If you were at PraySingapore over the weekend or read one of our stories, you would know that it was a powerful time of prayer and consecration in preparation for a year of revival.
Corporate prayer and unity in the body of Christ is always great, but if you asked me what really captured my heart that day, it was the moment the married couples in the stadium were asked to stand up and renew their wedding vows to each other.
TRIGGER WARNING:Warm fuzzy feelings may arise. ❤
I mean, even as a young single person who’s never said wedding vows before, it was adorable to see couples holding hands – some more bashful than others – and praying together. Several even had their children and grandchildren seated around them.
Most of us Asians are accustomed to restrained displays of affection between our parents. So you can imagine how my heart melted to see couples stand with their arms wrapped around each other, many with little lines etched into their faces – proof of how much of life they’d walked as one.
It was a somber and quietly beautiful scene as couples recited their wedding vows, rededicating themselves to their spouse and their families. And as I watched the couple in front of me tightly embrace, a tear came to my own eye when I saw the husband tenderly wipe away his wife’s tears.
This is what I hope my marriage will look like in the future, I thought to myself. A vulnerability towards my husband who receives it with godly humility. A love for each other that withstands the test of time and disagreements and quarrels – to become a testament of a greater love that holds two people together.
I also thought of the multitudes of young people in the stadium who got to witness this powerful model of marriage. None of us have walked the long road of holy matrimony, not for more than a decade anyway, but I dare to say these couples kept it real for us. It won’t be easy, but God can renew hearts and restore broken walls of division.
Seeing hundreds of couples praying together left me thinking: To have a marriage last a lifetime, two people must be willing to keep facing hurts and forgiving wrongs. A good marriage is made up of two good forgivers. And in humility and constant surrender through prayer, God’s love covers a multitude of sins against each other. Christ must be the centre of it all.
I used to wonder if commitment was the only thing that kept a marriage going into its twilight years – if there would still be love after so long. But sitting amidst a sea of couples worshipping God with hands intertwined, I got my answer. This was the power of God-given, agape love. Love that always protects, trusts and perseveres.
I left PraySingapore with new hope in my heart and a new picture of love: A love that starts even before I am the lover of my (future) husband – an eternal, faithful love between my Saviour and me.
Samantha is a creative who is inspired by the people and stories around her. She also loves striped tees and would love to pass her collection down to her future children. Currently level 1127 on Candy Crush.
Why should I honour my parents when they don’t deserve it?
by Stella Lee | 8 October 2018, 12:29 PM
This article is going to be quite a personal one because it concerns my family. I’m not sure how people will view my family and I after this post gets out, but I pray that God will use my thoughts to help people who can relate to my experience.
Growing up, I had dreams for my life. I believed in them almost as if they were fairy tales, but none came true with the limitations my parents brought me under.
I resented most of my childhood, having spent many days crying alone in the study room. My diary from those years is all torn and shrivelled up – probably from all the tears I poured out crying to God.
I asked if He was there and whether He knows how I was feeling.
As I grew up, nothing much changed in my relationship with my parents.
In fact, as I got older, I began to see the uglier sides of my family even more clearly. My family isn’t a godly one, in the sense that people aren’t likely to know us as Christians by the way we behave together. We weren’t a family united in Christ.
People who met my mum often expressed surprise that her three girls attended the same church and served together. But I was always uncomfortable hearing that. I was disgusted at the facade we cultivated in church, when the reality was that we weren’t behaving quite the same at home.
People say that when a man wants to date a girl, he should look at her mother. Because the values her mother holds and the way she conducts herself will be visible in her daughter’s life.
I always thought I’d surely be left single if that was the case.
I wasn’t taught about life. Often, it was life that taught me instead.
My mum didn’t teach me to spend within my means. She didn’t tell me what being in a relationship was all about. She didn’t push me to study or tell me I needed to have goals. My mum didn’t do all these things for me.
My dad wasn’t the fatherly figure I saw in other families. My dad didn’t tell me to pursue education or develop my interests. He didn’t teach me about boys. My dad didn’t do all these things for me.
My diary from those years is all torn and shrivelled up – probably from all the tears I poured out crying to God.
As you can tell, I harboured a lot negativity towards my family for a long time. But I decided to change my frame of mind. I decided to look at the good side of people – to believe the best of my family.
