Can I Really Make A Difference?

Written By Tay Boon Jin

 Boon Jin has been a staff with Singapore Youth for Christ for the past 15 years. She now serves in Malaysia—reaching children through the teaching of English.

“50 Inspirational Quotes On Making A Difference”
“Quotes About Making A Difference (153 quotes)”
“The Power of One”

There is no lack of websites that encourage people to make a difference. One of the most common quotes which often pops up comes from the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, who said, “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”

Although most of these quotes are not given in context, it is not difficult to guess what they’re pointing towards. Poverty, war, crime, discrimination, and abuse of our environment are but some of the perennial issues we often read about in the news.

We sense the urgent need for a cure to the issues plaguing us. Yet, the problems our society face seem too big and complex, the resources needed to solve the problems too immense. “Can I make a difference?” becomes empty rhetoric and unachievable.

Of course, we’ve read of how some people made a huge impact individually. However, we may struggle to believe that what they achieve is actually attainable for us, too.

 

 The Root of the Problem

If we view the world from the big picture that God Himself has painted for us, we cannot but be persuaded that the root of all our problems is our sin. Thus, in some sense, there’s nothing that anyone can do that can make a real and permanent difference. The fallen state of our world makes human effort futile; the permeating effects of sins cannot be undone. In fact, each of us as a sinner contributes to the problem, in both large and small ways.

But God gave the solution to the world’s problem: the Lord Jesus Christ. He so loved the world that He sent His Son, who came in a humiliating fashion to take our punishment for us (John 3:16). If God holds the solution, perhaps the only difference we can truly make is to point someone to the solution by the word we preach and by the way we live.

When God makes us right and brings us back to Him, our perspective of the earthly life will change. A man may remain poor, but he no longer measures his worth by his wealth (or lack of it). A man may live in a war zone, but he trusts God for the peace in his heart.

 

Having the Right Motivation

That said, this does not change the fact that the social problems we face are tangible and affect us at every level. Neither does it mean that Christians should avoid all form of social good and humanitarian work. But perhaps we need to re-examine our motivations.

Jesus told this lesson in Matthew 25:31-40: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

In this passage, our Lord Jesus illustrates how a follower of His ought to respond to the needs in this world—by helping out in a very practical and tangible way. But Jesus doesn’t say this because He wants His disciples to change the world. Instead, the reason He gives for us to serve others, even the “least” of all, is this: By doing so, we are serving Jesus Himself. That should and must be our motivation as we go about doing social good. We are to live Christ-centered lives so that the world will be attracted to Jesus.

As we look at great men of faith who have gone before us, we see countless servants of God who have left their homes to sow the gospel seed in foreign lands. They did not go because they thought they could change the world; they went because God called. Some did not live to see the fruit of their labor; in fact, some gave their lives that the fruit may be borne.

In my recent phase of life, God has given me opportunities to minister to a poor community in another country. My initial encounter with this community got me thinking hard about how to meet their needs. Some of the ideas that sprang to mind included ways to alleviate poverty, put all the children through school and keep them there, guide the youths to find a clear and good purpose in life, and even provide employment for the adults. These were all good goals, but I soon realized that they were beyond my means. It was discouraging to know that I could not provide the help that they needed.

It was then that I was reminded of Jesus’ words that the smallest effort to the least is by no means insignificant. I began to look at how I could help the individual: provide socks and shoes when a kid went to school in slippers, provide a month’s breakfast when a kid stopped going to school because he had no food to sustain him through the morning’s learning, provide information to unemployed parents whenever I knew of factories that had job vacancies.

As each of these recipients thanked me for relieving them of their worries and needs at those points, it gave me opportunities to testify to them that God was the one who had provided. Some of them even thanked God with me.

So let’s continue to labor on in helping others practically and spiritually. Let’s take heart that God will bring about this great work of sanctifying His people to live lives that glorify Him. And ultimately, let’s be encouraged that God will bring about perfection in the world when Christ comes again!

