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How to face the giants in your life?

by | posted 9 January 2018, 3:45 PM

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When God’s promises don’t mean very much

by Nelle Lim | 21 September 2018, 5:33 PM

I was standing at the precipice of a new season, nervously anticipating the last day of my salaried job and the dreaded world of freelancing that awaited me after. It wasn’t a career move that I’d chosen, but the company wasn’t doing well, so I’d been retrenched.

As I prayed and looked for another job, all the doors to the work that I wanted were firmly closed, but the door to the sort of job I didn’t want – freelancing – was flung wide open. In the week leading up to that last day, my friends coincidentally sent me links to sermons and articles. Everything they sent me related to the same verse: “So do not fear, for I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10).

None of them knew each other or about my job transition. But receiving the same promise – “I am with you” – in several different forms happened enough times for me to see that God was trying to get through to me.

So I sat down one evening and said to God, “I’ve got to be honest. I know being told that You are with me is supposed to be something very precious, but it doesn’t give me the comfort that I think I’m supposed to feel.”

I braced myself for the gentle chastising I was expecting. What a sacrilegious thing to say, after all. But as I waited on God, a surprising question came to my mind.

When have I felt assured simply because of someone’s presence with me?

Thinking back over my experiences, I remembered two people who had a remarkably reassuring effect on me.

Mr and Mrs B were teachers I had in high school when I was in New Zealand. They would often organise hikes in the New Zealand wilderness during the summer weekends. They were absolute experts, and knew all the beautiful and formidable things about the outdoors, as well as how to navigate through them.

In the same way that I valued Mr and Mrs B because I knew what they could do and who they were, I needed to learn who God is before I could cherish His promise.

There were always any number of things that could go wrong in the bush. New Zealand’s unpredictable storms could transform the safest looking path into a deathtrap, likewise an unusually hot summer could dry up a stream at a campsite and leave you stranded for fresh water.

This one time, someone stepped on an innocent-looking tree root some 10 minutes after Mr B warned the team not to (tree roots are always deceptively slippery). She had to be helicoptered out of the bush because of how terribly she’d sprained her ankle.

Yet, amidst all the potential for chaos, I was never once anxious about how dangerous tramping could be.

I was so assured of Mr and Mrs B’s competence: no matter what happened, I knew they’d manage it perfectly. I was also certain that they cared about their students and would use their expertise if we needed help. There isn’t much point having experts at hand if they’re indifferent to your situation. This combination of what they could do and who they were made their presence indispensable.

It occurred to me to apply this reflection to my current circumstance, so I thought about the sort of expert I’d ideally like to have during this season of freelancing.

I already had the answer: someone excellent at finding jobs for me, ones I would like and do well in, ones that would open doors to meaningful projects where I could make a difference. It wouldn’t hurt if they paid well too, with the bills and all that …

And then, almost immediately, another question dropped in my heart. Is there anyone more of an expert and more willing than God is to provide all those things for you?”

It felt like such an obvious question, with such an obvious answer. But I was shocked to realise just how ineffectual I had thought God was. A source of comfort, sure, insofar as one is comforted by having their hand patted and told that everything will be fine.

But that’s not what relieves fear, no.

Fears arise from the thought that what one has at hand is insufficient to thrive in a situation.

I feared freelancing because I wasn’t sure that the irregularity of the work could always keep me financially afloat. The only thing that would dissipate my fear was knowing I had a tangible way through the quagmire – something I clearly didn’t think God was capable of doing!

My fears revealed insufficiencies I was already well aware of. But they also revealed aspects of God of which I was most unaware. My inaccurate impression of who God could be made me ascribe His promise with the value and power of a fridge magnet.

After all, whether words like “Don’t worry, I’ll be with you wherever you go; I won’t ever leave you,” mean anything to us really depends on the person who says it (stalkers say these things too, and that’s what restraining orders are for).

In the same way that I valued Mr and Mrs B because I knew what they could do and who they were, I needed to learn who God is before I could cherish His promise.

In the face of my limitations, God promises Himself to me – with all His expertise and His willingness – so that I will have what He has to meet my circumstances. 

His expertise is in keeping unstable situations stable (Psalm 18:2), in making something come out of nothing (Isaiah 48:21), in knowing how to give us exactly what we need (Matthew 6:8). How He’ll do it, He may not always say – but He always keeps His word.