I see that my mum quietly provides for my basic needs. My mom thinks of me even when I’m not with her because I see the things she buys for me when I come back home at night. My mom cares for my happiness: even when she was financially tight, she always tried to give me the things I wanted. My mum made sacrifices for me.
And my dad? He is patient and not quick to anger. My dad works hard to provide for the family. My dad notices when I am troubled and comforts me. My dad buys food for me when I’m hungry. My dad walks me home even when he is tired. My dad made sacrifices for me.
As I think about all my parents’ good points, I realised I could keep going on. Likewise, when I was thinking of all their bad points, that list could also have been endless.
Gratitude breeds gratitude. It is far more productive to think well (Philippians 4:8) of them because it produces love and not resentment.
My mistake was focusing on all the things they didn’t do for me – when they were loving me in their own ways the whole time! I spent so many years blind to the love they gave me. They have helped to make me the confident and God-fearing person I am today – I can never deny that.
So while my childhood may not have been the best, I now understand what my mum meant when she said that we had come this farby the grace of God.
God loves us unconditionally. He didn’t set conditions or terms before making a move to save us. He first loved us and sent His Son to die for us while we were still sinners.
When God said to honour our parents, He didn’t say to honour them because they loved or provided for us. It’s one of the Ten Commandments and when we seek to obey the commandment, God is glorified.
““Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise)” (Ephesians 6:2, ESV)
If I had to think or evaluate how my parents have loved or cared for me before honouring them, then my honour is conditional – totally opposite to how God loves.
We don’t get to measure what others deserve. The only thing we all deserve is death. It would have been a deserved fate if God simply tossed us in the fire – but He embraced us instead and offered us eternal life.
God’s love is unconditional. He didn’t set conditions or terms before making a move to save us. He first loved us and sent His Son to die for us while we were still sinners.
So because His love is unconditional, honouring our parents should also be unconditional. I prayed to God for humility and wisdom to be able to love my parents in the same way He loves me, because He is glorified when we obey His commandments.
But we will never be able to do such things without the Holy Spirit. Without God’s transforming work in our hearts, it is impossible to obey His commandments and follow Him.
In closing, as I was writing this article, Bishop Desmond Tutu was mentioned in a sermon I attended. I ended up doing a search on him, when one of his quotes jumped out at me.
You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.
When God gives us gifts, we accept them with joy and gratitude. So now I’m thinking about how I can show gratitude to the family that God has given me.
This time, by the grace of God, I am going to love and honour them unconditionally.
This article was first published on Stella’s blog and is republished with permission.
“One special morning four years ago, God spoke to my wife Lilis and myself that she will be a spiritual mother in a way she has never experienced before,” shared Lead Pastor Ian Toh of 3:16 Church at PraySingapore.
“We were both touched by God and we knew He was preparing us for something amazing to come. That night, Roslina called.”
Roslina was a girl whom Pastor Ian and his wife had been acquainted with after they spoke at a halfway house for juvenile delinquents. Roslina was residing in the halfway house because her parents could not and would not provide for her.
“Roslina seemed so disinterested when I was sharing. In fact, her face was so black that I felt like I had offended her,” Pastor Ian joked.
Who knew that years later, God would bring them together under the same roof: First in church, and later literally under the roof of his home?
Pastor Ian Toh speaks at PraySingapore.
Because the same night Pastor Ian and his wife received the word from God, they also received a call from Roslina. She asked if she could stay with them, as she had been told to leave the halfway house but had nowhere to turn to.
“We knew that it was a call from Abba Father not just to open our homes but to open our hearts for His children,” Pastor Ian told attendees of PraySingapore. “That night we received and adopted Roslina into our family. She became our oldest child.”
Four years on, Roslina is now well-settled into her new family. And just as how Pastor Ian and his wife took the radical step of welcoming a stranger into his family, Roslina eventually took the step of reconciling with her biological father.
“God is in the business of bringing His sons and daughters back home, and He is in the business of turning the hearts of children and parents to each other,” he said.
BLESSING THE FAMILY
“I believe God is doing something as we declare the words of life into the atmosphere,” Pastor Ian said as he led the crowd to stand and prophetically declare Malachi 4:5-6 together – thrice, as a mark of confirmation and completion.