The Beauty of Broken

Written By Elisa Morgan

Elisa Morgan is a speaker and the author of The Beauty of Broken and Hello, Beauty Full. A graduate of Denver Seminary (MDiv), she served for twenty years as the CEO of MOPS International and now is President Emerita. Along with Mart DeHaan and Bill Crowder, she co-hosts the daily syndicated radio program, “Discover the Word” (www.discovertheword.org). Connect with Elisa at www.elisamorgan.com.

 

Most of us don’t want to talk about the not-so-pretty stuff of life. We’d rather focus on loveliness. Hued sunsets. Bursting flowers. Downy ducklings and fluffy lambs. Holidays. But I’ve discovered a beauty that God brings in the unseemly, unexpected, broken things. He brings beauty into broken relationships, shattered dreams and painful realities.

I come from a broken family. When I was five, my father sat in a white easy chair in his home office and beckoned me to his lap. He looked into my eyes and said, “Elisa, I’ve decided I don’t love your mother any more. We are getting a divorce.”

My family broke and I wondered how I could fix it.

My broken family – my mother, sister, brother and I – moved across the continent where my days started with the sound of my mother’s alarm down the hall in our ranch-style home. I pushed back the covers and padded into the kitchen where I grabbed a glass, plunked in some ice cubes and poured Coca Cola over it. With a handful of chocolate chip cookies from the cookie jar, I made my way down the hall to my mother’s bedroom. There I placed “breakfast” on her nightstand, turned off the alarm and began the process of getting her up and ready for work. As a single mom, she needed to work and it was my daily job to wake her up. My mother struggled with alcohol.

My mother broke. I wondered what I could do to fix her.

When I had a chance as a grownup to start fresh, I determined it was my responsibility to make an unbroken family. After all, I had become a Christian as a teenager, had been involved in ministry, even gone to seminary, where I met and later married my husband. Precious, stable, rock of a man. I honestly believed that if I implemented “perfect family values,” then I would have a perfect family.

Problem is, I’m broken. Everybody is. Even God’s family was broken – beginning with Adam and Eve and moving forward to you and me. No matter what we do, we all end up in broken families. In one way or another.

There’s no such thing as a perfect family. Instead of fighting this reality – and failing – God invites us to embrace it. And to see the beauty he brings in the broken.

I come from a broken family. And despite my very best attempts to produce a formulaically perfect Christian family in my second—the reality is that I still come from a broken family. We are messy – gooey in the middle – and I love my family more than I ever thought possible, brokenness and all. I love who they are and I love who they have made me to be.

I’ve come to discover that God offers hope in the form of “broken family values”—values like commitment, humility, courage, reality, relinquishment, diversity, partnership, faith, love, respect, forgiveness and thankfulness. He understands that no one is perfect. He knows the unique journeys of loved ones. He gets it that abnormal is actually pretty normal. That people mess up and yet are worthy of respect and love and are never—ever—without hope. God holds each family close, crying with his wounded children, tenderly assembling and reassembling fallen fragments, creating us into better versions of ourselves.

God doesn’t sweep the broken up into a dustpan and discard it. In order to reach the broken in our world, God himself broke, allowing his own Son to die a broken death on a cross for us. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 3:5). God brings beauty in the broken. God loves the broken. God uses the broken.

What if we move away from the myth of the perfect family and toward the reality of our beautifully broken ones? Might we then breathe air clean of the stench of shame and saturated with the grace of God? And might others find in us, not the exhausting chasing of some impossible dream but fresh hope for the real life they are living? A life where Jesus comes, in a broken body, to provide the beauty of healing?

I come from a broken family. I still come from a broken family. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. I’m pretty sure that my story is likely yours too.

 

Click here to order “The Beauty of Broken”.

