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In a world of choices, what is the one thing you seek?

by | posted 26 April 2018, 2:46 PM

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What should you do when facing uncertainties in life?

by Darius Leow | 24 September 2018, 2:31 PM

God, why?

Have you ever asked that question before? I certainly have. I ask it all the time: when outcomes fail to match my expectations, or when something that I want eludes me.

Sometimes when our prayers appear to go unanswered, we get tempted to think God has forgotten about us. We are quick label the Israelites as a bunch of stiff-necked and faithless grumblers, but we actually have more in common with them than we realise.

Because whenever something unexpected happens, we are quick to grumble. “Bring us back to Egypt”, we grumble in frustration towards the God we cannot see. Our understanding of who God is and our past experiences with Him become like distant dusty memories.

In troubles, even the clearest sign and promise from God can be easily clouded by our fears, frustrations and forgetfulness.

Consider King Jehoshaphat: 2 Chronicles 20 details King Jehoshaphat’s journey through a period of national crisis and how he responded when hemmed in by uncertainties.

“After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites, came against Jehoshaphat for battle. Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar” (that is, Engedi).” (2 Chronicles 20:1-2)

This chapter begins with the nation of Judah and King Jehoshaphat in a vulnerable position, outnumbered by surrounding enemies. Three-versus-one is a terrible situation to be in — even for the best military.

It’s not a stretch to say that we actually have so much in common with Israel. This life is a battle against sin and evil (Ephesians 6:12). We all have our own “great multitude” or “vast army” coming against us like having to grapple with the effects of sin, broken relationships or poor health.

But while we will face uncertainties and dangers like King Jehoshaphat, what is more important is knowing how to respond to life’s uncertainties.

In troubles, even the clearest sign and promise from God can be easily clouded by our fears, frustrations and forgetfulness.

Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord ... O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:3-4, 12)

Judah’s national security was at stake, yet the first thing King Jehoshaphat did was to set his face to seek the Lord. Instead of mobilising the army, he mobilised himself and his people to seek God for help.

God heard the cry of His people and granted Judah and King Jehoshaphat victory over their enemies as they obediently went in faith (2 Chronicles 20:20) and gave God worship and praise (2 Chronicles 20:18-19, 21-22).

Though things looked hopeless, they sought God, took up their positions, stood firm and fixed their eyes on Him. And they were victorious.

This passage offered me much comfort and encouragement during a difficult season in my life. For like King Jehoshaphat, I found myself in situations where I was forced to confront uncertainties.

Academically, I didn’t do too well for some of my papers and had to wrestle with the disappointment that my hard work wasn’t matched by good grades. Relationally, being someone who has not been in a relationship before, I struggled to navigate through uncharted waters with clarity. And physically, I’ve been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition affecting my joints and spine that will likely stay with me for life.

Yet as I took stock of all that was happening around me and gave myself time and space to wrestle with God, He taught me to confront my inadequacies through my trials. I was humbled as I began to understand that even in the brevity and uncertainty of life — there was a solid rock I could depend on.

God’s thought and ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Of course, given a choice, I would have wished for the disappointments and pain to go away. I would have hoped for different outcomes that matched my expectations and desires. But I saw how uncertainties are God’s ways to humble me and grow my dependence on Him.

I sensed God reminding me not to place my confidence and expectations in mere outcomes. Living life that way is unstable. Instead, I should hold on to God, my only anchor and certainty in life, surrendering the results to Him.

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

We can be certain that there will be uncertainty, but we need to learn to be okay living with it.

For all our human wisdom, we will never have life all figured out. It is easy to blame God when uncertainty hits us because no one likes to be out of control. But God uses uncertainty to teach us precious lessons which reveal our fallenness and need for Him as saviour.

Here are some lessons I learnt from 2 Chronicles 20 and from my wrestle with uncertainty.

3 ANCHORS AGAINST UNCERTAINTY

1. In moments of uncertainty, look to Christ as our only certainty in life

Jehoshaphat looked to God during a crisis of uncertainty, and God did not disappoint him. We learn to hold on to Christ, and not outcomes, and trust in His promises and deliverance.

The one we learn to hold on to has graciously and lovingly given us all things through Jesus Christ (Romans 8:32). May this enduring truth help us find our security and anchor in Him and Him alone.

For all our human wisdom, we will never have life all figured out.

2. When uncertain, grow in faith and dependency on Christ 

We are made to confront our inadequacies in circumstances where control is pried out of our hands. But in such moments we can clearly see our deep need for God.

God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses, and this truth gives us the confidence to boast in them and declare, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

3. Uncertainties are opportunities for the unexpected (2 Chronicles 20:22-23)

Victory was secured with prayer and praise. Judah prepared for war but didn’t have to lift a finger — only to loot the spoils of victory (2 Chronicles 20:24-26).

God’s thought and ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), and He can take and turn all our situations — even dangerous ones — “for good” (Genesis 50:20).

To close, I’m leaving you with one of my favourite poems — The Tapestry by Corrie Ten Boom.

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.

Trust that God is weaving a beautiful story in and through your life. In times of uncertainty, may our eyes be fixed on the intended pattern and design God has for us. Even when life doesn’t make sense and we don’t have everything figured out, we can learn to trust His in character and promises.

The sovereign God is certain and eternal.

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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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by | posted 21 September 2018, 10:44 AM

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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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Article list

In a world of choices, what is the one thing you seek?

What should you do when facing uncertainties in 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