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” (Malachi 4:5-6)
“God is bringing about restoration, reconciliation and redemption!” Pastor Ian cried. “He’s here to hear your pleas for your son, daughters, mother, and father!”
“God is bringing about restoration, reconciliation and redemption!”
He then led the tens of thousands in the National Stadium in interceding for the salvation of their unsaved loved ones.
“We pray now: Save them. Use us to love them. We pray for a mighty harvest to come in the land of Singapore. Your kingdom come, Your will – that none should perish – be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
BLESSING THE NEXT GENERATION
As Pastor Ian concluded the prayer, three local church leaders – Senior Pastor Chern Hock Chye of Renewal Christian Church, Senior Pastor Jeff Chong of Hope Church Singapore, and Senior Pastor Samuel Gift Stephen of Smyrna Assembly – took to the stage, accompanied by a group of children dressed in white.
“We are not praying for gold or silver, but for souls to come into the kingdom,” Pastor Hock Chye began.
Pastor Jeff Chong speaks a prayer of blessing over children at PraySingapore.
Pastor Jeff spoke blessings over the children, representing the next generation in Singapore. “You are not just a good gift to have, but you are God’s sharp arrows. You are the future of family, you are a sign of hope. Be strong in the Spirit and do great exploits for the honour of God’s name.”
In response, the group of children received the blessing with an age-old song known by generations of Christians the world over.
Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Two years ago, without fully knowing that I had feelings for her, my best friend of 11 years invited me to go to a Christian seminar on dating with her.
I sat beside her awkwardly, waiting in tepid silence for the workshop to begin, when the speaker finally began his segment by declaring these four words: You deserve God’s best.
In the dramatic pause that followed to allow for thought, I leaned over to Cheryl and whispered: “Sounds a little entitled, to be honest.” But what I didn’t realise then, was just how much that phrase would come up when I began seeking God on the question of dating Cheryl, and even when we started dating.
Now, before we go any further, I have to get this out of the way early: This story is not going to encourage some kind of self-centred mentality. Life really isn’t about us. If we’re being pedantic (or accurate), the only thing we “deserve” is death!
Yet in the grace of God, real living becomes possible when we walk on the paths God wants us on – when our lives are spent for His glory. So, in my mind, “deserve” really refers to what we ought to pursue – you should pursue God’s best!
Now I’ll share how the whole game was changed for me, when I took myself and what I wanted out of the dating equation, and began asking what God wanted for me, and what He wanted for my best friend.
When it comes to “God’s best”, the first thing to do is to acknowledge that His best may look nothing like our best.
Sounds simple enough, but a swelling heart can block one’s vision quite quickly. And when blinded by infatuation, we become quick to conflate what we want with what God wants.
So surrender is the healthiest place to begin from. Surrender is humbly acknowledging that God knows better (He knows best!) and accepting what He wants for you – even if it’s not what you may want.
For me, it meant I had to come to a place where I was able to tell God: “Whether or not You allow this relationship with Cheryl to happen, I am yielding to what You want for me. You know better. You know best. Your will be done – even if it means I am to be single for the rest of my life.”
Ceding that sovereignty in my life took awhile! While I had sought out my youth pastor for advice on how to proceed, and told her cell leaders about my affections for her, nothing really seemed to change or progress in our friendship that hinted there was a chance we could go further.
For a time, there seemed to be some kind of blockage or invisible obstacle to making the next step.
Nothing really changed or happened until I finally had that moment of surrender in my secret place with God. Only then did He begin to orchestrate occurrences and engender feelings between Cheryl and myself, which paved the way for a new chapter together (Proverbs 3:6).
I realise now, that if I had ignored the prompting of my heart to cede this sovereignty over to God, I would have spent all my time in the relationship always chasing a mere ideal of what I wanted – what I thought was best – rather than pursuing something real and good which God wanted for me.
When you want God’s best for your girlfriend, you are wanting what is truly best for her.
When that happens, the love you share then shifts away from a worldly dynamic of what-can-we-get-out-of-each-other. Instead, love hinges on a kind of heavenward helping: How-can-we-get-Christ-out-of-each-other?
It’s about helping each other become more Christlike.