3 Misconceptions about Marriage

Written By Lim Chien Chong

Chien Chong joined Singapore Youth For Christ (SYFC) full-time in 1998 after a six-year teaching career in a local junior college. In 2005, he became SYFC’s National Director. He currently serves in the pulpit and Bible class ministry in church, and also preaches, trains, and teaches in different churches and youth groups in Singapore. He has been married for 15 years and has two young lovely boys, Joshua (eleven years old) and Elijah (eight years old).

 

Weddings. It’s interesting how many people (women in particular) start dreaming and talking about their wedding at a young age.

I came across a blogger who wrote about how she started dreaming about her wedding as soon as she could talk.  And when she got her first piggy bank at four, she started saving—not for her education, but for her wedding dress. Numerous media outlets have reported that many women have the details of their dream wedding planned out by the time they’re 13.

But while a wedding marks one of the most important occasions in a person’s life, it can mean different things to different people. For some, it signals the start of something new and better. For others, it symbolizes graduating to the next stage in life. But there are also those who do not view it favorably in light of the rising number of broken relationships around them. For these people, they are skeptical about marriage, and conclude that marriages are outdated and no longer relevant.

Depending on our dreams and experiences, we may have either a romantic or bleak view of marriage. Let me share three misconceptions about marriage that I think most of us have, based on some of my personal reflections from Ephesians 5:31-33.

 

Misconception #1: Marriage is just a life stage

Some of us see marriage as another stage in life. When we are young, we attend school. After we are done with studying, we go out to work. What’s next? Get married and give birth.

Seen from this perspective, marriage is merely a rite of passage to adulthood. And this invariably affects our attitude towards it. Like everything else in life, we simply try to “make the best out of it”. So, marriage becomes a gamble; or maybe an investment.

My grandmother married my grandfather even though she knew she would be his second wife, believing that the marriage would bring her security. As it turned out, she was the least loved among the three ladies in his life. Even her own biological children were instructed to address her as “nanny” rather than “mommy”. It’s sad that while my grandmother was married into a rich family, she was not rich in many ways.

 

Misconception #2: Marriage makes us complete

Married couples often call their spouses their other halves. But to think of another person completing us has an obvious limitation. It means that before we are married or if we’re single, we are only “half a person”.

When I was younger, I used to think that many problems would be solved when I got married. I wouldn’t be lonely anymore, and I’d have someone I could truly trust and be honest with, someone who could make me feel secure. But reality can be very different.

My wife will tell you that she had some lonely nights and feelings of insecurity in the first few years of our marriage, especially when we got into conflicts and disagreements. At the time, I too wondered whether my wife, who was supposed to be my best friend, could truly accept and understand me. I was not alone, but I still felt lonely.

The fact is, married people still feel lonely, suspicious, and insecure.

 

Misconception #3: Marriage takes away our freedom

The idea that marriage is like “imprisonment” is not uncommon. Just before our marriage, we have our last bachelor’s party and take our last holiday trip as singles because we somehow think that life will no longer be the same anymore after the wedding day.

In fact, this is precisely the reason why there are so many negative jokes about marriage and funny ways to describe it. Because many people do feel resentful; they feel that the best part of their lives has been given away to their partners and children.

But is this really the case? And if it is not meant to be an “imprisonment”, then what should it be like? Are there any certain truths we can know about marriage?

 

God’s truth #1: Marriage is a special relationship closely knit by God

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. (Ephesians 5:31)

As Christians, we see marriage as a very special relationship that God has designed, in which two lives are closely knit into one. This doesn’t mean that we stop being individuals or that we need a spouse in order to be “complete”. What it means is that we cannot just focus on our own interests and expect our spouses to simply support us. We need to give due consideration to our time together, our common concerns, goals and interests.

I used to love to hang out for late-night movies and suppers, play my favorite sports and computer games, and even travel overseas with my friends. While I could expect my wife to support me by letting me continue doing what I like frequently and let her do the things that she likes, that would probably encourage me to look out for my own needs first, rather than her needs—or even ours, as a couple.

