter call, and it was then I knew that God was real.

God opened my heart and showed me true love and acceptance that day. That was the beginning of my healing as God started to become very real in my life.

It’s been four years since I’ve accepted Christ, and it has been the best decision of my life.

Life didn’t magically get easier, I still had my struggles in life. I made many mistakes and had my faith tested. But I can say this: though life doesn’t get simpler, God makes a way for me.

I no longer rely on any form of medication or go to the hospital for any treatment anymore. I was personally convicted to trust in God alone for healing, and He came through for me that way.

I struggle much less with anxiety and no longer feel suicidal or depressed all the time. I eat consistently now and I can do exercise – even joining a sports CCA in JC after not having done any physical activity for 3 years.

It isn’t that God makes problems go away. He can do that, but in my experience He transforms people in the process – He changed me as a person through my trials completely. I was someone who was used to fear every day, but now I’ve grown to see the good in life even when things get tough.

I can praise God in every situation and circumstance. I now know that my identity and worth come only from the Lord and that He makes things beautiful in His own time and in His own way. I’ve been blessed with a community in FCBC that truly supports me and I really am grateful to be given the life I have.

It’s been four years since I’ve accepted Christ, and it has been the best decision of my life.

The song I wrote, Guide Me, is about the fear, anxiety, depression and pain in my life that I struggled through. The lyrics reflect the goodness, grace and truth that I’ve come to see in God.

It’s a song that God gave to me, ministering to me when I was at my lowest point. I pray that as we all struggle, we’ll remember that God is sovereign and He is the same God in the good and the bad. We can truly get through everything and anything, not by our own strength, but by His. All Glory to God!

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ( 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)


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Article list

Die, disciple, die

How to get the rest you need

Why I gave church another chance

Jesus I come, I surrender

An inconvenient death: What does “dying to self” mean?

Being bullied ruined my life, but I found a way out