Love does not seek its own (1 Corinthians 13:5), instead it hopes for God’s best for her (1 Corinthians 13:7). Like I did with myself, I had to come to another place where I could tell God: “I really like this girl, but I want what You want for her more – even if it means I’m not a part of those plans”.
In the early struggles I spent trying to learn this way of love, we still had many quarrels because of my residual selfishness or neediness. I still had many old ways in me (as I still do) and it was a painful thing to have them excised.
In wanting God’s best for each other, we increasingly began to trust and realise that God did actually want the very best for both of us.
But God was beginning to transform us both – right in front of each other’s eyes! As our gentle Gardener dug up our old roots like self-centredness and pride, in the course of time we found new fruits springing up that were both surprising and sweet to share.
One month there was a new gentleness we hadn’t seen before. Generosity in the next. God’s finest produce from a once-barren land. God’s best.
In wanting God’s best for each other, we increasingly began to trust and realise that God did actually want the very best for both of us – He was growing things we never expected or could!
So we trusted Him and kept on. And in time, love looked more like taking from God and giving to each other – drawing love and wisdom from God before meeting each other’s needs.
Cheryl and I are getting married next year.
As I look back, I think we both appreciate the value of having pursued this idea of God’s best. Because wanting God’s best for each other also afforded us a lot of clarity right from the start of our relationship.
While we did our utmost to nurture the relationship as if it were a new garden in spring, we walked into the relationship with our eyes wide open. That is to say, in the event that our relationship didn’t work out – we were never going to be resentful.
A courtship where you discover he or she is not for you is still a successful one!
Cheryl and I thank God for who He is and for the gift of being together. That I have this lifelong luxury to behold the growing likeness of Christ in her – what a privilege! I know we have found “God’s best” in the area of companionship.
And now, on to discovering God’s best in all of life’s other areas together. ❤
I met Cassie when we were 17, at a leadership camp in school. We were assigned to sleep in the same bunk with a couple of other girls, and it wasn’t long before I noticed that she was strangely uncomfortable with being in such close proximity with us.
At first I thought it was just her feeling shy about having to change clothes in the presence of other girls, and would even ensure that the “coast was clear” for her to be in the room. This was the start of a quickly blossoming friendship.
It also meant that she soon revealed to me that she didn’t see herself as a girl, but a boy trapped in a girl’s body. Living in the same room as a bunch of girls had been as awkward for her as it would have been for any other guy.
She told me that she wished to have a gender reassignment in the future, and was forward about her feelings for me. For a while I was flustered at her confession, but I admit that I was also falling in love with the little acts of love that she showed me.
Sometimes people ask what’s the difference between a close friendship between girls and a romantic relationship, but the lines cross when you start thinking of a person as a partner in life. The way you show affection and think about the person changes, and you want more of everything: More time, more touch, more anything together.
Cassie was definitely more than a friend, but I was also a new Christian and had been attending church regularly. I’d heard sermons about same-sex relationships and read verses in the Bible that warned against such relations. So as much as I wanted to pursue a committed relationship with her, it didn’t sit comfortably in my heart.
But given the growing feelings we had for each other, I resorted to dating her in secret – and praying to God for another way out that would allow me to be with the person I loved, as well as continue going to church without the guilt.
The burden of living this double life ultimately resulted in me leaving the church to avoid the pain of hiding this from my friends and leaders altogether.
However, this newfound freedom to date Cassie only heightened the tension I was carrying. Life was so different without God; so much harder and more painful. And eight months into our relationship, she called it quits. Turns out she’d been eyeing someone else all this while.
Devastated, I had nowhere else to turn but back to my church.
My pastor was very kind and warmly received me when I came out to her. She even answered the many questions I had – if Cassie had undergone gender reassignment surgery to become a male, would our relationship have been considered heterosexual?
(Her answer was no, because her gender from birth was still female.)
My cell leader was also very supportive, not forcing me to let go of the relationship even as I grieved its end, and instead encouraged me to read the Bible and seek God for myself. Through their love and grace shown, I decided to devote myself to church once again.
Around this time, I came across a video on my Instagram feed that really spoke to me. It was a sermon clip of how rejection is God’s protection over you, even if you can’t see it in the moment. And that by taking something away, He always has something better in store.