One of my favorite illustrations which brings out God’s idea of marriage shows two people involved in a three-legged race. Each of the two participants must do his/her own part in the race. But the duo also needs to have a common direction, a common pace, and the willingness to speed up or slow down for the other person. If each individual wants to go in his or her own direction, both of them will not only get very frustrated and go nowhere, but may even fall flat on their faces.

But what if the couple cannot agree on whose direction and priority to go with? How do we know whose direction and priority is better? Under normal circumstances, it is truly difficult to decide. But for Christians, this problem is more easily resolved. The truths and principles in the Bible shape our direction and priority.

 

God’s truth #2: Marriage must point us to our relationship with Christ

This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:32)

While this passage in Ephesians gives clear instructions on the roles of husbands and wives, we must remember that the marriage relationship is actually referencing Jesus and the church.

Left to our own devices, our marriages will likely present great struggles. As singles, we can choose to ignore certain issues and struggles known only to ourselves. But when we are married, we have someone very close to us who is watching, and maybe even judging us 24/7. We may be constantly reminded about our own issues. Here I am, hoping my spouse can help me solve my problems. Instead, he or she magnifies my problems and makes my struggles even more pronounced.

The thing is, many of the issues we face in our marriages stem from the sinfulness in our own lives. Our spouses are not the cause of our problems; neither are they the solution. Our problem is that we are, first and foremost, at war with God. Our hostility against God affects the way we relate with others as well as the way we live. So we need to first find forgiveness from God. Jesus died for us to pay the price of our sins so that through Him, we can be forgiven by God. But does the wiping away of our past record of wrong guarantee a good life henceforth?

Well, the other interesting part to the death of Jesus was that He rose to life from the dead. God, by His great power, raised Jesus from the dead. And the Bible tells us that this same power is now at work in the lives of Jesus’ followers so that we can live a new and good life. That means that we have the power to live anew. Christian couples are thus empowered to live out their marriage as God intended.

In addition to this new ability that we have in Jesus, we also have a new understanding. The way Jesus loves His people, the church, and teaches them how to live in obedience and submission to Him serve as the example of how husbands and wives ought to relate with one another in love and obedience.

While our lives are made incomplete by sin, our lives are made whole again when we come to Jesus. So, whether we are married and single, we do live complete lives in Christ. What is different, though, is that married and singles experience this completeness differently in their lives.

 

God’s truth #3: Marriage is an expression of love and respect in the relationship

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:33)

Commitment and obligations are not expressions of bondage; they are expressions of love. If we love someone, everything is a pleasure; if we don’t, everything is a chore. Because I love my wife, I meet her needs because I want to—not just because I have to. In marriage, I am not imprisoned. In fact, I am free to make choices; I choose to love and serve my wife willingly and cheerfully.

We all know that we need to show love and respect. But while we know these concepts and their importance, we often don’t do it. A very simple expression of love and respect is how we talk to and about one another. Often, it is not difficult to see that couples don’t really love and respect one another by the strong, unkind, and demeaning words they use to describe one another, as well as the gestures they use, like rolling their eyes or raising their voices and hands at each other. While many feel criticized by their spouses, the sad truth is they have also done the same to their spouses.

Learning to listen, understand, and remember are extremely important. Once, my wife was very upset with me because she thought that I was not listening to the things that she said. But when I assured her that I was following her conversation and could repeat some of the things she said, her demeanor and response changed immediately. That was certainly one important occasion when my attentiveness and good memory served me well.

Another way in which we show love and respect is to learn to do what is most needful and helpful. The list can go on and on. It can get very demoralizing because it seems like there are so many things we need to do to get our marriages right.

But the good news is that it is actually not just about what we do. If the Lord Jesus constantly works in our heart and changes us, we will grow to be loving and respectful people. When that happens, we will know and do what’s loving and respectful.