My inaccurate impression of who God could be made me ascribe His promise with the value and power of a fridge magnet.

I realised faith is a little like how it was with Mr and Mrs B.

I never questioned the routes they took us on, even through some of the most mundane landscapes or on perilous trails on the side of a mountain. They had my complete trust, so whatever paths we were taking became irrelevant. I knew they would always lead us to some of the most spectacular campsites or mountaintop views that New Zealand had to offer. They always led us somewhere good.

When I question God’s instructions, or if I fear the path He’s taking me down, it’s because I’ve lost sight of how much of an expert He is in that area of my life.

He knows the ins and outs of the land and all the tricks of the trade and is the most qualified to navigate me through it competently. He’s the very best at healing broken hearts, in building secure inner worlds, in redeeming failures, in sustaining human relationships, in overcoming the impossible – an endless list of specialties for a God with infinite capacities.

I don’t know why being a freelancer is so necessary for me just yet, and I don’t know where it’ll lead. But I trust that He has excellent reasons for it. It’s been three months into this new season, and He’s already given me more work than I know what to do with.

Expert indeed.


This article was first published on YMI.today, and is republished with permission.

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How to really read your Bible

by Jonathan Pang, Tan Ai Luan and Goh Chong Tee | 21 September 2018, 2:03 PM

One of the challenges that new believers first encounter in reading the Bible is reading it in totality.

We tend to have the most trouble with the Old Testament (OT), where cultural and sociopolitical contexts differ greatly from the New Testament (NT) – let alone our postmodern society.

Nowadays, intellectual disparities form the primary barrier to spiritual insight. Yet as believers we are told to take God at His Word in Luke 21:33, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away”. We are told the same in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 as well: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

What then is the correct mindset and methodology for studying Scripture within BC times, in a way which is comprehensive yet authentic in relation to its historical and ecclesiastical roots? Here are 3 handles you may find beneficial to your reading.

3 WAYS TO READ THE WORD WELL 

1. Read between the lines

“Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.  Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:5-7)

Reading between the lines is especially essential for seemingly awkward or outdated customs among God’s chosen race. Some examples include piercing servants’ ears as a sign of lifelong dedication to their masters (Deuteronomy 15:17) and the forbidden practice of seething (boiling) a young goat in its mother’s milk (Exodus 23:19).

It’s about pressing in for the meaning behind the verse. And admittedly, since we may not be theologians, it’s also useful to lean on doctrinally sound sources of secondary literature which give insight and clarity into the practices of the early Jews.

Analysing things like genre and writing style helps us read through the OT with clarity.

There are also multiple references within other OT sections involving history and prophecies which may mystify readers unless they look for key phrases or words within the original Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic translations.

These translations themselves borrow metaphors from nature or mythology to explain or corroborate principles, often making for awkward translations today. After all, reading the Bible in English, we are distanced from the original writers and their target audiences by language, time and context.

It helps to look up the nature of a biblical book before reading it. Analysing things like genre and writing style helps us read through the OT with clarity. It’s our responsibility to truly understand what we read (Romans 10:2-4).

2. Connect the dots

“For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

God’s Word doesn’t contradict itself or His character manifested on Earth through the life of Jesus Christ. Similarly, the NT does not make the OT irrelevant to Christians today.

The moral and ethical codes first commanded by God through the Torah have been perfected through the death and resurrection of His Son. Such was the theological foundation of the early Church in the days of the apostles. In relating OT laws, prophecies and history to the observances and character of early Christians, their significance and applications to our own spiritual walk can be made clearer.

The Word is timeless and transcends even history.

Consider especially the Book of Revelation. It possesses close parallels to the books of Daniel and Ezekiel in the imagery of the visions they received about God’s judgment of the Earth, calamities befalling man owing to sin, the Resurrection and New Jerusalem.

The central themes and messages conveyed through similarities in both OT and NT texts are consistent with each other, and should therefore be identified and analysed to determine its purpose and message for Christians – dispelling misconceptions or preconceived ideas of irrelevance between the two.

The Word is timeless and transcends history.

3. Watch and pray

“Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.” (Acts 9:18)

All Scripture, however translated across tribes and tongues, is God-breathed. Our human capacity is insufficient to access and live by it.

Intellectual humility – sadly lacking in a generation that has had greater access to education than previous ones – is something Christians must possess to internalise and act upon the Word of God. The Bible is more than a religious text that Christians blindly follow, it is the critical foundation for the heart and mind to be filled with the Spirit – producing love for the Lord with all we are.