To all the singles out there, I encourage you to pray over the relationships you might still be hoping for, and to let go of the ones that are not working out. It won’t be easy, but remember that God will not forsake or forget you. His love is enough for you. Focus on deepening your relationship with Him.
I am thankful for the teachers, mentors and pastors who helped me walk through this. For those in church who have struggles with same-sex attraction, I hope that you don’t walk away from the faith like I did, but choose to put your sexuality in God’s hands and allow others to journey with you.
God has a plan to prosper all of us – even (and especially) in our relationships – and in His perfect time, we can believe that all things will be made beautiful.
“You should move in with him before there’s no way out!”
My recently engaged friend shared with me that her colleagues were encouraging her to cohabitate with her boyfriend. Their logic was so that she would know what living together would be like before getting married. That same week, another friend of mine told me about her friend who had recently moved in with her fiancé.
Cohabitation is not a foreign concept to many of us millennials. To my peers, cohabitation seems to have become a viable option especially with increased earning power to finance a home.
When we asked on Insta Story what some reasons unmarried couples would move in together are, most answers revolved around considerations of compatibility and practicality.
Many felt that cohabitation would reveal if both parties’ living habits are compatible – a good test to see if they were right for each other. Others pointed out that convenience and saving money were push factors for them – especially if they are studying abroad or if the partner is a foreigner working in Singapore.
As an attached, young working adult, living together before marriage has never crossed my mind simply because I don’t have the money to move out and into a separate home with my boyfriend.
But what if I had the money to? What if circumstances seemed to compel me to move in with him?
THE TEST OF COMPATIBILITY
A friend once told me that if he were in his parents’ shoes, he would have filed for a divorce long ago: “I don’t know why they even got married in the first place if all they do is fight!”
Although the motivation seems understandable, cohabitation may not be the answer according to psychologists Scott Stanley and Galena Rhoades. A person and his partner may have very different purposes for moving in together.
But what if I had the money to? What if circumstances seemed to compel me to move in with him?
Reasons like “a courtship phase, an economical way to save on rent, a venue for convenient sex, a prelude to getting serious, or an alternative to marriage” are cited by young adults as push factors for cohabitation. And according to that study, females tend to view cohabitation as a step towards marriage while males are less committed in that sense.
With a discrepancy in end goals and no shared future in mind, cohabiting couples are actually more likely to separate than their peers. Furthermore, Stanley and Rhoades write that cohabiting couples have a tendency to “slide” into marriage – just like how they “slide” into cohabitation – just because it seems like the next logical step to take in the relationship.
Without clear expectations and real commitment to each another, couples are more likely to separate than those who vow to make the marriage work even when it’s inconvenient or messy.
THE COST OF CONVENIENCE
While moving in together may seem practical initially, researchers warn that there’s more than just financial cost to count. They call this, “consumer lock-in”, which is what happens when we are so invested in a product or service (a relationship in this case) that tapping out will incur a higher cost than remaining in the status quo.
So things like signing a lease, sharing a house or owning a pet may seem innocuous but they all add up. And by the time you realise this person is actually not who you want to live with for the rest of your life, you may also find you’re ironically already “locked in” by all these factors.
Many of us probably want to live with our partner before getting married because of certain considerations. But at the end of the day, cohabitation isn’t going to be the answer to solve financial constraints or mitigate disappointment in relationships.
This might sound cheesy, but that answer is God.
There is a story in the Bible about a woman who was cohabiting with a man (John 4:1-30).
Because of her race and immorality, she was shunned by people. So she evaded them in turn. This woman would even head to the well at the hottest time of the day to fetch water, just to avoid meeting people.
One day at the well, she met Jesus. They had a fascinating conversation. And when Jesus offered her water that would quench her thirst for good – the woman immediately jumped at it so that she would never have to come to this well again.
The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!” He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.” “I have no husband,” she said. “That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.” (John 4:15-18, MSG)
The woman must have had her reasons for having five husbands. She must have had her reasons for living together with her current partner. And just like her, we probably have our “reasons”.
We make certain decisions about our living conditions because of factors like wanting to avoid being disappointment in marriage or having growing up as a child of divorce.
So we look at cohabitation as a quick fix answer – but it cannot solve the problems at their roots. Though well water can’t fully satisfy us, there is a better way: There is a fountain of spring water available to all of us.
“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”” (John 4:13-14)