So for me, what has helped me a lot in my own marriage is to constantly focus on three aspects:

  1. 1.God’s design; that my marriage is a special relationship closely knit by God
  2. 2.Christ’s work; that my marriage must point me to my relationship with Christ
  3. 3.My role; that my marriage is an expression of love and respect in the relationship

In fact, these are the same three aspects that we should turn back to for all other issues of life. If we can always remember God’s good design, Christ’s completed work and our expected role in the different areas of life, we will be able to handle and work through our struggles the way God intends.

4 Ways to Flee Sexual Temptation

Written By James Bunyan 

James Bunyan is a bit of a fidget, to be honest. His inability to sit still tends to spill over into all sorts of areas of his life: he loves travelling, good writing, all sports (except Frisbee), the sense of purpose that the gospel gives him, exotic teas and the satisfaction of peeling off a sticker all in one go. He lives in Twickenham (London), where he works as a Christian Union staff worker for UCCF: The Christian Unions, a student mission movement, and he recently married his best friend, Lois. That was a good move.

 

I read about a recent pastors’ conference in the United States where, during the Q&A session, the inevitable question came to the old preacher sitting on a stool in the middle of the stage: “What is the one thing you want younger pastors to know?” The preacher put his head in his hands for several minutes to think. He then lifted his head and simply said, “Never touch another man’s wife.”

Now that shouldn’t surprise us. Adultery wrecks lives. And it’s actually a familiar scene. In fact, Proverbs opens with an old father sitting with a son, sharing some hard-earned wisdom. And, similarly, out of everything he could share, he warns his son to avoid adultery. It’s honest, it’s caring, it’s brilliantly written, and it gives us a few helpful pointers for avoiding sexual immorality* ourselves.

 

1. Don’t go anywhere near!

“At the window of my house
I looked down through the lattice.
I saw among the simple,
I noticed among the young men,
a youth who had no sense.
He was going down the street near her corner,
walking along in the direction of her house
at twilight, as the day was fading,
as the dark of night set in.”
Proverbs 7:6-9

This poor sap’s first mistake is obvious. He knows the adulteress is there and he is walking along “the street near her corner . . . in the direction of her house.” In other words, he is bound to bump into her and a story that ends with his destruction wouldn’t have begun if he had just walked another way.

Unlike the “youth with no sense”, make sure you don’t go near situations that you know are going to tempt you to do something wrong. Don’t follow the first slightly-less-innocent link you see late at night. Don’t watch movies with your girlfriend on a laptop in bed. Don’t go for a drink with your married colleague. It’s far easier to simply avoid certain situations than it is to get out of them later.

I heard of one new university student who promised a friend back home that he would phone him if ever he was tempted to do something he would regret. Well, a few weeks into term, he realised that one of the girls in his halls was pretty keen on him and kept trying to get alone with him. One night, she decided to do something drastic: she walked into his room, late at night, in just a towel—and dropped the towel.

The student, at first, wasn’t precisely sure of what he should do. So he got up, trying hard not to look at the naked girl in his room, walked across the room and picked up his phone and rung his friend. His friend told him not to panic but if he just went for a 30-minute walk, he would find her gone when he returned.

So that’s what he did. And she was gone when he returned.

I love that simplicity. I’m sure that’s not how she expected the evening to go and, funnily enough, she never brought it up again.

 

2. Don’t be flattered!

“Then out came a woman to meet him,
dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.
(She is unruly and defiant,
her feet never stay at home;
now in the street, now in the squares,
at every corner she lurks.)
She took hold of him and kissed him
and with a brazen face she said:
‘Today I have fulfilled my vows,
and I have food from my fellowship offering at home.
So I came out to meet you;
I looked for you and have found you!
I have covered my bed
with coloured linens from Egypt.
I have perfumed my bed
with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
Come, let’s drink deeply of our love until morning;
let’s enjoy ourselves with love!
My husband is not at home;
he has gone on a long journey.
He took his purse filled with money
and will not be home until full moon.’ ”
Proverbs 7:10-20

The adulteress makes such an effort to make him feel special! She kisses him in the street, she says she’s been looking for him, she has decorated her bed, she promises him a long night of love and, bizarrely, she claims she’s even done her religious duties and sacrifices.