We can and should ask for wisdom in the process of nourishing ourselves with the Word.

While any doubts that we have concerning our study of the Word should be brought to our clergy or peers within the Church community, they should first and foremost be addressed through prayer.

Sin has marred the vision of many and blinded them to the Truth. What better way then, than to request for wisdom from whom Scripture is breathed? For we have the Holy Spirit to guide and counsel us.

The tearing of the temple veil upon Christ’s crucifixion was a sign which indicated the beginning of this new and living way to God. Jesus’ sacrifice allowed for the remission of our sins, so we could renew our relationship and have communion with Him as children of God.

So our understanding of the Bible is highly intertwined with our spiritual walk with the Creator. We can and should ask for wisdom in the process of nourishing ourselves with the Word.

As you continue to study the Bible, you will undoubtedly face difficulties in both the intellectual and spiritual aspect of doing so. It is both a science (in terms of critical reading) and an art (putting it into practice).

But remember: your Christian walk should never be undertaken alone. You will undoubtedly need the support of your spiritual community in translating your faith into tangible action. Regardless of the obstacles encountered, always persevere in plunging deeper into the knowledge and love of God through understanding His Word.

Ask for wisdom, and it shall be given. Seek Him, and draw near to Him by faith, and let Him strengthen you and your walk with Him.

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Speak up: You don’t have to be charismatic or extraordinary

by Ada Chua | 20 September 2018, 4:01 PM

The Old Testament has 17 books that are named after prophets whom God chose to speak through, instead of speaking directly to His people. Yet some of us don’t believe that God could use us as His chosen vessels.

We often say the same words that Moses says, “God, I am not eloquent, I am slow of speech, I am tongue-tied, my words get tangled. Please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:10) But God didn’t send anyone else. Instead He said to him, “I will give you the words to speak, and I will instruct you on what to say.” (Exodus 4:12)

It is not the easiest thing to speak on a public platform. Yet so many times, God has chosen us human beings to speak through. The Bible in itself, is a record of God breathing the Word and men recording it down.

The end of the world is recorded by John, who wrote on a scroll whatever God revealed to him. Jesus’ life and teachings were not recorded by Jesus Himself. Instead, they were recorded by four ordinary men, two of whom weren’t even Jesus’ 12 Apostles.

There was one day in the Bible where a crowd was astonished because the disciples, who were Galileans, were speaking the peoples’ languages. (Acts 2:4) And these were people of different nations and different tongues.

They were wondering, “How is this possible that these disciples are speaking to me in a language I can understand?” (Acts 2:6-7) It was the day of Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit empowered all the disciples to speak in different tongues.

In the same way, the Holy Spirit empowers us to speak to people of entirely different backgrounds, whose stories we have never understood – yet He gives us the right moments and the right words to speak directly into their hearts.

Peter and John were preaching one day of the good news of Jesus. And people were shocked. In fact, some of they remarked, “How is it that ordinary, unschooled men can speak with such words?” The Bible records that they took note that these were men of Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

These people managed to speak so powerfully not because of who they were. They were unschooled, they were ordinary, they were like you and me – struggling, not charismatic either. And the only reason why they could speak like that, why they could convict people of the Good News of Jesus Christ, was because the Holy Spirit empowered them, because God gave them the words to say.

And that is exactly what He wants to do with us.

When Jesus said that we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), He didn’t mean that we would have to shine with our own brightness. Instead, we would be fuelled by the Holy Spirit to be able to shine to the people around us.

That is the joy of preaching the Good News with Jesus – that you’re not alone, it’s not a task that you embark on by yourself. It’s something you partner with God to do together.

Peter and John were subsequently confronted by one of the Jewish priests, who told them, “Maybe it’s better if you don’t preach about the name of Jesus anymore.” But Peter and John just said, “we can’t help it! We can’t help but share what we have seen and heard!” (Acts 4:17-20)

There are many times where I have struggled over whether I should censor my story just so that my sharing can be more secular. But nowadays, I’m realising that as long as I rely on the Holy Spirit to give me the right words at the right time, I can preach the Good News to anybody.This is what God promises you as well!

I want to encourage you with Luke 12:8-12: “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God … When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

I pray that as you embark on your journey to share the goodness of God in your life with somebody, you will enjoy being empowered by the Holy Spirit. He will give you the right moments and the right words to speak, so that the people who hear the Good News spoken to them will receive it in their hearts with gladness.