But she’s a liar. She’s “crafty”. No matter how special she promises to make him feel, it won’t be as good as she promises and he is not the only one for her. Don’t forget, she probably made her husband, who has gone away on business, feel just as special one day, possibly even a few hours previously. As her feet “never stay at home”, who knows who else she has made to feel special?

And what’s true of this adulteress is true of other sexual temptations. The lie of pornography, for instance, is that you can enjoy a special few hours with a beautiful person you probably wouldn’t have been able to pull normally. But the reality is that the same video arousing you has aroused thousands of different people alongside you. And what the video doesn’t show you is the sexual abuse involved in the porn industry. It doesn’t show you the crowd of production staff watching every moment. It doesn’t show you the girls vomiting off camera. It doesn’t show you the medication necessary for all those takes. It’s a lie.

And when put like that, your special night does become a very grubby few minutes.

 

3. Don’t be short-sighted!

“With persuasive words she led him astray;
she seduced him with her smooth talk.
All at once he followed her
like an ox going to the slaughter,
like a deer stepping into a noose
till an arrow pierces his liver,
like a bird darting into a snare,
little knowing it will cost him his life.”
Proverbs 7:21-23

Well, the simple bloke is sold; he follows her inside, happily swapping lasting happiness for an evening of passion. But, like all sin, it’s short-sighted and short-lived. This will lead to his destruction.

The reality is that sexual immorality promises life but delivers death. It leads to broken relationships, broken trusts, broken lives. Sleeping with someone else’s wife might be electric for a time but it will leave both of you broken, not to mention what it does to your standing before God. And in practice, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who doesn’t regret cheating once they’ve done it.

So before you do what you’re tempted to do, just take a second to think ahead. Is this going to leave you feeling sick in the morning? Will this mean you won’t be able to look your future spouse in the eye one day? Do you want to be that kind of person? As my old vicar used to say, “the problem with living for the moment is that you very often screw up the next one”.

 

4. Don’t get complacent!

“Now then, my sons, listen to me;
pay attention to what I say.
Do not let your heart turn to her ways
or stray into her paths.
Many are the victims she has brought down;
her slain are a mighty throng.
Her house is a highway to the grave,
leading down to the chambers of death.”
Proverbs 7:24-27

And so the father turns back to his son, urging him to pay attention to the warning. After all, the old man in his wisdom knows that, although all this may seem pretty obvious, people still fall for it. Sexual immorality is far too common, even among Christians—“many are the victims she has brought down.” The son would do well not to be so complacent as to assume he’ll be stronger than everyone else.

And this doesn’t just go away in marriage. Some might assume that once you’re hitched, sexual immorality is a thing of the past. But, after being married for two years now, I am convinced that all your problems don’t simply melt away! Discipline still matters and, not only could it be far too easy to take your spouse for granted, but it becomes more important than ever to not take a second look at someone and to stay far away from certain websites and situations. It’s not just myself that I’d be hurting now.

The reality is that the stakes could not be higher. The God of the Bible promises life in all its fullness to those who love Him. He promises that His people will one day sit by His side, having inherited all that belongs to His Son. He promises that they will see Jesus face to face in a place where perfect relationships are totally normal. And He gives us marriage in this life as a temporary, imperfect picture of His great love for His people. Loving commitment in marriage is good because it echoes God’s loving commitment to people that will stretch into eternity.

You don’t want to endanger that.

 

*I know that adultery and all other kinds of sexual immorality aren’t exactly the same. But the Bible, or Jesus himself, would often lump adultery together with all other kinds of “sexual immorality” as simply wrong. Sex is for binding husband and wife together as one and the Bible doesn’t recognise any other kind of sexual activity as good. So, Proverbs isn’t just for avoiding adultery; it’s for fleeing any kind of sexual immorality.