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by Zachary Wong | 20 September 2018, 2:51 PM

This is how I feel about the ongoing public debate about Section 377A:

I feel like a student who had to study real hard for an examination, only to find that the paper had only one question. There is no model answer, and there is not one but thousands of graders – each relying on different marking criteria.

Yet on the basis of my answer to that one question, all that I am as a student is judged.

It’s just a feeling. But debates on a single public square issue can have such an effect. It’s more than just the technicality or legality of the matter under discussion, but also what is signalled in the response.

And it is not just the government, or activists, but the “silent majority” that is watching how the Church responds.

I feel torn, placed in a forced choice situation. If I go one way, I may signal that I am standing with the marginalised, but get marginalised myself by others. If I go the other way, I may be applauded for standing by my faith, but get simultaneously branded as a bigot and a hypocrite, and alienate people from coming to know Jesus for themselves.

It doesn’t have to be so. But why am I led to feel this way?

A friend of mine once remarked that the Church has been known very much for what it stands against, but not for what it stands for. And in being unable to stand for something that is so deeply entangled with our faith, we are easily accused of being unloving – or worse, intolerant.

But I believe that our love is less demonstrated in a signature than it is in an interaction; love should be most evident in what an individual experiences when he or she steps into a church, or meets a Christian.

This raises the bar for the Church, which I think is the nub of the problem.

It isn’t so much about what we choose to preserve by the basis of our faith. It’s how we’ve been perceived to be so lacking in doing much else for the LGBT community.

These are a few of those perceptions: No acts of mercy or care. No sense of welcome in the church community. No safety for someone with same-sex attraction to come out and share about his or her struggles without feeling condemned. No one who will journey with the ones who struggle.

We say that we want to be like Jesus. He’s the guy who the tax collectors and sinners happily hung out with, but also said to the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more.” But at times we look more like the Pharisees, whom He constantly chastised for placing “heavy burdens on people’s backs (i.e. expectations) without lifting a finger to help them” (Matthew 23:4).

Borrowing a phrase from Ed Shaw, we have a “plausibility problem”. Our witness for the Gospel lacks credibility. Only standing up for what we’re against is like playing only one line from an orchestral score real loud. But because the other musicians are not doing their part, the music sounds awful.

Now I should clarify that amidst the aforementioned perceptions, there has been good work on the ground.

Most churches remain committed to proclaiming Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). We must never lose sight of that, as He is the best gift God offers to a broken, sin-sick world.

Besides that, God offers the body and bride of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27, Revelation 19:7), the Church, and some good things are being done by her.

Only standing up for what we’re against is like playing only one line from an orchestral score real loud.

I know of people who are out there ministering to individuals with same-sex attraction in amazing and sacrificial ways. And there are others who are teaching the Church how to think through the issues Christianly and express ourselves winsomely in the public square.

And it is often in the nature of good work to stay hidden, not seeking the limelight.

There are churches too that have been actively reforming themselves to be safe and secure communities. Christians have been trying to reconcile faith with the social issues of our day, as seen in this locally produced book, “Good News for Bruised Reeds: Walking with Same-Sex Attracted Friends”.

I am also really glad for the launch of Truelove.is earlier this year. It is a platform that provides stories of Christians who experience same-sex attraction, and offers resources to equip fellow Christians to better minister to them.

Truelove.is has helped to shift the conversation in the Church. It supplements, but should not substitute, what Christians can do to better love and serve their neighbours. Of course, it will take some more years before the full benefit of Truelove.is will be reaped.

I believe more can be done. Much more. And all this can be achieved without compromising what we believe in. It’s not a win-lose situation.

In fact, I believe that if we spent the majority of our time living out the love we proclaim to have – what we stand for, the witness of the Church will look more like good news. Because the Church will look more like Jesus.

The music from the orchestra will sound more symphonic. Even at the times when we have to agree to disagree.

It calls for hard work, impossible except by the Spirit’s help.

So, after the dust from the present kerfuffle has settled, what are we going to do?

“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:7-8)


The author’s name has been changed for confidentiality.

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Article list

How to face the giants in your life?

When God’s promises don’t mean very much

How to really read your Bible

Speak up: You don’t have to be charismatic or extraordinary

Speak up: You don’t have to be charismatic or extraordinary

Standing up for the love I believe in